According to Health and Safety Executive statistics, you are more at risk when it comes to suffering an injury or developing a respiratory condition like Farmer’s Lung if you work in farming or agriculture. Figures show that since the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 was introduced, the number of farming and agricultural fatal accidents has not dropped to the same extent as in other industries which includes manufacturing and construction. With only around 1% of the UK’s entire working population, 20% of fatal accidents occur in the farming and agriculture.
Agricultural and Farming Accident Statistics
The Health and Safety Executive report that was published in 2014 established that around 28,000 farm workers suffered from some kind of respiratory issue due to their working environments with around 7% being caused by allergic reactions to animal feed dust, flour and other types of grains that farm workers handle on a constant basis. The report also established that many farm and agricultural workers developed a respiratory condition that is commonly known as “Farmer’s Lung”.
The reason being that farm and agricultural workers constantly operate and frequently around large machines and equipment that moves and transports heavy loads of hay, straw, grain and other cereals which leave mould spores in the working environment. This means that the environment farm workers are constantly in can be extremely dusty and therefore harmful to their health and well-being.
The Definition of Farmer’s Lung
If you are a farm or agricultural worker and come into contact with mouldy spores and dust for a period of time on a daily basis, the chances are that over time, you would start to feel unwell and could even have trouble breathing. The symptoms you would experience if you suffer from a respiratory disorder like Farmer’s Lung are very similar to those of having developed a serious case of the flu. Other symptoms could include the following:
- A difficulty breathing
- A tightness in your chest
The severity of your symptoms would depend on your sensitivity to the allergens you encounter and the length of time you are exposed to them. Should an employer fail to set in place the correct measures to prevent you from developing Farmer’s Lung, you could be entitled to file for compensation because they did not keep you safe from harm in the workplace which all employers in the UK are legally required to do.
What Safety Measures Should be in Place?
The safety measures that your employer should set in place if there is a risk of you developing a respiratory disease like Farmer’s Lung include the following:
- Hay, straw and grains should be handled mechanically and not manually
- Areas must be as well ventilated as possible
- Farm and agricultural workers must be provided with adequate personal protective wear (PPE) which has to include face masks to reduce the risk of them inhaling the harmful spores that can lead to Farmer’s Lung
It is also worth noting that hay that is stored in damp conditions can develop bacterial mould and when the hay dries, it releases harmful dust spores into the air. When farm and agricultural workers inhale the bacteria, it can result in them suffering from short-term illness to conditions that are a lot more severe and which negatively impact the quality of their lives and this includes a respiratory disorder like Farmer’s Lung.
How Do I Prove a Farmer’s Lung Compensation Claim?
If you suspect you have developed Farmer’s Lung, you should consult your GP as soon as possible. While being examined you should explain that you work in a farming and agricultural environment. You should also describe the symptoms you are experiencing. A doctor would need to take blood tests, x-rays of your lungs and test your breathing ability. If it is found that you are suffering from Farmer’s Lung, you would be prescribed specific medication which could include corticosteroids to alleviate the symptoms you are experiencing.
To help prove a Farmer’s Lung compensation claim, you would need to be examined by an independent medical professional and if you have not yet been examined, a solicitor who specialises in farming and agricultural injury claims would arrange this for you.
The medical report must be provided by an independent medical professional and not your usual GP which is an essential factor when filing a Farmer’s Lung claim against a negligent employer. With this said, your GP would make your medical records available to the independent medical professional so that any existing medical conditions or health issues can be taken into consideration. Once your independent medical report is complete, a prognosis of your condition would be available which can then be used in your Farmer’s Lung compensation claim.
Would I Have a Valid Farmer’s Lung Claim Against my Employer?
If it is found that your employer was negligent in their duty to keep you safe from harm and injury in the workplace because they failed to provide you with the correct protective equipment (PPE) and other safety wear or they failed to provide sufficient safety training and you contracted Farmer’s Lung as a direct result, you could be entitled to file a claim for compensation against them.
It would be fair to say that agricultural compensation claims can be complex and because symptoms may not present themselves or be recognised straight away but much further down the line. You may not realise how your health and capacity to work has been negatively impacted for a long time and as such, it is far better to seek legal advice as soon as you are aware that you may be suffering from a respiratory disease like Farmer’s Lung.
Having an expert solicitor advising you and working on your behalf, improves your chances of proving your Farmer’s Lung claim and receiving the level of compensation you deserve if it is found that your employer was negligent in their duty to keep you safe while you were at work.
What Are My Rights if I Develop Farmer’s Lung at Work?
All employers in the UK have a duty of care to keep their employees safe from harm and injury in the workplace. Should your employer have failed to keep you safe by not providing the right PPE to suit the agricultural job you do, and you develop Farmer’s Lung, you have every right to claim compensation from them. Your worker’s rights if you develop an illness in the workplace are as follows:
- That you are awarded the level of compensation you rightly deserve
- That your job is kept safe even if you decide to file a Farmer’s Lung claim for compensation against your employer
There are many laws that protect workers in all industries which employers are legally bound to adhere to and should your employer fail to do so, they could be held responsible for you having developed Farmer’s Lung while working for them.
What Can be Included in a Farmer’s Lung Claim?
There are specific expenses that can be included in a Farmer’s Lung claim against a negligent employer which are as follows:
- For your pain and suffering which you had to cope with as a direct result of having developed Farmer’s Lung in the workplace due to employer negligence
- Any physical impairment and injuries you sustained
- Any mental anguish and/or pain you endured as a direct result of having developed Farmer’s Lung
- Loss of companionship
- Loss of your career because your condition prevents you from working
- Medical expenses which includes short-term and long-term costs you incurred and includes the cost of prescriptions and other medication, the cost of medical consultations, hospital stays and diagnostic tests
- Travel cost to and from hospital or other medical facilities which includes whether you travel by bus, car, train, or taxi
- Loss of income including bonuses and perks
- Loss of future earnings because you are unable to work again
Should I Make a Farmer’s Lung Claim Against My Employer?
If you can prove that you developed Farmer’s Lung because your employer failed to keep you safe from harm and injury in the workplace, you may find that your ability to work and quality of life are seriously and negatively impacted. Depending on the severity of your condition, you may not be able to work again and as such you could find yourself in financial difficulty, not being able to pay bills and other financial commitments.
Filing a work-related compensation claim against a negligent employer could mean that you are awarded an amount that alleviates any financial stress and anxiety you may have to cope with as a result of having developed Farmer’s Lung at work. It is also worth noting that your employer’s insurers would pay the compensation you receive and not your employer and that all employers in the UK are legally required to have active insurance in place.
Could I Be Sacked for Filing a Farmer’s Lung Claim Against My Employer?
An employer cannot legally fire you for having filed a Farmer’s Lung claim for compensation against them. If your employer does decide to sack you without good reason, you could be entitled to also file an unfair dismissal claim against them. As such, most employers understand the risks they could face should they fire you or treat you unfairly because you decide to file a personal injury claim against them.
How Much Compensation Could I Receive for Farmer’s Lung?
It is worth noting that when it comes to work-related injury claims, Farmer’s Lung is not recognised by the Courts as a “specific” illness in the same way that mesothelioma, an asbestos related disease is recognised. However, the condition is treated as a work-related “respiratory disease” and as such, the level of compensation you may be awarded in a successful Farmer’s Lung claim could be the same as other respiratory diseases contracted in the workplace. As a guideline, you could be awarded the following in a successful Farmer’s Lung claim:
- £44, 275 to £56,650 which are the amounts recommended by the Judicial College
Working with a Solicitor on a No Win, No Fee Basis
Many people who suffer an injury or develop an illness at work, are put off from filing a personal injury claim against a negligent employer because of the financial cost involved. However, many solicitors are willing to work with you on a No Win No Fee basis which means you do not have to worry about finding the funds to pay an upfront fee or retainer. If you have developed Farmer’s Lung as a result of employer negligence, a solicitor would listen to your case by offering a free initial consultation. This allows them to assess whether your claim is valid and whether your employer is liable.
Working with a solicitor on a No Win No Fee basis means that you would have to sign a contract with the firm of solicitors that represent you which is known as a Conditional Fee Agreement or CFA. This is a legally binding contract that contains all the information relating to the Terms and Conditions of the agreement. It also sets out the agreed percentage you would have to pay a solicitor but only if your Farmer’s Lung claim is successful and you are awarded the level of compensation you rightly deserve. The percentage would be deducted from the amount you are awarded whether your employer decides to settle out of court or a judge rules that you receive an amount to suit the pain, suffering and out-of-pocket expenses you incurred. Should your Farmer’s Lung claim not be successful, there would be nothing to pay for the legal representation you received.