On 3rd November an industry-wide campaign to cut the number of deaths due to workplace cancer was launched. Statistics suggest that as many as 8,000 people die from cancer and 14,000 contract the disease because of exposure to work-related carcinogens. This includes everything from diesel fumes to asbestos fibres and silica dust. These figures are just from the UK but worldwide occupational cancer kills over 666,000 people, further enforcing the need for action.
More Dangerous than Accidents
The figures for occupational cancer around the world are much higher than those for fatal accidents in the workplace. The invisibility of carcinogens and the long latency of their effects and the lack of general knowledge regarding them means many people aren’t aware they are at risk or have even contracted the disease before it’s too late.
The No Time To Lose Campaign brings together the Macmillan Cancer Support charity and the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health to push forward awareness and to call for a collaboration of both employers and government officials to beat occupational cancer for good.
No Time To Lose
The new campaign has many suggestions and ways in which it can make a difference. It’s calling for a national database of work-related carcinogen exposure, research into the potential of cancer risks in new and emerging technologies, focus on work-related cancer in medical courses and awareness training for employees at all levels from apprentices up.
There are over 50 substances listed as known or probable to cause workplace cancer and many of them remain unknown to the very people who work with them daily. The campaign serves to highlight the human suffering that comes from the spread of this preventable form of cancer and ensure lives are saved.
Worryingly since 2009/10 over 300 notices relating to the failed management of asbestos and risk of exposure have been issued by the HSE and there have been 20 successful prosecutions in the same area. Similar figures can be found for crystalline silica and it is evidence that even more companies need to take note and realise the genuine health risks they’re exposing their employees to.
Workplace cancer refers to more than those caused by the large range of dangerous substances though. Employees who work outdoors are at risk of skin cancer for example, with non-melanoma skin cancers going up by around 3 to 8% around the world. With correct training and official guidelines with relation to PPE, these figures could be brought down.
At Lamb & Co we have worked with many clients who have suffered with industrial diseases, workplace cancers and notably mesothelioma. This new campaign is a chance for the spotlight to focus clearly on these dangerous conditions and hopefully bring industry around to acting more responsibly. The www.notimetolose.org.uk website is a wealth of information and the online base of the campaign.