Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Drive Against Cancer.


asked the Minister for Labour the steps he intends taking to encourage employers in a drive against cancer in the workplace.

The European Commission has designated 1989 as European Year Against Cancer. As part of their 1989 activities directed towards protecting the safety and health of workers, the industrial inspectorate and occupational medical service of my Department will be highlighting in a special programme for employers and workers the manner in which substances, which are used at work and could cause cancer, should be controlled and used. One of the principal objectives of my Department during 1989, will be to encourage as many employers as possible to promote cancer information programmes at their workplaces.

The National Industrial Safety Organisation (NISO) in conjunction with my Department and co-operation with the Irish Cancer Society have developed a more general cancer prevention information programme which will also be relevant to workers who share equally with the wider population risks from general life-style cancers. This joint programme was launched last November and has already visited all regions with the objective of increasing awareness of European Year Against Cancer and also to let persons and bodies know what information, advice and resources are available for cancer prevention programmes.

The National Industrial Safety Organisation, in collaboration with my Department and under the sponsorship of the European Communities has announced an International Conference on Cancer Prevention in the workplace to take place in Dublin next June. Several European Communities Directives have been adopted or are under negotiation which, when implemented, will add to the measures aimed at preventing cancer amongst workers.

I appreciate that measures are being taken at present in this field and every encouragement should be given in this regard. There should be a greater awareness among employers in this battle. I am not classifying all employers but many of them seem to lack the necessary awareness about cancer. There are now quite a number of chemical industries in this country which were unknown to us in the past and it is important that every possible information is available to us on such industries in relation to cancer. The Minister should impress upon everybody concerned that the mobile X-ray unit should be again made available to industry so as to ensure that cancer can be detected at a very early stage.

I thank the Deputy for his positive remarks. The industrial inspectorate and the occupational medical service of my Department as well as individuals, even in their own time, are doing great work in conjunction with the Irish Cancer Society. The opportunity should not be lost to try to highlight the difficulties involved and the results of modern research which are reflected in the Directives. At European Social Affairs Council meetings the question of carcinogenic substances is dealt with and there is a far greater awareness than ever in this regard. This year should be used to highlight the matter and I would ask for the support of the House in doing that.

On the general front we have had regional seminars. Indeed, I have participated in some of them, particularly those launched in Dublin. There have been others which my colleagues in Government have launched around the country. We are trying to get the workforce to carry out their own work programmes and their own awareness programmes. That is something we are actively pursuing. Some companies have been very helpful but there is a need to heighten awareness.

Has the Minister any thoughts on the problem of passive smoking and the implications of passive smoking for non-smokers who must work in places where there are many smokers? Would it be his intention to make provision in the forthcoming health and safety legislation to regulate the situation which aggravates many non-smokers?

That is a matter for the Minister for Health. The Deputy has probably seen the Draconian measures which he proposes to bring forward. I would ban smoking completely but I do not think that would be acceptable. The measures which the Minister for Health will shortly bring before the House will go a long way towards meeting the Deputy's wishes.

I was hoping that in the context of the workplace employers and employees would be asked to agree that smoking should only take place in a specified area and that it cannot take place where the generality of people eat or work.

That is already in the negotiated agreements of many firms, hospitals and some industries but the voluntary approach will be needed as well.

I am a reformed smoker.