I didn’t quite hear that part II

September 3, 2008

People who spend a lot of time listening to loud music  risk permanent damage to their ears according to Dr David McBride, senior lecturer in occupational health at the Dunedin School of Medicine.

People listening to music on headphones should have them on half volume and those going into nightclubs should consider wearing earplugs.

“Any time you have to shout at a person an arm’s length away to be heard means you are in an environment that is too loud and you’re damaging your hearing.”

And what about the workers? If any of our staff is working with a fraction of the noise you get in many bars, cafes, restautants and nightclubs we’d have to supply them with ear muffs.

Does OSH not have anything to say about these noisy workplaces? And are there no requirements to protect the ears of the patrons?

Cigarette smoke was an OSH issue and, while cautious about the state interfering in private lives and businesses, I think noise should be too.

I am sick of evenings spent attempting to take part in conversations where no-one can hear properly even though everyone’s shouting.

Many’s the time I’ve just grinned and nodded, hoping desperately that was the appropriate response to what I was only half-hearing; many’s the time a quiet conversation has been ruined by loud music; and many’s the time an evening has finished very shortly after the band starts playing.

I don’t go into shops which play loud music and if I have a choice I leave social venues when loud music starts.

Modern building design and decor with lots of hard services and few if any soft furnishings to muffle the noise make matters worse.

But the root of the problem lies in the volume and therefore the solution is simple: PLEASE TURN IT DOWN – IT DOESN”T HAVE TO BE THAT LOUD.


(Part 1 of this post is here.)

This explains their thinking

September 3, 2008


Socialist brain

Socialist brain

Farmers & CTU debate pay

September 3, 2008

Farmers and growers need long term strategies  for developing their own workforces to counter labour shortages, Councils of Trade Unions president Helen Kelly says.

Her comments follow reports that short-staffed dairy farmers were being exploited by southern farm workers demanding “ridiculous” wages.

Peter Macfarlane, director of dairy farm workers recruitment company Greener Horizons Workforce, said some southern farm workers with little experience were demanding up to $50,000 a year plus free accommodation from farmers struggling to attract staff.

This was about $15,000 a year more than would normally be paid, Mr Macfarlane told the Southland Times.

The farm workers, who industry sources said worked between 50 and 60 hours a week on average over a year, were attempting to cash in on the booming dairy industry and record dairy payouts.

I’m not sure that 50 and 60 hours average over a year is correct. Dairy staff work longer hours during the milking season but have much shorter days over winter and farms use relief milkers to take the pressure off fulltime workers.

“There are people out there exploiting the situation because of the staff shortage,” Mr Macfarlane said.

“They are asking to get paid way more than their skills and ability deserve.”

But Ms Kelly said the admission by Southland dairy farmers that they were paying New Zealanders $35,000 per year for 50 to 60 hour weeks was shameful, particularly at a time when they were pressuring the Government to relax immigration requirements.

I’ve already disputed the hours and she’s not taking into account the value of the accommodation which comes on top of wages and is worth at least another $10,000 a year.

Yesterday wine growers were also complaining about the cost of labour while harvesting record crops, she said.

“The dairy farmers are openly admitting that New Zealand workers are available but that they turn them away because they are expecting $50,000 per year – hardly great riches for the long hours and hard work expected of them.

“We are also concerned to hear that it is apparently easy for farmers to replace these workers by employing foreign workers simply to reduce wages.

“Our immigration policies exist to fill genuine skills shortages, not to replace New Zealanders seeking work and not to cut wages and conditions.”

There is a genuine skills shortage on dairy farms – unemployment is very low and it’s extremely difficult to find New Zealanders with the desire and ability to milk cows.

Ms Kelly said New Zealanders were paying huge prices for dairy products and farmers were making more money than ever.

“It is an irony that farmers are happy to accept market demand as an excuse for higher and higher costs to consumers but don’t accept it when it has the same impact on labour costs.”

Ms Kelly said it was time some of this money was committed to building a sustainable industry, including decent wages, training, prospects and conditions of work.

The market has pushed up the cost of all farm inputs including labour. We don’t object to paying people a fair wage. The objection is to paying people with no skills or experience far more then they’re worth – where else could someone without qualifications or experience start on $35,000 plus a house? We’re also mindful that the costs won’t drop when returns inevitably do.

There is good training for farm workers from AG ITO, to universities.  Those with ability and application have good prospects and, while their will always be bad exceptions, there isn’t generally a problem with conditions.

The problem is supply and expectations – too few people willing and able to do the job for a fair wage.

I didn’t quite hear that

September 3, 2008

ACC claims for industrial deafness  have increased 658% in the past decade.

Dunedin School of Medicine Occupational Health senior lecturer Dr David McBride said there were 2557 claims for industrial deafness in 1997, and in the past 10 years the number had increased to 19,386.

Dr McBride said noise affected an estimated 1.47 million workers, or 25% of the New Zealand workforce, and he was concerned that despite the knowledge of effective controls (such as earmuffs) since the mid-1980s, there was no evidence to show hearing loss was decreasing.

“We shouldn’t be seeing this in this day and age. Hearing loss has become a silent epidemic.”

Those at most risk of hearing loss worked in the forestry, timber processing and engineering industries, but people in factory production lines, roading, building sites and agriculture were also at risk, he said.

Dr McBride said there were good tools on the market which were quiet, but they were more expensive and many employers opted to give their staff earmuffs instead.

“But staff don’t always wear them. People working in really noisy areas all day do wear them, but when people are in jobs with intermittent noise, they tend not to use them.”

The cost of claims to ACC had increased 787.7% from $6.966 million to $61.837 million during the past decade, he said.

Much of the increase was due to claims for hearing aids, which cost between $500 and $5000.

“They’re very expensive and people can’t afford to pay for them. So they have to go to ACC to pay for them.”

You can provide them but you can’t make them wear them. And there is another explanation for the rise in claims:

Southern Audiology audiometrist Marc Andriessen said his clinic at the Marinoto Clinic had been fully booked for the past five years. However, Mr Andriessen did not believe the increase in ACC claims was due to more people damaging their ears in noisy workplaces.

“There is simply a better awareness out there of hearing loss. Hearing aid companies have been marketing in various ways to make people aware that hearing aids are not big bananas behind your ears.

“They are now very small and people are more open to the idea of wearing them.”

Dr McBride said while he expected hearing loss to become even more common as the population aged, he was concerned about the younger generations damaging their hearing in recreational pursuits.

It was possible for damaged ears to be repaired after short-term exposure to loud noise, but people who spent long hours listening to loud music on earphones or at nightclubs risked permanent damage.

People listening to music on headphones should have them on half volume and those going into nightclubs should consider wearing earplugs.

“Any time you have to shout at a person an arm’s length away to be heard means you are in an environment that is too loud and you’re damaging your hearing.”

Pardon? Sorry, I didn’t quite catch that. COULD YOU SAY THAT AGAIN…

(To be continued in a further post)

Kiwis créme of the cup

September 3, 2008

New Zealand baristias have won the Bledisloe Cup of coffee making.

The barista-roos and the barista-iwis fought out the annual trans-Tasman barista champs today – it’s the Bledisloe Cup of coffee.

The teams have eight minutes to grind, percolate, froth and pour 30 cups of coffee.

First up it is 10 piccolo lattes and New Zealand, steams ahead of Australia.

For the judges it’s the first sip of the day.

“The competition’s designed as a cafe would be, what the customer would see and would say,” says judge Jeff Dutton.

Eventually it is time for the crème of the crop: the specialist lattes, in flavours like gingerbread. They are not for the traditionalist.

In a record six minutes and 50 seconds, New Zealand delivers their last latte. The final score though is up to the judges.

Can they think straight after so much coffee?

“Yeah,” says Mr Dutton, “we try not to drink too much.”

It is the second most traded commodity after oil, and the number one employer in the world. And these people all take their coffee very seriously.

“We have to work really hard to represent our country,” says Barasta-iwi Carl Sara. “For us it is a pride thing and a love of coffee coming out.”

Coffee, and of course New Zealand, were the winners on the day.

I’ll drink to that but it won’t be in coffee because although I have several vices caffeine isn’t one of them.

Peters-speak is contagious

September 3, 2008

Kathryn Ryan is interviewing Winston Peters’ lawyer Peter Williams on Nine to Noon.

It sounds like he’s been learning from his client: it was only a little mistake, other parties have done worse, it’s the media’s fault…

It will be on-line here soon.

ETS won’t harm agriculture?

September 3, 2008

Climate Change Minsiter David Parker obviously doesn’t understand the Emissions Trading Scheme he has introduced to parliament because:

Mr Parker said there was no evidence the scheme would have an adverse impact on agriculture.

I’m with The Hive who asks if Parker has misled parliament.

He obviously hasn’t taken any notice of Federated Farmers:

Federated Farmers president, Don Nicolson said today, “News that the emissions trading scheme bill has passed its second reading is bad. It is too rushed. What we have is a whole lot of short term political gamesmanship that is divorced from the real world.

“The reality is that the ETS will have a significant impact on our economy, and likely, little impact on the global environment. Science has a long way to go to develop the economical tools to help farming families get even more efficient than they currently are. The risks of this legislation will be felt by farmers and other New Zealanders for decades,” Mr Nicolson said.

“Agriculture will be affected by the ETS from day one. Already farmers are facing significant increases in input costs that are having a big impact on farm viability. The ETS will only make this worse.

“We have heard some suggestions that New Zealand needs fewer animals on farms. For various reasons it is forecast that New Zealand will have nine million less sheep and lambs over the next year. That’s a drop to 21 million sheep from a high of about 70 million. While meat and fibre farmers have had their worst year, financially, for half a century, the ETS will make this situation worse. It will result in less money for farmers and therefore have a negative flow on into New Zealand cities.

“This is a giant leap into the abyss. These politicians seem to have forgotten that it is agriculture that is laying New Zealand’s golden egg. Our farming communities are working very hard every day to produce food and fibre that New Zealand sells to the world and helps pay many of New Zealand’s bills.

“If we want to try and remain a first world country, rather than a third world country, the simple fact is, we need agriculture to prosper and grow. We can’t afford to kill New Zealand’s golden goose. If we do, we will have rural ghettos and a lower standard of living for all New Zealanders. Here’s hoping we don’t kill the golden goose and develop rural ghettos.

It won’t just be rural ghettos. Like it or not agriculture is the cornerstone of our economy, if it goes down the rest of the country goes with it.

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