Construction workers most at risk from occupational cancers

By Chris Sleight05 March 2009

A new report in the scientific journal Occupational Medicine shows that of the 7000 people who die from work-related cancers in the UK each year, up to two thirds are associated with construction.

The biggest killer is asbestos exposure, which is thought to have caused 3840 deaths from cancer in 2004. Workers in the repair & maintenance and demolition sectors are at particular risk, and can become exposed when working on older buildings containing asbestos.

This is followed by crystalline silica exposure, which caused terminal cancer in 850 people in the same year. Exposure to crystalline silica can occur in quarrying, tone masonry and brick manufacture as well as other industrial processes.

Other risks to construction workers include exposure to diesel engine exhaust particulates, and exposure to certain types of paint.

According to the report, work-related cancers are a bigger killer in the UK than road traffic accidents (3000 per year) and accidents at work (240 per year). In fact asbestos-related diseases alone kill more people in the UK than road traffic accidents.

Dr Tony Stevens, president of the Society of Occupational Medicine said, "There is a social inequality in occupational cancer risk, which is concentrated in manual workers and lower employment grades. This means many of the industries with workers at risk don't have access to good occupational health advice so proper risk assessments are not undertaken."

Dr Stevens went on to say that because the causes of these cancers were known, and techniques were established to control them, many lives could be saved through better awareness among workers and better management of the risks.

Latest News
JLG introduces a ‘company-first’
JLG’s X660SJ crawler boom offers operators a new solution for working at height
Top U.S. telehandler rental fleets
With equipment deliveries still a challenge, and acquisitions occurring at a steady clip, this year’s Telehandler30 looks quite different from years’ past
Participate in the CE Barometer for May
Industry invited to complete the survey