Cancer Risks at Work
6 July 2017 – Regardless of whether you work in the formal or informal sector, and whether it’s outside or indoors, both employers and employees, working in South Africa, should understand the cancer threats, risks and responsibilities associated with their occupation.
During the month of July, CANSA places the spotlight on identifying potential hazards in the workplace, providing information on occupational carcinogens (cancer-causing agents) and offering solutions on managing and reducing the risk of cancer in the workplace.
The World Health Organization (WHO) states that 19% of all cancers are attributable to the environment, which includes the work setting, and this amounts to 1.3 million deaths each year.
Occupation related cancer exists in air pollution, UV radiation and indoor radon and according to WHO, lung cancer, mesothelioma, and bladder cancer are the most common types of occupational cancers. View slideshow…
While individuals in the South African workplace are protected by staunch legislation including the Occupational Health and Safety Act, the South African Hazardous Substances Act, as well as The Asturias Declaration, the South African Institute for Occupational Health also helps in informing and advising workers about safe and healthy working environments.
“CANSA wants to encourage employers and workplaces to implement safe working spaces and circumstances for all employees, making sure their health is top priority. Being mindful of workplace health hazards, is the first step in ensuring that you create a healthy environment for all,” says Melissa Wallace, CANSA Head of Research.
WHO has classified 107 agents, mixtures, and exposure situations as carcinogenic to humans, and confirms that one in 10 lung cancer deaths are closely related to risks in the workplace. In addition, 132 chemicals and compounds are implicated in occupational cancers. The most common examples of chemicals and compounds found in South African employment arenas, include:
- asphalt fumes (coal tar pitch): – road tar workers
- benzene: workers who work with petrochemical compounds such as diesel fumes
- hexavalent chromium: workers who work with compounds including electroplating, welding, and chromate painting
- formaldehyde: workers in synthetic chemical industries and in beauty salons
- coke oven emissions: workers in the steel industry
“We believe that if sunscreens for a certain category of worker exposed to ultraviolet radiation, are not supplied to the employee, the employer may be exposed to certain sanctions as well as run the risk of legal action. It is easy to make a difference and to keep your employees safe,” concludes Wallace.
During the month of July, CANSA will collaborate with the South African Society of Occupational Health Nursing Practitioners (SASOHN) throughout the country’s nine provinces. Whilst the awareness of occupational cancer risks will be created, the campaign is also expected to empower employees to care for their health. OHNP takes care of the health of more than 8 million workers in South Africa across all industries.
CANSA offers a unique integrated service to the public and to all people affected by cancer. CANSA is a leading role-player in cancer research (more than R12 million spent annually) and the scientific findings and knowledge gained from our research are used to realign our health programmes, as well as strengthen our watchdog role to the greater benefit of the public.
Our health programmes comprise health and education campaigns; CANSA Care Centres that offer a wide range of care and support services to those affected by cancer; stoma and other clinical support and organisational management; medical equipment hire, as well as a toll-free line to offer information and support.
We also supply patient care and support in the form of 11 CANSA Care Homes in the main metropolitan areas for out-of-town cancer patients; a Wellness Centre based in Polokwane; and CANSA-TLC lodging for parents and guardians of children undergoing cancer treatment.