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What does OSHA mean by “significantly aggravated”?

According to, for OSHA to consider an injury or illness “work-related” for the purposes of workers’ compensation, you must either have contracted the condition in your Illinois work environment or your work environment must have contributed to the resulting condition. OSHA also states that an injury or illness is also work-related if the place of work “significantly aggravated” a preexisting illness or injury. That said, what does OSHA mean by “significantly aggravated?”

If you claim that your work environment aggravated a preexisting condition, your employer will perform an investigation into your work duties and the overall environment to determine if certain exposures, events or the environment itself could have caused or worsened your injury or illness. Even if your employer discovers an aggravating factor, you must still provide medical proof showing that the aggravating factor resulted in one of four outcomes:

  • Loss of consciousness, given that the illness or injury would not have ensued in loss of consciousness had the workplace event or exposure not been present
  • Death, which could have been prevented by lack of exposure to the workplace event or environment
  • One or more missed days of work or days of limited activity that you could have avoided had the workplace event or exposure not occurred
  • Medical treatment that became necessary as a result of the workplace exposure or event

If any of the above occur as a result of the workplace environment or exposure or your workplace duties, your preexisting injury or illness may be compensable under OSHA and workers’ comp law.

You should not use this article as legal advice. It is for educational purposes only.