20 Jul Workers’ Compensation and Occupational Diseases
An injured caused by a piece of machinery at work the type of occurrence people usually associate with workers’ compensation benefits. However, the hearing loss suffered by a factory worker exposed to the sounds of steel press each and every day or the office worker who is in constant pain from carpal tunnel syndrome might also qualify for benefits for these and other occupational diseases.
Occupational diseases and workers’ compensation in Arizona
Employers in Arizona with one or more employees must cover them under a workers’ compensation policy free of charge. Workers injured by a work-related activity are eligible to receive benefits, including:
- Medical care and treatment
- Wages lost while out of work
- Compensation for permanent disability
Occupation diseases, to be covered under workers’ compensation, must meet certain criteria, including the following:
- A connection exists between work activities and the disease
- There is no evidence the disease was caused by conditions outside of work activities
- The disease had its origin in a risk normally associated with an employee’s work-related activities
- The worker was not exposed to the same hazard or condition causing the disease outside of the workplace
Special rules for firefighters and peace officers
Because of the unique nature of their jobs, special rules apply to fire and law enforcement personnel. Proving a disease or condition was work-related is somewhat easier because of a presumption that disease and impairment related to the following are presumed to be occupational diseases:
- Colon and rectal cancer
The presumption applies as long as the individual applying for benefits meets the following criteria:
- The person passed a pre-employment physical examination
- The individual performed hazardous duties for at least five years
- The individual was exposed to known carcinogens
- The department for which the individual worked was informed of the person’s exposure to known carcinogens while on duty
Common occupational diseases
Common diseases workers might suffer due to exposure to hazardous conditions or substances or to activities performed on the job include:
- Hearing loss: Noises that are 25 decibels or higher can damage a worker’s hearing.
- Skin diseases and conditions: Chemicals and other substances used or kept in a work environment can cause rashes, blisters, inflammation, eczema and contact dermatitis.
- Respiratory conditions: The inhalation of chemicals, vapors, gases and dust present in the workplace can cause respiratory diseases and conditions. Asbestos has a number of industrial and commercial uses, but it inhalation by workers can be deadly.
- Poisoning: Prolonged exposure to toxic substances can cause them to be absorbed or ingested by workers. Substances commonly found in commercial and industrial environments include lead, mercury, benzene, formaldehyde and other toxic solvents or chemicals.
It is not only exposure to substances in the workplace that can cause illness in a worker. Depending upon the type of activities the job requires, a worker could also suffer from the following conditions:
- Heat exhaustion
Some types of occupations subject workers to biological hazards. For example, health care workers can be exposed to viruses, bacteria and germs causing illnesses and diseases. Workers sitting in an air conditioned office could be subject to conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome caused by repetitive use of their hands or eye problems caused by staring at a computer screen for long hours at a time.
There are any number of factors that can cause or contribute to the development of carpal tunnel syndrome, but repetitive use, such as when typing, or the use of power tools that cause excessive vibration in the hand and lower arm are common causes in the workplace. Carpal tunnel syndrome can cause numbness, weakness and debilitating pain in the hand and wrist.
An attorney can help when filing an occupational disease claim
The cause of an occupational disease is not always as clear as a workplace accident might be, so obtaining benefits through workers’ compensation might be difficult. Don’t lose your right to benefits. Speaking to a an attorney with experience handling occupational disease claims can be helpful.
The lawyers at Arizona Injury Law Group are Certified attorneys offering free consultations for all types of workers’ compensation injuries. Call us today to discuss your Arizona workers’ compensation concerns!