Occupational diseases caused by optical radiation

If a disease is determined to be of occupational origin in accordance with the criteria stated in the German Social Code, Volume 7, Section 9(1), it can be added by the German Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (BMAS) to the list of occupational diseases formally recognized as such in Germany. This process entails a certain amount of time, since the interrelationships, both medical and technical, must be demonstrated scientifically in order to be included within the statutory provisions.

Two formally recognized occupational diseases (BKs) are identified for optical radiation:

BK No 2401, "heat ray cataracts"

The (German) BMAS information sheet (PDF, 37 KB) defines this occupational disease as follows: a heat ray cataract is caused by exposure to infrared radiation, i.e. wave radiation outside the visible light spectrum. The thermal radiation component harmful to the lens of the human eye lies in the range approximately from 750 (nm) to 2400 (nm). Determining the occupational criteria for cases of this kind is very difficult. Firstly, estimation of the radiation to which the worker has been exposed is complex; secondly, its effects overlap with those of possible exposure to UV radiation (e.g. from the sun), which may also lead to cataracts.

Occupational disease BK No 5103, "squamous-cell carcinomas of the skin and multiple actinic keratoses of the skin caused by natural UV radiation"

Since 1 January 2015, squamous-cell carcinomas of the skin and multiple actinic keratoses of the skin caused by natural UV radiation may be recognized in Germany as cases of occupational disease provided certain criteria are met. The IFA has developed an algorithm for determining occupational exposure to sunlight (PDF, 351 kB) (article in German). This algorithm can be used to calculate the exposure of insured persons retrospectively based upon a reference radiation with the aid of person-specific additions and deductions. Durations of radiation exposure and particular geographical and personal aspects are input into the formula.

Further information can be found in the BMAS's scientific reasoning (PDF, 185 KB) and the DGUV guide (PDF, 593 kB) to skin cancer caused by UV radiation (a guide for the occupational accident insurance institutions) - both in German.

The IFA's research in the GENESIS-UV project is linked closely to the scientific background to this occupational disease. Further information from the perspective of benefits legislation (such as forms for the reporting of suspected cases, skin-cancer report and follow-up report) is available from the DGUV (in German only).

Information on formally recognized occupational disease No 2401