Occupational Cancer: Prevention or Cure

Occupational Cancer: Prevention or Cure


  • Date: Tuesday 16th December 2014

In the UK there are now more than two million people living with cancer and over 700,000 are of working age. According to a 12 month study 5.3% of cancer deaths (8,010 deaths) were attributable to occupational exposure. The number of workplace deaths caused by accidents in the same period was around 200; almost 40 times more deaths being attributable to occupational cancer than to accidents.

Occupational cancer can be caused by exposure to three main carcinogen types: biological (e.g. Hepatitis B, HIV); chemical (e.g. vinyl chloride, diesel fumes) and physical (e.g. ionising and UV radiation). As a result certain occupations such as painting and welding are associated with increased risks of some cancer types. 

Control of carcinogens should be an integral part of your risk management process. It is essential that the process you use identifies the risks, those who might be harmed and control measures are put to reduce the risk of harm. This can be achieved by:

1. Identifying your workplace carcinogens

2. Identifying the exposure level

3. Determining whether a less harmful substance can be used

4. Identifying engineering controls such as enclosure and ventilation

5. Developing a safe system of work and training employees

6. Use of the correct PPE

7. Ensuring that waste and emissions are controlled

If you haven't considered occupational cancer, now is the time to start; the statistics speak for themselves - there's no time to lose.


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