The British Occupational Hygiene Society (BOHS), the Chartered Society for Worker Health Protection, is warning against any slackening of pace in efforts to reduce what it calls “the unacceptable burden of work-related ill health in the UK and internationally” following Britain’s historic referendum vote to leave the European Union.
In a statement, the society highlighted the enormous death toll associated with occupational health hazards:
- In Britain every year, approximately 13,000 people die from diseases which were caused by the work that they do or used to do.
- The vast majority of these deaths are due to cases of work-related lung disease or cancer, caused by past exposure to chemicals and dusts at work.
- Globally, work-related diseases claim an estimated 2 million lives per year.
Steve Perkins, CEO of BOHS, said, “Research proves that occupational health hazards can be controlled, and work-related ill health prevented. In recent years, we as a society and a nation have made significant strides in raising awareness about the value of worker health protection, through initiatives - such as our Breathe Freely campaign, which aims to prevent occupational lung disease in the construction industry. Despite any political uncertainty, BOHS will continue to show leadership in the sphere of occupational hygiene to guard against any loss of these hard-won gains.”
The society also pointed out that Britain’s health and safety system is a leading model for worker health protection around the world.
“The Health and Safety at Work, etc., Act 1974 is a robust piece of legislation which has stood the test of time, and has been emulated around the world,” said BOHS President Tracey Boyle. “Originating within Britain, but enhanced as it subsequently has been by EU-based legislation, it continues to be the most frequently cited law in cases pertaining to occupational health and safety in the UK. Employers and workers should be aware that the duty of every employer to reduce, so far as reasonably practicable, the risks to which employees and others are exposed, remains and will not change.”
BOHS has 1,700 members in 56 countries, making it an international organization that is committed to developing the occupational hygiene profession around the world, both in Europe as well as in developing and emerging economies.
“As a society with international links, we will continue to work closely with our European colleagues and their national occupational hygiene associations to improve control of workplace health hazards, irrespective of any prevailing political climate,” said Boyle. “Our goal is to reduce the unacceptable and unnecessary burden of occupational ill health, both in the UK and globally, and we will continue to maintain the momentum around this important public health issue.”