Workplace Illness: Defining Work Illnesses

An illness is considered, by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, to be related to work if exposure to it, while at work, caused or contributed to your illness or resulting condition. This is also true if the exposure significantly aggravated a pre-existing condition or illness. However, it isn't enough for you to be exposed while at work, it must also manifest in a physical symptom. It is important to bear in mind that not every sickness is caused by work. You must be able to establish a link between your work, your illness and your incapacity from that illness.

Not every illness you get from work is recordable. Recordable means that it falls within OSHA's definition of work illness. An illness counts as a recordable case if:

  • It requires medical treatment before basic first aid.
  • It causes you to miss work.
  • You lose consciousness.
  • It causes death.
  • It restricts your ability to work or forces you to transfer jobs.
  • It is diagnosed by a physician who determines that the illness is serious.

Generally, a workplace illness results in a handful of scenarios. You are exposed to some sort of chemical or other substance that damages your skin in some manner. Or you breathe in dangerous chemicals or acquire a disease that causes respiratory problems, like asbestos or coal dust. You are accidentally poisoned, like being pierced by an errant needle. Your hearing is reduced due to your job, like being a bouncer at a concert venue. Other situations include heat exhaustion or sunstroke from working outside, decompression sickness for flight attendants or frostbite.

Your employer should take opportunities to reduce your potential exposure to illness. If your employer fails to take these steps, then you might have an actionable claim for compensation. If you or a loved one becomes sick due to your work environment, you may want to speak to an attorney to go over your legal rights. Remember OSHA protections are not always about falling off a ladder; these regulations also cover illnesses.

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