Hazardous chemicals kill thousands at work
As we pause to remember those who have died of cancer and those who are currently suffering it is important to acknowledge the relationship between our health and well-being and the workplace. Thousands of Australian workers die each year as a result of exposure to deadly chemicals in the workplace. Victorian Trades Hall Council occupational health and safety co-ordinator Cathy Butcher said cancer was the silent killer of workers who were exposed to hazardous substances at work over many years. "When you think of workplace fatalities don't imagine it is just about workers being killed in isolated tragic incidents. It is also about those who die long painful deaths from cancerous diseases they have contracted as a result of working with dangerous and toxic chemicals." Ms Butcher said employers had a moral and legal responsibility to provide employees with comprehensive information and training on hazardous chemicals in the workplace and to support research into the causal relationship between cancer and exposure to chemicals at work. A study conducted by WorkSafe Australia in 1993 estimated that 2300 Australians died each year from occupational exposure to hazardous substances. The International Labour Organisation (ILO) has recently estimated that between 1.9 and 2.3 million workers die from work-related causes every year. Of these deaths 354,00 are a result of accidents. The remaining deaths are attributed to occupational diseases including cancers, chronic lung disorders and nervous system conditions. Statistically, cancer affects almost one in three people. Those who are not directly affected by the disease will know someone who is.
* * *Acknowledgements: Victorian Trades Hall Council