Brazil: Cane Cutter dies after 70 days of uninterrupted work

Juraci Barbosa, a 39-year old cane cutter who died on 29 June 2006, worked 70 uninterrupted days between 15 April and 26 June. Moreover, he cut a volume of cane which was well above the daily average of ten tonnes in the days preceding his death. These are some of the conclusions of the Labour Ministry after analyzing the conditions of work of Mr Barbosa, whose death is one of the 19 deaths suspected to have been provoked by exhaustion since 2004 in the cane fields of São Paulo state. The data has been extracted from the work card of Mr Barbosa.
He died after feeling sick at his house and being taken to the hospital of Jaborandi (in the state of São Paulo). The death certificate says that his death occurred because “unknown causes”. During a whole month Mr Barbosa cut, on average, ten tonnes of cane per day, although the actual volume varied in some days. “Calls the attention the fact that on 21 April, in just one day, he cut 24.6 tonnes of cane. And on 28 June, the day before his death, 17.4 tonnes”, said doctor João Amancio Batista, who evaluated the documents presented by Usina São José, employer of Mr Barbosa.
According to Mário Antonio Gomes, a solicitor with the Labour Ministry, an enquiry has been launched to look at the working conditions in the companies where deaths of workers have occurred. The enquiry will propose specific measures in terms of commitments and actions (by employers) with the objective of making factories and companies to fulfill the labour norms.
The solicitor said that university researchers are also investigating the work routine of agricultural workers. “We have indications that deaths had been caused by exhaustion but, scientifically, we do not have nothing conclusive; this is why the concern of the researchers is important”, he said. (Source: Folha Ribeirão.)
Cardiovascular risk – Ubiratan de Paula Santos, a pneumologista doctor with Incor (Institute of the Heart of the Clinics of São Paulo) is also researching this topic. He is also planning a project with academic and union groups which will focus on sugar cane cutters. The objective is to evaluate the cardiovascular and respiratory risks for workers involved in the manual harvesting of burnt cane, both at the start and the end of the harvest, and to clarify if the deaths of the cane cutters are, in fact, linked to work overload. (INFORMATIVO CEREST/SP 47 – 28 May 2007.)

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