Not all work-related disability is caused by sudden accidents on the job. Many employees face severe consequences from diseases contracted at work. According to records kept by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, approximately 300,000 Americans had to miss at least one day of work during 2011 because of employment-related illnesses. The Illinois Occupational Diseases Act guarantees fair compensation for employees temporarily or permanently disabled by such illnesses.
What is the definition of an occupational disease?
According to the Illinois Occupational Diseases Act, an occupational disease is an illness or harmful condition which arises directly from employment or is aggravated by hazardous conditions in the workplace. These hazardous conditions must not be “common to the general public.” Although many people catch colds or other contagious diseases at work, the Occupational Diseases Act does not consider these illnesses to be directly work-related.
What are some common occupational diseases?
Many jobs involve exposure to dangerous chemicals, radiation, loud noise and other immediate hazards. The following occupational diseases are commonly found among long-term industry employees:
- Hearing loss
- Asbestosis (a chronic lung condition caused by inhaling asbestos)
- Radiation sickness
- Skin cancer
- Lead poisoning
All of these conditions can be disabling or life-threatening to workers.
How does the Illinois Occupational Diseases Act protect workers?
Since the Illinois Occupational Diseases Act was passed in 1951, Illinois law has offered full workers’ compensation for employees who contract work-related illnesses. Workers are entitled to complete coverage of any medical care required by their condition. They are also entitled to disability pay for the full amount of work missed, up to and including permanent total disability when necessary.
Filing claims for occupational diseases
Filing a workers’ compensation claim for an occupational disease can be a complex undertaking. When an employee breaks a bone or suffers a chemical burn on the job, the injury is immediately obvious and easy to report to the employer. Employment-related illnesses may take months or years to develop. The Occupational Diseases Act gives workers a period of three years from the first appearance of symptoms to report the illness and file a claim for compensation. In many cases, employees must provide medical records to prove that their disease was caused or aggravated by working conditions. Even when an illness has become disabling, the burden of proof is often on the worker.
Although the Occupational Diseases Act provides generous coverage for ill and disabled workers, it can be challenging to file and defend a claim for a long-term occupational illness. Schedule a free consultation with a workers’ compensation attorney to learn more about your rights.