Workers compensation insurance is a powerful tool to protect your business from loss. In every type of business, there is the risk that an employee will suffer some type of injury. When this occurs, that individual may suffer long-term loss or a serious health risk. Your policy offers protection when such injuries or health risks occur throughout the course of employment activities.
But what about occupational illnesses? Are these covered?
What Are Occupational Diseases?
An occupational illness or disease is a type of condition that occurs through work activities. These are a range of illnesses that a worker can aggravate or contract as a part of the nature of work.
Yet, these illnesses are not all-encompassing when it comes to coverage. If an employee gets sick at work, they are not necessarily eligible file a claim for workers compensation insurance. To obtain any benefits, the employee must prove that their illness occurred as a result of work and during the course of employment. That is not always easy to do. Simply catching a cold, for example, won't qualify you for coverage.
Consider A Few Examples
There are many occupational diseases that could fall under the purview of workers compensation insurance. Generally, there must be a recognizable link between the type of job the worker is performing and the risk of contracting the disease. Consider the following scenarios.
- An employee who washes dishes for the company develops contact dermatitis on their skin due to the exposure from the water and bacteria.
- A worker cleaning asbestos material from a building suffers exposure to the substance.
- A lab technician contracts hepatitis due to exposure to a patient.
- A worker contracts black lung disease from inhaling coal dust while working in a mine.
- A health worker accidentally gets exposed to a used syringe and contracts AIDS or HIV.
Another key factor is what state law recognizes.
For example, in some states, public safety personnel — such as firefighters or police officers — may have more leeway when it comes to which conditions are eligible for workers compensation coverage. While a standard employee would not receive workers compensation insurance coverage for heart attacks or hernias, these professionals might. Some kinds of cancer may also fit into these types of situations.
As an employer, it is important to have a comprehensive workers compensation policy in place. It should clearly define what qualifies as a workplace occupational illness. It should also tell you specifically what steps to take to receive coverage.