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Cement is a dangerous substance, whether because of the risk of chemical burns, dermatitis or some other condition. However, one risk that is frequently overlooked is that posed by cement dust which sometimes contain high levels of respirable silica (RCS) and chromate.

Although short-term exposure to cement dust may cause only mild irritation to the nose and throat, sustained and frequent exposure may lead to work-related asthma. Furthermore, over the long-term this can lead to more complicated but related conditions such as silicosis and scarring on the lungs, both of which can impede respiratory function and, where there has been high level of RCS inhalation, death.

Most commonly, workers suffer exposure to cement dust when emptying or disposing of bags; however, cutting, sanding and scabbling concrete can also cause high levels of dust to enter the atmosphere surrounding workers.

Employer responsibility

Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, and various other pieces of legislation, all employers have a responsibility to protect the health and welfare of workers.

As such, if silica dust cannot be eliminated from the workplace altogether, employers must at least reduce the level of exposure. Whether this is achieved by altering workplace practices or providing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) will depend on the specific circumstances.

However, in the majority of instances, employers should be able to reduce exposure by using exhaust ventilation technologies or water-based dust suppression techniques. Contrary to what was once thought best practice in the past, experts now agree that the best way to reduce exposure and to thereby prevent work-related asthma is to capture cement dust at source.

Symptoms of cement dust-induced work-related asthma

Typically, patients are diagnosed with work-related asthma when there has been no evidence of abnormal respiratory function prior to exposure, if there is evidence of acute exposure, and when symptoms of bronchial hyper-responsiveness persist for three or more months.

Work-related asthma claims with Seth Lovis & Co

If you have been diagnosed with work-related asthma and believe that it may be attributable to conditions in your workplace – for example, cement dust exposure - Seth Lovis & Co's specialist legal team could help you claim compensation for your illness, medical expenses and any lost earnings.

We specialise in all areas of industrial injury litigation and act for clients who suffer from a wide range of industrial conditions including deafness, vibration white finger and industrial dermatitis. Call 0808 252 0678 for further information.

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