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    Asbestos:Miracle Mineral, Human Disaster

    April 11, 2004

    SANJIV PANDITA
    Asbestos is one of the substances in the modern industrial world that has caused unprecedented death and destruction among the human population, though the true picture of the disaster will probably never be known. It was formerly labelled a ‘miracle mineral’ due to its special properties that include strength, flexibility, low electrical conductivity, and resistance to heat and chemicals.These properties led to its mining in the late nineteenth century, since when it has been and continues to be used for thousands of products in innumerable workplaces.

    There is no doubt that workers’ and the general global population’s exposure to it has caused serious health hazards, which include a range of lung diseases, not least cancer of the lungs. Asbestos was responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths in the twentieth century, though no one knows the exact number yet, as it takes between 10 to 40 years for an individual to develop a lung disease associated with exposure to asbestos. In many industrialised countries today, asbestos-related deaths are the leading cause of death at the workplace, more even than occupational accidents.
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    Who cares?

    October 11, 2003

    By Sanjiv Pandita
    Workplaces or Death Traps?
    Work-related accidents and diseases are among the major killers of humans in the 21st century.
    Most of us, however, do not realise the severity of the problem. If we take the International Labour Organisation (ILO) projection for the year 2000 (based on data collected in 1998), globally about two million workers die every year due to their work; the annual death toll from AIDS is about three million). This means a worker dies every 15 seconds somewhere in the world due to her/his occupation.It is not only the fatality figure that is a matter of concern, the number of occupationally-injured and diseased workers, who have to live with injury or disease,is also very high.
    The same ILO report puts the figure of occupational accidents globally at about 270 million and some 184 to 208 million workers suffer from workrelated diseases
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    Justice And Humanity Evasive In Hong Kong

    September 11, 2003

    6 September 2000 was just another working day for Nib Bahadur Sunar in Hong Kong. He was happy with his job at the Tin-Wo-Engineering company that was subcontracted by the construction giant Paul Y-ITC Construction Holdings, a Hong Kong-based company that has construction projects in seven countries in the Asia Pacific region.

    Paul Y-ITC in turn was contracted by the Mass Transit Railway (MTR) that carries over two million persons every day.
    It was Sunar’s sixth day in this job. As one of four ‘steel fixers’ he loaded 20 to 30 12-metre steel reinforcing rods into a rod-bending machine. Sunar’s job was to hold the rods while the machine bent them.
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    Kader Fire Aftermath: Industrial Failure

    May 11, 2003

    By ED SHEPHERD
    A man working next door to the factory when the fire broke out said, “I was upstairs in our work-room when one of the employees who happened to be looking out of the window cried that there was a fire around the corner. I rushed downstairs, and when I reached the sidewalk the girls were already jumping from the windows. None of them moved after they struck the sidewalk … Bodies were falling all around us … They stood on the windowsills tearing their hair out in the handfuls and then they jumped.” The above could be a description of recent industrial fires with hundreds of deaths and injuries in Thailand or China, but the statement was made on 25 March 1911 by the junior partner of Levy and Son, adjacent to the Triangle Shirtwaist factory in New York, USA.
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    The Coal Mines of Dhanbad, Jharkhand, India

    October 11, 2002

    By Sanjiv Pandita

    This report is based on the occupational safety and health needs assessment exercise that was carried out by Asia Monitor Resource Center (AMRC), South Asian Research and Development Initiative (SARDI) and the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) in collaboration with the Indian National Mine Workers Federation (INMWF affiliated to the Indian National Trade Union Congress) on behalf of the Asian Workers’ Occupational Health, Safety, and Environment Institute (OHSEI). The exercise was carried out in the coal mining region of Dhanbad, Jharkhand state (previously part of Bihar) in India.

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