Every day in the United States, workers experience injury, illness, or death due to their occupation or a work-related accident. Occupational diseases are some of the most common work-related illnesses that workers face. Most often, occupational diseases arise due to exposure to harmful substances or environments. These diseases can have long-term, debilitating impacts that leave a person unable to earn income or even live a normal life. To help offset these consequences, legal relief is available in the form of workers’ compensation and other benefits.
At Schaffer & Associates LPA, our team of experienced Toledo occupational disease lawyers have spent years representing workers who suffer from work-related illness and injuries. Compensation is available to sufferers of occupational diseases and it is essential to not leave any money on the table. If you or a loved one suffers from an occupational disease, speaking with a knowledgeable attorney at Schaffer & Associates LPA is the first step to securing compensation. Schedule a free consultation with our Toledo office at (419) 595-4608 today.
What is an Occupational Disease?
Section 4123.01 of the Ohio Revised Code defines an occupational disease as one that is contracted in the course of employment as a result of work-related hazards that would not be present to the same extent or manner otherwise. This can include illnesses that are contracted due to job duties, such as lead exposure. It can also include illnesses or impairments that are contracted simply by being present in the work environment, such as a contagious disease.
According to the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation, occupational diseases may be caused by exposure to any of the following:
- Dust, gas, or fumes
- Chemicals or toxins
- Extreme changes in temperature, pressure, or noises
- Physical vibrations, physical movements in regular repetition, or radioactive rays
- Infections, viruses, and bacteria
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in 2020 there were nearly half a million cases of workplace illness in the private industry. With such a high prevalence of occupational diseases, there are measures put in place to protect employees who experience illness due to their jobs. A Toledo occupational disease lawyer can provide a better understanding of these legal protections.
Are Occupational Diseases Covered by Workers’ Compensation?
In Ohio, workers’ compensation is available to individuals who suffer from occupational diseases. Most occupational diseases must be diagnosed by a medical professional. However, the worker will not be compensated for any diagnostic tests, examinations, or medical treatment until their workers’ compensation claim is approved. The Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation specifically states that medical examinations are required for the following diseases:
- Cardiovascular, pulmonary or respiratory diseases incurred by firefighters or police officers
- Coal miners’ pneumoconiosis
- Any other occupational disease of the respiratory tract resulting from injurious exposures to dust
It is important to note that all occupational disease claims must be filed within one year after the date of disability began. The Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation also allows for a claim to be filed up to six months after the diagnosis of a disease. For compensation purposes, the date of disability is determined to be the most recent of the following dates:
- When the condition was diagnosed as an occupational disease
- When the injured worker first received medical treatment for the disease
- When the injured worker stopped working due to the condition
How Do You Prove Occupational Disease for Workers’ Compensation?
To be eligible for workers’ compensation, it is essential to prove that the illness was directly caused by workplace exposure. If this causal link cannot be established, then workers’ compensation may not be available to the employee. To successfully secure workers’ compensation for an occupational disease, the following factors must be proven:
- The worker has a medically-diagnosed disease
- The disease was directly caused by a hazard or toxic substance
- The worker was exposed to the hazard or toxic substance within the workplace
- The employee is unable to work due to the occupational disease
Substantiating all four of these factors can be difficult. Fortunately, the team of Toledo occupational disease lawyers at Schaffer & Associates LPA have years of experience in representing workers who suffer from work-related illnesses. Based on this background, we have been able to secure compensation for hundreds of Ohio workers.
What Are Examples of Occupational Diseases?
Ohio law provides a list of the exact occupational diseases that are compensable under workers’ compensation law. Some non-scheduled conditions may be eligible for consideration as an occupational disease. A Toledo occupational disease lawyer can help you better understand if your condition is eligible for compensation. According to Section 4123.68 of the Ohio Revised Code, workers’ compensation is available for the following scheduled diseases:
- Poisoning by lead, mercury, phosphorus, arsenic, benzol or derivatives, gasoline or petroleum products, carbon bisulphide, or wood alcohol
- Infection or inflammation on the skin due to oils, cutting compounds or lubricants, dust, liquids, fumes, gasses, or vapors
- Epithelion cancer or ulceration of the skin
- Compressed air illness
- Carbon dioxide poisoning, brass or zinc poisoning, manganese dioxide poisoning, and radium poisoning
- Tenosynovitis and prepatellar bursitis
- Chrome ulceration of the skin or nasal passages
- Sulfur dioxide poisoning
- Some cardiovascular, respiratory, or pulmonary diseases
- Some forms of cancer
- Coal miners’ pneumoconiosis
- Radiation illness
There are many scenarios in which a worker may be exposed to substances or environments that result in occupational diseases. Workers in the construction and healthcare industries are at risk for exposure, for instance. Individuals working in the construction industry are often exposed to loud noises, leaving them at risk for permanent hearing impairment. Additionally, these workers regularly use handheld vibrating tools, such as pneumatic hammers and drills, which increases the risk of neurological and musculo-skeletal disorders.
Healthcare workers experience a greater risk of contracting contagious diseases while at their place of employment. Workers in the healthcare industry also face hazards due to repeated manual lifting, and chemical and drug exposure. Similarly, these workers are often exposed to ionizing radiation, primarily in the form of X-rays, while on the job.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of an Occupational Disease?
There are a range of signs and symptoms of occupational diseases. Many times, these health conditions begin slowly and have long-term effects. The signs and symptoms of some of the most common occupational diseases include:
- Tenosynovitis: swelling, redness, tenderness, or pain in the finger(s)
- Lead and other poisonings: headaches, stomach cramps, constipation, muscle and joint pain, and fatigue
- Asbestosis: shortness of breath, cough, chest tightness, chest pain, and fingertips and toes that are wider and rounder than usual
- Cardiovascular and related diseases: chest pain and pressure, shortness of breath, numbness
- Radiation illness: loss of appetite, fatigue, fever, nausea, seizures, coma
The symptoms that accompany occupational diseases depend largely on the specific condition and may manifest differently in different people. It is advised to seek medical attention if symptoms are present.
Obtaining Compensation with a Toledo Occupational Disease Lawyer at Schaffer & Associates LPA
Living with an occupational disease is devastating, impacting a person’s ability to earn money and live a normal life. For this reason, Ohio law provides for workers’ compensation in the event of occupational disease. Proving that these diseases were contracted due to employment is often very difficult, making it essential to seek assistance from an experienced Toledo occupational disease lawyer. As a leading personal injury and workers’ compensation law firm, we have secured compensation for numerous injured workers in Ohio. To begin the process of securing compensation, contact Schaffer & Associates LPA at (419) 595-4608 today.