Occupationally acquired cases (both employed and self employed) should be notified to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995 (RIDDOR).
If someone is disabled as a result of occupationally acquired Lyme disease, they may be able to claim Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit. This benefit does not apply to self employed people.
Risk assessments should include an assessment of the risk of tick bites and consequent exposure to tick-borne disease. Lyme disease infection rates of UK ticks vary from zero to the maximum found (Wiltshire) of 20%, but anyone working in the countryside, rural gardens or town parks is likely to be at risk. Classic poorly recognised risk situations include:
- Contractors strimming long grass on verges: they may have protective trousers, but are they aware of the need to brush these off after work?
- Gardeners in rural gardens who may weed in shrubby growth with bare hands. Ticks may climb under sleeves and attach in armpits.
All workers at risk should be aware of the tiny size of the nymph tick and the precautions that should be taken. Tick removal tools should be made available, and can be purchased from our on-line shop or from many vets and pharmacies.
Tick bites known to have occurred during the course of employment should be entered in the accident book.
Employees contracting Lyme Disease
Factors that may need particular understanding in the workplace:
Persistent infection: Lyme disease can be difficult to treat if not caught early. Later symptoms can fluctuate in intensity resulting in variable ability to work to previous standards.
Psychiatric symptoms: Lyme disease can affect the central nervous system and mind.
Although uncommon, some patients have developed Lyme-related:
- Psychoses including hallucinations and delusions.
- Emotional lability: rapid mood swings, episodes of rage, crying and reduced impulse control.
- Suicidal thoughts and behaviour.
- Symptoms of cognitive loss such as memory impairment, word and number problems and diminished executive function.
Occupational Health doctors may need briefing on these aspects.
See the Neurology & Psychiatry page in the About Lyme section of this website.
Be Aware that not all newspaper articles are well informed.
Diagnosis of Lyme disease has some inherent difficulties. Check the nature of a patient’s diagnosis: NHS or private? There is a tendency for some on-line groups to suggest the use of private, overseas laboratories for blood tests. Some of these laboratories use tests which are not specific for Lyme disease and some which are not licensed for diagnosis. Some patients with an overseas diagnosis may have Lyme disease, but some may not and may benefit from further specialist investigations of other causes of their illness.
The NHS has useful, straightforward information on Lyme disease and ticks suitable for any employees.
The UK Health Security Agency runs a Tick Surveillance Scheme. The website has resources on tick awareness and also for participating in the surveillance of ticks across the UK.
LDA can provide awareness leaflets and also small wallet cards with information on tick removal.
Contact us if you would like any of these