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Workers Memorial Day

Published: 7/5/15

Workers’ Memorial Day is held throughout the world on 28 April to commemorate workers who have died as a result of the work that they do. Every year many thousands die from on the job exposure to various perils. This year’s theme, Removing Exposure to Hazardous Substances in the Workplace has been made to highlight the dangers of chemical-related hazards, such as asbestos, and other potentially hazardous biological exposures. Hazardous substances are found in almost every workplace in the UK and many workers have no protection against possible effects despite the fact that, because of exposures, tens of thousands of workers have their health destroyed by asthma, dermatitis, lung disorders and cancers.

One of the Deadliest Killers

A new study commissioned by the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) revealed that many of the people in the UK diagnosed with, or dying from the deadliest form of skin cancer is mostly due to sun exposure whilst at work.

It is estimated that 5.5 million people in the UK alone have been exposed to solar radiation through their work - in the service industries, construction sector, manufacturing, agriculture and leisure and entertainment.

Whilst we are all looking forward to longer and hopefully sunnier days, it is prudent to remember that brighter weather can have its down side; employers need to take this into account when considering their employees' welfare.

Following the publication of this report and other related research on sun exposure IOSH have called for increased awareness of skin cancer risks at work and have launched new guidance for Employers on to how to protect their workers. (See IOSH's "No Time to Lose" campaign)

Businesses are being urged to develop 'sun safety strategies' that include regular updates on the UV index from weather forecasts, minimising sun exposure in the middle of the day and asking employees to wear long-sleeved, loose-fitting tops and trousers. Employers are advised that using high-factor sunscreen is helpful, but should not be relied on as the only barrier to the harmful rays.

IOSH executive director of policy Shelley Frost said: "We've a clear picture for the UK now of the number of people diagnosed with or dying from skin cancer because of sun exposure at work.

"It's a terrible disease but with some simple measures we can ensure people who work outside are not exposed to the solar radiation that causes it. Work-related skin cancer is avoidable, but businesses and their employees hold the key to beating it and today we are showing them how it can be done."

For further advice and guidance on what you can do to help protect your employees see "Sun Safety" on the HSE A-Z.

The UK's 5 most Dangerous Jobs

Of the five most dangerous jobs in the UK as listed on the HSE’s website, sun exposure affects at least three out of the five.

Number one on the list is, not surprisingly, is construction. Sadly more people die in this industry than in any other, with falls from height accounting for the biggest number of deaths. Also one in every 3 deaths resulting from slips, trips or falls involve a construction worker.

Modern farming is an unfortunate second on the list. In fact, it tops the list in the HSE's Agriculture, Fishing and Forestry sector which accounts for one in every five on-the-job fatalities. Almost half of the workers in the sector who died were farmers.

Another high risk occupation is within the waste and recycling sector. Although much further down the scale for fatalities (0.5% in the UK), 2.6% of reported injuries to employees occur in this industry.

According to the HSE, there were five deaths in the sale and repair of motor vehicles/motorcycles sector in 2012-13. In addition to these fatalities, there were 277 major injuries, marking it another dangerous area in which to work.

The manufacturing sector is made up of a range of different industries employing an estimated 2.5m workers. Of the 14 manufacturing worker fatalities in 2013/14 over a 1/5th were from food manufacture and another 1/5th from the fabricated metal products industry.

While fatality figures continue to fall each death has a massive impact - on family, friends, colleagues and the business they work for.

So the fight continues to eradicate the hazards leading to death and injury - and to ensure every worker enjoys a safe and healthy working environment.


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