Ohio workers are dedicated to their professions and work hard every day. They have spent months and years learning their craft, honing their skills, and progressing through their career fields. Unfortunately for some workers, that time and dedication can be negatively affected by developing a work-related illness. Sometimes, job conditions can cause certain diseases that impact both the personal and professional lives of employees, and continued work in that job is not advisable. Workers are forced to consider a career change. The Ohio workers’ compensation system acknowledges this can be a trying experience for an employee and offers change of occupation awards in certain circumstances.

What Is a Change of Occupation Award in Ohio?

A change of occupation award is a benefit offered by the workers’ compensation system to some workers who experience certain types of illnesses due to job conditions. Change of occupation awards can be available for workers who:

  • Are diagnosed with a dust-induced occupational disease.
  • Are diagnosed with another allowed occupational disease.
  • Have been advised by a doctor to change occupations to avoid further exposure to the dangerous conditions causing the disease.

Common Occupational Illnesses That Can Require a Job Change

While all jobs come with some risks, certain careers expose workers to more risks than others. Some of the more dangerous occupations include:

  • Mining
  • Firefighting
  • Law enforcement
  • Construction work

Workers in these fields and others have been historically at a higher risk for developing certain illnesses related to their work. These jobs can expose workers to harmful agents, such as smoke, toxic gases, fumes, and other toxic vapors, which cause disease. Change of occupation awards acknowledge these dangers and are frequently used where a worker experiences:

  • Silicosis
  • Asbestosis
  • Coal miner’s pneumoconiosis
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Pulmonary disease

Obtaining a Change of Occupation Award in Ohio

To obtain a change of occupation award, an Ohio employee must file a claim with the state Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC). Besides showing that the employee suffers from an occupational disease and that a doctor recommends a change of occupation, the employee must leave his former job. If a worker remains in his career despite the risks, no compensation will be awarded. It is possible to remain in the same field, as long as the nature of the job duties changed in such a way to reduce exposure to the harmful agents. For example, a police officer could remain a police officer if he moved from patrolling an area with hazardous exposure to working at a desk.

Compensation Available for a Change of Occupation

The compensation available with a change of occupation depends on several factors, largely including the workers’ pre-change salary. Ohio state code states that workers eligible for a change of award occupation can be awarded up to:

  • 50 percent of the statewide weekly average wage for up to 30 weeks immediately following the end or change of employment.
  • 66 2/3 percent of lost wages (up to a maximum of 50 percent of the state weekly average) for up to 100 weeks immediately following the initial period of 30 weeks.
  • 66 2/3 percent of lost wages (up to a maximum of 50 percent of the state weekly average) for up to 75 weeks immediately following the initial period of 30 weeks for police officers and firefighters.

Compensation will be terminated if the employee returns to a job in which he is again exposed to harmful agents.

If you or someone you love has suffered an occupational illness due to circumstances such as these, you may be eligible for change of occupation benefits. This compensation can help ease the financial burden on your family and give you time to explore further career options. Call the experienced workers’ compensation attorney at Monast Law Firm today to learn more about your rights and options as an employee in Ohio.


James Monast
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Board-Certified Workers’ Compensation Attorney in Columbus, Ohio