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Safety violation: Legionnaires' outbreak origin identified

While the state-regulated workers' compensation insurance program covers most workers in Ohio, not all claims for benefits are authorized for payment of compensation. The challenging claims are often those involving occupational illnesses rather than injuries such as fractured bones that are more obvious. When a worker suffers an airborne illness, it may not even result from a safety violation by the employer.

An example of such circumstances is the July outbreak of Legionnaires' disease in Lake County. To date, 12 individuals have been diagnosed with the disease, and one person died. After a Legionella Environmental Assessment at one company in August, no concerning areas were identified, nor did another assessment in Sept. at a different business. In the following month, however, several concerning areas were identified in the water in the cooling towers at another company.

The Ohio Department of Health reported that the company carried out the sanitization as directed, and follow-up tests indicated no further danger. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration said these tests enabled the agency to confirm the origin of the outbreak. Inhalation of water droplets that are contaminated can spread Legionnaires' disease, and those with compromised immune systems are most vulnerable, along with older workers who smoke or who used to smoke.

In all these cases, the workers who became ill did not suffer the consequences of a safety violation committed by one company. The victims are from different companies -- the company at which the disease originated did not even employ even the deceased worker. For this reason, victims may want to seek the support and guidance of an experienced workers' compensation attorney to navigate benefits claims for them.

Source: contagionlive.com, "Source of Ohio Legionnaires' Outbreak Confirmed", Sarah Anwar, Nov. 24, 2016

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