WHILE ATTENTION is focused on the health risks associated with Covid-19, the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) is reminding businesses not to lose sight of the risks posed by carcinogens at work.
As IOSH marks World Cancer Day on 4 February, IOSH Vice-President Neil Catton draws from personal experience to highlight the impact of workplace cancer on family life.
In a moving video posted online, Neil tells the story of his father, who was a builder and carpenter. When George Catton died at the age of 80 he had been a husband for over 57 years, a father to four and a grandfather to nine.
As a young worker, he had been exposed to asbestos, eventually leading to asbestosis. And, because builders at the time used to work with their hats and shirts off in the sun, in later life he had to have skin cancers cut out of his skin every year.
He also had tinnitus, from using power tools without the proper protection – and a crumbling spine. Neil explains that for the last 25 years of his life his father had illness, pain and constant suffering – all caused by his work.
His grandchildren never knew him without him suffering some illness. He was unable to play football with them or go for long walks, because of his exposure to carcinogens and other hazards at work. Witnessing his father’s ill health was what motivated Neil to become a safety professional.
Powerful health message
He sends a simple but powerful and heartfelt message to employers: “Look after your people, don’t damage their health through work.”
And to all workers: “Please do protect your health. You don’t know what you’re storing up in the long term and it will catch up with you.”
“Life’s about time and quality of time”, he says. “It’s not just about the incident or accident where somebody dies. If we deprive people of quality of life over a period of time, we’ve essentially done the same thing.”
IOSH’s No Time to Lose campaign provides free practical resources to help businesses manage dangerous carcinogens including asbestos, silica dust, solar radiation and diesel fumes in the workplace.