Work-Related Respiratory Illnesses May be Covered by Workers’ Compensation

Occupational (or work-related) asthma is the most common occupational lung disease in the U.S., according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) and the American Lung Association (ALA). With over 300 substances that can cause or worsen asthma, employees in all types of industries from healthcare to agriculture are at risk. The Philadelphia workers’ compensation lawyers at Larry Pitt & Associates, P.C. assist workers in getting the benefits to which they are entitled after being diagnosed with an occupational respiratory disease.

Workers at Risk for Occupational Asthma

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that the number of people in the U.S. suffering from asthma continues to increase each year. Asthma affects workers in many industries; however, some high-risk occupations include:

  • Agricultural workers
  • Carpenters
  • Chemical/petroleum industry workers
  • Construction workers
  • Food production workers
  • Healthcare workers
  • Warehouse/plant workers

What Triggers Asthma?

Workplace exposures can either cause employees to develop the disease or worsen cases of pre-existing asthma. Common asthma triggers at work include:

  • Ammonia
  • Animal hair
  • Chemical fumes or gases
  • Cleaning products
  • Dust
  • Insects
  • Latex
  • Mold
  • Paint
  • Pollen
  • Smoke from burning wood or plants
  • Tobacco smoke or dust
  • Wheat, flour, grain, nuts, spices, and other foods
  • Wood

Asthma Symptoms

Asthma may develop immediately following a single exposure or develop over time after repeated exposures. The condition causes the airways to become inflamed and produce excess mucus. Symptoms vary from person to person, however typical symptoms include:

  • Chest tightness
  • Coughing
  • Eye irritation
  • Nasal congestion
  • Rapid breathing
  • Runny nose
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing

Can I Get Workers’ Compensation for Asthma?

Under the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act, employees are entitled to compensation for both physical workplace injuries and work-related illnesses. However, workers must be able to prove that their asthma was caused by their work activities or environment. This can be challenging since employers and their insurance companies often look for ways to deny coverage and may therefore claim that a worker’s asthma was caused by irritants other than those found in the workplace.

Therefore, those who smoke or who are regularly exposed to other environmental pollutants may have a more difficult time proving that their asthma was caused by their work and not other non-work-related factors. The Philadelphia workers’ compensation lawyers at Larry Pitt & Associates, P.C. are dedicated to helping workers obtain the maximum benefits, even if their claims are complex or initially denied.

Work-Exacerbated Asthma

Pennsylvania workers with pre-existing conditions may be eligible for compensation if they meet certain requirements. To have a viable claim, an employee’s pre-existing injury or illness must have been worsened by their work activities or environment. The pre-existing injury itself need not be work-related; therefore, a worker with pre-existing asthma could obtain compensation as long they can prove that their asthma was exacerbated due to their work.

Employers and workers’ compensation insurance companies often try to dissuade workers from filing pre-existing injury/illness claims. However, Pennsylvania employees should be aware that they may be entitled to compensation for conditions like work-exacerbated asthma.

Workplace Safety and Asthma Prevention

Employers have a duty to provide workers with safe and healthful work environments, free from recognized hazards. They must also adhere to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards governing their particular industry. Therefore, employers should help to prevent instances of work-related asthma by:

  • Eliminating or reducing known asthma triggers
  • Providing workers with personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • Training workers on common asthma triggers and the proper safety precautions to take
  • Instituting a surveillance program for testing and early diagnosis and a wellness program for prevention
  • Encouraging workers to report symptoms and get medical assistance as soon as possible

Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation Attorneys at Larry Pitt & Associates, P.C. Represent Workers in Occupational Asthma Claims

If you have asthma that you believe may have been caused or exacerbated by your work, contact a Philadelphia workers’ compensation attorney at Larry Pitt & Associates, P.C. to discuss your legal options. Our experienced attorneys can help you prove that your asthma is work-related so you can obtain the compensation you deserve. We proudly represent all types of workers in Philadelphia and throughout the state. For a free consultation, please complete our online contact form or call us at 888-PITT-LAW.

With offices conveniently located in Philadelphia, Bensalem, Lansdowne, and Reading, we represent injured workers in Berks County, Bucks County, Chester County, Delaware County, Montgomery County, Philadelphia County, and throughout Pennsylvania, including those in the communities of Abington, Ambler, Ardmore, Bala Cynwyd, Bensalem, Clifton Heights, Crum Lynne, Darby, Downingtown, Doylestown, Drexel Hill, Essington, Folcroft, Glenolden, Haverford, Havertown, Holmes, Kutztown, Lansdowne, Media, Merion Station, Morton, Narberth, Norristown, Norwood, Philadelphia, Prospect Park, Quakertown, Reading, Roxborough, Sharon Hill, Upper Darby, West Chester, and Wynnewood.

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