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Unions call for action to cut asbestos deaths
Unions are calling on the government to introduce a requirement on local authorities to give parents and school workers an annual report on the asbestos risk in schools. The Joint Union Asbestos Campaign (JUAC) says although every year asbestos-related mesothelioma claims the lives of 16 UK teachers, and more than 70 per cent of school buildings contain asbestos, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has recently cut school inspections. They say schools will no longer be 'proactively' inspected, even though HSE knows a significant proportion of local authorities have serious flaws in the asbestos management systems, which they have a statutory duty to maintain. UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said: 'Despite the warnings, and the heavy death toll, less is going to be done to protect school workers and children from the threat of asbestos. We are calling on the government to boost safety by introducing legislation to make sure local authorities assess the risk of asbestos, and let staff and parents know about them. School staff and parents have a right to know that their school is a safe place to work in and learn in.' JUAC chair Julie Winn said over the last three decades the asbestos cancer mesothelioma had killed well over 200 teachers. 'More than 60 per cent of those deaths have occurred in the last decade,' she said. 'It's an alarming upward trend, and for every affected teacher, there's a classroom full of children, and school support staff, who have been exposed to the same danger. If we are ever to solve this deathly problem, a policy of complete openness is essential, and must be introduced as a matter of urgency.'
Unite demands investment in asbestos treatment
The union Unite says the UK government must provide funds to investigate effective treatments for mesothelioma, the asbestos related cancer. Speaking on 1 July, Action Mesothelioma Day, Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail, said: 'The coalition needs to provide funds for greater investment into understanding and treating this terrible disease that kills 2,000 people a year... many of them working in the construction, engineering, ship building and rail industries.' In 2009, Unite, together with asbestos support groups and other unions, called for the government to invest millions in research, but only a limited amount of funds has been forthcoming. Unite says mesothelioma is the least researched of the top 20 cancers, a disease which has devastated millions of families worldwide.
GMB slams Canada's asbestos promotion
The UK union GMB has condemned Canada's continuing defence of unfettered global asbestos trade. The union was speaking out on 1 July, which is both Canada Day and Action Mesothelioma Day. Last month it was revealed Canada has vetoed the addition of chrysotile asbestos to the UN's Rotterdam Convention list of hazardous substances where 'prior informed consent' must be obtained from an importing country (Risks 512). Canada is a leading exporter of asbestos to developing nations. GMB also called on the Canadian government to ensure that asbestos mines in Quebec do not undergo a planned massive expansion, using 'illegal public subsidies in order to export asbestos to Commonwealth countries such as India and Bangladesh.' GMB national health and safety officer John McClean commented: 'There has already been enough human misery and suffering due to asbestos. On Canada Day it is not too much to ask that Canada ratify the Rotterdam convention.' The multi-million loan guarantee promised by the Quebec government to underwrite the expansion of the province's Jeffrey asbestos mine could be in jeopardy, after the Balcorp Ltd-led business consortium backing the mine admitted they had failed to meet a 1 July deadline to raise a share of the mine development funds. Industry minister Clément Gignac said the Quebec government has agreed to put back the deadline until mid-August - but hinted it is growing impatient and that the offer of a loan guarantee will not be prolonged indefinitely.
Union warning on fire firm collapse
The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has demanded that London Fire Brigade managers disclose the contingency plans in place should the private company which owns and maintains the capital's fleet of fire engines go out of business. The demand came as it was revealed that AssetCo - which was handed the multi-million 20-year contract in 2001 - has applied formally for an administration order. The union is concerned about the impact on London's fire cover in the event of an AssetCo collapse. Executive council member for London Ian Leahair said: 'Over recent months, we have witnessed AssetCo in meltdown, and this prompted us to seek assurances about what contingency plans were in place. Regrettably, brigade managers have obstinately refused to disclose this information, telling us at a recent meeting that they had 'no desire' to share details with us.' He added: 'There are huge implications for the safety of Londoners, and it is simply unacceptable for the London Fire Brigade to refuse to reveal how it will keep the capital safe if AssetCo goes to the wall. If there are no contingency plans, they should say so. The relationship with AssetCo has been a catastrophe for the brigade. We always said that selling off large chunks of an emergency service was dangerous folly, and we have been proved right.'
Unions criticise change in school trip guidance
Teaching unions have warned that changes to official guidance on school trips could lead to more accidents. The unions were speaking out after the Department for Education published new guidance, cutting 150 pages of guidelines to eight. Education secretary Michael Gove said this was a 'more common sense' approach. But the National Union of Teachers (NUT) was critical. NUT's Amanda Brown said: "What we wouldn't want to do is to see a reduction of guidance which could lead to a lot more accidents. What we want is advice which is very clear and straightforward but long enough to cover enough of the detail so that people do feel secure.' NASUWT said cutting back guidance could reduce parents' confidence and make teachers more nervous about school trips. 'The decision to scrap over 140 pages of guidance is potentially reckless and could increase litigation against schools and teachers,' said general secretary Chris Keates. 'There is no evidence demonstrating the need for the previous guidance to be abandoned, and no educational reason for doing so.' She added: 'The dilution of guidance for schools is likely to reduce rather than increase the number of educational visits.' The new guidelines clarify that written parental consent is not needed for each activity and encourage schools to use a new one-off consent form signed once when a child starts at a school. In a parallel move, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) this week launched a consultation on replacing the Adventure Activities Licensing Authority (AALA), which is being abolished, with a code of practice. HSE said the sector is 'low risk' and there have been no prosecutions brought under the Adventure Activities Licensing Regulations 2004.
- Department for Education advice [pdf]. HSE news release and consultation document. BBC News Online. The Independent. Daily Telegraph.
Gloves off in cleaner's dermatitis case
A London Underground station cleaner developed a severe skin condition after his employer introduced an industrial cleaning chemical and took away his protective gloves. The Unite member lost his eyebrows, developed hypo-pigmentation on his face and had black patches on his hands after using the product Traffic Film in his job as a cleaner at Piccadilly tube station. Despite telling his employer, GBM Services, that the product was causing dermatitis, he was forced to work with the hazardous agent for more than six months before steps were taken to help him. The cleaner, whose name has not been released, had worked as a cleaner for more than 20 years. He began working for GBM Services Ltd in 2004, cleaning the tube station's ticket hall. His employment was transferred to Initial in 2010. In June 2007 he was told by his boss that the type of multi-purpose cleaning agent he was using, Sprint, was being replaced by Traffic Film. It was provided without any labels or instructions and he was given no training in how to use it. He used the product as he had used Sprint - diluting it in a bucket and using a long handled brush to wash the walls and ceilings. He later found out that the product should only have been used on floors and with a machine. Around the same time the product was issued, he was also told he would no longer be able to use the black latex gloves, which were replaced with household rubber gloves. His symptoms began within weeks. In a Unite backed compensation case, Initial Facilities Services did not admit liability but settled the claim for £14,900 out of court. Acting regional secretary at Unite, Peter Kavanagh said: 'The fact that our member's condition was made clear to employers six months before they took the problem seriously shows the absolute disregard this firm had for its employees' welfare. This product was never intended to be used to clean station walls and should never have been introduced without clear instructions and training in its use.'
Blacklisting campaign goes Europe-wide
UK anti-blacklisting campaigners believe a Europe-wide law banning the practice could have moved a step closer, after a top level meeting with European officials and politicians. A delegation of blacklisted trade unionists and safety representatives from the Blacklist Support Group held private talks in Brussels last week with EU commissioner for employment, social affairs and inclusion LászlóAndor. The meeting was facilitated by Labour MEPs Stephen Hughes and Glenis Willmott and the delegation said that the 'genuinely positive response from Commissioner Andor exceeded all our expectations.' Mr Andor was given documentary evidence from victimised union reps Brian Higgins, Steve Acheson and Dave Smith. Each presented secret blacklist files kept about their activities as union safety reps in the British construction industry. The files were compiled by the covert blacklisting outfit the Consulting Association. They contain damning evidence that major multinational building firms systematically dismissed and victimised workers who raised concerns about health and safety issues or unpaid wages. MEP Stephen Hughes said: 'The meeting was very positive and the delegation received a fair hearing. Mr Andor said he was very concerned at reports that the practice was continuing. Blacklisting is a genuine issue which affects all member states and I will work with colleagues to address this serious concern and apply parliamentary pressure to trigger action.' Mr Hughes, who is a senior figure in the European Parliament's Employment and Social Affairs committee, added: 'This meeting is the beginning, not the end, of a process. Once we have planted the seed with Commissioner Andor, we will follow up with action in the European Parliament's employment committee and the full parliament.' Regulations banning the practice of blacklisting came into force in the UK last year but have been criticised by unions, employment law experts and campaigners as too lax, with insufficient redress for affected individuals.
Manslaughter charges after roof fall death
Three company directors have been charged with manslaughter after an employee fell through a roof in Greater Manchester. Steven Berry, 45, died following the fall at Lion Steel Equipment Ltd in Hyde in May 2008. Kevin Palliser, 59, Richard Vaughan Williams, 42, and Graham Coupe, 59, have been charged with manslaughter by gross negligence. They have also been charged with criminal safety breaches and will appear at Tameside Magistrates' Court on 2 August. All three men are directors of Lion Steel Equipment Ltd, which manufactures storage products. The firm has itself been summonsed for corporate manslaughter- only the second case brought under the law - and health and safety offences. Mr Berry fell through a plastic roof light on 29 May 2008. He was taken to Tameside General Hospital where he later died. Alison Storey, reviewing lawyer in the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) Special Crime and Counter Terrorism Division, said: 'I have taken this decision after very carefully reviewing the material gathered in the police investigation and have concluded that there is sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction and that it is in the public interest to bring these charges.'
- CPS news release. Greater Manchester Police news release. BBC News Online. Manchester Evening News. Bearsden Herald.
Oil giant INEOS fined £100,000 for leak
INEOS Manufacturing Scotland Limited has been fined £100,000 following an uncontrolled release of crude oil at its Grangemouth refinery in May 2008. The incident happened when a pipeline containing crude oil became over pressurised as a result of a process known as thermal expansion. The failure of the pipeline caused extremely flammable crude oil to spray out across a nearby pumphouse and adjacent pipelines containing other dangerous substances. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigated the 7 May 2008 incident, with the assistance of the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA). HSE's investigation found that INEOS were aware of the risks from thermal expansion and the need to install and use engineering controls, but instead the firm chose to rely on staff to manually drain crude oil from the pipeline. Falkirk Sheriff Court heard that crude oil drained from the pipeline was stored in a metal skip, not designed for the safe storage of an extremely flammable substance, so the risk of fire and explosion was increased. INEOS Manufacturing Scotland Ltd was fined £100,000 after pleading guilty to a criminally safety breach. HSE's investigating inspector Brian Kennedy said: 'The crude oil involved in this incident was extremely flammable and had the potential to result in serious injury had there been a fire or explosion. Despite having recognised the need for engineered thermal relief on their crude oil pipelines following an incident at their refinery a year earlier, INEOS chose instead to rely on a manual system for managing thermal expansion. This system of work actually increased the risk of fire and explosion and ultimately failed to prevent the pipeline from becoming over pressurised.'
Chemical giant enforced dangerous practices
Global chemical firm INEOS has been prosecuted after using disciplinary measures to enforce unsafe practices, leading to a worker suffering a serious injury. The 58-year-old worker, who has asked not to be named, lost his ring finger and suffered damage to his middle and little finger after his gloved hand was pulled into machinery. Multinational INEOS Enterprises Ltd, which has an annual turnover of ?900 million (£811m) and whose facilities include the Grangemouth oil refinery, was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) following an investigation into the incident on 21 September 2010. Runcorn Magistrates' Court was told INEOS had failed to follow health and safety guidance, which advises against wearing gloves when using metalworking lathes. Instead, it introduced a new policy on 1 May 2010 making wearing protective gloves mandatory for most workers on the site. Several employees were reprimanded for not wearing gloves following the policy's introduction, and the injured worker was reminded to wear his gloves by his line manager on the morning of the incident. He was removing the rust off a hitch pin, used to connect a trailer to a vehicle, when his glove got caught in the rotating mechanism, dragging in his hand. INEOS Enterprises Ltd was fined £12,000 and ordered to pay £6,607 costs. Mhairi Duffy, the investigating inspector at HSE, said: 'The company ordered its staff to wear protective gloves on the factory floor, even though some workers tried to explain that there were often specific reasons for not wearing them. New guidance was introduced nearly six years ago on not wearing gloves while using metalworking machines, but INEOS failed to keep up to date with the latest health and safety advice.'
Companies fined for fish farm deaths
Two companies have been fined a total of £640,000 following the death of two fish farm workers while trying to rescue a colleague who has passed out in an oxygen poor chamber in a barge. Scottish Sea Farms worker, Campbell Files and engineer Arthur Raikes - employed by Logan Inglis Limited, Cumbernauld - were fixing a hydraulic crane on the barge when they went below deck to find cabling and pipework. The oxygen levels below deck were very low and Mr Files passed out while Mr Raikes managed to climb back out. In an attempt to rescue Mr Files, two colleagues, Maarten Den Heijer and Robert MacDonald, entered the small chamber below deck but lost consciousness almost immediately. The three men needed to be rescued by emergency services but only Mr Files recovered, while his colleagues died at the scene. Following the incident on 11 May 2009, inspectors from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) discovered Scottish Sea Farms had not provided suitable information, instruction and training for employees working in the small sealed chambers on the Loch Creran barge or a safe way for them to work. Logan Inglis Limited had not provided information, instruction or training for their engineers on working in these confined spaces so Mr Raikes was also not aware of the risks he faced on the barge. Neither company had identified the risk to their respective employees from working in confined spaces. At Oban Sheriff Court this week both firms pleaded guilty to criminal safety breaches. Scottish Sea Farm, was fined £600,000 and Logan Inglis Limited £40,000. HSE principal inspector Barry Baker said: 'Since September 2007 the Marine Accident Investigation Branch has started three investigations into incidents in which a total of six seafarers have died in confined spaces. The deaths in this case should have been avoided - the risks should have been identified and a clear and safe system of work prepared.'
Poorly trained teen severs hand
A teenage novice severed part of his hand while operating a vertical panel saw on which he had received little training. Lewis Maker, who was 18-years-old at the time of the incident, was using the panel saw to cut a piece of board, which he was holding steady with his left hand. As he operated the saw his hand got dragged into the blade and the top half was cut off. Although surgeons were able to reattach part of his hand, he has regained very little use. Truro Magistrates' Court was told that Lewis, from Truro, had started work just five days before the incident on 20 July 2009 and was given very little instruction on how to use the saw safely. Frame Homes (South West) Ltd pleaded guilty to a criminal safety offence and was fined £20,000 and ordered to pay £13,700 in costs. HSE inspector Gareth Cottle said: 'This was a devastating, life-changing injury for Lewis which could have been avoided if Frame Homes had provided adequate training.' He added: 'It is the employer's responsibility to ensure that workers are given sufficient information and training to work safely, as well as access to fully trained and competent supervisors. New workers are particularly vulnerable to workplace incidents and Lewis had every right to expect far more protection than Frame Homes afforded him.'
Two injured as scissor lift overturns
A specialist plastering contractor has been fined after two workers were seriously injured during construction of a Derby shopping centre. The workers, who did not wish to be named, fell around seven metres when the scissor lift they were using to transport plasterboard between floor levels overturned. The incident happened on 16 August 2007. One of the workers, a 22-year-old from Dronfield, suffered a fractured pelvis and cheekbone, broken nose and heavy bruising in the 16 August 2007 incident. His 39-year-old colleague, from Sheffield, fractured his skull, eye socket, elbow and thumb and also sustained heavy bruising. Both were hospitalised and had significant periods of time off work. A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found the men were using the wrong type of equipment to transport the plasterboard sheets. Clark & Fenn Skanska Ltd pleaded guilty to a criminal breach of the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 for failing to ensure the lifting of materials was properly planned, supervised and carried out in a safe manner. Derby magistrates fined the company £5,000 plus full costs of £11,348. After the hearing, HSE inspector Kevin Wilson said: 'The incident could have been prevented with appropriate planning and selection of equipment suitable for the task. Mobile elevating work platforms (MEWP) known as scissor lifts are not designed for use as material hoists. They are designed as a working platform for positioning operatives and their tools. In this case, the platform was heavily overloaded.'
BP faces renewed blast criticism
BP and its former chief executive Tony Hayward are facing further accusations of insensitivity regarding the victims of the 2010 BP Gulf of Mexico disaster. Hayward first came under fire for public relations gaffes after a BP oil rig, Deepwater Horizon, exploded in the Gulf of Mexico in April of last year. The explosion killed eleven workers, but ill-advised Hayward statements including telling a reporter that there was 'no-one who wants this thing over more than I do - I'd like my life back.' Now, in a videotaped deposition of Hayward obtained by The Daily Caller, the former BP CEO says he's sorry, but admits he can't remember the names of the rig's victims. He only gets one name right: Karl Kleppinger. The company comes off even worse in the deposition, which includes details of a legal pleading filed by BP referring to the 11 victims as 'callous, indifferent and grossly negligent in causing this explosion.' It was filed in April 2011 on the one-year anniversary of the accident, after Hayward had already left his post. The plaintiffs' attorney accuses Hayward of lying in his testimony to Congress, when he said the company was conducting a 'full and complete investigation.' Hayward denies lying, but admits he never read the Presidential Commission's report on the oil spill, which found that 'most of the mistakes and oversights... can be traced back to a single over-arching failure, a failure of management.'
Lack of nano regulation 'a danger'
Health is being put at risk by the growing list of products on the market containing nano materials, a new report has warned. It says more than 1,300 products now claim to incorporate engineered nanomaterials (ENMs). The US-based Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) says none of these products have undergone a pre-market safety assessment. Its report, 'Racing ahead: US agri-nanotechnology in the absence of regulation,' argues ENMs must be regulated and tested prior to commercial release. 'Many nanomaterial applications are classified as confidential business information, and those that are known have had little to no publicly available testing by regulatory authorities for human health, safety or environmental effects,' commented IATP senior policy analyst Steve Suppan. 'We know from academic studies that ENMs present hazards that merit regulatory review.' He added: 'As nanomaterials in internationally traded goods increases, administrative, technical and budgetary constraints are keeping US and international agencies well behind the pace and variety of product commercialisation.' According to Suppan, the lack of regulation and 'austerity budgets for regulators' mean a White House order to protect human health, worker safety and the environment from ENM hazards is not being realised.
Australia: Move to recognise firefighters' cancers
A push to compensate Australian firefighters who develop certain types of cancer has received a significant boost, with federal backbenchers from both major parties pledging to back legislation introduced this week. Greens MP Adam Bandt introduced the bill into the lower house, supported by MPs from the main parties. Overseas research has linked exposure to chemicals, dusts and fumes from fires to much higher reported rates of cancer among firefighters and Mr Bandt's bill will reverse the onus of proof for certain types of cancers, and will presume them to be work-related. A similar 'rebuttal presumption' exists in jurisdictions in the US and Canada. The cancers found to be much more prevalent in firefighters include testicular, bladder, prostate, brain and rectal cancers, leukaemia and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. 'Firefighters do a dangerous and difficult job for our community, putting their lives at risk,' Mr Bandt said. 'It is not too much to ask that if they contract cancer likely to be caused by their job, then they should be given the support and the rehabilitation they need.' United Firefighters Union national secretary Peter Marshall said firefighters experienced unique hazards at work. 'For those cancers which are prevalent among firefighters, it will be up to the employer to prove that the disease was not due to their work,' he said, adding that while breathing apparatus stopped the inhalation of toxic substances, the uniforms firefighters' wear breathe to stop heat building up and this is how chemicals reach the skin.
Italy: Call for 20 years jail for asbestos magnates
A public prosecutor has called for 20 year prison terms for two asbestos magnates charged with a wilful failure to protect worker and the public from the deadly fibre, resulting in thousands of deaths. At a criminal trial in Turin,prosecutor Raffaele Guariniello this week delivered a closing statement in the trial of Stephan Schmidheiny and Belgian Baron Jean Louis Marie Ghislain De Cartier de Marchienne. Guariniello said their firm, the asbestos multinational Eternit, was responsible for 'an appalling disaster.' Schmidheiny, the former Swiss owner of building materials giant Eternit, and Jean-Louis Marie Ghislain de Cartier de Marchienne, a top shareholder, are being tried in absentia. In a mass civil action, some 6,000 people are seeking damages over the deaths of around 3,000 people who worked at or lived near Eternit's plants in Italy. The prosecution in the criminal case has requested the maximum sentence of 12 years imprisonment and demanded eight more years be added on the grounds that asbestos can trigger ailments decades after exposure. 'I had never seen such a tragedy... It has affected several regions in our country, employees and residents. It is still sowing death and who knows how much longer it will continue to do so,' Guariniello said. Victims' groups welcomed the heavy sentences requested by the Turin court. 'We are satisfied, this is the result of a 30-year struggle for justice and health during which we never gave up hope,' said Bruno Pesce, who heads an association representing victims from two of Eternit's northern plants. A verdict could be handed down at the end of the year.
USA: Deadly gunpowder maker agrees to quit
The head of a US gunpowder company that shut down after two of its workers were killed last year in an explosion has agreed never to return to the explosives business. The unusual enforcement pact was reached between Craig Sanborn, the Vermont-based president of Black Mag LLC, and the US government's safety enforcement agency, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Black Mag - whose operation in Colebrook, New Hampshire was the site of the deadly May 2010 blast - also agreed to quit the explosives business. Jesse Kennett and Don Kendall, who had been on the job for a month, were manufacturing a gunpowder substitute when they were killed in an explosion that rocked the downtown area of the community. 'Neither Black Mag LLC nor Mr Sanborn will ever again place employees at risk in any kind of business that uses or makes explosives,' said Marthe Kent, New England regional administrator for OSHA. Last October, OSHA fined Black Mag LLC $1.2 million for 54 'wilful, egregious and serious' health and safety violations, which the company said then it would 'vigorously contest' (Risks 480). According to OSHA, however, Black Mag has now withdrawn its notice of contest. 'While nothing can ever bring Jesse Kennett or Don Kendall back to their loved ones, this resolution is designed to prevent future deaths or injuries,' said Michael Felsen, the federal Labor Department's regional solicitor. 'It includes a provision that will allow the Labor Department to charge Mr Sanborn with contempt in federal court if he violates the terms.' The New Hampshire fire marshall and state police still are investigating the case.
USA: Extended Honeywell lockout threatens safety
With collective bargaining set to resume later this month, Honeywell Inc 'continues to place the residents of Metropolis, Illinois, at risk by operating a uranium conversion plant with inexperienced scab workers,' reports global union federation ICEM. The union body says the year old lockout would have been resolved in June, until Honeywell rescinded contract provisions immediately after agreeing to them. In Metropolis, Honeywell mills yellow-cake uranium into uranium hexafluoride (UF6) that is frozen and then sold to companies for nuclear power applications. According to ICEM: 'For the past nine months, Honeywell has been using scabs provided by a contractor to do this dangerous work. The results show in Honeywell's environmental and health and safety record.' A series of penalties for related violations 'have become a daily reminder of the threats posed by a hugely profitable company as it unnecessarily attempts to spiral downward work terms on a skilled and dedicated workforce,' ICEM said (Risks 512). USW Local 7-669 and Honeywell would already have a new labour contract and experienced workers would be back on the job if it had not been for the company reneging on a deal. In bargaining on 6 June, the two sides reached a compromise and a tentative agreement was imminent. But the following day the Honeywell negotiators charged with writing up the deal, presented a reworked and seriously weakened agreement. On 1 July, the two sides agreed to resume bargaining on 19-20 July. ICEM has called 'on Honeywell to stop its hazardous conduct in America's heartland, and to reach satisfactory terms with USW Local 7-669.'
USA: Second set of books hid mine dangers
Massey Energy managers hid serious safety problems at a deadly mine from US federal mine safety officials by keeping two sets of records, Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) officials have revealed. A 5 April 2010 explosion at the Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia's coal belt killed 29 miners. The mine's production log noted issues such as accumulations of coal dust, ventilation problems, equipment malfunctions and other issues, but no mention of those problems was included in the official set of records Massey was required to provide to MSHA inspectors, said Kevin Stricklin, MSHA's head of coal mine safety at a public briefing. Failure to control highly explosive coal dust, inadequate ventilation and a longwall coal cutting machine's faulty water sprayers and worn cutting bits all played a role in the massive explosion that roared through the mine, according to MSHA. Stricklin said a mining company can keep as many sets of books as it wants, but safety issues such as those noted in the production log must be included the official books. Cecil Roberts, president of the mineworkers' union UMWA, said the discovery of two sets of books 'demonstrates the utter contempt for mine safety and health laws that was pervasive throughout the entire management structure at Massey Energy.' MSHA's Stricklin said the agency's investigation found that mine management was aware of chronic hazards but did not correct them and pressured employees conducting pre-shift and other inspections not to record hazards. Mine management also failed to conduct many examinations required by federal mine safety laws. Coal production was routinely put ahead of safety and managers were threatened with dismissal for failing to meet production rates, the investigation found. There was inadequate miner training and in some cases no training at all for miners shifted from one job to another. Miners feared retribution and firing if they reported safety problems.
- UMWA statement. AFL-CIO blog. Common Dreams. Fairwarning. The Charleston Gazette. The New York Times.
Events and Courses
TUC courses for safety reps
COURSES FOR SEPTEMBER 2011 TO DECEMBER 2011
- Visit the TUC www.tuc.org.uk/h_and_s website pages on health and safety. See what's on offer from TUC Publications and What's On in health and safety.
- Subscribe to Hazards magazine, supported by the TUC as a key source of information for union safety reps.
- What's new in the HSC/E and the European Agency.
- HSE Books, PO Box 1999, Sudbury, Suffolk CO10 2WA. Tel: 01787 881165; fax: 01787 313995
Issued: 8 July, 2011