Report: Vienna European Hazards Conference
I attended the conference primarily to facilitate the "Information Meeting" on asbestos. Whilst their were no workshops on the asbestos issue I decided to attend the Occupational Health Workshops, I will therefore report on both aspects.
The conference was well attended with over 350 delegates from Denmark, Germany, Holland, France, Belgium, the USA, Japan Sweden, Italy, Scotland, England and Slovenia.
The Asbestos Information Meeting was planned to have two sessions; the second session was cancelled in favour of a dual meeting with the Mineral Fibres Information Meeting.
Asbestos Information Meeting. (AIM)
The meeting was designed to give maximum publicity to the asbestos issue and launch the Asbestos Photographic Exhibition on display for the first time at the conference. Over 35 people attended and were given the latest information on the campaign to ban asbestos and The UK asbestos groups endeavours to improve services for victims particularly for State Benefit and the appalling "Double Diagnosis" terminally ill victims have to go through to obtain it. The meeting brought together international delegates most of whom took copies of the Brazil email contact list produced at the Sau Paulo Global Ban Asbestos conference held in November last year. All attendants expressed great interest in the Photographic Exhibition and a number of inquiries were made on its showing around Europe. Arrangements are being made to have the Japanese section diplayed in the USA. The images portray in graphic detail the harrowing spectacle of innocent people, often terminally ill, put to death in the pursuit of profit. Photographs in the exhibition include those from Japan, South Africa, Australia the USA, and the UK.
Ms.Rie Monika Ikeda, Information Officer for the Kanagawa Occupational Safety & Health Centre under the network of JOSHRC (Japanese Occupational Safety & Health Resource Centre) with responsibility for asbestos related victims in Yokosuka close to the US Naval base and ship yards attended the conference and spoke at the meeting detailing the similarities between victims and their fight for justice with that of other victims around the world. Monika went on after the conference to visit the Clydebank and Clydeside Asbestos Victims Support Groups in Scotland. Japan is still one of the biggest importers of asbestos. Mick Holder and Eve Barker of the London Hazards Centre who organised the Photo Exhibition spoke of the trauma and injustice experienced by South African former asbestos miners who still continue their fight in the British courts for a pittance of compensation. ACTA was also represented and had contributed images to the exhibition. Anyone wishing to stage the exhibition should contact Mick Holder on email firstname.lastname@example.org
Occupational Health Workshop
It came as a salutary lesson and a sad reflection on past governments that the UK still lacks any national occupational health scheme in spite of the Community Framework Directive in 1989. Delegates from Germany, Denmark, Belgium and Norway and Slovenia had all made improvements on their schemes after the EU directive. It was noted that the various countries had had a semblance of a national OH scheme to varying degrees prior to the Directive in 1989 and this had been noticeable when comparing the UK record on OH. The workshop discussed the possibility of describing an ideal model of OH however it was soon found that each State would identify different problems together with various solutions and no one model was automatically transferable for this purpose. The workshop agreed that one principle was essential, that of any scheme being multidisaplinary. Some discussion was taken up on the prospect of an OHS for the UK construction industry. Since the conference some progress has been made with the drafting of a feasibility study for UCATT by Dr. Lawrence Waterman (Cypol Associates) yet to be published. A meeting took place on 2 November which included discussion on "Pilot Studies for OH Support for the Construction Industry (Lawrence)" We await the outcome of this. The workshop agreed to keep in touch with one another via the newly constructed website designed for the conference.
The venue was excellent, the plenary informative and the workshops of interest. As usual networking with other delegates proved the most useful part of the conference. Links made both on the asbestos issue and OH will assist me over the coming years.
John Flanagan, 6 November, 2001