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Is your deteriorating health due to an occupational disease?

AdobeStock_2412413.jpgAs a member of the workforce in Minnesota, you probably find comfort in knowing that the state's workers' compensation program will have your back should you suffer an on-the-job injury. Do you feel as comfortable about contracting an occupational illness? Some workplace illnesses develop over years of exposure to health hazards, and yours might be diagnosed long after you left the job that caused your disease.

Do you know which illnesses the insurers will consider as work-related? For successful benefits claims, exposure or events at your workplace must be the cause of your occupational disease. The workers' compensation insurance provider might also approve claims if conditions or events in your work environment aggravated or worsened a pre-existing condition.

Respiratory conditions

If your work environment exposes you to breathing or inhalation of hazardous gases, chemicals, biological agents, dust, fumes or vapors, you could develop any of the following respiratory conditions:

  • Reactive airways dysfunction syndrome (RADS)
  • Beryllium disease
  • Asbestosis
  • Silicosis
  • Pneumonitis
  • Acute congestion or rhinitis
  • Pharyngitis
  • Farmer's lung
  • Occupational asthma
  • Hypersensitivity pneumonitis
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Chronic obstructive bronchitis
  • Metal fume fever

Skin disorders and diseases

Exposure to certain plants, chemicals and other substances at work can cause the following skin diseases:

  • Skin inflammation
  • Oil acne
  • Chrome ulcers
  • Friction blisters
  • Dermatitis, rash or eczema from contact with poisonous plants, primary sensitizers and irritants


Poisoning can occur by ingestion or by absorption, and it causes abnormally high toxic substance concentrations in your blood, bodily fluids, tissues and breath. The following poisoning hazards might adversely affect your health:

  • Metals like lead, arsenic, cadmium and mercury
  • Gases such as hydrogen sulfide and carbon monoxide
  • Organic solvents like carbon tetrachloride, benzol and benzene
  • Insecticides such as lead arsenate or parathion
  • Chemicals like formaldehyde

Hearing loss

Noise-induced loss of hearing occurs over long periods of exposure to above the average of 85 decibels. One single incident such as an explosion can also cause damage, and certain chemicals pose hearing loss threats. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has strict regulations to protect employees, but many workers are unaware of slow-occurring damage that could include tinnitus, which is a constant ringing in the ears.

Other occupational diseases

Some adverse health conditions occur in specific occupations, and depending on the industry in which you work, many of the following health hazards could apply to you:

  • Hot weather-related diseases such as heat stress, sunstroke or heat exhaustion
  • Cold weather-related illnesses like frostbite, hypothermia, trench foot and more
  • Exposure to ionizing radiation such as radium, x-rays and isotopes
  • Decompression sickness
  • Exposure to nonionizing radiation like lasers, ultra-violet rays and welding flash
  • Infectious diseases such as anthrax
  • Blood-borne pathogenic diseases like HIV, AIDS, hepatitis B or C
  • Diseases that can spread from animals to humans like brucellosis
  • Benign or malignant tumors caused by exposure to carcinogens
  • Valley fever also called coccidioidomycosis
  • Histoplasmosis, which is an infection by a fungus found in the droppings of birds and bats

Will your benefits claim be successful?

Claiming workers' compensation benefits for any work-related illness is often more challenging than claims for physical injuries because pinpointing the start of the disease may be nearly impossible. However, you need not climb this mountain on your own. Workers in Minnesota have access to experienced legal counsel who can navigate benefits claims for them.

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The Minnesota Department of Labor and the Office of Administrative Hearings have temporarily halted all in person conferences. In addition scheduled hearings may also be delayed. Atkinson Gerber Law will continue to remain open with a small staff to continue assisting existing clients and answer the questions of new potential clients. The remainder of our staff will continue to assist you working remotely. We understand that this emergency magnifies the already pressing situation injured workers face with wage loss and lack of medical care. There may be some delays in responding to calls but we are making every effort to assist you. Thank you for your understanding and patience.

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