Make it visible: Occupational Diseases - Recognition, compensation and prevention

ILO International Safety and Health Conference 2013

The conference shared international and national good practices as part of an effort to enhance the effectiveness of action to prevent, identify, record and compensate occupational diseases.

Conference materials
Under the theme “Make it visible: Occupational Diseases - Recognition, compensation and prevention”, the conference offered an excellent forum to share the experience of different stakeholders and learn how to put it in practice at each level.
Mr Moussa Oumarou, Director of the ILO Governance and Tripartism Department, welcomes the participants
It aimed to call on governments and social security officials, employers, workers’ organizations, labour inspectors, occupational safety and health (OSH) professionals and their organizations to collaborate in the development and implementation of national policies and strategies directed at preventing occupational and work-related diseases.


Selected conference presentations
Occupational diseases have a considerable human and economic global burden. The 2 million people estimated to die from work-related diseases every year and the further 160 million estimated non-fatal cases cause not only immense human suffering, but also major economic losses estimated at around 4 per cent of the world’s gross domestic product in terms of direct and indirect costs.

Decent work can only be achieved by tackling this problem. The Governing Body, the executive body of the ILO, has recently confirmed that prevention of occupational diseases is a central element of the Decent Work Agenda, calling on the International Labour Office to intensify the work on the prevention of occupational diseases. There are many challenges ahead as occupational diseases continue to increase in many countries. There is an urgent need to improve systems for prevention, identification, recording and compensation of occupational diseases. 

More than half of countries do not provide statistics for occupational diseases associated with little capacity for workers’ health surveillance.

Special emphasis should be put on knowledge of occupational diseases in developing countries
Diagnosis of occupational diseases requires specific medical knowledge and experience; reporting from employers needs awareness and understanding of the links between monitored hazards and diseases as well as compliance with legal requirements backed by an effective labour inspection; reliable data collection from compensation schemes requires systems to consider the long latency period of some diseases; workers need to be empowered to have access to information and compensation, independently of the size of the enterprise or the employment setting.

Such systems are lacking in most developing countries, but maintaining and expanding work on prevention of occupational and other emerging work-related disorders during recession is also a challenge for developed countries. Traditional occupational diseases such as pneumoconiosis are still widespread and growing; others such as mental and musculoskeletal disorders are becoming a major cause of concern in developed and developing countries alike.
Roundtable on the way forward and international collaboration. From left to right: Mr Kris de Meester, Dr Mohamed Azman, Dr Ivan Ivanov, Dr Jorge Costa-David, Ms Michele Patterson, Mr Seiji Machida
This challenging and dynamic problem calls for a multidisciplinary effort to tackle the “invisibility” of occupational diseases with active participation of workers and their representatives, employers, governments and OSH professionals.


5 - 8 November, Düsseldorf, Germany
The 2013 ILO International Safety and Health Conference took place in Düsseldorf on 6 - 7 November during the A+A Safety, Security and Health at Work International Trade Fair with Congress.