From the 22nd – 28th October the European week for safety and health at work will focus on the prevention of risks posed by dangerous substances within the workplace.  In the UK 8,000 people die due to exposure of carcinogens at work and 13,500 new occupational cancer cases are registered in the UK.

Our industry accounts for the single largest number of occupational cancer cases with approximately 3,500 cancer deaths and 5,500 new cancer registrations each year in Britain.  The main factors involved in this are past exposure to asbestos along with exposure to silica, solar radiation, welding fumes and other contributing factors.

The European Agency for Safety and Health at Work’s (EU-OSHA) aims to reduce the exposure of workers to dangerous substances as outlined in their document ‘Healthy Workplaces Manage Dangerous Substances’.

“Protecting workers from exposure to carcinogens is one of the key challenges for occupational safety and health in the 21st century. We are working to highlight the scale of the problem and the importance of preventing exposure to carcinogens at work as part of our current campaign. We believe that by informing and educating workers and employers, as well as offering practical solutions, we can reduce and even eliminate exposure to carcinogens at work, thereby preventing needless suffering and deaths from cancer. said Christa Sedlatschek, Executive Director of the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA)

Although use of some of the most dangerous substances, such as asbestos, are now banned or strictly controlled, modern workplaces continue to expose workers to dangerous agents, such as highly toxic liquids and chemicals, as well as nanomaterials, the health risks of which are not yet fully understood but predicted to be even greater.” said David Parr, Policy and Technical Services Director at the British Safety Council.

“The most effective way of managing exposure to dangerous substances in the workplace is the creation of a risk prevention culture. When this happens, workers are pro-actively involved in risk assessment processes and are well informed about the dangers, as well as the control measures that can be taken to prevent or control them.

“Occupational exposure limits (OELs) for hazardous substances laid down in European OSH directives are crucial for the protection of workers’ health. With Brexit growing increasingly imminent, it essential that the well-established control regime relating to this issue is not compromised in any way by the UK’s withdrawal process”

The British Safety Council has been working with employers and decision makers for over 60 years.  Their vision is that no-one should be injured or made ill at work and they are delighted to be supporting EU-OSHA’s campaign through there monthly magazine ‘safety management’.



Analysis by the Office for National Statistics found that the risk of suicide among low skilled male labourers, particularly those working on construction was three times higher than the male national average. For males working in skilled trades the highest rate of suicide was among building finishing trades, especially plasters and painters and decorators who had more than double the rate of suicide than the male national average.

Research has found that major factors which can put people at risk of suicide include low pay, low job security and wider socio-economic characteristics. All of which are potentially major factors in construction.

Unite acting general secretary, Gail Cartmail, said “These figures are truly disturbing and demonstrate that sadly the majority of construction employers are failing in their duty of care to their workforce. This is the latest evidence that the industry’s hire and fire culture is fundamentally unhealthy and is a major factor in these terrible and needless tragedies.

“Until the industry re-organises its approach to its workforce then it is not going to tackle the underlying causes of suicide in construction. Construction needs to tackle the macho culture where workers who talk about their feelings or mental health issues are too often considered to be ‘weak’.

“Unite is fully prepared to work with any employer large or small who is prepared to do the right thing and tackle mental health issues and the risk of suicide in construction.

“In the short term we need to be raising awareness of the suicide risk in construction and explaining where workers can receive confidential support. We also need to be ensuring that far higher numbers of workers, including union safety reps, are trained in mental health first aid”.

To provide optimal safety to those working at height, Kee Safety, a global supplier of fall protection equipment, has launched KeeGuard® Ladder Kit, a permanently fixed guardrail system that is used in conjunction with safety ladders and self-closing gates.

KeeGuard® Ladder Kit has been designed to provide a working at height safety solution that complies with EN 14122-4. This standard recommends that ‘to prevent falling through the access opening at arrival areas, the opening shall be provided with a gate.’ It also states that at drop edges of arrival areas, ‘a guardrail should be provided at least 1.5m either side of the ladder.’

To ensure it complies with the standard, KeeGuard® Ladder Kit is a ‘retro-fit’ guardrail solution that fits to existing fixed ladder or cat ladders, providing 1.5m guardrailing on both sides of the ladder. Quick and easy to install, it simply clamps on to the existing fixed ladder, forming a continual link from the guardrail to the stringer. The kit’s unique fitting can clamp around a flat or tubular stringer up to 75mm in width/diameter and does not need to be mechanically fixed to the roofing membrane or building’s structure.

“Awareness of the dangers of working at height has increased in the past few years, with legislations such as the Work at Height Regulations of 2005 coming into play” explains John Ingram, Group Product Manager – Fall Protection at Kee Safety. “Great steps have been made to ensure the safety of workers undertaking work at height, and we believe that the introduction of this new product is another step in the right direction.”

Available in a galvanised steel finish, KeeGuard® Ladder Kit has been independently tested and complies with EN 14122-4.

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