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					Risks Newsletter

Number 305 – 12 May 2007

                    Editor: Rory O'Neill of            • Firm shows contempt for safety and staff
                    Hazards magazine.
                    Comments to the TUC at             • Council safety experts axed despite deaths
                    healthandsafety@tuc.org.uk         • Site firms must communicate warns HSE
                     Risks is the TUC’s weekly
                                                       • TUC backs call for action on epilepsy
                     online bulletin for safety reps
and others, read each week by over 14,500              • Bar staff 'should wear ear plugs'
subscribers and 1,500 on the TUC website. To
receive this bulletin every week, click here. Past     • INTERNATIONAL NEWS
issues are available. This edition contains Useful
links TUC courses for safety reps Disclaimer and       • Canada: Farmworker rights just a first step
Privacy statement.                                     • Canada: Ontario tackles firefighting cancers
                                                       • France: Chemical firm liable for kidney
In this issue                                            cancers

• UNION NEWS                                           • USA: Lung ailment linked to Trade Center
• Car union in offer to cancer families
                                                       • RESOURCES
• UCATT demands better asbestos treatment
                                                       • Excess baggage
• Union wins hearing damage payout
                                                       • EVENTS AND COURSES
• Poll reveals firefighters’ safety fears
                                                       • TUC courses for safety reps
• Concern over immigration centre staff cuts
                                                       • USEFUL LINKS
• Community raises the alarm for safety
• Unite calls for action on enforcement
• Rail union slams lack of action on safety
                                                       UNION NEWS
• TUC raises skin problems

• OTHER NEWS                                           Car union in offer to cancer families

• BP faces further safety attacks

Risks Newsletter

Union leaders want to meet grieving families of       • IMF zero cancer webpages. BWI occupational
men who died of cancer contracted while                 cancer webpages. Amicus occupational cancer
working at Southampton's Ford factory. The              webpage. Work Cancer Prevention Kit,
Transport and General Workers' Union (now               including guide to combating the top 10
part of Unite) has offered to support relatives if      workplace cancer concerns.
they take legal action. The move comes after an
investigation by local paper the Daily Echo
revealed 21 cases of oesophageal cancer among
workers at the Swaythling factory - more than         UCATT demands better asbestos treatment
three times the number of cases investigated in
an independent study commissioned by Ford.            Construction union UCATT is demanding
The motor giant carried out a health inquiry into     official approval for a drug experts say is the best
six oesophageal cancer cases among paint shop         treatment for people with the asbestos cancer
workers between 1994 and 2005. The study -            mesothelioma. The National Institute for Health
supported by the Medical Research Council and         and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has indicated
the Health and Safety Executive - found the           that it will advise that the chemotherapy drug
cancer cluster was a coincidence and unrelated to     Alimta should not be used. It is currently
the workplace. Ford has since consistently            available throughout Scotland, but in most parts
maintained that there is no link. However, the        of England those wanting the treatment have to
bereaved families were not satisfied with the         obtain it privately at a cost of at least £24,000.
findings and formed an action group to demand         The NHS can provide the treatment for just
a second investigation. TGWU has                      £7,000, Alan Ritchie, general secretary of
commissioned its own expert to consider the           UCATT, said: “It is sickening that NICE could
report and is awaiting the conclusions. In a letter   even consider a postcode lottery on easing the
to group leader Julia Spencer, the union said it      suffering of people dying from a horribly painful
was “anxious to assist the families of those who      disease, developed at work through no fault of
died and were TGWU members.” Ms Spencer               their own.” He added: “If mesothelioma was a
welcomed the union support, adding: “Things           disease of the chattering classes, rather than of
are moving slowly but they are moving forward.        manual workers, I am sure the decision would be
I'm in the process of contacting the other            different.” Nick Thatcher, professor of oncology
members of the action group to arrange a time         at the Christie Hospital NHS Trust and
and date for our first meeting.” TGWU regional        Wythenshawe Hospital, described NICE's
representative Colin Lumber said: “These fathers      decision as “crazy”, adding: “It's the only
and husbands were all members of the union so         proven licensed treatment and isn't that
we have a moral obligation to make sure any           expensive [for the NHS] - only £7,000 for the
investigation into their deaths is appropriate.”      complete treatment course.” He said the
Studies in the US, Canada and elsewhere have          treatment significantly increases life expectancy,
linked exposure to solvents and metalworking          alleviates pain that cannot be lessened by opiates,
fluids in car plants to a heightened risk of          and helps with breathlessness. “One in four
oesophageal cancer. A worldwide “zero cancer”         people on Alimta survive two years and more,
campaign launched by unions last month, and           and generally have a good quality of life,” he
using materials prepared by Hazards magazine,         said. “They wouldn't have that with other
identified these exposures as top prevention          chemotherapy that's cheaper and not as effective.
priorities (Risks 300). A study last month            In terms of social justice, to not treat an
concluded cancer risks related to metalworking        industrial disease is extraordinary, especially
fluid exposures in car plants had been                when the cost is pretty minimal.” Chris
systematically under-estimated due to inadequate      Knighton, founder of the Mick Knighton
research protocols (Risks 302).                       Mesothelioma Research Fund, believes the
                                                      decision leaves sufferers with a choice between
• Daily Echo.                                         inadequate treatment and hardship. She said:

Risks Newsletter

“People have been contacting us who have              Humberside regional secretary for Unite’s
remortgaged or sold their homes to pay.”              Amicus section, commented: “Noise is still one
Alimta is widely available throughout the             of the most underestimated workplace risks so
European Union. NICE denied approval for the          we are very pleased with the outcome of this
life-extending chemotherapy drug Alimta in June       case. It demonstrates the value of trade union
last year, subject to consultation that closed last   membership.” He added that the union “seeks to
month. Final guidance is due for publication in       protect and support people at work and helps
September. Study findings to be published in the      secure compensation pay outs for its members
June issue of the Annals of Oncology concluded        when things go wrong.” Nikki Sharpe from
Britain has the worst cancer survival rates out of    Thompsons Solicitors said: “Sadly Malcolm
five top European countries, and blamed a             Goddard’s employers did not provide him with
reluctance to provide drug treatments including       suitable equipment to protect his hearing… He
Alimta that are routinely available elsewhere.        was exposed to seriously high levels of noise
The review of the availability of 67 new cancer       which over the years has seriously impaired his
drugs in 25 countries, funded by Swiss                hearing.”
pharmaceutical manufacturer Roche, found that
Britain languishes close to the bottom of the
league, along with Poland, the Czech Republic,        • Thompsons Solicitors news release. HSE noise
South Africa and New Zealand.                           webpages. TUC noise webpages.

• Personnel Today. The Observer. The
  Independent. Daily Mail. Portsmouth News.           Poll reveals firefighters’ safety fears

• NICE. Mick Knighton Mesothelioma
  Research Fund. Action Mesothelioma.                 Firefighters’ union FBU has called on the
                                                      government to scrap plans to close 46 emergency
                                                      call centres, saying the move could endanger the
                                                      safety of its members and the general public. The
Union wins hearing damage payout                      call centres are to be replaced with nine state-of-
                                                      the-art regional centres in England at a cost of £1
                                                      billion. There are similar plans in Scotland, with
A worker from Goole, Humberside, who is
                                                      proposals to shift from eight brigade controls
suffering two debilitating health problems caused
                                                      down to either three or one centre for the whole
by exposure to excessive noise at work, has
                                                      country. Ministers argue the changes would
received a £4,000 compensation settlement.
                                                      make the service more able to deal with major
Malcolm Goddard, 60, a member of Unite’s
                                                      incidents such as natural disasters and terror
Amicus section, suffers from severe occupational
                                                      attacks. But FBU says that the money would be
deafness and tinnitus, a ringing in the ears. In
                                                      better spent on frontline staff, training and
1972 he went to work at a Corus rolling mill
                                                      equipment. It says a survey of almost 2,000 of its
where daily noise exposures led to noise induced
                                                      members showed almost every one believed the
hearing problems. He now has difficulty hearing
                                                      plans would damage the fire service's ability to
everyday conversations and the television. Mr
                                                      respond to incidents. The nationwide poll of
Goddard said: “The noise on site was deafening.
                                                      FBU members conducted by YouGov found 95
Noise was transmitted from the machines used
                                                      per cent of firefighters polled thought the
to roll the steel. There were two furnaces,
                                                      proposed regional centre would damage the
underground hydraulics and a roughing mill.”
                                                      service’s ability to respond to incidents, with 90
He added: “I received hearing protection in 1990
                                                      per cent believing it would also hit the safety of
but it was only in 1995 that hearing protection
                                                      firefighters. FBU general secretary Matt Wrack
became compulsory.” He said it wasn’t until
                                                      said: “Frontline crews want to see the £1 billion
2005 he realised he had a serious hearing
                                                      being wasted on this project being invested in
problem. Bernard McAulay, the Yorkshire and
                                                      more frontline fire services, better equipment and
Risks Newsletter

training. We fear the spiralling costs of this        could well effect our members' ability to
project will lead to cuts in frontline services and   maintain the current standards of treatment of
a worse service to the public.” He added: “There      detainees and their safety, and the ability of our
must be a proper independent assessment of this       members not only to carry out their security
entire project before it goes any further. The        duties but the important issue of having
government must listen and think again.” An           sufficient time to respond to detainees' welfare
overwhelming 96 per cent of FBU members               matters and the current good practice of
polled said the project should not go ahead.          meaningful dialogue and concern.”

• FBU news release. BBC News Online.                  • GMB news release.

Concern over immigration centre staff cuts            Community raises the alarm for safety

A private contractor’s plan to slash staffing at a    A union has demonstrated the safety protection
high profile immigration detention centre could       unions can offer, even when the employer refuses
jeopardise the safety of staff and detainees, the     formal union recognition. Workers in Betfred
union GMB has warned. Serco announced this            betting shops were concerned when the company
month that it plans to cut over 54 per cent of the    switched off emergency alarms. Community
staff working at the Yarl's Wood immigration          contacted the company and made sure that these
removal centre in Bedfordshire. The firm took         were switched straight back on. The problem
over the removal centre contract on 25 April          was first brought to the union’s attention in
2007 from GSL. GMB organiser Paul Campbell            January, when a Community member working in
said: “Serco has stated that the reason for the       a Betfred shop in the north west contacted the
proposed redundancies is 'changes in work             union, after she realised that her emergency
methods or organisation'. GMB has written to          alarm was not working. The union quickly
Serco advising that GMB London Region will            contacted other branches and established that
totally oppose any reduction in manning levels        the problem was nationwide. Community sent
and give them a deadline to rescind their             out information and advice to members and
proposals. We will make sure that the minister        spoke to the company to request that the alarms
knows this too.” He added: “GMB members               be switched back on immediately. The company
have for too long been on the receiving end of        acted within days and acknowledged that
daft policies that make their jobs harder or nigh     Community's intervention was in the best
on impossible. It seems that the government and       interests of the staff and that it added value to
the private contractors never learn the very          the company, says the union. Community
obvious lessons that history tell us.” A GMB          organiser Sarah France, commented: “It just goes
submission to the House of Lords Joint                to show the difference that being in a union can
Committee on Human Rights prior to the Serco          make, even without recognition by the company,
takeover warned: “Your Committee may well be          and the impact that the union can have. We take
aware of the major incident at Yarl's Wood in         the health and safety of our members very
February 2002 (Risks 120), prior to which our         seriously.”
elected GMB representatives had raised issues
with manning levels and health and safety
implications, whether or not manning levels at        • Community news release and betting shop
that time in any way contributed to the incident        campaign. TUC safety organisation webpage.
was a matter for the Home Office's                      Hazards organising news and resources.
investigations following the incident and their
conclusions.” The submission added: “I would
suggest that any reductions in manning levels
Risks Newsletter

Unite calls for action on enforcement               state, they are more than concerned over the lack
                                                    of enforcement themselves.”
A dramatic increase in workplace deaths shows
the need for more resources for the Health and      • Amicus news release. CCA news release
Safety Executive (HSE) and a reversal in the          including text of the HSE internal memo. HSE
downward trend in enforcement, Britain’s              news release. CCA/UCATT report [pdf].
biggest union has said. Unite, the union formed
this month from the merger of TGWU and              • Hazards enforcement webpages and ‘HSE is
Amicus, made the call after latest provisional        broke’ feature which first revealed HSE chief
figures showed workplace fatalities in the            executive Geoffrey Podger’s concern about the
construction industry increased last year by over     prosecutions shortfall.
30 per cent (Risks 301). Unite is concerned that
this and enforcement trends – a new report for
construction union UCATT has claimed that the       Rail union slams lack of action on safety
proportion of deaths in the sector that were
followed by a prosecution had fallen by nearly
three quarters in the period from 1998 to 2004      Rail chiefs have failed to tackle a maintenance
(Risks 304) – show the safety watchdog is           deficiency and shortcuts since the fatal train
increasingly reluctant to take the necessary        derailment at Grayrigg in Cumbria, rail union
enforcement action after criminal safety            RMT has warned. The claim from the union’s
breaches. HSE challenged the findings of the        Cumbria branch of the RMT comes after press
UCATT report when the story was picked up the       reports claimed police officers working on the
BBC Radio 4’s flagship Today programme,             February 23 accident investigation are said to
saying in a comment released to the press there     have been amazed by the maintenance failings
was only a “possible 10-15 per cent rise in fatal   they found, and the culture of track maintenance
accidents”, later defending this figure when        short cuts and deficiencies (Risks 304). Craig
challenged by Hazards magazine. However, HSE        Johnston, RMT North West vice president, said:
later conceded its own estimate was wrong and       “Since Grayrigg, there has been no evidence of
amended the press release online to say there was   improvement. Everything is just the same as it
a “possible 20-25 per cent risk in fatal            was. We’ve had a culture of fragmentation and
accidents” in the construction sector, although     the bureaucracy gets in the way of this work.”
the revised figures were not distributed to HSE’s   He added that he stood by his union’s claim that
press list. Amicus and the Centre for Corporate     Network Rail struggled to clear a backlog of
Accountability, which prepared the report for       maintenance in Cumbria in the three weeks
UCATT, criticised HSE chief executive Geoffrey      before Grayrigg and that maintenance had been
Podger’s defence of his organisation’s              cut by 30 per cent in the preceding year. Alan
enforcement record, which included a statement      Johnson, chair of the Carlisle RMT branch,
that “this is not a police state”. They point out   agreed, saying: “There hasn’t been any change.”
that his own memo last year commenting on the       He refused to blame individual maintenance
findings of an internal HSE audit conceded          teams for the Grayrigg derailment, but suggested
enforcement rates should be “considerably           that some privately employed contractors may be
greater” and warned that “the implications of       causing problems. He added: “What we have
this need to concern us all.” Rob Miguel, health    now is contractors coming in who don’t know
and safety officer with Unite’s Amicus section,     what they’re doing – it’s rich pickings.” RMT
said: “It seems though that HSE has written off     general secretary Bob Crow this week called for
over half those devastated families within these    a joint public inquiry into the Potters Bar crash
figures. For many years we have campaigned for      which killed seven people five years ago and
increased enforcement for health and safety         February's Grayrigg derailment, which killed one
breaches, and despite HSE worries about a police    passenger. “The alarming similarities between
                                                    Potters Bar and Grayrigg underline the need for

Risks Newsletter

the industry to get to grips once and for all with
the systemic engineering management problems
that clearly still blight rail safety,” Bob Crow
said. “Establishing immediate causes is
                                                     OTHER NEWS
important, but an inquiry should be able to
examine the adequacy of safety management            BP faces further safety attacks
systems and what RMT believes are the
unacceptable risks still posed by the continued
fragmentation of rail engineering.”                  The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has
                                                     ordered BP to improve safety on its North Sea oil
                                                     and gas installations, issuing 14 notices to the
• The Cumberland News. RMT news release.             energy group in the past year. So far the
                                                     stipulations in 10 of the notices have been met.
                                                     Offshore union Unite said it was not surprised,
                                                     given BP's safety record, that it had received so
TUC raises skin problems
                                                     many improvement notices. Graham Tran,
                                                     offshore officer with Unite’s Amicus section,
Employers are showing a “shameful” lack of           said: “We have been saying for many years that
concern for the health of their employees, the       BP has failed to take advantage of rising energy
TUC had said. TUC general secretary Brendan          price to step up its investment in maintenance.
Barber spoke out following new advice from the       We now want to see some hard action in this
official safety watchdog that thousands of           area.” BP announced this week it had appointed
workers are still affected by a painful skin         L Duane Wilson, a retired vice-president for
conditions caused by coming into contact with        refining and marketing at ConocoPhillips, to
harmful substances at work. Employees in             oversee its safety improvements after recent
healthcare, hairdressing, printing, cleaning,        controversy about its refinery safety
construction and catering are all suffering from     performance, including the March 2005 Texas
dermatitis, as a result of their work, the Health    City blast that killed 15 (Risks 302). An internal
and Safety Executive (HSE) has warned. The           report concluded four BP executives should be
TUC leader said employers and government             sacked for failing to prevent the tragedy. The
should be doing more to prevent the condition        report, released by court order, also found that a
that has been around for years. He told              fifth manager ignored “serious warning signals”
Personnel Today: “The UK’s enforcement               at the site. The revelations came just two days
authorities must to do more to tackle this           after the oil giant's chief executive, Lord Browne,
shameful lack of concern for employees’ health       resigned after it was revealed he had lied to a
and safety. The continued high incidence of          court on matters relating to his private life. TUC
dermatitis and other painful skin conditions is      said last week it was “almost surreal” that
mainly down to a lack of safety awareness in         Browne should escape the courts and the sack
many of the UK’s small firms. The owners of          following scathing reports implicating him in the
small companies are often quite ignorant of the      Texas City blast, yet be forced to resign and
effects that the daily use of certain chemicals at   possibly face prosecution for telling a “white lie”
work can have on individual employees.” Mr           to a court (Risks 304). The matter was a cause of
Barber added: “Part of the problem is that the       considerable comment in the US after BP chair
turnover of staff can be quite high, and sadly       Peter Sutherland said it was “a tragedy” that
many employers are apt to see their employees as     Browne “should be compelled by his sense of
a somewhat disposable commodity.”                    honour to resign in these painful circumstances.”
                                                     Houston Chronicle business columnist Loren
                                                     Steffy commented: “A tragedy? No, that would
• Personnel Today. HSE dermatitis webpages.          have been more than two years ago in Texas
  TUC skin hazards webpage.                          City. Where was Browne’s sense of honour
                                                     then?” US union federation AFL-CIO’s reaction

Risks Newsletter

was summed up in a headline in its official AFL-      bankruptcy-of-convenience firm Federal Mogul
CIO Now blog: “Good riddance to BP exec”.             (Risks 274). Asbestos claimants, cancer sufferers
                                                      and bereaved relatives received less than a
                                                      quarter the compensation they might normally
• BP news releases on L Duane Wilson’s                have expected.
  appointment and on Lord Browne’s
  resignation. The Guardian. Financial Times.
  BBC News Online. Houston Chronicle.                 • Sunday Sun. The Northern Echo. Mail on
  Confined Space@TPH. AFL-CIO Now.                      Sunday. BBC News Online.
  Washington Post. More news on BP’s safety

                                                      Council safety experts axed despite deaths

Firm shows contempt for safety and staff
                                                      A union has condemned a London council’s
                                                      decision to axe crucial workplace safety posts
A Hexham store has sunk to a new low in               while still under investigation followed two
abusing both safety procedures and its staff in       fatalities in four months. Almost half of Camden
one alarming blow. Employees of the historic          Council's health and safety advisers are to go,
Robbs department store learned that they were         with a team of nine health and safety experts
being made redundant after responding to a fire       pared back to just five. Young dad Ralph
alarm. Bosses deliberately set off the fire bell to   Kennedy, 24, was electrocuted on a Camden
clear the building of customers and get staff         council housing estate in September last year.
together in one place. At the designated fire         Council bosses came under fire when it emerged
point, the 140 members of staff were told the         at the inquest last month that Mr Kennedy died
landmark store would be shutting in two weeks.        because the earth wire on an external wall light
Kroll, the administrator brought in by Robbs'         had been cut, effectively disabling its safety
owners Owen Owen, said that “the closure of           mechanism (Risks 302). In January this year
Robbs department store was due to become              two-year-old Saurav Ghai was killed when a
public knowledge before the end of the trading        brick wall on top of him in the borough.
day.” The administrators said that management         Commenting on the loss of safety cover, Sarah
wanted “to notify their colleagues of the             Friday, health and safety officer of UNISON’s
situation before they found out through other         Camden branch, said: “The advisers' role is to
means”. As a result, they determined that “the        oversee and make sure procedures are in place
most efficient and practical method of informing      for safety checks to be carried out. Particularly at
their colleagues of this business development was     a time when the council is under investigation
by using the fire alarm.” Northumberland Fire         for two fatalities it seems inappropriate that they
and Rescue Service has confirmed it is                should be cutting back.” Speaking about Mr
investigating the circumstances of the incident. A    Kennedy's electrocution, Ms Friday labelled Mr
spokesperson said: “The Fire and Rescue Service       Kennedy's death “preventable”, and pointed out
did not attend Robbs department store on              a report by the Royal Society for the Prevention
Wednesday morning but, due to the nature of           of Accidents carried out in Camden seven years
the claims being made surrounding the use of a        ago warned: “There are no procedures to control
fire alarm, we will be investigating this matter.     the design, use and maintenance of electrical
Although we haven't yet established the facts in      systems.”
this case, our advice is that fire alarms should
only be used to alert people when there is a
genuine emergency.” Robbs administrator Kroll         • Tottenham Journal. Hazards deadly business
faced angry criticism last year for claiming an         webpages.
“obscene” £70 million in fees while acting as
administrator for Turner and Newall, part of US
Risks Newsletter

                                                       epilepsy, as part of a campaign launched to mark
Site firms must communicate warns HSE                  National Epilepsy Week, which runs from 20-26
                                                       May. As figures show that unemployment rates
                                                       among people with the condition are still
Contractors and sub-contractors on construction        unacceptably high, the epilepsy charity is
sites must talk to each other or risk prosecutions     demanding that company bosses confront their
for the firm and serious injuries for their staff.     prejudices, and has issued new guidance for
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) warning          employers and employees including information
followed the prosecution last week of three            on health and safety and disability
construction companies after an employee was           discrimination issues. Simon Wigglesworth,
very seriously injured. CJ Murfitt Ltd was fined       Epilepsy Action's deputy chief executive, said:
£14,000, Potton Ltd £7000 and Shenley                  “Unemployment among disabled people is
Carpentry Contractors Ltd £4,000. They were            double the national average, and our findings
ordered to pay £8,588 in costs. The prosecutions       suggest that the picture is even bleaker for people
arose following an incident on 12 January 2006         with epilepsy.” He added: “A lot of employers
when worker Darius Griskevicius suffered               and their employees seem to fear the
serious injury after falling five metres into an       consequences of someone having a seizure at
unguarded stairwell in the block of the flats          work. However, many people with epilepsy are
under construction. The risk presented by the          completely seizure-free on medication, while
work had been identified but the three                 others have their seizures well controlled. People
companies failed to communicate and coordinate         whose seizures are uncontrolled could still be a
their activities effectively to ensure that the        valuable member of staff with just a few minor
simple precautions needed were in place at all         adjustments in the workplace.” The charity
times. Investigating HSE inspector Sheena              suggests simple modifications like allowing an
Mackinnon said: “The precautions required are          employee to start and finish later than others if
not difficult or costly. A great number of the         seizures occur a short time after waking;
incidents investigated by HSE show that where          permitting an employee to work regular hours
multiple contractors are involved it is a failure to   rather than shifts if seizures are aggravated by
properly manage and coordinate their actions,          disrupted sleep patterns; and ensuring that all
which underpin them. Good communications               staff are educated about epilepsy. Brendan
between the principal contractor and specialists       Barber, general secretary of the TUC, said:
contractors is the key to success.”                    “Trade unions support this campaign to
                                                       challenge prejudice and correct ignorance - and
• HSE news release. HSE issues a free                  to remind bosses that the law requires them not
  Homebuilder Infonet every three months.              to discriminate.” Unite’s Amicus section is also
  Email HSE or call 01582 444323. An HSE               backing the campaign.
  Construction Health and Safety Awareness
  Officer is also available to provide advice.         • National Epilepsy Week, 20-26 May. Epilepsy
  Home builders can contact Frances Kennedy              Action employment webpages and online
  on 01582 444323.                                       employers' guide and employees' guide.
                                                         Employing people with epilepsy [pdf]. Work
                                                         and epilepsy - an employee's guide [pdf].
TUC backs call for action on epilepsy                    Amicus disability webpages.

The TUC is backing a campaign to end
workplace discrimination against people with           Bar staff 'should wear ear plugs'
epilepsy. Epilepsy Action has criticised the
outdated attitudes of those UK employers who           Campaigners have attacked the music and
continue to discriminate against people with           entertainment industry for not preparing
Risks Newsletter

measures to protect the hearing of bar and club       designed to carry 10, was packed with 17
workers. The Royal National Institute for Deaf        workers. Seats had been replaced with wooden
People (RNID) said staff working where loud           benches. The changes announced last week
music was played should get earplugs. A poll of       included the recruitment of six extra official
200 businesses showed that over half of               safety inspectors, tougher inspections and
employers have no plans to make hearing               penalties for unsafe transportation of farm
protection available - despite new laws coming in     workers and a prohibition on growers using
next year. Under the new rules, firms have to         unlicensed labour contractors. The licences of
ensure staff are protected where noise exceeds 85     contractors who repeatedly violate WorkSafeBC
decibels. Most clubs and some pubs and bars           or Motor Vehicle Act regulations would be
will exceed this, but the music and entertainment     suspended, said regulators. BC Federation of
industry has been given an exemption until next       Labour president Jim Sinclair said the law was
April. The RNID poll found that 68 per cent of        an important first step, but said more must be
employers were unaware they had to comply             done to ensure agricultural workers are really
with the law and 55 per cent had no plans to          safe and properly protected by employment
make hearing protection available. Emma               standards. He said: “This tragedy has shone a
Harrison, head of campaigns at the RNID, said:        light once again on the exploitation of
“Prolonged exposure to loud noise can cause           farmworkers by their employers, who have
permanent hearing loss and if properly                subsidised their profits by reducing safety and
implemented these regulations will save the           employment standards.” He added: “The
hearing of literally hundreds of thousands of         agriculture industry can't wash their hands of
people in the music and entertainment industries.     their responsibility by just pointing the finger at
If they are ignored or implemented half-heartedly     labour contractors.”
employers could face a wave of compensation
claims for staff.” She added that there were ear
plugs available which blocked out background          • BC Ministry of Labour news release. BC
noise but will still enable staff behind the bar to     Federation of Labour news release. The Tyee.
take drinks orders. “We are not trying to stop
people enjoying themselves, just protect the
hearing of staff.”                                    Canada: Ontario tackles firefighting cancers

• RNID news release. BBC News Online. HSE             Firefighters deserve compensation for fire-related
  noise webpages.                                     illnesses and the Ontario government is working
                                                      to ensure they get the help they need, provincial
                                                      premier Dalton McGuinty has said. The Ontario
                                                      premier was speaking on the introduction of a
INTERNATIONAL NEWS                                    new bill that would make it easier for firefighters
                                                      suffering work-related cancers and other
                                                      disorders to receive compensation. “Firefighters
Canada: Farmworker rights just a first step           and their families make sacrifices every day to
                                                      keep Ontarians safe,” said McGuinty. “We're
A campaign for farmworker safety in the               working to make sure these brave men and
Canadian province of British Columbia has             women get the support they need and deserve if
secured important new legal rights. Unions            they get sick.” The proposed amendment to the
however say farmworkers are still treated like        Workplace Safety and Insurance Act in Canada’s
second-class citizens, and are demanding a            most populous province would allow the
comprehensive reform of employment protection         government to make regulations affecting
in agriculture. Pressure for the new law increased    Ontario's firefighters that would identify eight
after three migrant workers were killed in a          types of cancer as presumed to be work-related
March vehicle smash (Risks 298). The van,             and would include heart attacks as presumed to

Risks Newsletter

be work-related if they occur within 24 hours of    instigated an investigation into the cancer cluster
a fire. The provinces of Manitoba, Alberta,         at the plant.
Saskatchewan, British Columbia and Nova
Scotia already compensate firefighter deaths
from cancers. The new Ontario law, when             • ETUI-REHS news report. National Institute
passed, would cover brain, bladder, kidney,           for Public Health Surveillance (InVS), Annual
colorectal, ureter and oesophageal cancers and        report 2003 [pdf].
Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and leukaemia.

• Ontario Office of the Premier news release and    USA: Lung ailment linked to Trade Center
  related background document. Canadian             collapse
  Press. CanadaOHS. Global unions cancer
  prevention resources.                             A clinical study has made a clear link between
                                                    World Trade Center dust and serious and
                                                    sometimes fatal diseases. US doctors have found
                                                    that the number of New York City rescue and
France: Chemical firm liable for kidney cancers
                                                    recovery workers with a rare type of lung-
                                                    scarring condition soared in the year after the
The world’s third largest animal feed supplement    trade center collapsed in the 11 September 2001
producer has been found liable for kidney           attack. Doctors from the Fire Department and at
cancers suffered by its staff. A social security    the Albert Einstein College of Medicine found
tribunal in Moulin, France ruled in April that      that 13 firefighters and emergency medical
Adisseo had been grossly negligent and ordered      service workers with the department developed
the company to pay out compensation of 50,000       sarcoidosis, a debilitating illness in which the
to 60,000 euros (£34,000-41,000) to each of         lungs and other organs develop inflammation
nine current or former workers suffering from       that produces lumps of cells, called granulomas.
kidney cancer. All the men had been employed in     The illness can be controlled with drugs, but in
the plant’s vitamin A production shop, which        some cases it gets progressively worse and can be
had used the mutagen and carcinogen                 fatal. The nine authors of the study — including
Chloracetal C5 since 1982. The tribunal found       Dr David J Prezant, deputy chief medical officer
that “despite knowing that Chloracetal C5 was a     of the Fire Department and a member of the
mutagen in 1990, Adisseo France failed to show      faculty at Albert Einstein — calculated an
that it had really improved protection for its      incidence rate in the first year after the collapse
employees”. The tribunal ruling added: “Many        of 86 cases per 100,000 workers. That is more
cases of kidney cancer were diagnosed among the     than five times higher than the 15 per 100,000
site’s employees from 1984 onwards... Twenty-       rate for Firefighter Department workers in the 15
two cases were found, including several deaths.”    years before the trade center collapsed. After the
The ruling concluded: “The disease resulted from    initial surge in disease rates after 9/11, the
Adisseo France’s breaches of duty” with the         number of cases of sarcoidosis and similar
company as a result deemed to be “grossly           illnesses dropped, according to the study,
negligent”. The tribunal found that Adisseo had     published in the May edition of the journal
not taken “the necessary measures despite being     Chest. However, it remained higher than normal
aware of the danger”, and doubled the amount        for several more years. In all, doctors found 26
of pension payable to the victims. Kidney cancer    cases of sarcoidosis in the five years after 9/11,
has a relatively good survival rate. As most        an amount surpassing the combined total for the
estimates of the workplace cancer toll are based    previous 15 years. None of the stricken Fire
on deaths, it is effectively overlooked in many     Department employees have died. Five are on
occupational cancer rate calculations. In January   permanent disability and five others are being
2003, France’s Ministries of Health and Labour      reviewed for disability. Of the 26 workers who
                                                    have the illness, 24 said they never smoked
Risks Newsletter

tobacco, and the other two were described as ex-     reading for both industry management and trade
smokers. Other papers have suggested a link          unions, to reformulate check-in working policies
between sarcoidosis-type disease and silica          in order to provide healthier and safer
exposure at work.                                    workstations.”

• Gabriel Izbicki and others. World Trade            • Excess baggage: Levelling the load and
  Center “Sarcoid-like” Granulomatous                  changing the workplace, Ellen Rosskam.
  Pulmonary Disease in New York City Fire              ISBN: 978-0-89503-360-4, Baywood
  Department rescue workers, Chest, volume             Publishing Company, Inc. Contents summary.
  131, pages 1414-1423, 2007 [abstract]. New           The foreword is available free online [pdf]. For
  York Times.                                          price information, check online or email
                                                       Baywood Publishing.
• Workplace Alberta crystalline silica factsheet

                                                     EVENTS AND COURSES
                                                     TUC courses for safety reps
Excess baggage                                       COURSES FOR SEPTEMBER TO DECEMBER 2006
                                                     • Northern, North West, Southern & Eastern,
                                                       Yorkshire & Humber, South West, Midlands,
A book based on groundbreaking research on             Scotland, Wales
the working conditions of airport check-in
workers in two countries – Canada and
Switzerland - concludes behind the glamour is a      USEFUL LINKS
job made barely survivable by changes in work
organisation that have de-skilled, disempowered,     • Visit the TUC http://www.tuc.org.uk/h_and_s/
and ultimately demoralised workers. Ellen              website pages on health and safety. See what’s
Rosskam, the author of ‘Excess baggage:                on offer from TUC Publications and What’s
Levelling the load and changing the workplace’         On in health and safety.
explores the psychological distress, physical pain   • Subscribe to Hazards magazine, supported by
from musculoskeletal disorders, strain, and            the TUC as a key source of information for
violence that check-in workers experience.             union safety reps.
Workers describe in their own words a job
perceived to be ‘safe,’ ‘clean,’ ‘glamour girl’      • What’s new in the HSC/E and the European
work, but which is in reality comparable to            Agency.
industrial workplaces that require heavy manual      • HSE Books, PO Box 1999, Sudbury, Suffolk
lifting, obligingly performed in skirts, dresses,      CO10 2WA. Tel: 01787 881165; fax: 01787
and pretty little shoes. Rosskam concludes the         313995
situation of these workers will only improve if
there is worker involvement in organisational
decision-making and argues a collective voice is
critical. The book has attracted high praise from
key figures in the field. Ingo Marowsky, the
aviation secretary of global transport union
federation ITF, said it “presents a dramatic
picture of pain among this group of workers,
which affects their lives beyond the workplace.”
He added: “This book should be mandatory


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