Work-related cancers are all avoidable - so how do we stop people dying from them?
One of the most critical workplace health and safety issues of our time was a main focus of debate at ICOH 2018 and it gave IOSH an opportunity to present its No Time To Lose campaign.
IOSH’s campaign first featured in a central debate of the plenary sessions, on the challenge presented by workplace carcinogens.
The ILO (International Labor Organization), WHO (World Health Organization), ISSA (International Social Security Association), EU-OSHA, IARC (International Agency for Research on Cancer), ICOH (International Commission on Occupational Health) and we, IOSH, were among organisations to take part in the global policy forum.
The wide-ranging discussion touched on the many and varied issues in tackling occupational cancers. There was widespread consensus on the urgency to act now. “It’s high time for us all to act together to bring a difference”, said Dr Shengli Niu, of the ILO. For the European Commission, tackling workplace carcinogens was a “priority”, said EU-OSHA director Dr Christa Sedlatschek.
In a vote, delegates chose occupational carcinogen exposure registers, the implementation of policy on prevention of occupational cancer and programmes on the elimination of occupational cancer as top priorities for discussion.
Dr Kurt Straif, of IARC, highlighted the knowledge gaps in occupational cancer. A shift in funding priorities has seen most of today’s research funding dedicated to genetic and personalised medicine, and basic and clinical medicine, he said.
The ILO outlined its take on the challenges of prevention and control, including most cancers are multi-factorial in etiology, and the prevention of occupational cancer has a much lower profile in the workplace than preventing workplace accidents.
Ivan Ivanov, of WHO, gave an overview of the steps countries can take, from core measures such as the development of regulatory standards to “desirable measures” such as registries of occupational exposures to carcinogens and exposed workers.
IOSH Chair Dr Bill Gunnyeon then presented No Time to Lose, highlighted during the session as an “excellent example” of an initiative to prevent work cancers with practical solutions. “The campaign cements specific actions which are critical to tackling occupational cancer”, said Hans-Horst Konkolewsky, of ISSA.
Over 250 organisations in 32 countries were now supporting the campaign, said Dr Gunnyeon. No Time to Lose had reached more than 67 million people through media coverage, he said.
The IOSH Chair said lessons had been learned from the campaign, citing measurement of impact on behaviours as difficult and emphasising the alignment with other global initiatives is critical and engagement with policy-makers is challenging.
No Time to Lose was also presented to delegates during a special session at congress, including contributions from: Vincent Ho, Head of Corporate Safety at Hong Kong rail operator MTR; Shelley Frost, IOSH director of strategic development; Prof John Cherrie, of Heriot Watt University and IOM; and John Gallagher, Adjunct Professor and Consultant Occupational Physician HSE, Cognate Health, UCC School of Public Health.
Image: Dr Bill Gunnyeon presents during ICOH 2018