Understanding Occupational Disease and Your Workers’ Compensation Benefits

man-receiving-oxygen-for-a-respiratory-disorderWorkers’ compensation benefits are most often associated with workplace accidents and injuries, but these benefits exist for another purpose as well—to ensure the care and financial well-being of those who suffer from an occupation illness. It is not uncommon for job conditions to cause an employee to develop an illness or to experience the worsening of an existing illness. In either case, it is possible for workers and their families to obtain medical care and compensation through different types of workers’ compensation benefits.

What Is an Occupational Illness?

An occupational illness is defined by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) as “any abnormal condition or disorder caused by exposure to factors associated with employment.” Similar to an occupational injury, eligible illnesses are only those that are directly related to the conditions on the job. While some work may carry obvious risks for occupational disease, it is possible for any type of employee to contract an illness due to work.

Most Common Types of Occupational Illness

Workers can be exposed to a wide variety of factors that can cause a range of illnesses. Some more common types of work-related illness include the following:

  • Respiratory disease. Asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are two of the most common workplace illnesses. Vapors, gases, dust, and fumes may not be seen but can have a significant impact on your health, especially with day-to-day exposure.
  • Skin disease. Contact dermatitis is also among the leading job-related illnesses. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that skin disease accounts for as much as 20 percent of all reported work-related illnesses. They are also considered widely underreported, but workers should take care to address any health issue that arises on the job.
  • Fertility issues. Fertility problems can affect both male and female workers, especially those who routinely work with chemicals. Pregnancy abnormalities can also arise from work conditions.
  • Hearing loss. While hearing loss can be caused by a traumatic injury, it often occurs after routine exposure to noise on the job. After years of stress and strain, it’s not uncommon to lose varying degrees of hearing, which can have a widespread effect on a worker’s professional and personal life.
  • Infectious disease. If you contract an infectious disease, such as hepatitis or tuberculosis, at work, you would be covered by workers’ compensation. Social service workers, corrections personnel, and medical providers are among the most at-risk employees.
  • Musculoskeletal disorders. Musculoskeletal injuries are extremely common among workers, but similar disorders affect many workers. Carpal tunnel syndrome and epicondylitis are two examples of this type of disease.

Obtaining Benefits for an Occupational Disease in Alaska

Workers may hesitate to seek benefits for an illness because the process can be daunting. Unlike many injuries, there is typically not one specific moment that can be reported as the cause or start of an illness. Alaska workers’ compensation law understands that it may take time for workers to recognize the signs of illness, and it stipulates that a worker must report their illness within 30 days of becoming aware of the disease. To do so, workers can obtain a “Report of Occupational Injury or Illness” form from their employer.

How an Attorney Can Help With Your Workers’ Compensation Illness Claim

Work-related illness claims can be difficult. Often, workers are trying to manage the symptoms of their disease, and navigating the workers’ compensation system may seem like too much to take on. Additionally, employers and their insurance companies will likely attempt to undermine your claim, blaming your physical condition on other sources. In these cases, an experienced attorney can help you understand your rights and help you find the most effective way forward. In Anchorage, attorney Ben Crittenden has helped many ill workers obtain the benefits they need and deserve. Even if you are unsure if your illness qualifies as an occupational disease, call our office or fill out the contact form on this page to get in touch directly with Ben and schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.