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TUC Risks E-Bulletins
Number 756 - 25 June 2016
Risks is the TUC's weekly online bulletin for safety reps and others. Sign up to receive this bulletin every week. Past issues are available. Disclaimer and Privacy Editor: Rory O'Neill of Hazards magazine. Comments to the TUC at







Mapping out the union route to better safety

In a unionised workplace, one of the first things that you should consider is mapping the organisational and safety landscape, the TUC has said. The union body’s head of safety, Hugh Robertson, says mapping can identify the workplace union’s strengths and weaknesses and the hazards hurting the people doing the job, leaving the union better equipped to organise for safer, healthier work. Robertson notes that as well as investigating the capacity of the workplace union around health and safety – the number of reps, their training, the coverage across the site, functions and shifts – techniques like body mapping and risk mapping can involve members in identifying the health problems linked to their jobs. Writing in the new issue of Hazards magazine, he advises: “Mapping techniques provide a way for workers to use their own experiences to document workplace health and safety problems. These techniques are participatory methods by which workers gather and analyse their own knowledge and experiences. With the information gained, workers and unions can develop strategies to eliminate or reduce workplace hazards and to improve health and safety on the job.” He adds: “Remember the aim is to get workers to become active themselves and not to leave it to ‘the union’. After all a union is its members.” The union safety specialist cites a string of case histories were mapping around safety issues raised the profile of the union across the workforce and helped recruit new members.

Ÿ  Get mapping, Hugh Robertson, Hazards, number 134, June 2016. Health and safety and organising - A guide for reps, TUC, 2016, available in pdf and e-book versions. Also see Strength in numbers, Hugh Robertson, Hazards, number 133, March 2016.

Union urges workers to speak up after mine death

Workers concerned about safety issues at a north-east England mine where a man lost his life should be confident to report them, a union boss has said. John Anderson, 56, died in the early hours of 17 June following an “unprecedented” gas blow out at the Boulby potash mine owned by ICL UK. Health and safety officials are currently probing the incident at the Cleveland mine, which happened at 3am around 1km underground and up to 5km out to sea. The mine makes potash for fertilisers and employs about 1,100 people. Tim Bush, regional co-ordinating officer for Unite, said while he has had no concerns raised directly to him, he wants staff to feel confident that they can speak up. He told local paper the Gazette: “It is very easy to speculate at this stage, but it is too early to do so and we must wait until inspectors have done their job.” He added: “If there are any serious concerns then we will raise them directly to the employer. Nothing has been flagged with me so far, but if anyone does have any health and safety concern then they have a legal right to raise them.” In April, seven workers were taken to hospital after a fire broke out at the mine, which is 1,400m deep and has tunnels that go far out under the North Sea. Speaking after the latest incident, Labour MP Tom Blenkinsop aired his concerns. He said: “We cannot allow this death to go unmarked. Over the last decade and a half, the mine has been a safe working environment, certainly compared to years past where accidents were more frequent. However, in the space of just a few months we have seen two tragic incidents. I am concerned that this must not become a pattern.” He added: “I would also want to be reassured that recent redundancies at the mine have not altered day to day working practices to the extent that risk may have been allowed to creep back in.”

Ÿ  Tom Blenkinsop MP statement. The Gazette and related story. BBC News Online.

Unite slams public cash bonanza for blacklisters

Companies guilty of blacklisting workers because of their union and safety activities have enjoyed a share in a £1.5 billion of Scottish taxpayers’ money, a union has revealed. Unite Scotland revealed the cash bonanza enjoyed by blacklisters ahead of presenting evidence to the United Nations (UN) in Geneva on 15 June. The union said the multi-million pound contracts to provide services to the NHS, Network Rail, local authorities and the Scottish prison service represent only a small sample of those awarded via the public procurement process by the Scottish government, adding the practice was in clear breach of the administration’s own requirement that procedures must be ‘compatible with human rights’. Unite was called before the UN’s Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights to presents its case for renewed action to prevent blacklisting companies from winning lucrative public spending contracts. UK unions Unite and UNISON presented evidence establishing UN conventions on trade union membership and freedom of association have been breached by both the Scottish and UK governments, highlighting measures in the new Trade Union Act and the blacklisting of workers. According to Unite, the new act has been designed to make it extremely difficult for workers to take lawful industrial action to defend themselves, while exorbitant employment tribunal fees have put justice beyond the reach of millions of working people. Unite’s deputy Scottish secretary, Mary Alexander, said: “The practices of our governments in both Edinburgh and Westminster in relation to working people have caused alarm at United Nations, so much so that they have taken the decision that they must shine a spotlight onto the murkier happenings in our workplaces.” She added: “We are also extremely glad that the dreadful approach to workers’ rights more widely by the UK government has not gone unnoticed by the UN. From extortionate fees for employment tribunals to the assault on trades unions, the most basic human rights are being violated by the UK government. What sort of message does this send to working people about whose side they are on?”

Ÿ  Unite news release. TUC Stronger Unions blog on the UK government’s isolation at the ILO.

Teaching assistants face violence and threats routinely

Teaching assistants are routinely facing threats and violence from pupils and their parents, according to a new report from the union UNISON. School support staff blame shoddy disciplinary policies, staffing cuts and a lack of training for the abuse. ‘Bad form: Behaviour in schools’ reports that over half (53 per cent) of teaching assistants said they had experienced physical violence at school, with the same proportion reporting verbal threats. UNISON head of education Jon Richards said: “This paints a grim picture of the way cuts and a general lack of cash are having a huge effect on school support staff. These are not just occasional incidents. Abuse is becoming a regular and alarming occurrence.” Of those who experienced physical attacks, almost all said this had come from pupils, while one in 20 had faced violence from the children’s parents. Nearly one in five teaching assistants said their school did not have an adequate behaviour management policy. Twenty-seven per cent said their school did not provide adequate training to deal with violence, while 24 per cent said their school offered no training at all. And 11 per cent reported cuts to staff who dealt with violent incidents - either through redundancies or so-called “natural wastage.” UNISON’s Jon Richards said: “A lack of resources means schools are unable to address behavioural issues,” adding: “Dealing with these problems can dominate the day when time could be better spent supporting children’s learning.”

Ÿ  UNISON news release. UNISON guide: Managing Difficult Behaviour in Schools. Morning Star.

Scots secondary teachers vote to take industrial action

Secondary teachers in Scotland are set to take industrial action over their ‘excessive’ workload. Members of the teaching union EIS voted overwhelmingly for a work to rule. Their concerns are related to the added workload associated with new school qualifications. The union said members voted in favour of action by 95 per cent to 5 per cent. The work to rule will be targeted at the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA). The union says possible action might include refusing to provide cover for colleagues absent on SQA business and not attending SQA seminars and sticking to working time agreements on any work associated with developing the qualifications. EIS added it would be issuing guidance to members immediately over what they should stop doing. The union’s general secretary Larry Flanagan said: “Scotland's secondary teachers have voted overwhelmingly in favour of industrial action against the severe workload burden that has been generated by the Scottish Qualifications Authority. This ballot result reflects the frustration of Scotland's secondary teachers over the excessive assessment demands being placed on them and their pupils… and the EIS now has a very clear mandate to implement an immediate work-to-contract in relation to SQA activity.” He said the strong support for industrial action “should send a very clear message to the Scottish government, to the SQA, and to Education Scotland, that change needs to happen and to happen quickly.”

Ÿ  EIS news release. BBC News Online.

Blunder exposes ScotRail's motives in safety dispute

Documents made public in error by ScotRail expose the union-bashing motive behind its dangerous plans for driver only operation (DOO) on the network, the rail union RMT has said. The cache of documents were included inadvertently as attachments to an email sent by Scotrail managing director Phil Verster. Among other revelations, the documents reveal that among the company’s motivations for doing away with guards on Scotrail services is developing “greater resilience to industrial action.” The accidental release of the damning documents, which prompted a top level Scotrail apology, “have blown the whistle on a secret strategy by the company to smash the unions and smuggle in driver only operation on trains right across Scotland,” RMT said. “The documents nail the company lie that there is no threat to guards’ jobs and the safety-critical function of the guards.” RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “These documents, issued in error by the company, expose a hidden agenda of union busting, job cuts and attacks on safety that RMT always said was at the heart of this dispute.” Speaking as RMT members on Scotrail embarked on a “rock solid” strike, he added: “They blow apart the company spin that there is no threat and that our action is premature.” He said: “In light of these extraordinary revelations it is time for the Scottish parliament to step in and call a halt to the cloak-and-dagger attacks on jobs, services and safety and force Scotrail to come to the table and start talking with us openly and honestly.”

Ÿ  RMT news release and copies of the inadvertently released Scotrail documents. Morning Star.

Dossier exposes safety risks of axing train guards

The threat to safety on rail services from axing rail guards has been exposed in a new report from the union RMT. ‘Role of the guard – A dossier on the dangers of driver-only operation’, highlights ‘a catalogue of incidents’ where safety has been compromised on driver only operation (DOO) services as well as incidents where the presence of the guard has averted potential disaster. The publication coincided with industrial action and protests by the union against plans to introduce driver-only trains. RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “This dossier has been produced by RMT as part of our national fight against the introduction and extension of driver only operation on Britain’s railways as the greedy train operating companies look to dilute the safety regime in favour of maximising their profits from the privatised network.” He added: “The dossier sets out a range of examples from across the country that detail the real consequences for the travelling public of axing and undermining the safety-critical role of the guard… Only a fool, or someone motivated solely by the bottom line on a company balance sheet, would contemplate tampering with our guards on Britain’s crowded and stretched railways. And yet that is exactly what is happening.”

Ÿ  RMT news release and RMT dossier.

Rail union calls for MPs probe over Southern services

The rail union RMT has called for a parliamentary inquiry after leaked documents revealed “that Rail Minister's officials are ordering GTR rail cancellations.” The information supplied to the RMT has revealed that civil servants at the Department for Transport are authorising train cancellations on GTR [Govia Thameslink Railway]. The revelation, coming as guards on the Southern rail system took industrial action over jobs and safety, “confirms suspicions that the chaos on the GTR franchise is being deliberately orchestrated as part of a policy to blame the staff and bulldoze through cuts to jobs and safety,” RMT said. The union said the leak also “raises questions as to how the government can impartially impose penalties for poor performance when it is providing authorisation on the day-to-day running of rail services and comes days after it was revealed that GTR have only been fined £2 million by the government for poor performance since the start of the franchise.” RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “The government are up to their necks in the chaos on Southern and not only are they turning a blind eye to the abysmal service being offered to the public, this leaked correspondence shows that they are directly orchestrating it. That can only be because they have a wider agenda to force confrontation and chaos on these routes as part of some scam to blame the staff, bulldoze through cuts to jobs and safety and break the unions. Passengers are caught in the middle of this scandal and there needs to be a full parliamentary inquiry.” The union leader added: “RMT knows that when Southern talk about ‘changing the role of the guard’ what they really mean is axing the guards all together as they put their profits above public safety… Our message to passengers is that our fight is your fight and that the battle for our jobs today is to protect your safety tomorrow. If we stand together we can defeat this company and its attacks on jobs, services and safety.”

Ÿ  RMT news release.


Long working hours hurt women most

Women who put in long hours for the bulk of their careers are at greater risk of life-threatening illnesses, including heart disease and cancer. Work weeks that averaged 60 hours or more over three decades may triple the risk of diabetes, cancer, heart trouble and arthritis for women, a 30-year study by researchers from Ohio State University has found. For men, only arthritis was a likely symptom of too much time spent at work. “For women not only are you busting your butt 50 to 60 hours a week you are also asked to do all kinds of other stressful activities, like raising children, becoming pregnant and roles that require a tremendous effort,” said Allard Dembe, lead author of the study published in the current issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. “They work over 60 hours a week for many, many years,” Dembe said. “This is the kind of person working excessively hard for many hours in a long stressful situation. It may be those hours are now manifesting itself and it does not manifest itself until later in life.” The long-running study interviewed 12,686 men and women who were between 14 and 22 in 1979 and who were interviewed consistently over 32 years. TUC working time policy officer Paul Sellers commented: “This news should be a trigger for action in the UK. There is a pressing need to strengthen the law so that workers are not put in harm’s way, particularly since a range of evidence shows that many work long hours because they are under pressure from their employers.” He said long hours working has increased by 17 per cent in the UK in the past five years, but the number of women working more than 48 hours per week has increased faster still, up by 26.7 per cent. “Of course, we should be most concerned about those facing the most severe risks,” he said. “The government should look again at excessive hours, and the 116,000 women employees now regularly working more than 60 hours are likely to be most at risk.”

Ÿ  Allard E Dembe and Xiaoxi Yao. Chronic disease risks from exposure to long-hour work schedules over a 32-year period, Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, online ahead of print, June 2016. OSU news release. TUC Touchstone blog. Science DailyNew York Daily News.

MPs expose injustice of employment tribunal fees

Workers who have suffered mistreatment at the hands of their employers are being “priced out” of access to justice, MPs have concluded. A report by the Commons justice committee has revealed a “precipitous drop” of 67 per cent in the number of employment tribunal cases after new fees were set in 2013. It says there is clear evidence that the fees are acting as a deterrent to quick resolutions of disputes in which employers may believe that workers cannot afford to take them to court. Victimisation of safety reps falls into the highest price category for tribunal claims. TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Tribunal fees have priced thousands out of justice, with women and low-paid workers the worst affected. Ministers must not ignore the warnings. The government has to stop dragging its feet and publish the review and evidence it has on the impact of fees.” UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis, whose union is challenging the fees system in the courts, said: “Over the last three years tribunal fees have prevented many people who have been wronged at work from taking their employers to court. Unscrupulous bosses can hardly believe their luck. They can pretty much treat their staff as badly as they choose, safe in the knowledge they are never likely to be taken to a tribunal.” He added: “Fees of up to £1,200 have hit hardest those who can least afford it, and that is not right, nor is it fair. Hopefully the government will take this report seriously and get rid of fees altogether. Only then can wronged employees have any hope of their case being heard and getting the justice they deserve.”

Ÿ  Justice Select Committee news release. UNISON news release. Thompsons Solicitors news release. Morning Star.

HMRC under fire over compensation cases backlog

Tax officials are breaching the human rights of bereaved spouses and the terminally ill by making them wait more than a year for essential employment records in work-related disease compensation claims (Risks 750). Lawyers say an average time of 383 days to retrieve historic work histories by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) is denying claimants the right to pursue firms over sometimes terminal occupational diseases. HMRC blames a lack of machines to access records held only on archaic microfilm and the volume of claims. It adds officials are “scouring the internet” for spare parts to fix the decrepit readers and have given priority to mesothelioma sufferers, who are promised their details in just ten days. However, this asbestos cancer makes up much less than a third of work-related cancer deaths each year, with other non-prioritised occupational diseases like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) killing substantially more. Law firm Irwin Mitchell says it has dozens of clients with other conditions such as lung cancer, or who have lost spouses to work-related conditions, who are waiting up to 18 months. It said that in such cases the delays were a breach of the right under Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights to have civil claims heard “in a reasonable time.” Some with little time to live risked being denied justice altogether, lawyers argued, accusing officials of failing to act on their calls for action to improve the service. Roger Maddocks, a partner at the law firm, said: “It is particularly concerning that the backlog for work history requests is running at 383 days, preventing people determining their rights within a reasonable time.” He added: “We have yet to receive any indication that HMRC is taking any adequate steps to address these serious issues, which are having a significant impact on those who have developed terrible illnesses as a result of their employment, who are desperate for answers from their former employers about why steps were not taken to protect them, and their colleagues, from harmful substances.”

Ÿ  Irwin Mitchell Solicitors news release. Daily Mail.

Glasgow University ‘silenced’ fracking safety critic

The University of Glasgow has been accused of trying to silence one of its prominent professors after he questioned the safety of fracking. David Smythe, an emeritus professor of geophysics and a leading critic of the fracking industry, has had his university email address cancelled, and his access to scientific journals cut off. The action was taken without notice by the university authorities in January, a few days after Smythe posted online a discussion paper critical of fracking safety and regulation in the UK. The paper says existing “regulation, which is divided between four separate authorities, is not up to the task.” It adds if shale is to be exploited safely, “the current lax and inadequate regulatory regime must be overhauled, unified, and tightened up.” According to Smythe, the fundamental issue is freedom of expression. “Some people at the university do not like my views on fracking, and they are seeking to silence me,” he told investigative news website The Ferret. “I am surprised and saddened that my alma mater and former employer is now stooping to such base tactics.” Scientists should be allowed to “slug it out” in public, Smythe argued. The professor has had a bitter public row with Glasgow University’s energy engineering professor, Paul Younger, a go-to academic for the UK fracking industry. “But I cannot now fight my corner since the institution providing me with the essential access to the academic database has unilaterally decided to remove that access,” he said. “The university seems to be adopting as their corporate view the opinions on fracking promoted by Professor Younger.” Dr Damien Short, a fracking and human rights expert from the University of London, criticised the action against Prof Smythe. “The pro-fracking lobby would dearly love to see Professor Smythe silenced,” he said. “In the interests of open, honest, evidence based academic discussion, I hope the University of Glasgow will ensure that this does not happen and reinstate Professor Smythe’s research privileges immediately.”

Ÿ  The Ferret. David Smythe’s online discussion paper. The Extreme Energy Initiative, Human Rights Consortium, University of London.

Firm fined £32,000 after driver was crushed to death

A haulage company with a turnover of over £2 million has been fined £32,000 after a horrific incident in which a driver was crushed to death when he was trapped between a runaway lorry cab and the back of a trailer. The cab started to roll forwards because it was routine practice not to apply the handbrakes on vehicles, a court heard. Immingham firm John Somerscales Ltd admitted failing to ensure the safety at work of its employees, including Graham Pearson, while they were uncoupling trailers at North Killingholme on or before 11 June 2013. As well as the fine, the company was ordered to pay £27,135 costs after the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecution. The company originally denied the charges and was due to face a five-day trial, but changed its plea at Sheffield Crown Court. Mr Pearson, 60, died as a result of the incident. There was no instruction or supervision of drivers and no test of competency or spot checks. The company had a yard, workshop and offices at North Killingholme, employed 11 drivers and had a turnover last year of £2.6 million. The company said in a statement: “John Somerscales Ltd expresses its deepest and sincerest condolences to the family of Mr Pearson, who died three years ago in a tragic accident. Whilst it has been acknowledged as part of these proceedings that the actions of the company did not cause his death, we have recognised that improvements can be made in terms of the way we record training and monitor drivers to ensure that the company's procedures are being followed.” The statement continued: “It is our intention to help other businesses in the haulage industry to understand how and why the accident occurred so that we can help to prevent a similar accident in the future.”

Ÿ  Grimsby Telegraph.

Apprentice needed skin grafts after touching power line

A Scottish stonemasonry company been fined after an apprentice stonemason was seriously injured from contact with an overhead power line. Perth Sheriff Court heard how 20-year-old apprentice Rodd McFarlane was working for T&M Stonemasonry, carrying out repairs at Waulkmill Cottage in Perth. During the work, the young worker erected a tower scaffold to carry out some re-pointing. While on the scaffold he came into contact with overhead 240 volt electricity power lines that were supplying the cottage. The wind caused the power line to brush against his back causing him to turn around instinctively and grab the live wire. The flow of the current meant he was unable to let go for a few seconds until he jumped down from the board on the tower scaffold. His weight broke the wire and interrupted the flow of current. He received an electric shock and suffered burns to both hands requiring graft surgery and a possible future amputation of a little finger. An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) into the 2 August 2012 incident found that the stone masonry company should have developed a safe system of work. Perth-based T&M Stonemasonry pleaded guilty to a criminal safety offence and was fined £16,000.

Ÿ  HSE news release. Construction Enquirer.

Firm and safety consultant fined over dermatitis case

A Hereford rubber sealant manufacturer and its safety adviser have been fined after a worker contracted allergic contact dermatitis. Hereford Magistrates’ Court heard how the TRP Polymer Solutions Limited employee contracted the skin disease after being exposed to sensitising ingredients in rubber compounds. An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the company had failed to assess risks from products used or to manage those risks. HSE also found the company’s health and safety adviser, independent health and safety consultant Paula Underwood, failed to understand the underlying issues to the level required for the company to understand its responsibilities. TRP Polymer Solutions Limited pleaded guilty to three criminal safety offences and was fined £40,000 and ordered to pay costs of £6,529. Health and safety consultant Paula Underwood was fined £1,000 and ordered to pay costs of £200 for failing to carry out her duty to a level of competence expected by someone carrying out the role, thereby exposing others to risks to their health and safety.

Ÿ  HSE news release and chemical safety webpages.


Action Mesothelioma Day, 1 July 2016

Now in its 10th year, Action Mesothelioma Day (AMD) is held on the first Friday in July, this year falling on Friday 1 July. Events to mark AMD 2016 have been organised nationwide by asbestos victims support groups. Events are already scheduled for Barrow, Birmingham, Derby, Gateshead, Leeds, Leicester, London, Manchester, Portsmouth, Sheffield, Swansea and Wallasey. The events provide a focus for the campaign in support of victims of the asbestos cancer mesothelioma, emphasising the need for more research on treatment and a cure and improved efforts to prevent asbestos exposures.

Ÿ  Action Mesothelioma Day, 1 July 2016 events listing.


Australia: Tougher controls needed 'to prevent black lung'

Tougher coal dust monitoring standards in Australian mines are urgently needed to prevent miners from developing black lung, medical experts have warned. They add the recent resurgence of the potentially deadly disease in Queensland as unacceptable. A clinical focus on the condition, published in the latest edition of Medical Journal of Australia and written by experts in chronic lung disease, warned Australian coal dust exposure limits are not meeting international standards and should be more stringent to eradicate black lung, or coal workers’ pneumoconiosis (CWP). The condition is an untreatable but preventable disease and is caused by long-term exposure to fine airborne coal dust in areas with poor ventilation. Six confirmed cases of CWP in Australia were reported by nominated medical advisers in the Queensland coal industry between May 2015 and February 2016. Unions believe there are many more unconfirmed cases. This “concerning” resurgence of black lung - which was all but eradicated in Australia 30 years ago - could point to a decline in exposure control in Australian coal mines and a failure of the screening process, say the authors. “It is unacceptable that any new cases of CWP should be occurring in Australia in 2016, and our aim should be to eliminate CWP in Australia altogether,” the paper's authors concluded. They are calling for national standardised coal dust monitoring protocols to be implemented in all mines, which supports previous calls for tighter health standards in the industry by mining union CFMEU. The paper notes current standards regulating coal dust exposure vary considerably between states and are “significantly less stringent” than the current US standard. They recommended a comprehensive screening programme for workers at risk, which would include a questionnaire, medical imaging and detailed lung function testing to be performed every three years and “funded by the employer.”

Ÿ  Graeme R Zosky and others. Coal workers’ pneumoconiosis: an Australian perspective, Medical Journal of Australia, volume 204, number 11, pages 414-418, June 2016. Channel 9 News.

Europe: Proposals on endocrine disruptors criticised

Groups advocating for greater control over endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) – a range of common substances linked to cancer, reproductive and other adverse health effects – have said European Commission (EC) proposals “will do nothing to protect human health.” The proposed criteria on EDCs were announced on 16 June by EC Health Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis, after three years of intense debate and industry lobbying which stalled progress. The Commission was criticised by the European Court of Justice last year for the delay. The UK-based Alliance for Cancer Prevention said “the disappointment and frustration at the failure of the proposed criteria to offer any protection against EDCs is palpable as they demand an impossibly high burden of proof to link EDCs to adverse human health effects, which means that few EDCs will be banned as a result. Shockingly the core underpinning principle of all EU chemicals legislation, the precautionary principle, has been totally omitted.” The alliance says over 1,300 studies have linked EDC exposure to cancer, infertility, reproductive disorders, cancer, birth defects, obesity, diabetes, neurological and behavioural defects, and learning difficulties. The EDC Free Europe Coalition also condemned the EC’s failure to propose protective measures and called on member states to “insist on major changes because these proposals will do nothing to protect human health and environment from further harm but instead allows the pesticide and chemical industries to continue using harmful substances to which we are all daily exposed.” These concerns were echoed by Dr Anna Lennquist, a toxicologist with the Gothenburg-based ChemSec non-profit chemical safety advocacy group. She said that under the proposals, “EDCs cannot in practice be identified until they have been proven to cause adverse effects in humans. Obviously, such criteria will fail to protect human health.” Calling on the European Parliament and member states to reject the draft, ChemSec said problems that need to be addressed include a change of wording from “negligible exposure” to “negligible risk”, an edit that raises the burden of proof enormously. It concludes: “Criteria for identifying EDCs need to be in line with the identification of other chemicals so that the precautionary principle can be functional and the criteria can be used to prevent harm.”

Ÿ  Alliance for Cancer Prevention statement. EDC Free Europe Coalition statement. ChemSec news release. European Commission proposals, and full communication and related documentation.

New Zealand: Unions welcome asbestos ban move

Unions have welcomed what they say is a long overdue move by the New Zealand government to ban imports of almost all asbestos-containing products. “Thousands of kiwis have been killed from being exposed to asbestos. We've known for a long time how dangerous this material is. It is certainly a relief that the government has finally acted,” said Sam Huggard, secretary of the national union federation CTU. “Almost 200 people die every year as result of exposure to asbestos. It can take as long as 20 years from when people are exposed to asbestos fibres to when they actually get sick, so there hasn't been the same immediacy to address this hazard as there has been to other dangerous workplace bio-hazards.” However, he criticised a government decision to allow some exemptions to the asbestos ban, which is due to take effect on 1 October. “We are disappointed that the government has not gone as far as they could have and banned, without any exception, all importation. Kiwis will be safer with less asbestos. We are pleased that the changes we have been calling for, have now been, mostly, actioned.”

Ÿ  New Zealand government announcement. NZCTU news release. 7 News.

Zimbabwe: No interest in operating asbestos mines

The Zimbabwe government’s hope that asbestos mining could be revived in the country have not been realised because there is little interest in the deadly product. Ministers have supported efforts to secure capital to reopen the troubled Shabanie and Mashaba Mines (SMM), but its efforts have failed to bear fruit. President Robert Mugabe's administration has negotiated with several potential foreign investors, mainly from Russia and China, but it now appears all hopes to resuscitate Shabanie Mine in Zvishavane and Gaths Mine in Mashaba have evaporated. The Financial Gazette reports the two asbestos mines, which closed in 2008, require US$1 billion in fresh capital to resume operations. Mines and Mining Development deputy minister, Fred Moyo, earlier this year conceded that efforts to lure investors were being hampered by low global demand for asbestos. “We are not getting investors [for SMM] and it seems to be a big problem largely because the market for asbestos is not looking good,” Moyo said.

Ÿ  Financial Gazette.


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