IOSH President Elect: Let’s break ‘vicious cycle’ around work-related cancer

Occupational health professionals have a key part to play in organisations breaking the “vicious cycle” of work-related cancer, IOSH’s President Elect told members.

05 October 2015

Speaking at an occupational health seminar organised by IOSH’s East Midlands Branch, Dr Karen McDonnell said the knowledge and tools needed to protect employees from being exposed to carcinogens at work is out there.

Dr Karen McDonnell speaking at East Midlands Branch Health seminarShe highlighted the Institution’s No Time to Lose campaign, which is raising awareness of work-related cancers and providing practical advice which businesses can use to take preventative action.

“The campaign’s aim is to break the vicious cycle of occupational cancer,” Karen said.

“Every so often I am taken aback by the challenges that occupational health practitioners are facing.

The fact that occupation-attributable cancer is the fifth biggest cause of cancer behind lifestyle choices like smoking or diet is staggering.

“There are measures which can be put in place to tackle these issues. Through No Time to Lose we can assist you in addressing any issues that may be affecting your organisations.”

Five common work-related risk factors associated with cancer registrations and deaths are being brought into focus through No Time to Lose - diesel engine exhaust emissions, solar radiation, asbestos, silica dust and shift work.

The seminar, which took place at The Riverside Centre, Derby, on Thursday 1 October, also featured Chartered occupational hygienist Chris Keen. He highlighted occupational hygiene society BOHS’s Breathe Freely campaign to tackle work-related lung disease in the construction sector.

Karen said she hoped this, and other campaigns like No Time to Lose, could all help in achieving a “step-change” in mitigated risks associated with work-related cancers and other occupational health diseases.

She said: “If it means we don’t have to deal in 20 years’ time with the issues we do now, the campaigns will have achieved their aims.”

Chartered IOSH member Michelle Twigg, of Park Health & Safety Partnership, told delegates at the seminar that good occupational health practices can help organisations become more profitable and operationally effective.

Andrew Harris of Leicestershire-based social enterprise, The Fit for Work Team, also spoke about making workplace wellbeing “the norm” within an organisation.

IOSH East Midlands Branch intends to hold further seminars on hot topics within occupational safety and health elsewhere in the region in the future.

Branch Chair Colin Jenkinson said: “We wanted to put together a programme that really looked at some of the challenges faced by safety and health professionals around occupational disease.

“Failure to address these challenges can result in workers suffering illnesses which, at their worst, can be life-threatening or life-altering. Where the link between ill health and work is established, however, it is possible to prevent illnesses and disease from occurring.”

Contact Tim Walsh, IOSH Media Manager
+44 (0)116 257 3252
+44 (0)797 660 4715