Risks is the TUC's weekly online bulletin for safety reps and others, read each week by over 13,000 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 statement .SPECIAL FEATURE: Young workers at Risk
Surgeons had to amputate a teenager's arm in a butcher's shop after it became trapped in a mincer. Sam Ashworth, 15, was stuck in the machine for two hours at the business in Oldham, Greater Manchester, where he had a Saturday job. Surgeons from the Royal Oldham Hospital were called to J&B Fitton Ltd in Shaw, and decided to amputate his right arm. His father, Stephen Ashworth, praised medical staff, and said: 'One of the hospital staff sat with Sam and held him up for two hours before they amputated.' He added: 'The people who run the shop are friends of ours and they are distraught at what has happened.' It is unclear how Sam became trapped, but the Health and Safety Executive said there were no age restrictions on operating machinery. However, the law does require risk assessments to take specific account of the physical and mental capability of workers under 18 to perform a work task. A TUC-backed report published last month in Hazards magazine reported nearly 4,500 workers aged 16 to 24 were seriously injured or killed at work last year, over 20 per cent more than five years ago (Risks 269). It identified a lack of training and supervision as the major responsible factor. Next month's European Health and Safety Week has a 'Safe Start' theme on the protection of young workers.
Evidence that dangerous machines and teenage workers do not mix have been demonstrated in three separate safety prosecutions this month. In February 2003, Timothy Whitton, aged 19 and his brother Stephen Whitton, aged 18, climbed on forklift at London firm Premier Storage. The brothers, who were employed at a neighbouring firm, suffered serious injuries when the forklift, driver by Premier employee Lee Smith, overturned. Timothy Whitton suffered a broken back, a broken right femur and dislocations to several of his toes, three of which were subsequently amputated. Stephen Whitton suffered a broken neck and smashed vertebrae. Lee Smith was fined £1,000 after a hearing this month at Croydon Crown Court. In a second case, teenage security guard Travers Clarke was fined £260 at Leeds Magistrates' Court after a delivery driver was injured in a March 2005 incident. Mr Clarke, then aged 19, agreed to use a forklift to unload from a lorry a consignment of cardboard used to make printed packaging. A pallet fell from the forks onto the 63-year-old delivery driver, fracturing his pelvis, foot and ribs, and causing spinal injuries. Mr Clarke had received no training and had been instructed by both the company whose site he was guarding and his employer, White Knight Security, not to use any work equipment on site. HSE Inspector Kathryn Wells, who carried out the investigation said: 'This case demonstrates all too clearly what can happen when an inexperienced and untrained driver gets behind the wheel of a forklift truck.' Teenager Anthony Gary Halpin was both the forklift driver and the victim of a related accident. David James Prosser, Director of DJP Poultry Handling Services Ltd, was fined £2,000 and told to pay costs of £1,555 at Ludlow Magistrates' Court following an incident in which the 17-year-old suffered fractures to his arm, wrist and hand when they became trapped in the forklift. Speaking after the case HSE investigating inspector Janice Dale said: 'The forklift truck was being operated by an untrained, unsupervised, 17-year-old driver. He had been employed by the company as a poultry handler and it was part of his job to drive forklift trucks although he had not attended any formal, approved training course. If he had, this incident could have been avoided.'
A firm in has been fined £20,000 after a young employee was crushed to death. Barkston Plastics Forming, of Westhoughton, near Bolton, appeared last week before magistrates in Trafford following the death of Philip Ashcroft. It admitted failing to ensure the safety of an employee. In addition to its fine, the firm was also ordered to pay £5,100 costs. Father-of-one Mr Ashcroft, who had just celebrated his 22nd birthday, had been working inside a vacuum press machine on 4 September 2002, when it started up, trapping him inside. His best friend, Lee Edwards, battled for more than 20 minutes to free him and colleagues used a forklift truck to prize open the two metal plates that trapped his upper body. The Health and Safety Executive told magistrates the company had a written safe system of work for the operation carried out by Mr Ashcroft. But HSE said this system was routinely not followed and that the machine was entered without being correctly isolated from a power source. HSE added the system of work itself was not suitable for the task and did not follow published HSE guidelines. The company had also failed to provide suitable training for managers and employees, and an effective supervisory and monitoring system was not implemented, Trafford magistrates were told. HSE inspector Iain Evans said had written procedures been followed this 'would have gone some way to reduce the risk of injury. However it was still not sufficient to comply with HSE guidelines in that there would still have been power to the rest of the machine and potentially stored compressed air.' He added: 'The lack of risk perception through the organisation is a symptom of the lack of training delivered to both employees and managers who were working in this area.'
Plans to increase holiday leave for around two million full time employees next year will bring huge benefits to workers and employers alike, the TUC has said. Its submission to the government's consultation on increasing the UK's statutory minimum annual leave says increasing the minimum amount of annual leave to 28 days for full-timers is a completely affordable move and the government should ignore employer claims that the proposed changes will prove too expensive. TUC says at the moment, mean employers can force staff to take the UK's eight bank holidays from their annual leave entitlement, leaving some staff with as little as 12 days holiday. From next October, this legal loophole will be closed. Using official figures, the TUC has calculated that some two million individuals will be holiday winners, with staff employed in shops, warehouses, health, cleaning, and bars, hotels and restaurants most likely to benefit. It points out that when the working times rules came into force in 1999 - a European health and safety measure giving all full time employees a minimum of four weeks holiday a year - around six million people saw their annual leave entitlement increase, and there was no negative impact on the economy. The TUC expects a similar outcome when these new regulations are introduced in October 2007. TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: 'Increasing the minimum amount of holiday leave is another step down the road to a better work-life balance and that is good news for workers and for their bosses. Everyone needs a decent time off work if they are to avoid feeling overworked and stressed. The increase in annual leave will give employees time to recharge their batteries and return to work refreshed.'
Trade unions are to make a last-ditch attempt to persuade ministers to strengthen corporate killing laws so that negligent employers can be jailed. A 20 September Financial Times article says the Transport and General Workers Union (TGWU) has tabled a motion for next week's Labour party conference demanding changes to the corporate manslaughter bill going through parliament. The government says the bill, published in July, will make it easier to prosecute companies for fatal accidents (Risks 266). Companies found guilty would face unlimited fines but individual directors could not be jailed or be subject to personal fines (Risks 267). The article says the TGWU motion, which says directors should be prosecuted if they have been a 'secondary party to a gross management failure causing death', is likely to be backed by the other big unions affiliated to Labour but opposed by the party leadership, It calls for a maximum prison term of 14 years, making the offence analogous to causing death by dangerous driving.
Unions have backed a call for company directors to face the prospect of jail terms if they are implicated in workplace deaths. An Amicus resolution passed at last week's TUC Congress in Brighton expresses concern the Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Bill introduced to parliament in July has no provisions to deal with guilty employers. It 'calls upon the TUC actively to campaign within the parliamentary timetable at the various stages of this Bill for the specific inclusion of secondary liability for corporate manslaughter against individual directors and senior managers.' The resolution adds: 'The penalties for such an offence should include imprisonment.' Amicus assistant general secretary Tony Burke, who proposed the measure, said: 'We want to see individual directors held personally liable through prison sentences for failures that result in the death or maiming of their workers.' The union leader said a company fine of £200 last week for offences related to the death at work of Amicus member Dean Thomas (Risks 274) highlighted a gaping hole in health and safety law. The judge presiding over the case indicated that the penalty would have been £250,000 if the company had not been in administration. Tony Burke said the fact the company had gone bust meant there was little financial comeback on senior management, suggesting that jail was the only sentence that would have an impact. But jailing directors will not be an option even under the law currently going through parliament, he said. 'We want more imagination in sentencing,' Mr Burke added. 'What about corporate probation? What about stringent health and safety orders against directors and senior managers? What about putting guilty managers in prison?'
Trade unions have called for action to prevent widespread job cuts in the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and have expressed concern at the shift from enforcement towards a more advisory HSE role. An emergency resolution from HSE unions Prospect and PCS passed by unions at last week's TUC Congress expressed 'deep concern' at HSE's announcement that a funding shortfall means up to 350 jobs are to go by 2008 (Risks 270). The resolution, which noted additional funding cuts were already planned, said: 'Such a reduction in HSE funding and staff would, if enacted, inevitably have an adverse impact on the HSE's effectiveness and ability to enforce health and safety standards at work.' It added that workers in high risk industries like construction and agriculture and young and migrant workers could be left more vulnerable as a result. The resolution requires TUC's general council 'to seek government intervention to ensure that the HSE has the resources to prevent job cuts and avoid reversing the gradual improvement in the health and safety record of Great Britain; and to give full support to any campaign against the cuts by the HSE trade unions for the Health and Safety Executive to be properly funded and resourced.' A separate motion calls on the TUC general council 'to do all in its power to secure better enforcement of health and safety legislation by the HSE', warning: 'The trend for the HSE to become less of an enforcement agency and more of an advisory body is symptomatic of a deregulatory approach.'
Offshore union Amicus is to call on the UK safety authorities to explain their safety performance in the sector and to ensure a great role for union safety reps. Amicus says members have expressed 'dissatisfaction and concerns with the approach adopted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) offshore division following a complaint lodged by Amicus in March 2003, and in the run up to the two fatalities on Shell's Brent Bravo platform in September 2003' (Risks 267). Amicus national officer Alan Harvey said: 'It would be a disservice to the Amicus members and the offshore workforce in general if we allowed their concerns to be ignored by the authorities.' Amicus regional officer Graham Tran said as well as a review of HSE's role prior to the 2003 deaths is was equally important 'we bring about an immediate change in attitudes from the HSE in terms of policing the safety regime offshore.' He added that Amicus would be writing the to the Chief Executive of HSE, Geoffrey Podger, and to the Health and Safety Commission (HSC), the tripartite organisation overseeing HSE's policy direction, setting out the 'immediate changes necessary to ensure a safer working environment for the offshore workforce. Part of this will include a network of properly accredited trade union safety reps.' He said: 'The time is right to make full use of this very well established system and extend it to the offshore arena. This would give trade union accredited safety reps proper powers to make the offshore sector a safer place for all concerned.'
Britain's pilots have written to transport minister Douglas Alexander urging him to make major changes in airline security practices. 'These changes are desperately needed to allow pilots to more easily undertake their critical safety role,' said Jim McAuslan, general secretary of the pilots' union BALPA. 'If this is not done I can see UK aviation grinding to a halt.' The union wants recommendations from pilots to be taken much more seriously. In the letter to Douglas Alexander, BALPA chair Mervyn Granshaw commented 'as a group of professionals, we find ourselves being seen as part of the problem and not part of the cure.' The letter expresses frustration that problems at national level are worsened by different interpretations of security measures by local airport security staff. 'So the daily routine of a professional pilot becomes frustrating and we are distracted away from our primary safety role as we navigate a regime that frankly gives security a bad name,' the letter says, adding: 'Right now BALPA wants to agree a list of items that pilots can carry onto their aircraft which they need to do their job and which are being removed from them as they pass through security. Flying licences, log books, laptops and even contact lens cleaner have been taken from them and in some instances lost.' The union is calling for measures including a biometric security pass system for pilots, meetings with airport operators to iron out problems and a review of the recruitment and training of security staff, giving them 'decent conditions and more power to exercise discretion.'
The health service is too stretched to deal with the one million plus workers with a musculoskeletal disorder (MSD) caused or made worse by work, physios' union CSP has warned. CSP says government must provide the necessary resources while employers need to develop solutions to tackle work-related injury. CSP's analysis of Health and Safety Executive (HSE) figures shows 1,012,000 people in Great Britain suffer from a strain injury caused or made worse by their work. Alex Mackenzie, chair of the CSP's industrial relations committee said: 'The CSP is concerned that many people with bone, joint and muscle problems are facing delays in accessing treatment because government pressure on NHS Trusts to balance the books is leading to longer waiting lists and panic cuts in services and staff. This is a real worry. Evidence shows that early access to physiotherapy and other rehabilitation services can help nip problems like back and neck pain in the bud before they really take hold. But left untreated, these conditions can become chronic, debilitating and very expensive.' Ms Mackenzie added: 'If the government is serious about improving the health of the workforce, reducing its incapacity benefit bill and saving the health service money in the long-term, it must invest in NHS staff who can help people to both prevent and manage musculoskeletal problems rather than cut back for short-term gains.'
New figures reveal assaults on Scotland's health and local government staff over the last three years show no evidence of decline, according to UNISON Scotland. The union obtained figures from Scotland's local authorities and health boards that show that the level of violent attacks on Scotland's public servants has remained more or less constant over the last three years, with around 20,000 attacks reported in 2003, 22,500 in 2004 and 21,500 last year. UNISON organiser Dave Watson said: 'These figures show that until we can get employers to take the threat of violence to their staff seriously, all the positive advertising campaigns in the world cannot have the impact they should.' He added that available data were 'inconsistent'. The union used Freedom of Information requests to obtain these local authority and health board data. UNISON is calling for five measures to address the ongoing violence problem. It wants awareness campaigns to be maintained, measures to ensure policies are introduced and implemented, effective monitoring of violence, preservation of the under-threat Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme for workplace victims and the strengthening of criminal law to deal better with perpetrators. The union also wants Scotland's Emergency Workers Act extended to protect more workers.
A director of a painting and decorating company has been fined £16,000 with £12,153.10 costs over the death of an employee who fell through a roof light. Michael McCarthy of MJM Ltd, admitted breaches of health and safety rules before Milton Keynes magistrates court. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigated the death of Lucian Vuta who fell from a warehouse roof on 14 October 2004 at Olney, Buckinghamshire. He had been working on an asbestos cement roof painting external cladding, but stood on a fragile roof light which fractured causing him to fall 25ft (8m) to the concrete floor below. The court heard that suitable and sufficient measures had not been taken to prevent the fall or to minimise injury by using coverings and safety netting. Mr McCarthy admitted three safety offences. HSE investigating inspector Trevor Tollervey said: 'Falling from a height continues to be the most common type of workplace injury accounting for 22 per cent of all fatal injuries to workers in 2005/06 and falls through fragile roofs and roof lights have long been the biggest single cause of deaths due to falls from height.' He added: 'This tragic death should be taken as a wake up call to all involved in building repair and maintenance work. I therefore urge all contractors and building owners to check that adequate precautions are being taken to prevent falls through fragile roofs and roof lights.'
Fundamental changes to the way BP works in the North Sea could be implemented as part of a worldwide safety initiative following a devastating refinery blast in the US, the energy giant has confirmed. The group says it is carrying out a root-and-branch global safety review in the wake of last year's explosion in Texas City in which 15 people died and 170 were injured. Last month the Texas State Court ordered that Lord John Browne, the London-based head of BP's global operations, and BP's refining chief John Manzon to make depositions in a court case related to the blast (Risks 272). BP's latest move, which came after pressure from investors, includes a pledge to look at every aspect of its safety regime and to take advice from operations staff. Amicus regional officer Graham Tran said the move was good news but he was cautious about any offshore improvements that may flow from it. 'A lot of oil companies in the North Sea, BP included, have been lacking when it comes to spending money on maintenance of platforms, which is key to safety and the wellbeing of the workforce,' he said. 'Installations have been allowed to deteriorate and they are, quite frankly, accidents waiting to happen. These are fine words from BP but I will wait to see them delivering before praising them.' The revamp, headed by John Mogford, BP's vice-president of safety and operations, is likely to take several years, although there is no exact timescale. He has a team of 45 people trying to standardise procedures worldwide after taking advice from operations staff and a group of 45 auditors. The Financial Times reported last week that a number of leading investors, including Morley Fund Management, had requested one-to-one meetings with BP bosses to discuss recent safety problems.
Men who work a rotating shift pattern may be at increased risk of prostate cancer, research suggests. Japanese scientists found that staff working rotating shifts were three times as likely to develop the disease as those working day or night shifts. The University of Occupational and Environmental Health study of more than 14,000 workers also found that night shift workers were at a slightly increased risk of prostate cancer, compared with those who only worked days. The researchers, writing in the American Journal of Epidemiology, speculate the key may be reduced secretion of the hormone melatonin, which the body uses to induce sleep. Henry Scowcroft, of the charity Cancer Research UK, said: 'There have been several previous reports that disturbances to natural body rhythms might be linked to cancer, and this report adds to that evidence.' He added, however: 'There is a long way to go before we can say for sure whether sleep disturbance is linked to prostate cancer.' Cancer Research UK's website says 'most known occupational carcinogens are either banned or well regulated within the UK', a statement which has been criticised by workplace safety campaigners. They say even asbestos only became the subject of a total ban in 1999, and most of the 50 plus known or probable occupational carcinogens are subject to just the basic legal controls afforded to other hazards. A report in Hazards magazine last year warned that Cancer Research UK was under-estimating workplace risks and said evidence suggests occupational cancer could be responsible for between two and four times the official Health and Safety Executive (HSE) estimate of 6,000 deaths a year.
A smoking ban in enclosed public spaces will be introduced in Wales next April, before similar laws in England, first minister Rhodri Morgan has announced. The ban will begin on 2 April, at the same time as Northern Ireland. A smoking ban will start in England on a so far unspecified date next summer. A ban took effect in Scotland in March and has generally been judged a success (Risks 274). The draft Welsh Assembly legislation is currently out to consultation, covering issues such as the definition of 'enclosed,' possible exemptions and how the ban will be enforced. Mr Morgan said: 'If all the legislation goes through assembly procedures as expected Wales will have a ban on smoking in all enclosed public places from 2 April, 2007.' The assembly government will also run a campaign to raise awareness of the risks of second-hand smoke. Health minister Brian Gibbons said the assembly government was introducing the ban as soon as possible to improve the quality of health of people in Wales. He said 'the headline message is that this is a comprehensive ban in all public places throughout Wales, and that would include workplaces, pubs and workingmen's clubs, to use that term.' Chief medical officer for Wales Tony Jewell said the ban would avert more than 400 deaths a year in Wales from lung cancer, chronic heart disease, stroke and respiratory disease. 'By introducing this legislation we can reduce the effects of second-hand smoke and protect the public and workers from the harmful effects,' he said.
A Chinese worker who sold his family home to get to Australia has been left destitute and injured in suburban Melbourne. Fu Zhihong, 49, became the latest victim of the federal government's cheap labour visas, when he was deserted by employer Lakeside Packaging after breaking both wrists. A desperate Fu Zhihong contacted manufacturing union AMWU after the company marked him for deportation. After working in Australia from 13 November 2005, he was still thousands of dollars short of earning the Aus$27,000 (£10,830) he had been charged in Shanghai for one of the Australian federal government's controversial Section 457 visas. On 4 April, Zhihong fell five metres from a ladder and suffered a broken right wrist. Because he had no income and no injury insurance cover, he returned to Lakeside two days later. 'On June 30, when I was using the electric drill to drill a hole in the metal, because I had hardly any use of my right hand, I then broke my left wrist,' he said in a statement. He had a doctor's certificate, declaring him unfit for work until 22 September, but on 2 August the company stopped his pay and on 21 August it fired him and informed him, in writing, he would be deported within 28 days. Under federal immigration law, 457 visa holders are deported if they do not have a sponsoring employer for 28 days. AMWU official Jim Reid said the union is preparing work cover and unlawful dismissal claims for Zhihong and will try to make sure he is allowed to stay long enough to get alternative employment.
Workplace health and safety must be a key component of forthcoming European chemical safety laws, Europe's top union body has said. A European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) conference this week considered how REACH - the contentious and long-debated chemical assessment law which is due to have its second reading in the autumn (Risks 264) - will fit in with European health and safety at work legislation. ETUC says 'under REACH, authorisations can be granted to use substances of very high concern like carcinogens. But the European Carcinogens Directive says employers must replace these substances by safer alternatives. Are we heading for a clash between these two sets of laws?' ETUC says it has consistently backed the European Parliament's approach on how the substitution principle fits into REACH. 'Authorisation for a substance of very high concern must always be refused where a safer alternative is available,' argued ETUC general secretary John Monks in his closing speech. Speaking to officials of the European institutions, John Monks added: 'REACH must not take away from the member states' ability to impose more stringent health and safety at work measures at the national level than those laid down at Community level. That would be an unacceptable step back for Europe's workers.' ETUC said that if properly applied the substitution principle would promote innovation and employment in the European chemical industry, and make it more internationally competitive.
A French union has called a day of action next month in protest at an employers' organisation's failure to negotiate on the issue of hazardous jobs. The glass and ceramics union CGT Verre et Céramique said the decision to declare the 9 October action day - which could include activities ranging from petitions to strikes - follows the withdrawal by French employers' association MEDEF from a legally required 'hazardous jobs' dialogue in the glass and ceramics sector. A 2003 French law calls for negotiations on the recognition of hazardous jobs to be finished by 31 December 2006. The union says talks so far have not yielded results and adds MEDEF has now decided to leave the bargaining table. CGT says MEDEF has indicated it will not participate until after French elections in 2007, a move the union sees as a bid to stall progress completely. The union says several studies have linked hazardous work in the sector to reduced life expectancy. It is calling on its members and sister CGT unions to organise protest activities on 9 October.
When one of the USA's largest construction sites boasted injury rates a fraction that on comparable jobs, it looked too good to be true. And it was. There had been a systematic falsification of injuries and illness numbers by KFM - Kiewit Pacific/FCI Constructors/Manson Construction - a joint venture to rebuild the eastern span of the San Francisco Bay Bridge. Earlier this year, KFM was cited by the state safety authority CalOSHA on the serious charge of 'wilful regulatory violation' for suppressing accident reports (Risks 260). The safety watchdog's casefiles reveal exactly how KFM made injury reports disappear. Measures included cash incentives to workers and supervisors who do not report injuries, reprisals and threats of reprisals against those employees who do report injuries and the selection and use of employer-friendly occupational health clinics. The centrepiece of KFM's strategy to suppress reporting of worker injury and illnesses was its 'Safety Incentive Programmes' designed 'to motivate employee and supervisory safety performance to achieve zero injury results in an environmental that sustains teamwork, open communication, and total involvement.' The system works on hush money. Workers could get bonuses running to hundreds of dollars of month, but only if there were no accidents reported. KFM's 2004 Safety Plan on the 'Recognition and Rewards Programme' stated: 'Employees will forfeit their recognition/reward on a crew-by-crew basis for any OSHA recordable injury or when directly involved in a general liability accident. When an employee suffers a restricted duty or lost-time accident case, the entire job will forfeit the recognition/reward for the current period.'
As part of its better backs campaign, HSE has published two new tools for safety reps, a checklist for workplace manual handling inspections and a practical guide to managing sickness absence and return to work. HSE says the 'documents have been put together in partnership with the TUC to help safety representatives get involved with the campaign.'
US union confederation AFL-CIO says when working families and their homes have been devastated by storms, floods, fires, industrial accidents or terrorist attacks, their union sisters and brothers have pitched in to help those in need and to rebuild communities. It adds that union members around the country responded generously after the Gulf Coast hurricanes last year. Along the way, they learned some valuable lessons about what works and where unions need to prepare more effective responses - and AFL-CIO has written those lessons down. Its free nuts-and-bolts manual gives a solid overview of disaster response plans at all levels of union organisation, from national to local.
COURSES FOR SEPTEMBER TO DECEMBER 2006
Newsletter (5,700 words) issued 22 Sep 2006
This page http://www.tuc.org.uk/workplace/tuc-12447-f0.cfm
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