Risks 521 - 3 September 2011

Share this page

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

TUC demands lower dust exposure ceiling

The TUC is calling for urgent action to reduce dust levels in the workplace, a problem it says is responsible for thousands of deaths in the UK every year. In new guidance sent out to all union safety reps, the TUC argues the current workplace dust exposure standards are 'totally inadequate.' It adds there is now clear scientific evidence that cancer and lung diseases can result from dust exposures well below the current legal limit. This view is supported by the Institute of Medicine (IOM), an independent, non-profit organisation that works outside of government to provide unbiased and authoritative advice to decision-makers and the public. The IOM warned this year that 'the current British occupational exposure limits for airborne dust are unsafe and employers should attempt to reduce exposures to help prevent further cases of respiratory disease amongst their workers' (Risks 506). TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: 'Because disease and death caused by the various types of dust can take many years to develop, both employers and regulators take them far less seriously than deaths caused by injury, yet they are just as tragic for both the workers and their families. Each and every one of these thousands of deaths caused by dusts is avoidable. Given the scale of the problem we need an urgent examination of both the current standards and their enforcement.' Studies show a range of dusts, including silica, coal dust, talc and kaolin, cause lung disease when exposures are at the current 'safe' limit. As a result the TUC is seeking an urgent review of the legal standards as well as greater enforcement of existing ones. In the meantime it believes that employers and unions should agree lower industry-wide standards to protect workers.

HSE's draft manufacturing strategy slammed

A dramatically revised Health and Safety Executive (HSE) strategy for the manufacturing sector has been criticised by Unite as an 'unfortunate' approach 'heavily based' on the government's cutback, enforcement averse 'Good health and safety, good for everyone' blueprint. The draft strategy, which HSE admitted to Hazards magazine has only been seen by its list of 'key stakeholders' and which may only be available publicly after it is finalised, splits manufacturing into four groups. Out of these, only 'A' - which is limited to some sections of the metals, ship and food industries - would be subject to something akin to the current system of proactive inspections and interventions. The approach becomes progressive more hands-off, with 'C' groups - although still considered 'high or medium risk' - largely left to oversight by 'intermediaries' like trade associations. The 'lower risk or declining industries' 'D' groups left entirely to their own devices, with HSE only stepping in after things go wrong. According to Unite's response: 'The idea that some industries are characterised as lower risk, or even medium risk, is unbelievable (and possibly even laughable!) to many employees and employers who work in those industries.' Tony Burke, Unite's assistant general secretary and head of manufacturing, said: 'Unite cannot support a strategy which oversees a reduction in health and safety standards and which, we believe, puts manufacturing workers, many of them Unite members, at greater risk. This strategy is built on the back of cuts to the HSE and will lead to fewer inspections, less enforcement, and more deaths, injuries and ill health at work.' He added: 'Unite is fundamentally at odds with the Tory-led government's approach to health and safety. This is just another example of government cuts affecting working people - in this case their health and safety. Unite will fight these cuts and will continue to defend the health and safety of people at work.' Asked to respond to Unite's criticisms, an HSE spokesperson told Hazards magazine: 'While different interest groups will have their own views on the proposed approach, we are confident that the strategy has firm foundations and will make an important contribution to further reducing injuries and ill-health in manufacturing.'


Union uncovers oil rig dangers

Poorly managed oil rigs operating in British waters may have come perilously close to catastrophic explosions, documents obtained by an offshore union suggest. RMT's offshore organiser Jake Molloy said the internal Health and Safety Executive (HSE) documents, obtained by the union in freedom of information (FoI) requests, show the industry is demonstrating 'a blatant disregard for workers' health and safety.' HSE issued improvement notices to rig operators after its inspectors found evidence of corrosion that could have resulted in severe damage in at least three installations. These legally-binding notices require improvements where the watchdog discovers criminal breaches of health and safety law. The most serious incident revealed by the FoI requests happened in October 2010 on the Brae Alpha rig, operated by the oil company Marathon around 100 miles north-east of Aberdeen. The improvement notice reports a gas leak on the installation, which has around 100 staff, was only discovered after a worker smelled gas. A subsequent HSE investigation found extensive pipework corrosion and concluded 'the incident featured an uncontrolled leak of flammable hydrocarbon gas in significant quantity from a pipe near the east side of the platform. The incident had the potential to cause fire and explosion.' It also pointed out no gas detection system was operating in the area of escape. RMT's Jake Molloy commented: 'We find it astonishing that this significant gas leak was only discovered by a worker actually smelling the gas. Well done to the worker and thank god he wasn't suffering from a cold. But think about it - no gas detection system.' Another serious example of corrosion involved the Balmoral Platform, operated by Premier Oil, 135 miles north- east of Aberdeen. The SNP's Westminster energy spokesperson, Mike Weir, told the Scotsman newspaper the information in the HSE inspection reports strengthened the argument that the Scottish Parliament should be given extra powers to enforce safety measures in the offshore industry.

Council scrimping cost carer her job

A carer was forced to take early retirement because of a severely damaged back suffered after her employer refused to invest in new equipment. The 62-year-old GMB member from Hastings has been left in constant agony after she strained her back attempting to lift a 17-stone patient. The former East Sussex County Council employee, whose name has not been released, was caring for the man in his home when the incident happened. She was using a hoist to lift him from his bed in April 2007 when she felt sudden and severe pain in her back. Earlier that month she had suffered a similar injury. She had asked previously that a gantry hoist be installed but her concerns were ignored. Her back is so badly damaged she has been unable to return to work and has been medically retired. She had worked as a home carer for 19 years and had been a council employee for 26 years. Faced with a GMB backed compensation claim, East Sussex County Council agreed liability and settled the claim out of court for £31,500 with a reduction for contributory negligence. The carer said: 'I had worked for the council for a long time and enjoyed my work as a carer. Now that's gone, I have had to give up work and my back pain effects every aspect of my life.' She added: 'Had the council listened to my requests for a gantry hoist this never would have happened.' Richard Ascough, regional secretary at the GMB, said: 'This council has lost an experienced and loyal member of staff because they refused to trust her judgment from years of experience that the equipment they had provided wasn't suitable for the job.'

Call for end to 'reckless' Tube safety override

Tube union RMT is demanded an end to the 'reckless' policy of expecting drivers to override a door failsafe system. The call came after a 'potentially fatal' incident in which a passenger jumped from a moving train and another was caught in its open doors. The incident, at London's Oxford Circus station, happened after the 'sensitive edge' door-safety system - which immobilises a train if anything is caught in its doors - was over-ridden on a Victoria Line train during the evening peak on 11 July. RMT has told London Underground Ltd (LUL) that it is in dispute with the company after it refused to suspend the practice, despite warnings that LUL was putting a desire to minimise delays ahead of passenger safety. RMT general secretary Bob Crow said: 'This incident shows what happens when management puts pressure on people to override a device designed to keep passengers safe. It is our members who have to deal with the consequences, and we have tried to get LUL to see sense, but if they continue to put cash ahead of passenger safety we will have no choice but to ballot for whatever action is necessary to put a stop to this reckless policy.'

Other news

Judge backs worker against 'blacklisting' Carillion

Former site worker Dave Smith has won the latest stage of his legal battle against construction multinational Carillion. The case could set an important precedent as Mr Smith does not accuse the company of victimising him directly, but of enabling his victimisation by providing critical information to a covert blacklisting organisation. Mr Smith told a Central London Employment Tribunal this week he was victimised by the construction giant after becoming a trade union safety rep during the 1990s. Papers submitted to the employment tribunal present evidence that senior managers from Carillion supplied information about Mr Smith to a secret blacklist run by The Consulting Association on behalf of 44 major firms in the UK building industry. The information on his blacklist file, which included over 3,000 workers, was then shared illegally amongst the subscribing firms and used to prevent union activists gaining work on major construction projects. Carillion argued that the blacklisting claim should be struck out by the court because it was out of time as the events happened in 1998-2000 and that it had 'no reasonable prospect of success.' But on 31 August, Employment Judge Pearl found in favour of Mr Smith on both legal issues, with Carillion withdrawing most of their case as the hearing progressed. Dave Smith is not arguing unfair dismissal but 'detriment' as a result of the company placing information on his trade union and safety activities onto a blacklist file. Being on the blacklist caused him prolonged periods of unemployment before he was finally forced to leave the industry and retrain as a further education teacher. Commenting after the hearing, Mr Smith said: 'Senior managers from the Carillion Group participated in secret and systematic abuse of human rights for decades. But to date, we have not heard a single word of apology.' The judge's findings means that a Full Merits Employment Tribunal is now set for January 2012.

Politicians not safety prompted the riots

The prime minister's attempt to link health and safety and human rights to the August riots have been dealt a blow - with politicians themselves put in the frame instead. Researchers at Essex University and Royal Holloway University of London found instead a major cause of the riots was the bad example set by politicians and bankers. In a 15 August speech, David Cameron twice targeted health and safety as a root cause of the riots (Risks 519). But the academic report, 'There will be burning and a-looting tonight,' concluded politicians are seen as 'a class apart' who abide by their own rules. The authors say political factors behind the riots could include 'middle class looting' by bankers in the financial crisis as well as the MPs' expenses scandal. They may have 'made it more acceptable for everyone else to 'take' what they wanted, when they wanted it.' The report concludes: 'People's disposition towards state institutions weigh more heavily in shaping their propensity to obey the law than their belief systems and personal values.' Sarah Birch, a reader in politics at Essex University, who carried out the research with Nicholas Allen, a senior politics lecturer at Royal Holloway University of London, said: 'Though it would be an over-simplification to say that lack of confidence in the political system caused the riots, the evidence we've examined suggests that there is something about the functioning of the political system and the behaviour of politicians that makes a significant minority of people potentially available for participation in acts of mass illegality.' Mr Cameron, who regards the riots as a symbol of Britain's 'broken society', this week began chairing a cabinet review of the government's social policies to see what changes were needed as a result of the riots. It will include state benefits, schools, parenting, family policy and will consider whether health and safety and human rights laws prevent 'common sense solution' to social problems.

Stress and workload linked to suicide death

A council lawyer hanged himself because he was 'unable to cope' with his increasing workload and implementing a contentious cuts programme, an inquest has heard. David White, who had worked for the authority for more than 20 years, was found dead in Butley Woods, near Woodbridge, Suffolk, on 4 April. The hearing was told Mr White, 51, was working long hours and was under intense pressure as cuts were made. Father-of-two Mr White, 51, was head of legal services at the council. His death and a subsequent whistleblower complaint sparked an independent investigation into the alleged "domineering" management style of then council chief executive Andrea Hill. She has since been cleared of any blame but left the council by mutual consent. A suicide note addressed to the chief executive also absolved her, but Mr White added he was 'unable to cope with the demands being placed upon me.' Eric Whitfield, who was assistant director of scrutiny and monitoring at the council but left shortly before Mr White's death, said Mr White had raised concerns with him about the propriety of some decisions. Ms Hill's now abandoned strategy to outsource council services were modelled on David Cameron's 'Big Society' reforms. Commenting on Mr White's death, Sue Morgan, the council's scrutiny officer, said: 'He was clearly concerned about what he was being asked to do by the chief executive. He was devoted to his work and I can begin to understand that his ethical beliefs and absolute desire to maintain the integrity of the council were being compromised by what he was being instructed to do.' Peter Dean, Greater Suffolk coroner, recorded a verdict of suicide, saying it was clear Mr White understood the consequences of his actions. Recent research has linked suicides to work, with the numbers increasing during the economic downturn (Risks 514). 'Crying shame', a 2008 report from Hazards magazine, warned that work factors could account for up to 250 suicide deaths in the UK each year.

England abandons doctors' hours checks

The NHS in England has abandoned its monitoring of doctors' working hours in response to a government demand to reduce 'red tape'. A report this week in BMJ Careers reveals the 'ministerial return' hospital trusts previously submitted on compliance with the 48 hours a week working hours ceiling stipulated in the European Working Time Directive was cancelled in August 2010 'to reduce bureaucracy.' As a consequence on the health secretary's action, the Department of Health in England was unable to provide information on the proportion of rotas that comply with the directive. This contrasts with health departments in Wales, where all junior doctor rotas comply; Scotland, where compliance is 99 per cent; and Northern Ireland, where compliance is currently 78 per cent. 'It's certainly surprising that there isn't regional oversight,' said Shree Datta, who co-chairs the BMA's Junior Doctors Committee. 'I think we're talking about patient safety as well as doctor safety, so it would be really useful to see the ministerial returns back in place.' A spokesperson for the Department of Health in England said: 'As part of the government's commitment to reduce bureaucracy in the NHS, the secretary of state has stopped the central collection of new deal compliance data which was used as a proxy to demonstrate compliance with the working time directive. Local organisations are still required to ensure compliance with the working time directive and to monitor that compliance.' However, BMJ Careers found none of the 10 strategic health authorities in England collects compliance data from trusts, with many responding this information was available only at a trust level.

Bread firm fined £1 after fall death

A London bread wholesaler has been fined £1 after a worker died of injuries sustained when he fell from a stepladder. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuted Ovenpride Wholesale Ltd and site manager Amjad Mahmood for failing to provide a safe system of work which, led to the death of handyman Rocco Carofalo. City of London Magistrates' Court heard on the morning of 22 April 2009 Mr Carofalo, who was employed as a casual handyman, was instructed by Mr Mahmood to build shelving in the storeroom. At around midday Mr Carofalo he was found lying on the floor bleeding from a severe head wound, with a stepladder beside him. He died as a result of his injuries on 23 June. Two HSE inspectors visited the scene after the incident and issued a prohibition notice stopping any work at height. A stepladder deemed to be in very poor condition, was taken from the bakery by HSE inspectors. After the hearing, HSE's inspector Charles Linfoot said: 'The consequences of this tragic incident will be felt by Mr Carofalo's family for ever but it was so easily preventable. As the risk of a fall was foreseeable, Ovenpride and its manager should have carried out a full site-specific risk assessment and planned and organised the work to be carried out in a safe manner.' Ovenpride Wholesale Ltd, which claims to be in financial difficulties, pleaded guilty to a criminal safety breach and was fined £1. Amjad Mahmood, 57, also pleaded guilty and was fined £300 plus costs of £200. In mitigation, the company said Mr Mahmood told staff that the ladder was not safe for use and that any work at height should be done by using a pump truck, which was on site. Mahmood told the court that the company had not given him proper support, or training. He entered an early guilty plea and expressed regret for his part in the incident.

Recycling firm fined after vehicle injury

A County Durham waste and recycling company has been prosecuted after a worker was seriously injured when a vehicle reversed into him. Darren Decosemo was working in a sorting shed at First Skips Ltd in Shotton Colliery when the incident occurred on 8 October 2009. The 25-year-old, who is the son of company director Michael Decosemo, was sorting recyclable material by hand from the area where dry waste was deposited. As a telescopic materials handler reversed into the area, the vehicle struck Darren Decosemo and knocked him to the ground. He suffered a broken shoulder, two fractured toe bones and a cracked rib. He was off work for several months but has since made a full recovery, however he no longer works for the firm. Victoria Wise, prosecuting on behalf of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), told Peterlee Magistrates' Court the company had failed to ensure that a safe system of work was in place for the hand sorting of recyclables near moving vehicles, despite the fact that this activity made up a substantial part of the company's daily activities. First Skips Ltd was fined £3,350 and ordered to pay £3,528.70 in costs after pleading guilty to a criminal safety breach. The court was told the firm, which has 12 staff, will have to lay off a worker and could struggle to win big contracts. Speaking after the case, HSE inspector Victoria Wise commented: 'The injured worker was lucky not to be killed as a result of this incident, which could have easily been avoided had the company implemented a safe system of work that segregated moving vehicles from pedestrians.' Richard Voke, the firm's lawyer, said its bosses had suffered emotional difficulties as a result of the accident and endured an 'ongoing punishment' since.

Demolition worker dies dismantling plant

A Glasgow demolition contractor has been fined after a worker was killed when a weight from an excavator fell on him. Bernard McCarroll, 68, was dismantling a hydraulic excavator at the yard of Whiteinch Demolition Limited in Glasgow. Whilst Mr Carroll was flame cutting the bolts that held a weight to the frame of the seven tonne machine, part of it fell causing fatal injuries. A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found the dismantling operation had not been properly risk assessed or planned by the company. Glasgow Sheriff Court was told that a safe system of work had not been provided to those carrying out job. It was also found that insufficient information and instruction had been made available by the company on the assembly of this large machine. After the hearing, HSE inspector Russell Berry said: 'The dismantling operation had not been planned sufficiently and it was left to Mr McCarroll to decide how to carry out the task as it progressed. In failing to carry out a risk assessment for this job and failing to plan a safe method of carrying out the work, Whiteinch Demolition Ltd failed to protect Bernard McCarroll and it cost him his life.' He added: 'This incident was entirely foreseeable and could have easily been avoided. If straightforward steps had been taken then Mr McCarroll would undoubtedly be alive today.' Whiteinch Demolition Ltd pleaded guilty to a criminal safety breach and was fined £15,000.

Roof fall results in suspended jail term

A self-employed roofing contractor has been given a suspended prison sentence after a friend fell through the roof of a domestic garage and later died of his injuries. Steve Mason had been contracted to replace a flat roof on a double garage at a house in Essex, and James Waughman was accompanying him. While on site Mr Waughman, 58, suffered a stroke and fell through a gap in the rafters on to the garage floor, suffering multiple injuries. He died in hospital on 17 July 2009, just over three weeks after the incident on 24 June. Steve Mason, also 58, received an eight month prison sentence, suspended for 12 months, and was ordered to pay £500 costs at Chelmsford Crown Court after admitting a criminal breach of safety law. After the hearing, HSE inspector Lesley Balkham said: 'This sends out a powerful message to roofing contractors. Steve Mason failed to properly consider the risks of the job and act to limit the chances of injury or even death. He should have put guard-rails around the edge of the roof and taken measures to prevent anyone falling through it, but he chose not to.' She added: 'No matter what size the business, everyone in the construction industry should be very familiar with the risks of working at height and appreciate the importance of ensuring that the right precautions are put in place, however small the job.' The case highlights a repeat complaint of safety campaigners, who say small fry can find themselves facing jail terms for safety offences while those running major multinational firms have never faced jail time or the prospect of it.

Two firms fined over 'appalling' building site

Two construction companies have been fined for overseeing 'appalling' standards at a London building site. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuted principal contractor Kubik Homes Ltd and subcontractor Bellway Developments Ltd after visiting the site in Wimbledon on several occasions. Kubik Homes Ltd had already been served with four legally binding stop work 'prohibition notices', one of which was breached while HSE inspectors were on site. City of London Magistrates' Court heard there had been no safe access to the first floor. Instead, there was a makeshift 'staircase' formed from a bag of sand and piles of blocks, leading to the roof of a hut. The first floor was accessed from the hut roof via wooden planks, spanning the gap between them. There was no edge protection to prevent falls. Other offences included poor storage, unguarded excavations, poor welfare facilities and a 'filthy' toilet. HSE served three Prohibition Notices to Kubik Homes ordering all work on site to cease until health and safety standards had been improved. While inspectors were on site, two men were seen walking on the first floor in breach of one of the prohibition notices. HSE inspector Loraine Charles commented: 'Although there was no incident, the potential danger to the workers was very high. Conditions on this site were simply appalling.' Both firms pleaded guilty to criminal safety offences. Kubik Homes Ltd was fined £8,000 and £2,426.50 costs. Bellway Developments Ltd was fined £8,000 and £2,384.50 costs.

Worker hurt by 600kg bag of fertiliser

A fertiliser company has been fined after a worker was seriously injured when a 600kg bag of ammonium nitrate fell on him. Robert Dearlove, 32, was part of a team clearing up a spillage after several bags of ammonium nitrate fell from a stack at a Fertiliser Solutions Ltd warehouse in Middlesbrough. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), prosecuting, told Teesside Magistrates' Court one operative was sweeping up the spilled ammonium nitrate, while Mr Dearlove hooked the fallen bags onto the arms of a forklift truck. As he worked, a further bag fell from a stack and struck him on the back, forcing him over and causing him to strike his head on the floor. He suffered a serious back injury, a fractured right thigh and ligament damage to his left leg. He was in hospital for three weeks following the incident, had to wear a back brace for five months and later underwent surgery on his back. He has not been able to return to work since the 29 April 2008 incident due to back pain and restricted movement. Fertiliser Solutions Ltd was fined a total of £10,500 and £12,411.45 costs after pleading guilty to two criminal safety offences. After the case, HSE inspector Catherine Rimmer said: 'Three years after an incident that could have easily been avoided, Robert Dearlove is still suffering as a result of his injuries .Although the company had a risk assessment for the bag store, which had identified bags falling from the stacks as a hazard, the control measures were simply too generic and made no reference to any safe working procedures.' At the time of the incident Fertiliser Solutions Ltd was part of the J&H Bunn Group which was taken over by Koch Fertiliser Ltd in March 2011.

International News

Australia: Firefighters inflamed by drug tests plan

Firefighters in Australia are threatening industrial action over plans to introduce random drug testing in brigades across New South Wales. A new draft drug and alcohol policy developed by Fire and Rescue NSW would require the state's 7,000 full-time and part-time firefighters to give urine samples for alcohol and drug detection. 'Measures adopted under this policy to gauge whether the standards are being met will include provision for random, targeted and post-incident [or] serious-injury drug and alcohol testing of all employees' the new draft policy states. But the Fire Brigade Employees' Union said random testing is unwarranted and invasive. There had been only one known incident involving illegal drugs or alcohol in the brigade over the past few years and there were extenuating circumstances in that case, the union secretary, Jim Casey, said. 'The case for this cannot be made,' he said. 'We have had no examples of drugs or alcohol on station in the last five years.' He added that the existing drug and alcohol policy worked effectively. 'We run into burning buildings every day, that's what we do for a living,' Mr Casey said. 'Sobriety, being on top of your game, is part of your trade and the proof of the pudding is in the eating of this. There's been no recorded incidents over the last five years of drug and alcohol abuse on the job.'

China: Disney faces oppressive sweatshop claims

Disney's best-selling Cars toys are being made in a factory in China that uses child labour and forces staff to do three times the amount of overtime allowed by law, according to an investigation. UK paper The Guardian reveals one worker is believed to have killed herself after being repeatedly shouted at by bosses. Others cited worries over poisonous chemicals. Disney has now launched its own investigation. It is claimed some of the 6,000 employees have to work an extra 120 hours every month to meet demand from western shops for the latest toys. An investigation of practices at Shenzhen-based Sturdy Products, which supplies firms including Walmart and toy firms Mattel and Fisher Price, found concerns over the use of poisonous chemicals, child labour and excessive working hours. Human rights group Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour (SACOM) said workers had to hide pots of adhesive and thinners during audits of the factory by its client companies. The group also claimed workers were paid by the factory to give misleading answers during audits and that they were fined for failing to hit targets. Concerns were raised about conditions at Sturdy Products when a 45-year-old female employee, Hu Nianzhen, jumped to her death from a factory building in May after she was allegedly shouted at by managers. A SACOM spokesperson commented: 'Mattel, Walmart and Disney, the renowned toy companies, always claim they strictly comply with local laws and adhere to their respective codes of conduct. The rampant violations at Sturdy Products, including excessive overtime, arbitrary wages, unfair punitive fines, child labour and negligence of occupational health, prove that the pledges are empty statements. There is no effective enforcement mechanism and remedies for workers at all.'

USA: 'Stop work' card works at ArcelorMittal

The use of a 'stop work' card at a US steel plant with a terrible safety record has enabled a dramatic improvement in conditions. The LaPlace steel plant in New Orleans was built in 1979 and was bought by global steel giant ArcelorMittal in 2008. It has two electric Arc furnaces and produces 580,000 tons of steel with 423 employees and 131 sub-contractors. The USW's local union president Kinley Porter, who is also the union's safety coordinator, told a delegation of international union officers that prior to being taken over by ArcelorMittal there hadn't been a day let alone a couple of months without an accident at the plant. However, a stop work card issued to all employees became an effective tool to get safety problems dealt with. One worker who had previously had repeated complaints to a supervisor ignored, found stopping production quickly led to improvements. Tony Murphy of the European Metalworkers' Federation, who was part of the delegation, commented: 'I'm pleased to see that this worker felt empowered to use his card as a result of our visit. I hope that more workers follow his example and do the right thing.' The international delegation identified other areas where improvements were needed, including training of union and management representatives on corporate standards, joint safety audits, and standardisation of personal protective equipment.

USA: Surprises in the deadliest jobs list

Ten occupations in the US have a death risk at least five times the average for all jobs. Fishing tops the deadliest jobs list, with a fatality rate higher than 1 in 1,000. The death rate of 116 per 100,000 workers compares to an overall figure of 3.5 fatalities per 100,000 workers. Logging comes second on the list, followed by aircraft pilots and flight engineers, farmers and mine machine operatives. But these jobs did not account for the greatest number of deaths. Employment trends mean some of the top slots for overall numbers of fatalities go to jobs traditionally considered 'safe'. While construction killed most workers in the US in 2010, accounting for over 17 per cent of all fatalities, second on the list was transportation and warehousing at 14.4 per cent. At fourth, below agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting, came 'professional and business services', at 8.2 per cent. This was followed by manufacturing at 7.1 per cent, then retail trade and public administration, both at 6.6 per cent, leisure and hospitality at 5.4 per cent and education and health services at 5.1 per cent. Overall, around half of all workplace fatalities in the US in 2010 were in jobs not traditionally considered to be high risk. The findings are food for thought for regulators, who both sides of the Atlantic are concentrating pinched resources on 'high risk' sectors. The US breakdown suggests this may improve practices in the riskiest industries, without addressing problems in the sectors contributing most deaths overall.

Events and Courses

TUC courses for safety reps

COURSES FOR SEPTEMBER 2011 TO DECEMBER 2011

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
Printer-friendly versionSend by email

Share this Page