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Last updated: 21.06.2023

Occupational diseases and illnesses are caused by work

An illness is considered occupational when its primary cause (causing more than half of the illness) is a biological, chemical, or physical factor of someone’s work.

A diagnosis of occupational illness typically requires the following: 

  • an exposure agent known to commonly cause the type of illness in question 
  • a good probability that the patient’s illness was caused by the exposure agent.

The time of occurrence is the time when the ill worker first made a doctor’s appointment due to their occupational illness, whether diagnosed at the time or later. 

After an occupational illness has been diagnosed by a physician, the physician must report it to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Regional State Administrative Agency) and the Finnish Register of Occupational Diseases (Finnish Institute of Occupational Health). The employer must report the accident or occupational illness to their insurance company. 

Workers suffering from an occupational illness must be compensated in accordance with the Workers’ Compensation Act. Occupational illnesses qualify workers for the same compensation and benefits as occupational accidents. The time limit for requesting compensation is calculated from the time of the diagnosis or the start of incapacity for work.  

The government decree on occupational illnesses (Ammattitautiasetus) includes a list of illnesses that qualify for compensation. The list is not exhaustive (does not include all possible illnesses). 

Occupational healthcare plays a major role 

Based on workplace surveys, the occupational health service should be aware of the types of exposure at the workplace and the workplace’s health risks and potential causes of occupational illnesses. If an occupational illness is suspected, the occupational health service is responsible for the primary healthcare diagnostics and differential diagnosis.  

If necessary, the patient is referred to the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health or their region’s occupational health/occupational illness clinic for further examination. The referral may be issued by the occupational health physician or another physician or hospital specialist who is familiar with the working conditions and suspects the illness is work-related. 

The occupational health service must report all suspected cases of occupational illness to the workplace’s occupational health and safety personnel and systematically compile statistics of suspected and verified cases to allow them to be monitored. If there is a reasonable suspicion of occupational illness, the employer and occupational health service should take measures immediately to prevent or at least reduce exposure to the cause. 

Useful links 

See also