Workers Health & Safety Centre

European trade unions campaign to stop cancer at work

With more than 100,000 work-related cancer deaths annually in Europe, unions are calling on the European Union (EU) to act now and adopt binding occupational exposure limits (OELs).
Workers need better protection,” said Esther Lynch, the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) Confederal Secretary in charge of occupational health and safety issues.  “The best way to protect workers from disease and injury is through laws at the EU and national level.”
The ETUC has launched a campaign to address workplace use of carcinogens and work-related cancer. According to campaign literature, the EU has done very little in recent years to strengthen prevention measures for workers.
Amongst other measures, the ETUC is calling for more binding OELs at the EU level. Asbestos and lead are just two of the five cancer-causing substances currently regulated at the EU level with binding OELs. The ETUC campaign is calling for at least 50 more, including diesel engine exhaust, crystalline silica, formaldehyde, ethylene oxide along with cadmium and cadmium compounds.  
As part of this campaign, the ETUC is also seeking new legislative protection addressing nanoparticles, psycho-social hazards (including stress, violence and harassment) and work design and work process issues related to the development of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs).
“Health protection should not be deregulated or privatised,” says Lynch. “Strong laws should be backed up by strong enforcement and a strong system of workplace health and safety representatives.”
By any measure the burden of occupational cancer here in Ontario is also high. So too is the burden presented by psycho-social hazards and the hazards responsible for the ongoing epidemic of MSDs along with significant concerns for the potential health outcomes from nanomaterials. 
Many believe the way forward towards prevention is through stronger toxic use reduction laws, lower occupational exposure limits (OELs), ergonomic regulations and a commitment to the precautionary principle. Further still is the need for meaningful worker involvement at the workplace and regulatory level.
The Ontario government is currently seeking public input on proposed changes affecting the control of hazardous substances under the Occupational Health and Safety Act. This includes changes to OELs, respiratory protection, air sampling and medical examinations for workers exposed to asbestos. Deadline for submissions is June 6, 2016. 
For our part, the Workers Health & Safety Centre (WHSC) assists workplace parties through training programs and information services aimed at raising awareness about hazardous working conditions, including those which can contribute to the burden of cancer, and targeting prevention at the workplace level.
To learn more from the WHSC:

Call:   1-888-869-7950 and ask to speak to a training service representative

Want to know more about the ETUC campaign against workplace cancer?
ETUC campaign against cancer
Want to learn more about occupational cancer and prevention efforts here in Ontario/Canada:
Summary of important occupational cancer symposium released
Asbestos related death on the rise in Canada
Toxic use reduction