At the end of June 2023, a case of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) was recognised as an occupational disease for the first time in Germany. The case involved an ambulance driver who had been suffering from the disorder since 2016, after being exposed to a number of traumatic situations in the course of his work.
Initially, the UVB (Unfallversichrung Bund & Bahn) rejected the application for recognition of the illness as occupational. It argued that PTSD – not included in the list of occupational diseases – could not be recognised under the kind of supplementary system for recognising occupational diseases (paragraph 9(2) of Book VII of the Social Code – accident insurance).
The Social Court of Stuttgart confirmed this rejection in 2018, as did the Social Court of the Land of Baden-Württemberg. The reason? While it can be assumed that ambulance drivers are probably exposed to an increased risk of encountering traumatic events at work, there is no sufficiently reliable recent medical knowledge on the link between this increased exposure and the occurrence of post-traumatic stress disorder in this category of workers.
However, in a decision dated 22 June 2023, the Federal Social High Court (Bundessozialgericht) upheld the claimant’s appeal on the grounds that ambulance drivers are more exposed than the general population to traumatic events, including unsuccessful rescue operations, the rescue of seriously injured people, the recovery of bodies, particularly children’s bodies, suicides, etc. This decision was based on an expert opinion previously sought by the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs and the Medical Commission for Occupational Diseases.
EUROGIP report on the recognition and treatment of work-related mental disorders in Europe (note that this decision was issued after the report was published)