06/10/2020 2 min

ANSES publishes its methodological guide to creating tables of occupational diseases

In 2018, the government decided to implement independent collective expert appraisals to improve the recognition of occupational diseases in France. The aim of this decision was to separate the expert appraisal phase from negotiations with the social partners, as part of the procedure for creating or revising occupational disease tables. ANSES was therefore asked to carry out an initial series of expert appraisals. Today, the Agency is publishing a methodological guide describing the recommended scientific approach to follow in order to identify and characterise the links between occupational exposures or working conditions and health problems.

A lack of recognition of occupational diseases in France

A worker who is occupationally exposed to a health hazard (toxic substances, for example) may then contract a disease that can be recognised as an occupational disease. In France, the recognition of occupational diseases is mainly based on a system of tables setting out the conditions for benefiting from the presumption of occupational origin, without having to prove the link between a person's illness and their work. These tables are drawn up by the government after consultation with the social partners.

It is important to refer to the available scientific knowledge when creating or amending these tables, in order to establish the link between exposure to hazards or certain working conditions and a given disease. However, scientific knowledge on work-related diseases is not sufficiently taken into account by the current system of tables, which partly contributes to the lack of recognition of occupational diseases.

A need for independent collective expert appraisals

In order to be able to create new occupational disease tables – or revise them – in line with advances in scientific knowledge and professional practices, it seemed necessary to turn to independent, collective scientific expert appraisals. The aim is to help the public authorities transform the available scientific knowledge into either occupational disease tables or recommendations for the Regional Committees for the Recognition of Occupational Diseases (CRRMPs).

To enable it to respond to the formal requests it receives, ANSES found it necessary to first develop a working methodology, with the help of a group of experts. Today, it is publishing its recommended scientific approach in a methodological guide to identifying and characterising the links between occupational exposures or working conditions and health problems.

The Agency's initial work applying this methodology will focus on the link between exposure to pesticides (including chlordecone) and prostate cancer, and then on the link between asbestos exposure and cancers of the ovary, larynx, pharynx and stomach, and colorectal cancers.