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Lawmakers in Washington state aim to overturn a Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals decision denying a COVID-19 workers compensation claim and to amend the definition of “occupational disease.”
H.B. 1785 would declare that any infectious disease is a compensable occupational disease provided it is the subject of a public health emergency, is spread through respiratory droplets or aerosols or through contact with contaminated surfaces, and the employee’s infection was proximately caused by work conditions or employment.
The measure would apply to all claims regardless of the date of exposure or the date a claim is filed. If passed, the bill would take effect immediately and allow people to refile workers comp claims for COVID-19 that were denied before the effective date of the measure.
While the state created presumptions for first responders and essential frontline workers in 2021, language in the bill aims to provide “consistent presumptive protections to all workers” who contracted the disease when proximately caused by work.
The intent statement also says the legislature wants to overturn an August 2022 decision in which a log scaler working for a company providing essential infrastructure work contracted the virus from coworkers and was denied workers compensation because he could have been exposed to the virus “anywhere.”
H.B. 1785 was referred to the House Committee on Labor and Workplace Standards, which has scheduled a Feb. 17 public hearing on the measure.
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