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Workplace injuries may take time to become obvious

You assume a workplace injury will be obvious almost instantly, and that it will be easy to document and prove.

For instance, your boss tells you that you cannot wear any fall protection gear while working on a roof because it would take too long to get the gear and put it on. Your boss insists it is a 10-minute job and sends you up the ladder with nothing. You slip and fall, giving yourself a concussion -- a traumatic brain injury -- and a broken arm. Five people watch you fall and you head straight to the hospital, where you get plenty of medical records to show how badly you got hurt.

Delayed consequences

This can happen, and it does. But it is important to remember that not all injuries and illnesses show up that quickly or that obviously. They take time to develop. Below are two examples:

1. Repetition injuries

You first day on the job is great. Your first month is fine. By the end of the first year, you wonder how long you can keep it up. After five years, serious pain finally sets in. You wind up in the hospital, getting surgery.

Repetitive motion injuries are common for factory workers and office workers, who often have to do the same thing over and over again, for years on end. Even a minor motion that seems safe and easy could lead to serious pain and even disability when you do it for decades.

2. Chemical exposure.

The very work environment could harm you every day that you clock in. If you work around harmful chemicals, are they taking a toll on your body? Maybe the workplace has poor ventilation. Perhaps your boss never gives you the PPE (personal protection equipment) that you need. Maybe the company hides the risks and tells you that the chemicals are not harmful.

Exposure to dangerous chemicals and other substances can lead to respiratory issues, a loss of sex drive and many other disorders and diseases. You could develop rashes and other skin ailments, for instance, or you could become seriously ill.

It's not just chemicals. For example, asbestos exposure can lead to cancer. It's often fatal and aggressive. You may barely notice the exposure for years in the workplace, but the end result can still be worse than any other injury you could suffer on the job.

Your rights

Some workplace injury cases are fairly straightforward, with simple documentation and a clear link between the job and the injury. Others are not. These complex cases often require extensive medical evaluations to establish a link, and it is very important for those who suffer from these injuries and diseases to know all of their legal rights.

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