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In the most recent study from the HSE, 1,300 cancer registrations per year in the construction industry are caused by exposure to the sun (solar ultraviolet radiation), coal tars and pitches, mostly causing non melanoma skin cancer (NMSCs). Other sectors that are of concern include agriculture, public administration and defence, and land transport. Men are more likely than women to be affected.
The figures are thought to be conservative due to under reporting of non-melanoma skin cancer.
There are other substances and agents linked to skin cancer including: arsenic; creosols; cutting oils; Ionising radiation; Non-ionising radiation; paraffin wax and petroleum derivatives.
If you or a family member has been diagnosed with this condition and you suspect that this may be related to your current or previous employment then please contact us for a no obligation, free consultation. Even if the substance or by-product is not listed above and you suspect it caused your condition we may still be able to help.
Can my condition be treated?
You should consult your GP if you are in any way concerned about your condition or suspect that you may have an illness or disease that may have been caused by your employment. Your GP will then make an assessment and refer you for to the most suitable expert to manage your treat your condition.
A large number of people who develop cancers that are treatable. It is vital that they are diagnosed as early as possible so that you have the best possible change of making a recovery. Survival rates do vary considerably for various cancers but most are treatable. In the case of skin cancer there are 100,000 new cases of skin cancer every year, most of which are treatable and only around 2,000 people a year die from it. The rate of survival increases the earlier the condition is diagnosed and treated.
What can my employer do to prevent me contracting this condition?
You or your employer can reduce the time you spend being exposed to ultraviolet radiation especially when it is at its highest levels, wear appropriate protective clothing, and using suitable skin protection creams.
It is essential the employers have in place training for their employees on the risks of working in the sun and how to reduce this to the lowest level possible.
The Health and Safety at Work Act makes it clear that there is a legal responsibility on every employer to ensure, as far as is reasonably practicable, the health of their employees. It also states that employers must provide information, instruction and supervision to ensure their safety. This requirement covers not just an employee's safety from immediate injury but also any danger to their long term health. The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations also require the employer to conduct a suitable risk assessment of risks to health of the workforce. This includes any risk from any hazard that may cause cancer.
The regulations also state that the employer must identify and then introduce preventative and protective measures needed to improve workplace health and safety. The regulations are clear that the first aim should always be to remove the hazard. If not then the regulations provide a certain order for them to assess the risk and reduce this to the lowest level possible. This includes substitution for less hazardous substance or process or failing that issue personal protective equipment (PPE).
What is skin cancer?
More accurately termed malignant melonoma, this is a skin cancer that begins in cells called melanocytes. Melanocytes can grow together to form a benign (not cancerous) moles. A melanoma starts as a collection of cancerous melanocytes. A change in size, shape or colour of a mole can be a sign of melanoma.
The two most common types of non-melanoma skin cancer are:
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