Page 9 - IOSH Magazine June 2019
P. 9

Column

                                                               Richard Jones
                                                               Head of policy and public affairs, IOSH


                                                                “If the cost of action is high, the cost of inaction is enormously
                                                                greater.” This was the compelling message from the first World
                                                                Health Organization (WHO) Global Conference on Air Pollution and
                                                                Health, which took place last autumn in Geneva.
                                                                  The conference agreed an urgent need for global action to cut by
                                                                two-thirds by 2030 the estimated 7 million deaths each year caused
                                                                by air pollution. All countries and cities were encouraged to achieve
                                                                WHO air quality guideline levels and 17 elements for a Geneva Action
                                                            © iStock/William Barton  the air as a dumping ground for industrial waste – just like London
                                                                Agenda to Combat Air Pollution were identified.
                                                                  The convenor of Mission 2020 urged attendees to stop treating
                                                                had to stop using the Thames as an open sewer to tackle the Great
                                                                Stink in 1858.
                                                                  Workers exposed to rising levels of air pollution were among the
        CPS becomes first UK                                    groups highlighted as being at significant risk and needing protection.
                                                                Key action points included enhanced education and awareness of air
        government department                                   quality issues and the implementation of OSH regulations to protect
                                                                workers from occupational exposure to air pollution, outdoors and
        to implement stress policy                              indoors.                   World Clean Air Day on
                                                                                         20 June provides a timely
                                                                                         opportunity to reflect on how
        The Crown Prosecution      highest reason for both      In 2015, there were      IOSH’s work aligns with the
        Service (CPS) has introduced   short- and long-term absence.   more than 475,500   WHO’s call to improve air quality
        a stress management          Wheatley began researching   estimated respiratory   for workers.
        strategy after data showed   policies used by National   disease deaths from       IOSH’s response to the WHO’s
        that poor mental health was   Health Service trusts after                        draft 13th General Programme
        the biggest cause of sickness   becoming concerned about   exposure to hazardous   of Work 2019-23 stressed the
        absence among its workers.    those directly affected and the   substances       OSH elements of the UN’s
          Known as the Managing    remaining staff who                                   Sustainable Development Goal 3
        Work-Related Stress Policy, it is   “inevitably have to assume                   on health and wellbeing. Its aims
        understood to be the first of its   tasks their absent colleagues   include to “substantially reduce the number of deaths and illnesses
        kind to be implemented in any   would have done had they been   from hazardous chemicals and air, water and soil pollution and
        UK government department or   fit enough to work”.      contamination”.
        agency.                      She said: “I am very proud to   This goal is supported by our No Time to Lose campaign to
          The initiative provides tools   have been the FDA lead on this,   prevent occupational cancers, targeting diesel engine exhaust, silica
        for staff to recognise the signs   together with David [Chrimes,   dust and asbestos, our partnership with EU-OSHA on the Healthy
        and causes of stress so that they   FDA CPS convenor], who   Workplaces Manage Dangerous Substances campaign, and our
        are “supported and managed   realised some time ago that the   prevention work with the International Social Security Association.
        effectively and sensitively”.   CPS needed such a policy and   In addition, our research programme is examining diesel
          It focuses on at-risk workers   has provided support and advice   engine exhaust exposure and solutions for professional drivers
        and the problems that could   throughout the negotiation   and has also flagged up air quality health problems in coalmines
        result from particular projects.  process with [the] CPS.”  as well as potential risk to global container port workers from
          The tools include a question-  FDA national officer Steven   container fumigation (see www.iosh.co.uk/research).
        naire for workers to fill in about   Littlewood described the policy   IOSH is pleased to work collaboratively and to be represented on
        themselves, and another form   as one that “looks at stress as   joint committees to tackle respiratory hazards, including the Healthy
        specifically for mangers to   an issue that affects the   Lung Partnership, Asbestos Leadership Group, Construction Dust
        complete about their staff, Civil   individuals and the collective”.   Partnership and LEV and RPE work groups (bit.ly/2HlitE5).
        Service World reports.       He called for the policy to    Globally, in 2015 alone, there were more than 475,500 estimated
          There is also a stress   be implemented across        respiratory disease deaths from exposure to hazardous substances,
        identification and referral   governmental departments and   as well as more than 262,500 deaths from trachea, bronchus and
        flowchart for managers, as well   bodies: “Stress is not just   lung cancers. Exposures can lead to a range of illnesses, notably
        as advice on identifying signs of   isolated to CPS – it is endemic   chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which is growing
        stress in yourself or others.    throughout public service.   worldwide, and asthma.
          The policy, which was    What Helen has created is a    The rise in fatal work-related ill-health cases in 2015 was linked
        launched in May, was devised   blueprint. Her policy can be   to previous underestimates of COPD, as noted in the report Global
        by the FDA trade union, with   replicated, and we would like to   Estimates of Occupational Accidents and Work-related Illnesses
        support from the Public and   see more employers use her   2017 (bit.ly/2F9REzd). After factoring in these shortfalls, respiratory
        Commercial Services union reps   work to help their staff.”   diseases are the third major cause of work-related mortality behind
        and launched in April.       In a 2017, Karl Turner MP,   circulatory diseases and work-related cancers.
          Helen Wheatley, the      who tabled a parliamentary     IOSH supports increased global focus and prioritisation to cut
        FDA’s health and safety    debate on funding the CPS,    this stark toll of inaction. Importantly, the hierarchy of control
        representative at the CPS,   said: “Stress at the CPS must    promoted in No Time to Lose for reducing exposure to carcinogens
        began working on the toolkit   be off the scale, particularly   will also help to prevent COPD and associated deaths. And IOSH’s
        after data provided to her by   considering a recent Law   priorities and WORK 2022 Strategy will help us to collaborate on
        the government agency      Society survey in which 95%    progressing the OSH elements of this vital WHO initiative and
        revealed that stress and mental   of respondents said that they   improve air-quality for workers at risk worldwide.
        health issues were the single   were stressed at work.”

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