Studies Put Occupational Cancer Dangers In Spotlight

Legal Expert Calls On Employers To Recognise Duty To Keep Workers Safe From Risks


By Rob Dixon

A workplace illness lawyer has given his backing to two recent studies from New Zealand, which have highlighted a number of known carcinogens most likely to cause occupational cancers.

One of the studies indicated that there are more than 50 known human carcinogens which are commonly present within workplaces. Among the most common of these are asbestos, benzene, formaldehyde, involuntary smoking, wood dust, solar radiation and occupational exposures such as a painter.

The Massey study, funded by the Health Research Council states that “technical interventions such as employers providing workplaces with good ventilation and exhaust outlets, as well as promoting good cleaning standards, could result in greater reductions”.

A further study commissioned by the International Agency for Research on Cancer indicates there are many opportunities to reduce the burden of occupational cancers in New Zealand, which have been estimated to be between 200 and 400 deaths a year.

In addition to this, investigations have been carried out into occupational asthma in sawmill workers, the neurotoxic effects of occupational solvents exposure in the spray-painting industry and investigations into workplace cancer in the agricultural sector and among meat workers.

The results and findings of these studies have been welcomed by Irwin Mitchell’s workplace illness team, which actively campaigns to raise awareness of these conditions and helps victims and the families of those who have died as a result of such diseases to gain justice.

Alex Shorey, an industrial disease based in the firm’s Birmingham office, commented: “These surveys highlight the high levels of risk faced by employees every day.

“The most commonly exposed workers should not be overlooked and specific training needs to be provided to raise awareness of these risks. Greater emphasis must also be placed on the standard and adequacy of personal protective equipment made available to workers.

“Through our work, we see numerous cases where people have either developed long-term illnesses or died as a result of conditions they have developed, as a result of safety failings in the workplace. Employers have a duty to keep their staff protected from harm and it is vital that health and safety becomes a priority.”

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