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Construction Sector highlighted in New Paper looking at Occupational Cancers

October 19, 2015

A new paper which calls for European and worldwide collaboration to eliminate workplace cancers for good highlights the key implications for the construction industry in their fight. The sector has the largest number of occupational cancer cases, mainly due to the inhalation of carcinogenic substances.

The appeal lodged in this paper and felt across the occupational health sector is that a more ambitious target for occupational cancer is necessary and it has been backed by the British Occupational Healthy Society (BOHS) who also say that the construction industry must play a key role in this.

The new working paper, Eliminating occupational cancer in Europe and globally, shares the following statistics which highlight the construction industry has a key role to play:

  • A minimum of 8000 deaths from cancer and a further 13500 diagnoses of cancer can be attributed to past occupational exposure annually and the construction industry accounts for over 40% of all these deaths and cases.
  • Most of the cases in the construction industry are due to breathing in carcinogenic substances with asbestos, silica and painting and diesel engine exhaust fumes amongst the most common to blame.

The new paper has been written by the former director of the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, Jukka Takala and it has been published by the European Trade Union Institute. It makes a number of important points about the battle against occupational cancers.

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Eliminating Occupational Cancer

The paper highlights that as many as 32% of work-related deaths can be attributed to occupational cancers but this figure could grow as occupational cancers become a globalised issue and countries that are now going through industrialisation may see the same issues we are experiencing in the UK now. In the EU occupational cancer deaths accounted for 53% of all work-related deaths and other parts of the world may soon follow suit if nothing is actively done.

Looking at things globally the paper sources figures from the International Labour Organisation who estimate that 666,000 deaths are caused by occupational cancers every year around the globe and this is double the number that occupational accidents account for and in high income countries, it cannot be doubted that cancer is the biggest workplace killer.

Managing and destroying the causes of occupational cancer is key to eliminating the diseases. As the paper asserts asbestos and other chemicals require proper regulation, management and removal to protect future generations in the construction industry.

Commenting on the new paper the President of BOHS stated that BOHS ‘fully supports this important call for a more ambitious target with regard to occupational cancer. We also agree that with today’s solutions, as set out in our Breathe Freely initiative, most or all of occupational cancer deaths and lost years of life can be eliminated.’

The Breathe Freely Campaign focuses on the construction industry and through collaboration with organisations within in the industry it works to provide the right guidance, tools and resources to limit exposure to dangerous substances in the workplace.

photo credit: Obra via photopin (license)