There are lot of ways people get hurt at work. Some are obvious, others are not. In Oregon, the Workers' Compensation statute provides for an occupational disease claim. This is a claim where the injured worker suffers some condition or disease due to substances or activities that the worker is not usually exposed to.
A recent study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives provides a good illustration of what is involved with an occupational disease claim. This study showed a strong relationship between exposure to diesel fuel and lung cancer, especially for short run truck drivers. Researchers studied job records of several workers employed in 1985, and tracked those who died through the year 2000. A large percentage of those who died had lung cancer. Apparently, the risk of cancer grows with every year a worker is exposed to the fumes.
This study was good enough to change the emission standards for these trucks, but is it enough to help a worker exposed to fumes with a workers compensation claim? As always, it depends. Workers' Compensation law is based in state law, so each state has its own statute, and each statute its own standards.
There are a couple of things to point out here. First, there is a potential issue about which employment caused the problem in the first place. Truck drivers, like a lot of people, move from employer to employer, and from state to state. When did most of the exposure take place, and with what employer? These questions are important because they may determine which state law applies, or which employer is responsible.
Second, in Oregon, exposure to fumes over time probably falls into the definition of an occupational disease claim. An injured worker would have to prove that exposure to diesel fumes was the major cause of her cancer when compared to all other causes combined. This is a strict standard, and a supporting medical opinion is vital. If the worker smoked, or has some other lung condition, it's just that much more to sort out. Claims of this nature present potential challenges.