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    Construction sector remains top priority for HSE on cancer and COPD

    The HSE Board is set (5th March) to review the HSE approach to occupational disease and endorse the ongoing work and support the new initiatives to “capitalise on the growing engagement of others” on health risks.

    Construction remains one of the top priorities for HSE in relation to occupational cancer and respiratory disease, with exposure to asbestos and other dusts, primarily respirable crystalline silica (RCS).

    HSE Construction Division has appointment of a dust partnership manager to build on what has already been achieved in promoting dust messages.

    Links with the Construction Industry Advisory Committee (CONIAC) have been strengthened and the March 2014 agenda will be dedicated to taking forward the health agenda.

    HSE believe that “there are signs that this approach is having an effect” with proposals for interventions to support the UK Contractors Group’s “Bin the Broom” campaign and Working Well Together groups highlighting dust messages and controls at events across the country in the coming year.

    Further opportunities are also being identified through the Construction Industrial Strategy 2025 and thought given on how we can target ‘hard to reach’ audiences.

    Occupational cancer

    A study looking at the burden of occupational cancer in GB provided an updated estimate of the current burden of occupational cancer due to exposure to cancer causing agents that occurred in the past and explores the future cancer burden due to occupation.

    The priority agents/occupations include those relevant to construction:

    Respiratory disease

    Work-related respiratory disease covers a range of illnesses that are caused or made worse by breathing in hazardous substances that damage the lungs such as dusts, fumes and gases. The most prevalent of these diseases are chronic obstructive airways disease (COPD), asthma and silicosis. Construction workers are linked to a high incidence and greater risk of respiratory disease.

    In a recent speech HSE Chair Judith Hackitt said:

    “While the number of workplace fatalities continues to drop – the number of people dying prematurely each year because of occupational disease remains a huge problem. Past exposures to harmful substances at work cause over an estimated 12,000 deaths per year.

    Occupational disease is high on HSE’s agenda and we’re committed to reducing these numbers. We are continuing to focus our interventions working with industry stakeholders, targeted inspection initiatives and awareness raising initiatives.”

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