Occupational cancers

Cancer can be caused by substances or mixtures of substances, called ‘carcinogens’. Occupational cancer can be caused through prolonged exposure to carcinogens in the workplace.

In Northern Ireland occupational cancer accounts for an estimated 220 deaths per annum, approximately 90 of which are linked to exposure to asbestos containing materials. Sadly people are still being exposed to asbestos in the workplace, for example, some tradespeople as they unknowingly drill into asbestos containing materials during everyday maintenance activities.

Carcinogens occur in many forms, they can be solids, liquids, vapours, gases, or dusts and can be breathed in, absorbed through the skin or swallowed. Other carcinogens attributable to causing occupational cancer include respirable crystalline silica, mineral oils and diesel exhausts.

Carcinogens have a varying potential to cause occupational cancer, whether you are at risk depends on the kind of work that you do and whether there are measures in place to prevent exposure to particular carcinogens that might be present in your workplace.

If you are using a hazardous substance your employer has to undertake a COSHH risk assessment and must provide you with the information about the hazards, risks and control measures, and instruction and training to use the control measures.

Visit the Cancer Research UK website for more information on cancer and its causes.

Resources

Key legislation

Please note that these links are to the original legislation, visitors should verify for themselves whether legislation is in force or whether it has been amended or repealed by subsequent legislation.