ILO Diagnostic and exposure criteria for occupational diseases

The ILO List of Occupational Diseases explained

Diagnostic and exposure criteria for occupational diseases – Guidance notes for diagnosis and prevention of the diseases in the ILO List of Occupational Diseases (revised 2010). February 2022.

In 2010, the revised ILO list of occupational diseases was published reflecting the state-of-the-art development in the identification and recognition of occupational diseases in the world. The list represented the latest worldwide consensus on diseases that are internationally accepted as caused by work. The list, based on the tripartite ILO structure, serves as a model for the establishment, review, and revision of national lists of occupational diseases. The final goal is that the world’s working population and their families would benefit from that list.

February this year, twelve years later, a guidance document is launched which contains mini monographs on diagnosis and prevention of all diseases on the list. The Guidance notes are the result of the collaboration of more than 40 experts from all over the globe. It can be regarded as a reference guide especially helpful for professionals in charge of recording, notification, prevention, and compensation programs for occupational diseases. With 629 pages it is a huge document, but navigation is easy by links between the table of content and the guidance notes for the numerous different occupational diseases. The document can be downloaded free of charge.

The list is subdivided into four sections: occupational diseases caused by exposure to agents arising from work activities, occupational diseases described by target organ systems, occupational cancers, and other diseases.

For each of the about 100 different types or groups of occupational diseases, the guidance notes contain diagnostic and exposure criteria, and more information such as on common exposure at work, health effects, and prevention.

For the group of occupational diseases caused by exposure to agents, the guidance notes include general characteristics of the causal agent, common occupational exposures, a toxicological profile for chemical agents respectively biological mechanisms for physical and biological agents, main health effects, diagnostic criteria, and key actions for prevention. For occupational diseases described by target organ systems, occupational cancers, and other diseases, a slightly different format was used. ICD-10 and ICD-11 codes are added to all diseases in the list.

In the diagnostic criteria, when appropriate, a minimum duration of exposure is given, defined as the minimum period of time needed by the noxious agent to cause the disease. Next, a maximum latent period is described, defined as the time window between the beginning of the occupational exposure and the disease onset. In ‘Further reading’ paragraphs, key reference materials have been listed that were consulted, to find more detailed information.

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