Risks 541 - 4 February 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: Rory O'Neill of Hazards magazine. Comments to the TUC at [email protected]

Union News

Justice under threat from all sides

Workers are facing a government 'onslaught' on their ability to get justice after being abused at work, the TUC has warned. The union body says while chief executives get huge sums in compensation when they are sacked or resign after screwing up, workers are either going to be barred from taking a claim to an industrial tribunal or face prohibitive charges just to get a hearing. Writing in the TUC's Stronger Unions blog, TUC's head of safety Hugh Robertson notes the attack on access to tribunals forms part of an injustice triple whammy, with personal injury and criminal injury compensation also in the government's sights. Under proposals going through parliament at the moment, 'as many as 25 per cent of injury claims will not be brought,' writes Hugh Robertson. 'Those that proceed might lose up to 25 per cent of damages for the success fee and further substantial reductions for required legal expense insurance.' The government is also proposing to slash payments under the criminal injuries compensation scheme. 'In a consultation document issued this week, the government says it wants to remove around 17,000 victims of violence crime every year from the scheme including those with injuries like a smashed hand or an injury to the knee that is serious enough to require surgery. In addition many of those who still qualify will find the compensation cut, so even people with minor brain damage face a cut in their payments,' he warns. According to the TUC safety chief: 'It is not a coincidence that all these proposals are coming together. The government has been wound up about a non-existent compensation culture by insurance companies who are happy to take insurance premiums but have taken a series of court cases to try to stop them paying out when things go wrong, including several aimed at asbestos victims. The coalition government is also hell-bent on removing as many employment rights as it can, so expect more to come.'

Union helps to secure crossing deaths justice

A rail union has been instrumental in securing the criminal prosecution of Network Rail on health and safety charges. Network Rail has admitted safety failings at a level crossing where two teenage girls were killed more than six years ago, saying it will plead guilty to three breaches of health and safety laws and promising to press on with checks on thousands of other crossings. Olivia Bazlinton, 14, and Charlotte Thompson, 13, were hit by a train in 2005 as they crossed the tracks at Elsenham station footpath crossing in Essex. The criminal prosecution by the Office for Rail Regulation (ORR) came after a November 2011 decision to reopen its investigation into the incident following pressure from the girls' families and the rail union Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA). They demanded a public inquiry amid claims two safety documents were not disclosed to the Essex coroner at the 2007 inquest into the deaths (Risks 506). Magistrates in Basildon this week committed Network Rail for sentencing at Chelmsford crown court on 15 March after prosecutor Sarah LeFerve said their power to impose a maximum fine of £30,000 for the offences was insufficient.

Rail union fights for gang attack victims

The rail union RMT is balloting for industrial action after two ticket examiners were fired for defending themselves from a gang the union says have waged a two year campaign of abuse and violence. Darren Brander and Karin McLean were verbally and physically assaulted at work. Their assailants also continued to harass them when they were off duty and even followed them home. RMT says matters came to a head in June 2010 when the gang assaulted and spat on Karin McLean. They also shouted 'paedophile' and 'child molester' at Darren Brander and threw a bottle at him in front of two small children who were accompanying them while they were off duty. The two RMT members retaliated, but British Transport Police brought no charges against them. Scotrail, however, decided to dismiss both workers. RMT is demanding their immediate reinstatement. The union's executive has instructed an industrial action ballot of ticket examiners. RMT general secretary Bob Crow said: 'This dispute on Scotrail is over the most blatant travesty of justice where two of our ticket examiner members have ended up sacked for simply defending themselves from a gang of thugs who have waged a two year campaign of violence and intimidation against them both at work and right up to their own front doors. We are determined to secure justice for Karin and Darren.' He said the failure of a director level appeal revealed Scotrail 'to be totally unsympathetic and uncaring during the whole process and their only objective has been get our members out of the door even though they have been the victims of this crime.' ScotRail claimed they were never made aware of a 'so-called campaign' against the couple before the incident in June 2008 which led to their dismissal.

Fishing nations fail to tackle deadly risks

The fishing industry worldwide needs to take urgent action if it is to jettison its reputation as one of the most dangerous and unregulated occupations, a global union federation has said. The London-based International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) wants governments to sign up to an International Labour Organisation (ILO) convention underpinning basic safety and employment rights for fishers. Provisions of ILO's fishing convention include requiring workers have access to occupational health and safety and medical care and to protection from excessive working hours. So far the convention, although formally adopted, has not got the country-level ratifications to bring it into full force. According to Jon Whitlow, ITF fisheries section secretary, said: 'Commercial fishing is one of the most dangerous and unregulated types of work there is. The ILO Work in Fishing Convention 2007 aims to ensure that fishers worldwide have access to decent working and living conditions.' Launching a new ITF guide, he continued: 'Convention 188 was a landmark - but it needs to be backed and understood. This guide sets out to explain it from a user's perspective, and also why it needs support. Although adopted, it needs to be ratified by 10 ILO member states, eight of which must be coastal ones. That target hasn't been reached yet. We believe that it is essential that more countries ratify, and that fishers' unions have an important role to play in persuading them to do so.' Worldwide, fishing is the most dangerous job you can do, warned Hazards magazine in December. It topped the 2011 listing of the most deadly jobs in the USA, where there was a less than 1-in-a-1,000 chance a fisher would survive the year. A 2007 study found the same fatality rate in the UK industry, which had a death rate over 100 times the rate for all UK jobs. The industry is believed to claim over 20,000 lives each year.

Health and safety goes south-west

The South West TUC has called on the government to abandon its dangerous workplace safety plans. There has been a downward trend in workplace injuries in the region but, with eight people in the region killed in the course of their work last year, the TUC's regional centre says David Cameron is wrong to halve the number of health and safety regulations. Nigel Costley, regional secretary of the South West TUC, said: 'The prime minister's comments about 'killing' health and safety culture show just how out of touch with the reality of working life he is. While we welcome the news safety at work is improving in the South West, eight deaths are still eight too many.' He added that trade union safety activities save society hundreds of millions each year and prevent hundreds of thousands of sick days by delivering safer workplaces. 'Trade union reps are the unsung heroes of Britain's workplaces, advising millions of union members, and volunteering their time and energy for free simply to help and support their work colleagues,' he added. South West TUC is holding a free conference for health and safety reps on 8 February, and has published a manual providing practical advice on issues they are likely to encounter in the workplace. Nigel Costley said: 'The conference already has 180 delegates, which shows the dedication and commitment of reps in the South West to making work safer for them and their colleagues. Even if health and safety is not an issue that concerns the government, it certainly concerns working people.' Speakers include TUC head of safety Hugh Robertson and Stella Wilkes of MacMillan Cancer Support.

Faulty system left car worker in a jam

A toolsetter for a car parts manufacturer suffered a painful back injury after a machine with a known problem jammed. The 57-year-old from Walsall suffered a slipped disc as he was fitting a four foot long beam to reinforce a car bumper for Wagon Industries in May 2008. The beam became jammed and as the Unite member, whose name has not been released, pulled it he suddenly experienced pain in his back. Staff working on the line had complained that when fitting the part it would often become jammed but nothing had been done to rectify the problem. The injured worker was off work for four weeks before being able to return on light duties. Just a few months later the business went into liquidation and he was laid off. He hasn't been able to find work since. Steve Peacock from Unite commented: 'The repetitive nature of the job and the risk of it jamming should have been a clear indicator to bosses that the process needed to be risk assessed and the system of work changed. The economic climate is tough for everyone but it is particularly difficult for those in manufacturing to find work. This member is now at a greater disadvantage with his injuries.' Donna Simcock from Thompsons Solicitors, the law firm brought in by the union that negotiated a £10,000 settlement for the injured man, said: "This was a manual handling task which clearly had dangerous flaws which the employer chose to ignore. It would have been considerably cheaper to fix the problem than to pay compensation. And now this member is paying the price for his employer's neglect.'

Knee injury stops train driver

A train driver was off work for nine months after being injured in a fall on an icy platform. The 30-year-old from Oxfordshire fell on snow and ice on the platform at Frome station in January 2009. The ASLEF member, whose name has not been released, needed two operations on his knee. The First Great Western driver was walking from one end of the train to the other at 5am when the slip on the dark platform occurred. Although parts of the platform had been gritted, the gritted area only covered the length of two train carriages. The ASLEF member's train was longer, meaning he had no choice but to cross the icy area. He tore the ligaments and tendons in his left knee in the fall. Initially he was able to continue with his work but a few weeks later he realised the pain was not going to go away and sought medical help. He has since needed two operations to mend his knee and three years later is still receiving physiotherapy. During his recovery he was off work for a total of nine months. Additionally he has found it difficult to spend time playing with his two-year-old son due to the difficulties he has kneeling. First Great Western admitted liability and settled the claim out of court for a 'significant' sum. ASLEF general secretary Mick Whelan said: 'Whilst the employer made an effort to grit the platform it knew the length of trains that would be using the station and that the drivers would have to walk across the untreated part. The platform was not safe for staff. Our member has needed to take a great deal of time off work as a result of this fall which could have been avoided had a considered approached been taken to keeping the platform clear from ice and snow.'

Other news

MPs call for urgent action on asbestos in schools

MPs have warned urgent action is needed to address the asbestos 'timebomb in our schools'. A report by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Occupational Safety and Health, sent to MPs and peers on 1 February, says more than 75 per cent of Britain's state schools contain asbestos. It adds that much of that is badly maintained, leaving children and staff exposed to a potentially deadly danger. The report notes: 'Over 140 school teachers have died from mesothelioma in the past ten years. An unknown number of cleaners, administrative staff and caretakers have also died. The number of children who have died as a result of exposure to asbestos while at school is unknown but in the US it was estimated that for every teacher's death nine children will die. That would mean that over 100 people die every year in the UK as a result of exposure when they were at school.' Launching the report, Jim Sheridan MP, the chair of the All-Party Group, said: 'This is a national scandal. Urgent action is needed to prevent more pupils, teachers and other staff being exposed to this deadly killer dust. We need both far greater awareness of the risks that this material poses and a programme for its phased removal.' Other recommendations include the reinstatement of pro-active inspections to assess the risk of asbestos in schools. These unannounced health and safety inspections in schools were axed last year by the government.

  • News release from Jim Sheridan MP and full report, Asbestos in schools: The need for action, All-Party Parliamentary Group on Occupational Safety and Health, 1 February 2012 [pdf].

Asbestos like 'capital punishment' for workers

A coroner has said asbestos at work was like 'capital punishment' for hard workers. Dr Janet Napier, deputy coroner for Cheshire, was commenting at the inquest into the death of a former Crewe Works employee. William Martin worked at the railway as a fitter and turner between 1956 and 1988. He was taken on as an apprentice, following in the footsteps of his brother and father. He died on 4 August 2011, aged 70, after being diagnosed with an asbestos-related lung disease. The inquest last week heard how workers were exposed to the dangerous fibres on a daily basis. A 'life statement' from William Martin read out in court noted: 'Asbestos was in the atmosphere all the time. You couldn't help but inhale it. You could see it the dust particles in the rays of sunlight. Some of the asbestos would still be clinging to the boilers. It would be on my hands.' He added: 'I do recall having blue asbestos on my sandwich - it was everywhere. At the end of the day my overalls would be covered thick with asbestos dust. We would not be provided with any masks.' Coroner Janet Napier said the exposure to asbestos was like 'capital punishment for being a hard worker'. She said his death was caused by a combination of natural and industrial diseases. His post mortem revealed asbestos had contributed to his lung disease.

Excessive working time causes depression

A new study has concluded that working long hours - regardless of job stress or satisfaction - increases the risk of depression. Researchers at the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health and University College London followed nearly 2,000 middle-aged British civil servants for almost six years. The researchers examined the civil servants' working hours, whether or not they were depressed or had risk factors for depression to begin with, and whether they had any major depressive episodes over time. In workers with no psychological illness, the rate of a major depressive episode was 2.43 times higher for those who worked more than 11 hours per day compared with employees who worked 7 to 8 hours a day. This association held true even after researchers accounted for other depression risk factors, including socio-demographic factors, smoking, alcohol use, having chronic physical disease, job strain and work-related social support. 'Although occasionally working overtime may have benefits for the individual and society, it is important to recognise that working excessive hours is also associated with an increased risk of major depression,' said study author Marianna Virtanen, an epidemiologist at the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health. TUC working hours expert Paul Sellers, writing in the union body's Touchstone blog, said the research forms part of a large scale study that has been running for more than 20 years, 'making it one of the most reliable sources for studying working time and health.' He added 'earlier research from the same source found a worrying 60 per cent increase in the risk of contracting heart disease amongst those working overtime.' He criticised both the government and the business lobby group CBI for their continued opposition to a strengthening the Working Time Directive. He said: 'There is obviously a serious risk here and yet the state and business leaders oppose taking action to protect people - simply scandalous!'

Firm guilty after worker's head is crushed

A construction worker died from massive crush injuries when his head became trapped in the jaws of a grab machine being wrongly used to move a pallet of cement bags. Steven Allen, 23, was part of a team working for contractor JN Bentley on the construction of a recycling centre for Bradford Council in March 2007. Moving the 30 or so cement bags was the last job before the weekend. Bradford Crown Court heard that workers used a block grab attached to an excavator to move the load. As they did, the bags fell two metres to the ground, but the pallet remained in the jaws of the block grab. The pallet pivoted and Steven took hold of it to pull it free. As the pallet came away, the jaws dropped and clamped on his head, causing severe injuries. He died the following day. The court was told that the grab was being used against manufacturer's instructions and was not suitable for the job. The company had also failed to implement a safe system for lifting and transporting the bags of cement. JN Bentley had pleaded guilty to safety breaches at an earlier hearing. The firm was fined £106,250 and ordered to pay costs of £90,000. HSE principal inspector Dave Redman said: 'The firm made a fundamental error by using a block grab to lift and move pallets and this resulted in the tragic death of a young man. This use was very clearly advised against by the manufacturers and the risks should have been understood by the company.' He added: 'No assessment was made regarding the use of the grab and no instructions were given to the men who were operating it.' Various risk assessments had been carried out at the site - even for the removal of Japanese knotweed - but not for lifting or moving supplies on palettes and no 'method statement' had been prepared to show how the work should be carried out, the court heard. Steven's mother Judith Allen said after the hearing: 'This may be the end as far as prosecutions go, but our lives are blighted forever. The only consolation will be if it stops something like this happening again, and makes workers and the public far more aware than I was before Steven died, of the risks employers take with workers' lives in trying to save money.'

Young driver crushed by one tonne pallet

A Hampshire lift manufacturer has been fined after a driver was killed while making a delivery to the firm. Father-of-one Adam Millichip was delivering sheet metal to Wessex Lift Co Ltd, in Romsey, on 16 November 2007. The 27-year-old from Tenbury Wells was hit by a one tonne pallet, being moved by a forklift, which crushed him against his lorry, Winchester Crown Court heard. Mr Millichip was taken to Southampton hospital where he later died from his injuries. A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation revealed Mr Millichip, who was working for a Worcester-based haulage company, had parked the lorry at the side of the road, ready for the pallets to be offloaded by a forklift truck. The forklift driver, employed by Wessex Lift Co Ltd, was using the forklift to manoeuvre one of the pallets, when it struck Mr Millichip across the chest and trapped him against the side of the lorry, the investigation found. Mr Millichip suffered major internal organ failure as a result of crush injuries across his chest. HSE's investigation also found that inadequate controls were in place at the time of the incident to protect people from moving vehicles, and insufficient consideration had been given to the risks involved in offloading. Wessex Lift Co Ltd admitted a criminal health and safety breach and was fined £65,000 plus costs of £60,000. Mr Millichip's mother, Susan Millichip, said: 'I can only describe losing Adam as like the devastation of an atom bomb - it has shattered so many lives. It has devastated Adam's son, Luke, who is five.' She added: 'It was an incident that should never have happened and no other family should suffer like we have.'

Radiation found on Dounreay workers' shoes

Traces of radioactive contamination have been detected on shoes worn by workers preparing to leave a condemned building at the Dounreay nuclear site. It was understood 14 workers were involved. They had been working in a building on the Caithness site which is due to be demolished and where there was a known possibility of contamination. Dounreay Site Restoration Limited said the workers and environment outside the building had not been harmed. Regulators the Office of Nuclear Regulation (ONR) and Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) have been informed. DSRL said: 'The building is in a 'controlled' area, where contamination is possible, and controls are in place to manage it. The area was isolated and follow-up surveys confirmed that the contamination was confined to a small area. An investigation is under way. There was no harm to staff or the environment.'

Scaffolder survives seven metre fall

A construction firm has been prosecuted after a scaffolder suffered multiple injuries when he fell seven metres through a roof. The 28-year-old employee of Fred Lewis Scaffold Company Ltd was installing scaffolding on 30 April 2010 at a factory in Stoke-on-Trent, when he fell through the fragile roof. Fenton Magistrates' Court heard that father-of-three Gary Hampton shattered his thigh bone, bruised his lungs, broke both wrists, broke two vertebrae and cracked another. He was in hospital for six weeks and will never be able to carry out any manual work again as his injuries have left him with considerable pain in his left leg and extremely weak wrists, which will require further surgery. A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found the company did not prepare or survey the job properly at the outset and failed to supervise or train its employees adequately. Fred Lewis Scaffold Company Ltd pleaded guilty to a criminal safety breach and was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay £19,000 costs. Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Alastair Choudhury said: 'It is very sad that a man with a family to support is now unable to work as a result of an entirely preventable incident. If Fred Lewis Scaffold Company had carried out an adequate survey of this job before starting work and supervised and trained its employees properly, the risks involved would have been identified.'

Three firms fined after worker falls from roof

Three Dundee companies have been fined a total of £336,000 after a worker fell six and a half metres through a roof light onto a concrete floor. Christopher Carson, who was 23 at the time, competed as a floor gymnast at national level and was also a coach in the sport. As his day job, he was working as an electrician's labourer for Robert AS Crockett and Partners Ltd. The firm had been contracted by Electroguard Security Systems to fit a lighting system as part of a larger project at Dundee Cold Stores Ltd. Dundee Sheriff's Court heard that on 3 October 2008, Mr Carson was attaching cables to the wall of the building in order to install the new security system. While on the roof, he stood on a roof light and fell through it, hitting machinery in the building below, before landing on the concrete floor. He suffered a number of fractures to his back as well as fractures and dislocation to his left shoulder. He also suffered a puncture wound to his lower back from a drill bit that was in his pocket when he fell. Mr Carson required surgery to reattach three tendons to his shoulder and had to undergo physiotherapy. He still suffers from chronic pain. An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that Dundee Cold Stores Ltd had not asked either Electroguard Security Systems or Robert AS Crockett and Partners Ltd for a written risk assessment for the work they had been asked to carry out. Nor was there a method statement from either company as to how the work was to be carried out safely. Although Electroguard had carried out a site risk assessment for working at height, this was not specific to the job at Dundee Cold Stores and was not available to the subcontracted workers. All three firms admitted criminal safety offences. Robert AS Crockett and Partners Ltd was fined £66,000. Electroguard Security Systems and Dundee Cold Stores were each fined £135,000.

HSE doesn't take inadequate toilets sitting down

A Bristol building firm has been fined after a court heard it failed to provide basic washing and welfare facilities for workers despite enforcement action at another of its sites. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) visited CR Construction (SW) Ltd on 16 June 2011 at a Bristol building site and found 'completely inadequate' washing and bathroom facilities. Bristol Magistrates' Court heard managers of the company knew exactly what the requirements were, as an improvement notice was earlier issued at another site run by the firm. On further investigation, the HSE inspectors found the failings had been apparent at the new site for the whole year it had existed. The court heard there were up to sixteen building workers on site and facilities were way below the minimum requirements. HSE inspector Sue Adsett said: 'Workers on sites such as these need access to clean and working toilets and hand washing facilities with hot and cold running water, soap and towels, as many materials used on such sites can cause skin problems. It is also a legal requirement to have a heated room on site where workers can change, rest, and make hot drinks and food if required.' CR Construction (SW) Ltd pleaded guilty to a criminal breach of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 and was fined £2,000 and ordered to pay costs of £2,014.

International News

Global: Unions gets help to sunk cruiseship crew

Unions have brokered an agreement to help crew members who survived the sinking of the Costa Concordia cruiseship (Risks 539). The team led by Francesco Di Fiore of the global transport unions' federation ITF liaised with affiliated unions in crew members' home countries and acting as a link with the ship's operator. They also visited crew in hotels so that they could relay their needs to the company. Following the union intervention, the entire multinational crew on board the Costa Concordia received a letter from the company agreeing to provide them with assistance including pocket money for initial expenditure and a consolidated salary payment up until the end of the period specified in their employment contract, with a minimum of two months' basic wages and cover of up to US$3,570 for the loss of personal effects. According to ITF's Francesco Di Fiore: 'These have been the first steps. We are also visiting crew members in hospitals across Italy. These include one Indonesian seafarer, who is in a critical condition in Siena - his family will be flown in by the company; and a female Russian crew member who remains in a hospital in Rome - the Seafarers' Union of Russia has been informed.' He added: 'Repatriation of the crew - in total 1,023 - is almost complete. Around 20 of them are still waiting for problems regarding visas or flights to be resolved.' It is feared over 30 people died in the sinking of the Costa Concordia. Two crew members are reported to have died and three are unaccounted for.

Turkey: Denim sandblasting takes another life

The deadly legacy of Turkey's denim sandblasting trade has accounted for another life. Press reports from the country say 28-year-old ?dris Oral died after suffering from silicosis caused by his work at a denim sandblasting workshop. Oral is reported to be the 50th denim sandblasting worker to die of silicosis, a devastating lung disease caused by inhalation of silica dust. He developed the condition seven years ago while working in the sandblasting workshop in Istanbul. The sandblasting process is now banned in Turkey, but it is believed hundreds of former workers are suffering from silicosis as a result of their employment in the industry (Risks 485). A number of major global garment producers and fashion chains have now banned the process, after a high profile campaign by the Clean Clothes Campaign, unions and victims' groups. There are concerns that other groups of workers in Turkey may be developing the deadly respiratory condition, including dental prosthetic technicians. The Istanbul Occupational Health and Safety Council reported that four dental technicians have died of silicosis in the last year. A report from the safety body estimates 10 per cent of dental technicians are suffering from work-related silicosis or asthma.

USA: Action on deadly silica hits a brick wall

Progress on a new safer official US workplace exposure limit for deadly silica dust has been frustrated by the business lobby for over a decade. But a bid by the Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to finally introduce stricter controls on silica has hit a second brick wall - a review process run by the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) that has stalled the ready-to-go standard since 14 February last year. Frustrated at the delays, more than 300 scientists, doctors and workplace safety experts countersigned a 25 January letter to the president, urging him to direct OMB to complete its review. OMB should have completed the review of the proposed rules within 90 days, but has delayed for nearly a year. The letter notes that OMB staff have hosted at least nine private meetings on the rules, most of which involved representatives of companies with a direct financial stake in their outcome. Any reduction in the standard has been vigorously opposed by this industry lobby. An estimated 1.7 million US workers are exposed to crystalline silica, which kills some 200 workers each year and causes new cases of silicosis in as many as 7,300 workers, mostly in construction. Silicosis, which also affects miners, foundry workers and other trades where silica is used or becomes airborne as a result of work processes, is incurable but preventable. It is also linked to other lung diseases, cancer and autoimmune conditions. The National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health, which advises the Labor Department, issued a statement in December 2011 saying it was 'deeply distressed' that the proposed new regulations had been under review for so long. 'The current standard is many decades old and is insufficient to protect workers from this serious occupational health hazard,' the advisory committee noted. 'The silica rule delay is extraordinary and without explanation, and there is no indication as to when the review will be concluded.'

Global: Apple bruised by worker abuse revelations

Apple's public image has been dented by revelations about working conditions in the factories of some of its network of Chinese suppliers. A steady stream of critical articles, highlighting dust explosions, labour abuses, long hours and mass poisonings of workers at Chinese subcontractors have been bad enough PR, culminating last week in a front page feature in the New York Times, headlined: 'In China, human costs are built into an iPad.' But the fallout from this coverage, which highlighted allegations of a disregard for workers' health in parts of the company's supply chain, saw the question of a boycott of Apple products raised in the Los Angeles Times - a column was headed baldly 'Should consumers boycott Apple?' - Forbes magazine and other influential publications. The coverage suggests the public mood could be turning against one of the world's biggest and more successful companies, whose revenue last quarter was up 74 per cent to $46.3 billion and profit more than doubled to $13.1 billion. Under its current and now more closely scrutinised production model rebuilding public trust could be a problem Apple has trouble securing. Industry analysts have argued the entire Asian electronics infrastructure depends on the exploitation of an enormous, low-wage and risk-exposed workforce. Ted Smith of the International Campaign for Responsible Technology told the US-based Pump Handle blog: 'These situations will continue until there is an informed and empowered workforce and workforce organisations of a serious kind to watch over what's going on. As long as there's no counterforce, this is what will continue to happen.'

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