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Can Skin Cancer Be Considered a Workplace Illness in Florida?

Can Skin Cancer Be Considered a Workplace Illness in Florida
Can Skin Cancer Be Considered a Workplace Illness in Florida

Workers’ compensation insurance provides workers with a safety net if they are injured or develop an illness while working. However, there is some confusion due to the complexity of the laws.

For example, are certain conditions or injuries not covered, such as skin cancer? Working outdoors every day, week after week, year after year, can cause skin-related disorders. However, is this enough to show that workplace conditions caused your illness?

This is where the experienced workers’ compensation lawyers at Sternberg | Forsythe, P.A. come in. The attorneys here fully understand the laws and how they relate to your case. They can guide your situation and help you file a claim.

What Puts You at Risk for Skin Cancer

Several factors can contribute to the development of skin cancer, but exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or tanning beds is the leading cause. In a sunny state like Florida, the risk can be notably high. Other risk factors include:

  • Fair Skin: Those with less melanin may have a higher risk as their skin provides less protection from UV radiation.
  • History of Sunburns: Even one severe sunburn during childhood can increase the risk later in life.
  • Excessive Sun Exposure: Especially without protection, like sunscreens or clothing.
  • Moles: Individuals with numerous or abnormal moles may be at an increased risk.
  • Family History: Having a family member with skin cancer elevates the risk.
  • Weak Immune System: People with weakened immune systems are more susceptible.
  • Exposure to Radiation: For instance, from treatments or certain substances like arsenic.

While knowing these risks is crucial, Sternberg | Forsythe, P.A. understands that determining the link between skin cancer and workplace exposure in Florida can be challenging. They are here to help gather evidence to build a case showing workplace conditions led to skin cancer.

High-Risk Occupations in Florida

In the Sunshine State, many professions require extended periods outdoors, making them more susceptible to UV radiation exposure. These include:

  • Construction Workers: Building Florida’s homes and infrastructures often means long hours under direct sunlight.
  • Lifeguards: Vigilantly watching over beachgoers means consistent exposure, even with hats and umbrellas.
  • Agricultural Workers: Farming and cultivating fields means being out in open areas where shade might be scarce.
  • Landscapers: Maintaining Florida’s beautiful landscapes often comes with the trade-off of increased sun exposure.
  • Fishermen and Boaters: Reflective UV rays from water surfaces can intensify exposure even on overcast days.

Geography, Climate, and Sun Intensity

Florida’s location places it closer to the equator, leading to stronger sun rays and a longer duration of daylight throughout the year. This unique positioning results in:

  • Increased UV Index: Florida often experiences a high UV index, indicating the strength of sunburn-producing UV radiation reaching the Earth’s surface.
  • Hot and Humid Climate: The subtropical climate means more days with clear skies, increasing the risk of UV exposure.
  • Reflective Surfaces: Florida’s abundant water bodies, including its famous beaches, can amplify UV radiation as sunlight reflects off the water.

Understanding the unique challenges that Florida’s location presents is helpful for workers in high-exposure jobs.

Skin Cancer as a Work-Related Illness

There have been instances where skin cancer was classified as an occupational disease. For example, a lifeguard who spent decades working on Florida’s beaches without adequate protection might successfully argue that their melanoma diagnosis was directly related to their job.

Similarly, if diagnosed with basal cell carcinoma, a construction worker who consistently worked under the sun without protective gear might have a viable workers’ compensation claim.

Legal Criteria for Linking Work to Skin Cancer

To successfully claim skin cancer as a work-related illness under Florida’s workers’ compensation system, you must:

  • Establish Direct Exposure: Demonstrating that the nature of the job resulted in significant, consistent exposure to UV radiation.
  • Show Lack of Significant Non-Occupational Exposure: This might involve proving that there wasn’t substantial sun exposure outside of work contributing to the risk.
  • Provide Medical Evidence: Obtaining a medical expert’s opinion to affirm that the skin cancer likely resulted from occupational UV exposure.
  • Document Duration and Intensity: Keeping records of the time spent in direct sunlight during working hours and the sun’s intensity during those periods.

Recognizing the link between one’s profession and the risk of skin cancer is vital. This will help you know if you have a viable claim for benefits.

Challenges in Proving Work-Relatedness

One of the biggest challenges related to proving skin cancer is work-related is the external factors that are present. These include:

  • Personal Sunbathing: Leisure activities involving prolonged sun exposure can contribute significantly to the risk of skin cancer.
  • Genetics: A family history of skin cancer can increase an individual’s susceptibility.
  • Other Exposures: Prior incidents of sunburn, use of tanning beds, or living in sunny areas during non-working years can complicate claims.

The Crucial Role of Early Detection and Documentation

Catching skin cancer early gives you the best chance of treating the illness successfully. You must document every step of the treatment process, which can serve as evidence for your workers’ compensation claim.

  • Early Detection: Spotting skin changes early and seeking prompt medical attention can improve treatment outcomes and establish a potential work connection.
  • Regular Screenings: Annual check-ups and skin screenings can catch abnormalities before they progress.
  • Documentation: Keeping detailed records of sun exposure at work, protective measures taken, and any skin changes noticed is essential when making a claim.

Preventative Measures and Employer Responsibilities

Employers play a vital role in minimizing UV exposure risks:

  • Provide Protective Gear: Offering hats, UV-resistant clothing, and sunscreens can significantly reduce exposure.
  • Shaded Break Areas: Ensure there are designated shaded areas for employees to take breaks and rest.
  • Flexible Scheduling: If possible, schedule outdoor tasks during the early morning or late afternoon when the sun’s intensity is reduced.

Employers should also provide workers who will be in the sun with ongoing training to avoid issues. Risk awareness is an effective way to prevent this condition. They should also encourage screening for employees. If possible, facilitate this for workers.

Seeking Workers’ Compensation for Skin Cancer

If you believe your skin cancer is work-related, take the following steps:

  • Seek Medical Attention: Obtain a diagnosis and ask your physician about the potential link between your job and the cancer.
  • Document Everything: Record workplace sun exposures, protective measures used, and any related medical visits.
  • Notify Your Employer: Inform them of your condition and your suspicions regarding its work-relatedness.

Once you have taken these steps, our Florida work injury lawyers can help. At Sternberg | Forsythe, P.A., we advocate for victims of workplace injuries and illnesses.

Skin cancer, with its potential links to workplace UV exposure, is a pressing concern in sun-soaked Florida. While the challenges in establishing work-relatedness are real, with informed prevention strategies, early detection, and the right legal support, employees and employers can navigate this terrain.

The first step is contacting our office for a free initial consultation.

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