Asbestos – out of sight but not out of mind in Asia

By Melody Kemp

Hmong uplander with child. Source: Melody Kemp

Asbestos resembles polio. Just when you think it’s beaten, it returns like some ghoul. If you think this is overly dramatic, last year Laos was struck by a polio outbreak. This year we learned that Laos now ranks amongst the globe’s major importers of asbestos. And it’s driven by cynical market forces targeting poorer nations, inadvertently promoted by international aid. Continue reading “Asbestos – out of sight but not out of mind in Asia”

Teaching OHS in China

Guest post from Col Finnie of fini:ohs :

col-finnie-china-1This year (2016) I had two 2-month stints teaching OHS and risk management in Sichuan China as a casual employee for a Melbourne-based TAFE.  It was quite a learning experience. And I thought to pass on a bit of the stuff I learned for others who might find themselves doing teaching or training in the economic powerhouse that is China. A total of 4 months teaching does not an expert make: so the “musings” here should be treated as intended: random observations from a China “newbie” for other newbies.

Both gigs were at a college in Deyang, a relatively small western region city (4 million pop. or thereabouts).  Keep in mind “the vibe” changes a lot depending on size of the city.  The capital of Sichuan is Chengdu, 80 km or so south-west of Deyang, and the vibe in that city of 14 and a bit million is significantly different to Deyang. Continue reading “Teaching OHS in China”

Safety Asia Summit 2015

Safety Summit Asia-KL-9th12Mar2015I have been invited to speak at the Safety Asia Summit in Kuala Lumpur in March 2015. My presentation will focus on safety communications.  My blurb in the conference program lists the following points:

  • “Ways of Seeing” – the importance of John Berger’s work
  •  The importance of language in the reframing of Safety
  • Writing about safety as a professional development tool
  • Safety leadership and classical literature
  • Embracing the importance of stories

I am in the midst of finalising my presentation and would welcome any input or stories from SafetyAtWorkBlog readers to assist me.  Use the link below to contact me directly.

Kevin Jones

Employee welfare must have a “culturally aware” context

iStock_000037261798SmallIn July 22 2014 Dr. Dave Sharar, Managing Director of  Chestnut Global Health, stated:

“Business leaders here and abroad are starting to understand the need for systematic, scientifically proven approaches in alleviating the behaviors and conditions that compromise employee performance.  Managing the stress and the counterproductive behaviors that often result, is critical — but the key to success when engaging different populations in different parts of the world is to place these programs in a ‘culturally aware’ context, which lowers barriers and improves both engagement and outcomes.”

Most of the quote is inarguable and links the management of stress to the management of productivity.  However what was intriguing was the later part of the quote about locating stress management programs in a culturally aware context in different parts of the world.  SafetyAtWorkBlog established a quick dialogue with Dr Sharar about the quote. Below is the result.

A major element of Corporate Social Responsibility has been to try to apply a safety management system across many workplaces that is consistent with a uniform corporate program and values.  How can one address the culturally attuned context while still addressing the core corporate safety values?

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The Social Media is the Message

Melody Kemp in Vientiane writes:

The apoplectic brouhaha that greeted Wikileaks in the past few months has shown us the power of the internet to upstage, discomfit and enrage.  Governments like corporations operate under a variety of ‘commercial-in-confidence’ scores, the cadence of which changes with the degree of self interest at hand.  That Wikileaks has been disclosing documents for years is of no consequence to our reactionary leaders.  Just as labour groups and activists, long been warning industry about workplace hazards, have been greeted with similarly leaden ears.

Earlier this year, a delegation of international labour activists and trade union leaders visited Laos.  While being taken around various work sites by Lao trade union and government officials, they were horrified to find bags of asbestos labeled Produced In China in one roofing tile fabrication shop.  They should not have been surprised.  The nominal communist bloc states of Asia have close trade, military and strategic ties.  In that bloc the proletariat has little status and, like mushrooms, are generally kept in the dark.

One of Lao’s four Vice Presidents is known to foster and enjoy close and at times unseemly business relationships with Yunnan, Continue reading “The Social Media is the Message”

Politics overrides safety

Why has the Australian government refused to release the investigation report into the Montara oil spill?

SafetyAtWorkBlog’s interest in this report is principally over the identification of potential risk control measures that could reduce the chances of another deep-sea oil rig exploding or identify any design or safety features that could stop such a savage leak of oil into the community.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported on 12 August 2010 about the devastation to East Timor’s fishing and seaweed industries as a result of the spill in 2009 .  An earlier media report about Indonesia seeking compensation for its seaweed beds is available HERE.

The Australian Resources Minister, Martin Ferguson, said on 11 August 2010:

“The lessons to be learned from Montara, and I might say the Gulf [of Mexico], create a clear need in a very sensitive, important national industry, both environmentally, economically and from a health and safety point of view, for a strong single national regulator that’s well resourced and focussed,” ……

This may be the way to go but AAP reports that Ferguson he is refusing to release the investigation report until after the August 2010 general election!! Continue reading “Politics overrides safety”

Foxconn worker dies of exhaustion – focus on working hours

On 27 May 2010, a worker at the Foxconn factory in died from overwork, according to a statement released on 4 June 2010 by SACOM.  This coincides with a statement by Hon Hai Precision Industry on 6 June 2002, Hon Hai owns the Foxconn facility in Shenzhen.

The SACOM statement reports:

“Yan Li, 27, is the latest victim of Foxconn, the manufacturer of iPads and other high-tech items that has experienced a recent rash of worker suicides.  He collapsed and died from exhaustion on 27 May after having worked continuously for 34 hours.  His wife said Yan had been on the night shift for a month and in that time had worked overtime every night…”

There is clearly something structurally wrong with the working hours basis of the Foxconn factory.  Foxconn is a contractor or supplier of high-tech devices to major Western corporations who claim to have stringent oversight regimes.

The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) (not available online except for iPad users)  reports the 4 June Hon Hai statement in which wage increases are announced with the intention of improving worker health or, in Western terms, work-life balance.   Continue reading “Foxconn worker dies of exhaustion – focus on working hours”

iPods, child labour and excessive working hours

A media report in The First Post on 1 March 2010 includes some good news and some bad news.

Apple has addressed some child labour concerns in several Chinese factories that manufacturer its products – the good news.  The bad news is that children were allowed to work in these factories in the first place.

This illustrates not only the importance of  policies on contractor management, supply chain responsibility and corporate social responsibility but the vital significance of auditing and enforcement.

Apple’s Supplier Responsibility 2010 Progress Report is available online.

A curiosity in the media report is the mention of maximum working hours.  Apple sets a maximum working week at 60 hours.  The Chinese Government applies a 49 hour week.  To which “law” does a company comply?  Should a supply company be in a position of choosing?  Should Apple even consider setting a working hour for its workers that exceeds the limit set by a country’s government?

Kevin Jones

Some OHS information is very questionable

Media releases are statements issued to the media for the purposes of informing that media’s audience of something they may find newsworthy or interesting.  Increasingly media releases are being used as a substitute for advertising.

SafetyAtWorkBlog has an editorial policy that releases advertising a product are not used as the basis for an article.  One example of such a strongly commercially focussed media release is HERE.  However, we read almost all media releases received and take great pains on those we “use”, to identify the original source be it a survey report, research or a court case.   Continue reading “Some OHS information is very questionable”

Shipbreaking Explosion

In September 2009 several workers were killed and burnt when cutting up an old tanker that still had chemical residue.  The National Labor Committee (NLC)  has released a a ten minute video interview with the NLC Executive Director, Charles Kernaghan.

According to an 11 January 2010 NLC notice:

“Eight more workers in Bangladesh were burned to death on December 26, 2009, when the ship they were dismantling exploded.   The workers had been told that the gas tanks on the Agate oil tanker had been cleaned.   It was a lie.   Continue reading “Shipbreaking Explosion”