Information on Occupational Injury and Work-Related Illness Claims

Workplace injuries are often discussed; however, work-related illness sometimes gets lost in the conversation. An employee can pursue illness or occupational injury claims if they’ve been injured at work or come down with an industrial disease sustained during the execution of their work duties. Injuries and illnesses like this can happen in many different ways.

How do these illnesses and injuries occur

Work-related illness and occupational injuries can manifest themselves in various ways. These injuries usually occur due to an unsafe working environment or unsafe working practices. Injuries and diseases can also arise when an employee is overexposed to harmful materials within the workplace.

When assisting clients with these types of claims, often, we found that the employer failed in their duty of care to provide a safe working environment. Sometimes inadequate protection was given to the employee, or the employer did not follow health and safety protocols.

Some of the more common occupational injuries and work-related illnesses

The types of occupational injuries and work-related illness that an employee can suffer is often industry-dependent. However, there are a few categories that the vast majority of injuries and conditions fall into:

Chemical Injuries
In a variety of industries, many employees will be exposed to dangerous chemicals. People who work in factories or areas where the presence of hazardous substances is inevitable – mines and manufacturing plants – may be particularly vulnerable to chemical injuries. This isn’t to say that people who work in offices can’t suffer a chemical injury. Office workers may be exposed to corrosive chemicals like bleach and other cleaning products.

Individuals who work in an environment where they are exposed to dangerous chemicals need to be issued with protective work clothing. It is the responsibility of the employer to provide this protective gear. Some of the more common chemical types that cause injury include:

• Acids
• Solvents
• Pesticides
• Asbestos
• Paint
• etc.

Dangerous chemicals can injure humans in a variety of different ways. Exposure to the skin can cause burning and rashes. Breathing in harmful fumes can cause illnesses. And the accidental ingestion of chemicals can cause massive damage to the throat, stomach and lungs.

Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSD)
These injuries primarily affect muscles, tendons, ligaments and the skeletal structure. A musculoskeletal injury could have enormous repercussions on an individual’s quality of life. Daily or chronic pain can affect the individual for years to come. Musculoskeletal disorders are common in sectors including the health sector, agricultural sector and the construction sector.

Anxiety, Stress and Depression
When individuals are assigned work far above their knowledge, skill set or capacity, they are likely to begin suffering from stress. Stress can lead to depression and anxiety. These conditions can have a detrimental effect on a person’s quality of life. Sectors with the highest reported levels of anxiety, stress and depression include the educational, health, and transport sectors.

Biological Agents
Within the workplace, employees can be exposed to numerous biological agents. Everything from parasites, bacteria and fungi can be present. Some of these agents can be detrimental to the health of an employee.
We found that exposure to biological agents is relatively common in laboratories and research facilities. Within the health sector, hospital workers are at risk of being exposed to blood-borne viruses. Refuge collectors and cleaners are also at risk of blood-borne viruses if they accidentally get pricked by a needle that hasn’t been properly disposed of. Individuals working within the agricultural sector are also at risk. Suppose an individual is handling an animal without the correct protective gear. In that case, they can be exposed to animal diseases which can affect human health.

Common Illnesses and Injuries

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome is caused when excessive pressure is put on the median nerve in the wrist. This condition manifests in a tingling feeling, numbness and weakness of the hand. Carpal tunnel syndrome is often caused by repetitive movements of the wrist, constant flexing and extending.

Repetitive Strain Injuries*
The symptoms of repetitive strain injuries include pain within the muscles, tendons and nerves. This type of injury can affect numerous parts of the body. This injury is common in the forearms, neck, wrists, ankles, elbows and shoulders. If not treated, a repetitive strain injury tends to get worse. Early symptoms like a faint pain can eventually become a constant ache that can negatively affect a person’s life and mental state.

Cancers
Specific industries come with a higher exposure rate to cancerous chemicals. Therefore, an employee must be given adequate protection and hazardous material training. Some of the most dangerous chemicals that have been linked to various cancers include:

• Asbestos
• Silica
• Benzene
• Arsenic
• Dioxins

Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome
Commonly found in industries where individuals work with vibrating machinery and tools. This type of injury commonly affects the legs and arms.

Deafness
Industrial deafness impairment is caused by exposure to excessive noise in the workplace. Symptoms can include tinnitus or not being able to hear conversations or sounds.

Dermatitis
Dermatitis is a skin disorder caused by exposure to harmful substances for an extended period. Throughout Roger’s solicitors’ time representing individuals injured in the workplace, we found that dermatitis is one of Ireland’s most common work-related injuries.

What are the causes of Occupational injuries and work-related illness?

• The failure of an employer to provide adequate protective clothing or inadequate or non-existent training.
• Poorly maintained equipment can expose an employee to dangerous chemicals, biological agents or dangerous machine parts.
• Not giving an employee adequate time for breaks and rest can also cause these types of injuries.
• Over-exposure to harmful chemicals, including carcinogenic chemicals
• The engagement in dangerous practices or work processes

Who is liable for these types of injuries and illnesses

Employers have a duty of care to their employees. They must guarantee the health and safety of their workforce throughout the workday. This is a legal requirement under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act of 2005. The duty of care and an employer has includes

• Providing their employees with the correct training and all necessary protective gear and protective equipment
• Providing a safe working environment
• Ensuring all machinery is safe and adequately serviced, and maintained

Suppose a breach in these health and safety regulations occurs and an employee suffers an injury. In that case, the injured party is within their rights to seek compensation.

To help prevent workplace accidents and injuries, the employee has specific responsibilities under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act (2005):

• They must attend all the safety training provided by the employer
• They must report problems they have witnessed to the employer
• And they must be willing to co-operate with all health and safety regulations

If an employee behaves negligently and this behaviour leads to the injury of a fellow employee, the negligent employee may be liable.

If you have suffered a personal injury in Dublin during your work day or due to your duties, please contact our offices today. Our expert personal injury solicitors can advise on the best course of action based on the unique circumstances of your claim.

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