Most people understand the risks they face of an accident at work, such as falling off a ladder if they work in construction or getting caught between machinery at a factory. What they may not be aware of is the danger of developing an occupational illness from hazardous substances they are exposed to on the job. These diseases can cause victims to become permanently disabled and even shorten their lives. However, they may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits under South Carolina and Georgia laws.

What Are Occupational Illnesses?

An occupational disease is an illness that develops over months or years from exposure to certain dangerous substances at work. An injured worker may not associate the cause of his illness with his job, instead believing it was caused by other factors like smoking, an unhealthy lifestyle, or other health problems with similar symptoms.  Common occupational illnesses workers can develop include the following:

  • Occupational dermatitis, eczema, or rashes
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Heart disease
  • Occupational lung disease and other respiratory illnesses such as asbestosis, chronic bronchitis, and tuberculosis
  • Occupational cancers—lung, liver, bladder, and bone are a few
  • Latex-related diseases
  • Hearing loss
  • HIV, hepatitis B or C, or other blood borne diseases

What Jobs Put Workers Most At Risk?

There are many harmful substances in the workplace that can cause workers to become ill. Even jobs people may not associate with an occupational illness can cause a worker to develop a life-altering disease. For example, office workers exposed to toxic mold could become seriously ill with cancer, brain damage, fibromyalgia, or chronic fatigue syndrome. Common jobs where workers are at the most danger include:

Mining-related jobs.

Any job that involves mining, drilling, or blasting through the ground can expose workers to harmful dusts that can cause devastating diseases. Workers who must breathe in silica dust on a regular basis risk developing silicosis, which is an incurable and deadly lung cancer, other types of lung cancer, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Mining can also cause black lung disease that can result in difficulties breathing, permanent lung scarring, and death.

Construction workers.

Construction workers who work with concrete, cement, insulation, and drywall are also exposed to silica dust with the same risks of disease as miners. They can also be exposed to asbestos that can cause asbestosis, a serious lung disease, or mesothelioma, a fatal lung cancer.


Working with molten metal and the coatings on metals exposes welders to toxic fumes that can cause Parkinson’s disease, COPD, and lung, larynx, and urinary tract cancers.

Farm workers.

Farm workers and others who work with harvested grains risk developing farmer’s lung—an allergic reaction that can cause asthma-like attacks, lung disease, or death. Farmers who work with grains stored in a silo can develop silo filler’s disease, another potentially deadly lung disease.

Workers exposed to diesel fumes.

Employees working in confined areas, like mines, tunnels, and garages, or at loading docks, bridges, railroads, and farms can be exposed to harmful levels of diesel fumes that can cause heart or respiratory diseases.

Nylon fiber workers.

Flock—small strands of nylon—can cause flock worker’s lung where the person suffers with lung inflammation and scarring of his lungs. These strands are used in many household items, like carpet, blankets, and upholstery, endangering workers in many jobs.

Workers exposed to noise.

Employees in many industries, such as construction, factory work, mining, road construction, and teaching, can be exposed to loud noises that can cause permanent hearing loss and ringing in the ears.

Let Attorney Chris Hudson Help You Get the Compensation You Deserve

These occupational illnesses are often not diagnosed quickly, resulting in the disease progressing and the worker needing more aggressive and expensive medical treatments. If you or a family member developed an occupational disease, workers’ compensation benefits can pay your medical bills and compensate you for your lost wages.

Have You Been Injured At Work?

If you’ve been injured on the job you need to speak with an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer as soon as possible. Contact us online or call our Augusta office directly at 706.863.6600 to schedule your free consultation.

You can also request a copy of our FREE guide, Understanding Georgia Workers’ Compensation, to begin learning about your legal rights and then call us at 888-795-6261.

Last Updated : October 17, 2019