Employers may never have thought of this before, but if an employee suffers a bug bite that leads to infection or illness while working, they could be held liable for that injury. For example, in California, Lyme disease does have the potential to be a problem, particularly in areas with wildlife and foliage. The disease isn’t always easy to detect right away, but over time, it can lead to chronic health issues.
Ticks also carry the Powassan virus, (POW), which has the ability to attack the brain and cause neurological problems. Death is a possibility in both cases of POW and Lyme.
What should employers do to prevent these serious illnesses?
Businesses can start by educating employees about ticks, especially if they work outdoors. For instance, did you know that a tick’s bacteria only transmits between 36 and 48 hours after it has been attached? Making sure to check for ticks can help reduce the risk of infection significantly since they can quickly be removed. Knowing that a tick was present can also help if the employee falls ill, since he or she can get the correct tests performed by medical professionals.
For those who are unsure of the relationship between the illness and the workplace, it would be a good idea to talk to the doctor about when infection was likely. Most tick bites develop over a certain length of time, so your doctor may be able to pinpoint the time when the bite was most likely to occur. If you can link that to your job, then you may have a case for workers’ compensation.
Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “Business workshop: Employers can be liable for tick bites,” July 18, 2017