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The purpose of this system is to identify patterns and trends that can be used to reduce, through prevention, the occupational risks associated with work‑related asthma.


  • Describe the incidence and prevalence of work‑related asthma.
  • Identify high risk occupations and industries.
  • Identify useful preventive strategies.
  • Generate hypotheses about causative agents and factors.

Planned uses

  • Identifying clusters of work-related asthma.
  • Analyzing risks by occupation and industry.
  • Tracking trends in incidence and prevalence.
  • Sharing information with health care providers, public health professionals, and labor and industry stakeholders.

Surveillance case definition

Any Washington worker who has been diagnosed with asthma caused or exacerbated by workplace exposures.

Legal authority

On July 12, 2000 the Washington State Board of Health adopted revisions to the Washington Administrative Code Chapter 246 Section 101 (WAC 246‑101) making occupational asthma a reportable condition ( for health care providers and health care facilities.

Organizational location

The surveillance system is located within the Safety and Health Assessment and Research for Prevention (SHARP) program of the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries.

System components

Population under surveillance

Workers employed within the state of Washington.

Time period of data collection

Data collection under the revised reporting rule began in September 2000.

Collection and reporting sources

Cases are received from two sources:

  • The workers' compensation database.
  • Reporting physicians.

First, workers' compensation claims with the word 'asthma' in the text of the report of accident form are identified. Certain information, including the employer, industry and occupation codes, and claim cost data are extracted from the workers' compensation database and imported into a Microsoft Access database. An analyst views the report of accident form and other records associated with the claim to verify that it was indeed filed for work related asthma.

Second, physicians report cases directly to the SHARP Program using a confidential case reporting form. Cases are interviewed by phone to gather additional data, including information on workplace exposures and medical history.

Data management

The surveillance system is maintained as a Microsoft Access database. This relational database management system has the tools to add, delete and update records; to perform automated edit checks during data entry; to identify duplicate records; and to perform the queries needed to maintain the database, identify clusters and create a variety of reports and graphs. Case reports from providers and case interviews are entered manually. The process of extracting data from claims in the workers' compensation database is automated and occurs monthly.

Data analysis and dissemination

Case data are analyzed periodically for clusters by industry and occupation. Dissemination of educational information is a routine part of case follow-up. Each case is sent educational materials prior to a telephone interview.

Patient privacy, data confidentiality, and system security

All records containing or accompanied by patient identifying information are confidential. These records are used solely for surveillance and prevention purposes. All hard copies of case information are kept in locked cabinets. Access to the surveillance database is protected by its own password system. Passwords are issued only to authorized SHARP personnel. Additionally, physical access to the building and access to individual computers are controlled as part of the security systems of the Department of Labor & Industries.

Surveillance Tools

These materials may be downloaded to your system and modified for your use. Please reference the source.

For physicians

For injured workers


Questions and answers on SHARP's asthma program


Links to other Web sites

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