for Sunday Herald, 24 August 2003
Scotland's high-tech microelectronics companies have broken safety rules far more often than companies in England and Wales, an investigation by the Sunday Herald has revealed.
Four Scottish semiconductor manufacturers were guilty of 28 breaches of the regulations meant to protect the health and safety of workers. This compares to just two breaches by one manufacturer south of the border.
The breaches were found by inspectors from the government's watchdog, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). They include failing to control workers' exposure to toxic fumes from acids and cancer-causing chemicals, as well as inadequate maintenance and training.
The revelations have been greeted with anger by trade unionists, who accuse semiconductor companies of having a "grim" safety record. "Workers involuntarily breath contaminated air, which, like asbestos, could give them diseases in later life," said Jim McCourt, a campaigner on behalf of semiconductor workers.
"I find it deeply disturbing that every time regulators look for problems in this industry, they find them. It is an industry which risks workers' lives for profit in pursuit of production at all costs."