1st August was World Lung Cancer Day and provides a timely reminder of the prevalence of occupational lung disease in the UK.
Lung cancer is one of the most common cancers worldwide, claiming 1.76million lives in 2018 according to the World Health Organisation. Occupational lung disease is currently estimated to result in 12,000 deaths each year. There are an estimated 14,000 new cases of breathing or lung problems caused or made worse by work each year, resulting in at least an estimated 400,000 working days lost.
Occupational lung disease can be caused by exposure to a wide rage of agents, from biological organisms through to dusts, fumes and vapours. World Lung Cancer Day reminds us of the duty owed to employees by their employers, to ensure that their exposure to hazardous substances is reduced to as low as reasonably practicable.
Employers must adequately assess the exposure of employees to hazardous substance and effectively manage the risk. While elimination is preferred, reduction of exposure can be achieved if employers implement suitable control measures. PPE such as respiratory protective equipment should be a last resort but where it is provided, it should be suitable for use and the users should be face fit tested.