Issue 251 - SafetyNet 251
Welcome to the 251st edition of the fortnightly OHS bulletin SafetyNet. As the holiday season approaches, the VTHC urges workers to ensure their employers are maintaining vigilance on health and safety at the workplace. Unfortunately, at this time of the year, with so much going on the rate of incidents often increases – sometimes with tragic consequences. Also: if you have a comment on any of the items or have any OHS related queries, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Second last SafetyNet for the year
The next edition of SafetyNet, likely to be shorter than usual, will be coming your way on December 19, a day early. The VTHC will be closing in December 20 and re-opening in January: more details next journal. For those of you finishing off before then, the VTHC OHS Unit wishes you all a safe and healthy holiday season.
Bullying Inquiry Report released
Last week the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Education and Employment released its report:
Workplace Bullying - We just want it to stop. In June of this year, the Federal Government had tasked the Committee to conduct a national inquiry into workplace bullying. The report contains 23 recommendations, including recommending that a nationally consistent definition of bullying should be adopted. The definition recommended is that bullying be
'repeated, unreasonable behaviour directed towards a worker or group of workers, that creates a risk to health and safety'.
While this is not very different to what has, up to now, been a generally accepted and well understood definition, it is now quite dissimilar to the definition now used by WorkSafe Victoria in its recently released new guidance, that is, that bullying is '…… persistent and repeated negative behaviour directed at an employee that creates a risk to health and safety.'
The report recommended that practical solutions were needed to arrest the 'devastating' and' long-lasting' impacts of workplace bullying and that individuals be be given specific recourse to Fair Work Australia-style mediation and adjudication over workplace bullying disputes. Measures recommended include fast tracking the national code of practice (currently in development), national regulations setting minimum standards for employer obligations, and the establishment of a 'one-stop shop' (a national advisory service to provide advice, assistance and resolution services to employers and workers). It did not recommend, however, an extension of Victoria's 'Brodie Law', introduced after the tragic suicide of Brodie Panlock. Labor MP Amanda Risworth, chair of the Committee, noted in presenting the report to the House of Representatives: 'The Productivity Commission estimates that workplace bullying costs the Australian economy between $6 billion and $36 billion annually. The human costs are enormous. People's health — both physical and mental wellbeing — productivity and personal lives suffer immeasurably when subjected to bullying.'
The Minister for Workplace Relations, Bill Shorten, welcomed the report saying 'Bullying and harassment have no place in any Australian workplace. [E]very worker should be treated fairly with respect and dignity at work, and should arrive home safely each day.'
It should be noted that the three Coalition members of the Committee, while 'broadly in support of many of the findings and recommendations of the majority of the Committee' nevertheless issued a 'Dissenting report' stating '(we) reject the idea that the best way to address workplace bullying is to introduce another raft of inflexible compliance to all parties including employers who are struggling to meet the various, vagarious and expensive requirements of three levels of government already.'
Read more: Safety at Work Blog
Australian governments pick up on Asbestos Awareness Week
It's interesting to note that what has traditionally been a week of activities run by and organised through the union movement and the asbestos support and advocacy groups has now been picked up by a number of Australian governments. Comcare, for example, ran a successful and well-attended forum in Melbourne which included Geoff Fary (author of the Asbestos Management Review Report) and Steve Kibble (new head of the Office of Asbestos Safety). The NSW Government used the week to launch a model policy for councils and had an Asbestos Awareness Week page on the NSW WorkCover website. This has meant that the week and the serious topic of asbestos has received increased media and public attention – however we need to remember this has come about as a result of the great efforts of unions and asbestos groups over the past decades.
Union/Support group activities
During and before Asbestos Awareness week, the ACTU and state labour councils hosted an international delegation of unionists from Canada, Laos and India who were trying to limit the future death toll from asbestos in developing countries. According to ACTU president Ged Kearney the Australian Government must use its influence to limit the international trade in asbestos and the use of the deadly material in buildings in our region.
'Asbestos has caused a horrific toll of death and suffering in Australia, and the impact of asbestos-related diseases is not expected to peak until 2030,' Ms Kearney said. 'Asbestos is now banned in Australia, but sadly the asbestos industry has shifted to developing nations. The World Health Organisation estimates that over 100,000 die each year from asbestos-related diseases, with 600 of these in Australia.
'The Australian Government must push for a global ban on the international trade of asbestos. Australia must do more to reduce the future death toll from asbestos in our region, particularly in countries whose health systems will not be able to cope with a rising number of asbestos-related illnesses.'
The Federal Member for Maribyrnong and Minister for Workplace Relations, Bill Shorten said, 'As the Minister in charge of the national response to asbestos, it deeply concerns me that my own constituents in Brimbank, Maribyrnong and Moonee Valley might not be aware of the ongoing dangers. Asbestos is found not only in old fibre cement sheeting, but eaves, fake brick cladding, water heaters, garden sheds, roofing and behind tiling. It's estimated that asbestos is in 1 in 3 Australian homes on average.'
ACTU Media Release Australia must do more to stop international trade in asbestos ACTU Blog about the delegation's visit to a Melbourne removal site. Minister Bill Shorten's Media Release Asbestos still a killer
Asbestos Groups warn of 'misleading information'
On various occasions during Asbestos Awareness Week, Gippsland Asbestos Related Disease Support (GARDS) group CEO Vicki Hamilton voiced the organisation's concern with misleading and dangerous information provided in a Federal Department of Health and Ageing asbestos-awareness booklet. While the booklet contained some very useful information, Ms Hamilton says the booklet gives 'the false and dangerous impression that exposure to small amounts of asbestos is OK.' Further, and also of great concern, in discussing the risks to health, the booklet states: 'The risk of developing an asbestos-related disease increases when a larger number of fibres is breathed in ... However, very occasional exposure to a larger number of asbestos fibres (e.g. unsafe home renovation or demolition next door) is unlikely to be harmful ..'
The VTHC agrees with GARDS that the booklet needs to be withdrawn and amended. It is disappointing that the booklet was produced with these statements, as the VTHC, GARDS and others provided detailed comment on the draft prior to finalisation.
enHealth Booklet: Asbestos – A guide for householders and the general public [ pdf ]
NSW: Model Asbestos policy for Councils
Don Page, the NSW Minister for Local Government, launched a policy and guide to assist councils in their development of a comprehensive and compliant asbestos policy for their local government area. President of the Local Government Association of NSW (LGSA), Cr Keith Rhoades AFSM, 'The Model Asbestos Policy and Guide was developed by the LGSA together with the Heads of Asbestos Coordination Authorities (HACA) for councils to use and tailor to their own local area, to help them meet their legislative obligations.'
WorkCover NSW has also built a 'model house' showing employers, workers and homeowners where asbestos might still be found, particularly in houses built or renovated before 1987. The house, 'Betty - The ADRI House' (Asbestos Diseases Research Institute), is part of an asbestos education campaign and will travel around the State for the next 12 months.
Media Release The Model Policy and Guide can be downloaded from this page.
Asbestos fund recipients named
Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten announced the recipients who were awarded funding under the Federal Government's Asbestos Innovation Fund at the Comcare Forum. The $1.5m fund, which was launched in December 2010, and is underwritten by Comcare, encourages programs and research to strengthen asbestos awareness, improve its management and removal, and provide better treatment and support for ARD sufferers and their families. This year's recipients include: Associate Professor Judith Bauer from the University of Queensland, who will focus on mesothelioma patient nutrition; Benjamin Hardaker from Sydney company AECOM for a health and safety field tool to assess contaminated soil sites; Dr Glen Reid from the Asbestos Diseases Research Institute; Professor Nico van Zandwijk from the Asbestos Diseases Research Foundation; Dr Kimberly Stannard from the Queensland Mesothelioma Project; Glenda Colburn from the Australian Lung Foundation; Associate Professor Rick van der Zwan from Southern Cross University; and Ian Sheppard from the Asbestos Diseases Society of South Australia.
Minister Shorten's Media Release
This week's question:
I am the HSR for a group of workers who spend most of their day outdoors. With the summer months upon us, I'm concerned that we have adequate sun protection…
We have already experienced high temperatures in several states and territories, with the Department of Meteorology predicting more heat wave conditions. Last week Melbourne recorded over 39° Celcius, with Mildura recording its hottest November day in over a hundred years. While outdoor workers are at increased risk of UV radiation, heat stroke and other heat related conditions, factory, office and even retail workers' health can be put at risk when the temperature soars.
In all cases, the employer has a general duty under Section 21 of the OHS Act to provide and maintain so far as reasonable practicable, a working environment and systems of work that are safe and without risks to health. If heat or sun are identified as hazards, then the employer must, in consultation with elected HSRs (or with employees directly if there is no HSR), implement measures to eliminate or reduce the hazard and associated risk. Measures could include rescheduling outdoor work; providing shade; providing proper protective gear and sunscreen; providing rest breaks; providing clean cool water; ensuring air conditioning and/or fans are functioning properly and more.
More information: Heat Sunlight and UV Radiation And remember the SunSmart resources provides resources, training and more.
If you have any OHS - related queries or questions, then why not send them in to Renata? Send in an email to email@example.com and we promise you a quick and easy to understand response within a couple of working days at the latest. And it's free!
One million workers now have access to family violence leave
And in related news: , ACTU Secretary Dave Oliver announced last week at a White Ribbon event in Melbourne that one million Australian workers now have access to leave to deal with effects of family violence, thanks to union negotiations. Mr Oliver said unions would continue working to extend the protection to as many workers as possible.
'Victims of family violence are often vulnerable, traumatised and left with little support. The last thing they need is to risk losing their jobs,' Mr Oliver said. 'Maintaining paid work and independence is crucial for people trying to escape the cycle of family violence, and these agreements recognise this. We have found that many employers are aware of the issue and willing to include this leave in agreements. This is a positive sign of the growing awareness of family violence and its effects on the community. The work that the Australian Domestic and Family Violence Clearinghouse have done to promote this issue should also be commended.'
The ACTU Congress in May this year passed a resolution that family and domestic violence is a workplace issue in which unions can play a role to assist victims maintain paid employment and escape family violence.
ACTU Media Release
Inquiry into anitmicrobials needs to consider use of nano-silver
The Federal government last week announced a Senate Inquiry into its handling of antimicrobial resistance. Dr. Gregory Crocetti from the Friends of the Earth Nanotechnology Project said, said that while the inquiry was welcomed, it was crucial that the contribution that the overuse and misuse of nano-silver is making to this growing problem be carefully considered. 'The overuse of antimicrobials by Australians is contributing to a crisis that the World Health Organisation last year labelled 'one of the greatest threats to human health today,' he said. 'In Australia more than 7000 deaths each year are caused by bacterial resistance to antimicrobials, including antibiotics and other chemicals such as nano-silver and triclosan. It is now widely understood that the widespread overuse and misuse of antimicrobials is an important contributor to antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in bacteria.' Last year Friends of the Earth surveyed leading health experts including for its report
Nano-silver: policy failure puts public health at risk. These experts branded the regulation of nano-silver a 'policy failure'.
Read more: Friends of the Earth Media Release FOE Nano-silver Report More information on nanotechnology
Crane driver hero prevented tragedy
In a freakish incident last week in Sydney a crane caught fire and collapsed at a UTS (University of Technology Sydney) building site. If it hadn't been for the quick thinking of the crane driver who swung the crane so it fell on scaffolding rather than on the street below, the consequences could have been tragic. CFMEU NSW state secretary Brian Parker said it was lucky no one was injured or killed. 'If this crane was pointed out on the street ... and it caught fire there could have been hundreds of innocent bystanders killed here today,' he told reporters. 'That jib could have collapsed onto the road. It could have been motorists, it could have been pedestrians ...' Mr Parker said workers had complained three weeks ago about the crane leaking oil, which was dripping onto their hard hats and clothes. Work had been stopped for about four days due to these problems. The union asked Lend Lease, which had leased the crane from Sefton company, Marr Contracting, to investigate the problem.
Concerns have been raised regarding emergency planning by other unions at the site following the collapse. Simon Wade, president of the UTS branch of the National Tertiary Education Union, witnessed the incident, and said steel workers continued to work beneath the crane as the fire burned out of control prior to the crane jib collapsing. He said the workers had apparently been instructed to keep working.
WorkCover NSW responded to the incident by convening a Roundtable this week with industry and the CFMEU. The major outcome was a commitment to maintain and improve tower crane safety and emergency evacuation procedures in the building industry.
Read more: Sydney Morning Herald
WorkCover NSW Media Release Industry commits to safety following WorkCover Crane Roundtable
Commonly used herbicide kills Queensland farmer
A Queensland farmer has died following ingestion of a small amount of paraquat, a commonly used but highly toxic herbicide. He was spraying weeds on his property on November 15 when the herbicide splashed into his face and mouth. The 55 year-old's death is being investigated by Workplace Health and Safety Qld (WHSQ). However, the chemical is regulated by the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA), which says it is 'tightly regulated' as a schedule 7 dangerous poison, meaning its availability, possession, storage and use is restricted. The chemical has been the subject of a number of reviews. In 1997 the APVMA reviewed it due to potential occupational health and environment risks; an initial Office of Chemical Safety (OCS) toxicology assessment did not identify any major issues, noting existing strict controls were adequate. In 2010, APVMA commissioned OCS to investigate possible links between long-term or chronic exposure to low doses of paraquat and any increased risk of Parkinson's disease (
FAQ ). It would appear that the current controls are not adequate.
APVMA Paraquat in the news and the 1997 Review
International Union News
UK: Vale Simon Pickvance
Simon Pickvance, a tireless activist in occupational health and safety in the UK, has died. He had been diagnosed with mesothelioma two years ago, a consequence of one-time day job as a bricklayer as he developed innovative, worker-oriented occupational health support in primary care. Simon created the Workers' Health International Newsletter, which consolidated international information exchange and cooperation between union and health and safety activists and sympathetic medics and scientists worldwide. He was recently made an Emeritus Fellow of the Collegium Ramazzini. His work was also recognised in awards from the grassroots Construction Safety Campaign and Hazards Campaign. His earlier work as a molecular biologist was noted in John Sulston's 2002 Nobel Prize lecture. SafetyNet readers may have read the Hazards feature article earlier this year This man knows cancer. The article begins with: 'Simon Pickvance knows numbers are important. Numbers - statistics, victims - establish priorities.' As a result of this, Simon was 'baffled' by the approach of UK's regulator, the Health and Safety Executive, to occupational cancer. According to Simon, the HSE was in denial about a workplace problem that dwarfed the annual death count from murders and road traffic accidents combined. ETUI Tribute
Diesel fumes and brain cancer in offspring
Parental exposure to diesel exhaust prior to birth could increase a child's risk of developing a brain tumour, according to a recent Australian case-control study. Researchers from the Western Australian Institute for Medical Research analysed the occupational histories of the parents of 306 children with brain tumours identified through all 10 paediatric oncology centres in Australia, comparing them to 950 controls in a bid to investigate engine exhausts as a risk factor.
They found that maternal exposure to diesel exhaust any time before the child's birth doubled the risk of developing a childhood brain tumour. Paternal exposure to diesel exhaust around the time of conception increased their child's risk of developing a childhood brain tumour by 62 per cent.
Read more: The Medical Observer Susan Peters, et alParental occupational exposure to engine exhausts and childhood brain tumors. Int J Cancer 2012; online 27 November. More information on Diesel Fumes
New study identifies occupations linked to higher rates of breast cancer
Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in industrialized countries. It is probable that some of these cancers will be related to work, but very little research has been done in this area. A new Canadian study has identified jobs and industries that are associated with higher rates of breast cancer. The study will form the basis for future research that could help to better recognize occupational and environmental cancer risks, and lead to prevention.
The six-year study was conducted in Essex and Kent counties of Southern Ontario, a region with a higher incident rate of breast cancer that has continued over time. Researchers examined the occupational histories of 1,006 women who had breast cancer, and 1,146 randomly selected women who had no prior history of breast or ovarian cancer. The study confirmed already known relationships, for example, between increased risk of breast cancer and smoking history, and decreased risk of breast cancer and a larger number of pregnancies. It also identified specific industries that are associated with higher rates of breast cancer including:
- farming - 1.36 times higher risk; risk factors may include pesticide exposure
- bars-gambling (e.g. casinos, racetracks) - 2.28 times higher risk; risk factors may include exposure to second-hand smoke and shift-work
- automotive plastics manufacturing - 2.68 times higher risk; risk factors may include exposure to estrogenic chemicals (e.g. phthalates and bisphenol A)
- food canning - 2.35 times higher risk; risk factors may include exposure to pesticide residues and bisphenol A
- metalworking - 1.73 times higher risk; risk factors may include exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and metalworking fluids
The breast cancer risk for pre-menopausal women was highest in automotive plastics manufacturing (4.76 times) and food canning (5.70 times).
Read more: ETUI report James T Brophy, et al. Breast cancer risk in relation to occupations with exposure to carcinogens and endocrine disruptors: a Canadian case--control study Full Article [pdf] Environmental Health 2012, 11:87 doi:10.1186/1476-069X-11-87
New Dangerous Goods regulations
WorkSafe Victoria has confirmed that the
Dangerous Goods (Storage and Handling) Regulations 2012 have been made and came into effect on 1 December 2012. They have replaced the
Dangerous Goods (Storage and Handling) Interim Regulations 2011.
Link to the new Regulations can be found on the Victorian Legislation and Parliamentary Documents website
Latest update WorkSafe negotiations
Karen Batt, Secretary of the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) whose members work at WorkSafe Victoria, has announced that the CPSU-SPSF Group has reached an in-principled settlement with WorkSafe – Victoria (VWA) with regard to the organisation's EBA negotiations.
Safe Work Australia News
Latest Safe Work Australia meeting
- Safe Work met on November 25. As well as an update with regards to harmonisation, discussion of the 2012-2022 Strategy and other issues, the members endorsed 12 more Codes of Practice. These are:Tree trimming and removal work – crane access method
- Safe design, manufacture, import and supply of plant
- Scaffolds and scaffolding work
- Formwork and falsework
- Working in the vicinity of overhead and underground electric lines
- Traffic management in workplaces
- Industrial lift trucks
- Amusement devices
- Managing risks of plant in rural workplaces
- Managing risks of forestry operations, and
- Managing cash-in-transit security risks.
Read more: Safe Work Australia Communiqué
Meeting 12 November 21st
As at 30 November 2012, 170 Australian workers have been killed while at work. During the same period in 2011, 151 deaths had occurred. By comparison, 150 work-related deaths occurred during the same period in 2011. Safe Work notes on its webpage: 'The number of worker deaths listed is based on initial media reports and is only a preliminary estimate for the number of people killed. Work-related status cannot be confirmed until the death is investigated by the appropriate authority. Once this has occurred, it is reported in Safe Work Australia's Monthly Notifiable Fatality Reports.
Three industries have accounted for nearly 70% of all fatalities in 2012 to date. They are 'transport, postal & warehousing' (59 deaths); 'agriculture, forestry & fishing' (38); and 'construction' (20).
From WorkSafe Victoria, several updated Alerts:
LPG Tank Safety noting a safety issue in relation to vehicles with LPG tanks fitted with a particular pressure-relief valve (SIDEK PRX)
Cleaning Of Concrete Pumping Equipment highlighting the risk of cleaning out residual concrete from concrete pumping equipment.
Workers Engulfed In Trench Collapse regarding increased risk of trench collapse, the alert details control measures to minimise the risk of trench collapse.
From NSW WorkCover, a Safety alert: Safe use of hand-held cutting saws to remind PCBUs (employers) and workers who use hand-held cutting saws, in particular saws used to cut concrete storm water pipes, on safe procedures.
From Workplace Health and Safety Queensland, a new film: Clear and present danger: Asbestos exposed (view from this page ) aimed at home renovators and tradespeople, it urges them to be aware of asbestos materials and the risks of exposing themselves and others to asbestos fibres during renovations. It includes safety tips, identifies common places where asbestos could be found in a typical pre 1990 Queensland home. It's useful for householders and tradespeople in any jurisdiction.
Worker's death: Meatworks found guilty
After a two-week trial in the Morwell County Court, Gippsland meat processing company Tabro Meat Pty Ltd was found guilty of two charges on Friday relating to the death of a worker who was crushed while cleaning a machine in its slaughter room.
The company operates a meat processing factory between Wonthaggi and Korumburra. On 12 November 2010, the worker, Mr Abraham Yak, was asked to clean a rotating knocking box, a machine which uses hydraulic panels to securely hold animals before they are stunned and killed. He was later found crushed between the top lid and side of the machine.
Mr Yak suffered serious injuries, was flown by air ambulance to the Alfred Hospital where he was placed on life support, but died nine days later when his life support system was shut down.
The court heard that on the day before the incident, Mr Yak was one of four staff offered overtime work cleaning in the slaughter room. Mr Yak had never been trained on how to clean the knocking box. Further, there was no isolation switch on the knocking box to shut off power to the control panel before cleaning or maintenance.
WorkSafe General Manager of Health and Safety, Lisa Sturzenegger, described the incident as a serious breach of safety standards by Tabro Meat. 'A worker who came to work that day wanting to earn some overtime died because the company failed in its obligation to him, and to every other employee who had unknowingly risked their lives due to the unsafe system of work employed by the company,' she said. 'Every employee has the right to expect to get home safely every night.'
Source: WorkSafe Media Release
Employer fined $170k for crane collapse and injury
Victorian employer Pezzimenti Laserbore Pty Ltd was fined $170,000 in the Korumburra Magistrates Court after unsafely dismantling a gantry crane, which then collapsed on the Wonthaggi desalination pipeline project, injuring a worker. In February 2011, when a crane collapsed, the a worker "rode" it as it fell, was thrown to the ground, and ended up with shoulder, back and leg injuries. The crane then narrowly missed the worker and others at the site. The incident occurred when employer began to dismantle the gantry crane with the assistance of a mobile crane provided by another company.
WorkSafe Victoria health and safety general manager, Lisa Sturzenegger, said the prosecution served as a timely reminder to prioritise safety during the busy pre-Christmas period.
Source: OHS Alert
Company ordered to spend $200,000 on dangerous machines
Large labour hire company Skilled Group Limited, has been ordered in the Geelong Magistrates' Court to spend $200,000 improving safety on its clients' machines after a worker was dragged hip-deep into inadequately guarded rollers. On 13 April 2011, a machine operator sent by Skilled to the East Geelong factory of Huyck Wangner Australia Pty Ltd was dragged feet-first into rollers on a loom as he tried to remove loose yarn from a length of felt. He suffered serious injuries: his pelvis was fractured in two places and his ankle injured.
Skilled had taken over as the employer of the machine operator from another labour hire company three days prior to the incident. WorkSafe's investigation found that Skilled failed to undertake an adequate hazard assessment in relation to the machine.
The ruling requires Skilled to engage an OHS consultant at its own expense to visit its clients' workplaces to determine where and how the money should be spent. Skilled is the second company to face court over the incident. The host company Huyck Wangner Australia Pty Ltd, was fined $55,000 last month.
WorkSafe Media Release
Two companies fined for trench collapse
Two companies, Di Carlo Drainage and LRM Contractors (Vic), involved in major sewage pipeline project at Templestowe were each fined $30,000 (plus costs) after a worker was injured when a trench collapsed. The companies were involved in a joint venture laying 10km of sewage piping using trenchless directional drilling.
On 20 July 2011, a trench more than 2.5m deep was dug to correct a problem with the pipeline. An employee of Di Carlo Drainage entered the trench, which did not have any shoring or shields in place to prevent the risk of collapse, exiting five minutes later without incident. An LRM employee then entered the trench to work on the pipeline. As he left, the trench wall fell on him, burying him up to his neck. He suffered a broken collarbone, collapsed lung, four broken ribs and required surgery to remove clotting from his lung.
WorkSafe's Construction Manager Allan Beacom said the incident was a reminder of the dangers of working in trenches without essential safety precautions. 'It was fortunate the worker didn't die in this incident,' Mr Beacom said. 'The construction industry knows that trenches are dangerous places to work without full protective measures in place.'
WorkSafe Media Release
Fitness Club fined for failing injured worker
Fitness club GFC Chelsea Heights Pty Ltd (Fenix Fitness Club) was fined $7000 in the Frankston Magistrates' Court after it failed to help an injured worker get back to work. The company admitted it had failed to plan the return to work of an injured worker, provide suitable employment and make a weekly compensation payment.
The worker had injured her knee at work in July 2010 and was unfit for work until 22 December 2010, when a doctor certified her fit for sedentary duties. The worker sent a certificate to GFC, which claimed it was unaware of the certificate. However, WorkSafe investigators located the certificate in the worker's employment file when they visited the premises in April 2011.
Read more: WorkSafe Media Release
Bangladesh fire puts subcontracting and textile dependence on the line
112 workers - many of them women – were killed in a fire in the factory of Bangladesh clothing manufactures Tazreen Fashion on the evening of 24 November. Three of the factory's managers have been arrested and accused of locking a main gate of the facility hampering people trying to flee the inferno. This latest tragic event at a subcontractor of major Western clothing brands casts doubt on whether any real improvement in safety and working conditions is possible in a country whose economic engine is an industry riddled by cut-price labour conditions. The NGO Clean Clothes Campaign reports that at least 500 garment workers have died in fires in Bangladesh since 2006. Yet it is unlikely that this latest tragedy will stop the rising death toll. The designer brand manufacturers rushed to issue their conventional messages of sympathy with the bereaved families and steer inquiries towards their codes of conduct and "social responsibility" programmes.
Walmart has admitted that the factory was still producing clothing lines for its stores even though no longer an authorized supplier since being classified as "high risk" by a certification body for the leading U.S. retailer. Walmart simply points the finger at its supplier for having "secretly" outsourced the work to Tazreen Fashions.
Read more: ETUI report and from AAWL: Global garment industries condemned human rights abusers
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