Appeal from the Order of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board in case of Robert Gilson v. Crucible Steel Corp., No. A-76470.
Roy F. Walters, Jr., Fried, Kane, Walters & Zuschlag, for petitioner.
William R. Caroselli, with him Edwin H. Beachler, McArdle, Caroselli, Spagnolli & Beachler, for respondent.
Judges Wilkinson, Jr., Craig and Williams, Jr., sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Wilkinson, Jr.
[ 52 Pa. Commw. Page 166]
This appeal is brought by Crucible Steel Corporation (petitioner) from an order of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board (Board) awarding total disability benefits to claimant under the provisions of The Pennsylvania Workmen's Compensation Act (Act), Act of June 2, 1915, P.L. 736, as amended, 77 P.S. § 1 et seq.
Claimant had been employed by petitioner for approximately 39 years as a laborer and crane operator when, on December 11, 1976 at the age of 60, he was forced to retire due to breathing difficulties. Claimant testified in detail about the dusty conditions prevailing in his place of employment.
On November 15, 1976, claimant consulted a physician who subsequently testified on his behalf before the referee. The doctor concluded in a report prepared that day that the claimant "has very significant pulmonary impairment and in my opinion should not be permitted to return to his job; indeed, I repeat, it is amazing that he has been able to continue at work this long."*fn1 Petitioner's medical witness examined claimant on December 29, 1976, on the basis of which he diagnosed a "mild restrictive and a moderately severe obstructive ventilatory pattern." Because of fear on the part of both doctors that some form of cancer might be present an open-lung biopsy was performed
[ 52 Pa. Commw. Page 167]
in February, 1977. Cancer was ruled out in the pathology report which stated the claimant was suffering from "chronic interstitial pneumonia with lymphoid follicles, chronic pleuritis and pleural fibrosis."
The Board expressly affirmed the referee's award on the authority of this Court's opinion in Plasteel Products Corp. v. Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board, 32 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 405, 379 A.2d 908 (1977). We agree that Plasteel is controlling and compels an affirmance of the award.
This Court recognized in Plasteel the proposition that an occupational disease-type harm may be compensable where a claimant demonstrates the harm was a hazard of his employment to which he was exposed and that the harm was occupational in nature. Judge Mencer wrote in the opinion for the Court, "the term 'injury', when used in an occupational disease context, was intended to include occupation-related harm which does not amount to a separate occupational disease." Id. at 409, 379 A.2d at 910. However, not all harm can be equated with the term injury, "only such harm as approximate[s] the defined diseases." Id. at 409, 379 A.2d at 910.
Two basic factual elements must be established by a claimant to bring himself within the framework of Plasteel. First is the necessity to demonstrate exposure to employment-related harm, which may be "satisfied by a reasonable identification and description of the causative factors, by a demonstration that those factors were significantly present in the claimant's employment, and by ...