Statistics on Occupational Diseases 2016

‘Statistics on Occupational Diseases 2016’ is a report compiled by the Netherlands Center for Occupational Diseases (NCvB) and commissioned by the Dutch Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment (SZW). The report aims to provide an overview of the incidence of occupational diseases and their distribution within the sectors and occupations in the Netherlands in 2015.

The information that the report provides on occupational diseases may be of use in policy and practice. Where possible, it also includes socio-demographic indicators for and trends in the distribution of occupational diseases. In addition to statistical data, the report includes a description of the scientific and social developments relating to the various categories of occupational diseases.

Incidence of occupational diseases

The incidence of occupational diseases in 2015 is estimated at 191 diseases per 100,000 employees per year based on data from the Surveillance Project for Intensive
Notification (Peilstation Intensief Melden). The highest incidence figures were reported for psychological disorders (86), musculoskeletal disorders (57) and hearing disorders (33), followed by infectious diseases (7), skin disorders (5), respiratory disorders (5) and neurological disorders (4). Of the total number of occupational disease notifications received in 2015, 63% concerned employees aged 45 years and over and 27% employees aged 55 years and over. A temporary incapacity for work was reported for 69% of the employees and a permanent full or partial incapacity for work was reported for 3.5% of the employees due to occupational disease.

Occupational diseases by diagnosis category

There were a total of 2,381 notifications of occupational musculoskeletal disorders in 2015. These notifications were received mainly from the construction sector, the agriculture, forestry and fisheries sector, the industry sector and the transport and storage sector. In these sectors, occupational musculoskeletal disorders occur 1.6 - 4.5 times more than the average within the Dutch workforce. The three most frequently reported occupational disorders are: Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) of the shoulder or upper arm, non-specific lower-back pain and tennis elbow. The most frequently reported risk factor is monotonous or repetitive work.

In 2015, 2,631 stress related disorders were reported. Burnout/nervous exhaustion is the most frequently reported occupational psychological disorder (76%). Problems with work content and interpersonal relations are a common cause of both nervous exhaustion/burnout and depression. More than ten percent of the notifications concerned Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). With 262 notifications per 100,000 employee years, the financial sector has the highest incidence of occupational psychological disorders.

In 2015, 234 cases of occupational skin disorders were reported. Contact eczema, and particularly irritant contact eczema, remains the most commonly reported occupational skin disorder (71%). Most of the notifications came from the construction sector, followed by the health care sector, where the number of reports has increased as compared to 2014 and the industry sector. This can be explained by the group notifications of scabies and the growing number of doctors and nurses suffering from irritant contact eczema caused by the use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers.

In 2015, 153 occupational lung and respiratory disorders were reported. Asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) are the most widely reported disorders. Most of the notifications originated from the construction sector, followed by the industry and health care sectors. Bacteria, dust (silica, quartz) and inorganic chemical substances (metal, cement) are the most commonly reported causes. The notifications of allergic rhinitis and asthma can be largely attributed to the active surveillance program conducted within the bakery sector. In 2016, to raise awareness regarding these diseases, the Dutch Lung Alliance (Longalliantie Nederland, LAN) has launched its project ‘Strengthening the approach to occupational lung diseases and working with harmful substances’ (Versterken aanpak beroepslongziekten en werken met schadelijke stoffen) 1.

The most commonly reported hearing disorders are the result of exposure to excessively high noise levels at work, leading to hearing impairment and tinnitus. As every year, most of the reports emerged from the construction sector. The number of notifications of tinnitus among the police was especially notable. Tinnitus is a major risk factor for long-term absence and incapacity for work. In contrast, hearing loss is rarely a cause of absence or incapacity for work. However, hearing loss can have an impact on employee safety at work.

In 2015, there were 15 notifications of Chronic Toxic Encephalopathy (CTE) in teams working with solvents. The neurotoxic damage was caused by solvents in 11 cases, by pesticides in two cases, by heavy metals in one case, and by a combination of several neurotoxins in one case. These notifications were received from painters (painters working in maintenance, construction or other works), spray painters (involved in spray painting vehicles, furniture, etc.), floor installers and other occupations such as bulb growers, manure processors, car cleaners, and metalworkers.

In 2015, 152 infectious occupational diseases were reported by company doctors. The three sectors with the highest number of notifications are the healthcare sector, the public administration and defence sector and the construction sector. Once again, there appears to be an epidemic with a worldwide impact. Last year it was Ebola, and this year, the Zika virus. In an era of high levels of global (business) traffic, it is important to optimally advise traveling workers regarding these health risks. The collaboration between public health care and occupational medicine has led to the issue of an increasing number of guidelines by the National Coordination for Communicable Diseases Control in the Netherlands (Landelijke Coördinatiestructuur Infectieziektebestrijding, LCI), with a separate section focused on occupational medicine. In addition, in 2015, there have also been a couple of messages issued via Arboinf@cts, an electronic message service for occupational health and safety professionals.

The number of reported cases of work-related cancer is still a fraction of the number of estimated cases. Asbestos remains the main cause of mesothelioma as well as of work-related lung cancer. Besides asbestos, exposure to hexavalent chromium, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and working in the fire department have also been important topics of discussion this year. It remains difficult to make a distinction between the influence of work and other carcinogenic factors at the group level and this is often not feasible at the individual level. There is an increasing amount of attention being focused on the prevention of work-related cancer, both nationally and internationally.

In 2015, there were no reports of work-related effects on the reproductive system or child development. However, questions were regularly asked about exposure to chemical substances during pregnancy.