Progress made to tackle cancer risk from silica dust at work worldwide

Leading organisations from several business sectors shared how they have tackled cancer caused by exposure to respirable crystalline silica (RCS) at work, following a commitment made in 2016, as part of IOSH’s No Time to Lose campaign.

High-profile representatives from construction, rail and mineral products businesses, as well as professional bodies and academics, took part in the discussion hosted at the IOSH 2017 Conference at the International Convention Centre (ICC) in Birmingham today (21 November).

The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the progress made on the Tackling respirable crystalline together: a cross-industry commitment, which was launched after a discussion in 2016 as part of the silica phase of No Time to Lose.

No Time to Lose aims to raise awareness and understanding of occupational cancer and to help businesses manage the risks through education and the provision of helpful resources.

Silica dust is the second biggest cause of occupational cancer after asbestos. It is released when products such as bricks, tiles and concrete are worked on.

Around the world, millions of employees are exposed to silica dust. In Britain alone, around 800 people die every year from workplace exposure to RCS.

The 2016 commitment aimed to achieve three principal objectives – to work together to reduce exposure to RCS through effective monitoring and management of dust, to increase awareness and understanding of the potential health risks associated with exposure to RCS in order to change attitudes and behaviours, and to share good practice on the management of RCS across industry sectors.

Participants from partner organisations including the British Occupational Hygiene Society (BOHS), International Commission on Occupational Health (ICOH), Imperial College London, Institute of Occupational Medicine (IOM), Mineral Products Association (MPA), Network Rail, Office of Rail and Road (ORR), Park Health and Safety Partnership, Tideway, and the Workplace Safety and Health Institute in Singapore took part in the discussion.

Shelley Frost, IOSH Director of Strategic Development, said:

“It was fantastic to hear about the excellent work partners have done to tackle silica dust at work. There has been some new research, great resources and guidance, and case studies discussed in today’s session.

“We also talked about innovative ideas to move the work forward, which we’ll be developing plans around.

“We’re currently compiling a report on all the progress made by partners and will be communicating this soon through our various channels.”

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