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OSH Issues

Another Pesticide, Same Pesticides Lobby

The food system must be ‘transformed’ to keep deadly pesticides out of the workplace and the food chain, the global farm and food union federation IUF has said. The IUF was speaking out in the wake of a March 2015 report in the journal, LANCET ONCOLOGY, which revealed the International Agency for Research on Cancer’s IARC) new classification of glysophate – the active ingredient in Montsanto’s Roundup and the world’s most widely used herbicide – as “probably carcinogenic to humans”, according to HAZARDS, the workers’ safety and health magazine.

IARC, a part of the WHO, cites evidence in Canada, Sweden and the USA linking workers occupational exposure to glysophate to increased risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. According to IUF: “with this report, the WHO explicitly recognizes the importance of independent research on the impact of pesticides on human health and the food chain – a field long dominated by pesticide manufacturers. And it gives advocates of food rights and a safer, saner food system an important opportunity to push for action”.

According to HAZARDS, Montsanto immediately attacked the credibility of the report.

Paraquat Defeat

The highly toxic pesticide Paraquat will not be added to the UN’s Rotterdam Convention list of restricted products after a handful of Government’s blocked the move, according to the April-June, 2015 edition of HAZARDS N0. 130, the Workers’ Health and Safety magazine. Prior to the May 2015 vote, global food and farming union, the IUF noted: “While this highly toxic pesticide is banned in Europe, it continues to be widely used on many crops and in many parts of the world.” It said users do not have the information or the means to protect themselves so they “suffer from headaches, vomiting, breathing difficulty, muscle pain and abdominal discomfort. Chronic exposure can lead to lung, brain or skin damage.”  www.iuf.org

Nose Cancer

A man who was diagnosed with nasal cancer caused by wood dust at work has been awarded legal protection for the rest of his life. The 63 year-old, whose name has not been released was diagnosed with nasal cancer in August 2010 after being exposed to wood dust while working at a wood mill in England from 1974 until 2002. The cancer was treated, then recurred and treated a second time. The affected worker has received a compensation settlement, in a deal that allows him to claim again should the cancer return a third time.

We are particularly concerned about this matter since we are aware that some carpenters on building sites as well as in private situations seem not to be aware that wood dust can be harmful. We believe that carpenters should wear appropriate personal protective equipment and also ensure that wood dust is cleared from the worksite as often as is necessary so as not to cause a hazard to workers. We are advocating that proper housekeeping is essential.

Resolving Mental Health Issues in the Workplace 

Workers in the UK have been experiencing significant increase in stress, which in some cases, has led to mental health problems, as a result of the impact of austerity on their work and home lives a new TUC report has concluded. Hazards magazine states that many employers do not deal with mental health issues and this may lead to people losing their job or failing to find new work as a result of the associated stigma.

The TUC report recommends measures to make workplaces ‘mentally healthy’ including:

  • Training for union representatives and middle managers; and
  • Early referral to occupational health and stress risk assessments.

The TUC noted that people with mental ill health continue to have amongst the lowest employment rates for disabled people according to the Labour Force Survey. The evidence suggests that mental ill health can be linked to workplace stress which makes it particularly concerning that recent surveys have reported a rise in the incidence of stress at work.

Menopause Action 

Working through the menopause, a new guide from teaching union NUT, says it is “important to recognise that the menopause is an occupational health issue for women teachers, as well as being an equality issue.” NUT says its guide suggests “practical ways in which the school environment can be improved for women who are going through the menopause.” The guide is built around responses from more than 3 000 NUT women members about their experiences of working through the menopause. Most had not told the line manager they were menopausal. Only around 1-in-10 has ever requested an adjustment to their working arrangements to help them cope.

Work Risks to Women Go Ignored 

Risks to women at work are under-estimated, under-researched and women continue to suffer as a result. This was the conclusion of a March 2015 conference on women’s health and work, organised by the European trade union research body (ETUI).

Delegates at the Brussels event heard University of Manchester sociologist Colette Fagan present findings from the latest European Working Conditions Survey, which showed in 2010, 69 per cent of management posts in the UK were filled by men, while 67 per cent of service and sales workers are women, women’s paid work hours were lower than men’s, but add unpaid labour at home and “no category of male worker ….works a comparable number of hours”, she said.

Fagan said that women were affected just as much as men by long hours spent working standing up or tiring positions, or undertaking repetitive movements. These risk factors contribute largely to the development of musculoskeletal problems among women, causing them to complain more than men of pain in the shoulders, neck and upper limbs. Women also more frequently report ‘poor general health’, and ‘mental health at risk’.

Work Injuries Force Workers Into Poverty 

Injuries at work force workers into poverty and keep them there, a new report from the US health and safety regulator OSHA has warned. The report says at least three million workers are seriously injured every year in the United States.

OSHA head David Michaels said many workers will lose more than 15 per cent in wages over ten years because of their injury while bearing nearly 50 per cent of its cost.

“These injuries and illnesses contribute to the pressing issue of income inequality: they force working families out of the middle class and into poverty, and keep the families of lower wage workers from ever getting out’, he said.