What Qualifies As An Industrial Disease?

Industrial and Occupational Disease

The terminology of industrial disease has long been criticised as confusing for those victims who are looking into making a claim under this type of law. Increasingly, practitioners are using the phrase ‘occupational disease’ to describe the various conditions covered by this area, but even this does not adequately explain the nature of the law.

Occupational disease covers all kinds of ailments which have been contracted as a result of employment, and which are not one off injuries. Whilst acute injuries can sometimes be classified under the law of industrial disease, this is not common, and they are usually considered to be more akin to standard personal injury claims. Chronic injuries which are caused either by noxious substances, or by a repeated action at work, are typically described as occupational disease. Importantly, this categorisation is not limited to ‘disease’ as it is commonly understood. Any chronic condition can, potentially, qualify.

Breathing Difficulties

The most infamous industrial diseases tend to be related to asbestos exposure, and include mesothelioma, asbestosis and pleural plaques. All of these conditions cause serious issues relating to lung function. As covered more fully in another article on this site, asbestos claims are often subject to special rules on causation, due to the difficulty of determining which exposure to asbestos caused the illness. Chronic asthma is also a common cause of claims for occupational disease, with workplace exposure to dust or other irritants causing thousands of breathing related illnesses each year.


The classic example of confusion arising in this area of law due to the terminology of ‘disease’ is deafness at work. Whilst this would not be described as a disease in normal language, it is clearly a chronic condition, and if contracted at work it falls under this type of claim. There are a number of regulations which cover such claims, and victims can often take their employers to court for breach of statutory duty, as well as negligence. Specifically, the Noise at Work Regulations 2005 provide that employers must make sure that the hearing of their employees is not damaged during the course of employment. When noises reach 80 decibels, employers must provide a warning about the risks and provide hearing protection, whilst 87 decibels should never be exceeded in any workplace.

Other Common Conditions

Occupational disease covers a whole host of other conditions, with the two most common being RSI (repetitive strain injury) and stress-induced psychological illness. Both of these, if caused by conditions at work, are susceptible to claims against the irresponsible employer. It is also important to realise that you may be eligible to claim for state benefits as a result of your occupational disease, as the Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit scheme covers a wide range of chronic conditions caused by employment. You can find out more about the criteria for eligibility via the Ministry of Justice.

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