The Trade and Industry Committee is to begin public evidence sessions in June. It has delayed proceedings having appealed for more submissions.
Committee chairman Peter Luff says: “This is an inquiry which has been widely welcomed in the Birmingham area and in the financial media but at present we do not have the kind of evidence base necessary to enable it to succeed. I hope this extension will change that.”
Meanwhile the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has given an update on its investigation into the outbreak of occupational lung disease at the Powertrain Limited plant in Longbridge. HSE’s investigation began in March 2004, and to date 101 workers at the former car plant have been diagnosed mainly with either occupational asthma or extrinsic allergic alveolitis. Both diseases cause severe breathing difficulties.
Sandra Caldwell, director of HSE’s field operations, said at a press briefing: “The outbreak at Powertrain is thought to be both the world’s largest linked to metal working fluids, and the largest single outbreak of occupational asthma. It has changed the perception of the risk arising from the exposure to mist from metalworking in the UK.
“HSE is determined that workers in this sector should get better protection against these diseases, which have the potential to seriously impair the breathing and health of those affected.”
HSE served three Improvement Notices on Powertrain in 2004 once the scale of the outbreak became apparent. They required Powertrain to take action and were complied with.