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0.0% 10.0% 20.0% 0.0% 40.0% 50.0%
Gross (Inherent) Risk

survey on work-related health disorders, published in November 2006, ques-
tioned more than 23 000 employees. Roughly 1 in 8 workers in France was
exposed to workplace substances that can cause cancer; the SUMER survey
2003 indicates 2 370 000 workers, 13.5% of the total French workforce, were
exposed to one or more of a list of 28 workplace carcinogens. (Risks, issue num-
ber 219, 13 August 2005).
The types of health risk posing a threat to organisations and their staff
include the following, listed alphabetically, and most are discussed in more
detail further in the chapter:
Back pain;
Carcinogenic materials;
Drugs and alcohol;
Electro magnetic radiation;
Environmental health issues;
Latex allergies;
Lead exposure;
Lung diseases;
Musculoskeletal disorders;
Part C “ Overview of the Social Aspects of Business Risks

Neutral toxicity;
Office-based illnesses, like computer and irritable desk syndrome and pas-
sive smoking;
Risks to new and expectant mothers;
Skin damage;
Stress from work;
Vision impairment; and
Vocal damage.
The following graph shows the health and safety risk (net) from internal health
risks to workforce by sector.

Health Internal (workforce)

Net (Residual) Risk



0.0% 1.0% 2.0% 3.0% 4.0% 5.0% 6.0% 7.0%
Gross (Inherent) Risk

Examples of high workforce health risk, by sector, include the following:
The most dangerous jobs from the point of view of carcinogenicity:
Agricultural workers, chemical exposure;
Asphalt roofers;
Cutting/sewing workers;
Glass and ceramic decorators;
Tobacco industry;
Metal platers and coaters;
Hairdressers and barbers;
Telephone installers;
Chapter 16 “ Health and safety in the workplace 383

Wholesalers; and
Sculptors, painters.
Among possible occupation carcinogens which might be added to the list are
solar radiation, passive smoke, crystalline silica, diesel exhaust, radon decay
products and wood dust. Mining dust has also helped push the mining sec-
tor™s risk profile into the top position. The EU also believe that each occupa-
tional death from cancer costs an average of ‚¬2.14 million (£1.43 million) and
the cost for the EU now totals over ‚¬70 billion (£46.7 billion) each year (see
www.europa.eu.int/rapid/start/cgi/guesten.ksh?p_action.gettxt gt&doc IP/
04/391%7C0%7CRAPID&lg EN&display );
Electronic industry (chemical liabilities): medical research is highlighting
the side effects of the use of chemicals in microchip and circuit board pro-
duction processes. IBM is also involved in an expensive lawsuit;
Engineering: the exposure of the UK manufacturing industry to asbestos lia-
bility is increasing as new estimates of expected fatalities occur. VT plc
increased their provision by £15 million in March 2004;
Food sectors: these are increasingly liable for the death, disease, serious
injury, genetic mutation, birth defects or the impairment of reproductive func-
tions of customers. For example, the concentrations of aluminium and mer-
cury in the UK™s diet are increasing according to the Food Standards Agency
(FSA) in their Food Survey Information Sheet 48/04 (ENDS Report, April
2004, p. 12); and
Safety industries: over 300 fire fighters who worked at the clean-up site after
9/11 are still on light duty and 69 are no longer working, while 300 more
have retired because they can no longer breathe well enough.

A review of currently emerging risk issues
One of the few studies into the direct economic impact of HIV/AIDS upon an
economy and organisations is from the Bureau for Economic Research at the
South African University of Stellenbosch. Their report entitled ˜The macroeco-
nomic impact of HIV/AIDS under alternative intervention scenarios on the
South African economy™ indicates the following harrowing statistics:
Almost 3 million people died from AIDS and 5 million became newly infected;
More than 5 million people in South Africa have HIV, this equates to almost
one-fifth of the working age population between the ages of 20 and 64; and
In the absence of medication (ART) the rate of GDP growth would fall in
South Africa from a projected 4.4% to 4.0% for the period 2000“20.
With Africa being a resource rich continent these types of social catastrophes will
impact directly and more commonly indirectly upon organisations around the
world. One mining company reports that on any one working day almost a quar-
ter of their 24 000 workforce in Southern Africa are either off work ill, caring for
a family member or attending a funeral of a deceased relative or work colleague.
Part C “ Overview of the Social Aspects of Business Risks

The scale of the problem is being under-reported yet there has been an
increase in the number of newly reported cases within the developed world
and a rapidly increasing rate with the developing world. The relevance to busi-
nesses is not always apparent but lessons can be learnt by all businesses, espe-
cially in more affected parts of the world.
Risk management of the AIDS/HIV issue: the Global Business Coalition on
HIV/AIDS is the pre-eminent organisation leading the business fight against
HIV/AIDS. Their research (extracted from the Cambridge Sustainability Research
Digest, July 2006) companies are increasing their activities to address these
risks, including:
In high prevalence parts of Africa 70% of companies are fully subsidising
staff access to treatment. Globally 36% of surveyed companies are fully sub-
sidising treatment for direct employees;
82% of companies provide workplace information on HIV/AIDS and 41%
conduct assessments and surveys;
60% had trained educators in place; and
55% have expanded prevention programmes to the community.
The mining, food and beverage sectors tend to have the most extensive risk
management programmes for this issue.

In the UK observed deaths are over 1700 per annum and will hit a maximum of
2000 per annum in 2010, up from less than 200 in the 1960s. According to the
US National Bureau for Economic Research (NBER) at least 600 000 people
have now filed asbestos exposure claims in the US. Eighty firms have filed for
bankruptcy and insurers have paid out approximately $32 billion in compensa-
tion. The total cost of asbestos compensation is projected to be between $200
and $275 billion. The exposure of the UK manufacturing industry to asbestos
liability is also increasing as new estimates of expected fatalities occur. The
number of asbestos suits against Ford rose by two-thirds in 2003 as the total
number of claims reached 41 500.
ABB the Swiss/Swedish international engineering group have been forced to set
aside a reserve of $430 million to cover asbestos-related insurance claims; and
A former hairdresser died as a result of years of exposure to asbestos in old
hood-style hair-driers, she contracted the asbestos cancer mesothelioma
through exposure to dust produced as asbestos linings in the equipment
crumbled with time.

Back pains
With more and more of us in sedentary occupations, it is vital that employers
prioritise the health of the workforce by investing in thorough risk assessments
and swift access to rehabilitation services.
Chapter 16 “ Health and safety in the workplace 385

There is an unrecognised epidemic of chronic beryllium disease, according to
the renowned UK medical journal The Lancet. They say that occupational
exposure to beryllium occurs in aerospace, nuclear, military, automotive, elec-
tronics and telecommunications industries; in operations in metal machine
shops; and in alloy applications, such as tubing for oil and gas drilling, tools
and dies, jewellery, bicycle frames and dental appliances. Exposure can result
in acute lung inflammation and can also lead to sensitisation and other prob-
lems, including cancer (Risks, issue number 143, January 2004).

A bullied bank worker in the UK was awarded £817 000 after being subject to a
deliberate and concerted campaign of bullying by four women colleagues,
which led to two nervous breakdowns. The judge described the bank™s manage-
ment as ˜weak and ineffectual™, adding: ˜The managers collectively closed their
eyes to what was going on, no doubt in the hope that the problem would go
away™ (Risks, issue number 268, 5 August 2006).
The UK union Amicus says employers are failing to do enough to tackle
workplace bullying, after they found 97% of organisations have never quantified
the impact of bullying, a problem it says costs UK industry an estimated £2 bil-
lion a year in sick pay, staff turnover and loss of production. They report that 1 in
10 workers says they had been bullied (Risks, issue number 277, 7 October 2006).

Carcinogenic materials
Cancer in the workplace is on the increase from materials like mineral oils,
organic solvents, asbestos, wood dust, diesel exhaust fumes and crystalline silica.

Electro magnetic radiation
Research is still not clear, or quite often conflicting, on these types of risk, but
this does not always stop legal action from occurring:
Verizon: the partially owned subsidiary of UK mobile giant Vodafone is
reported to be among companies facing litigation in the US over allegations
that mobile phones can cause brain tumours (BBC, 28 December 2000).

Environmental health issues
Environmental risks and human health cannot be easily separated, as there are
direct implications for both from environmental activities. For example:
Agricultural chemical exposure: banana growers are seeking compensation
from Dole Fruit, Shell and Dow Chemical for exposure to the pesticide DBCP.
Part C “ Overview of the Social Aspects of Business Risks

This counts as an internal workforce health issue (for Dole Fruit), external
health issues/product liability issue for the makers of the pesticide, as well as
a source of damage to the ecosystem and groundwater/drinking water, etc.
(see www.corpwatch.org);
Pesticide exposure: a team from Harvard School of Public Health found that
people who said in 1992 that they had been in contact with pesticides were
70% more likely to develop Parkinson™s disease within the next 10 years
(Ascherio, Alberto et al. ˜Pesticide exposure and risk for Parkinson™s disease™,
Annals of Neurology, published online 26 June 2006, Digital Object Identifier
(DOI) 10.1002/ana.20904); and
Chemical exposure: for example, it has been found that exposures to the
chemicals used by farmers, welders and hairdressers could be implicated in
disease development as a study of more than 2.6 million US death records
has linked certain jobs to a significantly increased risk of Alzheimer™s and
Parkinson™s disease, early-onset dementia and motor neuron disease (Park,
Robert M. et al. American Journal of Industrial Medicine, 2005).

Lead exposure
People who are routinely exposed to lead at work are 50% more likely to die
from brain cancer than people who are not exposed, according to research from
the University of Rochester Medical Center study, based on information from
the US Census Bureau and the National Death Index.


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