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Environmental Carcinogens Workplace

Reduce Cancer Risk at Work

Afrikaanse Persvrystelling

6 July 2016 – During the month of July, CANSA will be focusing on the risk of cancers in the workplace as part of its Environmental Health Campaign. The World Health Organization (WHO) states that lung cancer, mesothelioma and bladder cancer are among the most common types of cancers at the workplace.

CANSA Environment campaignCANSA’s objectives include assisting in identifying potential hazards (related to cancer causation) in workplaces and to encourage compliance with health and safety standards for occupational cancer risk reduction.

“We hope to encourage every worker involved with hazardous and carcinogenic (cancer causing) agents to adhere to the essential safety practices that are in place. Protective measures are critical for cancer risk reduction in the workplace. We hope that employers and employees will work together in this cause,” says Elize Joubert, CEO of CANSA.

There are regulations and laws which provide for the control of substances which may cause injury or ill-health to or death of human beings by reason of their toxic, corrosive, irritant, strongly sensitizing or flammable nature.

Download PPT: “Occupational Carcinogens”

Occupational Cancers & Responsibility of Employers

There are over 130 chemicals and compounds that are implicated in occupational cancers. Examples among the most common in South Africa are:

  • Asphalt fumes (coal tar pitch): road tar workers
  • Benzene: workers working with petrochemical compounds, such as diesel fumes
  • Hexavalent chromium: workers working with compounds including electroplating, welding, and chromate painting
  • Formaldehyde: workers working in the synthetic chemical industries and in beauty salons
  • Coke oven emissions: workers at steel industries

Environmental Carcinogens Workplace

CANSA encourages the use of sunscreens for certain categories of workers exposed to ultraviolet radiation eg: farmworkers, fishermen, road workers etc.

According to the legal opinion obtained by CANSA “Employers should provide their employees with sunscreen in the circumstances as mentioned, and if they don’t – might be exposed to certain sanctions, like liability under the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act (COIDA). This act provides that an employer may be held liable for damages suffered by an employee as a result of diseases/injuries if it is found that such employer was grossly negligent. A court of law may rule that an employer who fails to provide its employees with sunscreens and / or other protective apparel could be found to be grossly negligent and could be held accountable.”

Employee Responsibilities

Employees’ duties and responsibilities as per the Health and Safety Act include, but are not limited to (http://www.labourguide.co.za/health-and-safety/379-health-a-safety-and-the-employee):

  • Take care of her / his own safety at work
  • Wear prescribed protective clothing and equipment
  • Comply with employers procedures and safety rules
  • Report unsafe or unhealthy conditions to the employer
  • Employees should always carry out and obey lawful orders and obey the health and safety rules and procedures laid down by the employer
  • No employee may intentionally or recklessly interfere with damage or misuse things provided for health or safety; this includes safety equipment and personal protective equipment

CANSA has over 200 fact sheets and position statements related to cancer. These fact sheets offer insight on cancer risks (carcinogens & possible carcinogens), types of cancer, reducing the cancer risk, among others.

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