Background: The Health & Safety Executive estimate that between 1500-3000 UK workers develop asthma through potentially avoidable workplace exposures each year.
Aims: To assess the perception of health, safety and the work environment by workers with symptoms suggestive of occupational asthma.
Methods: A total of 97 workers referred to hospital specialists with symptoms suggestive of occupational asthma were studied in order to investigate their attitudes to the workplace, safety and health. A qualitative study design using semi-structured telephone interviews at 2 months and 12 months following enrolment was used at 6 national UK centres with a special interest in occupational asthma.
Results: Many workers in the study felt let down by the workplace and management and perceived that a lack of health and safety measures had contributed to the development of their asthma symptoms. Many workers felt that their employers were 'uncaring' and were pursuing or considering medico-legal cases against them.
Conclusions: Workers' perception of risk influences their behaviour in the workplace, and their own health beliefs potentially create barriers to changing this. It is essential to consider workers' perceptions when developing strategies to effect change within the workplace.