New long-term authoritative research published in the Occupational and Environmental Medicine journal  has revealed that workers in the tyre and rubber industry remain at significant risk of developing certain cancers due to being exposed to N-nitrosamines (which is carcinogenic) and rubber dust.

Nowhere to raise concerns

However, despite Unite, the UK and Ireland’s largest union, representing thousands of workers in the tyre and rubber industry the union is unable to properly address the new health concerns as there is no effective body to raise such issues.

This is a result of the Conservative government’s attacks on safety laws. The Health and Safety Executive previously had a tripartite body the Tyre and Rubber Industries Safety Action Group (TRISAG) which allowed for safety concerns to be raised and dealt with. However TRISAG, has been scrapped as a result of government pressure and no similar body has replaced its work.

Stricter controls

In order to improve the health of rubber workers Unite supports the introduction of stricter controls on both N-nitrosamines (which are found in most rubber products), rubber dusts and fumes. This could be achieved by the application of local exhaust and ventilation in all rubber industry plants.

Unite is also lobbying for the re-establishment of TRISAG, in order to ensure that these matters are properly dealt with and effective measures are taken to reduce the risk to workers.

Workers' Memorial Day

The revelation about the research is particularly timely as it comes just before International Workers’ Memorial Day (IWMD) as the theme for this year’s event is dangerous substances – get them out of the workplace.

Stark reminder

Unite national officer for the rubber industry Tony Devlin said: “This authoritative study is a stark reminder of the long-term health implications of being exposed to rubber.

“These dangers are being neglected as a direct result of the government’s cuts which are denying workers an effective voice in the corridors of power.

“The lack of an effective forum to deal with exposure to cancer causing substances is another example of how the government has washed it hands of workplace health and safety.

“Cancer deaths will not be reduced unless effective measures are taken to cut exposure levels to N-nitrosamines and rubber dust.”

Notes to editors:

For more information please contact Unite communications officer Barckley Sumner on 020 3371 2067 or 07802 329235.

Email: [email protected]

  • Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest union with members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.