COVID-19 Is Not An Occupational Disease

Updated: Apr 29

When workers’ comp becomes responsible for common conditions, is it still meeting its designed purpose?

By Mark Walls, NU Property Casualty 360

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Naming COVID-19 an occupational disease raises many concerns around workers’ compensation.

When workers’ compensation was first conceived over 100 years ago, it was designed to cover traumatic injuries in an industrial setting. As workers’ compensation evolved, that coverage expanded in many ways. It was recognized that there were certain diseases or conditions, like asbestosis and black lung disease, to which workers in certain occupations were exposed, and the general public was not similarly exposed.

The cause of these occupational diseases was not a sudden traumatic exposure but instead resulted from exposure over time and often took several years before the disease manifested itself. The traditional workers’ compensation system was not set up for such conditions, so most states eventually passed occupational disease statutes as part of their workers’ compensation laws.

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