The prevention of occupational diseases is a major challenge for social security systems. Accident ratio studies can predict the exact probability of the occurrence of a major accident or injury. However, calculations on the probability of the occurrence of occupational diseases must take into account factors that are difficult to measure or predict, such as prevalence, the duration of medical treatment and environmental factors that foster occupational risks. It is a challenge to predict the impact of occupational diseases on society and hence the viability of a social security system that insures these risks.
The sooner an occupational disease can be detected and addressed, the higher the chance of cure and reintegration into work. The timely diagnosis of relevant symptoms (both physical and psychological) allows not only for effective medical treatment but also for workplace interventions such as changes to work processes and improved protective devices.
In addition to occupational diseases, the prevention of work-related conditions such as musculoskeletal disorders and mental health problems is increasingly coming into focus. These may not be recognized as occupational diseases on national lists, but are often directly linked to work exposure and can be a major cause of absenteeism.
To address these challenges in a timely manner requires a regulatory framework that forms the basis for systematic examinations, standardized guidelines for quality-assured diagnosis, and a medical infrastructure involving occupational physicians and assisting medical personnel.
The following six guidelines aim to assist social security institutions to support employers in providing preventive medical examinations.