IOSH has launched a major campaign to get the causes of occupational cancer better understood and help businesses take action. Phil Bates, senior policy and technical adviser at IOSH, sheds a light on this overlooked health threat and explains why IOSH is targeting five major causes.
According to HSE there were 148 in Britain in 2012/13, each one tragic and avoidable. This is, however, less than two per cent of the bigger picture – the total figure for work-related fatalities every year in Britain is some 12,000.
Workplace exposures leading to occupational illness are behind this breathtaking figure, and work-related cancers account for 8,000, according to HSE reports. Of these, half are contracted from exposure to the biggest work cancer killer, asbestos, with the other 4,000 down to exposures to other, lesser-known carcinogens.
IOSH’s No Time to Lose campaign, launched on the 3rd of November, throws a spotlight on work cancer because it is the barely visible cause of an unbearably high number of deaths. It is barely visible broadly for two reasons – the literal invisibility of the carcinogens and the latency of their effects.
Some cancers are diagnosed up to 10 years after the sufferer has been exposed, often unknowingly, to a carcinogen at work. Others can take more than 35 years to develop.This is why it is wrong to assume cases of occupational cancer only occur when people have retired. Around a quarter of deaths and registrations from occupational cancer occur before the age of 65, with some losing their battle with the disease when still in their 30s. Others will be delivered a slower death sentence, with victims suffering an ever-shrinking quality of life at a time when they should be getting ready to enjoy a well-earned retirement. Read more