Risks 474 - 18 September 2010

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Risks
Asbestos - the hidden killer
Hazards magazine
Hazards at Work

Risks is the TUC's weekly online bulletin for safety reps and others, read each week by over 18,000 subscribers and 1,500 on the TUC website. To receive this bulletin every week, click here. Past issues are available. This edition contains Useful links TUC courses for safety reps Disclaimer and Privacy

Editor: Rory O'Neill of Hazards magazine. Comments to the TUC at healthandsafety@tuc.org.uk

Union News

Post workers get off their bikes

Cycles are great for leisure pursuits, but are neither safe nor suitable when it comes to delivering large quantities of mail, postal union CWU has said. The union is supporting a decision by Royal Mail to scale back the use of cycles on deliveries. The company's policy was criticised last week by the Cycle Touring Club (CTC), which has launched a 'keep posties cycling' campaign. But CWU says there are serious safety concerns about the use of cycles for mail delivery, pointing out that over the past 15 years, 13 cycle delivery postmen and women have been killed at work and thousands more injured as the result of road traffic accidents. The union says other problems include 'the limited load carrying capacity with cycles'. Overloading is common, it says, affecting cycle stability. Responding to the CTC campaign, a CWU spokesperson said: 'This isn't leisure cycling, it's cycling for work, and considerations are very different when people cycle as part of their job. Postal workers can't pick and choose where they go on their cycle like leisure cyclists or people commuting and changes in road and traffic conditions have made cycles no longer suitable on many routes.' CWU said it supported the introduction by Royal Mail of new vehicles with a 'high environmental performance', which would end the use of 30,000 less efficient private vehicles by postal workers. The union has warned for years that there are environmental, insurance and safety concerns from the use of private cars on mail rounds.

Dispute over assaults on rail staff

Rail union RMT has declared a formal dispute with Southern Railways over an upsurge in assaults on staff. The union, which says the problem is the result of the company's decision to cut back on security measures, is now preparing for a ballot for industrial action. RMT says late last year the company, part of the massively profitable Go-Ahead group, dispensed with the security firm that had previously been engaged to support staff and passengers in known trouble spots. It says since the cost cutting exercise was introduced RMT has witnessed a 'marked increase in assaults and threats of physical violence against our members.' It adds there is 'growing evidence' that 'management are using intimidating tactics against RMT members to try and prevent the reporting of assaults and threats of violence to mask the true figures.' RMT general secretary Bob Crow said: 'RMT will not sit back while Southern management hack back security in a scramble to maximise their profits at the expense of staff and passenger safety. It is nothing short of a scandal that the company have failed to take this issue seriously in discussions with our representatives and if they really thought we would make any compromise on the issue of attacks on our members then they need to think again.' He added: 'RMT will always fight for safety and security and that is why we have declared a formal dispute on this critical issue and will now begin preparations for a ballot for industrial action. It is now up to the company to treat safety with the seriousness that it deserves and to begin meaningful discussion with RMT to resolve this dispute.'

Unions launch fair ferries campaign

Seafarers' unions have launched a Europe-wide campaign for 'fair and safe ferries for all.' The initiative, kicked off this week at a Hull conference, comes ahead of related activities at selected European ferry ports from 27 to 30 September. Campaign coordinator Norrie McVicar, from the international transport union federation ITF, explained: 'The launch of this campaign reflects the frustration of 10 wasted years since the European Commission proposed a directive for passenger services that would have guaranteed equal working rights and conditions for EU and non-EU crews, and addressed safety concerns raised by the employment of multilingual and multinational crews. That proposed directive was quashed after intensive lobbying by shipowners.' He said the result of this capitulation 'has been a decade of job losses, with long-serving crews cut and then cut again, to be replaced, if at all, with cheaper non-EU personnel, many of whom are now even being encouraged to carry out cargo handling work that has always been the preserve of safety-trained dockers.' The week of action will include ship visits by ITF inspectors to check working conditions and leafleting of the travelling public to explain the reasons behind the campaign. A campaign leaflet for distribution to ferry passengers notes: 'More and more, seafarers working on passenger ferries similar to the one you are travelling on today are being asked - sometimes forced - to lash and secure cargo, vehicles and containers without any proper training or safety mechanisms in place. This can cause serious accidents, even fatalities.'

UCATT steps up blacklisting campaign

Construction union UCATT has stepped up its campaign to end blacklisting. The union's motion at this week's TUC Congress in Manchester, calling for the new regulations to ensure that blacklisting is finally made illegal once and for all, was unanimously carried. UCATT general secretary Alan Ritchie said: 'Blacklisting is one of the biggest crimes against society. But it is not just the worker this affects. Often that individual is the main breadwinner of the family. You put a whole family on the breadline.' In 2009, the Information Commissioner revealed that The Consulting Association held a secret blacklist of over 3,000 construction workers, many targeted for their safety activities. Over 40 major construction companies were subscribing to its services. Regulations introduced in March this year that were intended to outlaw blacklisting. However, UCATT says the regulations are so weak 'they will not deter a single employer from blacklisting workers.' Delegates to the TUC Congress agreed that unions and the TUC should press for more effective legislation. This should make blacklisting a criminal offence and should require that where a worker's name appears on a blacklist the worker is officially informed and receives basic compensation automatically. Alan Ritchie said: 'To stamp out blacklisting, it must be a criminal offence.'

Deadly asbestos risks onboard ships

A union campaign to secure tougher controls against the threats posed by asbestos on ships has won backing from delegates to TUC's Congress. Seafarers' union Nautilus International secured unanimous support for a motion expressing concern at the continued presence of asbestos on ships - despite international rules introduced in 2002 to prevent its use. Nautilus council member Captain Stephen Gudgeon told TUC delegates the union was horrified to find asbestos in more than 3,500 parts onboard a new ship last year. 'And one classification society recently revealed the deadly material was detected on 95 per cent of ships checked in the last four years,' he said. 'The problem even affects ships that have been certified as asbestos-free - sometimes because they were built with the material present in components, and because the substance may have been introduced through spare parts.' Capt Gudgeon adds that seafarers face a very real risk of exposure to asbestos during repair or maintenance and big efforts need to be made to raise awareness among crews, shipowners and regulatory authorities. He related how the Australian government recently took a stand against non-compliance by refusing entry to vessels containing asbestos - and said other governments should do the same. 'The maritime industry is still responsible for exposing its workers to asbestos and thus creating victims for decades ahead,' he said. 'It's just not good enough, and we need your support to ensure that our members - and seafarers worldwide - are protected.'

Widow accepts TUC safety award

The widow of a GMB safety rep who played a 'tireless' role from the workplace to the national level promoting better standards, has accepted his 'TUC safety rep of the year' award. David Lyons, who died earlier this year, worked for the security firm G4S in Kent and was a driving force in GMB's 'attacks campaign'. The TUC citation for his award said: 'Through his tireless work with ministers, local and central government, employers and the police, David has played a key role in reducing the number of violent attacks on security staff.' His widow, Marylin, received the prestigious award for her husband at the annual TUC Congress, held this week in Manchester. The TUC awards recognise the outstanding achievement of union reps in representing women and young workers, learning at work, union organising and improving health and safety.

Other news

Deadly jeans fade out of fashion

Two major multinationals have agreed to end sandblasting denim jeans, a practice that has led to deadly lung disease in garment workers. ITGLWF, the global union federation for the sector, welcomed the announcement by Levi Strauss and H&M. 'It is the correct decision if we wish to protect the health of workers. For H&M and Levi's - who feature among the world leaders in jeans - going down this path shows an attitude of corporate social responsibility in this field,' said ITGLWF general secretary Patrick Itschert. The union body called two years ago for garment producers and retailers to eliminate worldwide the use of free silica in denim production. Inhaling crystalline silica can cause a deadly lung scarring - silicosis - and lung cancer. ITGLWF's public awareness campaign has highlighting 'the life-threatening dangers' of the process, which involves using a jet of compressed air to propel fine sand onto the denim fabric, creating a faded, worn look. However, since 2005 in Turkey alone, more than 50 workers have died from silicosis. In April 2009, the campaign led by the workers, their unions, doctors and civil organisations resulted in the Turkish government implementing a law prohibiting this procedure. But several companies then moved their production to other countries where legislation was less restrictive, including Egypt, China, Bangladesh and Pakistan. According to Patrick Itschert, the move by Levi's and H&M is 'an important result for workers' health. It is time now for certain governments to stop ignoring inhumane and even illegal working conditions which put the lives of men and women in danger.' ITGLWF head of health and safety, Silvana Cappuccio, added: 'Sandblasting is already prohibited in several of the European Union member states. It is high time that legislation is improved and harmonised, knowing that at present, current protection does not completely eliminate the risk of silicosis. Alternatives exist!'

BP cited for North Sea safety lapses

BP's operations in the North Sea were investigated six months before the Gulf of Mexico explosion amid questions about staff safety training, Health and Safety Executive (HSE) correspondence reveals. HSE found new staff were not being trained to 'basic safety standards', according to a letter obtained by The Daily Telegraph under freedom of information laws. Inspectors found several of the oil giant's installations in the North Sea had broken emergency rules for training staff on how to respond to spills. HSE launched an inquiry after a worker on the Clair Rig near the Shetland Islands complained. Company bosses were told in October 2009 that 'training of some new personnel to basic safety standards was ineffective.' The letter also said there was 'evidence of a culture among your contractors, Seawell (up to senior levels of management), of working outside of procedures, permit or permit conditions.' Other documents obtained by the Financial Times reveal how all but one of BP's North Sea rigs inspected in 2009 was reprimanded for a lack of training. The goverment's Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) inspectors also found the firm had not conducted oil spill exercises properly at some of its offshore sites. Records show 11 of the 23 inspections led to criticism of its training methods, according to the Financial Times. Eight inspection reports on seven different rigs suggested necessary training had not happened.

Business lobby attacks regulation again

Another business lobby group has taken aim at workplace regulation. Manufacturers' organisation EEF has urged the coalition government to 'reverse the rising burden stifling businesses'. Launching its report, 'Reforming regulation - Improving competitiveness, creating jobs', EEF said the UK now needs a major culture change across government and a 'relentless drive to control the costs of new regulation.' And while the business group accepts regulation performs an 'essential' role, the report singles out health and safety as an area where cuts could be implemented. In a recommendation on 'setting limits' on the cost of legislation, it notes: 'In well established domains, such as health and safety, a negative budget may be set, requiring an overall reduction in costs, whilst in a developing domain such as climate change, the budget may be positive but set a clear and binding camp on costs.' EEF director of policy, Steve Radley, said: 'Regulation is an essential part of a well-functioning society and can deliver major benefits. However, where it is excessive, ill-conceived or poorly implemented, it can impose significant cost on individuals, businesses and the wider economy with little or no benefit.' He added: 'A bold new approach to regulation is now needed to meet the Chancellor's aim of making the UK economy saying 'Open For Business'. We need an open and transparent system that sets limits for total costs of regulation, whether they originate in Brussels or Westminster, and then sticks to them.' A TUC report last week dismantled the business lobby's cost argument. It urged the government to ignore calls to reduce regulation and enforcement and instead appoint a government health and safety 'champion' (Risks 473). A health and safety review ordered by David Cameron was due to publish its findings last week. However, the review by former Tory minister Lord Young will not now appear for 'weeks', according to the Cabinet Office.

Bosses fined after digger bucket death

Two construction firm bosses have been fined after a worker died on a Salford demolition job. John Cain, 36, was working on a project to demolish the Albert Park Inn on 22 November 2004 when he was hit by an excavator bucket on a digger. He died from his injuries later that day. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuted business partners Barry Godliman and Robert Watson, the principal contractors on the site, and Windmill Demolition Company Ltd, the specialist subcontractor hired to carry out the demolition work. Godliman and Watson were sentenced at Manchester Crown Court on 10 September - the day John Cain would have celebrated his 42nd birthday. Both men pleaded guilty to criminal safety offences and were each fined £7,500 and ordered to pay £2,000 towards the cost of the prosecution. Windmill Demolition was found guilty of a safety breach following a trial at Manchester Crown Court in July and was fined £15,000 with no costs. Karen Doran, John Cain's ex-partner and the mother of his three young daughters, said: 'Hopefully, now that those responsible for health and safety on the site have been punished, we'll be able to put this behind us and get on with our lives. I just hope the prosecution will send a message out to companies that they cannot get away with ruining people's lives.' HSE inspector Stuart Kitchingman said: 'Barry Godliman and Robert Watson were the principal contractors on the site and so should have made sure all work was carried out safely. Windmill Demolition had been hired to oversee and carry out the demolition work, and so had responsibilities for managing safety as well. I hope this case will encourage construction companies to do more to manage health and safety on sites effectively.'

Family issues safety plea after 'avoidable tragedy'

The devastated parents of a young engineer killed when a falling digger bucket struck him on the head have urged the construction industry to learn vital lessons from his tragic death. The call from the distraught family of Mark Handford came after a coroner's jury recorded a verdict of accidental death into the incident which claimed the life of the 22-year-old just over a year ago. The three day hearing was told that Mark was working on a building site in Redditch, Worcestershire last August when he was hit on the head by a falling bucket from an excavator, suffering fatal head injuries. After the verdict, the family urged all construction firms to take every necessary step to ensure that a similar tragedy could never happen again, and said there must be an urgent mandatory ban on semi-automatic quick-hitches. Speaking on behalf of the Handford family, solicitor Rebecca Hearsey said: 'The family believes that the type of coupler used to attach the bucket to the digger offers too much scope for things to go wrong. The family feels that the construction plant industry should revisit the voluntary ban - implemented in October 2008 - which meant that semi-automatic couplers would not be supplied for new machines in the UK, while pre-existing units remained legal.' She added: 'The Handfords believe that, given the number of units still in use in this country, it could take some considerable time for this mechanism to be phased out as and when machines come to the end of their use and so feel that an outright mandatory ban should be put in place now.'

MOD censured for asbestos crimes

The Ministry of Defence (MOD) has received a formal Crown Censure from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after potentially exposing workers to deadly asbestos fibres. The action relates to criminal breaches of safety law however the ministry, as a government body, cannot be prosecuted in the criminal courts. The Censure was received on behalf of MOD by a senior manager from Defence Estates - the part of MOD operating its military estate - who attended a formal Crown Censure hearing at HSE's East Grinstead Office this week. The action came after inspectors discovered an asbestos survey at an MOD base near Bicester, Oxfordshire was ignored for more than a year. The original survey considered a boiler room on the base to be contaminated with asbestos and the report recommended access to the room be restricted until the asbestos had been removed. Defence Estates and their facilities management company Interserve (Defence) Ltd, failed to follow the advice of the survey and, consequently, workers were left at risk of exposure to deadly asbestos fibres. Heather Bryant, HSE's East and South East division director, chaired the Censure hearing. She said: 'Defence Estates and Interserve (Defence) Ltd knew that asbestos-containing materials existed at the Bicester site but the arrangements they had in place for managing them were not effective in controlling this well-known risk. The standard for managing asbestos at the Bicester site fell far below what the law requires.' Interserve (Defence) Ltd appeared at Oxford Crown Court on 8 September 2010 and was fined £33,000 and ordered to pay costs of £17,936.

Food giant crushed worker's skull

The UK's biggest food manufacturer has been fined £14,000 after a 65kg metal pillar fell on a maintenance engineer in Merseyside, crushing his skull. Thomas Williams, 61, was working at Premier Foods Group Ltd's site at Manor Bakeries in Moreton in July 2008 when the four-metre section of pillar fell on his head. Premier Foods, which has an annual turnover of £2.6 billion and owns brands including Hovis, Mr Kipling and Bisto, was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) for failing to ensure the safety of its employees. Wirral Magistrates' Court heard Mr Williams suffered severe traumatic brain and spinal injuries, and was in hospital for more than six months. He now has difficulty speaking and moving, and his wife hasn't been able to work since, in order to look after him. Mr Williams and a colleague were used an angle grinder to cut the pillar, but when they levered it free at the base it came detached from the ceiling at the same time and struck Mr Williams. HSE investigation found that the company had not properly planned the task, and had not trained workers on how to carry out the work safely. Phil Redman, the investigating inspector at HSE, said Mr Williams did not have experience of this kind of work and 'should not have been put in a position where he had to make decisions about how to do it.' He added: 'A man's life has been turned upside down because basic health and safety procedures weren't followed. Mr Williams has been permanently disabled from his injuries and will never be able to return to work.' Premier Foods Group Ltd pleaded guilty to criminal safety breaches and was ordered to pay £6,808 towards the cost of the prosecution, in addition to the £14,000 fine.

Firm fined for failing its own workers

A North Yorkshire company making innovative machinery fitted with the latest safety devices failed to protect its own workers from the risk of injury as they manufactured them. Tadcaster firm Lambert Engineering Ltd pleaded guilty at Selby magistrates court to a breach of health and safety legislation after a Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspector found 'widespread instances' of protective guards on factory floor machines either being removed or disabled. In some cases, safety devices had been altered by employees to allow machines to operate unsafely. The issues came to light after a preventive inspection by HSE in May last year. The court heard there was an endemic weakness in safety management systems at Lambert Engineering, which designs and manufactures machinery for the pharmaceutical and food industries. The key failings were poor risk assessment of processes, a lack of control and supervision of workers and a culture where the company failed to carry out checks to make sure safe practices were fully in place. The company admitted a breach of criminal safety law and was fined £6,000 and ordered to pay £4,198 in costs. After the case, HSE inspector Geoff Fletcher said: 'The company failed to ensure that their machines and specifically the safeguarding mechanism were maintained effectively, allowing dangerous practices to develop and remain unchecked over some ten years.' He added: 'It is more by luck and certainly not by good management that an injury did not occur at the plant. This is a company offering bespoke machines which themselves offer top quality safety devices. I trust they will endeavour in future to focus equally on ensuring their own safety guards are used as the manufacturers intended and in line with legal requirements.'

Firm fined after teen is injured in fall

A Croydon company has been fined after a teenage worker suffered multiple fractures and internal injuries when he fell through a rooflight. Lewis Edwards, 17, from Sidcup, had only been at STP Solutions Ltd a few weeks when the incident happened. It was his first job since leaving school. An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) revealed that in May 2009 the firm told him to go onto a warehouse roof and clean out the guttering. City of London Magistrates heard that this was an unsafe way to carry out the work and that the teenager was left alone and unsupervised to do the job. He was crossing the roof when he stepped through a roof light and fell seven metres onto the floor of the empty warehouse. He suffered multiple fractures to his pelvis, a number of vertebrae, his collar bone, upper left arm, elbow and left wrist. His spleen was ruptured and had to be removed in emergency surgery. The court also heard that Mr Edwards used to be a very good footballer, having played for West Ham juniors. He had started to take coaching qualifications, but his injuries have had a limiting effect on his life and he is still receiving medical treatment. STP Solutions pleaded guilty to breaches of the Health and Safety at Work Act, the management regulations and the work at height regulations. It was fined £28,500 and ordered to pay costs of £9,359. Lewis's mother, Sara Edwards, said: 'Sixteen months since Lewis's horrific accident, he still bears the physical and mental scars that have had a tragic effect on his life, and the pressures of this have torn our family apart.' She added: 'His accident was directly due to the lack of supervision, training and safety management of his employers. He should never have been placed in such a vulnerable position and he will now have to carry this with him for the rest of his life.' HSE says falls from height are the biggest single cause of workplace deaths in Britain, with 15 deaths and nearly 11,500 serious injuries last year.

Warning on waste and recycling crackdown

Local authorities have been reminded of their crucial safety role in the procurement and management of waste and recycling services. The warning from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) comes ahead of an October programme of official safety inspections. HSE is drawing attention to guidance issued in January that clarifies the legal duties on local authorities, whether they deliver waste and recycling services in-house or contract them out. The watchdog says some mistakenly believe that contracting out these services relieves them of health and safety responsibilities in the notoriously hazardous sector - the most hazardous UK jobs you can do on land. HSE inspector Wayne Williams said: 'The industry has nine times more fatal accidents than the national average and four times as many workers suffer injuries. As well as dealing with those authorities that have systems and processes that need improvement, we want to use our inspections to identify areas of good practice which can be shared with others.' HSE says its guidance gives practical information on how to make health and safety an integral part of the procurement and contract management process.

International News

Australia: Public apology to victim and union

An Australian employer accused of waging a campaign of bullying and harassment against a former employee has agreed to make an unprecedented public apology to the worker and his union. Dean Hutchinson, who will receive a confidential payout, said that while working Sunbury Wall Frames & Trusses (SWFT) he was regularly shot at with a nail-gun by a supervisor and was struck on the head with a large piece of wood thrown at him, which later caused him to vomit. Mr Hutchinson said he sustained a broken thumb and wrist two weeks after warning his boss that a machine was dangerous, had his pay docked for taking an injured colleague to hospital, and said staff were banned from bringing their own fans to work as it would use power. Co-owner Danny Schneider initially denied the claims. But as well as a compensation settlement he has now agreed to run a large advertisement in the first five pages of 'The Age' newspaper, apologising to Mr Hutchinson and his union. The quarter page ad, which will run on 20 September, will say that Sunbury Wall Frames & Trusses and Mr Schneider: 'Publicly apologise to Construction, Forestry Mining and Energy Union member and employee Dean Hutchinson for the hurt, distress and humiliation caused in the workplace on 29-30 March 2010.' It will also say: 'SWFT and Mr Schneider apologise to the CFMEU (Forestry and Furnishing Products Division) for his reckless comments about the union being 'akin to a terrorist organisation'.' Mr Schneider, in comments about the union in an earlier interview with a trade newsletter, had said: 'I think they are no different to al-Qaeda.'

Global: ITUC welcomes asbestos 'death knell'

A statement from a United Nations body confirming its desire to see the end of asbestos use worldwide is the 'death knell' for a substance which claims one life every five minutes around the clock, the global union confederation ITUC has said. The International Labour Organisation (ILO) this month warned in an official position statement that industry lobbyists pushing asbestos around the world must not claim to have ILO support (Risks 473). ITUC general secretary Sharan Burrow said the ILO statement provides welcome support for the global union campaign to see a ban on asbestos worldwide and a just transition to safer, better jobs for displaced asbestos workers. 'ILO has confirmed that it wants to see the elimination of asbestos use worldwide, full stop,' she said. 'Coming on the heels of calls for a global ban on asbestos use from major scientific, medical and occupational health groups, this sounds the death knell for the deadly fibre and a fatal blow for the asbestos pushers.' Industry lobby group the Chrysotile Institute, which takes a lead in the global promotion of asbestos exports, routinely cites ILO documents and claims they are supportive of its case for continued asbestos use. Concerned at the industry's repeated misuse of ILO's name, the Geneva-based body issued the position statement which highlights the UN agency's commitment to 'promoting the elimination of the future use of all forms of asbestos and asbestos-containing materials.' The World Health Organisation's latest estimate notes that asbestos already claims 107,000 lives a year, described by unions as a 'conservative' figure. However, even this figure means every five minutes around the clock a person dies of asbestos related disease - or at least 300 victims every day.

Turkey: Government condemned over murdered journalist

Journalists' unions have hailed a judgment of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) which ruled Turkey failed to protect the life of a leading journalist who was murdered three years ago. The ECHR ruling said Turkey should have taken steps to protect Hrant Dink after it was warned that ultra-nationalists were plotting to kill him. Instead, the government failed to act and Dink, the outspoken editor of a Turkish-Armenian newspaper Agos, was brutally assassinated. The government has been ordered to pay Dink's family 105,000 Euros (£87,700) in compensation. 'This is a landmark judgment that outlaws impunity and holds governments to account when they fail to protect journalists,' said Aidan White, general secretary of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ). 'No government can escape its obligation to protect journalists who express dissent, even in the case of opinions not to their political taste.' IFJ said the judgment means all governments must act to protect journalists who come under fire from extremists because of their work. Dink was shot in the head three times near the office of his newspaper, Agos, in Istanbul. In 2005, Dink had been given a suspended jail term because he was alleged to have denigrated 'Turkishness' in writings about the mass killings of Armenians in 1915-1916. 'In this case the neglect of security forces and the police allowed a courageous reporter and editor to be brutally murdered,' said IFJ's Aidan White. 'It must never happen again.' The man accused of Dink's murder is currently on trial along with 18 suspected accomplices.

USA: Chromium industry buries cancer evidence

The world's largest producer of chromium chemicals failed to inform the US authorities after it found a 'substantial' lung cancer risks to workers exposed to hexavalent chromium (CrVI, or chrome 6). A notice this month filed by the US government's Environmental Protection Agency says Elementis Chromium failed or refused to submit to EPA a study conducted for an industry trade group that showed evidence of excess lung cancer risk among workers in chromium production facilities. The failure to inform EPA of a substantial risk to health constitutes an 'unlawful act' under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), the EPA complaint notes. It says the violation began in October 2002, but it was only after receiving a subpeona from EPA in August 2008 that the firm submitted the study to the agency. The firm could face a fine of up to US$32,500 for every day it was in breach of the TSCA duty. It has until the end of the month to contest the EPA notice. The case is the latest to hit an industry which has a long record of suppressing data on cancer risks linked to work with chromium chemicals, or rigging studies and their conclusions to imply no risk exists (Risks 246).

Resources

New TUC resources for safety reps

The TUC has published an online resource pack for health and safety representatives. The lengthy list of resources includes three new publications - an introduction to being a health and safety representative, a guide to reporting, and information on what to expect if an inspector visits. The latter includes a link to the actions that official health and safety inspectors are recommended to take when they encounter breaches of the various regulations on consultation over health and safety issues.

Events and Courses

TUC courses for safety reps

COURSES FOR SEPTEMBER 2010 to DECEMBER 2010

Useful Links

  • Visit the TUC www.tuc.org.uk/h_and_s website pages on health and safety. See what's on offer from TUC Publications and What's On in health and safety.
  • Subscribe to Hazards magazine, supported by the TUC as a key source of information for union safety reps.
  • What's new in the HSC/E and the European Agency.
  • HSE Books, PO Box 1999, Sudbury, Suffolk CO10 2WA. Tel: 01787 881165; fax: 01787 313995
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