Local authorities are among major employers who are facing increased numbers of claims which are being supported by Trade Unions. Some Trade Unions are even setting up a diesel emissions register for employees to record their exposure to toxic air. Such claims are being brought under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH). The Regulations require employers to either prevent or reduce their employees’ exposure to substances that are hazardous to their health.

Exposure to diesel fumes has been the centre of debate for a number of years now. In 2012 the World Health Organisation classified diesel fumes as carcinogenic and a subsequent WHO report confirmed that air pollution (including exposure to diesel fumes) kills around 7 million people worldwide every year. Government figures suggest that diesel fumes account for one quarter of all pollution deaths.

Scientists are also now suggesting that air pollution may be to blame for inflammation in the heart, leading to chronic problems or a heart attack, stating that air pollution can be compared to cigarette smoking and the predominant cause of death may be cardiovascular disease. The current suggestion is that these issues are equivalent to the chronology of asbestos disease claims and scientific knowledge regarding its effect on individuals.

The Government has sought to act recently by proposing to ban not just diesel but also petrol cars by 2040 in July of this year.

We have handled a number of these claims previously where the focus of the claim was on the development or exacerbation of asthma. The Claimants were however unable to demonstrate a causative link between the exposure and their condition. It is likely that these claims will continue to rise and companies and organisations will need to adequately prepare for the inevitable claims following.