Construction managers hear how to prevent occupational cancer

11 July 2017

Tackling cancer caused by solar radiation and diesel fumes at work will be highlighted to construction managers during a presentation today (11 July 2017) about the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) No Time to Lose campaign.

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The talk will be delivered at the ‘Occupational Health’ event, which has been organised by the Working Well Together North East Group, at the Durham Centre, in Durham.

The event seeks to improve awareness of high-risk activities and health issues, demonstrate practical measures to control risks, and promote continuous improvement in health and safety performance.

Tim Briggs, a Past President of IOSH and chair of its Professional Standards Committee, will present, explaining how No Time to Lose aims to raise awareness of occupational cancer and help businesses take action by providing free practical resources. The first half focuses on managing solar radiation and the second concentrates on diesel fumes.

Research suggests that skin cancer is the most common cancer in the world. In 2015, IOSH published a study, which revealed that each year, malignant melanoma caused by solar radiation exposure at work kills nearly 50 people in Britain, with 240 new cancer cases registered.

IOSH also commissioned a second study into work attitudes to sun safety in the construction sector, which found that two-thirds of construction workers outside for an average of nearly seven hours a day thought they were not at risk or were unsure if they were. More than half of those questioned by researchers reported having sunburn at least once in the last year.

This year, IOSH is lending its support and its evidence base to another campaign by NHS England called Cover Up, Mate, which aims to get young men working outdoors to take solar radiation risks more seriously.

Tim said:

“IOSH is encouraging businesses to develop ‘sun safety strategies’ that include regular updates on the UV index from weather forecasts, minimising sun exposure in the middle of the day and asking employees to wear long-sleeved, loose-fitting tops and trousers. Using high-factor sunscreen is helpful but should not be relied on as the only barrier to the harmful rays.”

Tim will also highlight research in Britain, which found that exposure to diesel fumes at work claims the lives of 650 people a year. He said:

“Cancer caused by exposure to diesel fumes is preventable. Businesses can put in place steps to minimise exposure by assessing the risks, putting in controls, monitoring levels of diesel exhaust fumes, implementing health surveillance, and training employees. By raising awareness now we can protect the health of current and future workers.”

During the presentation, delegates will also receive practical information on how to control exposure to diesel fumes. For example, switching to other forms of fuel where possible, such as gas or electricity; replacing old engines with newer versions that have lower emissions; making sure that engines are maintained properly; making sure diesel engine exhausts have filters; using ‘local exhaust ventilation’ in fixed or enclosed workplaces; and rotating jobs between different employees to minimise exposure.

He stated:

“I urge businesses to visit the No Time to Lose campaign website and download free resources to help raise awareness and tackle work cancer. You’ll find factsheets, films, case studies, posters, toolbox talks and more – everything you need to inform and engage the workforce.

“I’m also pleased to say that 100 leading businesses from around the world have signed up to the campaign pledge to prevent occupational cancer, and I encourage the construction managers to sign up too.”

Dave Carney, Chairman of the Working Well Together North East Group, said:

“There have been big improvements over recent years in reducing the number and rate of injuries to construction workers.

“Despite this, construction remains a high-risk industry and accounts for a high percentage of fatal and major injuries. What is less recognised is that construction is a high-risk industry for health issues too, and has the largest burden of occupational cancers amongst the industrial sectors – over 40 per cent were from the construction industry.

“Every year more working days are lost due to work-related illness compared to injuries. Statistics reveal that construction workers have a high risk of developing diseases from a number of health issues. These can be devastating for individuals and families.

“This half day event, aimed at managers and supervisors in the construction sector, will provide up-to-date information on preventing occupational diseases.”

At the event, delegates will also hear presentations on occupational health topics including mental health in construction, noise, manual handling and construction dust.

To find out more about Working Well Together, visit wwt.uk.com.

To find out how you can get involved in IOSH’s No Time to Lose campaign and to download free resources, visit www.notimetolose.org.uk.