Employees who become ill from exposure to work-related toxic materials, hazardous waste or chemical spills may file for workers’ compensation benefits. An occupational illness caused by a harmful substance often requires immediate medical attention.
Toxic substances could cause cancer or permanent nerve damage if their effect on an employee remains untreated. A worker may also require time off to prevent a condition from becoming a permanent disability. By helping to cover missing wages and medical costs, workers’ compensation benefits can play a vital role in recovery.
What is an occupational illness?
According to the California Department of Industrial Relations, the Golden State classifies an occupational illness as a condition that arises from exposure to workplace environmental factors. The illness may have resulted from the ingestion or inhalation of a toxic substance or through direct contact. California also classifies certain types of debilitating repetitive stress conditions as occupational illnesses.
When can an employee apply for benefits related to toxic exposure?
Employees may apply for workers’ comp benefits when a work-related illness prevents them from performing their job tasks. A claimant, however, needs to show how his or her job caused the illness.
An employee working with harmful chemical agents or irritants may begin to experience breathing difficulties or high blood pressure. Proving an occupational illness could be difficult in circumstances in which the work-related condition also falls into the category of an “ordinary illness of life.” It could help prove the connection to the job by seeking medical attention and diagnosis as soon as symptoms appear.
What about occupational illnesses that develop over time?
Some occupational illnesses begin to develop after long-term exposure. While an employee might feel well enough to continue working, brushing off or “getting used to” symptoms of an illness is often unwise. Ignoring a condition related to long-term toxic exposure may result in serious health concerns and benefits-eligibility issues.
If a job or workplace has a reputation for generating conditions that lead to health issues over time, an employee may need to carefully document his or her symptoms and regular medical checkups.