Issue 191 - SafetyNet Journal 191Welcome to SafetyNet 191 - this early, Thursday, edition has items on asbestos: settlements, programs and the National Summit; research on nanosilver; a number of interesting prosecutions; and more.
ACTU OHS and Workers Compensation ConferenceThe ACTU annual OHS and Workers Compensation conference was opened by Jeff Lawrence in Canberra on May 26 & 27. It was an opportunity for unions around the country to come together to discuss a range of OHS and Workers Compensation matters, including harmonisation of legislation, nanotechnology and 'healthy worker' programs. Representatives from ACTU affiliated unions were able to question guest speakers including Rex Hoy, CEO of Safe Work Australia; Greg Tweedly, Chief Executive of WorkSafe Victoria and Chair of Heads of Workers' Compensation Authorities (HWCA); John Watson, General Manager, Occupational Health and Safety Division, WorkCover NSW and Chair of the Heads Of Workplace Safety Authorities; and Senator Kim Carr, the Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research.
Speaking on nanotechnology, the Minister acknowledged that it was a big issue for Australian workers 'who can expect to encounter more and more nanomaterials in the production environment and in workplaces more generally'. He said the Labour government wanted to 'get the balance right' – wanting Australia to lead the way in the development and application of a technology with so much potential, while at the same time ensuring any potential health, safety and environmental risks are properly addressed.
He announced that a NICNAS assessment on whether carbon nanotubes should be classified as hazardous should be complete by August – and if so, then regulation would follow. The federal government, he said, was looking to improve information on nanomaterials and that Safe Work Australia was considering this as part of the review of the national codes of practice on Safety Data Sheets. In addition to this, Australia was involved in international work on nanotechnology.
Minister Kim Carr's address on Nanotechnology to the Conference. The union view - ABC Science
Asbestos newsNational Asbestos Summit June 28 & 29
A diverse group of organisations, including unions, the Cancer Council and asbestos interest groups is organising a national Asbestos Summit on June 28 & 29 in Sydney, NSW. The summit will be exploring the current state of asbestos exposure, disease levels and regulation in Australia, seeking to identify the gaps and discussing what can be done to address those gaps. The Summit is open to union organisers, health and safety reps, asbestos groups, and interested people.
Tasmanian Government to prioritise asbestos removal
Following the release of a government report in February this year, the Tasmanian government had undertaken to establish a unit which would drive overall government policy in asbestos including areas such as long- term removal, training and licensing ( SafetyNet 182) Prior to the March state election the government promised $800,000 over four years for the program. Workplace Relations Minister David O'Byrne has announced the government will honour the pre-election commitment and will establish the unit. 'Once we set up the asbestos unit and the head is appointed, their role will be to work on legislation to ensure there is a framework for a register for all companies and all buildings,' said the Minister. 'There will be a system of rating the asbestos, in terms of how dangerous it is, and all companies and all businesses will need to have a management plan for prioritised removal.'
Source: ABC Online
Terminally ill workers gain asbestos pay-outs
A mechanic who spent 27 years working on asbestos brake linings has won a landmark legal case against manufacturer James Hardie after being diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2008. John Booth, 73, has been awarded $326,640 in damages by the NSW Dust Diseases Tribunal. In his work Mr Booth drilled and ground asbestos brake linings made by James Hardie companies. He never saw any warning on these products, and used compressed air to blow the asbestos dust from the brakes he was working on. Judge James Curtis found that James Hardie's brake manufacturing companies had failed to provide adequate warnings about the risks of working with their products and were responsible for Mr Booth's illness.
James Hardie is appealing against the decision – if successful, Mr Booth's case would open the way for other mechanics suffering from mesothelioma or other asbestos-related diseases to seek damages. Mr Booth said, 'My life is now short and I'd like to feel I leave some sort of legacy in this world.'
Source: The Sydney Morning Herald
A 72-year-old former electrician, Mr Leonard Parkinson, who developed mesothelioma from working in asbestos-filled roof cavities between 1969 and 1976 at Monaro Mall (now the Canberra Centre) has been awarded more than half a million dollars in damages by the ACT Supreme Court. The decision came after an 18-month legal battle. Chief Justice Terence Higgins said it was a 'tragic and distressing case' and ordered the man's former employer, building manager Lend Lease Securities and Investments, to pay over $520,000 for his loss of health and future care.
Source: The Canberra Times
The latest AISS newsletter [pdf] is now available online on their website The newsletter has news, individual stories and more. AISS provides support and information on asbestos and asbestos-related disease.
AMWU seeking information from Garden Island workers
The AMWU has put out a call for information from anyone who worked at Garden Island Dockyard (Sydney) between 1970 and 1998 may be able to assist Turner Freeman Lawyers, which is acting on behalf of a woman who believes she developed mesothelioma from washing the work clothes of several family members who worked at the dockyard. Read more
Worker dies after construction site fallA construction worker who was seriously injured after a fall at a domestic construction site in Northcote last week has died in hospital after being taken off life support. It appears the 59 year-old man was working on a single plank of wood, loosely attached to homemade scaffolding, when he fell three metres to the ground. 'This fatality is the eleventh workplace fatality for Victoria for 2010, and the sixth Victorian worker to die after a fall from height since the start of 2009,' WorkSafe Victoria's Construction and Utilities Director Chris Webb said. 'Construction is one of the fastest growing industries in Victoria – and falls from height are one of our biggest workplace killers,' he said.
WorkSafe media release Information on falls
Ask RenataWe recently had an issue of a child in our workplace. The child was well-behaved, over ten years old, and didn't create any problems. However, what are the OH&S guidelines for this situation?
There's no specific OHS legislation that addresses children in the workplace (either as workers or as non-workers), but the general duties still apply. Under S21 the employer has a general duty to provide and maintain a safe and healthy working environment for employees. In addition, under S23 the employer must ensure that persons other than employees are not exposed to risks to their health or safety 'arising from the conduct of the undertaking of the employer'. (see Duties of Employers)
In this instance, it seems the presence of the child in your workplace was a 'once off' situation - and there doesn't seem to have been an increase in risk either to the employees or the child him/herself.
However, it might be a good idea to discuss the issue so that there can be some agreed policy in place should the situation arise again. It may be that being a family friendly employer, there needs to be some flexibility so that in cases where the parent has real problems arranging alternatives, or in the case of a last minute situation, the workplace can accommodate. The policy/agreement may include some limits (eg - minimum age of child; maximum time in workplace; maximum number of children in the workplace at any one time; etc). It may also include details of arrangements (eg suitable activities for the child; how the child's presence will be communicated to the staff; etc)
WorkSafe Victoria has produced a 15 page publication for workplaces where children work or visit, to identify hazards and implement safety controls to prevent injuries - Keeping Children Safe in the Workplace.
Note: the employment of children under the age of 15 in Victorian workplaces is regulated under the Child Employment Act (CE Act) 2003. Due to their age, stage of physical and emotional development and their inexperience, children are the most vulnerable employees in Victorian workplaces.
If you have an issue or problem you would like some advice on, then Ask Renata. You'll get an answer within a couple working days at the latest.
CEPU welcomes prosecution of Australia PostThe CEPU has welcomed Comcare's decision to launch Federal Court proceedings against Australia Post, after an investigation into the 2008 road-crash death of a postal contractor uncovered six unroadworthy postie bikes - including the one ridden by the killed worker - at a Northern Territory delivery centre. While investigators found the fatality wasn't caused by the state of the motorcycle, the Commonwealth regulator would allege Australia Post breached s16(1) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 1991, in failing to maintain the vehicles in a safe condition.
The Communications, Electrical and Plumbing Union national president, Ed Husic, said the 2008 incident had partly resulted 'from a corporation mindset that valued productivity over genuine safety'. 'At the time of the death, Australia Post was obsessed with stats, productivity and management bonuses,' he said. Husic said that while the prosecution represented 'an important step in completely reshaping' the employer's safety culture, 'real' change hinged on revoking its self-insurer status.
Source: OHS Alert
ETU bans uranium workThe Queensland and Northern Territory branches of the Electrical Trades Union (ETU) have banned their members from working in uranium mines, nuclear power stations or any other part of the nuclear fuel cycle. The union has received strong support from other unions for the campaign against uranium. 'We're sick of hearing about nuclear power as the panacea of global warming, we're sick of people sweeping safety issues under the carpet,' ETU Queensland branch secretary Peter Simpson said. As part of the campaign the branches have launched a DVD, When the dust settles, in which 'Mr Sparkie' is offered a lucrative job at Roxbury Downs in SA. The DVD examines the dangers of uranium and uranium mining to the workers who are exposed. One of the experts interviewed, Dr Helen Caldicott, says that in the past between 30 and 50 per cent of uranium miners contracted lung cancer and died.
The Victorian branch of the ETU has given its full support to the Queensland and the NT branches' decision. 'The Queensland branch has shown great coverage in taking on the nuclear industry and we'll have it on the agenda for the State Council meeting in June. Nuclear is not the way forward. It's plain bad,' said ETU Victorian secretary Dean Mighell.
Read more and listen to Peter Davidson launch the DVD. All five parts of the DVD can be viewed from this You Tube page
The Northern Territory branch of the Public Health Association of Australia has endorsed an Electrical Trades Union decision to ban its Queensland and Northern Territory members from working in uranium mines. 'The QLD/NT Branch's advice to its members that this is an inherently dangerous industry to work in is an honest and correct call," Association spokesperson Clive Rosewarne said. 'There have been spills of radioactive material in the past where workers have been exposed... with scant regard to the long-term health of workers or the environment.'
PHAA Media Release [pdf]
Legionnaires' disease cases still increasingWe raised the alert in the last edition of SafetyNet that there have already been an alarming number of legionnaires' disease cases recorded this year. The number has now increased to 40, three resulting in death. The state's chief health officer Dr John Carnie has written to 4,000 businesses and authorities warning them that cooling towers must be properly maintained. Read more about the disease and what needs to be done
UK Guide to Drug Testing for Safety RepsThe UK's Trade Union Congress last week released a new guide for union safety representatives on drug testing. The TUC is clear that drugs and alcohol have no place in the workplace: any person working under the influence of any kind of performance-influencing drug, whether illegal or prescription, may pose a real danger to themselves, their colleagues or the public. However the guide, Drug Testing in the Workplace, points out that where employers are using drug-testing techniques, checks on staff are unable to tell whether a member of staff is under the influence of drugs. The tests will only show the presence of chemicals - left in the body after drugs have been taken - in hair follicles, blood or urine. The TUC says that rather than resort to drug-testing, employers who are serious about the welfare of their staff and removing drugs from the workplace will find their time better spent developing a comprehensive drugs and alcohol policy which supports staff, rather than seeking to discipline them.
TUC Media Release
Reason for ABC cancer cluster unknownA study published this week in the Medical Journal of Australia, has found that while there was a breast cancer cluster in the ABC's Toowong (Brisbane) studios over the period 1994 – 2006, no cause could be identified. Twelve women were affected, prompting an investigation into all Australian ABC studios to see whether there might be a common contributor.
The study found that of 5969 women employed at the ABC between 1994 and 2005, 48 got breast cancer. This represented no 'statistically significant' excess risk of breast cancer in ABC female employees across all other states and territories, compared with the general population. However, the research confirmed an increased risk of breast cancer among staff at the ABC's Toowong studios.
Breast cancer risk among female employees of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in Australia. Freddy Sitas, Dianne L O'Connell, Cathelijne H van Kemenade, Mark W Short and and Kun Zhao MJA 2010; 192 (11): 651-654
Silver nanoparticles, clothes and perspirationSilver has been used as an antiseptic to reduce bacterial growth on skin for a long time, and infusing fabrics and bandages with silver compounds is not new. More recent developments, however, include using silver nanoparticles in both medical and consumer applications, such as socks and shirts. Exposure to silver at levels higher than is needed to kill microbes can lead to poisoning (argyria), an irreversible skin discolouring (argyrosis) and extremely large exposures can lead to neurological damage. Silver's absorption, distribution, and toxicity may be altered at the nano-scale level.
In a recent study, researchers tested and compared five fabrics treated in the laboratory with a silver nanoparticle solution and six commercially-made shirts sold as containing nanosilver to determine how much of this silver the fabrics would release when exposed to artificial human sweat. The silver is added to clothes to reduce bacterial growth and odour. Researchers found the amount of silver released depended on the type of fabric, the initial amount of silver and the type of artificial sweat. It was found that nanoparticles can migrate out of fabric after exposure to the simulated perspiration, but it is not known whether the silver materials in sweat would be absorbed through human skin.
Nanotechnology is becoming increasingly prevalent in consumer products, increasing the potential for exposure to nanoparticles. Yet little is known about how these silver materials may interact with people's bodies. There is concern that the tiny particles may be more toxic than other, larger-sized and more traditional types of silver compounds, as the smaller particles could be more easily absorbed and distributed throughout the body. While this study does not provide direct evidence of toxicity, it describes a novel exposure source of nanoparticles the potential health effects of which we know very little. The authors concluded that further research was needed to better understand the risks associated with nanotechnologies as more consumer products, such as socks and other clothing fabrics, incorporate silver nanoparticles.
Environmental Health News, 30 April 2010
Most European managers concerned about stress79 per cent of European managers are concerned by work-related stress, but less than a third of companies have set procedures to deal with it. These are the preliminary findings of the 'European Survey of Enterprises on New and Emerging Risks' (ESENER), released by the European Agency for Health and Safety at Work last week. The survey provides an insight into how European companies are managing health and safety issues in practice – with a particular focus on psychosocial risks. The ESENER survey covered 31 countries and involved 36,000 interviews. The high level of concern makes stress as important to managers as accidents.
The survey also demonstrated that workplaces with employee representation and participation are much more likely to see successful health and safety measures implemented. This was particularly the case for smaller workplaces where it was an important trigger for effective management of psychosocial risks.
Press Release Full report and Summary (available in 22 languages) Also available: Mapping Tool
Mobil Altona Refinery licence conditionsWorkSafe Victoria has imposed new conditions on Mobil's licence to operate its Altona refinery, which is a 'major hazard facility' under the OHS regulations. This is a result of persistent health and safety incidents since the facility was last licensed in 2007. The refinery has also been reporting more incidents than other facilities of a similar size. Acting Executive Director for Health and Safety Stan Krpan said, 'The objective of imposing licence conditions is to prompt Mobil to identify any shortcomings in their safety inspection and maintenance systems, and rectify them before incidents have a chance to occur.' The new licence conditions, which include analysing past incidents to identify the causes, and addressing these through improvements to safety inspection and maintenance systems, come into force later this month, and will last until December 2012.
WorkSafe Media Release
WorkSafe disappointed with Sale workplacesInspector visits to small businesses in Sale between May 17 and 21 found little had been done to address workplace safety since their previous targeted visits to the area: meaning these businesses needed to make more of an effort with workplace safety. WorkSafe inspectors visited 58 workplaces over five days, and issued 150 improvement notices. Improvement notices are legal notices requiring a workplace to remedy safety breaches within a set timeframe. 'Sale disappointed us on safety – rather than taking the initiative and making improvements after being told inspectors would be visiting, we found little evidence that any effort had been made,' Acting Executive Director Stan Krpan said.
WorkSafe Media Release
EPA failing on hazardous wastesA Victorian Auditor General's report tabled this week audit examined whether the Environment Protection Authority's (EPA) control and regulation of hazardous waste has reduced inappropriate disposal. It looked at business information systems, monitoring and enforcement actions, as well as whether the expected benefits from the new regulations were being achieved. The audit found that EPA is not effectively regulating commerce and industry's management of hazardous wastes. Its monitoring and inspection activities lack coherence, purpose and coordination. This, combined with poor business information because of EPA's lack of data reliability, poor analysis and reporting and inadequate documentation of its rationale for decisions, means that there is neither sound compliance monitoring nor effective enforcement regimes. It concluded that there is little assurance that hazardous waste in Victoria is being stored and disposed of appropriately.
Download the summary or the full report from this page of the Auditor General's website
Useful MaterialsHealth and Safety Solution from WorkSafe Victoria
Guarding brake presses – Provides a solution for brake presses that are not guarded or have been installed with ineffective guards.
A number of Safety Alerts following serious incidents
- From WorkSafe Victoria: Collapsible frames on truck-mounted/piggyback forklift trucks can be fatal
- WorkSafe WA Alert [pdf] after two chefs received flash burns to their upper bodies when an aerosol can of cooking oil exploded in a café.
- WorkCover NSW Alert [pdf] after a worker suffered fatal crush injuries while removing asphalt from the wheels of a road roller.
- Workplace Health and Safety Queensland Alerts:
- Tractor roll-over protective structure (ROPS) limitations following an incident in which a worker was killed when the tractor he was driving overturned and its roll-over protective structure failed.
- Safe use of nailing tools (Nail guns) highlighting the hazards when using nailing tools such as nail guns, and provides examples of their correct and safe usage
Convictions for ignoring noticesA construction company director who continued to expose workers to obvious safety risks - despite warnings from WorkSafe - was convicted and fined in the Sunshine Magistrates' Court. Springvale company Ascoli Developments Pty. Ltd and director David Gurvich failed to comply with five notices issued by WorkSafe at their Port Melbourne construction site in 2008. Included in the five were two prohibition notices relating to electrocution and falls from height risks. When inspectors later visited a second construction site operated by Ascoli in Elwood, they identified similar breaches – resulting in more notices being issued.
Ascoli Developments Pty. Ltd was convicted and fined $96,500; and director David Gurvich (who previously pleaded guilty at the Melbourne Magistrates' Court) was convicted and fined $17,000. The company, which is under external administration, did not appear in court yesterday.
WorkSafe Media Release
Employer & Labour Hire company prosecutedBoth Turi Enterprises Pty Ltd (TEPL), which operates and owns the La Ionica chicken processing plant in Thomastown, and Ken Enterprises Pty Ltd (KEPL), a labour hire company providing workers to TEPL, pleaded guilty to breaching the OHS Act following a crushing incident in 2009.
A 19 year old employee of KEPL was cleaning the chicken neck breaker machine – in grabbing a piece of stuck chicken with his left hand his bangle became caught on one of the hooks and he was pulled into the plant. The anti jam mechanism on the plant activated and the worker became trapped from the hips down between the plant and a metal frame pole. He was freed by the MFB after ninety minutes with the assistance of a contract engineer. The worker suffered a number of injuries, spent eight days in hospital and is continuing outpatient treatment for his arm. Investigations found the plant was not guarded as the company believed it was a hygiene risk. In addition, the young worker had not been inducted into the workplace and was provided with only minimal training, instruction or supervision in relation to cleaning the various machines.
Both companies pleaded guilty and were convicted and fined. TEPL was fined $50,000 with costs of $1500, and KEPL $30,000 also with costs of $1500.
Explosion: smoker and employer convictedA South Australian worker, who lit a cigarette near flammable vapours, has been convicted and fined for his role in a 2007 explosion that seriously injured another worker. Two employees and a labour-hire worker were painting the inside of a pressure loader with flammable solvent paint and thinners, when the boiler maker entered lighting a cigarette, causing an explosion. The labour-hire worker suffered first, second and third degree burns and was left with permanent scarring. The boiler maker was charged with breaching the OHS Act: failing to take reasonable care to avoid adversely affecting the safety of others. He was also sacked by the company and denied workers' compensation. Though the man did not realise the area pressure loader was being painted, he knew smoking was not allowed in the factory. The employer was also charged over the incident, and fined $30,000 in November 2009 proceedings, for failing to adequately enforce its non-smoking policy and provide a safe working environment.
Source: OHS Alert
Worker awarded over $470k after slipWorkers in hospitality should take note: A Queensland waitress who slipped on the oily floor of the cafe where she worked has been awarded $470,626 in compensation. The worker sued her employer, Mollking Holdings, for general damages, expenses and past and future loss of earnings. The court was told that the joint owners knew the kitchen floor at Seaview Café and BP at Cardwell was often slippery. In addition, the employer had removed mats put on the floor to absorb oil when they became saturated and rejected a request to have the floor painted to reduce slipperiness because of the cost. The set up of the kitchen also required baskets of fried food to be carried from the fryers to the servery area, a set up likely to result in oil spills. Justice Lyons of the Queensland Supreme Court said the worker's injuries were caused by Mollking's negligence and it had breached the Queensland WHS Act.
Source: OH News Read more on Slips, Trips and Falls
Hazards asks: Will BP's 'disaster-prone' board face jail?Directors of BP's London-based global board seem to be above justice when it comes to the firm's serial workplace safety and environmental crimes, claims a new report. However, it says that may be changing as the company's corporate oversight and 'cosy' relationship with regulators has been the subject of much critical comment in recent weeks, notably from US president Barack Obama ( Risks 457). BP's recent boardroom discomfort stems from the 20 April 2010 Gulf of Mexico disaster, when a well owned by BP exploded, killing 11 workers on the Deepwater Horizon rig and creating an uncapped oil gusher polluting large swathes of the US coast. UK campaigning magazine Hazards, which has been monitoring the multinational's safety performance for years, says if more attention had been paid to BP's deadly workplace safety record the risks would have been 'shockingly apparent'. 'We told you BP couldn't be trusted', a report on its green jobs blog, notes: 'The disaster-prone London-based board generally escapes criticism from politicians in the US, UK and elsewhere, uses slick PR to fend off press attacks and has evaded all blame and punishment for a sequence of industrial and environmental catastrophes.' It adds: 'These board members are wealthy, respectable upstanding members of the community. They rub shoulders with the powerful - hell, they live in the same neighbourhoods, their kids go to the same schools. And they don't die at work - they just make the decisions that consign others to an early grave.' The blog concludes: 'If board members can accept the bonuses and fat pay cheques when things go right, they must also accept the consequences when things go wrong. That means an appearance in court and, if found guilty, a lengthy spell in jail. This is not about blame. It is about justice.'
Risks 258 ITUC/Hazards green jobs blog We told you BP couldn't be trusted and Don't demonise BP bosses, jail them and BP webpages. The Daily Beast.
A memorial service has been held in Jackson, Mississippi for the 11 workers who died when the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded on April 20th. Host of the service, David Greene, noted that they've been called the "Forgotten 11," because most of the attention has been focused on the oil leak rather than the lost workers.
Clean up making workers sick
Now it seems that one of the chemical dispersants used to fight the gulf oil spill is making workers sick. Seven crew members aboard fishing vessels who had been working to clean up Breton Sound, southeast of New Orleans, have blamed the dispersant chemicals for health complaints including nausea, shortness of breath and high blood pressure. They were all admitted to hospital. Doctors who examined them said that their conditions were 'related to some kind of irritant, combined with dehydration'. The US government's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had earlier asked BP to stop using the dispersant, known as Corexit, and find a safer alternative. BP disputed the agency's assessment of its level of toxicity. 'The worker safety issue has been completely lost in this story,' said Tom O'Connor, executive director of the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health. 'It's one of the biggest industrial disasters in recent history, and yet Congress [views it] the same as the public: They're not seeing it as a worker safety issue.' Federal statistics support O'Connor's call for concern. Between 2003 and 2008, 646 US oil and gas workers were killed on the job, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, including 120 in 2008.
Source: Risks 459
China: Foxconn makes workers an offerFollowing intense international media attention on the recent spate of suicides, Foxconn has offered workers in its 300,000 strong plant in Shenzhen, China, a 30 per cent pay increase. Ten workers have killed themselves by jumping off the roof – and several others tried. Several of Foxconn's largest customers have launched investigations into working conditions at the plant. In addition, the company has implemented a number of measures, including piping music on to the factory floors and asking employees to sign a 'no suicide pledge'. However, an undercover team of Chinese investigators found the trigger to the mass suicides was 'inside the factory'. They found people were not allowed to speak to each other, and must work very fast to keep up with the machines. Apparently the factory has been losing 50,000 employees every month due to burn-out. Investigators said, 'Because Foxconn has had a large number of big orders, the workers are reduced to repeating exactly the same hand movement for months on end. The workers we have spoken to say that their hands continue to twitch at night, or that when they are walking down the street they cannot help but mimic the motion. They are never able to relax their minds.'
The 30 per cent pay increase will raise the basic monthly salary of the Chinese production-line workers from 900 yuan (A$156) to 1,200 yuan (A$208), and will be effective immediately. Foxconn is claiming, however, that the pay rise had nothing to do with the suicides: 'It's been a while since we increased wages, hence the decision,' said a spokesman. In news that has just come through: the company has raised wages again - for the second time in less than a week. Foxconn will increase salaries at its Shenzhen plant by nearly 70% from as early as 1 October, if workers meet certain conditions. This is in addition to last week'Ts announcement that wages would go up by 30%.
Sources: HESA News Times Online BBC News
India: after 25 years, an insult to the victims of BhopalIn 1984, the people of Bhopal, India, were the victims of the world's worst industrial disaster. 3,500 people died in the immediate aftermath of a chemical spill at a Union Carbide plant, and as many as 25,000 since. In addition, there have been countless children born with birth defects and many other devastating consequences. Today, over 25 years later, they are still awaiting justice.
An Indian court this week found eight Indian former plant employees - one already dead - guilty of death by negligence. The charges had been downgraded from 'culpable homicide not amounting to murder' in 1996. They have each received a two year prison sentence and a fine of 100,000 rupees (A$2,600). Survivors' groups have called the prosecution 'sloppy', and the verdict 'an insult'. They have a right to be angry. Especially after the $470m (A$571m) compensation paid by Dow Chemicals, which now owns Union Carbide, went to the Indian government rather than the survivors. Not a penny has been spent on cleaning up the area. Not one of the company's US managers in charge of the plant at the time have stood trial.
Read more Truth, Liberty and Reason blog
News from the ILODecent work for domestic workers
Domestic work employs millions of workers, mostly women, around the world. The June 2010 session of the International Labour Conference will hold a first discussion on a new international labour standard for a domestic workforce that is growing worldwide Manuela Tomei, Director of the ILO's Conditions of Work and Employment Programme, speaks about working conditions of domestic workers, and how they can be improved.
ILO Media Release
Proposed Recommendation on HIV/AIDS and the world of work
Also at this year's conference, there will be the second, and final, discussion on the development of a labour standard on HIV/AIDS and the world of work. If adopted, the recommendation will be the first international human rights instrument on AIDS in the workplace. ILO/AIDS Director, Dr. Sophia Kisting discusses the Recommendation. The ILO has a widely supported 2001 Code of Practice which is a set of principles. However, it has found that there can be selective implementation of the 10 principles. The ILO believes a recommendation would strengthen the Code and create much greater harmonization of workplace programmes.
Read more: ILO questions and answers. Feature stories on HIV/AIDS and the world of work
Fixing the future of Mali's child workers
In Mali, approximately two out of three children aged 5 to 17 work - this represents over 3 million children. Few of them go to school and 40 per cent of children aged 5 to 14 perform hazardous tasks. The situation of migrant girls is of particular concern.
Read more: ILO Online reports