Is your workplace increasing your risk of cancer?

Is your workplace increasing your risk of cancer?

Are you exposed to diesel fumes, dust, asbestos or sun at your work? The Cancer Council of Australia has recently warned that these are among the highest cancer-causing agents for Australian workers. More than half of all Australian employees are exposed to cancer-causing agents every day. As part of National Safe Work Month this October, the Cancer Council has warned that those who work with diesel-fuelled machinery are at particularly high risk. There is also increased risk for workers whose jobs involve working with diesel motor vehicles and diesel operated generators, compressors or power plants. The Chair of the Cancer Council's Occupational and Environmental Cancer Committee, Mr Terry Slevin, has commented it is estimated that around 1.2 million Australians are exposed to diesel engine exhaust at work each year and that 130 workers each year are diagnosed with lung cancer as a result of their exposure on the job. Some of the high risk occupations for men include heavy vehicle drivers, farmers, plumbers, painters, miners, engineers and construction workers. For women; farmers, automobile drivers, passenger transport workers, and heavy vehicle drivers are most at risk. Mr Slevin has said that whilst awareness of the risks of working with asbestos and UV radiation in the community are increasing and resulting in better work safety practices, the awareness of the hazards associated with exposure to diesel fumes remains relatively low. Consequently, this week the Cancer Council has published fact sheets on their website that explain the way in which diesel engine exhaust is harmful to workers and how the cancer risks it poses can be reduced. The fact sheet regarding diesel fumes can be found here. There are also fact sheets relating to asbestos, welding, tobacco and UV radiation. Things that you can do to help reduce your risk at work include:

  • winding up the window and putting the air conditioner on when you are driving a diesel powered vehicle;
  • turning off diesel engines when they are not in use;
  • increasing the ventilation in your work space; and
  • regularly maintaining engines and emission control equipment.

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