Occupational diseases are workplace injuries which occur over the course of more than one work shift. Like other workplace injury victims, these individuals may be entitled to substantial benefits under South Carolina law. Typically, these benefits include money for lost wages as well as medical bill payment.
Many times, a pre-existing injury or illness contributes to the victim’s occupational disease. Typically, full compensation is available in these situations. Generally, the victim must simply show that the pre-existing condition aggravated the workplace injury, and not the other way around.
This condition is the leading occupational disease in the United States. It affects about 22 million workers. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration recommends that employers protect their workers from any noises above 85 decibels. To put that number in context, here are a few examples:
- Lawnmowers, electric drills, and garbage disposals all generate about 90 decibels of noise. Such noise levels can cause hearing loss after about three hours of continuous or near-continuous exposure.
- Snowmobiles and motorcycles generate about 100 decibels. That noise level causes permanent hearing loss after as little as one hour.
- Sounds which are the equivalent of ambulance emergency sirens, jet engines at takeoff, and gunshots cause permanent hearing loss in as little as ten seconds.
At lower levels, and if the problem is identified early enough, hearing loss is relatively easy to correct. But at higher levels, or if there is no medical intervention, loud noises permanently damage the eardrum, and there is little any doctor can do at that point.
Experts predict that gasoline-powered gardening tools, like lawn mowers and leaf blowers, may soon replace automobiles as the leading cause of air pollution in the United States. Lawn maintenance tool engines release high levels of benzene. When inhaled, these fumes may cause drowsiness, dizziness, irregular heartbeat, and unconsciousness. Benzene exposure effects are much worse for people with pre-existing medical conditions.
Asbestos also causes significant problems. This fibrous substance is one of the most toxic particles in nature. Just one microscopic fiber is enough to cause mesothelioma, asbestosis, and other serious diseases. Often, work crews who renovate older buildings are exposed to asbestos fibers.
Repetitive standing, stooping, bending, and reaching places considerable stress on knees, ankles, shoulders, hips, and other joints. Over time, these injuries may significantly reduce mobility and range of motion.
Many workers do not run to the doctor as soon as they feel twinges in their knee. So, in many occupational disease cases, doctors do not properly diagnose the illness until the time limit to file a claim has passed. Typically, the delayed discovery rule applies in these cases. Most victims need not report their injuries until they know the full extent of their illness and they connect that illness to a workplace condition.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
CTS is a bit like joint pain for office workers. Both these conditions are repetitive stress disorders.
The carpal tunnel is a narrow gap in the wrist bone that protects nerves. When that tunnel collapses, mostly because the person’s hands are above the wrists, the resulting nerve pain starts in the hands and radiates up the arms to the shoulders. If not caught early enough, the nerve damage could become permanent.