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ISSUE 55 page 7

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Health & Safety
Health problems multiply at World leader in wind turbine manufacture
 AN ARTICLE IN A DANISH NEWSPAPER HAS triggered an avalanche of health complaints from workers and former employees of a world leader in the making of equipment for the windpower industry. A survey, published in February in the Berlingske Tidende daily revealed work-related illnesses at several LM Wind Powers plants in the country. Within a month, however, another 200 people had come forward to say that they were suffering symptoms connected with the use of styrene by the company such as asthma attacks, memory loss, diarrhoea, headaches and profuse sweating.. The newspaper also mentioned ‘dozens’ of injunctions issued by the Danish Labour Inspectorate over the chemical environment in the factories and this was confirmed in March when the ministry’s own report detailed 52 interventions that it had made between 2000 and 2010 as well as has having received 786 complaints in the same period. Even a report commissioned by the company itself catalogued a failure to implement adequate health and safety rules and criticised the slowness with which the firm had responded to citations from the Labour Inspectorate.
Although the Minister of Labour, Inger Støjberg, set up a special task force at the National Institute for Industrial Accidents and Occupational Diseases, a variety of measures have been called for to rectify the situation, ranging from a register of employees in the industry to the banning of styrene, which is not used by LM’s competitors, to the use of robots.  However the 3F trade union, which itself fielded 133 complaints from members, says that other industries use the substance correctly and that there are also health risks with alternatives. According to  health and environment co-ordinator Jesper Lund Larsen ‘Epoxy is safer when you are using it, but when you finish, it creates more dust, which is dangerous’.
LM, which has been making wind paddles since 1978, employs 4,600 people in seven countries but is currently also in trouble in the USA where a worker in its North Dakota factory was crushed to death. Proposing a $136,500 fine, the Occupation Safety and Health Administration area director said ‘The employer is well aware of OSHA requirements and has continued a pattern of failing to comply with them’.

A rotor blade being tested at an LM plant



French study confirms TUC work asthma figure

A MEETING OF LUNG ALLERGY SPECIALISTS IN PARIS has concluded that 15% of adult asthma cases in France are contracted at work. According to doctors from the regional teaching hospital at Lille, between 1,250 and 5,000 workers per year, would have remained healthy had they not been exposed to allergens. Bakers were most at risk due to the use of additives and contaminants in bakeries as well as flour which, together, account for 22% of asthmagens while painters face 14% of occupational allergens such as isocyanates. Hairdressers, carpenters and those who have contact with animals are also at risk because of the latex, aldehydes, disinfectants and alkaline persulphates used in their occupations. The experts report that the longer a worker is exposed to the allergens the worse the asthma is likely to get. A 1995 TUC report ‘Asthma at work’ concluded that 1 in 5 of asthma cases were work-related, much higher than official estimates.


‘Pack Less’ campaign aims to reduce injury

Union confederations that cover the aviation sector are seeking to reduce the worrying level of manual handling injuries among staff, currently four times that of others in equivalent jobs. The International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) and the European Transport Workers Federation are campaigining under the slogan ‘Pack Less’ to use technology to limit hold bag weight to 23 kgs. and 6 kgs. for cabin items. They also want safe stowage procedures in cabins with limits for each compartment, risk assessments to include workers’ representatives, use of technology to help all manual handling operations, colour-coded and clearly signed weight strips and floor-level loading conveyors.
The problem lies, according to the unions, in the liberalisation of the rules around airline traffic and the subsequent huge increase, much of it accounted for by low-cost carriers. As competition has forced prices down the pressure has been on ground services to cut costs to airlines and so staff have not been taken on to cope with the boom. ITF affiliates hope to raise public awareness of the issue as well as lobbying companies, industry bodies and governments and providing workers with information and training.


A ‘Pack Less’ baggage label

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