Tuesday 4 February marks World Cancer Day 2020. Every day, almost 1700 people across the world lose their fight with cancer – and this number is only representative of the people who have developed cancer through their work. That means one person every 52 seconds dies from cancer as a result of hazards in their workplace.
There are certain industries that carry a higher risk than others in contracting an occupational cancer – for example industries working with materials such arsenic, silica and glyphosate (a type of pesticide).
An example of one of these risks, which has had a major impact on Scottish Industry in particular, is asbestos. Although the use of asbestos declined from 1985 onwards, and was eventually banned, we continue to see the damage that has occurred. Mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of the lung, kills more people a year in the UK than compared with deaths from road traffic accidents. As most people who were exposed to asbestos dust experienced this on average 40 years before their diagnosis of an asbestos-related condition, it is increasingly difficult for them to seek justice.
There has been increasing resistance by major companies and employers who negligently expose their employees to hazardous materials during their duties. A rise in the number of people diagnosed with various cancers related to the use of the pesticide glyphosate is an example. It has only been recently that a successful claim in America has been won by a man diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma following his use of a well-known branded weed killer. Although this man was not exposed to the harmful chemical in his workplace, glyphosate is still used by many in the agricultural industry. The failure of the manufacturer to remove the pesticide from its product, although the knowledge was well known before the case, shows a worrying trend by manufacturers and employers alike in being too slow to act in protecting worker’s health and safety from hazards to occupational cancers.
We at Scottish Hazards, advocate to bring these issues to the forefront of the national conversation, so that more can be done to help sufferers of occupational cancer, and prevent the number from rising.
If you have any questions about this, or would like to get in touch with us here at Scottish Hazards to find out what you can do to help, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Laura Blane is a partner in Thompsons Scotland and a member of the Scottish Hazards Trustee Board