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Diseases In the Workplace

Chronic disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S., with more than half of Americans suffering from some type of condition, according to the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC). Worksite conditions contribute to a host of risk factors for diseases through exposure to hazardous chemicals and materials, inflexible work schedules and unforgiving demands on duty, according to a study published in the American Journal of Public Health.

The dedicated Boston workers’ compensation attorneys at the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman recognize that a disease or illness may be deemed work-related if an event or exposure in the work environment either caused or contributed to the resulting condition or significantly aggravated a condition that was pre-existing.

Unfortunately, too many insurers deny workers’ compensation benefits to these workers on grounds they cannot specify an exact traumatic event that precipitated or caused the disease. Often, these denials are contrary to law and fact, as it’s not always necessary to prove an exact date or incident that resulted in the illness in order for the claim to be compensable.

There are many cases in which workers who toil for years in industries requiring arduous physical labor suffer from pathological conditions of the knees, hips, shoulders, back or neck – and they can’t pinpoint a single traumatic incident at work that caused it. There are also workers with extremely high-stress jobs who suffer from cardiovascular disease that is likely related. In other cases, workers who labor in vehicle manufacturing, coal mines and construction may have been exposed to air that was oily, dusty or dirty and now suffer a lung disease as a result. They can’t show the exact exposure that made them sick, and often, there isn’t one. It occurs over time, and either directly causes the condition or significantly contributes to an existing disease.

These cases require a legal team with more extensive experience because they are more complicated and difficult to prove.

Occupational Illnesses

The Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that occupational illnesses may result in:

  • Emergency medical treatment
  • Restricted work activity or job transfer
  • Extended periods of time off work
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Death

Work-related illnesses can include certain irreversible diseases like cancer or could involve chronic conditions like hepatitis C or radiation poisoning.

Some of the most common include:

  • Skin Diseases or Disorders. Encompassed here would be illnesses that involve the worker’s skin and are caused by exposure to chemicals, plants or other substances. It could include: Dermatitis, rash, oil acne, inflammation of the skin, chrome ulcers, friction blisters or eczema.
  • Respiratory Conditions. These would be diseases caused by inhaling dangerous gases, fumes, vapors, dusts, chemicals or biological agents while at work. Some examples might include: Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), occupational asthma, tuberculosis, beryllium disease, pharyngitis, pneumonitis, asbestosis, mesothelioma, silicosis, chronic obstructive bronchitis, metal fume fever and hypersensitivity pneumonitis.
  • Poisoning. Disorders caused by exposure to, ingestion or bodily absorption of high levels of toxic substances, usually in the blood, bodily fluids, breath or tissues. Substances like lead, mercury, arsenic, carbon monoxide, hydrogen sulfide, benzene, benzol, insecticide sprays, formaldehyde – all these could cause potentially serious side effects that may result in chronic illness or death.
  • Hearing Loss. Noise-induced hearing loss can occur as a result of a singular, traumatic incident, or regular exposure.
  • Other Occupational Illnesses. These could include a range of injuries such as heatstroke, frostbite, ionizing and nonionizing radiation, anthrax, bloodborne pathogenic diseases (hepatitis C or hepatitis B, HIV/ AIDS), tumors, brucellosis and histoplasmosis.

These are just a few examples. Others might include bites from venomous spiders or snakes, exposure to hazardous drugs in the health care industry or decompression sickness.

Massachusetts Workplace Disease/ Illness

In Massachusetts specifically, workplace illnesses appear to have been on the decline in recent years, according to the Department of Labor Standards. There were a total of 3,000 work-related illnesses reported in the Commonwealth in 2011, then 2,800 in 2012 and 2,400 in 2013.

Those were just within the private industry.

These included in 2013:

  • Skin Disorders – 400 cases, incidence rate of 1.7 per 10,000 full-time workers
  • Respiratory Conditions – 300 cases, incidence rate of 1.4 per 10,000 full-time workers
  • Hearing Loss – 300 cases, incidence rate of 1.2 per 10,000 full-time workers
  • All Other Illnesses – 1,400 cases, incidence rate of 6.1 per 10,000 full-time workers
Workers’ Compensation for Occupational Disease

Although most employers and insurance companies do recognize that occupational disease is very real and take appropriate steps to minimize the risk, there are some who are either ignorant or unscrupulous. They routinely deny work-related diseases claims because they know it can be tough for the worker to prove.

A workers’ compensation lawyer can identify the issue, compile the necessary medical proof and help affected workers navigate the system.

In some situations, the problem starts with the health care provider, who is not aware of the workers’ history of exposure to factors that could have caused or exacerbated one’s condition. An attorney can help with this issue by submitting material to the physician early on to educate him or her of the occupational exposure so that an accurate diagnosis will be forthcoming.

Contact the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman today for a free and confidential consultation.

Call (617) 367-2900 – NO FEE UNLESS SUCCESSFUL

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