In the Chinese provinces of Henan and Shanxi, police have raided 7,500 brick kilns and rescued hundreds of slave laborers, many of them children. Victims were kidnapped or entrapped with offers of work and then sold into slavery; officials report arresting 250 people for the crimes. Jane Macartney of The Times describes the horrific conditions at the kilns:
The children, some as young as 8, worked in brick kilns for 16 hours a day with meagre food rations. They were guarded by fierce dogs and thugs who beat their prisoners at will. […]
They lived in squalid conditions with many adult workers, sleeping on filthy quilts on layers of bricks inside the brickworks, with the doors sealed from the outside with padlocks and the windows barred with pieces of wood.
Many children had festering wounds on their black feet and around their waists, apparently from burns. Some were even beaten to death by their guards.
Local officials apparently ignored pleas and protests from family members of missing children, and the raids only occurred after 400 parents posted a letter on the internet.
Others recent news highlights risky working conditions in several specific industries:
Fishing: The International Labour Organization adopted a new Convention and Recommendation on work in the fishing sector, which includes 30 million workers. The provisions are designed to ensure workers have improved occupational safety and health and medical care at sea and that sick or injured fishers receive care ashore.
Agriculture: Reuters reports on a study published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine that found farmers were more likely than those with other occupations to have signs of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. On Capitol Hill, Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard introduced legislation focused on ending abusive child labor practices in agriculture.
Professional Football: Former pro football players who’ve suffered serious injuries have been “handing the NFL its biggest public relations loss in years,” writes Chris Isidore in his CNNMoney.com column. (Thanks to Aman for the link.) USA Today covers veteran players’ testimony at House hearing yesterday, while the Associated Press reports on a new NFL initiative to help players recognize and report concussions.
Housekeeping: After ergonomics professor William Marras developed a device that measured hotel housekeepers’ movements, he was astounded to find that the workers are as much at risk for back injury as construction workers, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. Exposure to common cleaning products also poses risks for those in the cleaning industry; Living on Earth highlights a Boston-area group of Brazilian immigrant housecleaners who formed a co-op that makes their own environmentally friendly and safe cleaning products.
Trucking: Reuters reports on fatigue and other health problems that plague long-haul truckers, putting the truckers and their fellow motorists at risk.
Car Repair: Occupational Hazards notes that a Bureau of Labor Statistics economist has found mechanics to have high rates of fatalities, injuries, and illnesses; assaults are behind the largest share of fatalities, while contact with objects and equipment leads to the most injuries.