for Sunday Herald, 26 August 2012
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) leadership is “frozen in the headlights of a problem too big for it to handle”, according to a leading expert, Professor Andrew Watterson, who heads the Occupational and Environmental Health Research Group at the University of Stirling.
A report to an HSE board meeting in Bootle near Liverpool last week set out plans for tacking the scourge of occupational cancers caused by exposure to toxic chemicals, pollution and other factors at work. It said that cancers were to blame for 8,000 of the 12,000 deaths a year due to occupational illnesses.
In addition, there were 14,000 new cases of workplace cancers registered every year. By far the biggest killer is asbestos, which is responsible for nearly 4,000 deaths a year.
As many as 1.8 million tradespeople are at risk of getting mesothelioma and cancers of the lung, larynx and stomach from exposure to asbestos in buildings. But the HSE has recently ended a high-profile “hidden killer” campaign aimed at highlighting the dangers.