A Forks Township, Pennsylvania, man who suffered a stroke while working at a foundry has been awarded workers’ compensation benefits in what’s been called an unusual case.

What makes the case atypical is that claims of medical problems such as strokes, heart attacks and psychological illness caused by working conditions are very difficult to prove. Almost half of workplace injuries are strains and sprains, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry. “The incidence of workers suffering strokes at work is obviously very rare,” the man’s attorney said. “To then prove that stroke was the result of work duties is even more uncommon.”

The 50-year-old man worked at the foundry on and off for 22 years before suffering the stroke in May 2010, leaving him paralyzed on his right side. A judge ruled last month that the heat and physical stress of his job caused the stroke. He was working as an auto pour operator near two furnaces at the foundry. He testified that the temperature in his work area was about 100 degrees, though a plant superintendent said it was closer to 70.

The man wore welding clothes under a fire suit and sweated profusely as he carried out his duties, which involved carrying heavy buckets up stairs and using a jackhammer to remove slag from the mouth of the furnace. The plant is cooled by fans that force in outside air and workers are encouraged to take breaks and drink plenty of liquids. But at the core of the company’s defense was the fact that the worker had high blood pressure for years, and that his pre-existing medical condition caused the stroke. That argument was shot down with pharmacy records showing that the man had been taking medication to control his blood pressure. The judge also rejected testimony from foundry employees who tried to minimize the severity of the working conditions.

While the man’s claim may have been unusual and difficult to prove, it was not unfounded. The man will receive more than $700 per week in benefits as long as his condition exists, which his attorney said will probably be the rest of his life. The man will also receive payments for his medical costs associated with the stroke.

Source: The Morning Call, “Victaulic foundry employee wins workers’ comp for on-the-job stroke,” Feb. 20, 2012