People who work in New York may well know that there is a state program designed to provide certain benefits to people who are injured on the job. These workers’ compensation benefits may also be available to people who become ill as a result of some job-related situation or activity. In addition to work-related illnesses, there may also be coverage for people who have qualifying occupational diseases. 

It is easy to understand how people might think that an occupational disease and a work-related illness are the same. However, as the New York Attorney General’s office explains, these two things are in fact very different. One thing that is common to both is the connection between a job or a job environment and some health condition. However, with an occupational disease, the condition that develops is considered natural due to the type of work performed. A work-related illness that develops does not have to be tied to the inherent nature of a person’s job or duties.

For example, the New York State Workers’ Compensation Board indicates that a person hired to remove asbestos who later develops a condition called asbestosis may be likely to be said to have an occupational disease. On the other hand, a person who contracts a disease after being exposed to it simply by coming into contact with a colleague who has the disease would be said to have a work-related injury, not an occupational disease.

Benefits for both occupational diseases and work-related injuries may be similar under the state’s workers’ compensation program.