Occupational medicine in Belgium
Till 1968, occupational health was mostly for large companies.
In 1968 every company had to ensure itself the support of an occupational physician and this through a service for occupational health. This service could be internal or intercompany. This was the start of a big number of external services around groups of employers.
In 1996 the law on ‘Wellbeing at work’ appeared. This was the start of multidisciplinary services, with obligatory prevention advisors in safety, ergonomics, industrial hygiene and psycho-social factors. Occupational medicine in Belgium stays essentially preventive.
This was the start of fusions of services. In 2014 there are only 12 external services left that cover > 90 % of the working population of Belgium. Less than 10 % of the occupational physicians still work for internal services.
In 1996 occupational medicine became an official medical specialty with 4 years of training. Since there are few students, training became interuniversity, at least in the Flanders region. In the French region, discussion is still going on.
Population of Belgium
Total: 11.036.000 (2012)
Physicians in Belgium
46.751 physicians (2010)
Around 1000 physicians work in occupational medicine. Since 1996, only doctors that followed the 4-year specialty can work in the field. Before it was only a one year university training. Most of the physicians are exclusively working in the specialty and they work on average 80 % of their working time.
Postgraduate training takes four years after becoming a licenced physician. Two years are mainly theoretical academic training. Two years are training on the field in a service. A number of activities have to be executed by the trainee. Besides the requirements in medical surveillance of individual workers they have to perform a number of visits on workplaces, performing risk assessments, having the basics of ergonomics and industrial hygiene, participation in committees of well being at work… The four year study is completed by a scientific thesis.
After completion of the study, the trainee can apply to be recognised as a specialist in Occupational Medicine.
Continuing Medical Education is not to be licenced by the authorities, but there is much focus on it in the specialty.
• Ability to work and sickness absence
• Ageing workforce
• Financing of the system
• Stress, burnout and all the range of psychological and psychiatric problems
- Collaborating in multidisciplinary prevention
- Medical exams
- Risk assessment
- Work place visits
- Counselling to the employers and employees
- Participation in the dialogue of the social partners
- Research in Occupational Health
- Diagnosis of Occupational Diseases
We have one association of occupational physicians working in Belgium
In Dutch: BBvAG: Belgische Beroepsvereniging voor ArbeidsGeneesheren
In French: APBMT: Association Professionelle Belge des Médecins du Travail
We have two scientific associations:
Flanders: WVVA: Vlaamse Wetenschappelijke Vereniging voor Arbeidsgezondheidskunde
French: SSSTR Societé Scientifique de Santé au Travail
Dr. Simon Bulterys