AUSTRIA: On the track of occupational diseases

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The list of occupational diseases, the “BK list”, currently comprises 53 diseases, the most common of which are noise-induced deafness and skin diseases, followed by diseases of the lungs and respiratory tracts; more than 20% are cancers. In recent years, asbestos-related malignant tumours of the lung and pleura have unfortunately increased. 

Many doctors do not know that it is compulsory to report any suspected occupational cancer. If the AUVA receives an occupational disease report, an enquiry is performed to determine whether the person in question has been in contact with harmful substances at work. If the work-related nature of the disease is recognized, the victim is covered by all the accident insurance benefits (medical care, service benefits, medical re-education – for example in the AUVA’s Tobelbad rehabilitation clinic, psychological support, etc.).

In practice, it is often difficult to establish a link between work and the disease, as shown by the following example. A patient aged 70 worked as a gardener for more than 40 years until retirement. He was a victim of a mesothelioma even though asbestos exposure is extremely rare in this job. The in-depth enquiry revealed that the insured had been a carpentry apprentice for several months after school and had been in contact with the mineral when cutting screens (for thermal protection in kitchens). This was recognized as an occupational disease (27 B).

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