Occupational illnesses are a significant problem within the United States. Safety BLR reported on a recent discussion of occupational illnesses at the National Safety Council Congress and Expo held in Atlanta. At the conference, experts including the director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health discussed the scope of the problems associated with occupational illnesses, as well as methods used to control exposure to toxins that make workers sick.
Occupational illnesses cause thousands of fatalities each year and illnesses tend to cost much more than injuries. Workers who are made sick by their jobs, or surviving family members of people killed due to occupational illnesses, need to understand what their legal options are for getting costs covered by workers’ compensation. An Atlanta workplace illness lawyer can help victims to pursue benefits claims so they won’t have to face financial concerns as they cope with serious and sometimes fatal illnesses.
Occupational Illnesses are a Major Cause of Concern for Atlanta Workers
According to the director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health: “For every injury that results in a fatality, there are 10 work-related illness fatalities.”
Occupational illnesses cause as many as 49,000 deaths each year, and illnesses due to workplace exposure are the eighth leading cause of death within the United States. As many as five percent of all cancers diagnosed in the United States each year are caused by exposure to toxins on-the-job. There may actually be more illnesses than are even reported, because many illnesses- including cancer- have multiple different cause and it can be hard to trace the illnesses back to employment.
Showing that work caused illness is essential for workers who wish to recover workers’ compensation benefits, because workers’ comp insurance provides coverage only in cases where it can be proved that the illness is work related.
Silica, beryllium, mold, asbestos, and dangerous chemicals are a few of many different examples of things that workers can be exposed to as they perform their work tasks. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has not updated its permissible exposure limits (PELs) or added new chemicals to its PEL list for more than four decades, so there are few protections and safeguards in place to ensure that workers are not exposed. Those who believe that they encountered toxins at work that made them sick should speak with experienced legal professionals about how they can demonstrate the connection between work and sickness.
Employers also need to make sure they are voluntarily taking responsibility for the prevention of exposure to toxins, even if OSHA does not specifically require them to do so. It can take decades for OSHA to finalize new rules, and employers should try to control exposure as much as possible and substitute toxins for safer alternatives as a voluntary matter to help prevent employees from getting sick and to keep their workers’ comp insurance costs down. OSHA can also cite employers under the general duty clause for exposing workers to dangerous toxins, even without an updated permissible exposure list. The more OSHA cracks down on chemicals causing workplace illnesses, the safer employees will be.
Parsons & Associates, P.C. is an Atlanta workers’ compensation law firm serving Atlanta, Savannah, and surrounding areas throughout Fulton County. Contact Parsons & Associates, P.C. today at 770-422-9000 or contact us online if you have been injured at work.