occupational cancers

Spotlight on… occupational cancers aims to raise awareness of the health risks involved in construction work, specifically those relating to occupational cancers within the sector...

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The campaign

‘Spotlight on… occupational cancers’ aims to raise awareness of the health risks involved in construction work, specifically those relating to occupational cancers and the importance of taking proactive measures to safeguard all employees within the sector.

There are various types of cancer which affect the workforce, but skin cancer and lung cancer have been identified as the two main types that significantly affect individuals working in the construction industry.

Skin and lung cancer can be caused by exposure to carcinogens and UV radiation in the workplace over a prolonged period of time. The causes can take various forms from solid substances to gases and dust. Without appropriate control measures in place, workers can be exposed to these harmful substances by breathing them in or absorbing them through the skin.

Due to the risks associated with the construction industry and the various harmful substances encountered on a day to day basis, workers within the industry are at a greater risk of developing cancer at work compared with any other industry group. Potentially harmful substances include asbestos, silica dust, diesel engine exhaust emissions, paint and prolonged exposure to UV radiation.

UV radiation and skin cancer are sometimes not considered an issue in the UK due to the weather, but whilst a higher number of people are diagnosed with skin cancer in Australia, the survival rate is higher than in the UK. This is the result of better public attitudes to sun protection and early detection of any skin changes due to Australia’s well-funded awareness campaigns which have spanned over 20 years, coupled with primary and secondary school education. The UK needs to take a more proactive approach to this health problem, which is particularly relevant for outside workers.

It is difficult to determine the true extent of occupational cancers as in many cases individuals fail to develop any noticeable symptoms until many years later. Therefore, the industry may not prioritise work-related cancer as an immediate health and safety issue.

The industry has made great progress in recent years in addressing the ‘safety’ part of ‘health and safety’, but there needs to be greater focus on the health of the workforce and how working conditions can contribute to ill health. The importance of protecting employees’ health and preventing work-related ill health needs to be carefully considered and addressed by all those involved in the construction industry.

Facts and figures

The following facts demonstrate the scale of work-related cancers:

  • Worldwide, 742,000 people die every year from occupational cancers, equating to one person every minute (IOSH, 2017)
  • In the UK there are 13,500 newly occurring cases of occupational cancer per year and 8,000 deaths from these diseases (HSE, 2016/17)
  • Over 40% of occupational cancer deaths arise from the construction industry (HSE, 2016/17)
  • 99% of work-related deaths are caused by occupational diseases and 1% by accidents at work (HSE, 2014/15)
  • Asbestos is responsible for the largest proportion of occupational cancer (HSE, 2016/17)
  • 1 in 4 construction workers have been exposed to asbestos (IOSH, 2018)
  • Construction workers have a 6 times greater risk of developing skin cancer than the general population (Construction Enquirer, 2015)

Image credit: IOSH No Time to Lose campaign

 

 

Law and legislation

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Law and legislation

Occupational cancers are often included as part of the larger topic of health and safety at work, which is covered under legislation...

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External resources

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External resources

There are a number of campaigns and resources available to help individuals understand the topic of occupational cancer, including guidance and practical advice to help safeguard the workforce...

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Examples of best practice

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Examples of best practice

The Scheme aims to improve the image of construction through sharing best practice with the industry. Below are a number of best practice examples that have been witnessed by the Scheme’s Monitors on their visits or submitted directly by registered sites, companies and suppliers…

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Case studies

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Case studies

Please find a number of case studies showing how some contractors are tackling occupational cancers on site...

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What can you do?

The construction industry cannot afford to overlook the topic of occupational cancers. As highlighted above, work-related ill health is a major challenge facing the industry, with devastating long term effects.

A good understanding of the risks and factors which contribute to occupational cancers is vital to be able to appropriately manage and minimise the hazards and effectively safeguard the workforce.

Each employee has a personal responsibility to implement measures to minimise the risks to their health and the health of colleagues. Employers also have a responsibility to provide a safe work environment to ensure that employees are not being exposed to hazardous substances or UV radiation.

On every site, before work commences, a risk assessment should be conducted and measures to minimise the hazards found should be implemented and effectively communicated to the workforce.

The following control measures can be utilised to minimise harmful exposure to carcinogenic substances and UV radiation:

  1. Sites need to proactively eliminate harmful substances – when this is not achievable, working methods and equipment must be substituted for safer alternatives

    Removing carcinogens and hazardous substances from the workplace is an effective method to counter the risks posed to employees on site; in situations where this is not possible sites should adopt less hazardous alternatives. For example, additives or exhaust filters can be fitted to diesel machinery to minimise the toxicity of emissions.

  2. Sites should isolate high risk areas

    Specific areas should be designated at a distance from the main working area or workers should be removed from areas where hazardous operations are underway. This will minimise the number of workers exposed, and those who are exposed can be properly protected during operations such as cutting timber or cement blocks.

  3. Sites could introduce controls to reduce exposure

    Measures to minimise the exposure to dust include implementing a general ventilation system or installing local exhaust ventilation systems on woodworking machinery. Dust bags could be integrated on power tools for sanding or cutting or providing an enclosure for hazardous operations such as spray booths. Controls could be introduced to reduce operatives’ exposure to UV radiation, such as providing shade, sun cream protection, reflective PPE, modifying reflective surfaces and using window tinting on vehicles.

  4. Sites should review and update safe working procedures

    Outdoor work can be rescheduled to ensure that it does not take place in the middle of the day when UV levels are at their strongest. Jobs could be moved into shaded areas, outdoor tasks shared and staff rotated so the same person is not always working outside in the sun. Given the damage caused by diesel fumes, sites should consider changing working procedures to minimise workers’ (particularly those operating plant machinery) exposure to these emissions.

  5. Personal Protective Equipment should be adapted to match the working conditions

    PPE should be used alongside other control measures and typically includes dust masks and respirators to protect against fumes. Gloves, overalls, neck protectors, sun cream and sun hats could also be provided for the workforce.

  6. Site managers should raise awareness of occupational cancers and offer appropriate support and advice

    In the long-term, the construction industry should be aiming to acknowledge and address occupational cancers. Sites should educate and inform the workforce about the dangers of occupational cancers via regular toolbox talks, nurse visits, posters and leaflets. A clear message needs to be communicated to everyone and equipment should be provided and made available to ensure that workers are able to protect themselves. The attitude in the UK amongst many people that we ‘don’t get any sun’ so we are not at risk of skin cancers needs to change immediately. UV radiation is very damaging and outside workers are at particularly high risk. Breathing in dusts or harmful air also cannot be ignored as this can lead to long-term health problems later in life.

As well as the information above, it is also advised to use the resources provided in the ‘External resources’ section of this campaign, which offers a plentiful amount of resources from other organisations and companies that cover the full spectrum of the topic.

Although the Scheme has been able to identify a number of campaigns and best practice, it is clear that health still does not have the same priority as safety concerns on site. It is apparent that there is a heavy focus on basic protection, but there is a lack of awareness and adequate provisions to tackle the risk of work-related ill-health. The importance of protection for the long-term health of the workforce needs to be carefully considered and reinforced amongst workers. If the industry is to better safeguard against occupational cancers, further awareness, guidance and support will certainly be of great benefit.

If the industry wants to improve its image and attract talented new recruits, it must ensure it is doing everything it can to provide a safe working environment for today and the future, considering both the short-term and long-term health effects of construction work.

The Scheme will continue to update this page as new examples and case studies of how the industry is tackling this issue are identified. If you would like to share how your company is addressing occupational cancers, please contact the Scheme by emailing enquiries@ccsbestpractice.org.uk 

Date published: September 8 2015
Last updated: 
January 25 2018

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Examples of best practice

The Scheme aims to improve the image of construction through sharing best practice with the industry. Below are a number of best practice examples that have been witnessed by the Scheme’s Monitors on their visits or submitted directly by registered sites, companies and suppliers:

Sun safety

Published 16 June 2017 | No comments
Written by Vicki Johnston
Categories Occupational health risks Weather protection Workforce information
CategoriesOccupational health risks Weather protection Workforce information

Dr David Hazafy, from the school of chemistry and chemical engineering at Queens University visited Farrans Construction site to test a newly devised wristband indicating overexposure to ultraviolet light. Outdoor workers are at an increased risk of skin cancer caused by exposure to the sun. With 100,000 cases of skin cancer resulting from overexposure to ultraviolet light in the UK…

Hollow drill bits

Published 19 May 2017 | No comments
Written by Andrew Kinsey
Categories Dust Occupational health risks Working methods Working methods and equipment
CategoriesDust Occupational health risks Working methods Working methods and equipment

Several drill manufacturers including Dewalt, Hilti and Milwaukee now provide hollow drill bits which allow the dust created when drilling holes to be extracted via the bit when drilling. The drill bits have an on-board dust extractor port that can be connected to a vacuum hose. Since dust is extracted as the hole is drilled, there is less risk if…

Spotlight on… campaign posters

Published 17 March 2017 | No comments
Written by CCS Best Practice Hub Administrator
Categories Alcohol testing Campaigns Diversity Drugs and alcohol policy Illegal workers Mental health Occupational health risks Posters Scheme posters/banners Workforce information
CategoriesAlcohol testing Campaigns Diversity Drugs and alcohol policy Illegal workers Mental health Occupational health risks Posters Scheme posters/banners Workforce information

Spotlight on… posters have been designed for general display in and around site welfare facilities. The Scheme is currently developing a collection of A3 posters from the series of ‘Spotlight on… ‘ awareness campaigns. This resource has proven valuable for display on site and raising awareness amongst the workforce and visitors. To download a free electronic version please click the links below.

Harmful Ultraviolet rays

Published 16 January 2017 | No comments
Written by Adam Robertson
Categories Healthy lifestyle advice Medical conditions Occupational health risks Weather protection
CategoriesHealthy lifestyle advice Medical conditions Occupational health risks Weather protection

Ultra violet radiation can cause skin cancer as well as short term pain and irritation. Within the construction industry, operatives are regularly exposed through their daily activity, working outdoors in direct sunlight. The board provides a link to the MET office website whereby the daily UV index can be checked. The board is then updated on site to record the…

Air quality monitoring survey

Published 28 October 2016 | No comments
Written by Lucy Hingley
Categories Air quality Monitoring
CategoriesAir quality Monitoring

An air monitoring survey was undertaken in June 2016 to assess personal exposures to Diesel Engine Exhaust Emission (DEEE) for operatives carrying out work on the M60. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified diesel engine exhaust as carcinogenic to humans if exposed to high fume levels. The data has shown that the overall exposure to the…

Construction workers reminded to stay sun safe on site

Published 19 September 2016 | No comments
Written by CCS Best Practice Hub Administrator
Categories Occupational health risks Posters Weather protection
CategoriesOccupational health risks Posters Weather protection

HSS Hire is raising attention and encouraging construction workers to protect themselves against the harmful effects of long term sun exposure with a new poster campaign. Supported by Cancer Research UK and in conjunction with Sir Robert McAlpine, a site in London is displaying UV ray reactive posters that change appearance after exposure to the sun. The poster which initially…

Minimising the risk of skin cancer

Published 12 September 2016 | No comments
Written by Antonia John
Categories Occupational health risks Posters Weather protection
CategoriesOccupational health risks Posters Weather protection

Morganstone recognises that those working in the construction industry are at a high risk of developing occupational cancers such as skin and lung cancer and as such takes a proactive approach to support the health and wellbeing of its employee’s and sub-contractors. Whilst it has been Morganstone’s long-standing policy to include sun cream dispensers in their WC’s as standard, Morganstone…

Spotlight on… campaign flyers

Published 22 June 2016 | No comments
Written by CCS Best Practice Hub Administrator
Categories Alcohol testing Apprenticeships Campaigns Communication Cycle safety Diversity Health screening Healthy lifestyle advice Illegal workers Inappropriate language Medications Mental health Occupational health risks Posters
CategoriesAlcohol testing Apprenticeships Campaigns Communication Cycle safety Diversity Health screening Healthy lifestyle advice Illegal workers Inappropriate language Medications Mental health Occupational health risks Posters

The Spotlight on… flyers have been designed for general display in and around site welfare facilities. The Scheme provides a collection of A5 flyers from both past and current ‘Spotlight on… ‘ awareness campaigns. Each unique flyer contains information on the industry issue and advice on how to tackle it. This resource has proven valuable for display on site and raising awareness…

Emergency asbestos kit

Published 2 June 2016 | No comments
Written by Liam Byrnes
Categories Communicate initiatives Controls Drills Emergency procedures Risk information Workforce information
CategoriesCommunicate initiatives Controls Drills Emergency procedures Risk information Workforce information

On site, different clients have slightly different procedures (albeit all based around the HSE EM1 guidance leaflet). We find that this can lead to confusion when operatives migrate to sites with different requirements. Though inductions are site specific and include this information – it wasn’t always easy to remember who to call or how to react in an emergency situation….

IOSH’s No Time To Lose – Silica Dust Mythbuster Quiz

Published 17 May 2016 | No comments
Written by CCS Best Practice Hub Administrator
Categories Air quality Dust Weather protection
CategoriesAir quality Dust Weather protection

IOSH’s No Time To Lose campaign launched in November 2014, bringing together industry leaders, cancer charities, MP’s and professional bodies to raise awareness and share experiences of preventing occupational cancer. They have created a Mythbusters Quiz detailing the facts on the dangers of exposure to silica dust. The quiz includes the answers to: Where silica dust can be found and the…

World Cancer Day

Published 3 February 2016 | No comments
Written by CCS Best Practice Hub Administrator
Categories Charities/organisations Open door policy Weather protection
CategoriesCharities/organisations Open door policy Weather protection

World Cancer Day is coordinated annually by the Union for International Cancer Control. The week promotes the research for curing as well as preventing the disease, upgrading the provided services to the patients, the sensitisation of the common opinion and the mobilisation of the global community against cancer. To support Cancer Talk Week on your site, you could do the following: Hold a…

Spotlight on… occupational cancers follow-up article

Published 2 February 2016 | No comments
Written by CCS Best Practice Hub Administrator
Categories Campaigns Health screening Medical conditions Occupational health risks Weather protection
CategoriesCampaigns Health screening Medical conditions Occupational health risks Weather protection

In September 2015, the Scheme’s campaign focused on the increasingly important issue of occupational cancers and examined what the industry was doing to safeguard employees within the industry. It was found that between 220 and 250 workers die each year as a result of an immediate injury, compared to the 15,000 – 18,000 who die from cancer. Despite this, the…

HSE guidance: Occupational Health Risk Management in Construction

Published 27 January 2016 | No comments
Written by CCS Best Practice Hub Administrator
Categories Health screening Medications Occupational health risks
CategoriesHealth screening Medications Occupational health risks

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) results from its annual refurbishment initiative have revealed that poor standards or dangerous practices were found on 46% of construction sites visited. In light of the results, HSE have issued new specialist guidance, ‘Occupational Health Risk Management in Construction’ to ensure basic health and safety measures are in place on all sites. To read…

HSE appointed doctors

Published 27 January 2016 | No comments
Written by CCS Best Practice Hub Administrator
Categories Health screening Medical conditions
CategoriesHealth screening Medical conditions

An appointed doctor is a registered medical practitioner appointed by HSE to undertake statutory medical surveillance. Employers have a legal duty to ensure employees are under medical surveillance by an appointed doctor, if they work with specific hazards and undertake certain work activities covered by the following relevant regulations: Ionising Radiations Regulations 1999 Control of Lead at Work Regulations 2002 Control…

Providing appropriate respiratory protective equipment

Published 5 January 2016 | No comments
Written by CCS Best Practice Hub Administrator
Categories Cultural needs Dust PPE Religious considerations
CategoriesCultural needs Dust PPE Religious considerations

It is important to identify hazards posed to operatives on site and implement measures to offset the risks. The construction industry poses a number of hazards to operatives, most notably of which being silica and silican dusts. It is important to appropriately inform and protect your workforce to minimise exposure to harmful substances. Below is an example of how a site…

IOSH No Time to Lose Campaign: solar radiation

Published 5 January 2016 | No comments
Written by CCS Best Practice Hub Administrator
Categories Posters Weather protection
CategoriesPosters Weather protection

IOSH’s No Time to Lose campaign aims to get carcinogenic exposure issues more widely understood and help businesses to take action. They have provided a number of resources which may help businesses better understand the risks posed by solar radiation: Research on solar radiation exposure at work (documents can be found below); Free events are held to learn more about occupational…

Occupational Health – Controlling Dust

Published 20 October 2015 | No comments
Written by Monika De Kock
Categories Air quality Dust Occupational health risks
CategoriesAir quality Dust Occupational health risks

Our aim was to reduce the volume of harmful wood dust polluting the atmosphere in the area where our carpenters are working to a level as low as ‘reasonably practical’. Wood dust has a Workplace Exposure Limit (WEL) of 5mg/m3 and can cause asthma, nasal cancer, emphysema, etc., when inhaled in large quantities for prolonged periods. To reduce the risk,…

Skin Cancer awareness

Published 18 September 2015 | No comments
Written by Dominick Gallagher
Categories Weather protection
CategoriesWeather protection

Rates of Skin Cancer are higher than any other cancer in the UK and it is estimated that 37 people a day in the UK are diagnosed with Skin Cancer. At Knightbuild Ltd, a Skin Cancer Awareness campaign has been implemented and introduced across all our projects to educate our workforce about the associated dangers and also to introduce control…

Dust Protection Devices

Published 8 September 2015 | No comments
Written by CCS Best Practice Hub Administrator
Categories Air quality Dust Occupational health risks Working methods and equipment
CategoriesAir quality Dust Occupational health risks Working methods and equipment

Active measures should be taken to minimise dust and fumes on and around site. Dust can be a cause of complaint for the community and poses environmental and occupational health hazards for the workforce. When installing monitoring points on site, fixings had to be drilled into concrete, stone, masonry or similar substrates, which caused large amounts of dust. Some of this dust would be…

On site ‘Breathe Easy’ training

Published 4 September 2015 | No comments
Written by Adam Cannon
Categories Air quality Dust Occupational health risks
CategoriesAir quality Dust Occupational health risks

To ensure that the Asbestos removal contract could operate safely, ‘Breathe Easy’ kit training was organised on site, for all nine operatives. As asbestos removal is a high risk activity it was essential that all staff were fully up to speed with the risks and how to safely deal with asbestos related work, before going to work in the enclosures. This…

Workplaces should have a sun protection programme in place

Published 5 August 2015 | No comments
Written by CCS Best Practice Hub Administrator
Categories Occupational health risks Weather protection
CategoriesOccupational health risks Weather protection

Construction workers have an increased risk of developing skin cancer due to their prolonged exposure to outdoor conditions. It is important to acknowledge these risks and take a proactive stance to prevent harmful exposures. The Australian construction industry have taken measures to safeguard their workforce, with the Cancer Council Australia recommending that workplaces should have a sun protection programme in place,…

Men’s Health Toolbox Talks

Published 4 August 2015 | No comments
Written by Chris Butts
Categories Stress Weather protection
CategoriesStress Weather protection

Toolbox talks are a great way of engaging with the workforce and delivering talks on relevant health and safety topics. Havercroft Construction Limited are working alongside the Men’s Health Forum to create Toolbox Talks developed for the construction industry relating to various men’s health issues including: Stress related issues Alcohol consumption Skin safety To view the toolbox talks click below.

Protection from the sun on site using a UV helmet sticker

Published 30 July 2015 | No comments
Written by CCS Best Practice Hub Administrator
Categories Occupational health risks Weather protection
CategoriesOccupational health risks Weather protection

Construction work can pose a number of health and safety risks. A significant proportion of construction work is performed outside, with operatives exposed to different types of weather conditions. During the summer months, the workforce needs to be aware of both heat and sun exposure, remain protected from direct sunlight and ensure they keep hydrated. Below is an example of how…

Asbestos awareness training

Published 28 July 2015 | No comments
Written by CCS Best Practice Hub Administrator
Categories Occupational health risks Training
CategoriesOccupational health risks Training

The workforce is often exposed to a number of occupational health risks. It is important to implement procedures and provide appropriate training to effectively safeguard your workforce. Asbestos awareness training is a legal requirement for most employees working in the construction industry, to minimise the risks associated with working with asbestos. There are many types of asbestos removal training courses available…

Minimising operatives’ exposure to the sun

Published 28 July 2015 | No comments
Written by CCS Best Practice Hub Administrator
Categories Occupational health risks PPE Weather protection
CategoriesOccupational health risks PPE Weather protection

Construction workers have an increased risk of developing skin cancer due to their regular exposure to the sun. It is essential to assess the risks posed and implement appropriate control measures to minimise operatives’ exposure to the sun. Below is an example of how a site has offered sun protection to their workforce: A ventilated neck sun protector with sweat headband…

Face fit mask stations

Published 13 July 2015 | No comments
Written by CCS Best Practice Hub Administrator
Categories Air quality Dust Occupational health risks
CategoriesAir quality Dust Occupational health risks

Securing the wellbeing of your workforce is essential. This is important when certain activities result in air contamination through dust or fumes. Measures to minimise the hazards to operatives should be actively sought and encouraged on site. Below is an example of how sites can protect their workers from breathing in harmful substances: All operatives were provided with free face fit mask…

Breathe Freely – preventing lung disease in construction workers

Published 13 July 2015 | No comments
Written by Sharon Brunt
Categories Air quality Dust Fumes
CategoriesAir quality Dust Fumes

Occupational health risks need to be addressed in order to care for the health and wellbeing of the workforce. It is no secret that construction workers are at a high risk of contracting lung disease from the work that they do. In 2015, approximately 3,500 will die from cancer caused by past exposures to asbestos, 500 more from silica dust,…

Network Rail Campaign: skin protection

Published 6 July 2015 | No comments
Written by CCS Best Practice Hub Administrator
Categories Occupational health risks Weather protection
CategoriesOccupational health risks Weather protection

Network Rail and Cancer Research UK have come together to raise awareness of the risks associated with skin cancer. Network rail have identified the risk posed to their employees with many working outdoors for several hours at a time. The importance of sun protection has been made clear, with sites encouraging the use of an SPF spray or cream, lightweight…

The Institute of Occupational Safety and Health’s (IOSH) No Time to Lose Campaign

Published 2 July 2015 | No comments
Written by CCS Best Practice Hub Administrator
Categories Occupational health risks Weather protection
CategoriesOccupational health risks Weather protection

IOSH launched their campaign in November 2014, bringing together industry leaders, cancer charities, MP’s and professional bodies to raise awareness and share experiences of preventing occupational cancer. IOSH wants to raise awareness of five of the top causes of occupational cancer registrations and deaths: Diesel Engine Exhaust emissions – is linked to 650 UK deaths a year; Solar radiation –…

HSE Beware Asbestos Campaign

Published 30 June 2015 | No comments
Written by CCS Best Practice Hub Administrator
Categories Campaigns Communicate initiatives Occupational health risks
CategoriesCampaigns Communicate initiatives Occupational health risks

The presence of asbestos in the workplace presents a significant risk to employees health. Exposure to asbestos can cause serious and fatal diseases with around 20 tradespeople suffering asbestos related deaths every week. HSE have launched a campaign to raise awareness of the risks associated with asbestos, where it can be found as well as identifying ways to manage and…

Sun protection in the workplace: UV bracelets

Published 22 June 2015 | No comments
Written by CCS Best Practice Hub Administrator
Categories Occupational health risks Weather protection
CategoriesOccupational health risks Weather protection

Construction work can pose a number of health and safety risks. It is the responsibility of not only management but also operatives  to take precautions to safeguard themselves from the hazards posed on site. A significant proportion of construction work is performed outside, with operatives exposed to different types of weather conditions. During the summer months, the workforce needs to be…

Solar radiation risks

Published 19 May 2015 | No comments
Written by CCS Best Practice Hub Administrator
Categories Campaigns Management Weather protection
CategoriesCampaigns Management Weather protection

Workers often face difficult working environments due to the various weather conditions they have to work through. Consideration should be given to the conditions facing operatives and the measures that can be developed and implemented to counteract the impact of these environments. Sun protection and awareness of solar radiation risks are vital to ensure the wellbeing of your workforce, and to provide the best…

Macmillan World’s Biggest Coffee Morning

Published 16 April 2015 | No comments
Written by CCS Best Practice Hub Administrator
Categories Charities/organisations
CategoriesCharities/organisations

The World’s Biggest Coffee Morning is Macmillan Cancer Support’s biggest charity fundraising event. This event focuses on getting together to have a chat and a cup of tea and inviting people to make a donation to Macmillan Cancer Support. To support Macmillan Coffee Morning on your site, you could do the following: Arrange a Macmillan Coffee Morning and encourage all of your operatives…

Dust control equipment

Published 24 November 2014 | No comments
Written by CCS Best Practice Hub Administrator
Categories Air quality Dust Working methods and equipment
CategoriesAir quality Dust Working methods and equipment

The creation of dust is a very common cause of complaint for the construction industry. Dust not only poses a health hazard for those working on site, but is also the root cause of many complaints made by the public. It is therefore essential that appropriate methods are adopted to minimise the risk of dust on sites, to safeguard workers’ wellbeing, as…

Skcin – Sun safety in the workplace

Published 24 November 2014 | No comments
Written by CCS Best Practice Hub Administrator
Categories Charities/organisations Occupational health risks Weather protection
CategoriesCharities/organisations Occupational health risks Weather protection

Skcin are a skin cancer charity whose primary objectives are to raise awareness of skin cancer and promote the importance of sun safety and early detection through national educational initiatives and targeted campaigns. All of the funds they receive into the charity via corporate support and the generous donations made by fundraisers and members of the public, are ploughed back into…

Dangers of construction dust – HSE information sheet

Published 4 November 2014 | No comments
Written by CCS Best Practice Hub Administrator
Categories Dust Fumes Occupational health risks
CategoriesDust Fumes Occupational health risks

Active measures should be taken to minimise dust and fumes. Dust created by construction sites is one of the major causes of complaints from the public and local residents. Dust is also an occupational health hazard for the workforce. HSE have created an information sheet about construction dust and the related health risks. This includes examples of how to stop…

Training and updates regarding occupational health

Published 30 October 2014 | No comments
Written by CCS Best Practice Hub Administrator
Categories Counselling services Health screening Healthy lifestyle advice Stress
CategoriesCounselling services Health screening Healthy lifestyle advice Stress

Occupational health issues should be addressed by site management. Operatives should be made to feel supported and cared for in regard to their mental and physical health. Examples of training and updates provided for occupational health include: Many smaller sites have arranged for visits by a mobile unit, to carry out general and specific occupational health related screening; Occupational health facilities…

Reducing dust and dirt

Published 23 October 2014 | No comments
Written by CCS Best Practice Hub Administrator
Categories Debris Dust prevention Housekeeping Screening of facilities Tidiness
CategoriesDebris Dust prevention Housekeeping Screening of facilities Tidiness

The circulation of dust and dirt from a construction site often causes frustration and upset amongst the local community. To help reduce this, some site managers have implemented the following: Designated operatives were given responsibility for keeping specific areas of the site clean, tidy and dust free; perimeter dust levels were checked using hand held meters; At the end of…

Close case studies

Case studies

A-one+ has acknowledged the risks that over-exposure to UV radiation can have on their workforce. In response they launched a campaign to encourage their employees to stay safe in the sun. Click here to read more.
Galliford Try has focused on the importance of sun safety on site by using some of the resources supplied by IOSH’s ‘Stay Safe in the Sun’ campaign and issuing UVProtectA to their operatives and apprentices. The UVProtectA is a ventilated neck sun protector with a sweat headband which is worn under site helmets. To find out more, click here.
Land Securities has acknowledged the challenges facing the construction industry in making health a priority on site, click here to view how they are combating this issue.
Morgan Sindall produced a brochure to introduce the 6 Ss of summer working to identify the best ways for workers to protect themselves in the summer months. The brochure was sent to the homes of all employees to think about the risks in both the work and home situation. The brochure was also issued to a number of significant subcontractors to share the message. To view the brochure, click here.
VolkerWessels UK has provided an insight into how the issue of occupational cancers is addressed on their sites. To read more, click here.
Close law and legislation

Law and legislation

Occupational cancers are often included as part of the larger topic of health and safety at work, which is covered under legislation:

Health and Safety at Work Act (1974)

This Act is the primary piece of legislation covering occupational health and safety in the UK. This law provides a legal framework for controlling exposure to occupational carcinogens and holds the creator of any potential risk substances responsible for its control. 

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention No 139 (1977)

This aims to prevent occupational cancers by calling for the application of the following control measures: Removing carcinogens from the workplace; the use of less hazardous alternatives; designating specific areas at a distance from the main working areas or by removing workers from areas where hazardous operations are underway; general ventilation; damping down dust with water and PPE. 

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (1999)

These regulations require the employer to conduct a suitable assessment of the risks to the health of their workforce, including UV radiation. They further state that it is the responsibility of the employer to remove any risk. If this is not possible, other ways of preventing or reducing exposure must be identified, including protective equipment, and where protective equipment is required this must be supplied free of charge. 

The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Hierarchy (2002)

COSHH is the statutory instrument implementing the EU’s Directive on Control Substances Hazardous to Work. COSHH’s objective is to prevent or adequately control exposure to substances hazardous to health. 

Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) (2007)

REACH is a European Union regulation which aims:

  1. To provide a high level of protection of human health and the environment from the use of chemicals.
  2. To make the people who place chemicals on the market responsible for understanding and managing the risks associated with their use.
  3. To allow the free movement of substances on the EU market.
  4. To enhance innovation in and the competitiveness of the EU chemicals industry.
  5. To promote the use of alternative methods for the assessment of the hazardous properties of substances. 
The Control of Asbestos Regulations (2012)

These regulations address the control of asbestos in the workplace. 

Close External resources

External resources

There are a number of campaigns and resources available to help individuals understand the topic of occupational cancer, including guidance and practical advice to help safeguard the workforce:

Asbestos

Over 2,500 construction workers a year die from asbestos-related cancer (HSE, 2012).

  • Asbestos: The Truth Conference is held annually and is the UK’s only asbestos event, showcasing seminars and workshops. This event provides a platform for industry professionals to network, learn about changes to legislation and discover new solutions to support them in their roles.
  • The British Lung Foundation provide information on asbestos and its impact on the lungs, along with guidance on what to do if you have been exposed to asbestos.
    – BLF hosts Action Mesothelioma Day each July. This calls for greater investment in research and raises awareness of mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is a tumour of the mesothelium; this is the thin lining that covers the outer surface of most of the body’s organs.
  • HSE’s Beware Asbestos campaign helps tradespeople protect themselves from the dangers posed by asbestos. The campaign offers reference cards and a free Beware Asbestos web app to help individuals identify if asbestos is likely to be in their workplace, while also providing practical advice on how to protect themselves from the dangers and when and how to get experts involved.
  • IOSH’s asbestos resource pack provides factsheets, posters and presentations on the health hazards of asbestos exposure.

Diesel engine emissions

230 construction workers a year die from cancers (including lung and bladder) caused by exposure to diesel exhaust emissions (HSE, 2012)

  • The HSE provides a short leaflet outlining the hazards posed by diesel emissions and the precautions employers can take.
  • IOSH’s diesel exhaust resource pack provides factsheets, posters and presentations on the health hazards of diesel emissions.
  • Unite has an online register of diesel exhaust emissions for workers to report high levels of diesel exposure. Unite also offer downloadable posters and leaflets highlighting the dangers of diesel exposure. See their campaign page here.

Silica dust

600 construction workers a year die from cancers caused by silica (HSE, 2012)

  • The industry has collaborated to form the Construction Dust Partnership (CDP).  The partnership aims to raise awareness within the industry about the risks of lung disease related to hazardous workplace dust, while promoting good practice to prevent individuals undertaking such risks.
    – The CDP and IOSH published the findings of their industry survey into construction dust in 2014. Among the key findings were that When asked what priority they think the industry currently puts on the control of construction dust risks, 44% thought the industry puts ‘very little’ priority on the control of construction dust risks, and only 12.5% said they felt it was ‘a priority health issue’.
  • IOSH’s silica dust resource pack provides factsheets, posters and presentations on the health hazards of silica dust.
    – IOSH progress report into addressing silica – ‘Tackling respirable crystalline silica together: A cross-industry commitment’ was released in November 2017.

Solar radiation

7 construction workers a year die from cancers caused by exposure to solar radiation (HSE, 2012). The national figure, at 2,500, is much higher (Cancer Research UK, 2014).

  • ‘Slip, Slop, Slap!’ is a health campaign launched by Cancer Council Victoria in 1981 to encourage Australians to protect their skin. Over the years the message has been expanded to ‘Slip! Slop! Slap! Seek! Slide!’

What is the industry doing?

There are various organisations offering specific guidance to the industry in relation to dealing with occupational cancers.

  • The Scheme’s Code of Considerate Practice consists of five sections. The ‘Value their Workforce’ section focuses on how registered sites, companies and suppliers consider the health and wellbeing of their workforce, addressing occupational health risks, weather protection etc.
  • British Occupational Hygiene Society (BOHS) launched their Breathe Freely campaign to control exposures and prevent occupational lung disease in the construction industry. This campaign is a collaborative initiative led by BOHS to provide guidance, tools and resources that aid the recognition, evaluation and control of exposures in the workplace.
    – BOHS hosts an annual Occupational Hygiene conference which focuses on occupational hygiene and the prevention of occupational ill-health and disease. The conference brings together a range of experts, including, researchers, practitioners and regulators.
  • The BSIF (British Safety Industry Federation) has released a document ‘Tackling Work Related Respiratory Illnesses’ that covers changes to public health allocations, work related illnesses in Britain, local action plans and recommendations.
  • The CITB offers an Occupational Health Stay Well at Work course, consisting of six half day modules. The course aims to raise awareness of the potential health risks faced by construction workers, with a focus on skin and breathing.
  • Constructing Better Health (CBH) is a non-profit membership scheme dedicated to helping the construction industry achieve a fit and healthy workforce. CBH have provided a number of downloadable resources for use by the industry on a range of issues affecting the workforce, to find out more click here.
  • Health in Construction Leadership Group comprises contractors, clients, professional bodies and other industry organisations to unify the industry in its approach to worker health protection.
  • HSE carried out a site inspection initiative between September and October 2015 which revealed a misunderstanding of what occupational health actually means and how it should be incorporated properly, with more than 200 health-related enforcement notices issued. The initiative also uncovered that 46% of construction sites visited have been found responsible for poor standards or dangerous practices. In response, the HSE provided a guide written by CONIAC and IOSH to offer assistance with this issue: ‘Occupational health risk management in construction’.
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