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)
  • There were 2,446 mesothelioma deaths in 2018 due to past asbestos exposures (HSE 2020)
  • 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)
  • In 2018/19 there were 18,000 new cases of breathing and lung problems caused or made worse by work (Health & Safety International, 2020)
  • 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 the most 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. Emergency procedures should also be planned in the event that an operative is exposed to an excessive or dangerous level of hazardous substance.

  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. PPE is not a case of one size fits all, for example some respirators will not filter certain particulates. Therefore, consideration must be given as to whether the correct PPE is being used for the chemicals that operatives are being exposed to. Furthermore, it is also important to ensure PPE is routinely checked so damaged PPE can be disposed of and replaced.

  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:

Dirt and Dust Guidance

Published 3 September 2021 | No comments
Written by CCS Best Practice Hub Administrator
Categories Dust Workplace dust monitoring
CategoriesDust Workplace dust monitoring

Dirt and Dust – What is the problem?  Dirt and dust from construction work regularly impacts on members of the public, with dust in the summer months and mud in the winter, and at CCS they are regular causes for complaints we receive from the public. To support CCS-registered activity in tackling this issue and minimising the impact of dirt…

Sprinkler System to Control Dust

Published 7 April 2021 | No comments
Written by Larisa Noaca
Categories Dust
CategoriesDust

Construction dust can cause lung cancer, asthma, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and silicosis to name a few. Therefore workers are the most exposed to developing these diseases, because many common construction tasks can create a large amount of dust. Especially waste disposal and recycling processes can be responsible for this, and have adverse impact on primarily the workers’ health, but…

Portable Dust Extractor Air Mover

Published 26 January 2021 | No comments
Written by Lorraine Paterson
Categories Dust
CategoriesDust

The subcontractor have utilised a dust and fume risk management system called Hazpod, whilst conducting extensive internal and external renovation works on a restoration project. The work conducted would unavoidably produce large quantities of dust as the original lime plasters and external stone sections had to be removed and replaced. The SEN management team were keen to find a highly…

PowerCap Infinity Respiratory Protection

Published 7 September 2020 | No comments
Written by Gerard Newell
Categories PPE
CategoriesPPE

Dust in the workplace is a significant issue. Looking at the HSE figures (2017) we can see that 18,000 new cases of work related respiratory disease were diagnosed and significant proportion of these were a result of exposure to silica. The Ferrovial Construction KAD Substructure project has required and requires a number of operatives to perform activities where dust is…

Essential Workers Posters

Published 22 June 2020 | No comments
Written by Jordanna Crosswell
Categories Community engagement
CategoriesCommunity engagement

At our New Wakefield Street site in the City Centre of Manchester we asked our operatives to bring in posters from their children to thank all essential workers to display at our entrance on to site. We also included hardhat hanging baskets with our suppliers company names displayed. It was a great effort from the entire site.

Onsite UV Scanning for Occupational Cancer

Published 9 March 2020 | No comments
Written by CCS Best Practice Hub Administrator
Categories Access to health practitioners and counselling services Health risk assessments and monitoring
CategoriesAccess to health practitioners and counselling services Health risk assessments and monitoring

Employees working on the M1 J13-J16 Smart Motorway T3 project are able to have themselves checked for long term sun damage and cancer. These checks are conducted by an onsite nurse using a UV scanner. Where necessary, employees are also given guidance about whether they need to seek further advice. The process has identified a significant number of people who…

Protective Coveralls for Concrete Works

Published 24 February 2020 | No comments
Written by Sam Mayo
Categories PPE
CategoriesPPE

The BYUK Cavendish III Project supplies all workers involved in Concrete Production with disposable coveralls during Concrete Production Tasks, we do this because: Silica dust can enter within the body by inhalation (respiratory tracts) deep into the lungs and effects diseases such as:​ Respiratory failure due to fibrosis (silicosis) and Bronco-pulmonary cancer. Once concrete on clothes dries it turns to…

Skin Awareness Sessions

Published 4 November 2019 | No comments
Written by Jeff Mapps
Categories Coaching for unsafe actions Health risk assessments and monitoring
CategoriesCoaching for unsafe actions Health risk assessments and monitoring

Every day we are potentially exposed to contaminants and conditions that can be harmful to your skin (both inside and outside of the work environment). Many in the construction industry will spend most of their working day outside in all types of weather. The A465 Head of the Valleys Section 2 Project recently ran an informative and engaging Skin Care…

British Safety Council’s Time to Breathe Campaign

Published 13 June 2019 | No comments
Written by CCS Best Practice Hub Administrator
Categories Coaching for unsafe actions Consultation on health and safety Health risk assessments and monitoring
CategoriesCoaching for unsafe actions Consultation on health and safety Health risk assessments and monitoring

In March 2019, the British Safety Council launched their Time to Breathe campaign, which aims to raise awareness of the dangers of ambient air pollution to outdoor workers. As the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) currently does not provide guidance on the risk of ambient air pollution, Time to Breathe is calling for HSE to recognise expose to ambient air…

Hollow Drill Bits

Published 19 May 2017 | No comments
Written by Andrew Kinsey
Categories Dust
CategoriesDust

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 Display CCS registration materials Mental health Modern slavery training Random substance testing Signage
CategoriesDisplay CCS registration materials Mental health Modern slavery training Random substance testing Signage

Spotlight on… posters have been designed for general display in and around site welfare facilities. The Scheme has developed 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 purchase these products, click here. To download a free electronic…

Construction Workers Reminded to Stay Sun Safe on Site

Published 19 September 2016 | No comments
Written by CCS Best Practice Hub Administrator
Categories Health risk assessments and monitoring
CategoriesHealth risk assessments and monitoring

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…

Spotlight on… campaign flyers

Published 22 June 2016 | No comments
Written by CCS Best Practice Hub Administrator
Categories Display CCS registration materials Mental health Modern slavery training Random substance testing Reduced use of single use plastics
CategoriesDisplay CCS registration materials Mental health Modern slavery training Random substance testing Reduced use of single use plastics

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 amongst…

Emergency Asbestos Kit

Published 2 June 2016 | No comments
Written by Liam Byrnes
Categories Emergency preparedness
CategoriesEmergency preparedness

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 Dust
CategoriesDust

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 Health risk assessments and monitoring Support for local charities
CategoriesHealth risk assessments and monitoring Support for local charities

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 | 2 comments
Written by CCS Best Practice Hub Administrator
Categories Access to health practitioners and counselling services Consultation on health and safety Health risk assessments and monitoring
CategoriesAccess to health practitioners and counselling services Consultation on health and safety Health risk assessments and monitoring

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…

Controlling Dust

Published 20 October 2015 | No comments
Written by Monika De Kock
Categories Dust Trip hazard prevention
CategoriesDust Trip hazard prevention

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 Health risk assessments and monitoring Induction and training Toolbox talks and daily briefings Workforce
CategoriesHealth risk assessments and monitoring Induction and training Toolbox talks and daily briefings Workforce

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 Dust
CategoriesDust

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 Respirable Crystalline Silica (RCS) which can damage the gas exchange part of the lungs…

On Site Breathe Easy Training

Published 4 September 2015 | No comments
Written by Adam Cannon
Categories Consultation on health and safety Health risk assessments and monitoring
CategoriesConsultation on health and safety Health risk assessments and monitoring

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…

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 Health risk assessments and monitoring PPE
CategoriesHealth risk assessments and monitoring PPE

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…

Minimising operatives’ exposure to the sun

Published 28 July 2015 | No comments
Written by CCS Best Practice Hub Administrator
Categories PPE
CategoriesPPE

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…

Breathe Freely: Preventing Lung Disease in Construction Workers

Published 13 July 2015 | No comments
Written by Sharon Brunt
Categories Dust Health risk assessments and monitoring Toolbox talks and daily briefings
CategoriesDust Health risk assessments and monitoring Toolbox talks and daily briefings

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,…

HSE Beware Asbestos Campaign

Published 30 June 2015 | No comments
Written by CCS Best Practice Hub Administrator
Categories Consultation on health and safety Controls Induction and training Inspection and assurance Toolbox talks and daily briefings
CategoriesConsultation on health and safety Controls Induction and training Inspection and assurance Toolbox talks and daily briefings

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…

Macmillan World’s Biggest Coffee Morning

Published 16 April 2015 | No comments
Written by CCS Best Practice Hub Administrator
Categories Support for local charities
CategoriesSupport for local charities

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 Dust Periodic inspection and clean-up of boundaries
CategoriesDust Periodic inspection and clean-up of boundaries

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 Support for local charities
CategoriesSupport for local charities

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…

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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.
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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:

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 Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations (1992)

Under these regulations, employers are responsible for providing personal protective equipment (PPE) to the workforce, free of charge.

It is important to remember that PPE should only be used as a last resort, where exposure to risks cannot be adequately controlled otherwise.

The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations (1994)

These regulations affirm that organisations in the construction industry must ensure that health and safety risks are fully considered during a project’s development so that the risk of harm to those who have to build, use and maintain structures is limited.

The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (1998) 

These regulations require equipment provided for use at work, including PPE, is adequately maintained. Employers must ensure that individuals who operate the work equipment have information, training and instruction to safeguard their health and safety.

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. 

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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:

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.
  • Unite the Union has recently launched a ‘Silica Dust Register‘, which is an online register for workers who have been exposed to the substance to register their exposure and to assist with any potential future legal cases should they experience long-term health problems. To find out more, click here.

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.
  • 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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