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Workers' health shouldn't be an occupational casualty

When most people hear the term workers' compensation, examples of work-related injuries often spring to mind. While physical injuries suffered at work or while performing work-related duties certainly make up the majority of workers' compensation or workplace injury third-party claims, a worker may also choose to file a claim or pursue legal action related to an occupational illness or disease.

Workers in numerous fields are frequently exposed to potentially dangerous and even toxic materials and chemicals. Additionally, as evidenced by the recent Ebola outbreak, workers within the healthcare field are at risk of suffering exposure to a variety of illnesses, viruses and diseases; some of which can prove to be lethal.

Located in the San Diego bedroom community of La Jolla, since 1955 General Atomics has been a leader in the development of nuclear power systems. Today, the company bills itself as "the primary developer of modular helium-cooled nuclear power reactor systems," and has numerous contracts with the U.S. government.

Obviously, employees at a company like General Atomics face many daily hazards related to possible exposure to dangerous materials. At the height of the Cold War during the 1960s, employees at General Atomics worked to produce nuclear weapons and a number were exposed to high levels of radioactive particles. In the following years, several employees suffered adverse health problems including the development of numerous types of cancers.

Recently, the U.S. Department of Labor designated former General Atomics employees part of its Special Exposure Cohort of the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act. A total of 22 different types of cancers among General Atomics employees were identified as being attributable to exposure to radioactive particles.

The special SEC designation allows former employees diagnosed with one of these cancers or surviving family members of a former employee who was diagnosed with cancer prior to his or her death, the opportunity to receive compensation. To date, 159 General Atomics employees or surviving family members have received a total of $18.4 million in compensation.

Source: U.S. Department of Labor, "Former General Atomics employees notified of inclusion in EEOICPA Special Exposure Cohort by US Labor Department, Nov. 19, 2014

General Atomics, "About" 2014

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