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    HSE SHARPENS FOCUS ON OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH

    Construction sector central to regulator health strategy

    HSE has launched new occupational disease web pages and an online community site as a way to encourage “the promotion and exchange of ideas and the generation of novel initiatives”.

    The initiative is prompted by the 2011/12 statistics from which HSE estimate:

    • 1.1 million working people suffering from a work-related illness;
    • around 450,000 new cases of occupational related ill-health; and
    • a further estimated 12,000 deaths each year caused by past exposures to harmful substances at work.

    The HSE will focus on two key priority areas:

    This is because there are potentially lots of workers likely to be exposed or there is evidence of a high incidence rate of disease. More information on these two priority areas can be found on the cancer priorities page or the respiratory disease priority page.

    Health risks in the construction sector

    There is a high incidence of respiratory problems experienced by construction workers, with the main cause being exposure to dusts and respirable crystalline silica (RCS) resulting in silicosis.

    Other prevalent respiratory diseases amongst construction workers are COPD and asthma. The key activities where exposures occur include:

    • kerb/paving/block-cutting
    • stone masonry/stone floor laying
    • tunnelling/demolition and chasing out/re-pointing.

    Partnership groups have been formed to design and implement initiatives to tackle RCS exposure. These groups are composed of trade associations, professional organisations, suppliers and vocational training organisations that represent the cross-section of industries where risks from exposure to silica are present.

    The HSE occupational cancer priorities also feature significantly within the construction sector.

    The occupational disease community site

    HSE states that the Occupational Disease Community site provides a way for organisations to promote the work that they are undertaking to tackle the burden of occupational disease and for others to generate novel ideas for new approaches.

    The site provides information on the methods and materials that have been developed by a range of organisations to raise awareness and create behavioural change in the workplace. These materials are freely available for all to view on the site.

    A discussion forum is also available whereby users can seek ideas, exchange views and ask questions on developing and delivering interventions to tackle occupational disease.

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