Routine job responsibilities expose health care workers to a wide range of infectious diseases. When employees contract a communicable or contagious disease such as HIV or hepatitis from the patients they care for, they have a right to file for workers’ compensation.
As noted by Physician’s Weekly, unexpected contagion, such as what may result from a used-needle puncture, could also cause a medical worker to contract a disease. When an on-duty accident or chaotic ER mishap causes a health care employee’s illness, he or she may file a claim for benefits.
Missouri law requires proof that an employee contracted the disease while working
Most health care workers routinely risk daily occupational hazards such as exposure to bodily fluids containing dangerous pathogens. When filing a workers’ compensation claim, however, an employee may need to show that an illness actually came from his or her occupation.
According to Title XVIII, Labor and Industrial Relations, Chapter 287, Missouri workers’ compensation eligibility requires proof that a disease was work-related. Occupational exposure must be the primary factor of an illness that caused both the medical condition and any associated disability.
An “occupational disease” differs from an “ordinary disease of life”
Referring to an employee-contracted illness such as hepatitis as an “occupational disease” differentiates it from an “ordinary disease of life.” The difference may determine whether a medical condition qualifies for workers’ compensation benefits. By definition, an occupational disease develops because of an exposure occurring during an employee performing work-related duties.
An “ordinary disease of life,” however, develops through an employee’s natural life progression. It does not usually qualify for workers’ compensation benefits unless proven it developed from exposure in the workplace, such as an asbestos-related illness.
Lack of prevention or missteps may not disqualify eligibility
Workers’ comp is a no-fault claim; a medical worker may not need to prove that he or she took all the required steps to avoid contracting a disease. A health care employee may file for workers’ compensation when his or her own missteps contributed to the work-related illness.