Are certain diseases presumed to be work-related?

In general, you may receive benefits for diseases that are caused by, aggravated by, or accelerated by work activities. However, the burden of proof lies with you and your attorney to show the connection between the disease and your employment.

However, in addition to that, for certain occupational diseases, there is a presumption that certain diseases are work-related. These include:

  • Tuberculosis and hepatitis for nurses, blood processors, and related professions that involve exposure to these diseases.
  • Diseases of the heart and lungs for firefighters who have four or more years of service.
  • Pneumoconiosis and silicosis for any occupation that involves direct contact with or exposure to coal dust.
  • Specific types of chemical poisoning (such as lead, mercury, phosphorus, and arsenic) for occupations involving direct contact or exposure to those chemicals, or to their preparations or compounds.

The Workers’ Compensation Act also has a catchall provision that entitles you to a presumption that your condition is work-related if you can demonstrate that:

  • you have been exposed to the disease because of your job;
  • the disease is causally related to your industry or occupation; and
  • substantially more people working in your industry or occupation suffer from the disease than the general population.

If you fall into the category of occupational diseases that are presumptively related to your employment, the burden shifts to the employer to prove that in your particular case, there is a cause for your disease that is unrelated to your employment.