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Occupational diseases in the automotive industry in Czechia – Geographic and medical context

Jan Jarolímek 1, 2  ,  
Pavel Urban 3, 4,  
Petr Pavlínek 1, 5,  
Charles University, Prague, Czechia (Faculty of Science, Department of Social Geography and Regional Development)
Public Health Authority of the City of Prague, Prague, Czechia
National Institute of Public Health, Prague, Czechia
Charles University, Prague, Czechia (Department of Occupational Medicine, 1st Faculty of Medicine)
University of Nebraska at Omaha, Omaha, USA (Department of Geography and Geology)
Objectives: The automotive industry represents the most important industrial sector in Czechia. The objective of this study has been to analyze the occurrence of occupational diseases (OD) in the automotive industry during the period from 2001 till 2014. Material and Methods: Data on OD cases was retrieved from the National Registry of OD. Further, we conducted a survey in automotive companies with focus on occupational health services and positions of the companies in global production networks (GPNs). An analysis of OD distribution in the automotive industry was performed (age, gender, company size and its role in GPNs, regional distribution of studied companies, and regional unemployment rate), and was accompanied by assessment of the quality and range of occupational health services. Results: Employees older than 40 years old have nearly 2.5 times higher probability of OD occurrence as compared with employees younger than 40 years old (odds ratio (OR) = 2.41, 95% confidence interval (CI): 2.05–2.85). Occupational diseases occurrence probability was 3 times higher for women than for men (OR = 3.01, 95% CI: 2.55–3.55). Occupational diseases incidence rates increased with the size of the company (0 OD/10 000 employees in micro enterprises to 57 OD/10 000 employees in large enterprises). A particularly steep rise in OD incidents in the automotive industry was observed in the Plzeň Region between 2001 and 2011. An association between OD incidents and the unemployment rate was not statistically confirmed. Conclusions: A statistically significant increase in OD incidents dependent on company size may be arguably attributed to a higher quality of occupational medical services in bigger companies, which ensures better detection and diagnosis of OD. In the Plzeň Region, the rapid increase in OD incidents was mainly caused by a change in the production process of automobile textiles in one factory due to the introduction of a glue containing isocyanates, which are potent allergising agents. This led to an increase in occupational allergic diseases – bronchial asthma in particular. Int J Occup Med Environ Health 2017;30(3)
Jan Jarolímek   
Charles University, Faculty of Science, Department of Social Geography and Regional Development, Albertov 6, 128 00 Prague, Czechia