An occupational illness is a disease or disorder that occurs because of long-term exposure or an adverse event in your workplace. If you have an occupational illness, you are eligible for workers’ compensation, just as you would be with a work-related injury.
As with a work-related injury, you need to be able to demonstrate that your work caused or contributed to your condition to receive compensation. While a wide range of work-related illnesses is possible, there are a few that tend to show up most often.
Illnesses affecting the respiratory system
Many occupations can cause you to breathe in fumes, particles or other substances that are hazardous to the health of your lungs. These can cause respiratory conditions that make it more difficult to breathe.
Pneumoconioses are a collection of lung conditions caused by breathing in various dust particles. Over time, these particles build up in your lungs, affecting their function by causing scarring. If the dust consisted of a carcinogenic material, such as asbestos, you may also be at risk for lung cancer.
Illnesses affecting the skin
Your job may put you in contact with substances that can irritate your skin. Exposure to poisonous plants or other irritants or sensitizers may cause rashes or other skin conditions. Examples include eczema or contact dermatitis.
Illnesses resulting from temperature extremes
If your job requires you to work outside, you may have to endure weather conditions of extreme heat or cold. Either may put you at risk for occupational illness. Working outside in the cold may cause hypothermia or frostbite. Exerting yourself in extreme heat could cause heat exhaustion or heatstroke, which is a more serious affliction.
Sometimes the line between a work-related illness or injury can be a little blurry, as in the case of hearing loss due to exposure to loud noises in your occupation. Nevertheless, as long as the condition occurred because of your job, requires medical treatment and has either a temporary or permanent effect on your ability to function, it should qualify for workers’ compensation.