ILO Approves New Occupational Diseases List

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The main aims of the International Labour Organization (ILO) are to promote rights at work, encourage decent employment opportunities, enhance social protection and strengthen dialogue in handling work-related issues. On March 25, 2010, the ILO’s Governing Body approved a new list of occupational diseases. Designed to assist countries in the prevention, recording, notification and, if applicable, compensation of work-related diseases, the new list replaces the one that was adopted in 2002. (The list is an appendix to this committee report. It starts on page 21.)

Highlights of the List

The new list includes a range of internationally recognized occupational diseases, from illnesses caused by chemical, physical and biological agents to respiratory and skin diseases, musculoskeletal disorders and occupational cancer. It reflects the state-of-the art development in the identification and recognition of occupational diseases in today’s world and indicates clearly where prevention and protection should take place.

The criteria used to decide what specific diseases to be considered in the updated list include:

  • that there is a causal relationship with a specific agent, exposure or work process;
  • that they occur in connection with the work environment and/or in specific occupations;
  • that they occur among the groups of workers concerned with a frequency which exceeds the average incidence within the rest of the population; and
  • that there is scientific evidence of a clearly defined pattern of disease following exposure and plausibility of cause.

For the first time, mental and behavioural disorders—such as post-traumatic stress—have specifically been included in the ILO list. This list also has open items in all the sections dealing with the afore-mentioned diseases. The open items allow the recognition of the occupational origin of diseases not specified in the list if a link is established between exposure to risk factors arising from work activities and the disorders contracted by the worker.