There are specific dates set throughout the year to mark historic events or raise awareness about certain conditions. For example, October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but very little is said about the work-related risks that cause Breast Cancer.
Risks from the hours and shifts that women work(1), the toxic chemicals and substances they are exposed to and the cocktail of chemicals their health is impacted by in the workplace, in the community, in the environment and in the home(2).
These damaging working conditions to half of the population are mostly preventable risks. Particularly if employers carry out their legal duty under COSHH (Control of Substances Hazardous to Health) (3): identify the risks, assess them and eliminate or at least reduce the exposure with the knowledge that there is a combination and layered impact of chemicals on women’s health.
Yesterday at the North West TUC Health and Safety Conference, Greater Manchester Hazards Centre unveiled their website ‘Eliminating Toxic Exposure’ [gmhctur.org] . This exciting initiative has been developed through funding from the CSEU Alex Ferry fund. It was developed after extensive consultation with workers, trade union officers and Hazards activists.
The aim is to provide workers and their trade union representatives with a ‘one shop’ access to information, innovative solutions such as Toxic Use Reduction and case studies to highlight how a reduction or elimination can be achieved.
GMB NW&NI Education and Health & Safety Officer Paul Holleran welcomed this initiative saying:
"I am regularly advising our officers, reps and members on the dangers of a wide range of chemicals in the workplace. On many occasions our reps tell me their employers are introducing new materials to “help them do their work” and of course the materials including chemicals for cleaning are potentially fatal.
Chemicals that are dangerously toxic even if they are diluted or used with certain PPE. This brilliant new web site will be a welcome resource for trade unionists who are concerned about their health, safety and welfare who do not want to develop deadly illnesses such as Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or Mesothelioma because their employers want to cut costs."
Every year more than 50,000 people die in the UK because of work, many because of exposure to toxic and hazardous working conditions. Nearly 20,000 people die horrendous deaths because of work-related cancers(4).
Janet Newsham Coordinator at Greater Manchester Hazards Centre, and the driving force behind the site said:
"Toxic chemicals that are processed, used in manufacturing, exposed to in recycling and produced not only have severe health impacts on the workers but also in our communities on our families and friends.
Hazardous chemicals seep out in products, waste, water and in the air and have the potential to contaminate everyone. It is far better to prevent these at source and to use alternatives to reduce and control the pollution and dangerous chemicals that we all face.’
This website (5) will provide a practical and useful addition to the tools of safety reps in challenging these unsafe and unhealthy risks."
Source: GM Hazards Press Release