In some professions, employees encounter toxic chemicals, disease, and other agents that can contribute to the development of a work-related illness. The workers’ compensation insurance systems in some states (including California) allow for the coverage of occupational illnesses, in addition to on-the-job injuries.
Types of Work-Related Illnesses and Causes
Occupational illnesses can be caused by a variety of harmful agents. The most common cause is toxic exposure in industries such as firefighting, manufacturing, mining, and other roles in which workers deal with chemicals on a daily basis. Mental illness, particularly post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), is also considered an occupational hazard in some industries.
Some illnesses that are considered occupational hazards include:
- Skin conditions
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
Filing an Occupational Illness Claim
Illnesses that were caused by work develop much more slowly than on-the-job injuries, and can be more difficult to prove as work-related. These differences make the process of filing a workers’ compensation claim in relation to an illness vary from the process of filing an injury claim.
When an employee is injured at work, they must report the injury to their employer as soon as possible. In cases of illness, the worker may not know that they are sick right away or not know that the illness was caused by their work. The more gradual nature of a work-related illness allows the statute of limitations to be adjusted so ill workers are permitted to begin the claims process once they are aware of their illness and have reason to believe the illness was caused by their job.
Some laws only define certain illnesses as work-related, and may limit claims only to certain professions. Firefighters are often labeled as especially at risk for occupational illness, and are given certain permissions for pursuing a workers’ compensation claim to cover their medical expenses and other costs.