The number of confirmed cases of occupational disease decreased by approximately one-fourth in 2011–2015. The most common confirmed occupational disease is noise-related injury. Noise-related injury refers to hearing impairment associated with the inner ear, caused by long-term exposure to noise. The second-most commonly confirmed occupational disease is pleural plaques caused by asbestos. Pleural plaques are caused by exposure to asbestos in past decades when asbestos was commonly used in construction materials, for example. Noise-related injury and pleural plaques still account for approximately one-half of the number of confirmed occupational diseases each year.

With regard to occupational dermatological diseases, irritant contact dermatitis and allergic contact dermatitis are among the most common occupational diseases. Work involving contact with water is the most common cause of irritant contact dermatitis. Allergic contact dermatitis, on the other hand, is caused by epoxy chemicals, rubber chemicals, metals and preservatives, among others. The majority of occupational asthmas are caused by sensitizing factors. Approximately one in four occupational asthmas are caused by exposures to moisture damage and moulds. Irritant-induced asthmas are also confirmed as occupational diseases. Occupational allergic rhinitis is caused particularly by e.g. plant and animal-based exposure agents. The most common musculoskeletal stress disease confirmed as an occupational disease is lateral epicondylitis (tennis elbow), caused by repetitive work. Asbestosis caused by asbestos and mesothelioma (cancer of the pleura or peritoneum) also ranks among the most common occupational diseases. More than 95% of lung cancer cases confirmed as occupational diseases are caused by strong exposure to asbestos during work.

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Recognised occupational diseases

Occupational diseases top 10
0500100015002000200400600Pleural plaques caused by asbestosPleural plaques caused by asbestos: 639 cases 0.282 cases per 1000 workersMesotheliomaMesothelioma: 50 cases 0.022 cases per 1000 workersLung cancerLung cancer: 20 cases 0.009 cases per 1000 workersAsbestosisAsbestosis: 10 cases 0.004 cases per 1000 workersSilicosisSilicosis: 4 cases 0.002 cases per 1000 workersExtrinsic allergic alveolitisExtrinsic allergic alveolitis: 0 cases 0.000 cases per 1000 workersEpidemic nephropathyEpidemic nephropathy: 0 cases 0.000 cases per 1000 workersCarpal tunnel syndromeCarpal tunnel syndrome: 0 cases 0.000 cases per 1000 workersIrritant contact dermatitisIrritant contact dermatitis: 0 cases 0.000 cases per 1000 workersCowpoxCowpox: 0 cases 0.000 cases per 1000 workersNumber of cases
Exposure agents
0500100015002000NoiseNoise: 2364 cases 1.043 cases per 1000 workersChemical exposure agentsChemical exposure agents: 977 cases 0.431 cases per 1000 workersAsbestos and other silicate materialsAsbestos and other silicate materials: 723 cases 0.319 cases per 1000 workersRepetitive work and unphysiological work positionsRepetitive work and unphysiological work positions: 703 cases 0.310 cases per 1000 workersPlant- or animal-based exposure agentsPlant- or animal-based exposure agents: 465 cases 0.205 cases per 1000 workersOther or unknown factorsOther or unknown factors: 437 cases 0.193 cases per 1000 workersBiological exposure agentsBiological exposure agents: 281 cases 0.124 cases per 1000 workersExposure to moisture damage and mouldExposure to moisture damage and mould: 150 cases 0.066 cases per 1000 workersVibrationVibration: 119 cases 0.052 cases per 1000 workersOther dusts and vapoursOther dusts and vapours: 9 cases 0.004 cases per 1000 workersNumber of cases
Occupations top 10
010020040060080010001200300Building and related trades workers, excluding electriciansBuilding and related trades workers, excluding electricians: 397 casesMetal, machinery and related trades workersMetal, machinery and related trades workers: 134 casesElectrical and electronic trades workersElectrical and electronic trades workers: 68 casesStationary plant and machine operatorsStationary plant and machine operators: 31 casesScience and engineering associate professionalsScience and engineering associate professionals: 26 casesPersonal service workersPersonal service workers: 21 casesScience and engineering professionalsScience and engineering professionals: 14 casesDrivers and mobile plant operatorsDrivers and mobile plant operators: 10 casesLabourers in mining, construction, manufacturing and transportLabourers in mining, construction, manufacturing and transport: 10 casesCleaners and helpersCleaners and helpers: 7 casesNumber of cases
Occupations top 10, relative
05101234Building and related trades workers, excluding electriciansBuilding and related trades workers, excluding electricians: 4.511 cases per 1000 workers in this occupationElectrical and electronic trades workersElectrical and electronic trades workers: 1.943 cases per 1000 workers in this occupationMetal, machinery and related trades workersMetal, machinery and related trades workers: 1.595 cases per 1000 workers in this occupationHandicraft and printing workersHandicraft and printing workers: 0.556 cases per 1000 workers in this occupationStationary plant and machine operatorsStationary plant and machine operators: 0.397 cases per 1000 workers in this occupationScience and engineering associate professionalsScience and engineering associate professionals: 0.333 cases per 1000 workers in this occupationLabourers in mining, construction, manufacturing and transportLabourers in mining, construction, manufacturing and transport: 0.204 cases per 1000 workers in this occupationPersonal service workersPersonal service workers: 0.191 cases per 1000 workers in this occupationScience and engineering professionalsScience and engineering professionals: 0.156 cases per 1000 workers in this occupationDrivers and mobile plant operatorsDrivers and mobile plant operators: 0.102 cases per 1000 workers in this occupationRelative number of cases

Almost 80% of confirmed occupational diseases occur among men. In the working-age population, the difference between genders is balanced slightly, as women account for more than one-fourth of confirmed cases of occupational disease among the working-age population. The spectrums of the most common occupational diseases among women and men differ. Noise-related injury and pleural plaques caused by asbestos, which are common among men, do not rank at the top in women’s occupational disease statistics, where the most common occupational diseases include irritant contact dermatitis, allergic contact dermatitis and occupational asthma. Occupational diseases in the working-age population are particularly commonly recorded in the age groups 60–64 years and 55–59 years. Approximately one in four occupational diseases confirmed in those aged over 65, or a substantial share of occupational diseases, are diagnosed after the end of the person’s working career.

Reviewed by industry, the highest number of cases of occupational disease is diagnosed in e.g. industry (in particular, manufacturing of metal products, machinery and equipment, food processing, manufacturing of paper, paper products and board products and manufacturing of vehicles (trains, planes, ships), construction, agriculture, wholesale and retain, repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles and health care.

Reviewed by occupation, the highest number of cases of occupational disease is diagnosed in e.g. construction workers, metal, machinery and related trades workers and, farmers and animal breeders, stationary plant and machine operators (in particular, process workers in the manufacture of rubber, plastic and paper products) and personal service workers (in particular, hairdressers, barbers and cosmetologists, as well as catering industry workers).

With regard to exposure agents, occupational diseases are particularly caused by noise, asbestos, detergents, resins and plastics, cutting fluids, rubber chemicals, repetitive work, flour, grains and feeds, animal epithelium, hair and secretions (especially cows), work involving contact with water, dirty work, moulds, Puumala virus (causes epidemic nephropathy), itch mites, storage mites and hand vibration.

Investing in the prevention of occupational disease continues to be of paramount importance. A significant portion of occupational diseases could be prevented by way of up-to-date workplace risk assessment, development of working conditions, correct working methods and communication.