Which laws govern the recognition of occupational diseases?
In Germany, since 1885, statutory accident insurance has provided employees with coverage for occupational risks which arise in the context of their insured activities.
(referred to in the following as SGB VII), adopted as Article 1 of the Law on the Classification of the Right to Statutory Accident Insurance in the German Social Insurance Code (the Accident Insurance Classification Act (Unfallversicherungs-Einordnungsgesetz, UVEG) dating from 7.8.1996 (Federal Law Gazette I, p. 1254)
§ 9 section 1 SGB VII defines the term "occupational disease" and provides the legislator with the authorisation to enact the "Ordinance on Occupational Diseases (Berufskrankheiten-Verordnung, BKV)" (refer to section 2 below).
According to § 9 section 1 SGB VII, occupational diseases are illnesses that the German federal government has defined as such by legal ordinance with the consent of the German Federal Council (Bundesrat), and which insured employees suffer from subsequent to an occupational activity to which statutory insurance coverage is found to apply. The federal government is entitled to define occupational diseases as being diseases which, according to the knowledge of the medical sciences community, have been caused by specific exposures, to which particular categories of people are found to have been exposed to a significantly higher degree than the rest of the population due to the pursuit of their insured occupational activity. The federal government can also determine that illnesses only constitute occupational diseases if they have been caused by activities in specific areas of risk.
Occupational diseases are listed in the annexe to the Ordinance on Occupational Diseases (refer to section 2 below).
According to § 9 section 2 SGB VII, statutory accident insurers are obliged to recognise a disease which is not listed in the legal ordinance, or which does not fulfil the requirements stated in the legal ordinance, as being an occupational disease and an insured event if, at the time of the decision, according to new knowledge of the medical sciences community, the requirements for the definition of the disease as an occupational disease according to paragraph 1 sentence 2 are fulfilled.
On the basis of § 9 SGB VII, on 31 October 1997, the German federal government enacted a new version of the Ordinance on Occupational Diseases (BKV) (Federal Law Gazette I, p. 2623). With the entry into effect of both the new BKV on 1 December 1997 and the Accident Insurance Reporting Ordinance (Unfallversicherungs-Anzeigenverordnung, UVAV) on 1 August 2002, the Seventh Ordinance on Occupational Diseases dating from 20 June 1968 (Federal Law Gazette I, p. 721) was abrogated.
The Ordinance on Occupational Diseases was recently amended by the "Fifth Ordinance for the Amendment of the Ordinance on Occupational Diseases" dating from 29 June 2021 (Federal Law Gazette I, p. 2245).
Annexe 1 of the BKV contains a list of diseases that qualify for recognition as occupational diseases.
dating from 23 January 2002 (Federal Law Gazette I, p. 554)
Mehrtens, G.; Perlebach, E.
Die Berufskrankheitenverordnung (BKV)
Berlin: E. Schmidt; Loseblatt-Ausgabe, Grundwerk 1977
Giesen, T.; Zerlett, G.
Berufskrankheiten und medizinischer Arbeitsschutz
Stuttgart: Kohlhammer; Loseblatt-Ausgabe, Grundwerk 1988
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