The rate of occupational health concerns in the United States is staggering – more than four fatal injuries per 100,000 workers in the 2004 census, over 4.3 million non-fatal accidents, injuries and illnesses in the same year, and countless other unreported medical consequences of unsafe working environments. While national regulations and the recognition of the harms of many occupations and exposures in the course of business have reduced the harm for some workers (for example, the strict guidelines for interacting with asbestos after the mineral was recognized as a major cause of mesothelioma in construction workers), there are still workers who suffer the aftereffects of chemical exposure and occupational injury long after their work exposure.
Defining Occupational Disease
The term “occupational disease” causes much confusion amongst workers who think they might be suffering from a work-related condition. The commonly accepted definition of occupational disease is a chronic ailment that occurs at a far higher rate for a certain body of workers than for the normal population. For example, radiation sickness is a recognized occupational disease among workers who interact with radioactive chemicals and toxic byproducts of the nuclear industry. Other examples of occupational disease are asbestosis among construction workers who are exposed to asbestos and carpal tunnel syndrome amongst file clerks and typists. Occupational disease does not include work-related accidents. The term only applies to medical condition contracted through work activities.
What Are Workers’ Rights?
Workers have the right to work in safe, healthy conditions. If a chemical or exposure is known to cause disease to workers, it is the employer’s responsibility to inform workers of their risks, provide safety equipment and minimize the impact of occupational disease to the largest possible degree. Unfortunately, workers often are stricken with occupational illnesses that do not manifest themselves until years, even decades, after the work performed. In these cases, there is still some legal protection, though factors such as the statute of limitations vary from state to state. Workers have the right to sue a current or ex-employer for an occupational illness suffered during their employment at that employer’s workplace.
Qualified Help – A Must-Have For Occupational Disease
The Internet age provides an unprecedented amount of information to workers who may be suffering from occupational exposure and ill side-effects of unsafe or toxic workplaces. However, while education is vital for injured workers, the many nuances of occupational disease law are best left to the experts – attorneys, that is, who are skilled in the ins and outs of occupational disease law. A consultation with a skilled occupational disease lawyer who has experience litigating work-related injury and illness cases and recovering compensation and damages for injured workers will go a long way towards determining whether your potential claim has merits. A good occupational disease lawyer will help you determine a venue for your case, identify the parties you should sue, and help you along the long road of litigation. Be sure to seek medical help before contacting an attorney – a diagnosis from a reliable doctor will not only get you back on the path to health, but will ensure a watertight case as you set out to fight your former employer for the damages and compensation you are owed.