Occupational Diseases – more common than you think

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Written by: Alcumus
27th February

Many people are aware that certain accidents and incidents have to be reported through official channels, but what may come as a surprise to some is that various occupational diseases must also be reported.

It is widely believed that such diseases are significantly under-reported, despite it being a legal requirement.  Under Regulation 8 of the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 (RIDDOR), employers and self-employed people have to report specified diagnosed diseases which are linked with occupational exposure to certain hazards.

Some duty holders may be surprised at the diseases which are deemed reportable:

  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS): is pressure on a nerve in your wrist and is cause by regularly bending your wrist or gripping, such as using vibrating tools for work, playing an instrument or even using a mouse with your computer.The main symptoms are pain, numbness, and tingling, in the thumb, index finger, middle finger, and the thumb side of the ring fingers.
  • Cramp of the hand or forearm: as it says in the name, this is cramp in the hand or forearm and is caused by moving the arm, hands or fingers repeatedly  
  • Occupational dermatitis: According to the HSE an estimated 84,000 people in the UK have dermatitis caused or made worse by their work in different sectors. The food and catering industries account for about 10% of this figure.

Causes vary, but include regular use of soap and detergents (makes up 55% of cases), regular contact with foods such as sugar, flour/dough, fruits, vegetables, spices, fish and meats (makes up 40% of cases), and contact with other materials such as coins, latex/rubber gloves and chemicals etc.

  • Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome: is damage made to a person’s hand, arm or fingers from regular use of materials, tools or machinery that vibrate.​​​​
  • Occupational asthma: this type of asthma is caused by substances in the workplace that cause the airways of the lungs to swell and narrow. Just like other forms of asthma, symptoms include attacks of wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness, and coughing.
  • Tendonitis or tenosynovitis: is the inflammation of the tendon sheath lining causing pain with movement and tenderness when pressure is applied. Causes of this injury are repeated use of tendons which lead to strain.

RIDDOR sets out requirements for timescales of reporting, which vary according to what is being reported.  In the case of diseases, this should be as soon as the responsible person in the organisation is provided with a diagnosis and it can be reported through the HSE website using the relevant online form.

Managing and reporting incidences under RIDDOR can be time consuming, and keeping up to date on what accounts as a reportable incident is essential. Our expert health and Safety (H&S) consultants can provide you with advice and guidance on all H&S matters, assist with investigations where necessary and help with reporting incidents correctly. Please contact us if you need help on any H&S related matter.