Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Employers in Rwanda Called Upon to Ensure Safety and Health in the Workplace

On Monday German Professor Bernhard Tenckoff, Director of Operation Safety Management at Kigali Institute of Science and Technology (KIST) called for employers in Rwanda to uphold the safety and health of their employees. The announcement was made at a one day workshop at Hotel Novotel Umubano, Kigali. "It is very important for employers to deal with the occupational safety and health for their workers here in Rwanda because this will ensure success and development in the country," said Tenckhoff. He encouraged the Rwandan government to work with trade unions as partners.

No Plans to Enforce Farm Safety in Alberta

Jeremy Loome of the Edmonton Sun reported that Alberta's agriculture minister has no plans to enforce farm safety. The minister will not institute safety rules on small or large corporate farms because he claims they will not work and the agriculture community doesn't want them. He plans to focus on education to promote safe practices. All farms in Alberta are exempt from occupational health and safety regulations. According to the opposition Alberta, farm workers are five times more likely to die in an accident than workers in other industries. Canada isn't exactly an "emerging economy" but it is an interesting case study for education without regulation.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Sandblasting Jeans in Turkey Linked to Silicosis

The Turkish Thoracic Society met last week in Antalya for their 11th Annual Congress. There was concerned discussion of the sandblasting of jeans in small Turkish workshops which has recently been recognized as a cause of silicosis.

The Ataturk University, School of Medicine conducted a case series between August 2004 and March 2006 concluding that the production of sandblasted jeans in small uncontrolled workplaces may entail significant exposure to silica and the development of rapidly fatal silicosis. Urgent action is required to prevent further cases and mortality.

Sandblasting has been used in the fashion industry since the 1970's. It's use has spread rapidly in the jean industry since vintage jeans became popular in the early 1990s. By the end of the decade "new vintage" jeans were mass produced. The worn look is often achieved through sandblasting which takes place in Mexico and Turkey.

Del Forte Denim
produces jeans that do not use sandblasting. They are looking into ozone washing and using natural enzymes like coffee and tea in order to lighten the environmental footprint of Del Forte Denim. They also integrate practices like hand sanding as opposed to sandblasting.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Chinese Demand for PPE is Surging

Few countries have seen as much growth in manufacturing over the past decade than China. As a result, China is witnessing a big surge in demand for personal protective equipment (PPE). This is leading to a huge influx of foreign PPE companies. While it is not yet known whether or not the new equipment will be more easily accessible to China's labor force, analysts are predicting that the new equipment will be of a higher quality (source: Occupational Health and Safety).

Friday, April 25, 2008

India Sets New Standard for Shipbreaking

India's Bureau of Indian Standard (BIS) now has primary responsibility for approving whether or not individual ships should be broken down in the country's harbors. Shipbreaking provides scrap steel to India's burgeoning steel industry, accounting for nearly seven percent of the country's overall steel production. Until recently, the industry has gone largely unregulated despite many of the ships being insulated with asbestos and widespread international concerns about the health of Indian shipyard workers. The port of Alang is the center of India's shipbreaking industry, but has seen a steady decline in recent years. Many local business leaders are concerned that government regulation could further hurt the city's future prospects.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

South Africa Plans Major Literary Campaign against Silicosis

The South African government is continuing its fight against silicosis among the country's miners through a concerted literary campaign (source: Mining Weekly). According to a spokesperson from the government's Mine Health and Safety Council (MHSC), "Various books and booklets will be launched throughout this year, which include best practice scraper winches, a handbook on nutrition, and a handbook on occupational health and hygiene measurements." The Council's efforts will also include the publication of several comic books, presumably aimed at promoting silicosis awareness among illiterate miners. The council's efforts could become a model for other emerging economies to offer common sense awareness and preventative medical practices to those affected by OSH-related injuries and ailments. Keep posted for more details of South Africa's new program.

Monday, April 21, 2008

As Promised...New Drug-resistant TB on the Rise

XDR, a new drug-resistant form of TB is creating a scare in the U.S. According to this Sunday San Jose Mercury News article, Mexico, China, India, Vietnam and the Philippines are the sources of most new TB-cases in foreign-born people in California. If the number of cases continue to increase, officials say that they may implement quarantine measures not seen in th U.S. in 70 years.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

TB Returns to International Stage

Tuberculosis outbreaks, which no longer make headlines in the developed world, are unfortunately making a comeback in the developing world. Diagnosing TB has never been easy due to a significant latency period. According to the Indian newspaper, The Statesman, the Indian government routinely underestimates the number of TB patients. Even officials in the developed world are now being forced to take notice of the growing threat since there has been a series of recent isolated outbreaks in the United States, one in New Mexico and the other in Northern California. In response to growing concern, the San Jose Mercury News is running a major feature on TB this Sunday.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

India's Agate Workers Demand Additional Government Compensation

A March 17th article highlights the struggles of Indian agate workers in the city of Khambhat suffering from silicosis. Agate is a mineral most commonly used to make jewelry. In response to workers' recent demands for government compensation, the government has set-up camps throughout the area, but the workers are demanding more "real" forms of compensation.

It was interesting to learn more about the history of the agate industry in Khambhat from a 2002 Asian Labour Update article. Apparently, silicosis is nothing new to the inhabitants of this city of 80,000 on India's western frontier. The mining, crafting and polishing of agate jewelry employs nearly 30,000 in the area and has been a major industry there for hundreds of years. It's unclear why this has become such a hot button issue over the past year.

New X-Ray to Enhance Silicosis Research in South Africa

Researchers at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), a South African government-funded technology research institute, have developed an x-ray diffraction machine (XRD). The XRD will enable researchers to better identify the phases or crystal forms of silica and other materials present in miners' lungs. According to a researcher on the project, the development of the XRD is just one part of concerted national effort to eliminate silicosis in South African mines by 2013. Read the full article published in Mining Weekly.

For more information on the South African silica industry, read this government report.