Labour Inspection initiates an inquiry into Tenerife’s tramway for silica dust risk management

The Labour Inspection has mandated the Metropolitano de Tenerife company, under the Island Council’s jurisdiction and in charge of the tramway, to compile documentation validating the process of replacing crystalline silica dust, as disclosed on Monday by the Comisiones Obreras (CCOO) union.

Additionally, according to the union, the Labour Inspection requires the company to identify all employees exposed or previously exposed to silica dust within the company. This dust is produced by the wheels’ friction with the tram rails, particularly in braking zones.

CCOO stated in a press release that although no incidents concerning the protection of workers related to exposure risks at the workplace were observed during the inspection, an evaluation of business practices was conducted until September 22, 2022.

Actions to manage the risk of exposure to silica dust commenced on that date through the preparation of the initial specific hygiene study, as highlighted by the union.

Moreover, while the company had not carried out an assessment of the safety and health risks for workers concerning silica dust exposure, a violation report was issued concerning occupational risk prevention.

CCOO stresses that the 2021 occupational risk assessment did not specifically mention this carcinogenic chemical substance.

It was in September 2023 when the union requested the Labour Inspection to investigate the risk of cancer among Tenerife tramway workers due to silica dust exposure, “a carcinogenic substance that has caused illnesses in some employees.”

The Federation of Citizen Services of Canarian Workers’ Commissions (FSC-CCOO) lodged a complaint with the Labour Inspection, expressing regret over the Metropolitano de Tenerife’s public company’s reluctance to assess the risks faced by certain roles in the service. The union also urged “to cease hindering the monitoring of affected workers’ health.”

According to the union, in June 2023, Quirón Prevention identified health issues in two veteran workers from the Mobile Material section of the Maintenance Department, apparently due to exposure to this substance in the form of calcifications and lung nodules.

CCOO highlighted that “many positions are exposed to this carcinogen,” though it is only considered in the risk assessment for one role: that of Rolling Stock maintenance technician.

Shortly after, the Metropolitano staff initiated a service strike, coinciding with the Carnival in Tenerife’s capital, due to the “very serious” job security situation “very serious”.

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