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100 zinc workers exposed to carcino­genic acid mist at Hobart’s Nyrstar plant: medical help sought; assessment needed

Posted by gmarkets on 17 October, 2007

One hundred zinc workers had been exposed to carcino­genic acid mist at Hobart’s Nyrstar plant, according to the Con­struction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union, wrote Michelle Paine in The Mercury (10/10/2007, p. 13).

Lives at risk for profit: Nyrstar’s ramping up of production had led to workers enduring 12-hour shifts of high heat and sulphuric acid mist, the CFMEU had said. Workers had sought medi­cal help for serious nosebleeds, headaches, and eye and skin irritations, with reports in­creasing over the past 10 days, said Tasmanian secretary Tony Benson. “In the 21st century it’s unconscionable that any com­pany would put the lives of its workforce at risk for profit,” Benson said. He said an engineering solu­tion was needed to reduce the toxic emissions. “Nyrstar has refused to put a stop to the deadly emissions by introducing an engineering solution to lower production temperatures, choosing in­stead to offer workers heavy facemasks,” he said.

Independent assessment requested: The union had called for an independent health assess­ment of the risks. Nyrstar Hobart general manager Francis Terwinghe had rejected fears. “We take the health and safety of our workers very seriously and we are proactive in managing risks and inform­ing our workers of those risks,” Terwinghe had said. CFMEU organiser Marshall Reeves said power and heat had increased to meet zinc demand, causing the liquid foam cover over the acid to dissipate. “Workers have been offered helmets, which have a battery-operated pump and a filter at the back of the helmet At the moment that’s voluntary,” Reeves said. “The company needs to do a risk assessment.”

The Mercury, 10/10/2007, p. 13

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