Rhode Island workers’ compensation laws were created to protect employees who suffer a sudden and debilitating accident on the job; but they also provide for those who are injured as a result of months or years of exposure to chemicals and other substances in the workplace. Although occupational diseases are one of the many forms of injuries covered under workers’ compensation, it may be more difficult for employees to prove these injuries are work related.
Common Occupational Illnesses Suffered by Rhode Island Workers
State laws outline a variety of occupational diseases that are compensable under workers’ compensation. Some forms of work-related illnesses are immediately recognized as grounds for long-term disability benefits, and can include:
- Chemical poisoning. This can include exposure to anthrax, arsenic, wood alcohols, carbon monoxide, methanol, volatile halogenated hydrocarbons, toxic sulfides, benzol, nitrous fumes, formaldehyde, acetate or cellulose solvents, or sulfuric or hydrochloric acid.
- Heavy metal exposure. This can include exposure to lead, brass, zinc, chrome, manganese, mercury, nickel, or phosphorous.
- Eye injuries. These can include cataracts in glassworkers or corneal injuries from tar, pitch, paraffin, bitumen, or mineral oil.
- Inflammation and inhalation injuries. These can include infections or swelling in the lungs or mucus membranes caused by oils, dust, fumes, gases, vapors, liquids, or mineral and metallic particles.
- Petroleum injuries. These can include respiratory, gastrointestinal, nerve disorder, and eye injuries.
- Skin injuries. These can include disabling blisters, abrasions, or dermatitis.
- Hernias. It must be shown that the hernia was clearly recent and suffered in the course of employment.
- Radiation effects. This includes radium poisoning or exposure to ionizing radiation.
- Mental and emotional effects of an injury. To receive workers’ comp for this, you must prove that a physical injury exists.
- Aggravation of a previous injury. You must prove that the workplace conditions contributed to another disease that was reported to the employer before the aggravation occurred.
In addition to the difficulty of proving that a condition is work related, employees suffering from an occupational disease must file their claims within two years from the date of disability; otherwise, they lose their right to benefits. In many cases, employees are unaware that their diagnosis is connected to their workplace, leaving them to pay for their own medical costs simply because they don’t know their rights.
The attorneys at Kirshenbaum & Kirshenbaum can examine the details of your case and help you get the benefits you deserve. Fill out our online contact form to tell us what happened in your no-cost initial consultation.