Occupational diseases

Experimental visualization of narrower problems
Other Names:
Industrial diseases
Occupational illness

An occupational disease or industrial disease is any chronic ailment that occurs as a result of work or occupational activity. It is an aspect of occupational safety and health. An occupational disease is typically identified when it is shown that it is more prevalent in a given body of workers than in the general population, or in other worker populations. The first such disease to be recognised, squamous-cell carcinoma of the scrotum, was identified in chimney sweep boys by Sir Percival Pott in 1775. Occupational hazards that are of a traumatic nature (such as falls by roofers) are not considered to be occupational diseases.

Under the law of workers' compensation in many jurisdictions, there is a presumption that specific disease are caused by the worker being in the work environment and the burden is on the employer or insurer to show that the disease came about from another cause. Diseases compensated by national workers compensation authorities are often termed occupational diseases. However, many countries do not offer compensations for certain diseases like musculoskeletal disorders caused by work (e.g. in Norway). Therefore, the term work-related diseases is utilized to describe diseases of occupational origin. This term however would then include both compensable and non-compensable diseases that have occupational origins.

In a landmark study published by the World Health Organization and the International Labour Organization in 2021, 745,000 fatalities from ischemic heart disease and stroke events in 2016 were attributed to exposure to long working hours. With these UN estimates, the global burden of work-related cardiovascular diseases has been quantified for the first time.

Occupational disease is expected to be reported less than actual figure. Neither educational material nor educational meeting increase the report of occupational disease. However, reminders on the legal obligation to report the occupational disease seem to increase physician reporting.

Related Problems:
Work-related injury
Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 12: Responsible Consumption and Production
Problem Type:
D: Detailed problems
Date of last update
04.10.2020 – 22:48 CEST