Written By Sheerin Jafri / Reviewed By Ray Spotts
The term occupational cancer refers to cancer caused either partly or wholly by exposure to harmful substances or carcinogens at work. Carcinogens are agents or substances that can significantly increase the risk of developing cancer.
Some occupations pose a risk of developing cancer more than others, especially those that involved prolonged exposure to causative agents. With that said, it is necessary to identify the cause to reduce the risk of occupational cancer.
What factors increase the risk of occupational cancer?
The use of cancer-causing agents in the workplace or products that frequently come in contact with the workers is one of the leading causes of occupational cancer. Studies suggest that at least 100,000 deaths worldwide occur due to asbestos, a hazardous carcinogen responsible for one of the most lethal variants of lung cancer, mesothelioma.
Despite worldwide restrictions, asbestos is still commonly used - though in trace amounts - in the construction and automotive industries. Patients typically have a life expectancy between 12 to 24 months after diagnosis. However, it can take anywhere between 20 to 50 years to manifest as a full-blown condition.
Along with a high fatality rate, treatment can amount to a mountain of money. Employees often file a mesothelioma lawsuit against their employer to receive adequate compensation for treatment in the case of corporate negligence.
However, asbestos isn’t the only carcinogen that exposes employees to the risk of occupational cancer. Take a look at the following list of a few substances/conditions that can cause occupational cancer due to exposure:
- Skin cancers from overexposure to UV radiation from sunlight
- Bladder and lung cancers from diesel engine exhaust
- Melanoma of the eye and lung cancer due to welding
- Lung, skin, and bladder cancers from arsenic exposure
- Lung cancer from silica dust
- Sinonasal and nasopharynx cancers from wood dust found at construction sites
- Lung cancer from dioxins
- Lung cancer from naturally occurring radon
How can we reduce the risk of occupational cancer?
As per the Health and Safety Work Act, employers must ensure the welfare and health of employees. Fortunately, there are a few things both employers and employees can do to reduce the risk of occupational cancer.
Thorough risk assessment and management
Risk assessment and management help employers identify causative agents and employees with the highest levels of exposure. The risk management process at your workplace and the control of carcinogens should go hand in hand for reducing the risk of occupational cancer. In order to fully assess the risk:
- Identify the hazardous and harmful substances along with work conditions that increase exposure to these substances
- Decide which employees are at most risk
- Decide on precautions after evaluating the risk
- Record your results and implement them
- Review and update your assessment when necessary
By following regulations regarding carcinogens and implementing different risk control programs, industries and companies can significantly decrease the probability of an employee developing a serious long-term condition.
Reduce the occupational exposure to carcinogens
There is an evident relationship between the nature of carcinogens and the time of exposure. For instance, those with prolonged exposure to substances like asbestos, radiation, etc., are at a higher risk of developing cancer than those with limited exposure.
The main component in reducing the risk of occupational cancer is the control of carcinogens in the workplace. One way to do this is to introduce strict rules against the unregulated use of harmful substances and eliminate the use of globally banned substances. A few simple interventions such as the following can save thousands from unnecessary exposure:
- Providing high-quality protective gear to all employees
- Altogether banning the use of asbestos and switching to suitable alternatives
- Introducing technologies and benzene-free organic solvents for converting carcinogenic chromium into a non-carcinogenic form
- Prohibit the use of tobacco at the workplace to decrease the risk of lung cancer
Provide adequate education and training to employees
It is entirely possible to work safely around hazardous substances provided that employees know how to. To reduce the risk of being unnecessarily exposed, employers must provide their employees with appropriate training on work and safety-related SOPs.
Providing additional education can serve as a control method to help reduce the risk of occupational cancer significantly. For instance, workers must know beforehand about the hazardous materials they will be working with and the extent of the danger they might face.
Furthermore, employers must provide personal protective gear such as gloves, chemical protective clothing, respiratory protection, and goggles to their employees. Also, regular health checks and screenings can help to detect the early onset of cancerous developments in workers. It will help prevent conditions from worsening.
Working with hazardous products and carcinogens doesn’t mean a death sentence. Employers and employees can effectively reduce the risk of developing occupational cancer and other diseases by following proper safety guidelines and using protective equipment.
Employers should have a solid risk assessment and management process that ensures the health and safety of their employees. Moreover, employees have a moral responsibility to report any misconduct or negligence to ensure safety at the workplace.
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Sheerin Jafri is a creative and passionate blogger who loves to write on various trending topics. She looks forward to pursuing a career as a financial analyst and is keen to learn about business and lifestyle.
Founder Ray Spotts has a passion for all things natural and has made a life study of nature as it relates to health and well-being. Ray became a forerunner bringing products to market that are extraordinarily effective and free from potentially harmful chemicals and additives. For this reason Ray formed Trusted Health Products, a company you can trust for clean, effective, and healthy products. Ray is an organic gardener, likes fishing, hiking, and teaching and mentoring people to start new businesses. You can get his book for free, “How To Succeed In Business Based On God’s Word,” at www.rayspotts.com.