International Workers’ Memorial Day – 28 April Transport unions taking action on fumigation and toxic gas

ITF unions took action as part of International Workers’ Memorial Day!

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International Workers’ Memorial Day is held each year on 28 April to remember the hundreds of thousands of workers around the world who are killed, disabled, injured or made unwell through their work.

This year, the ITF is backing the International Trade Union Confederation’s (ITUC) theme for 28 April which is ‘removing exposure to hazardous substances in the workplace’.

This theme is strongly linked to the ITF cross-sectional container safety campaign which covers fumigation and toxic gases in containers.

The container safety campaign also covers issues of improper packing, dangerous goods and container weights, and misdeclaration of contents. It was launched during the ITF action week in October 2014.

Dangers of fumigation and toxic gases in containers

Many harmful substances are used to ensure pests aren’t imported into a country along with goods. There are also hazardous gases and vapours that may be released from the products that are being carried in the container or from the packing.

In lots of cases truckers opening containers, seafarers spending long transit times in close proximity to them, warehouse workers and dockers unloading don't have any idea about the toxic gases inside. Often there is no accurate paperwork around the levels of gas used in the preparation or in the contents of the container, and no hazard stickers on the container to highlight the potential danger.

There are reports of incidents where workers have been immediately affected by harmful gases in containers suffering fainting, headaches or more serious effects.

Harmful gases may not smell and there may not be any visible indication of their presence, so workers may not even know they have been exposed. No-one knows what the long-term health effects of exposure to harmful gases could be.

ITF unions have already been campaigning extensively on fumigation and toxic gases in containers. Visit their websites for information and for inspiration on how you could start your work around this issue.

FNV Bondgenoten (Netherlands) >>

BTB (Belgium) >>

Watch this film on toxic gases in containers >>

What can you do this workers’ memorial day?

Continue or kick off your campaigning around container safety by focusing on this year’s workers’ memorial day theme, fumigation and toxic gases in containers. Here are some ideas:

  • Hold an event in your workplace to discuss issues around fumigation, toxic gases and container safety
  • Raise awareness with workers about fumigation, toxic gases and container safety using this checklist. This will also help you to gather evidence on the potential impact of fumigation and toxic gases where you are
  • Create your own leaflets and posters with container safety graphics
  • Join forces with docker, road transport, railway and maritime unions to take action on workers’ memorial day. Reach out to other groups of workers - including contract workers, who are involved in the handling of containers, for example, warehouse workers, packers, loaders and unloaders. You could draw up a joint plan for how to tackle fumigation and toxic gases in containers
  • Lobby your national government to implement the global recommendations from the International Labour Organization (ILO)/International Maritime Organization (IMO)/Unite Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) and adopt the provision of the ILO/IMO/UNECE Code of Practice on Packing of Cargo Transport Units into national legislation
  • Lobby senior industry executives and other relevant stakeholders to address the issue
  • Raise awareness among the general public of the issue of container safety, and build alliances with non governmental organisations (NGOs), academics, and other organisations that are interested in the issue

Your actions will depend on your local conditions, including custom and law, but whatever you do keep in touch!

Let us and the rest of the ITF family know about your actions for workers’ memorial day by:

  • Emailing reports and pictures to: containersafety@itf.org.uk
  • Using the social media sharing buttons at the top of the page to share this website with your own friends and followers.
  • Tagging us on Facebook @ITFglobal or on Twitter @ITFglobalunion #itfcontainersafety

Find out more about International Workers’ Memorial Day >>

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