Does Workers’ Compensation Cover Skin Cancer?

two construction workers in bright sunAnyone who spends even 15 minutes in the sun without protection could be at increased risk of skin cancer. If your job requires you to work outdoors, that risk may be even higher. If you spend a lot of time in the sun at your job and you develop skin cancer, will it be covered by Georgia’s workers’ compensation system?

Below, learn more about this issue and the factors involved. If you have more questions, do not hesitate to contact one of our Savannah workers’ compensation attorneys who can discuss your rights and legal options during a free consultation.

Does Skin Cancer Qualify as an Occupational Disease?

Workers’ compensation benefits are available to workers who are injured on the job in a work-related accident or develop an occupational disease because of the job. Some medical conditions are so common in certain industries that they are considered occupational diseases, even though they may take years to develop.

Georgia defines an occupational disease as one that arises out of, and in the course of, employment. An employee must prove the following to establish skin cancer as an occupational disease:

  • The disease was directly caused by the work conditions
  • The disease was a natural result due to employment
  • The disease is not due to substantial exposure that the employee incurred outside employment
  • The disease is not one of a nature that the general public is usually exposed
  • The disease had its origin in a risk connected to the employment and thus a natural consequence of that origin

Was Your Employer Negligent?

Skin cancer is largely preventable. You and your employer can take steps to reduce your risk of developing skin cancer. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the following tips: 

  • Provide adequate training to workers about the dangers of long-term sun exposure
  • Avoid scheduling outdoor work during the hours that sunlight exposure is greatest
  • Provide appropriate shade or indoor break areas
  • Wear sunscreen with a minimum of SPF 15 that is not beyond its expiration date at least 20 minutes before exposure
  • Reapply sunscreen every two hours and after getting out of water or heavily perspiring
  • Wear dark clothing, high-SPF clothing, wide-brimmed hats, sunglasses and other clothing that will protect you from dangerous UV rays

Employers who fail to follow these guidelines may expose workers to unnecessary risks. However, under Georgia law, you cannot sue your employer for negligence for a work-related disease, such as skin cancer. This is why the workers’ compensation system was created to provide a way for injured workers to obtain compensation.

In the event you are unable to satisfy the workers’ compensation requirements of establishing that your skin cancer was an occupational disease, you may be able to pursue a personal injury lawsuit against a third-party. Unlike workers’ compensation claims, personal injury lawsuits filed must prove negligence.

Industries at Greatest Risk for Skin Cancer

While some people are predisposed to develop skin cancer, excessive sun exposure is the most common risk factor for developing this disease. Frequent or severe exposure can cause skin cells to mutate and attack the body.

Any outdoor job that exposes workers to the sun poses a risk for skin cancer. Workers in the following industries, however, because of their ongoing and excessive exposure to sunlight, face a significantly greater risk of developing skin cancer:

  • Farmers and agricultural workers
  • Outdoor store employees
  • Feed and seed store employees
  • Gardening and nursery store employees
  • Arborist, gardeners and tree trimmers
  • Construction workers
  • Commercial truck drivers
  • Miners and smelting industry workers
  • Oil rig workers
  • Workers exposed to industrial tar, paraffin, coal or certain types of oil

Often, the first sign of skin cancer is the appearance of a new or unusual growth on the skin, which may vary in appearance based on the type of skin cancer that is involved. This may appear as a nodule, rash or irregular patch on your skin. If you notice this and suspect skin cancer, get it checked out immediately as many skin cancers can be successfully treated with early detection.

Contact Roden Law for a Free Consultation

If you contracted a disease at work and would like to learn more about your legal options, contact Roden Law. Our experienced Savannah workers’ compensation attorneys are prepared to determine whether workers’ compensation benefits may be available for your condition or if you have a valid personal injury claim. We offer a 100 percent free consultation and charge no upfront attorney fees unless we are able to recover compensation on your behalf.