Millions of Americans work in offices with carpets. Carpets are hard-wearing and can insulate sound, but this type of floor covering can also cause health problems. In some cases, office workers can develop an allergy as a result of the carpet underneath their feet. Learn more about the allergies that office carpets can cause, and find out why these problems can sometimes lead to a workers' compensation claim.
Carpets and allergens
An office carpet will often harbor multiple allergens because the fibers can trap materials like dust and pollen. If you then walk on the carpet or disturb those fibers in some way, you're more likely to inhale allergen particles.
You can also often find dust mite waste and pollen particles in office carpets, both of which can also cause allergies. Unfortunately, vacuum cleaning the carpet won't normally help. In fact, 95 percent of the dust mites living in a carpet will remain after vacuuming. The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America estimates that 20 million people are allergic to these mites. As such, it's easy to see how a carpet could cause an allergy.
About occupational asthma
When something in the workplace causes this problem, doctors refer to the condition as occupational asthma. Occupational asthma can occur in many workplace environments. For example, people who have to continually breathe in chemical fumes can develop the condition. If you have breathing problems that you think the office carpet has caused, your doctor may diagnose occupational asthma.
According to the Occupational Safety & Health Administration, around 15 percent of people with disabling asthma developed the allergy because of workplace allergen exposure. As such, if you can prove that your office carpet caused the problem, you can file a worker's compensation lawsuit.
Filing a claim
To file a claim for worker's compensation, your case must meet three key requirements.
- The employers must fall under the eligibility criteria for worker's compensation insurance. Most private employers must offer coverage, but some states don't force companies that employ fewer than three people to have insurance,
- The company must employ you. This rule sounds simple, but casual workers and contractors can sometimes run into problems.
- The illness has to be work-related. While you can easily show how the workplace COULD cause an allergic reaction, you'll need to have good evidence to show the carpet DID harm you.
Diagnosing occupational asthma
To claim worker's compensation due to an office carpet, your lawyer will need to prove what caused your asthma. To do this, you'll need to see your doctor, so he or she can assess your symptoms for occupational asthma.
Some clues are quite obvious. For example, if you experience workplace symptoms (such as coughing or wheezing) that stop when you get home, there's a good chance something in the office is causing the problem. As such, you'll probably need to keep a diary, but your lawyer will also need more evidence.
A spirometry test is a common way to diagnose occupational asthma. Doctors use these tests to see how well your lungs are working. Regular tests can accurately measure changes in your asthma symptoms at work.
Skin prick or blood tests are also a useful way to test you against certain allergens. Sometimes, you may need to visit an allergy specialist for further analysis. He or she can often run specific tests that can pinpoint the exact cause of the problem.
Other steps you will need to take
You should always seek medical care as soon as you notice any symptoms. While worker's compensation is normally a no-fault law (which means the employer cannot suggest you were negligent), it's still good to show that you have taken all possible steps to stay healthy to make sure you get the right compensation. When you seek medical treatment, you should also tell your employer, as state laws impose different limits on the time you have to file a claim.
Talk to your attorney about the process you need to follow to file a claim. Normally, you will submit a claim form via your employer, but you may sometimes need to deal with the state workers' compensation office.
An employer may reject your claim, at which stage you will need your lawyer's help. He or she can help you compile all the documentation and evidence you need to show how the office carpet caused your allergy. A trained attorney will almost certainly have experience of similar cases to help you get the right outcome.
Carpet allergies are not as unusual as you would expect, and many Americans suffer serious health problems due to allergen exposure. If you think the office carpet caused your asthma, talk to a workers' compensation attorney to learn more.