Asthma
Asthma

The following PI & Clinical Negligence guidance note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Asthma
  • What is asthma and what are the causes?
  • Legal duty
  • Causation
  • Quantum

This Practice Note considers how civil liability is imposed when a person, typically (though not exclusively) an employee, suffers asthma due to exposure to substances hazardous to health.

In relation to injury suffered, specifically asthma contracted, before 1 October 2013 the statutory regime under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH Regs 2002), SI 2002/2677, as amended, applied.

For injuries suffered on or after 1 October 2013, section 69(3) of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 (ERRA 2013) applies so as to rewrite section 47 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and provide for no civil liability to arise for breach of COSHH Regs 2002.

For further guidance for accidents or injury occurring on or after 1 October 2013, see Practice Notes: Section 69 of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 and Section 69 of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013—case tracker.

What is asthma and what are the causes?

Asthma is a breathing disorder involving the inflammation and narrowing of the airways. It is characterised by obstruction of the airways and attacks of breathlessness, wheezing and coughing.

Occupational disease practitioners will encounter two causes of asthma. The symptoms complained of may be either:

  1. irritant-induced asthma, or

  2. allergic asthma

Irritant-induced asthma is caused by exposure to an irritant substance such as a volatile acid. It