Issue date
31 Jul 2014
TUC Risks E-Bulletins

Number 665 - 2 August 2014

 
Asbestos - the hidden killer Hazards magazine Hazards at Work

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Editor: Rory O'Neill of Hazards magazine. Comments to the TUC at [email protected]

 

Contents

UNION NEWS

OTHER NEWS

INTERNATIONAL NEWS

TUC courses for safety reps

UNION NEWS

Tribunal fees a ‘huge victory’ for the worst bosses

Employment tribunal fees have been a huge victory for Britain’s worst bosses, according to a new TUC report. ‘What price justice?’ shows that since the introduction of fees on 29 July 2013 there has been a 79 per cent fall in overall claims taken to employment tribunals, with women and low-paid workers the worst affected. The fees mean workers can be required to pay up to £1,200 for taking a tribunal complaint about issues including victimisation for workplace safety activities. The TUC analysis of latest Ministry of Justice statistics reveals women are among the biggest losers, with an 80 per cent fall in the number of women pursuing sex discrimination claims. The number of women pursuing pregnancy discrimination claims is also down by over a quarter (26 per cent). Race and disability claims also plummeted. The report concludes low-paid workers are being priced out of justice. Only 24 per cent of workers who applied for financial assistance to take claims received any form of fee remittance. TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Employment tribunal fees have been a huge victory for Britain’s worst bosses. By charging up-front fees for harassment and abuse claims the government has made it easier for bad employers to get away with the most appalling behaviour.” She added: “Tribunal fees are part of a wider campaign to get rid of workers’ basic rights. The consequence has been to price low-paid and vulnerable people out of justice.”

Ÿ  TUC news release and full report, What price justice?.

HSE celebrates safety law’s 40th birthday

The Health and Safety at Work Act is one of the most important and successful pieces of workplace legislation ever, the TUC has said. Marking the 40th anniversary of the Act, which received royal assent on 31 July 1974, the union body said the number of fatalities in the workplace had fallen by 85 per cent while the number of injuries at work had fallen by 77 per cent. However, the TUC is concerned that the government is seeking to undermine a key part of what made the Act so effective – its universal coverage and its simplicity – by removing most self-employed workers from its protection. TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Few pieces of legislation can be seen to have been as effective as this Act. We should be celebrating its 40th birthday and thanking those who drafted it.” But she warned: “Unfortunately the present government is hell-bent on chipping away at the Act by removing large numbers of self-employed from its coverage.” Highlighting other concerns, she added: “While the Act has been successful in bringing down deaths and injuries in the workplace it has been less effective at preventing occupational diseases such as cancers, asthmas, dermatitis, back pain and lung diseases. This is still a massive problem and I hope that the Act will be used much more vigorously to address this challenge in the years to come.” TUC head of safety Hugh Robertson said there was a concerted attack on lifesaving legal protections, noting “we have politicians, including the Prime Minister and Justice Secretary, declaring war on the ‘health and safety culture’, calls for Europe to reduce the level of protection of workers employed by SMEs [small and medium sized firms], the withdrawal of a range of Approved Codes of Practice and of course the removal of the threat of inspection to whole swathes of industry. Yes, on the 40th Anniversary we need to celebrate the Act but at the same time let’s make sure we are defending it. Our health, and that of future generations, needs it.”

Ÿ  TUC press release

Ÿ  TUC Stronger Unions blog.

Ÿ  HSE news release and 40th anniversary webpages.

Ÿ  Prospect safety blog and [email protected] Voices from the Frontline campaign.

Spending cuts are threatening rail safety

Government cuts to Network Rail’s funding are putting the lives of both rail passengers and maintenance workers at risk, according to a report from the TUC’s Action for Rail campaign. The research carried out on behalf of the four unions behind the campaign – ASLEF, RMT, TSSA and Unite – by the Working Lives Institute at London Metropolitan University is based on the findings of focus groups conducted with railway workers. The overriding concern of the employees who took part in the study is a fear that safety is being compromised as a result of budget cuts, which have in turn led to staff shortages, less frequent inspections and the increasing use of workers employed on zero-hours contracts. The study report, ‘The impact of efficiency savings on Network Rail staff, performance and safety’, voices workers’ concerns that a major accident could happen as a result of a lack of resources for and insufficient attention to rail maintenance. The participating workers said they believe that safety has been relegated into third place, behind the need to comply with budgets and hit performance targets. Rail employees in the focus groups said that when safety concerns are raised, they are rarely acted upon, and as a result workers are much less likely to raise potential safety problems. Commenting on the report, TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “When track workers – who see with their own eyes when safety corners are being cut and where crucial maintenance jobs are delayed – warn that a major accident could be just around the corner, it’s surely time for ministers to wake up and act. Government spending cuts have meant a significant reduction in the funding available to Network Rail for it to carry out vital maintenance work and essential safety inspections. The situation will get worse as resources continue to be squeezed.” She added: “Thankfully British railways still have one of the best safety records in Europe, although only this week the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) said that the number of track workers injured was at a seven-year high [Risks 664]. It also urged Network Rail to get better at eliminating potential safety risks on the tracks it maintains.”

Ÿ  The impact of efficiency savings on Network Rail staff, performance and safety, Action for Rail.

Ÿ  TUC news release.

Ÿ  ASLEF news release.

Ÿ  RMT news release.

Ÿ  TSSA news release.

Health ‘timebomb’ uncovered by site inspections

A series of intensive official construction site inspections has revealed a health ‘timebomb’ facing workers, UCATT has said. The site union was commenting after the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) visited 560 sites over two weeks, focussing on significant long-term health risks for workers including respiratory risks from dusts containing silica, exposure to other hazardous substances such as cement and lead paint, manual handling, noise and vibration. The conditions on 13 sites were so dangerous HSE issued prohibition notices stopping that part of the job immediately. In total, prohibition notices or improvement notices were issued on 85 sites. On a further 201 sites employers were issued with a notice of contravention as there was a material breach of health and safety laws. Overall, HSE identified serious health and safety concerns on half the sites they visited. UCATT general Steve Murphy said: “These finding are appalling. Workers are constantly being exposed to health risks on construction sites. The long term damage that workers are being exposed is a timebomb for their health.” He added: “These results show that employers simply don’t care about the long-term health of construction workers. Employers putting workers health at risk, should be prosecuted, there is simply no excuse as basic safety measures can massively reduce the dangers workers face.” He backed a recommendation from Stirling University that the workplace exposure limit for silica – the most common cause of HSE action in its site blitz - should be halved (Risks 664). “Silica is a proven killer,” he said. “The first step in reducing deaths must be reducing exposure limits and the HSE must stop dragging its feet on this matter.”  HSE construction head Heather Bryant said “it is clear from these figures that there is an unacceptable toll of ill-health and fatal disease in the industry.”

Ÿ  UCATT news release.

Ÿ  HSE news release.

Ÿ   Construction Enquirer.

Ÿ  Hazards ‘Dust to Dust’ report.

Cambridge bars blacklisters from council work

Cambridge City Council has become the latest to bar firms linked to a blacklisting scandal from being awarded public contracts. The union GMB welcomed the unanimously vote by the council on 24 July to stop companies who have engaged in blacklisting from being awarded Council contracts until they take steps “to remedy blacklisting for all affected workers” and “to ensure blacklisting will not happen again.” Sue Birtles, the GMB steward and Cambridge city councillor who moved the motion, said: “I am glad that the motion was supported by Council and proud that we have taken a stand against backlisting. This is a practice that has blighted the lives of thousands of families where people have been refused work on construction sites and other areas for the crimes of trade union activity or raising health and safety concerns.” GMB regional organiser Richard O'Leary said: “This is a victory for those who have been subject to the despicable practice of blacklisting. Cambridge City Council has joined the growing number of local authorities who are barring those companies from being awarded lucrative public contracts.”

GMB news release.

OTHER NEWS

Production before safety in poultry plants

Breakneck line speeds, a reluctance to stop the line for essential maintenance and inadequate safety inspections on poultry production lines are putting health at risk, a Guardian investigation has found. Undercover footage, photographic evidence and information from whistleblowers has revealed how strict industry hygiene standards to prevent the contamination of chicken with the potentially deadly campylobacter bug can be flouted on the factory floor and on farms. The Guardian’s five-month investigation uncovered a series of alleged hygiene failings in the chicken industry. In one factory they found guts piling up after an equipment breakdown, but with the line allowed to continue anyway. Ron Spellman, the director general of EWFC, which represents meat inspectors across the EU, said: “They should stop the line and clean up. But that costs money, and the process is generally run so hard and fast, if a line is down too long they don’t have enough hours in the day to fulfil their supermarket orders. And if they don’t meet orders, they lose the contract.” According to the paper, large abattoirs typically run lines at a rate of 185 to 195 birds a minute, or nearly 12,000 an hour. As well as creating an infection risk, fast line speeds have been linked to high rates of strain injuries and other problems in poultry workers (Risks 651). It is a level more than twice that the US safety authorities believe can lead to serious workplace health problems. Julia Long, Unite's national officer for the food sector, said: “If the government is serious about standards across this industry it must beef up our inspection services, and stop deriding health and safety protections as needless red tape. They are central to public and workforce welfare.” UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said the public is being put at risk “simply to increase the profits in the meat industry.”

Ÿ  Unite news release.

Ÿ  UNISON news release.

Ÿ   The Guardian.

Nurse devastated by needlestick injury

A trainee nurse has been awarded over £75,000 compensation after a jab from a dirty needle at work cost her job and her marriage. Alcinda Tobbal could no longer bear physical intimacy after suffering the injury while working as a nursing assistant at Whipps Cross Hospital in east London. The 45-year-old developed a 'severe' obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) focussed on cleanliness after the incident in February 2008, a court heard. She was dismissed from her job due to the effects of the extreme OCD condition, which saw her wearing gloves even in baking hot weather and scrubbing her children’s shoes with bleach whenever they had been outside. She was awarded damages, including more than £20,000 for her ‘pain and suffering’, a sum taking into account the fact that her marriage broke down due to her condition. Judge Edward Bailey, sitting at Central London County Court, said that the mother-of-five was employed as a nursing assistant and was working towards becoming a fully qualified nurse by studying at night school. But her career was destroyed when she was accidentally stabbed in the finger by a dirty needle sticking out of an 'over full' sharps bin in an operating theatre. Despite being given the all-clear after blood tests to rule out hepatitis and HIV infection, Mrs Tobbal’s distress and anxiety about what had happened to her continued to increase, with her “main anxieties revolving around her HIV status”, the judge said. Her symptoms snowballed until “a diagnosis of OCD at the severe end of the scale… making it impossible for her to return to work and having a significant impact on her life, most seriously on the breakdown of her marriage.” The judge awarded her damages for five years of pain, suffering and loss of earnings, including more than £20,000 “for the disruption to her work, her life and her marriage”, caused by her “fear of contamination.”

Ÿ  Daily Mail.

Asbestos groups fight legal costs imposition

The government’s decision to impose additional legal costs on asbestos disease victims is being challenged in the High Court. The Asbestos Victims’ Support Groups Forum UK is challenging the move by Chris Grayling, the secretary of state for justice, to allow asbestos cancer sufferers to be charged up to 25 per cent of their awarded damages to pay for their legal costs as well as legal insurance premiums. These costs were previously paid in all cases by the insurers of those found liable for causing the harm. Prior to the introductions of the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders  Act (LASPO) in April 2013, the House of Lords had insisted that the government exclude claims from people suffering from the asbestos-related cancer mesothelioma from the legal costs change. But in December 2013 the government said the costs would be taken from settlements paid to those dying of mesothelioma. Leigh Day, the law firm representing the forum, argues the decision was taken without the legally required review of the likely effects and so is unlawful. Richard Stein of Leigh Day said: “We are asking the court to tell the government that they need to wait until these impacts of the LASPO changes are clear before they act.” Forum chair Tony Whitston said: “Mesothelioma sufferers and their families will accept a decision on the imposition of legal costs if it is based on a fair and credible review. The government’s decision to proceed on the basis of such a flawed review will not be accepted by sufferers or their families and will result in an enduring sense of grievance for years to come.”  

Ÿ  Leigh Day and Co news release.

Ÿ  Asbestos Victims’ Support Groups Forum UK.

Shiftwork linked to type 2 diabetes

Shiftwork is associated with a heightened risk of developing type 2 diabetes, with the risk greatest among men and those working rotating shift patterns, a review of the evidence has found. The research, published online in the journal Occupational & Environmental Medicine, examined 12 studies involving more than 225,000 people, of whom almost 15,000 had diabetes. Compared with normal office hours, working shifts carries a 9 per cent higher risk of developing diabetes, the study found. This heightened risk rose to 37 per cent for men, after further analysis to look at the potential effects of gender, study design, study location, job, shift schedule, body mass index (BMI), family history of diabetes and physical activity levels. Most shift patterns, except mixed and evening shifts, were associated with a heightened risk of the disease compared with those working normal office hours. And rotating shifts, in which people work different parts of the 24 hour cycle on a regular basis, rather than a fixed pattern, were associated with the highest risk, with a 42 per cent excess. “Shiftwork is associated with a significantly increased risk of diabetes mellitus (DM), especially in men and groups with rotating shifts,” the researchers stated. “Given the increasing prevalence of shiftwork worldwide and the heavy economic burden of DM, the results of our study provide practical and valuable clues for the prevention of DM and a study of its aetiology.” In the UK, about 2.9 million people have diabetes, with about 90 per cent of cases being type 2. There are also thought to be around 850,000 people with undiagnosed diabetes.

Ÿ  Yong Gan and others. Shift work and diabetes mellitus: a meta-analysis of observational studies, Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Online First, 16 July 2014. doi:10.1136/oemed-2014-102150 [abstract]. OEM news release.

Ÿ  Diabetes UK comment.

Ÿ  The Guardian.

Health and Work Service supplier announced

The government’s new Health and Work Service in England and Wales will be delivered by Health Management Limited, the government has announced. The company, which describes itself as “the UK’s leading occupational healthcare provider”, is part of the US multinational MAXIMUS. The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) says as part of the government’s long-term economic plan the new service will help employees and employers to manage sickness absence. DWP adds that employees on sick leave will be helped to return to work by providing them with an occupational health assessment when they reach, or are expected to reach, more than 4 weeks’ sickness absence. Employees will normally be referred by their GPs. A return to work plan will then be shared with their employer and GP. The service is set to be launched in late 2014 with a phased roll-out scheduled to be completed by May 2015. Minister for welfare reform Lord Freud said: “The introduction of the Health and Work Service is an important step in supporting employees, GPs and employers to manage sickness absence better. Providing support where it’s needed most will help to reduce the length of time employees take off sick which, in turn, will cut sick pay costs, improve economic output and reduce the chances of people falling out of work and having to claim benefits. All contributing to the government’s long-term economic plan.” The TUC has indicated the new system is welcome but too limited, with TUC’s head of safety Hugh Robertson saying what is needed is “a comprehensive occupational health service which is there to ensure that all workers are given the support and help they need, through the NHS, to get fit and healthy and at the same time seeks to ensure that, where a condition is work-related, workplaces learn from any illnesses to take action to prevent them happening again” (Risks 657).

Ÿ  DWP news release.

Ÿ  Health Management Ltd news release.

Ÿ  FOM/SOM news release.

Costain convicted for telehandler death

Global engineering specialist Costain Limited has been ordered to pay more than £615,000 in fines and costs after being convicted of criminal safety offences which led to the death of a worker. Mark Williams, 41, was using a telehandler to lift a pallet of tiles to a fourth storey roof at the Newbury site when the incident happened on 20 July 2011. He tried to escape when the telehandler began to topple, but he was unable to move away in time and it landed on top of him, causing fatal crush injuries. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the safety of the vehicle was compromised by limited space and other obstructions in the area where he was required to work. Costain Limited, the principal contractor for the development, was prosecuted for failing to provide a safer system of work. Reading Court heard during a five week trial earlier this year that Mr Williams, a married father-of-two, was part of a team responsible for tiling a number of roofs. HSE found because of the space constraints he had no option but to operate the telehandler with the boom fully raised but not extended. Raising the boom reduced the overall length of the vehicle, however it ultimately caused it to overbalance as it was being turned and manoeuvred. Costain Limited was fined £525,000 and ordered to pay £90,577 in costs after being found guilty of four criminal safety offences. Shenda Long, Mark’s mother, added: “I have always felt that I have lived a very privileged and happy life, but all that changed on 20 July 2011 when police officers knocked on our door and informed me that our beloved son had been killed.” She added: “Mark was totally let down by the people he worked for and trusted.” Mr Williams’ employer, Attley’s Roofing Limited, was earlier cleared of health and safety breaches at the end of the initial trial on 3 April.

Ÿ  HSE news release.

Daughter’s grief at death of migrant worker mum

The daughter of a migrant worker killed by a tractor has spoken about her family’s suffering after a Lincolnshire farm was fined £100,000 for its criminal safety failings. Samanta Augulyte said the loss of her mother Asta Juodiene had left a “big wound” in her family’s hearts that “will not heal for a long time to come.” Lithuanian Ms Juodiene was one of 10 agency workers preparing to plant Brussels sprouts when she lost her life on 15 May 2012. Her foot was caught under a tractor’s rear wheel and she was dragged underneath the vehicle as it reversed. Colleagues rushed to help but could not pull her free. She died at the scene from head and chest injuries. Vegetable producer M Baker Ltd was fined £100,000 and ordered to pay £18,477 in court costs after an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Samanta Augulyte said: “The loss of our mum was a great shock for our dad and it badly affected my sister as she was unable to finish her studies. Our lives have changed massively. I miss my mum’s laughter, her good mood, those brown eyes full of kindness and love and her warm hugs.” HSE says nearly a quarter of all deaths at work caused by vehicles happen when they are reversing. But it found the Lincolnshire farm had no safety procedures for tractor drivers or people working around them.

Ÿ  HSE news release and reversing vehicles advice.

Ÿ  Morning Star.

Ÿ  Boston Target.

Ÿ  Lincolnshire Echo.

Ÿ  BBC News Online.

Essex farming company fined after trailer death

A Southminster farmers’ co-operative with an awful safety record has been sentenced for criminal safety offences after a worker was killed when the tailgate of a hydraulic trailer fell and struck him across the neck. David Dow, 63, had leaned into the back of a tipper trailer to talk to a colleague inside when the tailgate closed suddenly, causing him fatal crush injuries. His employer, Dengie Crops Ltd, which produces animal feeds, was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after an investigation found the procedure for fitting the tailgates was unsafe and the company did not have effective measures in place to manage health and safety at their premises. Chelmsford Crown Court heard that on 1 May 2012 tailgate extensions were being fitted on three trailers to equip them to collect crops from the fields and deliver to site to be dried and processed. Mr Dow, who had worked for the firm for eight years, approached a trailer to speak to colleagues who were carrying out the work. Mr Dow leant into the trailer to talk with a colleague who was checking the fitting from the inside. He was unaware that another worker in the tractor cab had just operated the controls to close the tailgate. The tailgate closed so quickly Mr Dow did not have time to react to the warning and duck out. He died at the scene from his injuries. The court was told that the fatal incident could easily have been avoided had barriers been in place around the trailer to prevent unauthorised access. HSE served a number of enforcement notices on Dengie Crops Ltd to address the safety failings. Magistrates heard the company had been prosecuted on three previous occasions recently, after an employee’s arm was amputated whilst cleaning a blockage in a crop drier, another suffered a broken arm when it became caught in a conveyor and a third suffered burns whilst operating the bagging plant. Dengie Crops Ltd was fined £100,000 plus £28,437 in costs for criminal safety failings.

Ÿ  HSE news release and agriculture webpages.

Worker’s jaw shattered at recycling firm

A Kent recycling firm has been prosecuted after an employee had his jaw shattered into ‘pieces like cornflakes’ when he was hit by a piece of plastic pipe ejected from a bandsaw. The worker from Chatham, who does not wish to be named, was cutting down the old gas pipe for recycling at Kingsnorth Waste Management’s site in Hoo, Rochester, on 11 August 2010 when the incident happened. The pipe was some 50cm long and 30cm in diameter and 2cm thick. As he fed the domed section of the pipe into the bandsaw, the teeth of the blade stuck into the plastic, rotated it round the domed end and ejecting it. The piece was thrown out at high speed and struck him in his throat and under his chin. It broke both upper and lower jaw bones and burst his jaw hinges. Kingsnorth Waste Management pleaded guilty to criminal safety failings at Dartford Magistrates’ Court after an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). The court heard the worker, who was 42 when he suffered the injury, had undergone a number of operations over the past four years, including a bone graft from his hip, to reconstruct his jaw. He still suffers from a continual feeling of ‘pins and needles’ caused by irreparable nerve damage, and has problems eating. HSE found there had been two further instances of plastic pipe being ejected as it was being sawn and striking the operators, including one where the worker was a 16-year-old trainee. As a result, a prohibition notice was served on Kingsnorth Waste Management preventing any further use of the bandsaws for cutting this sort of material. The firm was fined £7,000 plus £3,000 in costs after admitting a criminal safety offence.

Ÿ  HSE news release. Kent Online

Ÿ  Materials Recycling World.

Roofing director prosecuted following worker fall

A London construction company and the director of a Hertfordshire roofing firm have been fined for criminal safety failings after a worker was seriously injured when he plunged almost six metres through a void for a roof light. The self-employed roofer, who does not want to be named, broke several bones in his back and bruised his diaphragm, lungs and thigh in the incident in Brent on 29 February 2012. He was unable to work for 14 months and still requires hospital treatment for back problems that have forced him to seek alternative employment. The fall occurred while he was under the control of Rickmansworth-based John Donald, trading as John Donald Roofing. The director had in turn been subcontracted to undertake some of the roof work by Right Angle Ltd, the principal contractor for a project that involved refurbishing and extending three residential properties. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuted both parties after identifying a number of safety failings across the site as well as those linked to the roof work. Westminster Magistrates Court heard that the injured worker, then aged 28, fell as he cleared materials from a flat roof. He picked up a piece of ply board that he assumed was debris without realising it concealed a roof light void beneath. He fell feet first through the void and landed on the first floor some 5.6 metres below, fracturing his spine on impact. Right Angle Ltd was fined £15,000 plus £5,375 costs after pleading guilty to a criminal breach of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007. John Donald was fined £4,000 with £3,965 costs after admitting a criminal breach of the Work at Height Regulations 2005.

Ÿ  HSE news release.

Ÿ  Construction Enquirer.

INTERNATIONAL NEWS

India: Union anger after shipyard ‘homicides’

The union at the world’s largest shipbreaking yard has organised a mass meeting of safety inspectors following an incident on 28 June in which five workers died. Eight others were injured in the gas explosion at the Alang Shipbreaking Yard in Bhavnagar district of Gujarat, India. All were migrant workers. ASSRGWA, an affiliate of the global union federation IndustriALL, called the 21 July meeting of Alang’s safety officials, under the supervision of the government port officer, factory inspector and assistant labour commissioner. Attended by 167 safety officers, safety supervisors and mukadams - field supervisors - at the yard, participants discussed the recent fatalities, and how to prevent a recurrence. The June tragedy occurred while workers were breaking up the chemical tanker D.V Perin for shipbreaking company Paras Steel Corporation. Following pressure from the union, a fatal accident inquiry has been set up by government authorities. The union has insisted that the yard is kept closed until the investigation is completed. VV Rane, coordinator of IndustriALL’s shipbreaking project, was among the first to visit the scene. “Gross negligence and a lack of commitment towards safety by the Paras Steel Corporation, together with indifference from regulating and enforcement authorities has led to the industrial homicide of five workmen, causing irreparable damage to their families,” said Rane. ASSRGWA is seeking compensation for the families of the deceased, as well as the injured workers. The union says there have been 15 fatalities at the Alang shipbreaking yard since January.

Ÿ  IndustriALL news release.

USA: Make corporate bosses accountable for harm

A “Hide No Harm” bill introduced by three US senators would hold corporate officers criminally accountable if they knowingly conceal serious dangers that lead to consumer or worker deaths or injuries. Under the law proposed by Democrat senators Richard Blumenthal, Bob Casey and Tom Harkin, penalties could include jail time. The bill comes in response to a recent General Motors recall scandal, in which an ignition switch defect was linked to at least 13 deaths. Documents released by a congressional committee showed that some GM officials knew about problems with the device as early as 2001. Under existing law, while the company eventually could face criminal fines, individual officers who knew about the deadly defect – but did not inform the public or federal regulators – cannot face any criminal charges. Welcoming the proposed law, Katherine McFate, president of the Center for Effective Government and co-chair of the Coalition for Sensible Safeguards (CSS), said: “Our current fines and penalties are not tough enough to ensure that every business is playing by the same rules. We have to make sure that the businesses that are willing to put the health of the American people at risk face heavy sanctions. The bad actors should not have a competitive advantage over responsible businesses that adhere to health and safety standards.” Peg Seminario, safety and health director for the national US union federation AFL-CIO, said: “Countless numbers of workers and citizens have suffered and died because companies withheld and hid information on the dangers of products and exposures like asbestos. This bill would hold corporate officials personally responsible for their role in these deaths and injuries, help stop corporate concealment and save lives.”

Ÿ  CSS news release.

Ÿ  Hide No Harm Act.

Ÿ  Center for Progressive Reform news release.

USA: Over 2,500 Ground Zero rescuers have cancer

A growing number of Ground Zero first responders and rescuers are seeking compensation for their illnesses, and more than 2,500 of them have contracted cancer. That toll has climbed from the 1,140 cancer cases reported last year, according to the World Trade Center Health Program at Mount Sinai Hospital. The programme has counted 1,655 affected responders, out of the 37,000 police, sanitation workers and other city employees and volunteers it monitors. And when firefighters and emergency medical technicians (EMTs) are added, the total rises to 2,518. The city's Fire Department has its own World Trade Center program, and notes there are 863 members with cancers that have been certified for 9/11 treatment. The latest findings are more than twice the number of reported cancer cases up to September of last year, when epidemiologists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said some 1,140 people suffered from WTC-related cancers. “There are more cases out there, because we just know of the people in our government-funded medical programmes, not those who have been treated by their private doctors,” said Dr Jim Melius, who oversees health programmes for 9/11 first responders at the US government’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. An estimated 60,270 people are said to be at risk of deadly diseases after inhaling dust and fumes from the World Trade Centers’ lower columns and from benzene in leaking jet fuel. Other toxins include lead from 50,000 shattered computers and mercury from thousands of light bulbs that were pulverized when the buildings came down. According to epidemiologists, 9/11 workers have developed cancers such as prostate, thyroid, leukaemia, and multiple myeloma at higher rates than other populations.

Ÿ  New York Post.

Ÿ  Daily Mail.

Ÿ  Newsmax.

Ÿ  Telegraph.

Ÿ  World Trade Center Health Program.

Zimbabwe: WHO requests asbestos false claims correction

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has called on Zimbabwe’s pro-asbestos government to correct a dangerous misrepresentation of its position on asbestos. It follows the release in May of a position paper from the Zimbabwean authorities claiming WHO supports “controlled use” of chrysotile asbestos. The global health agency in fact says asbestos cannot be used safely and has called for all use of chrysotile asbestos to stop. WHO confirmed that it has asked the Zimbabwe government, which has indicated it wants to reopen its asbestos mines, to correct the misinformation. In a letter to human rights campaigner Kathleen Ruff of RightsOnCanada, a WHO official notes: “We are confident that action to correct the inaccurate statement regarding WHO’s position will be taken as soon as possible.” As part of its tactics to sell asbestos, the asbestos industry has falsely and repeatedly claimed that WHO supports the industry’s position that chrysotile asbestos can be “safely used”. As well as misrepresenting the WHO position, Zimbabwe’s asbestos taskforce and government have also misrepresented the position of the ILO, stating: “The ILO embraces the concept of controlled-use in chrysotile asbestos.” Like WHO, the position of the ILO is that chrysotile asbestos cannot be safely used and that all use of chrysotile asbestos should stop.

Ÿ  RightsOnCanada.

Ÿ  WHO letter confirming request for a correction.

TUC courses for safety reps

COURSES FOR 2014

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