Executive Summary and Recommendations - industrial hush 6
Employee Exposure to Hazardous Materials – Report VI
The current report is sixth in the series of “Industrial Silence” reports published by Citizens for the Environment. The reports are prepared as part of the “Sustainable Industry” Project, aimed to promote sustainable industrial practices in Israel. The report attempts to examine or answer several questions:
To which hazardous materials are industry employees exposed and how are they manifested in the working environment or in their bodies? Do industries meticulously monitor the hazardous materials in the workplace, as required by law? Are there deviations from the standards for these materials? What is the potential of these materials harming employee health? What does the law say? What is the standard level? What information is provided to the employees or those responsible for their health and safety? How can the public review the information and take action toward changing the situation?
According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), nearly two million people die every year due to occupational diseases and millions more contract them. Statistically, this demonstrates ~24 incidents of occupational illness or suspicion of occupational morbidity for every 10,000 employees each year. In Israel, where there are over three million employees, this means that ~8,000 each year are expected to contract an occupational illness due to occupational exposure.
Workplace quality and the measure by which it impacts employee health are issues less addressed in Israel’s public agenda in 2013, as compared to domestic and environmental exposure.
Citizens for the Environment (CFE) is one of the only organizations, and perhaps the only NGO, to begin researching the matter over the last two years, to ask questions and try to obtain information. The current report does not aim to fully answer these questions, and definitely does not claim to solve the problems. For the organization, the current report is its way of throwing the ball onto the court, while calling upon all of the relevant “players” to harness their know how, action capacity and mainly the law toward improving the situation: Ministry of Economy and its divisions (Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Israel Institute for Occupational Safety and Hygiene and the Registrar of Occupational Illnesses), Ministry of Health, employers, industries and employees.
Before completing this report, the Knesset Labor, Welfare and Health Committee decided to discuss its findings and the problems raised therein and, on June 4 2013, we presented the main findings to the committee. Upon closing, Committee Chairman MK Miki Rosenthal, decided to conduct another discussion on the matter in the near future. He also commended Citizens for the Environment for its initiative and issued several instructions to all of the relevant functions.
The public, industry representatives and anyone who holds the matter to be of importance are welcome to contact us by e-mail with suggestions or relevant information. We will arrange your participation in the next Knesset committee meeting or ensure that your thoughts and proposals for improvement are heard.
Summary of Findings
·Of the 26 industries reviewed in the report, violations were found in 16 – whether in terms of excessive concentrations of hazardous materials in the employees’ surroundings or bodies or in terms of failure to perform testing at the required frequency or non-performance thereof.
·Notwithstanding the above, the Ministry of Economics took no actions against these industries – neither criminal nor administrative.
·The industries are not subject to ongoing supervision to ensure that they indeed conduct the required testing. Ministry of Economics supervision is applied to a small number of industries.
Monitoring in the Employees’ Environment
·When relating to environmental monitoring, we requested data on 26 industries. Testing results and occupational exposure findings were received from only 16. Most of the industries did not perform the tests at the frequency required by law;
·Most of the tested industries revealed deviations from the standards, some significant, as related to very hazardous materials. Following are several examples:
Up to 98 times the accepted standard for Colophony at Vishay Israel and IMC Casting Ltd.
Up to 336 times the accepted standard for Palletized Lead at Vishay
Up to 35.6 times the accepted standard for Sulfuric Acid at TowerJazz
Up to 22 times the accepted standard for Hardwood at Poriya Hospital
Up to 13.5 times the accepted standard for Sevoflurane at Poriya Hospital
Up to 9 times the accepted standard for Inorganic Lead at Hod Assaf Industries Ltd.
Up to 6 times the accepted standard for Insoluble Chromium (VI) at Hod Assaf Industries Ltd.
Up to 4 times the accepted standard for Lead Chromate at Tambour
Biological Monitoring (Blood/Urine Tests)
In terms of biological monitoring, we examined the findings of biological monitoring among employees at seven industries. Of the said samples, three industries revealed no deviations in biological testing, but it is important to emphasize that the even the industries that did submit their data, only submitted partial information. The main deviations relate to the following materials:
Styrene: Up to 1.9 times at Caesar Stone
Arsenic: Up to 1.09 times at TowerJazz
Toluene: Up to 1.23 times at Tambour and up to 1.05 times at Frutarom.
Some of the industries revealed environmental monitoring deviations, but biological monitoring was not conducted in the employees for all and/or part of the materials.
·The materials in which deviations were detected, both through environmental and partial biological monitoring, affect employees’ health. Exposure to these materials, in general and specifically at higher than standard levels, could harm employees’ employee and lead to chronic morbidity which may eventually lead to untimely death. This morbidity and mortality generates emotional, mental and financial costs for the employees, their families and the Israeli health system.
·The report relates to a sample group of industries, but the conclusions apply to all of the industries nationwide.
·Even where environmental monitoring presents values that do not exceed the standards or whose deviating tests are relatively few compared to all of the tests conducted, employees are still exposed to certain, sometimes high, levels of hazardous materials. Some of these materials cause illness, even at small quantities below the testing threshold.
·In recent years, the standards defined by Israeli legislation have been advanced and strict, but the testing frequency required for these standards is relatively low (usually once or twice a year), therefore the test results are limited to the time of their execution and do not necessarily reflect the situation throughout the year.
·The Registrar of Occupational Illnesses, established in 2011, still performs at a limited capacity and not enough is done in order to increase employer and employee awareness to its authorities.
·The Ministry of Economics does not take sufficient action to distribute the information and render it accessible, including online publication for the general public. It is important to note that some of these employees hold only a basic education level, thus the professional information must be provided in clear terms, and sometimes even translated into other languages, such as Arabic and Russian.
·Many of the country’s employees are employed at small businesses or self-employed, i.e. carpentry shops, bakeries, cosmetic and beauty parlors, cleaning and extermination services. These employees are unaware of the occupational health hazards in their field and do not undergo testing to determine the impact that their work has on their health.
We recommend that the working public take responsibility for their health and that of their families and, inter alia, insist on their right to testing when entering the workplace as well as periodic testing; we suggest that they become acquainted with their working environment, the materials and their impact on health; they should strictly comply with provisions for protective clothing and equipment supplied by the employer and demand them where they are not provided; employees must be sure to wash and change out of their work clothes before coming into contact with other family members, especially children.
Ministry of Economics, Ministry of Health and the Knesset:
·Take various measures to increase professional personnel regarding employee health and add personnel to the Ministry of Economics supervision and enforcement array. In addition, action must be taken to adding medical personnel and provide medical students incentives to specialize in occupational medicine, including new areas of expertise for which there are presently no doctors.
·Increase action toward distributing the information and making it accessible, both to employers and employees, including online publication for the general public.
·Establish a mechanism within a new or existing entity, which will keep an organized record of the procedures in each field and will monitor procedure implementation, making the information accessible to every employee and monitoring medical checkups for employees exposed in the past.
·Introduce legislation by which additional professionals are subject to medical supervision.
·Require workplaces to provide contract employees with protective gear equivalent to that provided to regular employees.
·Increase coordination and cooperation among government offices involved in the matter (Ministry of Economics with its various divisions and the Ministry of Health) and between them and the Health Funds.
·Introduce legislation requiring industries to disclose medical information relating to their employees and implement increased measures of enforcement, such as fines, against industries and workplaces that destroy/suppress documentation of employee exposure to hazardous materials or of hazardous working conditions.
·Require workplaces to provide shower and laundry services at sites where employees are exposed to hazardous materials (including extermination materials) and obligate them to inform all employees of these services, thus preventing the transfer of hazardous materials to the employees’ families.