It's An Occupational Hazard: What To Know About Occupational Illnesses And Workers' Compensation

Not all work-related cases are associated with a sudden injury. Occupational illnesses affect 860,000 each year and cause death in 60,300. If you have been affected by an illness that can be traced back to your workplace, you are very likely entitled to benefits just as if you were hurt in a work accident. To find out more about this category of work-related cases, read on.

What Are Occupational Illnesses?

Most occupational illnesses can be linked to exposure of some kind. It can be due to exposure to toxic solvents, the work environment (sick building syndrome), radiation, and more. There are as many types of occupational illnesses as there are jobs and almost any job could put workers at risk for being exposed to something that causes them to be physically ill and unable to work at their jobs. Some common types of occupational illnesses include:

  • Asbestos exposure diseases caused by contact with asbestos in manufacturing.
  • Skin disorders caused by coming into contact with irritants.
  • Vision and eye problems caused by exposure to dangerous chemicals.
  • Hearing disorders caused by excessive noise.
  • Cancers caused by exposure to chemicals in cleaning products or the manufacturing process.
  • Lung diseases such as black lung disease suffered by coal miners.

Take the Right Steps

As soon as you have been diagnosed with an occupational illness that you know is linked to your workplace, take the following actions without delay:

  1. Seek medical care and be sure to let the doctor know that your illness is associated with your workplace so that it can be documented in your medical records. As to what doctor to use – use your own doctor until you are told otherwise by the workers' comp carrier that your employer uses.
  2. Notify your supervisor at work about the illness. In most cases, you only have a limited number of days to inform your supervisor after you find out about the illness or your claim might be questioned. For example, your employer and the workers' compensation carrier may wonder why you failed to report the illness in a timely manner if it was so debilitating to you and your ability to work.
  3. Ask that a workers' compensation claim be filed. In some states, workers are responsible for filing their own claims so check with human resources to find out more.
  4. Don't sign an incomplete or inaccurate claim form. Read it over carefully paying special attention to details like dates, times, and proper medical terms. Be consistent with what you put on the form, what you tell your employer, and what you tell the doctor.
  5. Begin keeping records and notes about your illness, your interactions with your employer and the workers' compensation carrier, and your medical treatments.

Occupational illnesses can be more difficult to prove and many claims get denied or held up. If you are having problems with your workers' comp claim, speak to a workers' compensation lawyer about your case and get the representation you need.