Occupational and work-related diseases - Yleistä

 

General information on topic

Occupational diseases can be prevented by identifying and eliminating the underlying cause.

Not all work-related diseases are occupational diseases

An occupational disease is a disease the primary cause of which is a physical factor or a chemical or biological agent present in the afflicted individual’s work. The definition of an occupational disease is not purely medical but also has a legal dimension.

A work-related disease is one the cause of which can be linked to the afflicted individual’s work. Work-related diseases therefore include not just occupational diseases but also diseases the primary cause of which is not a factor present in the sufferer’s work.

The most common occupational diseases include hearing damage resulting from noise, respiratory allergies, skin diseases, asbestos-related diseases and upper limb repetitive strain injuries. The Finnish Institute of Occupational Health publishes statistics on occupational diseases and diseases suspected of being occupational in origin for which compensation has been awarded each year.

Employers have a legal obligation to carry insurance to protect their employees’ rights in the event of occupational accidents and occupational diseases.

Compensation payable for occupational diseases

The Finnish Government Decree on the List of Occupational Diseases provides a list of the most common diseases that are considered to be occupational in origin as well as the underlying causes. Compensation can be awarded even for diseases that are not included in the list, if the disease can be linked to a work-related cause with enough certainty.

The compensation payable for occupational diseases is awarded through the employer’s statutory accident insurance provider. The insurer liable for paying the compensation is the insurance provider with whom the employer has an accident insurance policy at the time of the diagnosis. As a rule, employers’ insurance policies cover all individuals with whom they have an employment contract.

Pursuant to the Finnish Workers’ Compensation Act, insurance payouts can cover

  • medical treatment
  • daily allowances
  • workers’ compensation pensions
  • rehabilitation
  • retraining
  • compensation for functional limitation
  • survivors’ pensions, and
  • funeral assistance.

Doctors’ duty to report occupational diseases

If a doctor suspects that a patient is suffering from an occupational or work-related disease within the meaning of the Workers’ Compensation Act, they must immediately and notwithstanding any obligation of confidence report the case to their Regional State Administrative Agency’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health.

Occupational and work-related diseases - Työntekijälle

 

Instructions for employee

Report all work-related symptoms to your employer and their occupational health care provider

Employers have a legal obligation to make information about their insurance provider and occupational health care provider available to their employees. Familiarise yourself with the information.

If you experience any symptoms that you believe are caused by your work, contact an occupational health care professional as instructed by your employer. All tests and treatment of work-related symptoms are always covered by your employer’s contract with their occupational health care provider.

If necessary, your occupational health physician can refer you to further tests in, for example, your local hospital or the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health. The Finnish Institute of Occupational Health has published a guide containing practical information for individuals suffering from occupational diseases, which explains the right to compensation in the event of diseases that are suspected of being occupational in origin.

You should tell your employer about your symptoms as soon as possible in order to give them an opportunity to make any necessary changes to your working conditions.

Occupational safety and health inspections carried out on the basis of occupational diseases

Any doctor treating a patient who is suspected of having or diagnosed with an occupational disease or a work-related disease must report the employer’s details, the diagnosis and the patient’s details to their Regional State Administrative Agency. An inspector from the Regional State Administrative Agency’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health can then contact the patient and ask them for permission to raise the issue with the employer.

The patient’s name will not be disclosed in connection with any ensuing inspection without their consent. The aim of inspections carried out on the basis of reported cases of occupational diseases is to ensure that working conditions in the affected workplace have been rectified to prevent similar cases in the future and that the afflicted employee has been reassigned to duties that pose no further risk to their health.

Occupational and work-related diseases - Työnantajalle

 

Instructions for employer

Obligation to carry accident insurance and provide occupational health care services

It is the employer’s duty to take out statutory accident insurance for their employees. Employers also have a statutory obligation to provide their employees with occupational health care services. Information about the employer’s insurance provider and occupational health care provider must be kept available in a visible place in the workplace.

Precautions, prevention and follow-up

Systematic risk assessment and analysis can help to prevent occupational and work-related diseases. If an employee nevertheless gets an occupational disease, steps must be taken to remedy the cause in the workplace. The afflicted individual must be reassigned to work tasks that no longer expose them to the factor that caused their disease or that ensure that exposure levels are low enough not to cause them any further symptoms. Occupational health care professionals can be consulted on how the affected employee’s work should be organised and how their health should be monitored.

The employer also has a duty to address the cause of the disease from the perspective of other employees. The cause of the disease must be eliminated or the risk must be reduced to a tolerable level to prevent any further occurrences of the occupational or work-related disease in question.

It is also the employer’s duty to monitor the impact of the remedial action taken on employees’ safety and health. Occupational health care professionals can be consulted if necessary.

Lessons learnt from previous instances of occupational and work-related diseases are a valuable tool in the development of risk assessment and analysis procedures.

Occupational and work-related diseases - Oikeustapaukset

 

Court decisions and precedents

The Supreme Court of Finland ruled in 2014 (KKO:2014:64, in Finnish) that the fact that a pneumatic drill operator had developed carpal tunnel syndrome in both wrists was most likely to be primarily due to the physical factors present in their work.

The Supreme Court ruled in 2011 (KKO:2011:44, in Finnish) that hearing loss suffered by a police officer was mostly likely to be primarily attributable to the noise associated with shooting practice. The police officer was therefore entitled to compensation for their hearing loss.

The Supreme Court ruled in 2010 (KKO:2010:44, in Finnish) that the fact that an electrical engineer had contracted retroperitoneal fibrosis or that their symptoms had got considerably worse could not be primarily attributed to their exposure to asbestos at work. The employee was consequently not entitled to compensation on the basis of the Workers’ Compensation Act.

The Supreme Court heard a case in 2006 (KKO:2006:23, in Finnish) in which it had to rule on whether a nurse who had contracted a permanent but asymptomatic MRSA infection should be paid compensation on the basis of the Workers’ Compensation Act.

The Supreme Court ruled in 1992 (KKO:1992:34, in Finnish) that the management of a company should have known on the basis of their professional experience that acrid smoke present in the workspace could be a health hazard even though its exact composition could not be established and experts from the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health had classified it as an unknown risk factor.

Occupational and work-related diseases - Muualla Tyosuojelu.fissä

Occupational and work-related diseases - Sanasto

Glossary

Risk factor Something in the nature of work, the substances used or the working conditions that can be a health hazard.
Occupational disease A disease that is most probably caused by a physical factor or a chemical or biological agent present in the afflicted individual’s work and for which compensation is payable under workers’ compensation legislation.
Occupational disease notification A report filed by a doctor when they have reason to believe that a patient is suffering from an occupational or work-related disease within the meaning of the Workers’ Compensation Act, which doctors have a duty to report immediately to their Regional State Administrative Agency’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health.
Preventive health care Measures taken in order to prevent diseases and mitigate their consequences.
Work-related disease Occupational diseases and any other disease that is caused by something related to work.