When most people think of workers’ compensation, they may imagine industrial workers losing fingers or hands to metal presses or back injuries caused by overexertion while lifting heavy fixtures or products. While this is certainly a substantial portion of the workplace injuries covered by workers’ compensation, occupational diseases are also part of the dangers that workers face on a continual basis, and that are covered under workers’ compensation insurance. This begs the following question: what constitutes an occupational disease?
South Carolina’s Workers’ Compensation Law
South Carolina law defines an occupational disease under Chapter 11 of the Workers’ Compensation Title. It is defined as a disease that arises out of and in the course of employment that is due to hazards that are in excess of those ordinarily incident to employment and are particular to the occupation in which the employee works. Put another way, it is a disease caused by excessive hazards that are caused by the specific job in question. A classic example of an occupational disease is typically cited as mesothelioma, a very rare cancer caused by asbestos. Only in very specific industries would the risk of exposure to asbestos be present and the disease itself is believed to be almost exclusively caused by asbestos exposure. An example of what is not an occupational disease would be, say, the flu, even though an outside worker might be able to argue that it was caused by repeated exposure to the outside elements. This is because millions of people catch the flu every year irrespective of their employment, so it is nearly impossible to show that, in this example, the exposure to the hazard was any greater in this line of work than in any other.
What Is Not An Occupational Disease?
Sometimes, it is easier to define what is not included in a definition than what is. Due to the express exclusions in the statute, occupational diseases fall into this category. Occupational diseases do not include diseases that:
- Do not occur directly and naturally from exposure to hazards that are peculiar to the particular employment;
- Result from exposure to outside climatic conditions;
- Are contagious diseases where the risk of exposure is no different outside of the employment;
- Are ordinary diseases to which the public is equally exposed;
- Are pulmonary, cardiac or circulatory system-related unless caused by introduction of foreign matter into the body or by gaseous pressure; or
- Are chronic diseases of the skeletal joints.
Therefore, arthritis, for example, is not typically considered an occupational disease. Obviously, each case is dependent on the facts and circumstances inherent with the individual situation but the statute is fairly clear regarding what is not included within the definition.
In dealing with medical diagnoses, it is important to have your own advocate in your corner. Workers’ compensation cases, especially those where occupational diseases are involved, can be very complex while the results of the disease itself can be catastrophic. If you find yourself injured or sick because of your workplace in Upstate South Carolina, you need the experience that Dan Pruitt brings to the courtroom. He has over 20 years of experience getting clients the results they deserve. Call the office today at (864) 232-4273 to set up your free initial consultation and put his skill to work for you.