Spain: Workers aged 45–49 most subject to occupational diseases in 2015

In Spain, the General Union of Workers (UGT) has published a report on work-related diseases, including occupational diseases and non-traumatic pathologies (which are diseases caused or aggravated by the job). Some 24,768 work-related diseases were recorded in Spain in 2015, representing an 11% increase on the level registered in 2014.


The Observatory of Professional Social Security Contingencies at the Spanish Ministry of Employment publishes work-related diseases that are declared and registered in each period of reference. According to official or statistical definitions in Spain, ‘work-related diseases’ include both occupational diseases and non-traumatic pathologies that are caused or aggravated by the job.

  • Occupational diseases are diseases caused by the job and which are included in the Official Chart of Occupational Diseases, as recognised by national authorities, and as approved by Royal Decree 1299/2006. The incidence of occupational diseases is communicated to the Social Security Institute via the official electronic system known as Communication of Occupational Diseases, Social Security (CEPROSS).
  • Non-traumatic pathologies are not included in the list of occupational diseases. These are either suffered by the worker as a consequence of carrying out his/her job duties; or are conditions that existed before the worker took the job and have worsened as a consequence of carrying out his/her job duties. Health professionals determine whether a disease is work-related and, more specifically, a non-traumatic pathology. Non-traumatic pathologies are listed in the PANOTRATSS register.

In both cases, the social security regimes included in these statistics are the following:

  • General Regime;
  • Special Regime of Coal Mining;
  • Special Regime of Farming;
  • Special Regime of Sea Workers;
  • Self-employed people who have decided to have their risks covered.

Main findings

Occupational diseases

According to the data published by the Observatory, a total of 19,266 occupational diseases were declared and registered in Spain during 2015. This was 1,876 occupational diseases more than in 2014 (an 11% increase).

Trend of occupational diseases in Spain, 2007–2015





















Source: UGT trade union report, 2016 (PDF)

The report also distinguishes between diseases that resulted in medical leave and those that did not. In 2015, 9,049 declared occupational diseases led to medical leave (53%): an increase of 834 compared with 2014 (8,215 cases).

Some 82% of the occupational diseases declared in 2015 were caused by ‘physical agents’. Of these, 60% were related to tendon and muscular problems (such as forced positions and repeated movements, fatigue and swelling), and 29% were linked to the paralysis of the nervous system.

Workers aged between 45 and 49 were most subject to occupational diseases (3,429), followed by the age groups 40–44 (3,411) and 50–54 (3,216). Women were subject to 49% of the occupational diseases registered in 2015 (9,457 cases among women and 9,809 among men).

Looking at economic activity, and following the CNAE classification (Spanish national classification of economic activities, similar to NACE), ‘Retail trade, except for motor vehicles and motorcycles’ is the activity with the highest number of declared occupational diseases (1,612), followed by the ‘food industry’ (1,454) and ‘manufacture of motor vehicles, trailers and semi-trailers’ (1,330). These three activities account for 4,396 occupational diseases, 23% of the total.

Finally, by occupation (based on the Spanish CNO Code, similar to the ISCO Code for the classification of occupations), the occupation which registered the highest number of occupational diseases was ‘operators of stationary plants and machinery’ (1,686 declared occupational diseases); followed by ‘other cleaning workers’ (1,510) and ‘hand packers and manufacturing labourers not elsewhere classified’ (1,233).

Non-traumatic pathologies

During 2015, 5,502 non-traumatic pathologies were reported. Of these, 3,095 (56%) led to medical leave. Data show that non-traumatic pathologies have decreased over the years since data were first collected. More precisely, in 2014, 5,689 non-traumatic pathologies were registered (a decrease of 3.4% between 2014 and 2015). Moreover, in 2013, 6,860 non-traumatic pathologies were registered; and in 2012, 8,597.

Non-traumatic pathologies are classified into two types, namely, ‘diseases caused by the job’ and ‘diseases or defects aggravated by the job’. Among all the non-traumatic pathologies registered in 2015, 4,125 were classified as ‘diseases caused by the job’ (75%), whereas 1,377 were classified as ‘diseases or defects aggravated by the job’ (25%). Of the 4,125 ‘diseases caused by the job’, it is worth noting that 57% (2,334) were diseases of the musculoskeletal system. Of the 1,377 ‘diseases or defects aggravated by the job’, 1,099 were also directly related to the musculoskeletal system (80%).

On the other hand, by gender, data show that 62% (3,392) of the 5,502 non-traumatic pathologies were suffered by men, and 38% (2,110) by women. When looking specifically at those non-traumatic pathologies which led to medical leave (3,095), 63% of them were declared by men, and 37% by women.

From an age perspective, the incidence of non-traumatic pathologies was highest among workers aged between 35 and 39 (with 990 non-traumatic pathologies), followed by the age groups 40–44 (886) and 45–49 (787).

Looking at differences by economic activity, and following the CNAE classification scheme, ‘retail trade, except of motor vehicles and motorcycles’ is the activity with the highest number of non-traumatic pathologies (442), followed by ‘public administration and defence’ (419) and ‘wholesale trade, except for motor vehicles and motorcycles’ (332).

Finally, by categories as set out in the Spanish CNO Code, the occupation which registered the highest number of occupational diseases was ‘other cleaning workers’, with 244 declared occupational diseases; followed by ‘shop and department store salespersons’, with 229, and ‘transport and storage labourers’, with 219.


As previously explained, the total number of ‘work-related diseases’ is the sum of ‘occupational diseases’ and ‘non-traumatic pathologies’. Thus, in 2015, a total of 24,768 work-related diseases were declared in Spain. The report highlights that 22% of them (5,502) are non-traumatic pathologies (not included in the Official Chart of Occupational Diseases), whereas 78% are classified as occupational diseases. Occupational diseases increased by 11% between 2014 and 2015, whereas non-traumatic pathologies decreased by 3.4%. However, the report notes that 3,855 work-related diseases (16% of the total) are not attributable to a specific occupation (that is, information is missing) and this has an impact on the quality of the data.

Finally, and taking into account the data published by the Observatory of Professional Social Security Contingencies, the UGT included a number of recommendations.

  • The Official Chart of Occupational Diseases should be revised and updated every 2–3 years, in order to incorporate new pathologies derived from recently developed productive processes.
  • Mental illness should be included in the Official Chart of Occupational Diseases, in line with changes introduced by the International Labour Organization in 2010.
  • Professionals of the public health system should be better trained on labour health issues, with more information available to them about the criteria for the diagnosis of occupational diseases. Primary healthcare professionals should also be more aware of the characteristics of the work carried out by the patient, so that they can better detect work-related pathologies.
  • Preventive measures are needed in the workplace, particularly to avoid musculoskeletal diseases. Psychosocial risks should also be included in prevention policies and when dealing with work-related diseases. Social dialogue should promote and improve prevention measures.
  • Finally, information sources should be improved to better identify groups, activities and companies at high risk. Research on emerging work-related diseases should be promoted.


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