No Time to Lose showcased at Austria cancer conference

Ministers and policy makers from across Europe heard how IOSH’s No Time to Lose (NTTL) campaign is tackling occupational cancer globally, at the ‘Fight against Occupational Cancer Conference’ in Vienna, Austria.

The conference took place on 24-25 September 2018 at the Austria Center Vienna and was organised by the Austrian Presidency of the Council of the European Union.

The event aimed to provide an overview of the current challenges and ongoing initiatives to tackle occupational cancer, showcase good practices companies can implement to prevent carcinogenic exposures, and organise workshops to discuss the latest developments and awareness-raising measures.

Dr Jukka Takala, President of the International Commission on Occupational Health (ICOH) said in the European Union (EU), around 106,000 people die from occupational cancer a year. Globally, the disease claims 742,000 lives annually, with asbestos being the most serious carcinogen killing over 200,000 people each year.

Austria’s Minister of Labour, Social Affairs, Health and Consumer Protection Beate Hartinger-Klein, highlighted that work-related cancer claims 20,000 lives a year in Austria – four times the number of deaths from road traffic accidents.

Head of Cabinet of Commissioner Thyssen for the European Commission, Inge Bernaerts, said small businesses are at most risk of exposure to carcinogens. SMEs make up 95% of all enterprises in the EU.

Tamara Van Ark, Netherlands Minister of Social Affairs and Employment, stated occupational cancer is the biggest cause of deaths in Europe. There are 50 workplace carcinogens and a lot of work is being carried out to review and set new occupational exposure limits (OELs) and share good practice to prevent exposure.

IOSH President and Head of Corporate Safety at MTR Corporation Dr Vincent Ho, presented on how NTTL pledge signatories and supporters are using tailored campaign resources to tackle occupational cancer in a workshop which aimed to showcase good practice to prevent and control carcinogenic exposures at work.

He highlighted that more than 100 businesses have pledged to take action to prevent exposure to carcinogens and over 250 organisations in 33 countries around the world have supported NTTL and have committed to raising awareness of occupational cancer through their communications channels.

Dr Ho explained how his company, MTR Corporation, signed up to the NTTL pledge and the approaches it has used to raise awareness of occupational cancer and prevent exposure.

He said: “The strategy included several steps including commitment from the top boss, finding a champion, engaging the supply chain and contractors, informing workers and families of the risks and control measures, generating positive media coverage, and influencing enforcement departments.

“We translated the NTTL materials into Chinese and distributed them at our annual Contactors’ Safety Conference where over 450 senior leaders of companies within our supply chain attended.

“We also provide training for our 140 contractors’ safety managers on how to manage and prevent harmful exposures in the workplace. We give free health screening on site for up to 2,000 workers, and we have nurses available at our construction site to give advice and monitor health controls.”

Dr Ho also gave examples of IOSH working with NTTL supporters to raise awareness of occupational cancer in Europe and reach high-risk workers including small businesses and young people.

He highlighted IOSH’s collaboration with the Center for Safety and Health at Work in Bulgaria to adapt and translate the campaign’s free silica dust materials into Bulgarian, which were distributed at 13 ‘clubs’ in the country; the Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineers (CIPHE) to raise awareness of asbestos-related cancer to young plumbing students by developing a NTTL presentation tailored for students at a college earlier this year; and the UK’s National Federation of Roofing Contractors (NFRC) to highlight the risks of asbestos exposure to workers who replace old roofs by co-branding resources, presenting the campaign at its Contractors Day, and helping with the development of e-learning materials to reach roofers.

Vincent concluded saying: “Through good partnership work with hundreds of safety and health professionals, managers and dedicated staff at organisations worldwide, together we’re making a difference.”

“Practical changes and workplace improvements our pledge signatories put in place, and high profile advocacy by our supporters, ensure No Time to Lose raises awareness and begins to make positive impacts worldwide.”

“No Time to Lose has also achieved significant media coverage reaching 67 million people worldwide, more than 130,000 visitors have also explored the campaign website, and over 82,000 resources have been downloaded.”

In the workshop, other organisations also shared their initiatives on tackling occupational cancer.

Laurie Hermans from TNO provided an update on the activities under the ‘Roadmap on Carcinogens’. She said since the Roadmap was launched in 2016 it has achieved 1,000 friends, has been presented at 64 events and has reached more than half of Europe. It has developed factsheets, a poster, an animation and a presentation kit.

Elke Schneider from the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) presented the ‘Healthy Workplaces Manage Dangerous Substances’ campaign. She highlighted the findings of their survey among focal points on their activities related to carcinogens and said out of the 20 respondents, 13 had officially subscribed to the Roadmap on Carcinogens, 10 are translating the roadmap factsheets, and 15 are organising events related to carcinogens.

Joanne Telfer at CAREX Canada explained the CAREX research which found that in Canada 1,500,000 are exposed to solar radiation; 897,000 to diesel engine exhaust emissions; and 382,000 to silica dust. She explained how the CAREX estimates inform policy, including a proposed ban on asbestos, silica regulations and a proposed diesel occupational exposure limit.

Stefan Olsen from the European Commission concluded the conference saying fighting occupational cancer is a real priority in the EU, but we need to prioritise which carcinogens we focus on at EU level. We need to consider how we support SMEs and give life to the ‘Roadmap on Carcinogens’ to help share solutions. The new OELs will create a level playing field in the EU, however they are only indicative, we all need to take measures to protect workers from carcinogens by focusing on solutions.

To find out how you can get involved in IOSH’s No Time to Lose campaign and to download free practical resources to prevent occupational cancer, go to www.notimetose.org.uk.

To get involved in EU-OSHA’s Healthy Workplaces Manage Dangerous Substances campaign, visit www.iosh.co.uk/healthyworkplaces

To find out more about the Roadmap on Carcinogens visit www.roadmaponcarcinogens.eu