Occupational Disease: What Usually Gets Approved for Workers’ Comp?

Ever read the words “occupational disease” and wonder how that’s defined for your workers’ comp claim? Specifically, it means performing your usual job duties made you sick enough to miss at least one week at work. In fact, insurance companies almost always approve the most common occupational disease claims for workers’ compensation benefits. Your working environment very clearly causes certain specific occupational illnesses, which is why so few companies dispute paying those claims. There are several chronic conditions usually covered under workers’ comp insurance — things like carpal tunnel syndrome and work-related hearing loss.

Do Many Employees File Occupational Disease and Illness Claims for Workers’ Comp?

It’s common for some employees to experience a workplace injury or illness at some point during their careers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, private employers have reported up to 5.7 million such injuries and illnesses in just one year. That breaks down to 6.1 cases for every 100 full-time workers, on average. In other words, if you get hurt or sick on the job, you’re not alone. In fact, you likely may qualify for workers’ compensation benefits until you are well enough to start working again full-time.

Read on to learn which occupational disease, illness or condition usually gets approved most often for workers’ compensation.

Respiratory Occupational Disease Types Frequently Approved for Workers’ Comp

According to the BLS, workplace-related illnesses and conditions fall into five major categories. Breathing hazardous biological agents, chemicals, dust, gases vapors or fumes can cause respiratory conditions under the first occupational disease category:

  • Mesothelioma — asbestos exposure generally causes this occupational disease, which is a cancer of mesothelial tissue lining the lungs and other organs.
  • Black lung — breathing in coal dust can cause scar tissue to build up within the workers’ lungs. This occupational disease makes it difficult for your lungs to expand properly whenever you take a breath (inhale).
  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) — this occupational disease category includes progressive lung conditions like emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and refractory (non-reversible) asthma. These conditions make it increasingly harder to breathe as time progresses.
  • Silicosis — this lung condition is an occupational disease that mostly affects workers in mining, glassmaking and foundry work positions. It comes from breathing in tiny silica particles (a mineral commonly found in sand, rock, and mineral ores, like quartz).

Skin Conditions Typically Covered Under Workmans’ Comp Insurance

Skin diseases like contact dermatitis usually happen after toxic chemicals, plants or substances come into contact with an employee’s skin. Poisoning can also happen when large amounts of toxic substances like lead get into the worker’s blood or other tissues. Sometimes, this poisoning isn’t obvious to affected workers or medical examiners until weeks, months or even years after exposure occurs.

Repetitive Trauma Disorders That Usually Qualify for Workers’ Compensation Benefits

Repetitive trauma disorders like carpal tunnel syndrome and noise-induced hearing loss cause 4% of all workplace injuries and illnesses annually. And specifically for occupational disease and illness claims, these were the most common reason people applied for workers’ comp benefits. According to recent BLS data, 67% of the total 362,500 occupational disease and illness claims were for repetitive trauma disorders.

Work-related hearing loss means any change in the worker’s audible threshold relative to the baseline audiogram of an average of 10 dB or more in either ear at 2000, 3000, and 4000 hertz and the employee’s total hearing level is 25 decibels or more above the audiometric zero.

Exposure to high temperatures and humidity while working can lead to heat exhaustion or heatstroke that qualifies for workers’ comp. And frostbite that occurs as a result of exposure to low temperatures at work can also qualify for workers’ compensation.

Filing Valid Workers’ Comp Claims for Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs)

How the BLS defines musculoskeletal disorders (including carpal tunnel syndrome) in eligible workers’ comp claims changed in 2011. Carpal tunnel syndrome is an injury that develops from long-term pressure on your arm’s median nerve. This nerve runs all the way down your arm and through a passage in your wrist called the carpal tunnel. When repetitive movements inflame this particular nerve at work, you may feel numbness, tingling, or weakness in your hand.

Since 2011, other MSDs that usually qualify for workers’ compensation benefits include cases where your injury or illness comes from:

  • A pinched nerve
  • Herniated disc
  • Meniscus tear
  • Muscle sprains, strains, or tears
  • A hernia (traumatic as well as nontraumatic)
  • Pain, swelling or numbness in one or more body parts

Not sure if your own illness qualifies for benefits? Or maybe you applied for workers’ comp, but your employer’s insurance turned you down? Talk to a workers’ compensation attorney and get free advice about your case today. You can get confidential legal assistance over the phone, and it doesn’t obligate you to do anything else.

Get Your Free Benefits Evaluation

Laura Schaefer is the author ofThe Teashop Girls,The Secret Ingredient, andLittler Women: A Modern Retelling. She is also an active co-author or ghostwriter of several nonfiction books on personal and business development. Laura currently lives in Windermere, Florida with her husband and daughter and works with clients all over the world. Visit her online at lauraschaeferwriter.com and linkedin.com.