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ISSUE 58 page 7

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Health & Safety
Unions question safety of larger vessels as they take care of shipwrecked liner’s crew members
 FOLLOWING THE DISASTROUS SINKING OF THE COSTA CONCORDIA cruise ship off the coast of Italy, maritime unions have acted to help the surviving crew members while raising questions about the safety of the increasingly large ships being laid down in shipyards across the World. The 114,500 tonne liner was by no means the biggest on the high seas and the Anglo-Dutch trade union Nautilus International is also worried about cargo ships that can carry up to 14,000 boxes. In view of the ‘acknowledged shortcomings of lifeboats and life rafts’ the union says that more innovative systems of abandonment need to be considered. General Secretary Mark Dickinson added ‘Many ships are now effectively small towns at sea, and the sheer number of people on board raises serious questions about evacuation … the sheer size and scale of such ships presents massive challenges for emergency services’. Reports of an electrical fault on board the Costa Concordia before it grounded on the rocky island of Giglio

are reminiscent of a previous explosion and loss of power on board the Queen Mary II while its sister ship the Costa Allegra recently lost power after an explosion near its generators.
Human factors such as seafarers’ working hours, crew competence and training also need to be addressed say Nautilus: ‘we should not have to wait for a major disaster until these concerns are addressed’. The sinking is currently thought to have killed 32 people including two crew members. The International Transport Federation (ITF) moved quickly to help the survivors: they persuaded the company to send a letter authorising payment to cover both their present needs and the whole of their employment contract with cover up to $3,570 as insurance for loss of personal effects. The vast majority of the crew of 1,023 were quickly repatriated.

Indonesian Costa Concordia crew hold up the company letter



French court finds Monsanto guilty of poisoning farmer

A FRENCH FARMER WHO SUFFERED MEMORY LOSS, stammering  and headaches after inhaling the pesticide Lasso has won his claim against its manufacturer, US multinational company Monsanto. Previous similar actions have always foundered on the difficulty of proving a causal link between the exposure and its effects and the company maintained that this case should be thrown out for the same reasons. However Paul Francois, from the Charente region, remembered a specific incident when cleaning a crop sprayer in 2004 that he said led to the chemical chlorobenzene being found in his body. Lasso was banned in 2007 but France’s social security organisation say that it receives 200 alerts a year linking farmers’ sickness to pesticides. Although the court has yet to decide the level of compensation that Monsanto, who are appealing, must pay, Mr. Francois’s lawyer called it ‘a historic decision, in so far as it is the first time that a [pesticide] maker is found guilty of such a poisoning’

WEEE directive beefed up as EU attacks e-waste
 THE WASTE ELECTRICAL AND ELECTRONIC Equipment directive was originally passed by the EU in 2003 (see issue 19). It attempted to lay down rules for recycling and export of items such as televisions, mobile ’phones and computers by making manufacturers responsible for what they produce. The results have been patchy however: only a third of EU e-waste is now estimated to be disposed of in a sustainable and accountable way. The rest is either dumped in landfills or shipped, often illegally, to non-EU countries where it is broken up.
Now the European Parliament has voted to tighten up the law so that Member States will have to collect at least 85% of their e-waste by the end of the decade. Small items must be accepted by retailers while manufacturers will have to recycle larger ones. UK Liberal Democrat MEP Chris Davies commented ’This will help to curb the criminals who ship electronic gadgets overseas where it is dismantled by children and the poor often in hazardous and toxic conditions’.


A child breaks up e-waste in China


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