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World Cancer Day

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British Safety Council marks World Cancer Day by urging employers to implement sensible controls to manage workplace carcinogen exposure.

The British Safety Council is supporting the aims of World Cancer Day (4th February 2014), which forms part of the wider campaign to significantly reduce premature deaths from cancer and improve the quality of life for cancer sufferers and cancer survival rates. Research has shown that occupational cancer remains a key health issue. The risks from exposure to carcinogens in the workplace can be minimised through proportionate, effective risk management.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) estimates that past occupational exposure to carcinogens currently accounts for 1 in 20 cancer deaths in Great Britain. HSE also estimates that 8,000 of 13,000 deaths each year from work-related diseases are attributable to cancer. Research has further highlighted that the construction sector accounts for just under half of the estimated cases of occupational cancer in Great Britain.

The British Safety Council urges all businesses and employers to be alert to the hazards that carcinogens pose and put in place the measures necessary to prevent exposure. Leading occupational cancer expert Dr Lesley Rushton of Imperial College London, said: “Thinking about the new generation, it’s very hard to say to the workforce it’s too late because of course it isn’t. We know for example if you stop smoking your risk of smoking-related disease goes down, so it’s not too late to help prevent some of these diseases.”

Neal Stone, policy and communications director at the British Safety Council, said: “We are committed to continue our work with our construction sector members, who account for one-fifth of our membership, to build greater awareness of the risks posed by carcinogens and most importantly share our knowledge to prevent future exposure. We are working to ensure our members are kept up to date with research in this area to assist them in devising effective intervention strategies.”

Neal added: “More broadly, the British Safety Council promotes the principle of good leadership in health and safety to ensure that occupational health remains as much in the corporate mindset as much as safety. We will continue to play our part in disseminating information to businesses to help them develop their knowledge in general or specific to their sectors, through our sector interest groups and our regular publication Safety Management. We will continue to make the case concerning the social and business benefits that proportionate and sensible health and safety interventions deliver.”

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