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Certified Specialist, Workers' Compensation, The State Bar of California

Board of Legal Specialization

IS YOUR HEART IN YOUR WORK?


Have you or someone you know been diagnosed with high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, or arrhythmia?  Have you had a bypass or stent?  It is possible that your job may have been a substantial factor in your heart trouble, even if it has been years since you last worked.  It is also possible that you may be entitled to an award of medical treatment and permanent disability payments for your condition.

 Numerous studies show a relationship between exposure to stress at work and heart disease.  In California, the WCAB judges generally acknowledge the connection between stress and cardiovascular disease but in each case the connection must be supported by the opinion of a physician in terms of “reasonable medical probability.”

According to NIOSH, the weight of the evidence also supports an association between occupational noise and increased blood pressure.  Researchers in a recent study found the strongest link in working-age people with high-frequency hearing loss, which is typically the result of chronic noise exposure. “Compared with people with normal high-frequency hearing, people with bilateral high-frequency hearing loss were approximately two times more likely to have coronary heart disease,” said lead author Dr. Wen Qi Gan of the University of Kentucky College of Public Health in Lexington. The study was published in Occupational Environmental Medicine, online September 15, 2015.

 Shift work, which disrupts circadian rhythms, has also been linked to heart disease. Physical activity at work, either too much or too little, can also be a risk factor for heart disease. While in general, more physical activity results in less heart disease, heavy work has been associated with increased risk of heart attack.

 According to research cited by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division in 2010, a few specific toxins encountered occupationally are known to affect the heart, most prominently carbon disulfide, nitroglycerin, and carbon monoxide. Of these, carbon monoxide is the most common occupational exposure; it is also a common environmental exposure due to vehicle exhaust. Common occupations with this exposure are truck drivers and parking attendants.

 There is substantial evidence that environmental extremes such as extreme heat, and extreme cold are risk factors for cardiovascular disease, and it is presumed that they are risk factors when they are encountered in the occupational setting.  Food industry workers who must work for long periods in highly refrigerated settings or freezers may be at special risk.

If you are a safety officer with five or more years on the job, Labor Code 3212 affords you a presumption that heart problems that develop or are first diagnosed during your employment are presumed to have been caused by your job.  This presumption is not available to the general public, who must prove (by medical opinion) that it is reasonably medically probable that the job caused the heart trouble.

A claim for heart trouble caused by the job will routinely be denied by employers and insurance companies.   If you wish further information, fill out the “contact us” form or give us a call.  No cost, and no obligation.  We’ll be happy to discuss the facts of your particular situation with you.