Members of the Tyne and Wear branch of the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) heard that exposure to dust in construction and other industries can lead to life-limiting diseases including cancer.
IOSH is currently calling on businesses in the UK and overseas to sign up to its No Time to Lose campaign pledge to demonstrate their commitment to protecting staff from being exposed to silica dust and other carcinogens found in workplaces.
At the branch meeting, held at the Nissan Sports and Social Club in Sunderland, members heard about the campaign and the benefits it can bring to their businesses.
They heard presentations from Professor David Fishwick, a consultant respiratory physician and chief medical officer at the Health and Safety Laboratory, and Mark Ashby, from the Health and Safety Executive's construction division.
Common construction industry jobs like cutting or grinding concrete, drilling in enclosed spaces and sanding wood can be high risk if precautions are not taken, they were told.
After the meeting, held on Thursday 21 January, branch chair Tony Bough said: "We have a lot of construction industry members in our local branch. However the event was relevant to non-construction members as lots of organisations have trades persons working for them even if they are not specifically in the construction industry.
"Delegates will have gained a deeper understanding of occupational cancers and also had an operational look at how just a little dust can cause these cancers. They also saw how important it is to use operational and practical equipment to reduce dust."
In the UK, almost 14,000 new cases of cancer caused by work are registered each year, and about 8,000 deaths a year are caused by occupational cancer in Britain.
Since its launch, No Time to Lose has been endorsed by more than 120 organisations. More than 60 businesses have made a pledge, including construction firms such as Laing O'Rourke, Balfour Beatty and Morgan Sindall. In doing so, they promise to take a number of actions, including developing an occupational cancer prevention strategy and ensuring employees use the preventative measures.