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What is COPD? Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

View profile for Pauline Smith
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Breathe easy week 2018 - 18th June - 24th June

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a major lung disease causing death and disability.  This is the 4th leading cause of death throughout the world* – a sobering statistic.

What is COPD?

This is a long term illness which develops slowly, and usually comes on when the sufferer is middle-aged and beyond.  Symptoms of COPD include recurrent chest infections, wheezing when you breathe, persistent chesty cough producing phlegm and shortness of breath.  The disease attacks your lungs and breathing tubes and causes difficulties with many aspects of daily living, reducing the sufferer’s capacity for movement.

Although the main cause of COPD is cigarette smoking, exposure to certain dusts and fumes in the workplace can cause the development of the disease, even if the exposed person is not a smoker. Once COPD develops, the damage to the lungs is irreversible, however you can prevent any further damage by stopping smoking and avoiding exposure to dangerous fumes and dust at work which may have contributed towards the development of the condition.

Occupations in which COPD related disease is common

Perhaps the most obvious occupation where people were exposed to the risk of COPD was coal mining, however there are many other jobs in which people risk exposure to dust and fumes, such as:

  • Stonemasons
  • Construction
  • Food industry workers (flour and grain)
  • Foundry workers
  • Quarrying
  • Textiles
  • Road workers

This is not a definitive list, and any occupation which exposes a worker to dangerous levels of dust and fumes could potentially be a contributory factor to the development of COPD.

What should your employer be doing?

If you do work in this type of dusty environment, then your employer should carry out appropriate risk assessments to put in measures to reduce exposure.  If possible, they should segregate the workplace so that the processes which generate dust are separated from the rest of the workforce.  If possible, they should automate processes to reduce the risk of exposure by personnel.  If your job involves cutting, grinding or blasting, then your employer can use wet techniques to dampen down any dust generate and ensure that areas are vacuumed cleaned rather than brushed or swept.  Any waste materials should be controlled and closed in bags or containers where possible.

If you have been exposed to this type of work environment and believe that you have developed COPD as a result, you may be entitled to compensation.  Please contact pur personal injury solicitors for more advice, call us on 0161 696 6235 or complete our online enquiry form.

*According to the HSE: About COPD