One in nine Australians has asthma and many aren’t aware their workplaces could be making their struggle for breath even worse.
Work-related asthma is silently impacting the lives of up to 15 per cent of adults with the chronic disease, which equates to about 3000 cases each day. Studies have shown exposure to harmful substances at work can exacerbate asthma.
Breathing in dusts, fumes or vapours can make asthmatic lungs even more compromised and contribute to overall poor health.
Up to 400 substances in Australian workplaces are known to cause occupational asthma and these include chemicals, wood dust, flour and grain dust, industrial cleaning products, latex, acrylic paints ,formaldehyde and mold.
These act as triggers and when inhaled they can prompt an asthma flare-up, which could require hospitalisation.
Knowing the signs
An easy way to know if you are being exposed to triggers at work, is to monitor your symptoms while at work compared to when you’re not at work. This includes on the weekends and when on leave.
You may notice you rely on your medication more while at work and don’t need it as much when you’re not there. These are symptoms you should tell your GP about.
A record of your symptoms can then be compared to your work history to determine whether a link exists. Your GP may also recommend taking an allergy test to determine which substance is triggering your asthma.
If you are not sure whether your workplace is contributing, you may want to speak to your GP regardless, especially if you work in an industry that is associated with potential asthma triggering substances. For example carpenters, hairdressers, cleaners, health care workers, spray painters and textile workers.
Protecting your health
It’s important that your employer does their utmost to safeguard the health of employees. If you are constantly experiencing triggers, not only does your health become worse when you step in the door, but your work performance suffers.
An early detection of triggers means you can manage your symptoms and make arrangements with your employer to eliminate triggers at work.
However, if your symptoms have not improved, worsened, forced you to seek emergency care or you have taken time off work to recover, you may be eligible for compensation.