Earlier this year I blogged about the need to achieve behaviour change to tackle occupational health issues and how this would take sustained effort. It is great to see how much is now happening –though I would be the first to acknowledge even more is needed.
In my previous blog I spoke about the great work I saw going on in the ceramics industry to tackle its No1 occupational health risk – respirable crystalline silica (RCS).
After asbestos, RCS presents the single biggest challenge in relation to cancer and respiratory disease facing the GB workplace. It is estimated that one million workers are potentially exposed to RCS and an estimated 800 lung cancer deaths occur each year as a result.
HSE is doing research to help us and others develop a better understanding of how and where people are currently exposed, which will lead to the development of improved controls and new initiatives to reduce exposure.
Just as we did with asbestos, we will need to find varied and innovative ways to communicate the key learnings so that we achieve that lasting behaviour change.
If you haven’t seen it yet, take a look at HSE’s recently posted video of Terry, a former stoneworker. Terry worked all of his life with stone but wasn’t really aware of the dangers until it was too late.
Then there’s the award winning animated film about George the quarry worker – produced in collaboration with the Quarries Partnership team. HSE is also working with the construction industry on a range of materials and live events for this sector.
I’ve previously questioned in this blog whether some initiatives on health lead people to focus on the true priorities, but when it comes to silica, we’ve seen some great efforts by others including the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) and the British Occupational Hygiene Society (BOHS) | Council for Work (BOHS), in raising awareness, developing fact sheets and identifying simple tools to help deal with the problem.
You may be reading this, thinking; “This is not my problem – I don’t work in the construction, quarries or ceramic industries”, but in every sector we need to be thinking about the priority occupational causes of ill health and early death which need to be tackled just as urgently as safety issues.
Next time you walk past a construction site or see someone laying block pavers in a driveway, stop and think. Ask yourself whether you may be watching another George or Terry, and whether you can be bothered giving that person the link to the videos and make them think again about what they’re doing and how they are doing it.