Don’t be a victim of ‘workplace cancer’

2016-09-08 06:00

NOT many people are aware of occupational or workplace cancer.

As part of Cansa’s awareness programmes, Cansa South Coast shared a story of one of their patients.

A domestic worker, under the care of Cansa Port Shepstone for lung cancer, said there is the chance she has become a victim of occupational cancer.

The 40-year-old woman, who wants to remain anonymous because keeping her job is paramount, has been working for her employers for over 10 years and they smoke in her presence.

“I have worked for the family since 2002, and have tried to talk to them about the risk of smoking in my presence. I was told ‘this is our home and you can’t tell us what to do’.”

The woman cannot prove she has been affected by their passive smoking, but feels it somehow contributed to the fact.

She said the employers are aware she was recently diagnosed with lung cancer.

“My employers still smoke around me, knowing I was diagnosed with cancer two years ago,” she said.

“It hurts that even though they are aware of my illness they haven’t done anything to improve my working conditions. The other thing is I live on their premises,” she said.

She said she would like to spread the word to domestic workers.

“They must look after themselves. If they have the courage to speak up and report the situation to the right authorities, they must do so. They must also be aware of their rights when it comes to working conditions.”

Lisa Strydom of Cansa said there are steps that victims of occupational cancer can take.

“If employees are concerned about environmental carcinogens at work, this should first be discussed with the employer or the health and safety representative at the workplace.

“If appropriate safety and/or protection procedures are not in place and the employer refuses to engage in a discussion around this, employees can contact the environmental health officer at their municipality or the Department of Labour and ask them to inspect the property and take appropriate action.”

She said in this domestic worker’s case it is unfortunate that the Tobacco Products Control Act does not include private homes, so it is difficult to provide legal protection for the employee, besides appealing to the goodwill of them.

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