Can I Get Workers’ Comp for an Occupational Disease?
Lots of people are familiar with the idea of getting workers’ compensation following a workplace injury. If you are injured on the job, you are going to seek compensation to cover the costs of your recovery.
But many people don’t realize that workers’ compensation also covers illnesses and diseases that arise from workplace conditions. As a Louisiana resident, if you became sick because of your work environment, you have just as much eligibility for workers’ compensation as someone who falls, breaks a bone, is injured in an accident, or experiences some other type of trauma.
Your Employer’s Responsibility to Provide a Safe Workplace
Employers are required to provide a safe working environment for their employees. That’s why almost every employer in all 50 states must follow OSHA’s guidelines.
The only employers who don’t have to abide by OSHA’s rules are:
- Self-employed individuals
- Farm employees (and their immediate relatives)
- Any workplace that is regulated by a different set of federal laws, such as the Coast Guard or Department of Energy
Unless you fit into one of those categories, your employer is obligated to provide you with a safe workplace. Workplace safety includes situations related to OSHA’s five categories of workplace hazards:
This includes things like spills that aren’t cleaned up or identified, cords that aren’t secured, falls from heights, machinery with moving parts, electricity, enclosed spaces, and any other condition or object that could lead to an injury.
If you do any work with or around chemicals, your employer must protect you from the potential negative effects of those chemicals, no matter the form they are in (such as liquid, gas, vapor, fumes, or particulates). Some common workplace hazards are pesticides, flammable liquids, fumes from welding, carbon monoxide, acids, and fibers or dust from silica and fiberglass.
Biohazards include blood, bodily fluids, fungi, molds, animal droppings, and viruses. Workers must be provided with effective PPE and be fully informed of all the risks associated with any biological hazards they will encounter on the job.
Sometimes people confuse safety and physical risks. The biggest difference is that safety risks are about objects, whereas physical risks can affect a person with or without contact. For example, extreme temperatures, loud noises, and UV exposure all count as physical workplace risks.
Ergonomic risks affect the musculoskeletal system. Doing repetitive work can strain our muscles, tendons, and bones. Workers in numerous settings face ergonomic risks, including those in offices, on construction sites, on assembly lines, and more.
What are Occupational Diseases?
When you look at that list of risks that OSHA covers, it becomes clear that not every potential workers’ compensation issue is based on a physical injury.
In Louisiana, employees who become disabled because of an occupational disease deserve the same workers’ compensation as those who are physically injured because of an accident or unsafe working environment.
Here is a list of occupational diseases:
- Contact dermatitis
- Rash caused by irritants, sensitizers, or poisonous plants
- Oil acne
- Friction blisters
- Chrome ulcers
- Skin inflammation
- Acute congestion
- Farmer’s lung
- Beryllium disease
- Occupational asthma
- Reactive Active Dysfunction Syndrome (RADS)
- Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
- Hypersensitivity pneumonitis
- Toxic inhalation injuries (metal fume fever, chronic obstructive bronchitis, and pneumoconioses)
- Lead poisoning
- Mercury poisoning
- Cadmium poisoning
- Arsenic poisoning
- Carbon monoxide poisoning
- Hydrogen sulfide poisoning
- Benzene poisoning
- Benzol poisoning
- Carbon tetrachloride poisoning
- Insecticide poisoning
- Poisoning by any other chemical
- Hearing loss
- Heat exhaustion
- Heat stress
- Decompression sickness
- Ionizing radiation illness
- Nonionizing radiation illness
- Anthrax illness
- Hepatitis B
- Hepatitis C
- Malignant tumors
- Benign tumors
This list is not comprehensive, but it is a great starting point. If you have suffered from one of these illnesses because of something hazardous in your workplace, you are entitled to compensation.
How to Get Workers’ Compensation for an Occupational Illness
The process of filing for workers’ compensation benefits is never easy, but with the right support, you can get what is fair. In Louisiana, your best option is to work with a qualified and experienced legal team that specializes in helping people go through the workers’ compensation process.
Together, you will demonstrate that your illness is a result of your work environment. This may be because you have not been given proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), you were not informed of the risks, or you work in what can be described as a “sick building.”
The best way to maximize your workers’ compensation claim is to work with an attorney who knows how to make the system work for you.
Lunsford, Baskin & Priebe, PLLC provides compassionate, comprehensive legal services to people who have been injured on the job. We are here to support you as you navigate the complicated experience of filing a workers’ comp claim, including for occupational illness.
Contact us today for a free consultation!