The AMWU recently removed workers from unsafe working conditions, arranged paid medical examinations and devised a safe working procedure for handling chemically treated wooden crates shipped from overseas.
Workers at KSB pumps at Dinmore were reporting skin irritation and shortness of breath while opening and handling pumps in wooden crates that had been shipped over from India. There was no ventilation, no personal protective equipment and no details provided about potential hazards in the shipments.
They repeatedly raised their concerns with the company and it was revealed that the wooden containers are sprayed with an insecticide containing neurotoxic Methyl Bromide gas. The use of Methyl Bromide is largely prohibited in Australia due to its hazardous nature. It affects the central nervous system and can cause headaches, vomiting, nausea, and irritation to eyes, respiratory system and skin.
Health and Safety Officer, Brian Devlin and organiser Steve Franklin were able to assist employees and ensure they had safe working conditions. Due to the presence of the gas in the workshops and the lack of personal protective equipment, they removed the employees from the unsafe workplace with pay until an inspection had been conducted.
Workplace Health and Safety Queensland inspected the site and, together with the Union, devised a safe working procedure that included minimum ventilation timeframes and personal protective equipment requirements. The union also organised for the company to provide a medical check up and blood testing to all exposed workers.
The safety analysis of the hazardous substances from the company came too late and only after immense pressure from AMWU members.
If your workplace handles shipments from overseas or hazardous materials make sure that your workplace is providing employees with material safety data sheets to ensure you are protected from exposure to hazardous materials in the workplace. Call Brian Devlin, the AMWU Health and Safety Officer on (07) 3236 2550 if you have any questions or concerns.
Ensuring safe working environments is union business! Find out more about Health and Safety in the workplace here.