IOSH - Raising awareness of occupational cancer 2

IOSH – Raising awareness of occupational cancer

  A number of years ago I lost a friend and colleague to melanoma. He was unlucky. Most of us know that we need to watch out for dark lesions on our skin particularly if we have fair skin and a history of sunburns. Unfortunately he had one of the less than 1% of melanomas that have no pigment; by the time that it was diagnosed it had already spread. Melanoma though not the most common type of skin cancer is the deadliest.   0a4ada28b2259f7e69d83a04624372201 IOSH - Raising awareness of occupational cancer  

Raising awareness of occupational cancer

I recently had the great honour of delivering the keynote address to the Desmond South Munster branch of IOSH (Institute of Occupational Safety and Health). IOSH is the biggest health and safety membership organisation in the world, and also the only Chartered body for health and safety professionals. I was delighted to be asked to speak at the launch in Ireland of the IOSH ‘No Time to Lose’ campaign, which seeks to raise awareness of occupational cancer.
Accidents and injuries are more visible but did you know that 44 times more people die from occupational cancer than from accidents?
It’s the biggest cause of workplace death. Worldwide there are 100,000 asbestos deaths every year. IOSH has been sponsoring research in this area-last November they released a report on the risk of cancer from diesel fume-in Europe 4,500 die each year from lung and bladder cancer linked to diesel fumes.   Helmet_CMYK IOSH - Raising awareness of occupational cancer    

Solar Radiation

The most recent research report is on melanoma and solar radiation. Skin cancers are common and many are linked to exposure to solar radiation. It will come as no surprise that outdoor workers are particularly at risk as they are exposed to 90% more solar radiation than indoor workers.
Did you know that 90% of all skin cancer deaths could be prevented if exposure to the sun was controlled?

So what should employers do?

Well for a start they should take this risk seriously particularly at this time of the year. They should ask themselves some questions:
  • Do any of our employees work outside on a regular basis?
  • Are any of our workers exposed to higher levels of solar radiation for significant periods of time, especially when the UV index is highest?
  • Are any of our workers unprotected from the effects of solar radiation?
If the answer to any of these questions is yes then there may be a risk and control measures should be considered. As with most occupational hazards personal protective equipment should not be the first line of prevention. However in the case of solar radiation it will typically form a significant part of the overall prevention and control programme. This personal protective equipment would include appropriate wide brimmed hats, loose fitting tops with long sleeves and light colouring, appropriate sunglasses or where eye protection must be worn ensuring that the glass has appropriate UV filtration. It goes without saying that you should check with your supplier that the PPE does what it is meant to do and it has the appropriate levels of protection. Suncream may also be useful but make sure that it has at least 30 SPF, is water resistant and that workers are advised to reapply regularly during the day and at least 30 minutes before going in the sun. It should not be used alone however and is best used with the other protective measures listed above. maxresdefault IOSH - Raising awareness of occupational cancer   Lastly it’s essential that workers at risk receive appropriate information and training about the risks from the sun, the protective measures that they can take and also the early warning signs in particular for melanoma but also for other skin cancer. This will include giving them instruction on the ABCDE of melanoma. In general you need to watch for Asymmetry, irregular Borders, irregular Colouring, Diameter greater than 6 mm and Evolution over time. Any of these features should trigger a referral to dermatology.   harbour-cranes-682803_1920 IOSH - Raising awareness of occupational cancer   As solar radiation is a class one carcinogen according to IARC then employers who have workers at risk should really implement health surveillance programs. These should include self inspection backed up by periodic inspection by a healthcare professional so that any unusual or abnormal looking lesions can be dealt with at an early stage. Take a look at my presentation slides for more information and please get in contact if occupational cancer is a concern for you as an employer.   John  
EHA Consulting

To contact us...


Cognate Health, Ground Floor, Block B Heritage Business Park Mahon Industrial Estate, Blackrock, Cork, , Republic of Ireland

We have a network of approved occupational physicians throughout Ireland.


1890 989 322 or +353214536040 from outside Republic of Ireland .