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Occupational Diseases and Workers’ Compensation

Joanow Legal Group Jan. 16, 2020

Pennsylvania employees injured on the job know they can file for workers’ compensation under state law. Workplace injuries such as falling or getting a cut are common. Similar but more severe injuries like dismemberment or accidents resulting in death are clearly covered by the law.

Workers’ compensation applies to employees with a disease resulting from something at the worksite, too. Proximity to chemicals, materials and activities can also cause serious illness and debilitation.

What Is an Occupational Disease?

According to FindLaw, Pennsylvania Statute Title 77 defines occupational diseases as illnesses or diseases that naturally occur as a direct result of the course of a person’s employment. Workers’ compensation also covers reactivated, accelerated or aggravated conditions.

A doctor must diagnose the disease within 300 weeks of the last known exposure date at the worksite. In other words, workers must receive a diagnosis for the condition just under six years from the time they were last exposed to the hazard. Otherwise, the disease is not considered occupational.

Common Diseases and Causes

Contracting a life-threatening or permanently disabling disease from workplace exposure may be among the most common reasons to seek workers’ compensation. Unfortunately, employees and employers may overlook cases where the illnesses aren’t as drastic but are just as real.

  • Carpal tunnel syndrome—caused by repetitive movements such as typing

  • Hearing loss—exposure to loud noises and disruptive frequencies

  • Contact dermatitis—direct skin contact with hazardous chemicals

The CDC finds that skin diseases account for up to 20% of reported cases. Complications regarding respiratory issues and reproductive health problems in women are also reported as occupational diseases.