Chapter 11 of the Workers’ Compensation Act addresses the various occupational diseases. An “occupational disease” is defined as the following:
“a disease arising out of and in the course of employment which is due to hazards in excess of those ordinarily incident to employment and is peculiar to the occupation in which the employee is engaged. A disease shall be deemed an occupational disease only if caused by a hazard recognized as peculiar to a particular trade, process, occupation or employment as a direct result of continuous exposure to the normal working conditions of that particular trade, process, occupation, or employment.”
Often, there is no single incident to attribute the injury to; consequently, the South Carolina Legislature distinguished occupational diseases from injuries by accident, and has dedicated a chapter in the code to such diseases. In many respects, occupational diseases resemble injuries by accident.
The six elements of occupational disease claims are as follows:
- A disease;
- The disease must arise out of and in the course of the claimant’s employment;
- The disease must be due to hazards in excess of those hazards that are ordinarily incident to employment;
- The disease must be peculiar to the occupation in which the claimant was engaged;
- The hazard causing the disease must be one recognized as peculiar to a particular trade, process, occupation, or employment; and
- The disease must directly result from the claimant’s continuous exposure to the normal working conditions of the particular trade, process, occupation, or employment.
Next, there are certain impairments that are not categorized under occupational diseases. A disease will not be considered an occupational disease when:
- It does not result directly and naturally from exposure in this State to the hazards of peculiar to the particular employment;
- It results from exposure to outside climatic conditions;
- It is a contagious disease resulting from exposure to fellow employees or from a hazard to which the workman would have been equally exposed outside his employment;
- It is one of the ordinary diseases of life to which the general public is equally exposed, unless such disease follows as a complication and natural incident of an occupational disease or unless there is a constant exposure peculiar to the occupation itself which makes such disease a hazard inherent in such occupation;
- It is any disease of the cardiac, pulmonary or circulatory system not resulting directly from abnormal external gaseous pressure exerted upon the body or the natural entrance into the body through skin or natural orifices thereof or foreign organic or inorganic matter under the circumstances peculiar to the employment and the processes utilized therein; or
- It is any chronic disease of the skeletal joints.
Because it is so easy to confuse what constitutes an occupational disease, it is important to retain competent representation to help define what your condition is under South Carolina law. At Reeves, Aiken & Hightower, LLP, we have handled many workers compensation cases, and we understand how these conditions are to be defined. For a consultation, visit us at our Baxter Village office in Fort Mill, South Carolina at 803-548-4444, or toll-free at 877-374-5999. We will be happy to assist you.