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Occupational Disease - A Big Problem

Know more about Occupational Disease facts in detail how to tackle the burden of occupational disease and novel ideas for new approaches. And the work going on by public, private and third sector organisations in uk to tackle occupational disease.

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Tackling occupational ill health

Occupational disease is a big issue: a life-altering experience for some, a life-ending illness for others.  But by working together, we can create healthier, efficient workplaces. This occupational disease community site, is designed to encourage the promotion and exchange of ideas and initiatives for tackling occupational ill health. Many serious occupational diseases also have a long period of “latency”, some up to 30 years, between exposure and development of ill health or disease, making the links even more difficult to establish. However, where the link is established and exposure can be measured, then interventions and activities aimed at raising awareness and creating behavioural change can work to reduce exposures and prevent ill health and disease. 


A new report on the future of occupational health by the Council for Work and Health (CWH). The report, Planning the Future: Delivering a Vision of Good Work and Health in the UK for the Next 5–20 Years and the Professional Resources to Deliver It, points out that workplaces are environments where most people spend most of their working age life and that work and the workplace are responsible for a number of acute and chronic health conditions and absences from work.

It highlights the following key statistics:

  • In 2011/12, there were 212,000 over-3-day absence injuries and 27 million working days lost due to work-related illness and injury
  • In the same year, a total of 1.1 million working people were considered to suffer from a work-related illness, with around 450,000 new cases of occupation-related ill health being reported annually
  • 13,000 deaths & 450,000 new cases each year(estimated) • have been caused by past exposures at work, mainly to chemicals and dusts.
  • Cost to society – estimated to be around ‘double figure’billions •
  • Wide spread of diseases and industries •
  • HSE priorities: cancer and respiratory disease



Key strategic themes highlighted in the report include:

  • Using the workplace to improve health and wellbeing
  • Preventing work-related illness
  • Delivering integrated care – particularly to those with long-term conditions
  • Managing sickness absence.

The report represents the conclusions from the initial stages of the project. The next stages of the project will look at service delivery models, knowledge, and the competencies of practitioners and anticipated workforce requirements.

Launching the report, the Society of Occupational Medicine (SOM), a member organisation of the CWH, said the report made “a compelling case” for the development and repositioning of occupational health.

Construction Health Summit in London

It was organised by the Health in Construction Leadership Group, a recently-established collaborative group comprising contractors, clients, HSE, professional bodies, trade associations and trade unions.

IOSH is an active member of the group, which aims to unite the construction industry to eliminate the risk of workers contracting health problems.

IOSH was among the organisations at the inaugural Construction Health Summit in London, which was held to address the shocking statistic that deaths as a result of occupational disease are 100 times more likely than deaths by accidents.

Occupational cancer in the construction industry, for example, currently accounts for over 40% of cancer deaths and registrations in the workplace. The most significant cause of these cancers is exposure to asbestos (70%) and silica (17%).

IOSH is currently raising awareness about work-related cancer with its No Time to Lose campaign. More than 60 organisations across the world, including some major construction firms, have made a pledge to do what they can to reduce workers’ exposure potentially-harmful carcinogens.

The summit, was held on 21 January 2016,  explored what can be done to address other causes of ill health. These include breathing and lung problems caused by exposure to dust and diesel emissions; dermatitis caused by hazardous substances; ill health caused by noise and vibration as well as back injuries and upper limb disorders.

Drive to tackle the issue of occupational disease

The Health and Safety Executive has launched a new drive to tackle the issue of occupational disease in the UK – something that could be aided by personal protection equipment.
Personal protection equipment (PPE) is aimed at safeguarding workers against occupational hazards, helping to cut the rate of injury and illness among employees across the country.
However, approximately 450,000 new cases of occupational-related ill-health are reported each year in the UK – a figure the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is keen to see reduced.
About 12,000 or more premature deaths are caused each year through past exposure to harmful substances – tragedies which could have been avoided had the correct dust monitoring equipment or PPE been in place at the time.

Government, employers and the Health and Safety Executive are consigning thousands of workers to occupational cancer by their ‘3 monkeys’ approach to ‘tackling’ occupational disease.

Traditional approaches to try and regulate the amount of exposure to certain chemicals in occupational and environmental settings are unworkable in light of what we know about chemicals which interfere with our endocrine systems (the body’s messenger system).  These endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) are intrinsically linked with cancer and act singularly and in combination to increase the risk of breast and other cancers.

WHO estimates that as much as 24% of human diseases and disorders are at least partly due to environmental factors including chemical exposures. The WHO/UNEP report on the State of the Science for Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals  states: “Many endocrine diseases and disorders are on the rise and the speed at which they are increasing rules out genetic factors as the sole plausible explanation” 

Recent research (Breast Cancer Risk in Relation to Occupations with Exposure to Carcinogens and Endocrine Disruptors) Environmental Health 11(87) (2012): 1-17, doi: 10.1186/1476-069X-11-87) highlighting excesses of breast cancer in occupations such as agricultural, automotive plastics, and food canning industries found women workers had elevated breast cancer risk, up to 5 times higher than the controls in certain sectors such as automotive plastics  

And yet another paper on the issue stated: “Primary prevention of cancer of environmental and occupational origin reduces cancer incidence and mortality, and is highly cost effective; in fact, it is not just socially beneficial because it reduces medical and other costs, but because it avoids many human beings suffering from cancer.

This occupational disease community site is intended to encourage organisations to get involved in reducing the burden of occupational disease and, in particular, share their approaches and knowledge in this regard. The primary focus of this occupational disease community is on promoting initiatives aimed at reducing the incidence of occupational cancer (from all routes of exposure) and respiratory diseases (including asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and silicosis).

By ellegonzalez on 09 Aug 2016 11:20. Last Modified by ellegonzalez on 28 Sep 2016 11:21