IOSH: Don’t ignore work cancer risks during pandemic

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Employers should not lose sight of the risks posed by carcinogens at work while they focus on minimising Covid-19 risks, the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) has urged.

Ahead of World Cancer Day on 4 February, IOSH’s vice-president Neil Catton advised organisations to continue to do as much as possible to look after the health of their people and called upon employees to ensure they took necessary precautions.

IOSH is encouraging its members, businesses and individuals to help raise awareness of work-related cancers, which claim at least 742,000 lives a year worldwide.

In a moving video, Catton shared the story of his father George Catton, who spent the last 25 years of his life suffering with work-related illnesses.

George Catton, who died at the age of 80, was a builder and carpenter and as a young worker was exposed to asbestos, which eventually led to asbestosis.

He also developed skin cancers, which had to be cut out of his skin every year, because builders at the time did not wear sunhats and regularly took their shirts off in the sun.

He also had tinnitus from using power tools without ear protection, and a crumbling spine. Witnessing his father’s ill health was what motivated Catton to become a safety professional.

He told employers: “Look after your people, don’t damage their health through work. It’s not just about the [minimising the change of an] incident or accident where somebody dies. If we deprive people of quality of life over a period of time, we’ve essentially done the same thing.”

Catton also issued a message to all workers: “Please do protect your health. You don’t know what you’re storing up in the long term and it will catch up with you. Life’s about time and quality of time.”

IOSH’s No Time to Lose campaign provides free practical resources to help employers manage carcinogens including asbestos, silica dust, solar radiation and diesel fumes.

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