Middle East businesses encouraged to sign occupational cancer campaign pledge

Organisations across the Middle East were today (Wednesday 27 April) encouraged to sign up to a campaign to tackle work-related cancer.

27 April 2016

The Institution of Occupational Safety and Health’s (IOSH) No Time to Lose campaign is seeking to raise awareness of cancer-causing carcinogens in workplaces and provide advice on how to control exposure to them.

IOSH’s president Dr Karen McDonnell

Delegates at IOSH’s annual Middle East Conference heard about some of the steps their organisations can take to protect millions of workers.

IOSH’s president Dr Karen McDonnell told the conference that exposure to silica dust can cause lung cancer.

It is estimated by Dr Jukka Takala and Boon Kiat Tan, of Singapore’s Workplace Safety and Health Institute, that more than 940,000 people are exposed to silica dust at work in the Middle East every year. About 250 people die every year from lung cancer caused by silica dust exposure.

Silica is a natural substance found in stone, rocks, sand and clay, as well as materials like bricks, tiles, concrete and some plastic composites.

It is safe if left alone, however certain tasks can release silica dust which can be harmful if breathed in – with the potential to cause lung cancer, silicosis, emphysema and bronchitis.

Work activities such as laying ballast, sweeping up, cutting concrete, bricklaying, tunnelling and stone working can create silica dust.

Karen told conference delegates: “It is estimated that 666,000 people die every year from a work-related cancer. This is equal to one death every 47 seconds. Is this acceptable? No, it is not. That is why at IOSH we have been taking action.

“We can beat occupational cancer if we work together to control the exposure risks. Whether you’re an employer or employee, industry body or policy-maker, safety and health professional or occupational hygienist, we all have a part to play if we want to call time on work-caused cancers.

“We’ve developed a pledge, which is a practical action plan that you can customise to suit your business. We’d encourage you to sign up to this – we know that if enough responsible businesses join our pledge group, then others will follow.”

The campaign offers free practical advice and resources for organisations to enable them to protect workers.

Seventy-four businesses have made a pledge to the campaign. They include Al Hammadi Hospital in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

The conference was the seventh held by the institution in the Middle East and focused on the theme leadership in action. About 100 delegates attended the event at the Grand Hyatt in Muscat, Oman. The event was held under the patronage of the Ministry of Manpower.

Speakers discussed health and safety in industries such as oil and gas, while systems for managing working at height were highlighted.

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