Workers’ compensation in California is designed to protect you when you are injured — or if you become unwell due to your professional activities. However, you might find that things are not always as simple as they should be. If you were to receive a diagnosis of a long-term, occupational disease from your doctor, the medical information itself could be confounding. Combined with the complexity of the workers’ comp issue, it would be completely understandable should you feel overwhelmed by the situation.

You could simplify your problem with a divide-and-conquer strategy. The first step would likely be to find a plain-language description of your condition. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has exhaustive information about occupational disease on its official site. Please find a discussion of two such conditions below: chronic skin and airway disease.

Allergic reactions and contact dermatitis could result in visible rashes, itchy skin or pimples. These symptoms are often irritating, but you could feel like they are easy to live with, relatively speaking. However, later in life, doctors could identify that history of skin irritation as a clear indicating factor in your development of a chronic skin disease. There are many common chemicals that could cause the initial irritation, many of which are used in industrial, professional and commercial workplaces.

Breathing in particulate matter or chemical vapors could put you at risk for a variety of short- and long-term illnesses, if your safety gear were not adequate for the situation. You could easily find yourself amongst the 20 million workers the CDC estimates are exposed to potentially disease-causing substances. Furthermore, even mild irritants could worsen an existing condition. 

Even your employer might not understand all of the risks present in your work environment — after all, not everybody is a doctor. However, that ignorance should not preclude you from receiving benefits from workers’ compensation for any chronic or acute illness you might develop due to workplace exposure. Medical research is always progressing on this subject, and each situation is different with regards to documentation and evidence. Therefore, please do not think of this article as legal advice. It is simply meant to inform you.