The European Commission (EC) has called on European Union (EU) member countries
– including the UK – to adopt an updated and common EU list of illnesses for
which workers should be compensated if they contract them at work.
In a formal ‘recommendation on the schedule of occupational diseases’,
Brussels calls on governments "to introduce as soon as possible"
rules covering "compensation and preventative measures" for such
It has also published a second list of illnesses, which are not always
directly linked to workplace health problems, and has asked member states to
introduce rules demanding compensation for workers where a condition "can
be proved to be occupational in origin and nature".
As the commission’s proposals are in the form of a recommendation, they cannot
become mandatory as if written into an EU directive or regulation.
However, employment and social affairs commissioner, Anna Diamontopoulou,
has called on governments to follow Brussels’ disease list plan and also to
conduct further research.
Need to know
The EC’s high priority list specifies both health problems and
causes required to be considered an occupational illness. It spans:
– Diseases caused by 36 named chemical agents, including
arsenic, ammonia and chlorine
– Skin diseases provoked by nine elements and allergies, such
as soot, tar and paraffin
– Respiratory problems, such as silicosis and asbestosis
– Cancers, including lung cancer, caused by wood dust
– Infectious and parasite diseases, such as tetanus,
tuberculosis and brucellosis
– Physical injuries, such as cataracts, caused by heat radiation
The second list covers similar ground, naming less toxic
chemicals, such as magnesium