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Sheila Pantry Associates Ltd


Focus Archive

Preventing Occupational Disease

June 2014

Last year’s World Day for Safety and Health at Work 2013 highlighted the fact that occupational diseases cause huge suffering and loss in the world of work. While much progress has been made in addressing the challenges of occupational diseases, there is an urgent need to strengthen the capacity for their prevention in national occupational safety and health (OSH) systems. With the collaborative effort of governments and employers’ and workers’ organisations, the fight against this hidden epidemic will have to feature prominently in new global and national agendas for safety and health.

A report The Prevention of Occupational Diseases was produced for the World Day for Safety and Health at Work 2013 outlines the current situation concerning occupational diseases and presents proposals for addressing this serious Decent Work deficit. See full report (in various languages)

Other countries are addressing the challenges of occupational diseases – e.g. in the UK the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) Board on 5 March 2014 discussed and issued a paper Tackling Occupational Disease – current activity and future plans. This paper provides an update on the positive developments since the March 2013 stakeholder event, “Tackling Occupational Disease – Developing New Approaches”. The HSE Board is asked to endorse the ongoing work and to support the new initiatives outlined in this paper to capitalise on the growing engagement of others on this topic. There are some interesting case studies in this paper.

The World Health Organisation’s Protecting workers’ health (Fact sheet No 389, April 2014) makes interesting reading.

The Cochrane Review Prevention of occupational diseases: Implementing the evidence by Jos Verbeek, Thais Morata, Jani Ruotsalainen and Harri Vainio covers a number of occupational diseases and quotes a number of documents.

Meanwhile the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB), Ontario, Canada, offers occupational disease fact sheets to explain how to identify and prevent occupational diseases.

US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has a number of specific guidance reports on workplace diseases.

Another interesting initiative in Scotland tackling work-related ill-health among construction apprentices could save the Scottish economy more than £30 million over the next decade, the research suggests.

Constructing Better Health Scotland (CBH Scotland) is calling for baseline health checks for all apprentices entering the industry as part of a campaign to improve occupational health management in the sector. It said only 27% of Scottish Building Federation members who employ apprentices give them a baseline health check when they join the company, according to a recent survey.

CBH Scotland said this means many new recruits at risk or those suffering from long-term health problems will go undetected and will not receive the occupational health support they need.

The body, a newly established industry-wide occupational health management scheme, estimates the current cost of occupational ill-health in the Scottish construction industry is £66 million per year, or £386 for every worker employed in the industry.

Research shows that proactively managing the occupational health of new building apprentices through systematic baseline health checks could save the Scottish economy more than £30 million by 2024.

The campaign is being organised with the Scottish Centre for Healthy Working Lives and employers trade association the Scottish Building Federation.