Man spraying paint wearing PPE image

The Considerate Constructors Scheme (CCS) has launched a new initiative focusing on occupational cancers.  The scheme aims to raise awareness of the health risks involved in construction work, specifically relating to occupational cancers and taking proactive measures to safeguard employees.

The initiative has been set up due to the risks associated with the construction industry and the various harmful substances encountered on a day to day basis. Workers within the construction industry are at a greater risk of developing cancer at work compared with any other industry group, if the risks posed fail to be appropriately managed. A number of the substances potentially causing risk include asbestos, silica, diesel engine exhaust emissions, paint and prolonged exposure to UV radiation.

There are various types of cancer which affect the workforce, however skin cancer and lung cancer have been identified as the two main types that significantly affect individuals working within the construction industry.

Skin and lung cancer can be caused by exposure to carcinogens and UV radiation in the workplace over a prolonged period of time. The causes can also take various forms from solid substances to gases and dust. Without appropriate control measures in place, the workforce can be harmfully exposed breathing these substances in or absorbing them through the skin.

According to the CCS scheme, whilst a higher number of people are diagnosed with skin cancer in Australia, the survival rate is higher than in the UK – almost 3,000 more people have died from skin cancer in the UK over the past 5 years. This is the result of better public attitudes to sun protection and early detection of any skin changes due to Australia’s well-funded awareness campaigns which have spanned over more than 20 years, coupled with primary and secondary school education. The UK needs to take a more proactive approach to this health problem, which is particularly relevant for outside workers.

It is difficult to determine the true extent of occupational cancers as in many cases individuals fail to develop any noticeable symptoms of either skin or lung cancers until many years later. Therefore, they may not be prioritised within the construction industry as a high risk health and safety issue immediately affecting the workforce.

Despite this, the following facts have been identified:

  • In the UK there are 14,000 newly occurring cases of occupational cancer per year (IOSH, 2015)
  • Over 40% of the total occupational cancer deaths arise within the construction industry (HSE statistics 2013/14)
  • 99% of construction industry deaths are caused by work related ill-health and 1% of occupational deaths are related to poor safety within the British industry as a whole (HSE statistics 2013/14)
  • Asbestos is responsible for the largest proportion of occupational cancer, with an estimate that 50% of occupational cancer deaths and 1 in 3 newly occurring cases of occupational cancer were caused by exposure to asbestos (Chen and Osman, British Journal of Cancer, 2012)
  • Construction workers have a 6 times greater risk of developing skin cancer than the general population (Construction Enquirer, 2015)

More information on the initiative can be found at (please put no follow on this).

Alcumus can assist the construction industry with our library of fully compliant, task based COSHH assessments, and occupational hygiene monitoring services, including asbestos surveys and air monitoring.