Is COVID-19 an Occupational Disease?
Although quarantine and social distancing regulations are in place so that the general public is kept safe from coronavirus (COVID-19) exposure, essential workers have been required to continue working.
These workers play a vital role in maintaining public health and the general public’s needs during the pandemic.
Fortunately, the State of Pennsylvania law is on your side. If you and your co-workers contract COVID-19 while working, you may be eligible for workers’ compensation claims.
In this article, we’ll discuss occupational diseases in general and how they apply specifically to the COVID-19 Pennsylvania. We’ll also talk about your legal recourse in the event that work activities lead to your contraction of coronavirus.
What Are Occupational Diseases?
Occupational diseases are diseases specific to and prevalent in certain work environments or occupational activities. They are considered chronic ailments and may be compensated for under your state’s laws.
Often, they can cause long-term issues that may not arise until months or years after first exposure. Then can also be tied to continuous exposure to certain chemicals or work-related activities.
Some common risk factors leading to various occupational diseases include, chemical exposure, poor indoor air quality, asbestos exposure, repetitive motion tasks and lack of proper safety equipment in hazardous environments.
How Occupational Diseases Relate To Covid-19
Front-line workers working full-time for delivery services, manufacturing, and construction are at risk of occupational exposure to COVID-19. Just like first responders and healthcare workers, delivery and manufacturing workers help keep everyone else afloat.
During the course of employment, these workers are required to fulfill their job duties in a high-risk environment.
The United States Department of Labor has imposed the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to enforce workplace safety standards.
These standards help workers maintain occupational health. Employers must recognize the hazards of their workers’ occupation and provide the necessary equipment to protect them from the disease.
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), protection from COVID-19 contraction involves personal protective equipment, such as face masks, gloves, face shields, and goggles.
However, employers and insurance companies must also understand that contracting COVID-19 is still highly likely even with PPE, according to recent studies.
Understanding Occupational Diseases in Pennsylvania
Common occupational diseases in Pennsylvania include tuberculosis and hepatitis infections, particularly in nurses, and heart and lung diseases in firefighters.
The compensability of work-related exposure to infectious diseases and blood-borne pathogens is high due to the increased risk of exposure while in the workplace.
The same principle can be applied to essential workers who must continue working despite quarantine and social distancing regulations.
COVID-19 is a highly contagious and disabling virus that potentially causes life-long damage to the heart and lungs, and even death, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.
Moreover, COVID-19 patients may take weeks to recover, causing workers significant wage loss.
COVID-19-Related House Bills in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania is amending house bills to ensure hassle-free claims of workers’ compensation benefits and workers’ compensation insurance coverage.
HB 2396 helps workers receive compensation for work-related hazardous duty. Meanwhile, HB 2485 is an act that amended the PA Workers’ Compensation Act to recognize COVID-19 as an occupational disease. The act can help healthcare workers receive compensation on COVID-19 contraction.
Pennsylvania has also submitted HB 2486, which recognizes that COVID-19 is an occupational disease for first responders, such as police, correction workers, and volunteers.
What Governor Wolf’s Suspension of Certain Workers’ Comp Laws Means for You
The State of Pennsylvania has enforced laws to provide means to pay for medical treatment of workers and protect them from compensation loss.
As part of an ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Tom Wolf has suspended portions from Section 413 of the Worker’s Compensation Act. Section 413 allows insurance carriers to suspend or make changes to workers’ wage loss benefits.
The suspension enables workers to receive wage loss benefits even when they return to work or receive increased compensation. The suspension also removes the need for an affidavit, expediting the claims processing.
We’re Ready to Win You the Benefits You Deserve
At Krasno, Krasno & Onwudinjo, we understand your struggle during the pandemic. If you have recently contracted COVID-19, it is important to know that Pennsylvania has enforced legislation and executive orders to help you receive medical treatment and wage loss compensation.
KK&O has won 300,000 workers’ compensation cases for injured workers in Pennsylvania. We have more than 80 years worth of experience and expertise in our state’s labor laws.
If you contract COVID-19 while you are on the job, you have 120 days to file for a workers’ compensation claim.
Call us now for a free consultation and receive advice from our experienced lawyers. Take advantage of our no upfront fees policy until we have won your case.