BackgroundUntil recently, no evidence-based criteria were available to determine the work-relatedness of low back pain (LBP) in an individual worker. Incidence figures for LBP that can be qualified as occupational disease (OD) are scarce. We studied the trend in the number of OD notifications due to LBP in the Netherlands and estimated incidence rates of LBP-related OD notifications. MethodsWe developed an instrument for the assessment of work-relatedness of non-specific LBP (NLBP) in 2004, accompanied by an OD registration guideline. We analysed the trend in LBP-related OD notifications in the register of the Netherlands Centre for Occupational Diseases (NCOD) from 2004 to 2011. We estimated incidence rates for LBP-related OD notifications with data from a prospective cohort study, performed by NCOD in 2009-2011. ResultsAfter implementation of the instrument and guideline, we noticed a huge increase in numbers of LBP-related OD-notifications, from 0.7% of all notified ODs in 2004, via 8.6% in 2005 and 13.6% in 2008, to 9.1% in 2011. We estimated the incidence rate of ODs due to LBP at 24.1 per 100,000 worker years (19.2 for NLBP), with a large difference between men and women (31.3 and 3.2, respectively). ConclusionsThe instrument for the assessment of work-relatedness of NLBP played an important role in the recognition of LBP-related ODs. It provides a basis for a more uniform and objective evaluation of the role of work-related risk factors in the occurrence of NLBP. This knowledge can be used to initiate or direct preventive actions towards subgroups with higher incidence rates.