Occupational Disease or Illness Lawyers in Tacoma
An occupational disease is one which is caused by the work or working condition of an employee, meaning the disease developed as a result of certain exposure in the workplace and that the correlation between the specific exposure and the disease is one that is known in medical research. Some common examples of exposure in the workplace which can lead to disease or injury include:
- Constant exposure to high levels of noise in the workplace;
- Constant repetitive motions required in the workplace;
- Constant heavy lifting;
- Exposure to an infectious disease;
- Chronic exposure to a toxic substance, and
- Chronic exposure to substances which cause respiratory illnesses;
Occupational Hearing Loss
Although hearing loss in the workplace can be the result of an acute traumatic injury, it is more likely to occur gradually, as a worker is exposed to excessive noise or is exposed to an ototraumatic substance (a substance which damages the ear or the process of hearing). Chronic, excessive noise is the most likely cause of hearing loss—according to the CDC, occupational hearing loss is the most common occupational disease in the U.S. In fact, occupational hearing loss is so common, with as many as thirty million workers exposed to harmful noise levels, that it is often simply accepted as a “normal” consequence of employment.
Once a worker has experienced significant hearing loss as a result of occupational exposure, the hearing loss is generally considered irreversible. While there has yet to be significant efforts to address the problem of occupational hearing loss, it can result in reduced quality of life, impaired communication with family members, co-workers and the public, lost productivity, diminished ability to monitor the work environment and significant expenses related to assistive hearing devices and workers’ compensation expenses. Additionally, factors such as chemical exposure and heat are also emerging as recognized threats to hearing.
Repetitive Use Injuries in the Workplace
Common repetitive use injuries include carpal tunnel syndrome, tennis elbow, rotator cuff tendinitis as well as neck injuries. Any worker who consistently engages in repetitive motions can potentially have the soft tissues of the neck, shoulder, elbow, hand, wrist, and fingers According to the CDC, carpal tunnel syndrome is the most common disorder affecting U.S. workers, with 5.2 workers per every 10,000, identifying the condition. Carpal tunnel syndrome can require a long recuperation period, with an average of 30 days of lost work.
Musculoskeletal Injuries in the Workplace
Upper and lower back musculoskeletal disorders are both common and costly. Certain work activities such as bending and reaching, as well as awkward postures, contribute significantly to this problem. According to the CDC, back disorders account for more than a quarter of nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses which involve time away from work. In 1993, back disorders accounted for about 27 percent of all nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses, which caused time off from work. Female nursing aides and LPNs are about two and a half times more likely to experience a work-related low back disorder than female workers in other occupations, while male construction workers, carpenters and semi-truck operators are about twice as likely to experience a low back disorder than male workers in other occupations.
Exposure to Infectious Diseases in the Workplace
Health care workers are at particular risk of contracting an infectious disease while at work, including hepatitis B and C viruses, HIV, and tuberculosis. Laboratory workers are also at risk of infectious disease exposure when they work with infectious materials. Bloodborne and airborne pathogens are a significant class of exposure for America’s health care workers; the risk of a hepatitis B virus infection after a single needle stick with a contaminated need is between 2 and 40 percent.
Chronic Exposure to Toxic Substances and Substances Which Result in Respiratory Illnesses
The CDC states that occupational skin diseases account for 15-20 percent of all reported occupational diseases. Almost every occupation and industry in the United States has potential exposure to agents which cause allergic reactions or dermatitis. Solvents and other chemical irritants can cause toxic reactions in workers while asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease—as well as mesothelioma from breathing in asbestos dust—can be caused by toxic substances inhaled in the workplace. As much as 30 percent of adult asthma and COPD can be attributed to occupational exposure, with more than 20 million U.S. workers exposed annually to substances which can lead to diseases of the airways. The disabling effects of asthma, COPD, asbestosis, and mesothelioma can force a person out of the workplace entirely, and can lead to disability, and even death.
Workplace Diseases and Injuries in Washington State
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in 2017, there were 84 fatal work injuries in the state of Washington, up from 78 fatal workplace injuries in 2016. Transportation incidents resulted in 30 of the 84 work fatalities, while slips, trips, and falls accounted for 26 of the workplace fatalities. The private construction industry in the state reported the highest number of fatalities (15) in 2017, while the private agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting sector had 14 workplace fatalities, with crop production workers accounting for half those fatalities. Ninety-five percent of work-related fatalities in the state of Washington were men, and white, non-Hispanics accounted for 74 percent of workplace fatalities. Nearly half of those who died in a workplace incident in the state were between 25 and 54 years old. Of the 84 workplace-related fatalities in Washington in 2017, 80 percent worked for wages and salaries, while the remainder were self-employed.
Occupational Diseases are Preventable
Essentially, occupational diseases are preventable and can be ascribed to dangerous or hazardous working conditions. When these dangers and health hazards are controlled, there is a corresponding decrease in work-related accidents, injuries, and diseases. The earliest recorded occupational disease is believed to be a case of severe lead colic suffered by a worker whose job was to extract metals, described by Hippocrates, the Greek physician of the 4th century. From that point on, workplace injuries and illnesses increased rapidly as technology increased. Business owners concerned only with their financial bottom line often turned a blind eye to employee dangers until 1950, when a joint committee of the International Labor Organization and the World Health Organization defined concerns of occupational health. Today there are many organizations which oversee the safety of workers, including OSHA.
How Palace Law Can Help Following Exposure to an Occupational Disease or Illness
If you have been exposed to an occupational disease or illness in your workplace, you may not know where to turn. You are injured and perhaps unable to work, through no fault of your own, and possibly as the result of negligence on the part of your employer. At Palace Law, we have more than 100 years of collective legal experience. We are well-versed in the laws associated with occupational disease in the state of Washington and can help you get the medical treatment you need as well as compensation for your injuries. We can help you with Washington workers’ compensation, as well as potentially filing a lawsuit on your behalf to recover damages. If you are too injured to travel, members of our team will come to you, whether in your home or at a health care provider’s office. Do not face the fallout of occupational disease on your own—contact Palace Law today.