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Common Occupational Diseases and How to Prevent Them

Although workplace accidents are a common reason for obtaining workers’ compensation benefits, illnesses and medical conditions that develop because of exposures on the job can also entitle an injured worker to these benefits. There are numerous kinds of occupational diseases an employee can suffer, with some more common than others.

Skin Diseases: Causes and Prevention

Hazardous agents that can be absorbed through the skin may lead to an occupational disease:

  • infection;
  • contact dermatitis;
  • rashes; and
  • cancers.

A wide variety of workers are considered to be at risk for developing a skin disease:

  • mechanics;
  • painters; and
  • those in the cleaning and cosmetology industries may be exposed to hazardous substances or irritants.

Roofers and construction workers, meanwhile, may be exposed to radiation from the sun. Healthcare workers may be exposed to radiation from medical equipment, not to mention their potential exposure to hazardous substances.

Examples of preventative measures that workers can take:

  • avoiding direct exposure to chemicals;
  • wearing protective clothing; and
  • recognizing risk factors.

For instance, use of irritants (such as heavy metals, solvents and synthetic oils) increases exposure, so workers should be aware they must take precautions when handling these substances. It’s also important to pay attention for open wounds on the skin, making someone susceptible to injury and infection.

Respiratory Diseases: Causes and Prevention

Asthma is a fairly common respiratory disease that can originate in the workplace. Certain workplace exposures could aggravate symptoms in someone who has asthma, while in some cases exposures may lead to development of the condition. Some workers may be susceptible to certain lung diseases including cancer. These types of diseases can be caused by exposure to harmful environments or even substances, such as in a factory.

Controlling dust, allergens, particles and other types of hazards can reduce or potentially eliminate respiratory problems. Avoiding certain chemicals or limiting exposure can also help, along with using protective equipment (such as a ventilator or ventilation equipment).

Hearing Loss: Causes and Prevention

Hearing loss is another type of occupational condition that can be very damaging. These injuries usually stem from noisy environments, such as those with high decibels or prolonged exposure. For some, it leads to permanent hearing impairment.

Manufacturing is a common industry in which this occurs workers are around noisy equipment every day. Certain construction workers may be susceptible if they use noisy equipment on a regular basis.

Work procedures that limit or reduce exposure to noise is one way to prevent hearing loss. Other examples include wearing protective equipment (i.e. earplugs) and automating equipment so the environment is quieter.

Workers’ Compensation for Occupational Disease

On-the-job accidents that lead to injury are generally easier to prove than illnesses when seeking workers’ compensation benefits. Workers may face various challenges when proving illnesses and other medical conditions are related to a work environment. Exposure-based and cumulative trauma cases can be more difficult to prove are work-related, but hiring an attorney can help seriously injured workers establish their case.

The worker must demonstrate that the line of work, environment, exposure or other elements are the source of the disease. Or they must establish that the condition was made worse because of the job. Proving either one can be complicated, especially if the disease is disabling and the employee is no longer able to work or has to be given specific accommodations.

Workers who do establish their eligibility to benefits may recover medical benefits as well as cash benefits. If the disease is debilitating and it’s expected to end in death or last for at least 12 consecutive months, there may be other options to recover benefits, like applying for Social Security disability.

To learn more about your rights if a disease is related to your occupation, seek legal counsel. An attorney will evaluate the circumstances of the job, medical records and other relevant information to determine your options and help you establish your entitlement to benefits. Contact Markhoff & Mittman in New York by calling 866-205-2415 or filling out our contact form.

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