News from around the World

News Archive

November 2014

News from Poland – National Competitions in 2014

Polish Edition of the EU-OSHA competition in 2014 – 12th edition of the European Good Practice Awards, 2014-2015

The European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) has organized the Healthy Workplaces Campaign 2014-2015: “Healthy workplaces manage stress”. Managing work-related stress is also the focus of this year’s European Week for Safety and Health at Work (20-24 October).

The key objectives of the campaign are:

Managing work-related stress and psychosocial risks is essential for ensuring a healthy workplace. More information about the campaign can be found at www.healthy-workplaces.eu

A part of this campaign is the competition, organized by EU-OSHA in the cooperation with national country partners. EU-OSHA invites nominations for the 12th European Good Practice Awards in occupational safety and health. The awards recognise companies or organisations that have made outstanding and innovative contributions towards managing stress and psychosocial risks at work.

In Poland the coordinator of the campaign and the competition is the National Focal Point (FOP) of EU-OSHA run by the Central Institute for Labour Protection – National Research Institute (CIOP-PIB). The Polish edition of this competition was announced during the inauguration of the campaign in April this year. A broad promoting campaign on the competition was organized by CIOP-PIB, electronic and printed information materials were sent to many firms, institutions as well as to OSH experts and other interested persons. Many websites, journals and Facebook were also used to inform on the competition and the campaign.

The competition, in which 19 Polish firms participated, ended on 30th September. On 8th October the Jury at its meeting in CIOP-PIB chose the competition winners on the country level in two categories: “The firms employed over 100 workers” and “The firms employed under 100 workers”.

In the first group the 1st prize was awarded to the mining plant in Lubin of the KGHM Polska Miedź S.A. (Polish Copper) and in the second group the winner was the district inspectorate of prison service in Koszalin. Other prison services were also rewarded.

In November a conference: “Healthy Workplaces Manage Stress” will be organized in Wrocław. At the conference the 1st prize winners will present their rewarded examples czego przykłady? and will get diplomas. The winners will also take part in the second stage of this Competition – on the European level and EU-OSHA will evaluate their solutions.

National Competition for Working Conditions Improvement

The Ministry of Labour and Social Policy together with the Ministry of Economy, the Ministry of Education and Science, the Ministry of Health, National Labour Inspectorate, trade unions organizations and other social partners organized the 42nd edition of the National Competition for Working Conditions Improvement in 3 categories: Category A: “Technical and technological solutions”; Category B: “Research on occupational safety and hygiene”; Category C: “Organizational and educational undertakings”.

The Secretariat of the Competition Jury: Central Institute of Labour Protection – National Research Institute; 00-701 Warsaw, 16 Czerniakowska str.; phone: (+48 22) 623 36 83, fax (+48 22) 623 32 64; e-mail: oinip@ciop.pl

The objective of the competition is to inspire and to disseminate research work and technical and organizational solutions which lead to the improvement of working conditions, safety of work and protection of man in the working environment – covering the greatest possible number of both enterprises and workers – by improving the existing or introducing new methods of hazard and occupational risk assessment, new constructions, technologies, equipment and materials as well as organizational solutions.

The evaluation of the solutions presented for the competition and awarded the prizes for the winners will be completed by 31st December 2014.

Polish Occupational Safety Poster Competition

The occupational safety poster competition has been organized in Poland by the Central Institute for Labour Protection – National Research Institute (CIOP-PIB) since 1997. The purpose of this competition is to obtain posters promoting the issues of occupational safety and health protection of man in the working environment. The participants are artists, professors and students of artistic universities in Poland and abroad. The competition is organised in cooperation with Academies of Fine Arts (Cracow, Warsaw, Lodz) and under the patronage of the Minister of Labour and Social Policy and Chief Labour Inspector. The jury of the competition consists of representatives of artistic professions, science, ministries of health and labour, and trade unions, as well as enterprises whose business is related to the topic of the posters. Three prizes and five honorary mentions are awarded in the competition, and 50 posters are selected for exhibitions in Warsaw and Cracow.

In 1997-2013 the 22 editions of the competition were entitled: Stress, Computer, Occupational Risk, Noise, Chemistry, Ergonomics, Agriculture, Building industry, School, Transport, Electricity, Disabled persons, Biohazards, Stop that Noise, Young workers – safe start, Lighten the load, Labour culture, Risk, Lighting, Maintenance, Active 50+, Stress in the 21st Century. They gathered more than 4000 designs, and over 900 were featured in exhibitions and catalogues.

In 2014 the subject of the competition is: Computer World. Computerisation and digital data processing include now virtually all areas of human activity and more people are exposed to onerous work at computer workstations. Spending too much time at the computer result in sitting posture load for the organism, monotypic work, or eye strain. Overusing computers and the Internet is particularly risky for children, youngsters, students. Computerisation also causes unqualified workers to be pushed out of the market and is the reason for alienation and frustration of part of society. The awareness of risks related to the use of electronic appliances and media is essential for avoiding them and for rationalising one’s actions. Posters can play a supportive role in that task, with their direct communication enhanced by artistic form, available for a wide public.

This year the competition gathered 195 posters and the first prize was awarded to the Ecuador artist. Fifty posters were presented during the post-competition exhibition (23rd October) in CIOP-PIB. At the ceremony diplomas were given to the winners and also to the prizewinning primary school pupils for whom their artistic poster competition is organized every year.

More information: Central Institute for Labour Protection – National Research Institute, Czerniakowska 16, 00-701 Warsaw, www.ciop.pl; email: mader@ciop.pl

“Bring on the healthcare revolution” says RoSPA chief executive Tom Mullarkey

The chief executive of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) set out his vision for a healthcare revolution, in his message to the safety charity’s annual meeting held on 14 November 2014.

With the healthcare system currently driven by treatment, with prevention only ever on the sidelines, Tom Mullarkey says there is little opportunity to ease the burden on the NHS which is most notably displayed as the growing pressure on A&E. “This can only lead to the eventual collapse of the NHS, or a much larger (and quite unnecessary) tax burden on the public,” he says in the RoSPA Annual Review 2013/14, which is published today.

To solve the problem, he says the spotlight must fall upon the forces that currently operate the prioritisation system within healthcare.

More: www.rospa.com/media-centre/press-office/press-releases/detail/?id=1305

Low health and safety standards in Asia’s hi-tech industry

Every day thousands of workers in Asia are exposed to dangerous chemicals without the required protection while making computers and other hi-tech equipment, a new report has found. ‘Winds of change’, produce for Electronics Watch and which involved fieldwork in South Korea, noted that the chemicals used included benzene, a heavily restricted and potent human carcinogen. Case histories also linked exposures to pregnancy problems.

The report found that workers attempting to unionise Samsung plants and its suppliers both inside and outside South Korea faced harassment. It noted that Samsung’s has a no union policy along its supply chain. The multinational employs a range of tactics to deter attempts to unionise, including dispatching workers to other factories, dismissing workers, and issuing threats to workers and their families.

According to Electronics Watch: “The suppression of freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining make it impossible for workers to promote fairer and safer working conditions.” It adds: “European governments have a declared goal of being socially responsible in all its investments. This is however made impossible by the lack of structures and transparency in the electronics industry.”

Electronics Watch news release

Keeping fit over the winter – Heart Research UK message for everyone

Do you find that with the clocks changing and winter on the horizon, your physical activity levels tend to plummet? For many of us, the motivation to exercise at this time of year drops as fast as the outside temperature and our winter hibernation mode starts to click in.

Physical inactivity (doing less than 30 minutes exercise a week) is the fourth largest cause of disease and disability, directly contributing to one in six deaths in the UK, and is an important risk factor for heart disease. There is a wealth of research showing that regular exercise is essential to guard against heart disease, diabetes and obesity, as well as boosting mental wellbeing and increasing quality of life at any age. By being active and exercising regularly, you will burn calories, shed excess weight, maintain a healthy blood pressure, lower total cholesterol levels while slightly boosting HDL-’good’ cholesterol levels and help to control blood sugar levels. Your heart muscle will be fitter, your circulatory system healthier, you’ll sleep better and have more energy too.

An active ‘you’ only stands to benefit so get your autumn and winter routine in place with some of the following ideas:

For more information and advice about healthy living, contact Heart Research UK on 0113 297 6206 or email lifestyle@heartresearch.org.uk.

Addressing workplace safety and health in the European healthcare sector will ensure high-quality patient care

The European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) has published a report on current and emerging occupational safety and health (OSH) risks in the healthcare sector. An important feature of the report is its focus on a previously neglected area – home and community care.

Health- and social care is one of the main sectors in Europe, employing approximately 10% of the EU workforce, with women representing 77% of healthcare workers. It is a sector that is expanding rapidly, and will provide increasing employment opportunities for the foreseeable future, as a result of Europe’s ageing population, the expansion and development of services to meet the demand for better quality care and an increasing demand for personal care services.

Because of the many different, and sometimes uncontrolled, settings in which they work and the range and type of tasks they carry out, healthcare workers encounter a wide range of risks. These include biological and chemical risks (such as infections from needlestick injuries and handling hazardous substances), ergonomic risks arising from patient handling and psychosocial risks resulting from working unsocial hours, emotionally draining work and exposure to aggressive behaviour.

All this adds up to make health- and social care a high-risk sector. Although technological advances have helped to reduce or remove some of the traditional risks in the sector, the number of work-related accidents and diseases is still unacceptably high. In addition, these technological advances bring with them new hazards that need to be addressed.

More information: https://osha.europa.eu/en/about-eu-osha/press-room/addressing-workplace-safety-and-health-in-the-healthcare-sector-will-ensure-high-quality-patient-care

Event: Health and Safety UK

19 February 2015, Mermaid, London, UK

40 years on from the introduction of the Health and Safety at Work Act there is virtually no area of our lives left untouched by its influence. There are some that bemoan the overzealous implementation and interpretation of the regulations, whilst frustrated by the plethora of bureaucracy that accompanies them. Regardless, the introduction of health and safety laws has arguably saved more lives than any other legislation including compulsory seat belt wearing and the ban on drink driving.

This conference is an essential update on the very latest developments. In a rapidly evolving environment maintaining and evaluating relevant regulation, compliance and application is a pre requisite for all those working within health and safety. The conference boasts a line-up of expert speakers and industry leaders from organisations charged with delivering legislation, implementation and advice.

More information including programme: www.health-safetyukconference.co.uk

New Zealand Unions press for safer workplaces

The New Zealand government should act after a series of highly critical reports and upgrade the country’s failing workplace safety system, the national union federation CTU has said. Presenting its submission on a Health and Safety Reform Bill to parliament’s Transport and Industrial Relations Committee, CTU vice-president Richard Wagstaff said: “The government has now instituted or supported three thorough inquiries in to the state of workplace health and safety. These reviews have been unanimous in their recommendations for change and the government must now stay the course and respect their findings.”

CTU says the Health and Safety Reform Bill contains several important measures such as stronger duties on directors of companies, shared responsibilities for companies that share a workplace, greater powers for health and safety representatives and stronger enforcement measures. “We are concerned that some employers are trying to undermine the recommendations of these inquiries by weakening the Bill.

The arguments for doing so rest on flimsy evidence and we call on the Committee to challenge scaremongering and weak evidence by submitters,” Wagstaff said. The CTU believes changes to worker participation requirements are a “crucial weak link” in the Bill. It notes many weaknesses in worker participation were identified by an Independent Taskforce and says some changes from their recommendations in the Bill are a backwards step. The union body says that a default system of worker participation should be retained and health and safety committees must be strengthened.

NZCTU news release

USA: Study finds cancer chemicals at fracking sites

Tests of air around homes near natural gas drilling wells and other production equipment in five US states have found sometimes grossly elevated levels of chemicals linked to cancer. The results of the study, published last week in the journal Environmental Health, detail airborne chemical levels around gas production sites in Pennsylvania, where hydrofracking has boomed for seven years, as well as Wyoming, Arkansas, Colorado and Ohio. “All the attention being paid just to pollution to water from fracking has been misplaced,” said David Carpenter, lead author of the study and director of the Institute for Health and the Environment at the University at Albany. “Our tests show that the air around gas sites is much more dangerous.”

The paper notes: “Levels of eight volatile chemicals exceeded federal guidelines under several operational circumstances. Benzene, formaldehyde, and hydrogen sulphide were the most common compounds to exceed acute and other health-based risk levels.” Some samples, all taken off site in the community, were in excess of occupational standards. Both benzene and formaldehyde are rated as group 1 human carcinogens by the UN’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).

Study co-author Gregg Macey, an associate law professor at Brooklyn Law School: “Our study focuses on complex mixtures of chemicals that can persist at ground level in air that residents routinely breathe. This includes spots that are a considerable distance from well pads, and beyond prevailing setback requirements.” Setbacks are buffer zones between drilling activities and local communities. Exposures faced by some fracking workers within these zones are likely to be significantly higher. Studies by US government safety agencies have already confirmed high exposures to carcinogenic and toxic chemicals including benzene during some fracking operations (Risks 669), with some related poisoning deaths also confirmed (Risks 663).

Gregg Macey, David Carpenter and others. Air concentrations of volatile compounds near oil and gas production: a community-based exploratory study, Environmental Health, volume 13: 82, 2014.

Times Union

Action call after rise in work’s casualties in the UK

New official statistics on workplace illness and injury levels paint a worrying picture, the TUC has warned. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) figures show that the number of people being injured or made ill through work is now rising, reversing a long-term downward trend. New cases of work-related illnesses, and the number of self-reported injuries, have both risen to well above the level in 2010/11. At the same time enforcement action has fallen. While the number of immediate fatalities, reported earlier in the year, remain low, there has not been a similar fall in the number of deaths through diseases such as work-related cancers.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “The rise in illness and injury should be a wake-up call demanding stronger regulation and enforcement for rogue bosses who put their staff at risk.” She added: “The Health and Safety Executive does an excellent job with its resources, but the government’s decision to reduce the number of inspections is allowing more rogue bosses to get away with it. It’s both a human tragedy and a false economy to continue with two million people living with an illness caused by work, and 600,000 new workplace injuries a year.” HSE says an estimated 28.2 million working days were lost due to work related ill health or injury in 2013/14. The figures show that around 13,000 people a year die through work-related ill-health – 100 times the annual work fatalities toll.

The number of new cases of self-reported work-related ill-health has now increased to 535,000 per year. Almost half a million people suffered workplace-related stress, depression or anxiety last year; around half were new cases. HSE put the cost of work-related injury and ill-health caused by “current” workplace conditions at £14.2 billion, although it has been criticised for leaving the considerably higher costs of work-related road traffic accidents and occupational cancers – many caused by relatively recent and continuing exposures – out of its headline figure.

More information:

And the winner of the 2014 European Healthy Workplaces Film Award is… Harvest by Paul Lacoste

The film offers an unusual look at a precarious job between poverty and self-determination. Presented at DOK Leipzig, EU-OSHA proudly supports this award, which encourages and challenges film-makers to create documentary films that highlight the importance of safety and health at work. By holding screening events throughout Europe, EU-OSHA seeks to raise awareness, promote safe and healthy workplaces and encourage debate on OSH issues.

News release

Stress is the UK’s top health and safety concern, say union workplace reps

The 11th biennial TUC survey of union health and safety representatives recently published finds the top-five cited hazards were stress, bullying and harassment, overwork, back strains and slips, and trips and falls on a level.

In top place was stress. Over two-thirds of safety reps (67 per cent) taking part in the survey said that stress, and the effect it is having on their colleagues, is one of the main concerns they have to deal with at work.

One in six of the workplace reps who completed the survey say their employers are failing to conduct risk assessments, which is a breach of health and safety law, says the TUC.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “It’s shocking that so many employers are breaking the law and putting their staff at risk of illness and accidents by their sheer negligence. Not only does this put people in danger while doing their jobs, the consequences also carry a high cost for British businesses and public services because it results in lower productivity and more staff spending time off sick.

“Stress remains the top concern for health and safety workplace reps. It’s a particular problem in parts of the public sector like the NHS and local government that have been hit by cuts and top-down reorganisations. Sickness and absence from stress is one of the false economies of public sector austerity.”

Full report: Focus on health and safety: Trade union trends survey, October 2014

Cold Stress advice from US NIOSH

Workers who are exposed to extreme cold or work in cold environments may be at risk of cold stress. Extreme cold weather is a dangerous situation that can bring on health emergencies in susceptible people, such as those without shelter, outdoor workers, and those who work in an area that is poorly insulated or without heat. What constitutes cold stress and its effects can vary across different areas of the country. In regions relatively unaccustomed to winter weather, near freezing temperatures.

www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/coldstress

Transitional arrangements for revision of existing Safety Cases and Oil Pollution Emergency Plans (OPEPs): UK actions

An amended regulatory regime for health, safety and environmental matters will arise from implementation of EU Directive 2013/30/EU on the safety of oil and gas operations (the Directive).

The regulatory changes fundamentally affect all installation Safety Cases and Oil Pollution Emergency Plans (OPEPs). To continue operating installations in the UKCS, Operators and Owners will need to submit a revised Safety Case and have it accepted before the relevant transition date. Existing OPEPs will also require updating and approval, and non-production installations will need an approved OPEP for the first time.

During the transitional phase, revised regulations will take effect, and existing Safety Cases will need to be revised to satisfy the new requirements:

Officials from the DECC Oil & Gas Environment & Decommissioning Unit and the HSE Energy Division are jointly working on practical arrangements to sequence submissions of revised Safety Cases and OPEPs to achieve compliance with the transitional arrangements for all UK Oil and Gas installations in a coherently managed way. Accordingly, Operators and Owners of Offshore Installations are being requested to submit revisions to Safety Cases and OPEPs according to a schedule requested by OSDR.

The scheduled dates take into account that assessment of a material change Safety Case requires a minimum of three months from submission to acceptance. The dates are part of a broader, overall schedule that identifies time-slots for all UK installations and takes into account the needs of owners, operators and regulatory authorities. It also enables synchronisation between Safety Cases and OPEP submissions.

Further information: www.hse.gov.uk/osdr/transitional-arrangements.htm

Safety Management from the USA: Protecting Emergency Responders

US NIOSH and RAND have produced four reports in a series. The first three reports provide recommendations and the need for research, training and other strategic approaches to help protect emergency responders in terrorist attacks. The fourth report is a technical source for incident commander guidelines for emergency response immediately following large structural collapse events.

www.cdc.gov/niosh/npptl/guidancedocs/rand.html

USA Contact Lens Health Week: 17-21 November 2014

The USA Centres for Disease Control and Prevention Healthy Contact Lenses Program announces the first annual Contact Lens Health Week coming in November 2014 and new web content to further promote healthy contact lens wear and care.

CDC and partners created Contact Lens Health Week in 2014 to promote healthy contact lens wear and care practices that can help prevent eye infections associated with improper contact lens use. This year’s campaign theme is “You only have one pair of eyes, so take care of them!” The target audience is contact lens wearers ages 18-22 – a group at increased risk of eye infections associated with contact lens wear.

More information: www.cdc.gov/contactlenses/contact-lens-health-week.html

Mental ill-health at the workplace: Don’t let stigma be our guide

Providing support rather than excluding them from the workplace and keeping them forever on benefits is the best way to help workers experiencing mental disorders. Mental ill-health has always been a difficult topic to address in the world of work due to the stigma and fears associated with it.

“Mental ill-health” does not only refer to severe pathologies, but also to common disorders such as depression, anxiety, job strain or “burn out” cases that can be properly treated if handled correctly.

“In most cases, providing support to affected workers so that they can keep their job, or go back to work if they took leave of absence, is a much better solution than excluding them from the workplace and keeping them forever on sickness or disability benefits,” says Shruti Singh, an OECD labour market economist.

Singh is one of the participants at this week’s event focusing on how to make workplaces inclusive for people with disabilities. The event, organized by the ILO Global Business and Disability Network, brings together representatives from multinational companies, as well as disability and labour market specialists.

Around 20 per cent of the working-age population in an average OECD country is suffering from a mental disorder at any given moment, according to Singh. “This implies that the risk of experiencing mental ill-health during a career is high for everyone.”

Identifying mental disorders such as depression and providing support early on is essential. But it is also one of the most challenging steps, because mental ill-health is often hidden and because the causes might differ a lot, ranging from personal problems at home to childhood trauma or work-related stress.

The risk of experiencing mental ill-health during a career is high for everyone.”

“Also, the fear of being rejected or stigmatized by their company or co-workers makes it very hard for people to open up to their line managers,” explains the ILO’s Senior Disability Specialist Stefan Tromel, who is also taking part in the event.

“Many workers experiencing mental disorders do not take sick leave when they really need to. As a result, their productivity drops and this becomes a problem for the company,” he adds.

Raising awareness

With proper training and better awareness, managers can play a key role in dealing with mental health issues in the workplace. By identifying early signs of mental ill-health they can engage in dialogue with the affected staff, even without waiting for them to speak openly about their illness.

“Depending on where and how the problem originates, managers can help someone go through a difficult time by guaranteeing confidentiality and by providing them with accommodations to their schedule or work environment whenever possible. Engaging into such a dialogue can prevent long periods of sick leave or the risk of losing a talented staff member,” says Tromel.

“Systematic monitoring of sick-leave behaviour with return-to-work support is essential, combined with good quality jobs and better working conditions,” adds Singh.

It is also important for companies to have access to information on mental health issues in the workplace.

Even though the stigma associated with these issues is still high, efforts are being made to better inform managers.

Singh highlights the UK as an example, where awareness of the negative impact of mental ill-health has reached a high level through a multi-year research agenda. Anti-stigma campaigns have also been used extensively and included top managers publicly disclosing that they have suffered from depression or other forms of mental disorder at some point in their life as a way of encouraging workers to open up.

Keeping people employed rather than on benefits

The situation of workers who became unemployed after losing their jobs due to mental disorders is also a case for concern.

“People with common mental disorders are 2-3 times more likely to be unemployed than people with no such disorders,” says Singh. Long term unemployment is a common problem, which leads them to become discouraged and eventually withdrawing from the labour market.

“It is crucial to encourage people to get back to work instead of being kept on benefits for years on end,” adds the ILO’s Stefan Tromel. When someone needs to stop working because he or she is too sick to carry on, companies should be encouraged to keep in touch with them and look at the possibility of having them back once they recover.”

But the lack of awareness is not limited to the world of work. Singh points out that social protection schemes are often too quick to classify a benefit claimant with a mental disorder as unfit for work.

“Young adults with a mental disorder are often granted disability benefits when they should be helped into employment,” she says.

A much better option would be to reassess the situation on a regular basis to help them exit disability benefits because they recovered or because they find a job that suits their disability.

A long way to go in developing countries

While awareness around mental ill-health issues is slowly increasing in industrialized countries, there is still a long way to go in developing countries. And this not only applies to the workplace but to society at large.

“Due to the lack of information and the multiplicity of occupational health issues in developing countries, stigma related to mental disorders is also high, so it will take a long time and effort for progress to be made,” concludes Tromel.

Canada: Union says it’s time to ‘Stop the Killing’

Leaders of the United Steelworkers (USW) in Canada say its campaign to stop workplace killing through better enforcement of existing laws has gained momentum now that it has been raised with federal, provincial and territorial justice ministers. The union has been pressing for jurisdictions across Canada to make use of 2003 amendments to the Criminal Code of Canada dealing with workplace deaths.

“Since it became clear that the amendments holding corporations, their directors and executives criminally accountable for workplace death and injury were not being enforced, the campaign to save lives became one of convincing provincial and territorial attorneys-general to get the job done,” said USW Canada national director Ken Neumann. “That means they must direct police and Crown attorneys in their jurisdictions to investigate and prosecute workplace death and injury as they would any potential crime scene.” He added: “After more than a decade, and thousands of workplace deaths, only a handful of Criminal Code charges have been laid. And not a single boss has spent time in jail for their crimes. For families, fines are not enough, and justice has not been served.” USW Western Canada director Steve Hunt said “we will continue to expose the injustice and cruelty that has prevented thousands of Canadian families from moving forward with their lives after a workplace death. The tears will not stop, but neither will our determination to see justice done and seen to be done.”

More information: https://www.tuc.org.uk/workplace-issues/health-and-safety/risks-newsletter/risks-2014/tuc-risks-678-1-november-2014-0#_Toc402346904

Exploitation widespread in the Indian textile industry

Workers are facing appalling labour conditions that amount to forced labour in the export-oriented Southern Indian textile industry, a study has found. The Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations (SOMO) and the India Committee of the Netherlands (ICN) discovered women and girls who work in the spinning mills of Tamil Nadu, some as young as 15, are forced to work long hours for low wages. They live in very basic company-run hostels and are hardly ever allowed to leave the company compound. The spinning mills investigated have Western companies including C&A, Mothercare, HanesBrands, Sainsbury’s and Primark and customers, as well as firms in Bangladesh. ‘Flawed Fabrics’, a new report from SOMO and ICN, presents the findings of research at five spinning mills in Tamil Nadu.

Researchers conducted in-depth interviews with 150 workers, combined with an analysis of corporate information and export data regarding the companies involved. The teenage girls and young women told researchers how they had been lured from their home villages with promises of decent jobs and good pay. Instead they found themselves working in appalling conditions that the report says amount to modern day slavery and the worst forms of child labour.

SOMO researcher Martje Theuws said: “Business efforts are failing to address labour rights violations effectively. Corporate auditing is not geared towards detecting forced labour and other major labour rights infringements. Moreover, there is a near complete lack of supply chain transparency. Local trade unions and labour groups are consistently ignored.” SOMO and ICN are calling on “all corporate actors along the global garment supply chain – from spinning mills to fashion brands – to be more transparent about their supplier base. They have to be more ambitious in detecting and addressing human rights violations by allowing trade unions and civil society organisations to play their specific roles.”

More information: https://www.tuc.org.uk/workplace-issues/health-and-safety/risks-newsletter/risks-2014/tuc-risks-678-1-november-2014-0#_Toc402346905

ILO reveals substantial skills mismatch in Europe

New ILO study calls on governments and social partners in Europe to provide workers with skills that match those demanded by employers.

Between 25 and 45 per cent of workers in Europe are either over – or under-qualified for their job, leading to a substantial mismatch between supply and demand in the labour market, a new ILO study says.

Covering 24 European countries, the study shows that mismatches between workers’ competences and what is required by their job are widespread – with marked differences between countries.

In nine European countries* more than 25 per cent of workers are under-qualified. In Portugal, even more than half of workers fall into this category.

In 2012, the percentage of workers that were over-qualified ranged from 10 to 20 per cent in most countries for which data are available, although there were large variations across countries. In countries like the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal and Switzerland, less than 6 per cent of workers were overqualified, but their number exceeded 20 per cent in Cyprus and Russia.

While over-qualification was increasing in most countries between 2002 and 2012, under-qualification went down in a majority of countries.

The proportion of over-qualified workers rose by 3.6 percentage points during this period, which in part reflects the impact of the global economic crisis. Only four countries – Ireland, Israel, Poland and Slovenia – experienced a downward trend in over-qualification. Meanwhile, the proportion of the under-qualified was reduced by almost 9 percentage points between 2002 and 2012. Among the over-qualified workers, women and youth are overrepresented. Among the over-qualified workers, women and youth are overrepresented. The study attributes these findings to several factors, including pressures on women to reconcile work and family life, higher representation of women in non-standard employment and possibly discrimination at work.

Their relative high proportion in non-standard employment also explains why young people are less affected by under-qualification and more often are over-qualified for the job than adults.

“Providing workers with skills is not sufficient to improve their labour market outcomes if these skills do not match those demanded by employers. The study calls on governments and the social partners to put in place efficient job placement services and training opportunities, and to strengthen linkages between education and training systems and the world of work,” concludes Theo Sparreboom, co-author of the ILO study.

According to the ILO expert, quality apprenticeship systems for youth, which link classroom and workplace training are part of the solution. Such systems require a well-functioning social dialogue between government and social partners, public-private cost-sharing arrangements, and efficient employment services.

What’s more, technological innovation feeds directly into the demand for skills in labour markets. High levels of education are only part of the solution, and lifelong learning is becoming a necessity. In many countries reforms of vocational and education and training systems are needed to make lifelong learning for all a reality.

* Belgium, Iceland, Kosovo, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

www.ilo.org/global/about-the-ilo/newsroom/news/WCMS_315650/lang--en/index.htm

World Congress on Risk 2015

The Society for Risk Analysis will be holding the fourth World Congress on Risk from 19-23 July 2015 in Singapore.

The theme for the World Congress – Risk Analysis for Sustainable Innovation will focus on risks of importance to global development and specific attention to the experiences of developing countries.

More information: www.sra.org/worldcongress2015

AOSHRI Conference 2015

Come 10-12 March 2015, Singapore will play host to the 5th Asia Occupational Health and Research Institutes (AOSHRI) Conference.

The biennial Conference, first initiated by the National Institute of Industrial Health Japan in 2004, provides a platform for workplace safety and health (WSH) research institutes in Asia to:

  1. discuss occupational health research activities in national or regional occupational health research institutes in Asia;
  2. utilize this information for further activities in each institute;
  3. set up an international network for continuous cooperation among institutes; and
  4. facilitate international research cooperation to help solve occupational health issues.

Other past hosts include Korea (in 2007), China (2009) and Malaysia (2012).

And to facilitate a greater exchange of ideas to advance WSH knowledge and innovation, the 5th AOSHRI Conference will be held jointly with the Sheffield Group meeting.

ASHRAE’s 2015 Annual Conference

Atlanta, Georgia, 27 June - 1 July 2015

“The 2015 Annual Conference in Atlanta will have a strong focus on the design, construction and operation of high performance buildings as four of the nine tracks in the conference focus on advanced design guidance, modelling, operation and optimization, and indoor air quality which are key aspects of high performance buildings along with one track that explicitly considers measured results and other aspects of high performance buildings,” said David Claridge, Technical Conference Chair.

A call for papers recently closed and some 130 abstracts were accepted, he said. As expected, there were a large number of submissions to the Systems and Equipment track. The Building Operation, Maintenance, and Optimization / Commissioning Track had the second-highest number of abstracts accepted.

A call for programs will be announced to round out the program, he said. The window for submitting program proposals for seminars, forums, workshops, etc. is 5 January 2015 to 9 February 2015.

The Moving Advanced Energy Design Guidance to the Mainstream Track focuses on the Advanced Energy Design Guides and seeks programs on methods for using the guides, including actual building case studies and other documented uses to move the market towards energy efficiency.

The High Performance Buildings Track extends ASHRAE’s extensive activities in the design and measured performance of these buildings by seeking programs on these successes as well as identifying shortfalls where high performance has fallen considerably short of the design.

Real engineering as applied to operation, maintenance and operational optimization or “commissioning” can bring increased comfort and offers huge financial returns. The Building Operation, Maintenance, and Optimization / Commissioning Track seeks programs related to all aspects of this topic.

Computational capacity and data collection capability has expanded the scope, complexity and practical applications of modelling. The Modelling throughout the Building Life Cycle Track seeks programs related to all aspects of building modelling and, in particular, successful applications that have extended modelling into operational phases of the building life cycle.

Indoor air quality is closely linked to comfort and to occupant satisfaction, productivity and health. The Indoor Air Quality Track seeks programs that explore these links, particularly in ways that make the case for high levels of IAQ compelling to building owners.

The Refrigeration Track has an emphasis on related refrigeration technologies that will reduce the use of traditional refrigerants including evaporative cooling and desiccants.

As with past ASHRAE conferences, the Atlanta Conference also seeks programs addressing advances and practices across HVAC&R systems, equipment, fundamentals and applications.

Conference paper abstracts have been accepted for this conference. Papers are due Jan. 5, 2015. These papers undergo a single-blind review.

Reviews are currently being conducted on Technical Papers. These papers undergo a rigorous double-blind review and will be published in ASHRAE Transactions. If you would like to be a reviewer for Technical Papers, please contact Tiffany Cox, Conference Program Administrator, at tcox@ashrae.org.

For more details go to: https://www.ashrae.org/membership--conferences/conferences