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Simple steps to protect staff from one of world’s biggest killers

The Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) is renewing its call for employers to protect their staff ahead of World Lung Cancer Day on Saturday (1 August 2020).

Lung cancer accounts for nearly one in five deaths globally and is also one of the most common work-related cancers – caused by exposure to carcinogens such as asbestos, silica dust and diesel fumes.

Asbestos alone claims at least 107,000 lives a year worldwide.

However, many cases are avoidable and small changes in how work is managed or carried out can make a big difference. IOSH has been working with employers and employees to spread this message through its No Time to Lose campaign.

Professor Dr Andrew Sharman, IOSH President, said: “World Lung Cancer Day is aimed at raising awareness of lung cancer and its global impact, so there’s no better time to take action to reduce the risks in the workplace.

“It is crucial that employers protect their staff from carcinogens like asbestos, diesel fumes and silica dust.

“By taking some simple steps, they can save lives and livelihoods.”

Many thousands of people are potentially exposed to hazardous substances at work every day, according to Dr Lesley Rushton, Emeritus Reader in Occupational Epidemiology at Imperial College London.

Dr Rushton published a ground-breaking study into occupational cancer in Britain in 2012, which estimated how many of the cancers occurring each year could be caused by previous exposure to carcinogens at work.

“We found that just over five per cent of all cancers were estimated to be due to past occupational exposures, resulting in more than 8,000 deaths and nearly 13,600 new cases a year,” she said.

“Asbestos exposure was shown to cause nearly 2,000 mesotheliomas and more than 2,000 lung cancers. Over half of these occurred in the construction industry. Out of the 900 lung cancers, 700 were caused by exposure to silica dust in the construction industry.

“The study also showed that these cancers will continue to occur at the same rate every year, unless measures are taken to reduce carcinogenic exposures at work.”

IOSH’s No Time to Lose campaign aims to explain the causes of occupational cancer and help businesses take action. It offers free resource packs on how to manage carcinogens, containing everything you need to engage and inform the workforce, all available on our No Time to Lose website.

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Ali Barlow
Content Officer
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  • IOSH News release