Hundreds of employees that work with dangerous chemicals are exposed from the professional diseases that take even their life. The employers do not give information on the chemicals that are used, at a time that the official checking on the working conditions is satisfied only with the external measures to protect the health of the employees. The former chief of the Professional Disease clinic, Niko Pecani: there lack the specialized physicians.
By Avushe Zhuka
Ever year hundreds of workers at the factories in different sectors of the industry are affected by the professional diseases as a result of the use of different dangerous chemicals in the working places. Within a year, only in Vlora town have been officially identified 54 employees having professional diseases, whereas in the whole country the number of the people affected is 1853. The data of the Labour State Inspectorate (ISHP) put at the disposal of the Association of the Journalists for Justice (SHGD) show a decrease of the number of the employees that have been affected from the professional diseases during 2014 compared to 2013 where in the whole country were registered 3880 employees. In the Vlora regional branch during 2013 have been identified 73 employees or if we say it differently the number of those affected decreased with 19 people. But what is oppositional to that is the fact that the data on the professional diseases are contradictable.
In the regional branch of the Vlora Labour State Inspectorate there are not accurate data for the employees identified with professional diseases. It is made known from this directorate that only one employee of the oil industry has been identified with professional disease. Being asked about other data or statistics related to the professional diseases in this district, the inspectors say that it is difficult to be identified as the sick leaves of those that are able to work are handed by all, but the way how they get them must be also dubious. The physician Niko Pecani, former chief of the Professional Disease Clinic to the Tirana University Hospital Center makes known that none can talk about a clear identification of the professional diseases as the service to the professional diseases does not exist. Ten years ago there was decided to close the clinic of the professional diseases at a time that there is a lack of the specialists of this field. “Currently this service has come to the nil and this is a big problem. There must be established a center with at least 10 beds and to have a physician of the professional diseases in each district”, expresses Pecani.
Former chief of the Professional Disease Clinic says that in these conditions the data on the number of the employees that are affected by the professional diseases are not correct. “In such situation we cannot talk for the tendency of the increase of the professional diseases as there lacks the specialized physician. When the patient has any problem he goes to the family doctor, to the pathologist or he gets hospitalized and gets the treatment for the symptoms. There is not identified or diagnosed the real problem that in this case is the professional disease. Only the heavy cases are sent to us and are identified as professional diseases”, admits the doctor Pecani. According to him it is very necessary even the preparation of the new professionals on this field. “It is now some time that I am trying to organize a course where the physicians will get specialized on the professional diseases. There has been discussed the idea, have been also prepared the subjects, but the proposal has not been approved yet. We are referring here to some obstacles or hindrances that the Ministry must solve” says the doctor of the professional diseases.
The data of the Labour State Inspectorate show that the number of the employees that work in dangerous working position in 2014 was 13,223, whereas the number of the employees that work directly with the dangerous substances is 3271. The number of subjects that are covered with the health service in the whole country during January-December 2014 was 1187, whereas the periodical checking of the employees exists in 2151 subjects. According to the Inspectorate, by comparing the data of 2014 with 2013results that: “at the national level there is an increase of the number of subjects that are covered with the health service and a considerable increase of the subjects that use the collective and individual safety equipment, this due to the increase of the number of inspections in the subjects that present hazard for the security and health at the work
In the regional directorate of ISHP in Vlora, the inspectors show the forms of the declaration of the professional diseases laid on the table, but out of their filling out they have not been able to identify those affected. According to them, the employees by themselves do not declare the disease as they are afraid of their working place at a time that out of the inspections carried out on situ has resulted that very often the employees do not use the security equipment in their work. “There has resulted that the employees do not keep safety helmets or gloves even when they are given by the employer. We have left it as duty to the subjects to fulfill the working conditions and to measure the pollution at the working places. We have seen improvements from the side of the subjects, there are taken measure for the ventilation to create the working conditions and in the cases when they have not been implemented we have put fines on them. Our mission is to leave them tasks, to improve the conditions, and it is not our priority to issues fines”, express the labour inspectors. In 2014 there have been issued about 3 million leke fines to the subjects but the majority of the sanctions are related to the social insurance and there are few the cases for lack on fulfilling the working conditions which are put for lack of ventilation, airing at the amount of 50 or 100 thousand leke, mainly in the production factories.
The Regional Health Directorate in Vlora raises the same concern related to the negligence of the employees by themselves to protect their health. “In Vlora town exercise their activity around 90 subjects of the hygiene starting from the wood and aluminum shops, carpentry, marble processing factories where are employed two or three people up to the big factories. Our inspection has consisted mainly in two issues, if the subject has health insurance and we also inspect if the worker carry out regularly the health examinations and if they possess the health booklets. Of course there is a problem related to the chemicals, pollution and their danger, but on the other side we have seen that there is a lack of interest from the employees to protect their health. A concrete case is the one in the shoe factory, where during the inspection we concluded that the employees did not keep the safety helmets in their faces to be protected from the use of the dangerous materials. The factory had bought masks for all the employees but they did not prefer to use them”, declares one of the inspectors of Vlora Public Health Directorate.
Even the inspectors of the Vlora Public Health say that it is very difficult to reach to a conclusion on the number of people affected by the professional diseases in this district. According to them there does not exists accurate data related to this number, at a time that even the employees do never accept to point out or to admit the reason for their health problems from the environment or the conditions in which they work. The inspectors say that one of the reasons is even the fact that the employees want to keep their working place at any cost. From the Regional Health Directorate it is made known that the competence for the inspections of the subjects on the hygienic conditions at the working place have been transferred to the Health State Inspectorate. The inspector of this institution, Ani Muçaj admits the fact that since little time ago this competence has passed to the Inspectorate. “Since little time ago the inspection of the subjects of industry, trade, production etc. related to the health at work and with the identification of the professional diseases was passed on us. In August or beginning of September we will start the inspection in these subject to check the situation related to the health of the employees and the hygiene at the working place”, admits Muçaj.
In the Vlora Regional Hospital, the physician of the professional diseases or at least identified as such from the human resources directorate of the regional hospital (as he does not accept to be the physician for the professional diseases but for the emergencies from the poisons) does not have any information. “During the two years of my experience here there has been registered only one case for professional disease. Even this person came just for the procedure, as he wanted to sent the documents to the Professional Disease Clinic in Tirana”, declares the physician Aldi Duda. In the decision of the Council of Ministers No. 396, date 28.06.2007 “To the definition of the professional diseases” are listed the professional diseases caused from the biologic agents, infections from the viruses, allergies caused by the dusts or poisonous or toxic effects. This decision also defines how the health service must function. “Every case doubled for professional pathologies is sent for consultation to the department of the professional diseases in the clinics of the regional hospitals and in the cases when there is needed the full approval it is transferred for further examination in the Professional Disease Service at QSUT, it is defined in the decision.
The guide on the dangerous substances obliges the employer to inform he employee for the dangerous attributes of the agents that they treat, the level, kind and duration of their exposal and the working conditions that use such agents. But this guide seems to not be recognized from the employers and as a result they do not inform their employees for the risk that threatens them. “They did not tell me anything related to the dangerous elements or chemicals that are used in the work that I do. As far as I know none of the employees there has been informed about the pollution, the exposal to the chemicals etc, but we are aware that this is a place with substances and chemicals. My eyes get red from the dust that is caused there, I am supplied with a mask but not with safety glasses and gloves”, says one of the employees of the industry of tires’ production. “Here the employees do not stay for a long time, they leave after some months. No one wants to put at risk his health” further adds the employee who does not want to be identified, while emphasizing that the people are obliged to work under such conditions to feed their families. “They do not accept to tell that they have allergy problems, problems with their breathing or the pollution as they do not want to remain without work. This is what everybody does”, continues to tell the employee of the tire’s factory. That the guide is not applied at the moment when the people get employed, this is verified even from the other employees. People employed in the clothing manufactures, more concretely in embroidery, tell that they have not been informed from the employer on regard to the dangerous chemicals that are used or about the risk that may come from them. This employment method is followed in the heavy industry as well.
The consequences from the exposal to the dangerous chemicals, dusts, rays are displayed as acute diseases in the cases when the employee is directly exposed and we are talking here for the acute intoxication (in the cases when the pipe of the solution with chemical substance breaks). The professional diseases are displayed when the exposition of the employee is done in a chronic way and the harms are caused continuously. The professional diseases are caused from the dusts, and according to the doctor Pecani more than 10 thousand people are exposed to it. “I have discovered some new cases of the professional diseases of workers that work in the stone quarry or at the points of the exploitation of the solid materials. There came two women and a man that were affected from a disease in the lungs as a result of their exposition to the dust. There are small factories that are a source of the intoxication such as the case of the battery production factory, where 15 people were intoxicated”, tells about some cases when the employee identified with the professional disease after getting the treatment are kept only few months in the work from the employer and after that they are dismissed. This is one of the reasons why the employees try to hide the disease.
The employees of the companies that use the solvent solar i.e. the shoe production factories where is used the glue etc risk to damage the nervous system. From the work in the mines, industry and agriculture where the chemicals are used there can be caused cancerous diseases. “We have cases of the respiration allergies, professional asthma, damage of the skin from the chemical factors such as the ultraviolet rays etc. the people that work at places with noises such as the metallurgy, mines those that do the drilling, risk to have a decrease in their hearing which leads towards inability at the work. The stress and neurosis, the damage from the position of work etc cause professional diseases and disability at work”, explains the doctor of professional disease. “A driver being around 50 years old that drives with more than 50km /hour risks to be affected by the high blood pressure. The later may cause heart disease. But at the cases when the drivers do not pay visits to the doctors of the professional diseases then these diseases cannot be prevented. The professional cancer is caused by arsenic, chrome, benzyl, from dying materials. This disease appears after 20 years. If the disease is not identified since the very beginning, after 20 years it cannot be treated any more as a professional disease”, expresses Pecani. To the department of the professional diseases in the University Hospital, are performed one thousand examinations in a year, some of whom are labour disabled people, some result to not be affected by the disease. The people that come here are diagnosed with problems in their lungs, whereas those with damages in the skin or ears etc, get the treatment in the other departments.
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