How dirty is your workplace?
When we think of workers’ compensation injuries it is easy to imagine that all the injuries are sudden and traumatic, e.g. I was on a construction site and the scaffolding collapsed, or I tried to lift a 50 pound bag and my back went out. There is however, a segment of workers’ compensation injuries referred to as occupational diseases.* Think of these as the inherent risk of particular jobs. If you spend all day spraying hazardous chemicals and breathing them in, you might expect at some point to develop respiratory issues. If you are an EMT, exposed day in and day out to bodily fluids it is possible that you will develop a blood borne illness.
*If you have one, consider filing a Form 30C.
What is an occupational disease?
The Workers’ Compensation Commission defines occupational disease as “disease peculiar to an employee’s occupation and due to causes in excess of the ordinary hazards of employment as such.”
Occupation diseases for workers’ compensation purposes covers skin diseases, lead exposure, respiratory ailments, and the like. The emergence of these types of injuries can be delayed or may create a great deal of uncertainty when they do emerge.
How do I protect myself?
Document what exposures you have had at work when you are exposed. Document your illness and symptoms. Go see a doctor if you believe that you have developed an ailment due to exposure. While the procedures for an occupational disease claim are largely the same as a regular workers’ compensation claim, the medical evidence can be more involved, especially if there are competing causes for the disease. This precautionary documentation might help you in the long run.