I wrote this some time ago, but think it is still relevant today, especially when we have short term working, zero hours contracts and part-time, where employees don't get the opportunity to fully get to know the environment in which they will be forced to earn their bread. The dangers are not always just to the individual employee, but also to the community where that industry is based, fracking, for example. The employees and the communities are those impacted most by these industrial hazards, and therefore, logically, should be the group that controls there development or otherwise.
We have come through the start of the industrial age and moved on to the hi-tec age, but every move into every industry comes with its on particular problems. Practically every industry is linked to an industrial disease. We have silicosis, lung disease prevalent among stone masons, potters grinders etc.. Then there is pneumoconiosis, mainly among coal miners, caused by breathing in fine coal dust and carbon dust. Arc-welders are at risk of manganism, manganese poisoning brought on by exposure to the toxic effects of the fumes from welding rods melting as the are used. Painters are at risk from neurological deficits from solvent‐exposure, which include impaired colour vision, cognitive defects, tremor and loss of vibration sensation. There are many more links with occupation and disease, but we are seldom told of these dangers when you apply for the job. Health and safety regulations go some way to protect workers from these dangers but usually these measures are re-active and only come after years of suffering and campaigning.
As a young man starting my trade in the Clydeside shipyards in the 1950’s, I was ignorant of the dangers of asbestos, and as it was widely used, all of us were exposed to the horror of death from mesothelioma, an asbestos induced incurable cancer. It was not that the dangers of this substance wasn’t known, medical papers had been written about the danger from asbestos exposure as far back as the 30’s, but it continued to be used up to and including the 60’s. The employers didn’t abandon asbestos willingly, it took campaigning and legislation to finally attempt to get rid of this killer substance. That is the pattern in most of industries, its dangers are only restricted by campaigning and legislation. The profit motive drives industry, not the well being of the employee. Most industries can be made safe, but it usually requires investment in safety equipment and training and that costs money which in turn cuts into the profit. So safety in industries will always come lower down the ladder, and as times get harder, corners are cut in safety to prevent cuts in profit. The economic system we have at present does not lend itself to the welfare and well being of the workers, only when the workers control all the industries will their well being be at the fore front of production.
When the Time-Bomb Goes Off
The bike just sits there,
dust covering its lovely sheen,
puffing up the Fintry Hills
well, it’s no longer my scene.
Y’see, as a Clydeside apprentice
I proudly learnt the tradesman’s skill,
little did I know then
the price, asbestos lungs that kill.
Now I just sit here through the painful day
gasping each mouthful of air, wondering
how can I make the bastards pay.
They new it was a killer
a time-bomb in our lungs
but, because it was so quick and cheap
they firmly held their tongues.
So what, if it cost the workman’s life,
there’s always a couple of new workers
in the care of the worker’s wife.
Please try to understand my anger
as I and others bear their cost,
a slow death from asbestos lungs,
a vibrant life lost.
Anguish for family and friends,
all in the name of profit;
now that really does offend.
Our anger without direction
is a blind archer behind the bow,
we have to use our anger
to smash the status-quo.www.radicalglasgow.me.uk