We are talking about whether a health care worker who contracts the Ebola virus from a patient could have a viable workers' compensation claim. At this point, there is no word that anyone who has tested positive has filed a claim, but the example gives us a high-profile, albeit scary, way to talk about work-related illnesses.
When we left off, we were going through the two threshold questions used to determine if an illness could be compensable. The first is, "Is the disease 'occupational'?" Essentially, if the worker contacts the illness on the job, the condition is met.
The second question is harder: "Is the illness caused by conditions peculiar -- unique or close to unique -- to this job?" Is this an illness that only someone engaged in the claimant's work could contract?
For a good example of a "peculiar" condition, think about the workers on the Brooklyn Bridge who suffered decompression sickness -- the "bends". Crews worked in caissons 65 feet below the surface of the East River. If they came to the surface too quickly, the workers could find themselves doubled over with pain in their joints and difficulty breathing.
Black lung disease is another example. The process of mining fills the air in deep tunnels with coal dust, exposes workers to amounts far exceeding what someone on the surface would face. The workers inhale the dust but cannot exhale it at the same rate. The dust fills their lungs, and black lung disease results.
We'll finish this up in our next post.
Source: Insurance Journal, "Is Ebola Compensable Under Workers’ Compensation?" Christopher J. Boggs, Oct. 10, 2014