Issue 236 - SafetyNet 236
Welcome to Edition 236 of the VTHC fortnightly OHS bulletin SafetyNet. If you have anything you’d like to comment on, please feel free to send these firstname.lastname@example.org through.
International Workers Memorial Day – April 28
A large crowd of workers, bereaved families and friends attended the annual memorial event on International Workers Memorial Day at the Trades Hall on Friday April 27th, to mourn for the dead and fight for the living. Ms Ingrid Stitt, VTHC President and Secretary of the ASU, was MC for the event. Ms Lorraine Quirke, President of IDSA, and co-host of the event, welcomed those in attendance and said, ‘This day not only allows us to pause in a public way to remember all those who’ve been lost - but it gives us the opportunity to remind the community in general, that a life is too high a price to pay for earning a living. It reminds us that many people have, and will continue to pay that price unless there is more focus and investment on the prevention of workplace death and injury.’
Brian Boyd, VTHC Secretary, then reminded people that earlier in the week Australia paused on Anzac Day to remember the thousands of young men who lost their lives in past wars – many of whom should not have died. Thousands of people lose their lives because of work and these too should have been prevented. Mr Tony Evans, ex-WorkSafe inspector then spoke of the loss of his wife to mesothelioma: In Memory of Jill.
Ms Ged Kearney, ACTU President, then told those gathered that we must also remember the thousands who lose their lives every year due to exposure to chemicals and work-related cancers, focussing on asbestos.
The event ended with the reading of the names of the 25 Victorians who were killed in traumatic workplace incidents over the previous year, a minute’s silence and the Trade Union Choir.
Read more , including the speakers presentations, and the list of fatalities.
WorkSafe Victoria is investigating the circumstances in which a worker was killed last Wednesday morning at a worksite in Chifley Drive, Preston. The 37-year-old man from Bayswater, who was a truck driver, is believed to have been crushed between a scissor lift and a forklift while attempting to unload them from his truck. He was found by another worker at approximately 6.15am, and died at the scene. There have now been five workplace deaths in the State since the start of the year, WorkSafe said.
Also in the period, a delivery man was seriously injured when he was crushed by more than a tonne of plaster at building development site in Bay St, Port Melbourne. The load of plaster came off the man’s truck as it was being unloaded, with two packs falling onto him.
Source: WorkSafe Media Release.
Victoria not picking up model WHS legislation
The Victorian Government has finally confirmed (although very quietly) that it will not be picking up the model Work Health and Safety legislation. It has been laying the groundwork for this announcement, first by delaying the implementation in order to undertake a supplementary Regulatory Impact Statement, and then releasing the summary report, which claimed adopting the model would come at too high a cost. It should be noted that while in Opposition, the Liberal Party fully supported harmonisation of Australia’s health and safety laws. The announcement can be found on page 14 of the Victorian Treasurer’s Budget Speech:
“The Government will not sign up to the current proposal for harmonised legislation for occupational health and safety. It offers little benefit for Victoria to offset the $3.4 billion of estimated costs, the majority of which falls on small business. Victoria will continue to work towards best practice legislation.”
This decision has a number of implications for both workers and businesses which operate across jurisdictions. Kevin Jones, in an article on his Safety at Work blog says Victoria’s decision raises a number of questions:
What standing will national Codes of Practice have in Victoria?
Will WorkSafe continue to participate in the development of laws, Codes and guidance material that will apply in Victoria?
In this period of budgetary frugality, why is the Victorian Treasurer prepared to relinquish $A50 million of federal funding?
Will the Victorian Government release the full PwC Report instead of just the summary, so that the full costings analysis can be reviewed?
Can Victoria still claim to have the best OHS laws in Australia?
With regard to the Codes, it should be remembered that Victoria was only part-way through rewriting the Codes of Practice (under the 1985 Act) into the Compliance Codes (required under the 2004 Act), when this was suspended in order to participate in the national harmonisation process.
Budget speech [pdf] Safety at Work blog, LinkedIn Work Health Safety (OHS) Harmonisation Discussion Forum
Work-related cancer forum May 3
Those attending the joint ACTU/Cancer Council forum last week heard that more than 90,000 workers across four sectors could be at risk of occupational cancer as a result of Australia’s fragmented approach to reducing exposure to workplace carcinogens. Analyses presented at the national demonstrated that the highest numbers of at-risk workers are employed in machinery manufacture (42,000), printing and allied industries (25,700), food (14,800) and plastics manufactures (11,400).
Chair of Cancer Council’s Occupational Cancers Committee, Terry Slevin, said Australia remained in the dark ages when it came to reducing the risks of occupational cancer.
“There is no cohesion in the regulatory framework, no incentives for industry to reduce the use of toxins and no integrated approach to fixing these and other problems,” Mr Slevin said.
ACTU Assistant Secretary Michael Borowick said fragmentation was evident in the absence of regulatory links between three of the key government agencies involved – Safework Australia, the National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme and the National Pollutions Inventory. ‘These three bureaucracies operate in silos, despite all of them having some responsibility for helping to protect Australian workers from occupational cancer,’ Mr Borowick said. ‘Compare this to the European Union, which is introducing the REACH, based on “no data, no use principle” which will coordinate and require action from companies throughout the EU, which has 27 member states, as many languages and 500 million people.
Cancer Council Media Release 90,000 Australians face work-based cancer risk, The Australian
High Court upholds conviction of James Hardie directors
The ACTU has said this week’s High Court ruling that seven former directors of James Hardie misled the Australian Stock Exchange about the company’s ability to fund compensation claims from asbestos victims is a step towards justice for the families of those who suffered at the company’s hands. The Board had claimed that they had not authorised a statement from the company that the Trust to pay victims and established before the company moved off-shore was ‘fully funded’. In fact, it faced a huge shortfall just months later.
ACTU President Ged Kearney said she hoped the decision would provide comfort to the families of those who lost loved ones after they were exposed to asbestos from James Hardie. ‘It is quite appalling that the directors continued to cause pain and suffering to these families, forcing this matter to go all the way to the High Court,’ Ms Kearney said. ‘Hopefully now, they can rest a bit easier, knowing that justice is a step closer to being done.’
The High Court’s decision overturned a ruling in favour of the directors in 2010, who had successfully challenged a NSW Court of Appeal finding against them the previous year. The directors were banned from serving on company boards for five years, before that ban was overturned in 2010 by the NSW Court of Appeal.
Karen Banton, widow of Bernie Banton, said 'Well, we're pleased but it's a bitter sweet victory. It was a slap over the wrists anyway'. Matt Peacock, on the ABC’s PM program reported that Meredith Hellicar, who was chairman at the time, and who was particularly criticised by the Supreme Court judge, is now mentoring young directors!
ACTU Media Release. Read about (or listen to) the case in detail on the ABC’s PM program
Latest GARDS Newsletter
The latest newsletter of the Gippsland Asbestos Related Diseases Support Inc (GARDS) is now available to download [pdf] The Newsletter has information on GARDS activities, including participating in local TAFE asbestos awareness training, and also advice for home renovators. The group is extremely active in the La Trobe Valley and does a fantastic job in ensuring people are aware of the issues surrounding asbestos. It also provides advice and support to those suffering from asbestos-related diseases and to their families.
New water blaster labels add to asbestos awareness in Queensland
Workplace Health and Safety Queensland (WHSQ) has said that new warning labels on some high-pressure water hoses will help users stay safe around materials containing asbestos. WHSQ is working with manufacturers of high-pressure water hoses to ensure users are aware of the dangers and costs of misusing water blasters on asbestos materials.
While invaluable for cleaning, the authority said, ‘if they are used incorrectly, they can damage materials containing asbestos.’ A recent serious incident in Victoria supports this view: a small business owner, doing a ‘favour’ for a friend, cleaned the roof of her garage with a high-pressure water hose. Unaware that it made of asbestos materials, the end result was a serious contamination of the home’s backyard, as well as those of her two neighbours.. a large clean-up
This initiative is part of the WHSQ Asbestos Work Health and Safety Action Plan 2011–16 which has also seen the development of a dedicated website and a phone line dedicated to clearing up community concerns about all issues relating to asbestos.
Tasmanian asbestos victims paid $3m in six months under no-fault scheme
Tasmania's Government has announced the state’s no-fault Asbestos-Related Diseases Compensation Scheme, introduced in October last year, has paid out almost $3 million to asbestos victims and their families.’Nothing can truly compensate workers and their families for the terrible pain caused by asbestos-related disease. But this scheme at least offers some comfort and medical support, at an extremely difficult time,’ State Workplace Relations Minister David O'Byrne said.
Under the scheme, funded by workers' compensation premiums, applicants with asbestos-related diseases attributable to work do not have to prove their employers were negligent.
Canadian Unions happy to see asbestos lobby group fold
The key asbestos industry lobbying group in Canada, the Chrysotile Institute, has formally announced it will cease operations. The Canadian Labour Congress welcomed the news of the folding of lobby group, that has received funding from the federal and Quebec governments. The Institute, created in 1984, insisted on behalf of the industry that the use of chrysotile asbestos poses little risk to workers if handled safely. The CLC says that in fact, overwhelming expert evidence indicates that asbestos is a well-known carcinogen and that no safe use exists. The CLC points out the hypocrisy: Asbestos is listed as a hazardous substance under Canadian law and Canada has instituted a practical ban on the use of asbestos to protect the health of Canadians. Yet, paradoxically, Canada continues to export asbestos. Canada is a major producer of asbestos and all of this country’s exports go to developing countries, including Bangladesh, India and Indonesia. This consumption will lead to a pandemic of asbestos related diseases in developing countries.
Read more: Canadian Labour Congress Media Release
Riding for a cure
Last edition we told you about Asbestoswise Committee Member, Shelley Mathews’ ‘Meso Busters’ team in the first Melbourne Ride to Conquer Cancer (27 and 28 October). The 200 km ride from Melbourne through the Yarra Valley is to raise money for the Peter MacCallum Hospital in an effort to find a cure for cancer. Shelley’s mother passed away in 2009 from mesothelioma, and she is dedicating the ride to all those who have suffered the same fate, hoping to raise the awareness of mesothelioma. Please support the team by donating through their page on the Conquer Cancer website (join the team and ride by registering!) For more information go to the team’s page or email Shelley
Fundraising walk to highlight asbestos cancers in young Australians
And in Western Australia: More than two dozen people set out to walk across the desert from Kalgoorlie to Perth last week to highlight the urgent need for more research into the deadly asbestos cancer mesothelioma. The Walk for Wittenoom Children was expected to last five days.
ABC AM Program
International petition to ban asbestos promoter
If you haven’t yet signed international petition requesting the UN to not accept asbestos-promoter asbestos criminal Stephan Schmidheiny at Rio+20 (see SafetyNet 235) please do so now – go to this website to access and sign the petition and to find it in other languages.
Who has the responsibility of developing and maintaining an Asbestos Register? The owner or occupier or the person leasing the building?
Under the Victorian OHS Regulations, 2007, part 4.1 Asbestos, ‘persons who manage or control workplaces’ have a number of duties, including to identify asbestos at the workplace (including the type of asbestos, its location, its condition, whether it is likely to sustain damage or deterioration); to label it if practicable; to record this information, including the date of each identification of the asbestos, in a register; to keep the register current and in any case review it every 5 years.
A copy of the register must be provided to a number of others, including any employer/self-employed person whose business is located at the workplace and anyone undertaking asbestos removal work.
In addition to this, any employer of employees in a particular workplace, also has a duty with regards to keeping and maintaining a register, ensuring it is up to date, and taking whatever action is necessary to eliminate exposure of employees and others to the asbestos. But it's up to the person who manages or controls the workplace to provide any employers with a copy of the register. The regs do not mention the ‘owner’ of a building/workplace specifically. So...in this case, it's a matter of clarifying who has the management and control of the workplace...
More information: Summary of the Asbestos regulations
If you have any OHS - related queries or questions, then why not send them in to Renata? Use the Ask Renata function on the website, and we promise you a quick and easy to understand response within a couple of working days at the latest. And it’s free!
Flu and colds
We’re coming into the colder weather, with winter just around the corner. HSRs who represent workers whose work means they come into contact with the general public or students and are at a higher risk of catching the flu should consider raising flu shots with their employer. Taking this action will in the long run be of great benefit not only to the workers, but to the employer as well, minimising sick leave and the dreaded ‘presenteeism’ – where sick workers come to work, work at levels that are less than optimal, and risk infecting others.
Flu vaccinations are available at The Worker’s Occupational Health Centre (WOHC) now. WOHC is located at the Trades Hall (entry via Victoria Street). Alternatively, they are able to come out to worksites on Mondays and Tuesdays at a time that suits the employer. Please contact the WOHC on 9662 4820 for more information or to book a session.
Vic nurse awarded $1.3m
The Victorian Supreme Court has awarded a nurse almost $1.3m for a lift injury she incurred in 2006 as a result of hospital staff shortages. The nurse was working in Wodonga Hospital emergency department when a man weighing about 130kg began fitting, frothing at the mouth and turning blue. Because the only other emergency department staff (a nurse and a doctor) were attending another emergency, she had to try to roll the patient herself. She felt "a really sickening deep sharp pain" in her back, which turned out to be a large disc prolapse. The nurse claimed damages from Wodonga Regional Health Service (WRHS) for negligence and breaches of Vic's OHS 1999 regulations. In 2007 the hospital hired an extra doctor and two more nurses. WRHS denied negligence or breach of duty and alleged contributory negligence because the nurse had breached hospital ‘no-lift’ and ‘code blue’ policies requiring her to press an emergency button and wait for assistance. The nurse argued the patient would likely have died if she had not assisted him immediately.
The jury awarded her $400,000 for pain and suffering and $880,000 for pecuniary loss. Source: OHNews
Lack of PPE leads to eye injuries
Recent research by the Centre for Eye Research Australia has found that every year hundreds of workers sustain serious eye injuries while performing hazardous tasks without wearing proper safety glasses. The injuries are also very costly.
The Victorian researchers, led by Professor Rasik Vajpayee, found that over two months in 2009, over half of the 100 patients arriving at a hospital emergency department with eye damage caused by metal fragments had not been wearing eye protection at the time. In most cases, the injuries occurred during high-velocity impact machining (eg metal grinding, welding, repair work or drilling). Eye injuries caused by metal fragments could result in corneal scarring, infection and permanent visual impairment.
In Victoria, there were approximately 3500 emergency presentations due to work-related eye injuries, costing $39 million a year.
However, even those who were wearing safety eyewear were not guaranteed protection, as 45 per cent of the injuries were in fact sustained by workers who were wearing some form of eye protection – raising the issue of inadequate design. Professor Vajpayee said, ‘The failure of the safety eyewear may have been due to the presence of gaps between the eyewear and the subject's face, the pattern of particle emission, or the alignment of the work operation.’ He commented that the study has raised the importance of looking into what the causes of these injuries were: lack of appropriate PPE, lack of training, or management issues, for example.
WorkSafe Victoria news
WorkSafe relaunches supervisor campaign
Using what could be described as a bizarre ‘experiment’, WorkSafe has shown that even when warned of the danger of something, and seeing someone injured, people will follow instructions. Victoria’s regulator set up a mock worksite in Melbourne’s CBC where two actors asked passers by to hand over a ‘live’ cable from one to the other - despite being warned the cable was dangerous, 90 per cent of people who were asked by the ‘supervisor’ to pass the live wire to the ‘apprentice’ did so. If the apprentice received a (fake) ‘shock’ and dropped the cable, the helpful passers by picked it up and handed it to him again! The experiment is part of WorkSafe’s supervisor campaign, which comes after a recent survey which showed supervisors rate keeping up with productivity and meeting client deadlines as their most important priority ahead of safety. The survey also found one in five supervisors admitted they would ask their employees to bypass safety to complete a task quickly.
Read more: WorkSafe Media Release WorkSafe experiment delivers shocking results
WorkSafe Victoria Awards - nominations
Nominations for the 2012 WorkSafe Victoria Awards are now open with WorkSafe calling on people and business who are ‘making a difference’ to enter. According to the regulator, the new online entry system takes just 10 minutes. There are several categories – those of most interest to unions and HSRs are those for workplace safety.
‘Reflecting the rising interest in social media, people visiting the Awards website can look at details of the entrants and show their support by hitting the ‘like’ button,’ WorkSafe Deputy Chief Executive Ian Forsyth said. ‘We want to hear from people making big changes and small changes. It all makes a difference and reinforces Victoria’s position of being the safest state in the country.’ WorkSafe Media Release
Safe Work Australia news
Notified Fatalities Statistical Report 2010 -11 released
Safe Work Australia has released the 2010–11 Notified Fatality Statistical Report which presents a national summary of work-related traumatic fatalities that were notifiable to Australian work health and safety jurisdictions. The report also provides time-series comparison back to 2003–04. It presents detailed analysis of the notifications on the basis of jurisdiction, industry, occupation, mechanism of fatality, and age.
In summary, in 2010 - 11 there were 138 notified work-related fatalities: comprising 120 workers and 18 bystanders. This represents an increase of nine over the previous year. Most of the fatalities were of men: 124 in total. There were 14 fatalities of women (including 8 bystanders). Five industries accounted for eight out of every ten notified work-related fatalities: 36 fatalities occurred at Agriculture, forestry & fishing workplaces; 30 at Construction workplaces; 22 at Manufacturing workplaces; 14 at Transport & storage workplaces; and 9 at Mining workplaces. The three most common causes of fatality were being hit by falling objects (26 fatalities), vehicle incidents (23 fatalities), and falls from a height (19 fatalities).
Notified Fatalities Statistical Report 2010 -11
Proposed amendments to exposure standards for ‘mineral wools’
Safe Work Australia invites public comment on the proposed amendment to the workplace exposure standard (WES) for all mineral wools (previously known as synthetic mineral fibres). A consultation package is available on the Safe Work Australia website and consists of:
- an issues paper which details the proposed changes to the WES and summarises the material on which the recommendations are made,
- a summary of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) evaluation of the current epidemiological and toxicological evidence, and
- the Australian Institute of Occupational Hygienists (AIOH) position paper.
Safe Work Australia has released a number of publications. The first of interest is the Key Work Health and Safety Statistics Booklet Australia 2012 - ‘a pocket-sized summary of the main statistics on work-related injury, disease and death produced by Safe Work Australia’. The information includes the main types of injuries for which compensation was paid, the cost of injury and incidence rates by industry.
Most of the following relate to the model health and safety legislation, and provide advice for ‘PCBUs’ and other duty holders. However, the information is useful for Victorian workplaces as well:
Controlling Risks Associated with Electroplating This guide looks at the hazards and risks in electroplating processes, including hazardous chemicals, electrical, plant, noise and manual handling hazards’.
Classification and labelling for workplace hazardous chemicals A poster providing information on the Globally Harmonised System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS), introduced by the Work Health and Safety (WHS) Regulations. It shows GHS signal words, pictograms and hazard statements for each GHS hazard class and category under the WHS Regulations.
Guidance on the Interpretation of Workplace Exposure Standards for Airborne Contaminants provides advice on the application of workplace exposure standards for airborne contaminants (exposure standards) in the workplace. It should be read in conjunction with the Workplace Exposure Standards for Airborne Contaminants.
Guidance note: Placard and manifest requirements under the Work Health and Safety Regulations to assist duty holders comply with these requirements WHS Regulations. It shows the link between Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS) classes and categories and equivalent classes of dangerous goods under the Australian Dangerous Goods (ADG) Code’.
Guidance of the Classification of Hazardous Chemicals under the Work Health and Safety (WHS) Regulations - intended for manufacturers and importers of substances, mixtures and articles who have a duty under the WHS Act and Regs to classify them; also useful for suppliers, persons undertaking business and undertakings, workers and other persons involved with hazardous chemicals.
Fact sheet: The Hazardous chemicals register provides general guidance for PCBUs on the requirements to prepare and maintain a register of hazardous chemicals at the workplace.
Fact sheet: Understanding Safety Data Sheets for Hazardous Chemicals assists employers understand safety data sheets for hazardous chemicals under the new code.
Fact sheet: Laser classification and potential hazards provides guidance about the system of classification of laser devices and the potential hazards of the laser classes.
Faulty machine amputates worker’s arm
A South Australian employer that purchased a second-hand machine with a faulty interlock device, and failed to fix it, has been fined more than $80,000, after a worker's arm was amputated.
In March 2008, an All Laundry and Linen Pty Ltd employee was feeding a quilt into an industrial ironing machine when her preferred right hand, wrist and then forearm were drawn into the heated roller. She was freed by some of her fellow workers. She was taken to hospital and her arm was amputated above the elbow. She also suffered a detached retina and has since had problems with her left arm.
When the employer bought the second-hand ironing machine ten years before, a metal flap in front of the first roller was not being used as guard, as was intended. The employer had failed to carry out a hazard or risk assessment and had not repaired the faulty guard. Source; OHS Alert
Vic’s first ‘reckless endangerment’ fine stands
Victorian employer Orbit Drilling Pty Ltd and its director copped Victoria’s first heavy fine under the ‘reckless endangerment’ provision for ‘knowingly exposing’ a newly-recruited and untrained worker to grave danger which led to his death. The company pleaded guilty to a charge under s32 of the Act, and was convicted and fined $750,000. Its managing director, Martin John Smith, was also charged over the incident, and fined $120,000 after pleading guilty to breaching s144 (liability of officers) and s21 (duties of employers) of the Act. The incident occurred In December 2006, when an Orbit supervisor directed a 21-year-old employee to drive a heavily-loaded truck with defective brakes down an extremely steep off-road hill. The worker, who had been with the company for little more than a week, and had limited driving experience, lost control of the vehicle and died when it overturned.
They appealed against the severity fines, arguing the fines should have been lower in view of their early guilty plea, the fact they were ‘first offenders’ and the steps taken subsequently. They also argued that fining of both the company and the sole and founding director was a ‘double penalty’. The State Court of Appeal upheld the fines. The judges found the two were distinctly separate: ‘Orbit was to be punished for its act of recklessness in requiring [the worker] to drive the unsafe truck. Mr Smith, on the other hand, was to be punished for his own lack of reasonable care in failing to ensure that the company established and maintained safe systems of work.’
The Court found that the employer was ‘aware that it was placing [the worker] at grave risk, that there was a high likelihood that the danger would eventuate and that, if it did, [the worker] would be very seriously injured’.
The supervisor who instructed the worker to drive down the hill received a suspended prison sentence for his role in the incident in October 2011 proceedings. Source: OHS Alert
John Holland handed maximum fine after fatality
National construction firm, John Holland Pty Ltd, one of the first companies to shift to the Comcare scheme under the Howard Liberal government, has been fined $242,000, the maximum OHS fine under the previous Commonwealth OHS Act, and made to enter an enforceable undertaking after an employee fell to his death and two near misses went unreported.
A forty five year old worker was killed after he stepped onto an unsecured sheet of grid mesh and fell to the floor below at the Mt Whaleback facility in the Pilbara, WA. The tragedy is that the fatality came just days after two similar incidents occurred. The first, on March 12, 2009, John Holland employees were building structures at the BHP Billiton's Mt Whaleback facility when a heavy sheet of grid mesh flooring - which had not been properly secured - fell from a structure and landed on the ground just two metres from where an employee was standing. A similar incident occurred a few days later. Neither incident was reported to the regulator.
In addition to the prosecution, the enforceable undertaking requires the employers to implement better safety practices in their operations across the country. They are also required to share these improvements with the construction industry, including through the Federal Safety Commissioner.
Comcare Media Release Maximum fine over John Holland workplace death
Global: Italian widows highlight worker suicidesThe grieving wives and family members of more than 25 businessmen who have taken their own lives because of financial woes linked to Italy's economic crisis took to the streets of Bologna on 4 May. The Guardian reports the organisers of the march, including the Italian Women's Union, believe there has been too little dialogue and not enough state support for families that have fallen into despair over unemployment, bankruptcies and loan defaults. The protest has focussed attention on the hardline economic policies that have driven many into hardship. The situation in the south of Italy, which traditionally had much higher unemployment rates, is anecdotally much worse. This hard line economic strategy has recently c0me in for harsh criticism last week from the International Labour Office (ILO). Its 'World of Work Report 2012: Better jobs for a better economy', published on 29 April, warned a new and more problematic phase of the global jobs crisis is emerging. A news release accompanying the report noted 'this is due to the fact that many governments, especially in advanced economies, have shifted their priority to a combination of fiscal austerity and tough labour market reforms. The report says such measures are having devastating consequences on labour markets in general and job creation in particular. They have also mostly failed to reduce fiscal deficits.' Lead report author Raymond Torres noted 'the prescribed cure is killing the patient.' ILO called instead for a strategy focused on growth and jobs.
ILO news release
and full report, World of Work Report 2012: Better Jobs for a Better Economy . The Guardian . Hazards occupational suicide webpages
Source: Risks 554
Global Unions Message - May Day 2012
The International Transport Workers Federation released a ‘global union statement’ on the occasion of May Day. The statement calls for a better way forward for workers in the current extremely difficult international economic situation. It begins ‘It is more than five years since the financial crisis hit, followed rapidly by a larger economic crisis. This economic earthquake exposed the dangers of financialisation; of having the real economy subservient to finance; and of two decades of growing inequality. The resulting shock added millions to the already teeming ranks of the jobless and threw millions more into precarious work. Many workers have lost good jobs and far too many have also lost the fundamental rights that went with them.’ The statement calls on global governments to, among other things, implement global regulation of financial markets, introduce measures to address job recovery, introduce fairer tax systems and more. Global unions statement
Obama administration caves in: child agricultural labor law ditched
Many US public health and workers' rights groups were in shock by the Obama Administration's decision to withdraw its proposed regulation to protect children who work on farms. However, others, less surprised, attribute it to the Administration caving into energetic attacks by the American Farm Bureau, Republicans in Congress (and some Democrats, too) and anti-regulation radio ‘shock-jocks’. The proposal recommended that children aged 15 years and younger, who are being paid as employees, thus specifically excluding farmers’ family, be prohibited from doing some of the MOST dangerous tasks on farms. The 13 hazardous tasks included working in grain silos (where they can be fatally engulfed in grain), and working in a manure pit (where they can inhale deadly gases, pass out and drown in animal waste.) For some of the 13 hazardous tasks, child workers aged 14 and 15 would have been allowed to do some of these tasks if they received special training.
When the proposal was launched last year, it was fully supported by the U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis who said that because we don't live in an ideal world where all employers assure the safety of their workers, including elementary school-age workers, special rules to protect children are necessary. Now, not only has the proposal disappeared, but all references to it have been removed from the Labor department’s website.
The Pump Handle blog
Thai industrial complex suffers deadly fire and blast
At least 12 workers were killed and almost 130 people were injured as explosions and a fire hit Thailand's largest petro-chemical complex in Rayong Province (about 140km sought of Bangkok) last weekend.
Hundreds of residents living near the Map Ta Phut plant, were evacuated and experts are monitoring the area for possible chemical contamination. The cause of the blast is not known. The plant has been at the centre of a long-running dispute by local residents and environmental campaign groups. The blaze, which sent plumes of acrid black smoke over a wide area, was brought under control after four hours. Following the incident, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has set up a tripartite committee to examine possible toxic contamination in the area.
Sources: BBC Asia; Bangkok Post
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