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Glossary Check: Mo. ‘Occupational Disease’

08 Aug, 2023 Frank Ferreri

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St. Louis, MO (WorkersCompensation.com) -- It's hard to say which definitions in state workers' compensation law are more important than others, but if you were going to start a short list of ones that were really important, "occupational disease" would probably be on it.

So, to help shed light on what "occupational disease" and related terms mean in Missouri, we break it down in the information that follows.

Occupational disease: An identifiable disease arising with or without human fault out of and in the course of the employment. Ordinary diseases of life to which the general public is exposed outside of employment aren't compensable, except where the diseases follow as an incident of an occupational disease. The disease doesn't have to be foreseen or expected, but after its contraction it must appear to have had its origin in a risk connected with the employment and to have flowed from that source as a rational consequence.

An injury or death by occupational disease is compensable only if the occupational exposure was the prevailing factor in causing both the resulting medical condition and disability. 

Workers' Comp 101: In Collins v. Neevel Luggage Manufacturing Company, 481 S.W. 2d 548 (Mo. Ct. App. 1972), a worker's bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome was an occupational disease and compensable. The work, which involved forcing rims onto luggage frames, required the worker to bend her fingers toward the palms of her hands and exert pressure downward and inward. Along the way, the court explained that whether a disease is occupational is not to be determined by whether the disease is literally peculiar to an occupation, but whether there is a recognizable link between the disease and some distinctive feature of the claimant's job that is common to all jobs of that sort.

Prevailing factor: The primary factor, in relation to any other factor, causing both the resulting medical condition and disability. Ordinary, gradual deterioration, or progressive degeneration of the body caused by aging or by the normal activities of day-to-day living aren't compensable.

Loss of hearing due to industrial noise: A loss of hearing in one or both ears due to prolonged exposure to harmful noise in employment. 

Harmful noise: Sound capable of producing occupational deafness.

Radiation disability: A disability due to radioactive properties or substances or to Roentgen rays (X-rays) or exposure to ionizing radiation caused by any process involving the use of or direct contact with radium or radioactive properties or substances or the use of or direct exposure to Roentgen rays (X-rays) or ionizing radiation.

Disease of the lungs or respiratory tract, hypotension, hypertension, or disease of the heart or cardiovascular system, including carcinoma: A disability due to exposure to smoke, gases, carcinogens, inadequate oxygen, of paid firefighters of a paid fire department or paid police officers of a paid police department if a direct causal relationship is established, or psychological stress of firefighters of a paid fire department or paid peace officers of a police department if a direct causal relationship is established.


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    About The Author

    • Frank Ferreri

      Frank Ferreri, M.A., J.D. covers workers' compensation legal issues. He has published books, articles, and other material on multiple areas of employment, insurance, and disability law. Frank received his master's degree from the University of South Florida and juris doctor from the University of Florida Levin College of Law.

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