Objectives: The European Union (EU) strategy for health and safety at work underlines the need to reduce the incidence of occupational diseases (OD), but European statistics to evaluate this common goal are scarce. We aim to estimate and compare changes in incidence over time for occupational asthma, contact dermatitis, noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL), carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) and upper limb musculoskeletal disorders across 10 European countries.
Methods: OD surveillance systems that potentially reflected nationally representative trends in incidence within Belgium, the Czech Republic, Finland, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Switzerland and the UK provided data. Case counts were analysed using a negative binomial regression model with year as the main covariate. Many systems collected data from networks of 'centres', requiring the use of a multilevel negative binomial model. Some models made allowance for changes in compensation or reporting rules.
Results: Reports of contact dermatitis and asthma, conditions with shorter time between exposure to causal substances and OD, were consistently declining with only a few exceptions. For OD with physical causal exposures there was more variation between countries. Reported NIHL was increasing in Belgium, Spain, Switzerland and the Netherlands and decreasing elsewhere. Trends in CTS and upper limb musculoskeletal disorders varied widely within and between countries.
Conclusions: This is the first direct comparison of trends in OD within Europe and is consistent with a positive impact of European initiatives addressing exposures relevant to asthma and contact dermatitis. Taking a more flexible approach allowed comparisons of surveillance data between and within countries without harmonisation of data collection methods.
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