Ports and harbors are dangerous places, especially for longshore workers. These employees have to face serious health risks due to the nature of their job. While occupational diseases in longshore harbor workers are unfortunately common, benefits are available for the work-related illnesses plaguing these hardworking individuals.
Occupational Diseases Suffered by Longshore Workers on East Coast Harbors
An occupational disease is a medical ailment that develops as a result of environmental conditions in the workplace. Occupational diseases can be caused by daily exposure to low-level dangers, unintentional exposure to highly hazardous materials, or performing certain activities on the job.
East Coast harbor workers are routinely exposed to toxic substances and harsh working conditions, placing them at risk of job-related illnesses such as:
- Repetitive strain. Some occupational diseases are caused by repeated exposure to physical elements of the workplace, such as high noise levels or performing the same motions over and over again. Workers have been known to develop hearing loss, carpal tunnel disease, chronic back pain, stress-related conditions, or vibration injuries from operating heavy machinery or equipment.
- Pulmonary diseases. Chemical exposure and inhalation of dust, fibers, or particles are common causes of injury in industrial occupations such as shipbuilding and shipbreaking. Workers can suffer various lung diseases, such as silicosis, asthma, or asbestosis, making it difficult for them to catch their breath and causing chronic respiratory infections.
- Skin conditions. Exposure to toxic metals, lead, and other irritants can cause rashes and skin diseases.
- Cancer. Carcinogens in paint and solvents can cause cell mutation that may lead to certain forms of cancer, while prolonged asbestos exposure can lead to mesothelioma.
Longshore Benefits for a Disabling Occupational Illness
The Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act (LHWCA) provides benefits to workers who suffer illnesses from workplace exposure. The LHWCA covers harbor workers injured during employment near navigable waters of the United States, such as piers, docks, wharves, terminals, and adjoining areas where vessels are loaded or unloaded. There are no time limits on Longshore claims for medical benefits related to occupational diseases. However, limitations do apply if employees suffer disability or significant losses from a work-related illness.
Longshoremen and dockworkers who cannot work due to occupational disease have just two years to file a compensation claim under the LHWCA. These claims require a lot of paperwork, such as detailed work history, medical evidence of your condition, and an explanation of how your ailment relates to your employment.
To claim disability benefits, you must be unable to earn the same wages you made at the time of injury. Depending on the extent of your condition and how long it’s expected to last, LHWCA could provide payment for temporary partial disability, temporary total disability, permanent partial disability, and permanent total disability.
Proving a Link Between Longshore Work and Your Medical Condition
One of the most significant barriers to getting LHWCA benefits for a debilitating occupational disease is proving the relationship between the medical condition and employment. The symptoms of many occupational diseases manifest slowly, so a worker may not be conclusively diagnosed for several years after initial exposure. Establishing a causal link between a current condition and a location you haven’t visited for years can be extremely difficult.
You will have to notify your employer that you have an occupational disease, file a claim for medical benefits, and create a detailed work history and timeline of your symptoms. Our experienced maritime injury attorneys can help you build a strong case and ensure you don't make any mistakes that could hurt your compensation claim.
Get Help From a New Jersey Maritime Injury Lawyer
If you have developed an occupational illness while working near navigable waters, the legal team at Hofmann & Schweitzer can protect your rights—and we don’t collect any payment unless we win your case. Call us at 1-800-3-MAY-DAY or learn more about your claim in our complimentary guide, Are You a Seaman Injured in a Maritime Accident? Know Your Rights.