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ISSUE 51 page 7

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Health & Safety
Nano inventory needed as Danes warn of ‘new asbestos’
 A LARGE PUBLIC CONSULTATION BY the European Commission on how to deal with nanotechnology has found that most concerned parties favour an inventory of the microscopically-altered substances and the uses to which they have already been put. The online survey received over 700 replies from industry, individuals, consumer groups, research organisations and public authorities. Although perceptions varied between these groups, the need for a list of materials that include nanos was generally acknowledged, even by the trade association CEFIC. Applications of the technology in agriculture, food and household items were regarded with the greatest suspicion while its use in the fields of aerospace, construction and chemistry was seen as likely to bring the most benefit.
Holst, E.K.
Meanwhile a Danish trade union has warned of a parallel between nano-particles and asbestos. The LO federation’s weekly newspaper recently took stock of the state of research, prevention and safety of nanos and concluded that ‘ignorance is so big in this area that there is no common scientific practice to evaluate the hazards of nanoproducts’. Despite this a study by the National Research Centre for the Working Environment (NFA) led to a ban on a window cleaning spray. Other research by the centre has found that test animals developed pleura cancer, also present in many asbestos workers. Ejner K. Holst, LO secretary and member of the NFA’s management, is afraid the same mistakes would be made as asbestos wasn’t banned ‘until corpses were on the table’.

Ejner K. Holst

 

 

Tough new Irish safety policy reaps rewards

A U-TURN IN HEALTH AND SAFETY enforcement policy in the Republic of Ireland has shown up in much improved figures for accidents and fatalities in the country. Statistics from the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) show that there 43 reported deaths in 2009, the lowest number since 1989, and 6,707 non-fatal accidents, down from 8,390 in 2008. In 2005 the Irish government put an end to a US-style 'voluntary protection programme', based on self-regulation, after an increase in workplace fatalities. The new policy put more emphasis on enforcement, more inspectors were recruited and, as a result, the number of inspections climbed to 18,451 last year (much better proportionately than the UK’s 23,004), a rise of 15% on 2008. HSA chief executive Martin O'Halloran said ‘The main focus of our inspections is to help workplaces improve health and safety standards with the overall goal of reducing accidents. The vast majority of employers and employees want this'.

Italian managers go to jail after asbestos deaths
Turkish expert says unions could stop mine disasters

FOLLOWING THE DEATHS FROM lung cancer of 37 shipbuilding workers in Sicily, three former executives of the company have received prison sentences ranging from 3 to 71/2 years. The court ruled that, although the dangers of asbestos had been known since the 1950s, ‘Fincantieri failed to take the most basic steps to prevent the inhalation of asbestos dust and fibres’. The firm also also continued to use the substance three years after it was banned in Italy. 26 other employees suffered other asbestos-related diseases. The court also awarded millions of euros in damages, many of which will go to the national insurer for workplace accidents. Elsewhere in the country the trial in Turin of the Eternit construction company owners accused of responsibility for the death of over 2,000 workers from asbestos continues (see issue 47).

RESPONDING TO A THIRD EXPLOSION IN the last three months in Turkish coal mines, a union safety expert has pointed to the lack of unions in all three pits. Fikret Sazak, who works for the Maden-Is trade union, also blamed the use of sub-contractors. ‘An organized worker warns his representative when he feels something is going wrong. And the union, depending on its power of organisation, can get the engineer responsible for on-the-job safety and the employer to stop the work’ while ‘accidents occur at places that are run by subcontractor firms’ he said. The latest accident killed 28 workers in the Karadon mine in Zonguldak province, the scene of Turkey’s worst mining disaster in 1992. Although all mines have safety engineers they are paid by the employer which compromises their independence, according to Mr.Sazak. Instead he proposed that they should be contracted to the government directorate that is responsible for the industry.




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