The Health and Safety Executive advise that cancer can be caused by substances, or mixtures of substances, called ‘carcinogens’. Occupational cancer can be caused through prolonged exposure to carcinogens in the workplace. Carcinogens occur in many forms, they can be solids, liquids, vapours, gases, or dusts and can be breathed in, absorbed through the skin or swallowed. Certain types of work, which involve exposure to substances such as chemicals, oils, solvents or fumes, can put you at risk of developing a number of diseases, including occupational cancer.
The Health and Safety at Work Act (1974) places a legal duty on your employer to protect your health and safety at work .The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) requires your employer to control substances that are hazardous to health, including exposure to carcinogens. Failure to adhere to health and safety legalisation can seriously put you at risk of developing an industrial disease. If your employer for example, fails to adequately ventilate your work place or provide you with suitable personal and respiratory protection equipment, then they are likely to breach their legal duty of care owed to you. If you later develop cancer and it can be proven that the cancer has been caused by exposure to hazards harmful to health, then you may be able to bring a claim against your employer for personal injury.
Your employer should have an employer’s liability insurance policy. The insurer will ordinarily be responsible for funding any compensation awarded to you.
Please note that you usually have three years to make a claim from the date you realised your illness might be related to work (known as date of knowledge), though there are some exceptions. The rules surrounding date of knowledge can often be complicated and can result in your employer avoiding paying compensation, even when you have medical evidence supporting your diagnosis. In these circumstances you must seek legal advice from a specialist as soon as possible, delay will damage your claim.
If you have been diagnosed with a type of cancer which you have reason to believe is work-related, please contact one of our litigation lawyers who will be able to advise you with regards to potentially bringing a claim against your employer.