People still come into contact with exposure agents of occupational diseases, even though asbestos-related diseases and noise-induced hearing loss are declining
Cases of occupational disease continue their decline. Employees still continue to be exposed to exposure agents, such as chemicals. In the recently completed statistics of 2017, the most common confirmed occupational diseases in people of working age are noise-induced hearing loss, allergic contact dermatitis and irritant contact dermatitis, pleural plaques and occupational asthma. Of the working-age population’s occupational diseases, 70 per cent are recognised in men and the range of occupational diseases differs between genders. The data is from the annual Finnish Registry of Occupational Diseases by the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health. The material is also available on the Work-Life Knowledge service.
In 2017, a total of 3,375 recognised or suspected occupational diseases were registered in the Finnish Registry of Occupational Diseases (FROD), which is about 17% less than in 2016. Of these, 1,055 were confirmed cases of occupational disease and their number decreased by 29% in a year.
In the material, the average age of confirmed cases of occupational disease was 56 years and about a third of the cases is recognised after the working career. The most common confirmed occupational disease in people of working age is noise-induced hearing loss, and in people over the age of 65 the leading occupational diseases are pleural plaques and noise-induced hearing loss.
Chief Medical Officer Kirsi Koskela and Senior Specialist Johanna Lehtimäki from the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health say that the decrease can be explained by the decrease in traditional occupational diseases, such as noise-induced hearing losses and asbestos-related diseases. There is not yet evidence that the use of exposure agents that cause injuries such as respiratory symptoms and skin diseases is becoming less common in workplaces.
In working-age people, the next most common confirmed occupational diseases were allergic contact dermatitis, irritant contact dermatitis, pleural plaques and occupational asthma, just like in 2016. Chemical agents caused 44% of the occupational disease cases in working-age people.
The coating chemical epoxy is the most significant cause of occupational skin diseases. Work duties in the construction sector that expose workers to epoxy include floor treatment, work on cured-in-place pipes and spray painting.
“Epoxy allergy is not temporary, it can threaten a person’s ability to work in their industry. Therefore, it is important that epoxy dermatitis is identified and the employee is directed to the appropriate examinations. The careful protection of skin, with the right protective gloves, for example, is a serious matter,” says Maria Pesonen, Assistant Chief Physician at the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health.
Most occupational diseases recognised in farmers
When viewed by branch of industry, the number of recognised cases of occupational diseases in the working-age population was the highest, in both number of cases and proportionately, in ‘crop and animal production, hunting and related service activities’.
When viewed by occupation, the most cases of confirmed occupational diseases were in: 1st ‘farmers and animal breeders etc.’; 2nd ‘building and related trades workers (excluding electricians)’; 3rd ‘metal, machinery and related trades workers’. The incidence rate set in proportion to the working-age population was the highest among ‘commissioned armed forces officers’ and ‘farmers and animal breeders’.
“When interpreting statistics, it is important to consider that an occupational disease can only be recognised if the employee is insured. For example, not all hairdressers and beauty salon entrepreneurs have insurance. Additionally, people in unusual employment, such as seasonal work and contract work, might find it difficult to participate in the surveys, and foreign employees are not always familiar with our system. Not all occupational diseases are necessarily recognised,” says Kirsi Koskela, Chief Medical Officer at the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health.
Significant differences in the range and number of occupational diseases between men and women
Of all confirmed cases of occupational disease in working-age people, 70 per cent were recorded in men and 30 per cent in women. The range of occupational diseases is also clearly linked to gender.
In working-age men, the most common confirmed occupational disease is noise-induced hearing loss. Allergic contact dermatitis rose to the second place over pleural plaques.
In working-age women, the most common confirmed occupational disease is irritant contact dermatitis. The number of irritant contact dermatitis cases just surpassed that of allergic contact dermatitis. Occupational asthma is still the third-most-common occupational disease. A notable matter is that of all occupational diseases in working-age women, about every fourth (24%) is recognised in women under the age of 30, while in men the corresponding number is 8%.
“Women’s disease cases tell more about the trend we are headed towards in occupational diseases, once noise-induced hearing losses and asbestos-related diseases become less common,” says Kirsi Koskela.
Read more about occupational diseases on the Work-Life Knowledge service
- The data in the Finnish Registry of Occupational Diseases is updated annually to the Work-Life Knowledge service where the material can be viewed according to the occupational disease, exposure agent, profession, industry, county, gender and age group.
- In addition to the data from the newest years 2013–2017, the service also has the materials from 2012–2016 and 2011–2015.
- The information is available in Finnish, Swedish and English.
- More information: Recognised occupational diseases 2011–2017
- More information (in Finnish): Ammattitaudit ja ammattitautiepäilyt 2017 : Työperäisten sairauksien rekisteriin kirjatut uudet tapaukset (julkari.fi)
- More information (in Finnish): Ammattitaudit ja ammattitautiepäilyt 2017 (slideshare.net)
For more information, please contact
- Chief Medical Officer Kirsi Koskela, Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, Kirsi.Koskela@ttl.fi, tel. +358 (0)43 820 0452.
- Assistant Chief Physician Maria Pesonen (skin diseases), Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, Maria.Pesonen@ttl.fi, tel. +358 (0)46 850 5031.
- Chief Medical Officer Irmeli Lindström (pulmonary diseases), Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, Irmeli.Lindstrom@ttl.fi, tel. +358 (0)46 851 1898
Päivi Lehtomurto, Specialist in media communication
The Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, Helsinki
+358 50 4156 309
Juha Hietanen, Specialist in media communication
The Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, Helsinki
+35850 477 3267
Well-being through work
The Finnish Institute of Occupational Health (FIOH) researches, develops and specializes in well-being at work. It promotes occupational health and safety and the well-being of workers. It is an independent institution under public law, working under the administrative sector of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health. It has five regional offices, and its headquarters are in Helsinki. The number of personnel is about 500.