I work for the government in a building that is sealed and the air replenishment carefully controlled for energy efficiency. Since we moved in many staffers have been sick with various respiratory ailments (myself included) that always improve or disappear when away from the building. Originally the building tested for air contaminants and Workers Comp ordered many staffers relocated. But the latest tests return negative yet the health problems persist exactly as before (clearly the tests are are missing something). WC won't act without tests or some other proof of contamination. Is there another way give WC what they need so we can get them to act?I decided to file a complaint with Cal-OHSA. They have experience with sick building syndrome and have found it even when the air quality reports returned negative (basing their conclusion on symptom patterns similar to what i described). We'll see what they find, and if they do find a problem, whether WC will consider it sufficient.
This is a complicated matter. You can file a claim for workers' compensation benefits and request a QME exam by an Internist, Pulmonary Disease, or an Allergists. That doctor's opinion on what is causing your symptoms is probably what a Workers' Compensation Judge would rely upon. Your guess on what this doctor would say is as good as mine.
Workers Comp is typically Risk Management, and if there is no measurable risk, they are not required to act. IF YOUR LUNG SPECIALIST is willing to write that the cause of your sickness/ailment is the air in your building and explain with specificity how s/he arrives at this diagnosis, then you take that to the MPN Physician (an internist you will elect from the insurer's Medical Provider Network) and have that MPN Physician 'echo' what your personal treating physician wrote. There is nothing in the Labor Code requiring Risk Management to go looking for air contaminants unless and until there is written documentation of what these are and what they cause.
Sick Building Syndrome is difficult to prove within the confines a solitary workers' compensation claim as discovery is limited and the evaluating doctor will have limited information. Yet, as other attorneys have indicated, if the claim is denied, you will be entitled to a Qualified Medical Evaluation with an internist or toxicologist. If that doctor finds that your symptoms are related to your workplace, you will be able to obtain treatment paid for by the employer. The workers' compensation court has no power to relocate other staffers but, as indicated by another attorney, the Risk Management Department can advise higher ups to relocate employees. One issue: your coemployees have a fundamental right of medical privacy and their medical issues should not be disclosed without their consent. In general terms, you can tell the Qualified Medical Examiner about internal issues suffered by coemployees but their names, etc. should not be disclosed without their written consent.
One other avenue would be to contact a toxic tort attorney who could evaluate the matter for a civil action, in which the damages are much greater, against the owner of the building and the maintenance company contracted to maintain the building. These types of cases are expensive for the attorney to work up and attorneys tend to be quite selective in which claims to accept, but if enough of your co-workers have significant symptoms with lasting damage, then perhaps a toxic tort attorney will accept the matter.
I agree with Mr. Epperly's answer. You should select an attorney and get the process moving. With a substantial medical report in support of your condition having been industrially caused you can prevail.
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