What is an occupational disease?

Workers in Pennsylvania are entitled to compensation for injuries and accidents suffered at work. But they may be eligible for workers’ compensation for occupational diseases.


Pennsylvania‘s workers’ compensation covers occupational diseases if they were caused or aggravated by the worker’s employment. A disability must occur within 300 weeks of the worker’s last employment in an occupation that exposed them to the hazard.

Some diseases associated with certain occupations are recognized as occupational diseases. For example, tuberculosis and hepatitis are occupational diseases for nurses, blood processors and similar health professionals who are exposed to those diseases. Firefighters may be eligible for occupational disease benefits if they have at least four years of firefighting service.

Miners and other workers having direct contact or exposure to coal dust may seek benefits for pneumoconiosis and silicosis. Claimants seeking these benefits had to work in occupations with those hazards for at least two years in Pennsylvania during the 10 years before their disability. This time requirement also governs workers seeking occupational disease benefits for working in an occupation exposing them to asbestos.

Workers in occupations involving direct contact or being exposed to or preparing certain compounds may be eligible for disease benefits because of chemical exposure. Typical substances include lead, arsenic and mercury.

Other diseases

Workers seeking occupational disease benefits for other conditions must can show that the disease is related to their occupation. They had to be exposed to the disease because of their employment, the disease must be causally related to their occupation or industry and that the disease must occur substantially more in that occupation or industry than the public.

Workers’ compensation claims and procedures may be complicated. An attorney can help assure that sick or injured workers do not inadvertently give up their rights, gather the correct evidence and present their strongest case for benefits.