Does workers’ compensation cover occupational diseases?

In addition to injuries from accidents on the job, Pennsylvania employees may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits related to occupational diseases.

Throughout the last century more has been learned about the risks to health that some people in Pennsylvania may face simply due to the environment in which they work. Certain jobs have been associated with an increased chance of contracted what may be deadly diseases.

Perhaps some of the most well-known conditions include asbestosis, mesothelioma or coal worker's pneumoconiosis. These things are often referred to as occupational diseases. Understanding what may be considered an occupational disease and what benefits may be available is important for all workers in Pennsylvania.

Definition of an occupational disease

An occupational disease is not the same as a workplace illness. As explained by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, an occupational disease is something that arises from or may be exacerbated by the nature of a person's job. Whether this happens due to exposure to a substance or some other factor, it is the person's job duties that naturally put them in the position to contract the disease.

Becoming poisoned, developing a condition like cancer, contracting an infection or a skin condition due to exposure, contact or other direct handling of specific substances may all be considered an occupational disease.

Another type of occupational disease that people may not think about is called compressed air disease. People who perform their job duties in compressed air may be at risk for this.

Health care workers face high risks

While people who work around corrosive or poisonous chemicals definitely experience risks each day, the United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that people in the health care field represent a large percentage of those identified with occupational diseases.

Nurses or other professionals face a serious risk of contracting hepatitis or tuberculosis as they may easily be infected through a patient's blood, for example.

Workers' compensation benefits may be available

People who develop verified occupational diseases may be able to apply for and collect workers' compensation benefits just like someone who is hurt in a job-related accident. These benefits include payment for medical treatment, lost wages and the loss of use of a part of the body.

If an employee dies from an occupational disease, surviving family members may be able to apply for workers' compensation death benefits.

Seeking help and financial compensation related to an occupational disease can be emotionally and logistically trying for people. Residents in Pennsylvania should always reach out to a lawyer for help with any application for this type of benefit.