Getting injured on the job doesn’t always mean broken bones or sprained ankles. Sometimes, the injury isn’t a physical injury, but a disease. In the event you develop a disease over the course of your employment, that is caused by your working conditions, i.e. an occupational disease, you may be eligible for workers’ compensation.
Occupation disease claims are often challenged by employers and their insurers. If you’re struggling with your claim, our Baltimore occupational disease lawyers at Belsky, Weinberg & Horowitz, LLC can help you secure proper medical and wage benefits, as well as benefits or a settlement for your disability.
What is an Occupational Disease?
An occupation disease is an illness that manifests as a result of exposure to biological, chemical, physical, or psychosocial factors at work. According to the Workers’ Compensation Commission of Maryland, employers are responsible for providing safe working conditions compliant with state and federal regulations.
The International Labour Organization divides the hazards for developing an occupational disease into four categories:
- Biological Hazards. Biological hazards enter the body by air, skin, or contact with mucous membranes. These hazards are often found to be pathogenic bacteria, fungi, and viruses.
- Chemical Hazards. Chemicals commonly used in workplaces include acids, alkalis, cleansing agents, and solvents. They come in the form of air particles, gas, liquid, and vapor.
- Ergonomic Hazards. Ergonomic hazards are related to the tools an employee uses while at work.
- Physical Hazards. Physical hazards can include temperature, lighting and radiation, humidity, vibrations, noise or air pressure.
If you are exposed to these hazards over a long period of time, you may be at risk for an occupational disease. Some of the most common occupational diseases are related to skin disorders and respiratory illness like the following:
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- Contact dermatitis
- Lung cancer (asbestos and non-asbestos related)
- Occupational asthma
- Skin cancer
- Skin infections
- Skin inflammations
How Do Occupational Diseases Develop?
If your employer isn’t complying with federal and state regulations, you may be working in unsafe conditions that could lead to the development of an occupational disease.
Certain jobs industries pose a higher risk for the development of an occupational disease because of issues like inadequate ventilation, improper chemical or waste disposal, or the lack of proper protective gear and equipment. The industries with the highest number of workers’ compensation claims include health care, construction, manufacturing, retail trade, and wholesale trade.
In those professions, employees may potentially be exposed to:
- Carbon Monoxide
- High or sustained noise
- Job stressors contributing to a heart attack
- Lead and other systemic poisons
- Parasites, viruses, bacteria, fungi, prions, Rickettsia
- Skin irritants
- Solvents and other chemical fumes
- Ultraviolet radiation
The longer a person is exposed to hazards like these, the more likely they are to develop an illness.
How Are Occupational Disease Claims Handled in Maryland?
Maryland’s Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1973 protects workers in the event of harmful working conditions. It requires employers to recognize and prevent possible hazards, as well as mandates inspections. It gives employees the right to file a complaint with the Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration and proposes penalties for employers who break the law.
If you develop health problems, or an existing medical condition worsens as a result of your workplace conditions, you may be able to claim specific benefits under Maryland workers’ comp. These benefits may or may not include paid medical expenses and lost wages, temporary partial disability, temporary total disability, permanent partial disability, permanent total disability.
If you believe you’ve developed an occupational disease, your first step towards compensation is to file a claim with the Workers’ Compensation Commission. You can find the claim form online, here. You also must notify your employer within one year of your diagnosis. If you miss this deadline, you may not be eligible for any form of workers’ compensation.
To qualify for workers’ comp, you’ll need to prove your disease was caused by hazards existing in your workplace, and that the disease itself is known to manifest from a biological, chemical, or physical agent. This is where our occupational disease lawyers can help.
How Can a Maryland Occupational Disease Lawyer Help Me?
Occupational disease claims can be confusing, and it can be difficult to prove your illness is the fault of your employer. That’s where a knowledgeable attorney can guide you through your claim and help you get the settlement you deserve.
We have proven success with workers’ compensation claims, including those involving occupational diseases. If you’re a Maryland resident and are uncertain how to proceed with your claim, or even if your claim has been denied, contact us online today for a free consultation or call us at 410-234-0100 or 800-895-5333. We are prepared to represent anyone who is dealing with the consequences of an on-the-job injury or disease.