Risks 570 - 25 August 2012

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Asbestos - the hidden killer
Hazards magazine
Hazards at Work

Risks is the TUC's weekly online bulletin for safety reps and others, read each week by over 23,000 subscribers. To receive this bulletin every week, click here. Past issues are available. This edition contains Useful links TUC courses for safety reps Disclaimer and Privacy

Editor: Hugh Robertson, TUC. Comments to the TUC at healthandsafety@tuc.org.uk

Union News

TUC calls on Sun to check their facts

The TUC has called on the Sun newspaper to look at their facts before criticising health and safety. The call came after the Sun started a campaign to 'Stop the nonsense!' on health and safety amid claims that public bodies have suffered a collective loss of common sense. The campaign was launched with a column by Rod Liddle which made a number of claims, not one of which was about workplace health and safety, and included a number of stories that had already been thoroughly discredited. These include a story that health and safety meant that the police were stopped from rescuing a man in Gosport who subsequently drowned, and that Wimbledon tennis club had stopped spectators using the Murray Mound for safety reasons. TUC director of organisation and services, Paul Nowak, has said 'it is in the workplace that the effects are most felt. By focusing on a few harmless incidents (none of which are anything to do with the workplace) and ignoring the huge problem of people ignoring health and safety requirements the 'brand' of health and safety gets diminished. People see 'health and safety' as stupid rules and barriers, rather than as a framework for protecting those most vulnerable in society. Anyone who has had an injury or an occupational illness will know only too well that there is not an 'overzealous' interpretation of health and safety in the workplace. Quite the opposite. Occupational Cancers still kill between 10 and 20,000 people every year and around 2 million people suffer from ill-health at work. All these are preventable. We need to ensure that health risks are identified and dealt with so that workers and the public are protected.'

Union threatens legal action over blacklisting

The GMB trade union has called on the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) to take proactive action to inform 2,863 builders that they are on a 'blacklist' that the ICO has been in possession of since 2009. They also want to see the 44 companies that blacklisted them prosecuted. GMB has said that they will take legal action if this does not happen. This follows a similar letter from Liberty a few weeks ago (Risks 568). The move follows a long campaign for action that followed the revelation that there was a secret database of 3,500 construction workers which was used by 44 companies to vet new recruits and keep out of employment trade union and health and safety activists. The database, run by the Consulting Association, was seized by the ICA in 2009 but they now claim that builders who think they are on this blacklist should contact its offices. The GMB union insist that this is completely unreasonable and unrealistic and the ICO should apply the same standards as it used in the phone-hacking scandal and contact those on the list. GMB want ICO should use his wide ranging powers to proactively tell the 2,863 workers still unaware that they are on the list. In June GMB published a report on construction company Carillion that showed that blacklisting was not something isolated or rare. The report estimates that in the period from October 1999 to April 2004 Carillion checked at least 14,724 names

Rail union backs 'No bonus' call

The General Secretary of rail union TSSA has backed a demand, in a leaked letter from the regulator, that Network rail bosses forgo their bonuses if they are responsible for fatal crashes on the network. But the Office of Rail Regulation, in a letter leaked to the TSSA states clearly "It would be helpful, to be clear, that in the event of a catastrophic accident for which NR was culpable, no bonuses would be paid". The ORR intervention comes after network rail was fined a total of £5 million for safety failures at fatal accidents in which three people died at Elsenham in 2005 and Grayrigg in 2007. Network Rail executive directors took their annual bonuses worth £2.7 million. The union states that the regulator is locked in a behind the scenes row with NR over its plans to pay chief executive Sir David Higgins and five other directors a total of £18 million in annual and long term bonuses over the next three years. Manuel Cortes, TSSA general secretary, said: "There is something morally repugnant about executives of what is in effect a publicly funded company having to be told by a regulator to forego their huge annual bonuses in the event of a fatal crash they bear responsibility for. It cannot be right for six executives in charge of a state monopoly to take home £3 million a year in bonuses while passengers pay annual inflation busting fare rises and the taxpayers subsidise the firm to the tune of £4 billion a year." NR wants to give its top six executive annual bonuses of 30% to 60% of their annual salary. On top of that, it wants to give them a long term bonus of up to £11.7 million over the next three years which would be paid on top of salaries and annual bonuses. The ORR boss has already warned NR that the long term bonus plan would put them in breach of their licence.

Union welcomes new dog sentencing guide

Owners of dangerous dogs in England and Wales now face tougher sentences under new Sentencing Council guidelines which have been issued to judges and magistrates. The new advice aims to encourage the courts to use harsher sentences when dealing with offenders. The new guidelines represent a U-turn as in 2011 the council proposed in a consultation that judges should consider a community order as the starting point for sentencing people who allow a dangerous dog to injure someone. However, under new guidelines which have now come into force, the offence will now have a starting point of six months in jail - and, where appropriate, judges should consider up to 18 months. The Sentencing Council says more offenders will face jail sentences, more will get community orders and fewer will get discharges. The Communication Workers Union has welcomed the publication of the guidance on sentencing the owners of dangerous dogs, but says that a change in the law is needed to get the full benefit. Dave Joyce, CWU health, safety and environment officer, said: "We warmly welcome today's publication of sentencing guidelines on dangerous dogs. There wasn't - and never has been - any guidance on sentencing for dangerous dog related crime. We've pointed this out in our Bite Back campaign because the lack of guidance was leading to inconsistent and inadequate sentences. We still need a change in the law to get the full benefit of this change in sentencing as this will only apply to successful prosecutions, of which there are still far too few in relation to the number of dog attacks. Thousands of innocent people - including young children and postal workers - are being attacked by dogs every year. The change in sentencing is welcome but much more needs to be done to prevent attacks from happening in the first place and to encourage more responsible dog ownership."

Assessment company criticised by TUC

A report from the National Audit Office has said that the Department for Work and Pensions has failed to penalise private provider Atos for 'under-performance' on the contract to manage the Work Capability Assessment for Employment and Support Allowance. In addition, the DWP had not set 'sufficiently challenging targets'. In response to the report Labour MP Tom Greatrex asked the NAO to review the contract, and there was widespread media reporting of the reply he received from the Comptroller and Auditor General. Mr Greatrex pointed out that the contract, which is for 738,000 assessments, is worth £112 million a year, but that appeals against the test results are costing £60 million a year. He said 'People who are genuinely sick and disabled need to be helped, not hounded'. Journalists from the BBC, who had seen the letter from the Auditor General, reported that it said that it was difficult to assess whether the quality of the test or its design was responsible for the fact that nearly 40 per cent of appeals against ESA decisions were successful. TUC Senior welfare expert Richard Exell said 'With appeals adding more than fifty per cent to the bill from Atos, this episode illustrates the risks of privatisation and contracting-out. The Work Capability Assessment is a terrible example of how not to design and implement welfare reform - re-testing is an embarrassment for the government, a headache for the DWP and a nightmare for claimants.' The DWP had previously admitted that Atos had not carried out some fitness testing within the agreed time limits, and performance had been "below the standard" since mid-2011.

Other news

Safety professionals praise Olympic safety

The Institution of Occupational Safety and Health have praised the safety record of the 2012 London Olympics. IOSH executive director of policy Luise Vassie said "The planning and hosting of the London Olympic Games has given us a twofold health and safety legacy. First, we hope it leaves a lasting impression on our construction sector, where employers use some of the same techniques in their own projects. We want the Olympic Delivery Authority's (ODA) health and safety innovations and ways of managing contractor relationships to mean fewer workers die in the course of their day jobs. Secondly, these Games should act as a blueprint for how to organise safe, large-scale events. Not just in the way that it developed crowd safety and transport plans to minimise the negative effect on London, but in the way that volunteers were managed. Everything knitted together so well to make this a triumphant success." Hugh Robertson, the TUC's Head of health and safety also said, in a podcast for IOSH, that the games had been a success but said that this was mainly because the joint approach involving the ODA, contractors and unions had led to more cooperation. He was however concerned that the lessons of the games, including the work done on occupational health, would be lost unless the government tightened the contracting rules for public sector projects. Before the start of the Games, IOSH praised the build project where accidents were reduced by as much as two thirds on the construction industry average, with zero fatalities and a potential saving of £7m through its occupational hygiene programme alone.

Campaigners call for action on cancer

The Hazards Campaign has criticised an HSE intervention strategy on occupational cancer saying it 'fails to acknowledge the actual scale of cancer caused by work'. The paper, which was discussed by the HSE board on 22nd August, outlined a detailed plan of activities that the HSE was undertaken to prevent further exposure to carcinogens, including asbestos, diesel fumes and silica. It also outlined work it was proposing on the link between shift work and breast cancer. However the Hazards campaign said that 'The paper is based on a fairy tale unrealistic view of the world of work today, ignores many known carcinogens, shows little interest in finding unknown exposures, underestimates the numbers of workers exposed and shows no sense of urgency to tackle this massive but preventable workplace epidemic. Because of the lack of action now, more people will develop occupational cancers and die from them in the future.' This was echoed by occupational cancer researcher Simon Pickvance, who warned 'The HSE has been in denial about work cancer for over three decades, depending far too heavily on epidemiology which is only capable of seeing widespread, long-established problems amongst large numbers of workers, employed for long periods of time, in large workplaces such as mines, mills and manufacturing. This is totally unsuitable for today's, smaller and fast evolving workplaces with more complex, and diverse exposures. It is incapable of picking up high risk exposures affecting smaller groups of workers.' Helen Lynn spokesperson for the Alliance for Cancer Prevention said: "The HSE approach to occupational cancer ensures thousands more people will develop the disease through exposures at work. Delaying action on better shift work patterns is just condemning more women to greater risk of breast cancer while there is action that could be taken immediately.' Earlier this year the TUC produced a revised guide for unions on preventing occupational cancer which called for Zero tolerance of carcinogens in the workplace.

Nanotech dangers outlined

It has been known for some time that inhaling tiny fibres made by the nanotechnology industry could cause similar health problems to asbestos. This is borne out by new research by the University of Edinburgh published in Toxicology Sciences. Research on mice, suggests the longer nanofibres are even more dangerous. Some of these fibres are similar in shape to asbestos fibres, which cause lung cancers such as mesothelioma. Nanofibres, which can be made from a range of materials including carbon, are about 1,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair and can reach the lung cavity when inhaled. The study found that lung cells were not affected by short fibres that were less than five-thousandths of a millimetre long but longer fibres could reach the lung cavity, where they become stuck and cause disease. Ken Donaldson, Professor of Respiratory Toxicology at the University of Edinburgh, said: "Concern has been expressed that new kinds of nanofibres being made by nanotechnology industries might pose a risk because they have a similar shape to asbestos. We knew that long fibres, compared with shorter fibres, could cause tumours but until now we did not know the cut-off length at which this happened. Knowing the length beyond which the tiny fibres can cause disease is important in ensuring that safe fibres are made in the future as well as helping to understand the current risk from asbestos and other fibres." Hugh Robertson, head of health and safety at the TUC said 'many of these lung cancers can take 25 to 50 years to develop. Nanofibres are already widely used to strengthen a wide range of materials and unless we make sure that we are taking adequate precautions we face a potential time bomb similar to what has happened with asbestos. However this research should not be taken to mean that short fibres are safe. In 2004 the HSE produced guidance that said that employers must take a precautionary approach when using nanomaterials. It is important that steps are taken to ensure that this is happening.' The TUC also produced advice in 2004 that said that unions should 'seek to ensure that the production and use of nanoparticles is done within a contained process so that employees are not exposed to any potential unknown risk. Nanomaterials should be treated just like any other serious health risk, and Regulations such as COSHH must be applied rigorously.'

Fraudsters put children at risk

Two men have been prosecuted for claiming to have removed asbestos from a school and not doing so. They colluded with each other to commit fraud by falsifying a record stating that a school in Abingdon had been properly cleaned of asbestos. Ricky Gray, of Hoddesdon, was fined £4,000 and ordered to pay £1,000 in costs; and David Gray of Botley, was fined £1,000 with £250 costs after both pleaded guilty to a breach of Section 7 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act. The deception by the two men was uncovered after an engineer went to Our Lady's Abingdon school to start plumbing work but could see that asbestos material had been left, putting him and others at risk of exposure to dangerous fibres. He reported it to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which investigated. They found that David Gray's employer, Maylarch Environmental Ltd, had been hired to carry out an environmental clean of the area affected by asbestos and Ricky Gray's employer, environmental consultants Tersus Ltd, had been contracted to provide a final independent assessment of the clean-up, which is required for all asbestos removal work. However a check of one of the men's van showed that he had been at home when he claimed to have done the work. After the hearing, HSE Inspector Andrew Moore said "This was an unusual fraud, the first of its type that I am aware of. It was also a serious fraud as it may have exposed other workers coming on to the school site to the very real dangers of inhalation of asbestos fibres. HSE takes exposure to asbestos very seriously. Currently 4,000 people die every year from asbestos-related disease and the onset of these debilitating diseases can occur many years after exposure. That is why there are clear rules and regulations governing its removal and site decontamination, and that is why HSE will prosecute those who flout the legislation."

Lawyers call for Legionnaires Inquiry

Law firm Irwin Mitchell are calling for a Public Inquiry following the recent outbreaks which have caused five deaths and left more than 120 other members of the public ill. The outbreaks were in Edinburgh and Stoke-on-Trent. They claim that plans outlined six years ago following a review of an outbreak in Barrow-in-Furness have failed. The Barrow-in-Furness incident affected 180 people and led to seven deaths. The outbreak was blamed on a badly maintained air conditioning unit at a leisure centre and led to a report suggesting six general recommendations, including enhanced advice about training, communication and risk assessments. Clive Garner, an illness expert at Irwin Mitchell who has represented victims of Legionnaires' disease from incidents around the world, said: 'Ten years ago the Barrow Legionnaires' disease outbreak was so severe that two public meetings were held and eventually the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) published a special report with a view to avoiding this kind of tragedy from happening again. To put it simply, these plans to prevent further outbreaks of the illness have failed and since 2005 the number of reported cases of Legionnaires' disease in England and Wales has been at around 350-400 cases per year. This is unacceptably high figure bearing in mind how simple it is to eliminate the risk of infection. The call for a Public Inquiry is also backed by Professor Hugh Pennington, one of the UK's leading microbiologists who said 'Two big Legionnaires' disease outbreaks so close together means that something has gone seriously wrong. A Public Inquiry will not only establish the facts but force the implementation of improvements in the preventive measures that are so clearly needed". The Public Inquiry call comes as figures show the number of inspections by the HSE for legionella bacteria in cooling Towers in the UK has fallen, from 237 in 2010 to 134 last year despite them being a well-known potential source of infection.

Firm fined after waste site injury

Yet another waste company has been prosecuted after an injury to a worker. The 23-year-old employee was handpicking waste from a skip at Rugeley Environmental Waste Services Ltd on 5 September 2011 when a skid steer loader reversed into him, pinning him against the skip. He suffered soft tissue injuries to his groin and was taken to hospital by air ambulance. An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) revealed the vehicle was being used in a relatively confined space and no measures were in place to segregate vehicles and pedestrians. The investigation also revealed the company had failed to carry out a risk assessment of its workplace transport activities. Following the incident, Rugeley Environmental Waste Services Ltd, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 by failing to ensure the safety of employees and were fined £5,000 and ordered to pay costs of £4,306. HSE statistics show that the waste and recycling industry have a fatality rate that is over 16 times that of the average workplace. And have reported injury rates four times the normal rate. It is also one of the sectors that has been targeted by the HSE. After the hearing, HSE Inspector Wayne Owen said "Workplace transport is the second biggest cause of death in the workplace. It is vital that risk assessments are carried out where vehicles are involved and suitable control measures put in place to prevent incidents such as this. This company had a poor and unsafe system of work. Had the company segregated vehicles and personnel, a man would not have suffered a painful injury."

More concerns over health effects of popcorn flavouring

Concern has been expressed about a chemical which is being used as a substitute for a food flavouring which causes lung disease. Researchers claim that the ingredient 2,3-pentanedione, used to impart the flavour and aroma of butter in microwave popcorn, is a respiratory hazard that can also alter gene expression in the brain of rats. Many companies switched to using pentanedione when another butter flavouring, diacetyl, was found to cause bronchiolitis obliterans which is a serious and non-reversible lung disease in workers who inhaled the chemical. The disease is also called 'popcorn lung' because the chemical was widely used in flavouring popcorn. US regulators subsequently warned against the use of diacetyl Risks 487 http://www.tuc.org.uk/workplace/tuc-18947-f0.cfm The study, published in The American Journal of Pathology, said acute pentanedione exposure had respiratory toxicity comparable to diacetyl in laboratory animals. Researcher Ann F. Hubbs said "Our study demonstrates that pentanedione, like diacetyl, damages airway epithelium in laboratory studies. This finding is important because the damage is believed to be the underlying cause of bronchiolitis obliterans. Our study also supports established recommendations that flavourings should be substituted only when there is evidence that the substitute is less toxic than the agent it replaces." In the UK Bronchiolitis became a prescribed disease in 2011.

Worker off for two years after bank injury

Yet another worker has won compensation for a serious injury they received in an industry deemed by the government to be 'low risk' Bank cashier, Mary Deller, who has not worked for almost two years after suffering a back injury while lifting bags of money has won more than £18,000 from her former employer, NatWest. Ms Deller is still in pain and unable to walk properly since she was asked to lift two sacks - each containing 500 £1 coins and weighing about 21lbs - without proper health and safety training. She was working as a customer service officer and cashier for NatWest's Cheriton branch when she suffered the injury in September 2010. Despite the pain, Mary took painkillers and continued to work for another week before she was eventually bedridden. Mary's doctor referred her to a specialist spinal surgeon, who diagnosed two bulging discs. As well as preventing her from returning to work, Mary has also been forced to stop living the active lifestyle she used to enjoy - and can no longer go dancing, swimming and walking. She said: "I'm really angry that I wasn't taught how to lift heavy things properly by NatWest because all this pain and time off work could have been avoided. I wasn't given any health and safety induction or manual handling training or even just any general hints and tips about how to lift things without hurting myself. I was only given on-the-job training at the bigger Folkstone branch using a buddy system, which involved watching another cashier at work. I think people often take for granted that they won't be hurt when lifting heavy things at work, so I hope my story shows how important it is for employers to provide the right training."

Runaway trolley crushes leg

A man whose leg was crushed at work by a run away trolley had to take eight months off work after he suffered a depressed fracture to his left tibia in an accident at Cape Industrial Services. Colin Fletcher from Immingham, North Lincolnshire, was working on a contract to chemically clean boilers at Drax Power Station and was easing a heavy metal trolley full of equipment down a scaffolding ramp provided by Cape. The ramp had no foot grips which would have helped him to control the trolley, as a result it started to run out of control, pinning him against a metal frame. He needed an operation on his fractured leg, including a bone graft from his hip and a metal plate was inserted into his knee. He needed intensive physiotherapy and was unable to bear weight on the leg for five months. He has been left with ongoing pain in his leg and a five inch scar on his hip. Although he still works for Cape, he can no longer undertake the kind of heavy industrial work he is used to. Supported by his union Mr Fletcher sought compensation and the employer admitted liability and settled the claim out of court for £70,000. Andy Worth from the GMB commented 'Many of our members work in heavy industry and rely on being fit and healthy to continue to do their work. This member has been badly injured in an accident which could be easily avoided. Through no fault of his own he is now limited in the type of work he can do, having a huge financial impact on his life. It is only just that he is compensated for his employer's negligence.' Joanne Hankey from Thompsons Solicitors said 'Cape Industrial Services is a large employer which has years of experience in the industry. The inspection and maintenance of its work equipment should be second nature to this employer which routinely works in dangerous environments. It's appalling that this ramp was allowed to be used when important safety features like foot grips were missing.'

International News

Asbestos mine suffers financial crisis

Less than two months after the Quebec government gave the Jeffrey asbestos mine a $58 million loan it is in financial crisis. The mine, in the Canadian town of Asbestos, was once the world's biggest asbestos mine and was given a rescue package by the Quebec government earlier this year, causing outrage among campaign groups (Risks 563) http://www.tuc.org.uk/workplace/tuc-21184-f0.cfm#tuc-21184-20. In a blog by Kathleen Ruffof the website 'RightOnCanada' states that the mine has encountered a severe financial crisis and has laid off about 80 if it's one hundred workers. The mine is owned by Mineral Fibre (MF) Inc. and has exported asbestos from the Jeffrey mine to developing countries for the past sixteen years. One of the directors of the company stated that the costs they are paying for carrying out the work to complete the underground mine were taking 'a dangerous escalation'. He said that the work stoppage was a strategic decision aimed at giving time to negotiate agreements for lower prices with the mining contractor firm, C Thysen MAC, and the main suppliers for the acquisition of materials. The workers have been laid off work apparently until mid-November. Ms Ruffof states 'This is just one more example of the irresponsibility of the Quebec Charest government in giving a $58 million loan to finance a deadly, dying industry that has no future. The people of Asbestos deserve better. Charest is playing with their lives and their hopes for sordid political reasons to win the riding in the present election. This is not political leadership. It harms the community and it brings shame on Quebec. The $58 million should be given to build sustainable and healthy economic development that will truly help the region.'

Fight against pirates 'must go on'

The European Union should continue to use warships to tackle pirates off the coast of Somalia following a reduction in the rate of kidnappings, a UK parliamentary committee has said. The Lords EU committee report looked at Operation Atalanta, which involves putting armed guards on ships and has been in place since 2008, since when hostage-taking had more than halved. The Lords Committee also said funding should go beyond a planned cut-off at the end of 2014. Kidnappings involving shipping travelling past the coast of the east African country have become rife in recent years. In 2008 the EU set up Operation Atalanta, with armed guards being placed on commercial vessels to deter hostage-taking and attacks on pirate ships. This year the remit was expanded to include assaults on pirates' land bases. The committee's report notes "We welcome the EU Atalanta attack on the pirate land base as an effective demonstration to the pirates that they are not invulnerable on land.' It also welcomes the increase in trials and imprisonment of pirates, but it raises concerns that transferring those sentenced back into Somalian custody increases the risk of breakouts. It recommends more emphasis on rehabilitating pirates and increasing aid to the country to remove poverty, deemed to be one of the key causes of piracy. Trade union, Nautilus International, has called for consideration to be given to a boycott of high-risk piracy areas if things do not improve. Nautilus general secretary Mark Dickinson said, 'The piracy problem needs sorting out now - and before it gets even worse than it presently is. Some governments appear to think that a certain amount of piracy can be tolerated. But that's not the view of Nautilus or its members and it's time to make a stand. That's why Nautilus was amongst those demanding that the ITF make urgent preparations for a global call for all seafarers to refuse to sail into the high risk areas.' The international campaign against piracy, Save our Seafarers (SOS), reports that, during in the last four years, over 3,500 seafarers have been kidnapped and held hostage, and are subject to extreme traumas.

News report

Company safety record challenged

One of the world's leading oil companies, Chevron have had their reputation for having a good safety record challenged in a leading US newspaper. Chevron is a strong proponent of Behavioural safety and, in its website claims 'Chevron's efforts to create and maintain a safety culture include starting meetings with safety lessons, tracking and awarding business units for strong safety performance, sharing best practices and lessons learned, and using behaviour-based safety evaluations.' However in June 2011, four people were killed in a Chevron refinery in Wales, Later that month, a worker died in Bakersfield and, in January this year, a blow-out and fire at an offshore natural-gas platform near Nigeria killed two men and kept burning for 46 days. Two other non-fatal incidents have occurred this month. A hydrocarbon leak in a Richmond refinery triggered a fire that a dozen workers narrowly escaped and a fire closed the refinery's crude-oil processing unit and sent 9,000 people to hospitals complaining of breathing difficulties. According to the San Francisco Chronicle these raise the question of whether something has gone wrong with Chevron's vaunted safety culture, known inside the company as "the Chevron Way." Kim Niburger, a refinery safety expert for the United Steelworkers Union said 'It's an industry issue, I don't think Chevron's any better or any worse than anyone else. I think the industry needs to step back and say, 'We're having a fire a week. We need to do something different, here.'' The Union has also criticised the claim that workers have the ability to stop the job on Chevron facilities. Nibarger said employees often feel they can't simply bring operations to a halt, considering the economic cost of stopping a refinery or a drilling rig. "You can pretty well draw a conclusion about how well that authority works. You have stop-work authority if your manager agrees with you."

Press report

TUC guide

Behavioural safety

Alberta erases farm workers deaths

The Alberta provincial government in Canada has been condemned for removing farm fatalities from reports on occupational deaths. The Alberta Federation of Labour says the move is an example of how ''agricultural workers are being erased in Alberta.'' The federation says the province announced its plans on a government website and offered no meaningful explanation for the change. Alberta Agriculture said it is reviewing how it publishes information about farm worker deaths and injuries with an eye to protecting the privacy of victims and their families. Alberta is the only province in Canada where farm workers aren't covered by occupational health and safety laws. A Federation spokesperson, Nancy Furlong, said ''This decision to stop reporting the number and nature of farm deaths helps to hide the real problem, Alberta's deplorable lack of workplace protection for farms workers in the province. 'It's particularly insulting to the families of those killed on the job to have to call on the government to continue to simply report these incidents.'' A judicial inquiry in 2008 into the death of worker Kevin Chandler in a farm accident near High River, Alta., recommended the inclusion of farm labourers in laws ensuring workplace protections, but that is yet to happen. A politician from the opposition NDP, David Eggen, said 'it's disturbing that the lives of Alberta labourers on the land appear to mean so little to the government. It's very dangerous work and farm workers are not being protected with the basic rights that other workers have here in Alberta.' There have been an average of 30 farm deaths a year over the last 20 years.

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