Background of Action

Why this Action was started?

Each day 5,330 people die because of work-related diseases worldwide (Hämäläinen et al, 2009). The annual number of non-fatal work-related diseases has been estimated by the ILO to be 160 million (ILO, 2005). Estimates of the economic costs of occupational diseases for the EU countries range from 2.6% to 3.8% of GNP. This indicates a total cost of between €185 billion and €270 billion for the EU as a whole (OSHA, 1999).

The EU strategy for health and safety at work 2007-2012 underlines the need to reduce the incidence of ODs (European Commission, 2007). A prerequisite for realization of this new EU policy is a reliable and comparable system for monitoring ODs that makes it possible to determine Europe wide trends using consistent methodology such as has been recently described (McNamee et al, 2008).


This can only be achieved by international collaboration. Furthermore, the EU Community strategy emphasizes the importance of better identifying and assessing new risks in a changing work environment (item 7.1) through more research, exchange of knowledge and practical application of results.

The activities of EU-OSHA Bilbao Risk Observatory and Helsinki REACH Information Centre are aimed at identifying novel causes from a risk-perspective. Our consortium adds another perspective by identifying possible novel causes from the perspective of health consequences of new or emerging risks by studying reported cases and health statistics (“disease first approach”).

When addressing trends in work related ill health, not only the classical and well defined lists of occupational diseases (Commission of the European Communities, 2003; O’Neill et al, 2008) are included, but also a much larger category of work related illness such as musculoskeletal and mental disorders which are at this moment poorly defined. Achieving a validated consensus on methodology to measure these trends is needed.

To be able to detect and validate new OH risks at an early stage it is imperative to collaborate on a European scale and to facilitate the exchange of information and knowledge. Modernet will serve as a European intelligence centre for providing strategic information on work-related and occupational diseases including new and emerging risks for governments and private entrepreneurs.


Our main objective is to create this ‘intelligence network’ by creating facilities to exchange knowledge on new techniques to enhance the information on trends in occupational diseases (i.e. record linking, surveys), on discovering and validating new OH risks more quickly (data mining, workers’ reporting) and use of modern techniques to discuss and disseminate information to all stakeholders (platforms, social media).