If your job makes you sick, find out what will be covered by workers’ compensation (and what won’t)
People often file workers’ compensation claims due to work-related injuries and accidents that result in strains, sprains, cuts or contusions. However, physical injuries aren’t the only danger that workers might face as an occupational hazard and are therefore not the only reason to apply for workers’ compensation.
Those who experience illness or disease as a result of their job may also qualify for these benefits.
Workers’ compensation for occupational illnesses & diseases in Arizona
Each state has different laws when it comes to workers’ compensation rules and guidelines. In Arizona, most employers who have more than 1 employee must have a workers’ compensation policy in place that covers all of their employees. This must be offered at no charge to the employee.
There is a list of benefits that injured employees are entitled to under workers’ compensation including lost wages, medical treatment for the related illness or injury and continuing compensation if an employee sustains a permanent disability.
Occupational diseases and illnesses can be slightly less straightforward than an injury. There are specific criteria that must be met in order for an employee to qualify for benefits due to an occupation disease.
Under Arizona workers’ compensation laws, an employee must be able to prove that
there is a connection between the illness and the work activities, and the origin
must be associated with a work-related risk.
Additionally, the disease must not have been caused by external factors unrelated to work activities, which also means that the worker must not have been exposed to the same work hazard outside of work. Employees must be able to provide evidence in support of these qualifications.
Special considerations for firefighters, law enforcement and first responders
The rules above apply to the general public. However, special considerations are given to firefighters and law enforcement personnel due to the distinctive responsibilities of their position. For people in those occupations, receiving workers’ compensation for certain occupational illnesses can be a less difficult process. For instance, several different types of cancers — including rectal, bladder, brain and lymphoma — often automatically qualify as an occupational illness for firefighters and police officers.
Even with this slightly easier process, there are still additional criteria that must be met in order to be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. The criteria includes the employee having passed a physical examination prior to the start of their employment.
Additionally, the employee must have performed duties that are considered hazardous for at least 5 years and they must have been exposed to known carcinogens. Another important note is that the department must have been informed of the employee’s exposure to these carcinogens while they were still employed.
What are some of the most common occupational illnesses and diseases?
There are a variety of diseases that can occur as a result of an occupational hazard.
One of the most common occupational illnesses is hearing loss due to noise exposure. Those who work in construction or manufacturing may be particularly susceptible to this occupational hazard.
Exposure to toxic substances and poisoning is another risk associated with toxic substances in the workplace. Employees working in a chemical environment may also be at a greater risk for inhaling these substances and experiencing a respiratory illness as a result.
Skin conditions are another common complaint. Irritation of the skin can include rashes, burns or blisters and are often the result of chemicals used in the workplace.
Asbestos is a silicate mineral used in fire-resistant materials and is a particularly deadly carcinogen. Those who work in asbestos manufacturing or demolition work are more likely to develop asbestosis, mesothelioma or other types of related cancer. It can take 10-20 years for an occupational illness to develop after exposure to asbestos.
Toxic chemicals aren’t the only cause of occupational illness caused by exposure. Those who are employed in settings where they are exposed to extreme temperature variation may experience heatstroke or frostbite and be eligible for benefits.
Many occupational hazards are a concern for those who work in manufacturing, construction or other types of manual labor. However, office workers can experience occupational illness as well. Carpal tunnel syndrome is one of the most common occupational diseases for office workers. Symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome include pain, numbness and weakness in the hand. It can be caused by repetitive use of the hand, so typing and other office responsibilities can be considered contributing factors.
Questions and answers about compensation for a job-related accident, injury or illness in Arizona
When to contact an Arizona workers’ compensation attorney
The cause of an occupational disease is not always as clear as a sudden and catastrophic workplace accident might be, such as a slip and fall. As a result, obtaining benefits through workers’ compensation might be more difficult.
Don’t lose your right to compensation or medical treatment. Speak to an attorney with experience handling occupational disease and illness claims. If you live in Arizona, reach out to the Law Offices of Robert E. Wisniewski. Our team is ready to fight for your rights when it comes to workers’ compensation.