European Week for Safety and Health at Work: Workplaces remain dangerous environments
2018 European Week for Safety and Health at Work runs from the 22 – 28 October and will promote the prevention of risks posed by dangerous substances within the workplace.
According to the HSE, 8,000 people die every year due to exposure to carcinogens at work and 13,500 new occupational cancer cases are registered in Britain annually. When looking further afield, the statistics are even more startling, with 80,000 deaths from work-related cancer every year and approximately 120,000 people developing cancer annually as a result of their work activities in the EU.
The week is an important event in the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work’s (EU-OSHA) two-year campaign ‘’Healthy Workplaces Manage Dangerous Substances’, which aims to reduce the presence of and exposure to dangerous substances in workplaces by raising awareness of their risks and of effective ways of managing them.
“Protecting workers from exposure to carcinogens is one of the key challenges for occupational safety and health in the 21st century,” said Christa Sedlatschek, Executive Director of the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA).
“We are working to highlight the scale of the problem and the importance of preventing exposure to carcinogens at work as part of our current campaign. We believe that by informing and educating workers and employers, as well as offering practical solutions, we can reduce and even eliminate exposure to carcinogens at work, thereby preventing needless suffering and deaths from cancer.”
The construction industry accounts for the largest number of occupational cancer cases, with approximately 3,500 cancer deaths and 5,500 new cancer registrations each year in Britain. Past exposure to asbestos is the leading cause of death from occupational cancer today. Exposure to silica, diesel engine exhaust emissions, solar radiation, shift work and welding fumes might become the main causes of occupational cancer in the future.
David Parr, Policy and Technical Services Director at the British Safety Council, said: “Although use of some of the most dangerous substances, such as asbestos, are now banned or strictly controlled, modern workplaces continue to expose workers to dangerous agents, such as highly toxic liquids and chemicals, as well as nanomaterials, the health risks of which are not yet fully understood but predicted to be even greater.
“The most effective way of managing exposure to dangerous substances in the workplace is the creation of a risk prevention culture. When this happens, workers are pro-actively involved in risk assessment processes and are well informed about the dangers, as well as the control measures that can be taken to prevent or control them.
“Occupational exposure limits (OELs) for hazardous substances laid down in European OSH directives are crucial for the protection of workers’ health. With Brexit growing increasingly imminent, it essential that the well-established control regime relating to this issue is not compromised in any way by the UK’s withdrawal process.”
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