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OSHA & pre-existing conditions


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Anyone here have problems when going back to work?

I took sick leave starting two weeks after my diagnosis (and three days before my surgery). I went back to work in May with an okay from my entire medical team: family doctor, surgeon, radiation oncologist and oncologist. I started back with restrictions on the amount of hours I could put in each day, but other than that, nothing...

Now, we ALL know about those huge questionnaires cancer patients have to fill out regarding where they work, chemical exposures, etc. as the doctors try to pinpoint the "bad thing" that causes this crap... Guess that would mean that my "team" was well aware of the area I work and all the little nasties that encompasses, wouldn't ya think?

As background, let me say I work at a chemical company, inside the fence line and in two different plants, one makes a pesticide, the other an herbicide. I've worked there for a while and had the same "possible exposures" to some not-so-nice things...

But I digress...here's the story:

About mid-July the pesticide plant had a small fire. Since I was the person closest to the fire, of course I smelled the smoke...I didn't realize at the time that there was a fire in the building, the building is old and hazy on a GOOD day. I had heard an odd sound and smelled something odd so I went to find the "man in charge" to find out what was wrong with the pop machine... Well, behind door number two (not the pop machine, the computer server room six feet from it) they discovered a room full of smoke and a smoke alarm going off. Emergency services were called, the building was evacuated and about a half hour into the circus I had a delayed reaction to the smoke inhalation...and spent six hours in the emergency room to make sure I was okay.

The fear? OSHA keeps a close eye on places that make not-so-good things and with each recordable comes a possible fine...

Last week, the doctor on site changed my restrictions to include avoiding pulmonary irritants (well, DUH!) and noted that if that cannot be accomplished, I need to find another place to work (still within the same COMPANY, just a different office location).

I have a meeting with the doctor tomorrow and am wondering what the outcome will be...see, it's not that THEY find me a position elsewhere in the company, I'll have to interview for any opening in a company with a huge hiring freeze in effect AND not many openings. Like I NEED that added stress of finding a new job on top of doctor appointments, getting my final affairs in order (just in case the manure hits the oscillator) and dealing with the emotional BS of this roller coaster. I've been on pins and needles about this for over a week now, the doctor listed my restrictions on my file at work (I have to deal with the medical department every week to review my restrictions) and then went on vacation...my nurse caseworker was on vacation the week prior so there's been no communication between the two of them.

I plan on arguing my case (after all, if something lethal WERE released, I wouldn't be deader than anyone else!), but also taking a full list of possible chemical exposures to my oncologist (this is just the chemicals used in my two plants, not the ones used in plants within a stone's throw of them). If there ARE things that can add to recurrences, I am more than willing to find another position, but if not, I don't want to have to move on (I happen to like the people I work with).

Anyone else have issues with this type of discrimination? Blasted bureaucracy!



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Guest Karen C



Hi - I pasted in the two above websites for your reference. If I were you, I'd see about getting some legal advice on what they can and cannot make you do because of your "disability." I know there are some organizations that help cancer victims get legal advice on financial, employment, etc., type issues and I thought the above two websites might be a good place for you to look for some assistance. The second one, cancerlinc, is local to our Richmond, VA area, but perhaps someone there may know of a similiar organization where you live.

Good luck, you're right, there's enough stress in dealing with this disease without having to worry about what's going on with your job, too!

Karen C.

wife of David C - SCLC dx 3/03

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Well hell, by the time I post this you'll already be at the doctor! Let me know what happens.

First, the Americans with Disabilities Act would I believe come in to play if they fired you so they would have to be incredibly stupid to even be thinking in that direction. If you are put on restrictions, they need to do everything they can to meet those restictions. You would have such a lawsuit if they terminated you. You may as Katie is hinting already have a lawsuit.

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Sounds like a job for Our very own Geoffery Fieger. I lost my job when my benefits short term and FMLA, I probably would have had a hard time suing as I was(not anymore) a heavy duty smoker for 30 plus years, that is no means to imply that my past 3 employers played by all the right rules, used to come home from work and blow my nose for hours and have black crud come out, quite sure some made to the lungs too, another employer the air was so heavy with the smell of toulene a person could get very high just by being in there, but the man was making lots of money, all in the name of the almighty green. Our goverment ain't too innocent either. I'm taking steroids again they really get me thinking and pissed off, good thing I run out of breath so quick or I could her something or somebody. It sucks not being able to breathe!!!!!!!!

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Update on the work thing....

Spoke with the doctor on-site. She's pretty supportive. If I want to use this (the cancer) as an excuse to move somewhere else in the company, I could probably do that... I don't want to. The environment where I am is really pretty relaxed (I wear jeans to work everyday) versus the corporate environment where I'll end up broke paying for pantyhose and have to SHAVE MY LEGS! :lol:

Of course, there may be some "legal complications" and she wants me to take a list of chemicals I can be exposed to in a normal day (and one of things that may get out and be harmful) to my oncologist and get his view on my workplace. I would like to keep the position I have, but if upon a closer look my oncologist decides I work with bad sh--er, poop, I'll move. I won't put myself in harm's way. (Side note here, I live about five miles from work, is the company going to pay to move my HOUSE so I'm not in danger? Somehow, I doubt it!)

So, job is hinged on Friday's consult with the doctor.... Really looking forward to that, more worried on cancer counts and test results, but now have the ol' job tied in, too.

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I work for a company the manufactures electric guitars. I work in the office, but USED to have to give tours through the mill and paint areas.

They are good with me and allow me to do as I am comfortable. No pressure. I rarely go in those areas anymore, I can't stay in them for more than 5 mins before it effects my breathing.

Point: they realize this without being told. I wonder why other employers don't? The company I work for is huge, and they know an osha issue would come up, but they don't do it because of that.

I could legally quit and collect unemplyment etc, but there goes my insurance. Not a smart move. Besides, I really like it there. I have been there 17 years.

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