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Occupational Illnesses: What to Do When Work Makes You Sick

employee suffering from an occupational illness
employee suffering from an occupational illness

Most Florida workers are entitled to compensation when they suffer injuries resulting from an accident at their workplace. Many, however, don’t realize that workers’ compensation benefits are also available if one suffers a work-related illness, also known as an occupational illness. 

Unlike a bodily injury, an occupational illness can be hard to prove because they are not always obvious. That’s why it’s always a good idea to work with an experienced Florida work injury lawyer to help you file a claim and receive all your benefits and needed medical treatment as soon as possible.

What is an occupational illness?

An occupational illness, otherwise known as a work-related illness, is any disease resulting from your work environment. The health condition usually results from exposure to hazardous conditions or substances at work and develops over time. An experienced Florida work injury lawyer can explain the examples provided below in more detail during a free consultation.

Common occupational illnesses

Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL)

While NIHL can happen in every industry, it usually affects people who work in extremely noisy environments like the manufacturing, mining, and construction industries. Oftentimes, this health condition results from noise exposure that exceeds 85db over a prolonged period. Because noise-induced hearing loss happens gradually, it is often discovered when some considerable damage is already done.

Occupational dermatitis

Dermatitis is another occupational illness characterized by inflammation of the skin. It is caused by exposure to harmful substances through direct contact with the skin. Depending on the substance, occupational dermatitis may present in two forms:

  • Allergic contact dermatitis
  • Irritant contact dermatitis

Some common symptoms of dermatitis include: 

  • Skin inflammation
  • Itchiness
  • Blisters (that may be oozing)
  • Cracked and dry skin

Occupational asthma

Occupational asthma can result from breathing in chemical fumes, gases, dust, animal fur, and other allergens common in the workplace. If your childhood asthma comes back due to work-related factors, it could be classified as an occupational illness, and a reliable Florida work injury lawyer can help you prove your case.

Musculoskeletal disorders (MSD)

Musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) are characterized by disorders of the muscles, nerves, joints, tendons, spinal discs, and cartridges. In the occupational setting, they are caused by repetitive movements, extreme exposures, and forceful pressure exertions. 

Some examples of MSD include:

  • Sprains, strains, and tears
  • Back pain
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome

Industries with high rates of occupational illnesses

female employee exposed to risks of occupational illness


Chemical exposure is a significant risk to the health of construction industry workers. According to a 2004 CDC assessment, the risk of developing an occupational illness in the construction industry is six to ten times more than in other industries.


Agriculture ranks highly among the most hazardous industries. According to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were over 3,100 overexertion and bodily reactions due to substance exposure in the agricultural sector in 2018. 


Cleaning workers are usually exposed to chemical hazards in the cleaning detergents and other chemicals used for cleaning or their work environments that elevate their risk of occupational illness. Considering that the cleaning workforce in Florida is over 66,000, it follows that cases of occupational illnesses among cleaners are also high.


Many manufacturing industries are mechanized in their operations which increases the hazards in the industries. According to a 2019 BLS report, manufacturing accounted for 15% of all private industry nonfatal injuries and illnesses. 


Healthcare workers face some of the most severe health hazards compared to any other industry. Some of the dangers include biological hazards, ergonomic hazards, waste anesthetic gas exposure, exposure to radioactive materials, and other chemicals used in the healthcare system. 

Compensation available in Florida for occupational illnesses

If you have been diagnosed with an illness that can be traced back to your workplace, you may qualify to collect workers’ comp benefits. A fair workers’ compensation benefits package will include:

  • Medical expenses incurred while treating the illness: The benefits should cover all future treatments, drug prescriptions, therapies, surgeries, diagnostic testing, and any other medical intervention recommended by your doctor.
  • Lost wages: The benefits should cover lost wages for the days you miss out on work as a result of the occupational illness.
  • Death benefits: Benefits should take into account that occupational illnesses often become severe and life-threatening, and can result in a person’s passing.
  • Any other costs resulting from the illness: For example, the cost of transportation to medical appointments and home modification costs if needed.

By nature, the effects of occupational illnesses are usually long-lasting, and you do not want to get short-changed by your employer or their insurer. For that reason, it would be best to work with an experienced Florida work injury lawyer when preparing to file a workers comp claim.

Suffering from an occupational illness? Speak with a Florida work injury lawyer today

The process of filling and getting fair compensation after a work-related occupational illness can be complicated and require working with an experienced work injury lawyer. At Sternberg / Forsythe, P.A, we have a team of skilled Florida work injury lawyers armed with all the practical strategies required to present a strong case for recovering full compensation for your damages. Contact us online or give us a call today to schedule your free consultation.

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