Risks is the TUC's weekly online bulletin for safety reps and others, read each week by over 16,000 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
Comments to the TUC at firstname.lastname@example.org
The TUC has produced a guide for safety representatives on feet and footwear. Many problems are caused by inadequate footwear. Work in any environment where there is a risk of slipping requires slip-resistant shoes. Where there is the risk of a shoe being crushed or hit by an object, or even caught in machinery, safety footwear must be provided. If there is the possibility of standing on nails or other sharp objects then the employer must provide puncture resistant soles. The new TUC guide 'Working feet and footwear' states that workers should be able to wear the footwear that is appropriate to their occupation, working environment, and feet. That means employers should ensure that the risk assessment they have to do by law includes risks to the feet as well as slipping risks. If safety or special footwear is required they must supply it at no cost to the worker. The TUC also found that while many employers allow employees to wear healthy and safe footwear, a number of big city institutions and upmarket shops insist female staff who deal with the public wear slip-on shoes or high heels as part of a dress code. This can lead to long-term foot problems, especially when combined with prolonged standing. TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: 'When researching case studies for the guide on footwear we were surprised how many times we found that employers' dress codes did not permit the wearing of comfortable sensible footwear by women. Heels may look glamorous on the catwalks and on Hollywood stars, but they're not appropriate for day-to-day work wear. These dress codes - apart from being blatantly sexist - can lead to long-term foot and back problems as women are forced to stand or walk around in high heels or ill-fitting footwear. Feet bear the brunt of the daily working life and instead of worrying about what their staff look like, employers should focus on the effect that the wrong shoes and prolonged standing can have. Employers should look at encouraging their staff to come to work in comfortable shoes and, where possible, provide the option of sitting.'
The British Airways Stewards and Stewardesses Association, part of Unite, have said they might be forced to take strike action after the airline cut back on the amount of water they were willing to supply cabin crew free of charge. The airline has cut free water for stewards and stewardesses working long-haul flights to just half-a-litre after their shift. BA cabin crew will now be forced to pay for any more bottled water from their own pockets via a computerised system on the plane. This is despite BA's own staff safety manual recommending that crew should drink 1.5 litres after a long flight to avoid dehydration. A spokesman for Unite said: "Water is vital for the health of cabin crew to avoid the adverse effects of long-haul flying. We could strike." The Daily Mirror quotes one crew member as saying "Management has deliberately gone out of its way to antagonise crew. Drinking plenty of water is vital for crews' health. It says so in the crew medical manual to avoid kidney stones. It's also part of BA's 'well being in the air' video shown on every flight, and the core advice within medical studies into the adverse effects of long-haul flying." Another stewardess added: "Cabin crew are often dehydrated after a long flight and arrive at many destinations where the local water is deemed undrinkable by the World Health Organisation. But we are now expected to need just one tiny bottle. It is mean-spirited and petty."A spokesman for the airline said: "They can take off a 500ml bottle to drink on their way to the crew hotel or later if they are down route. We believe this is a suitable amount."
Ambulance worker members of Unison in Bristol are considering industrial action because of their safety fears for paramedics working alone after a hotline to their control room was scrapped. They say it has left them without a lifeline to summon help if they can't cope on a callout. The hotline served paramedics who drive estate cars carrying lifesaving equipment that can reach incidents much faster than traditional ambulances. However the car paramedics, known as RRVs, are more at risk as they work on their own. Ambulances are crewed by teams of two. Since the RRV desk was merged with the control centre's main dispatch desk in May, paramedics have reported problems getting through to the control room, in some cases having to dial 999 to speak to the dispatch team. One paramedic told the Bristol Evening Post of an incident in which he had been sent to a patient with a known history of violence and was not alerted until he arrived and was told to wait in his car for police officers. He said: "Everything was OK so the police left me on my own with the patient, but things deteriorated when it took an hour for an ambulance to arrive and I had to withdraw from the scene and used 999 to get through to control." Paramedics have a radio system to contact the control room, but union members said it can take as long as 15 to 20 minutes to get through, and can't be used hands free while driving. Bristol paramedic and Unison branch chairman, Ian Whittern, said the new system means the general control room dispatchers are now having to deal with more crews which means they have even less time to focus on the lone workers. Mr Whittern said: "At least half a dozen staff have reported to me that they have waited a long time to get through and have had to dial 999 once or twice and other people have reported that they have been to incidents where they have not been told a patient had a history of violence and they got to the scene and had to quickly withdraw. Others have reported leaving equipment at scenes because they had to withdraw quickly from violence they were not warned about and paramedics are also being sent out to areas that we deem unsafe. Having started grievance proceedings in May, we have got to the point where Unison is processing forms and ballot papers will probably be issued." GWAS said they were not aware of paramedics making 999 calls to get through to the control room. They declined to reveal how many calls were made each day to the RRV desk.
Parking patrollers and community wardens in Aberdeen are to be balloted on industrial action over safety concerns that stem from plans to merge the two services. Talks between trade unions and council officials over the creation of a new city warden service broke down last week. The Unite union asked for the conciliation service Acas to be brought in to help resolve the dispute over wardens' safety, but the local authority turned down the request. The proposed new city warden service is to comprise community wardens, environmental wardens, dog wardens and parking patrollers, but the unions fear for the safety of staff on late-night shifts. Responsibility for community wardens transferred from Grampian Police to the city council on April 1 as funding from the previous Scottish Executive came to an end. Last month it emerged that only 16 of Aberdeen's 30 community wardens remained in post, many having walked out of the service in advance of the controversial shake-up. Unite regional organiser Tommy Campbell confirmed the union would now ballot for industrial action. He said 'We are disappointed that the council does not want to attempt to resolve the dispute through the Acas conciliation process, however, the ballot will now proceed and we should know the results by mid-September.'
Reported incidents of violence and aggression toward staff at a South Wales hospital rose by a third in the past year. There were 64 such incidents between April 2006 to March 2007 - but this figure rose to 83 by the following year. Abertawe Bro Morgannwg (ABM) University NHS Trust, who run Neath Port Talbot Hospital said: 'We take the issue of violence, both physical and verbal, against our staff very seriously, and will not tolerate incidents that take place while they are carrying out their caring responsibilities. While attending and being admitted to hospital can be a stressful situation for many people, it is no excuse for violence against those who are trying to provide care. While there are various things that may contribute to these incidents taking place, our objective is to stop them happening in the first place. The Trust has appointed a personal safety adviser to provide advice and training to staff to identify the causes of violence, and how to recognise and defuse situations through observation and de-escalation techniques. In addition training is provided for when there is a need to physically break away and escape from a potentially violent situation'. Huw McDyre, the Unison branch secretary for ABM University, said: 'First of all I am concerned, but I think we have a good relationship with the trust in implementing health and safety procedures and there are good avenues for raising such issues. Clearly with these are incidents where people have felt strongly enough to report them, and to be fair we and the trust always encourage people to use incident reporting procedures. That allows us to look for trends and particular areas that need to be addressed.'
A court in Nottingham has fined the manager of a construction company, Real Estate (Midlands) Ltd. just £1,500 after he was prosecuted for four offences following an incident led to an employee at a site in Mansfield suffering severe injuries, including short-term memory loss. Ronald Cordon, aged 63, suffered major injuries when he fell two metres from an unprotected wall on 6 November 2006 while doing bricklaying work on a housing construction site in Mansfield. He fell onto the floor within the house striking his head on some steelwork. Mr Corden was knocked unconscious and suffered cuts to his head with severe bruising and swelling, a fracture to his left thumb, which has resulted in permanent loss of movement, and severely bruised legs. He also suffered from nerve damage to his right temple and now suffers short-term memory loss. The manager, Simon John Ludgate, failed to report the incident to the HSE. At a second construction site the HSE found two employees were at risk of falling from the front edge of a loading bay as there was insufficient protection in place. There was also a risk to members of the public from falling tiles due to the lack of edge protection. Despite pleading guilty to three breaches of the Health and Safety at Work Act, and one of RIDDOR, Ludgate was fined only £1,500 at Nottingham Crown Court. The judge did not even impose any order for costs due to 'Mr Ludgate's financial status'. HSE inspector for Nottinghamshire, Angus Robbins said, "A series of errors resulted in a tragic incident causing permanent damage to a man's health, but given the circumstances this could easily have resulted in a fatality. Throughout the work at the two construction sites there was a complete failure to plan the work, maintain the necessary protection at height or acknowledge the consequence of falls. Falls from heights remain the most common cause of fatal injuries. Latest figures show that 45 people died from a fall from height at work in 2006/07, with 3,750 suffering major injury. More than half of all fatalities from falls occur in construction. Companies involved in building, refurbishment or maintenance should ensure that the work is planned properly and sensible measures taken so.'
A survey of 71 organisations by Employment Review, showed that, the numbers of employers consulting their workforce on health and safety has started to decline. Less than half (44%) now consult on health and safety, compared with 68% in 2006. This is despite it being a legal requirement. Five of the organisations said they do not consult on any topics at all, including pay, changes to employment levels and health and safety, while 12 consult on just one or two subjects. 30% of the HR professionals responding to the survey believe their organisations' arrangements for staff consultation do not work well, with the same number reporting that consultation only occurs in crisis situations such as redundancies or organisational restructures. Commenting on the report TUC Head of Health and Safety Hugh Robertson said 'These were not small micro-employers with one or two employees they were all organisations with a professional HR function, yet even over half of them were failing to consult. This shows the need for strong action to ensure that employers, regardless of size, involve their workforce in discussions on health and safety issues. Consultation is not an ad-on. All the evidence is that it is an extremely effective way of changing the safety culture within an organisation and reducing injuries and ill-health.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has raised concern over the continuing number of major and significant hydrocarbon releases in the offshore industry, often regarded as precursors to a major accident. Statistics showed that there had been no improvement in the number of this kind of incident during 2007/08. During the year, 517 dangerous incidents were reported, 40 per cent of which were hydrocarbon releases. Figures also revealed an increase in the number of major injuries in the offshore sector in 2007/08, rising from 39 the previous year, to 44. While there were no fatalities in the industry for the first time in three years, there were 12 fatalities in marine operations associated with the offshore activities including the Bourbon Dolphin incident where eight lives were lost. Chair of the Health and Safety Executive Judith Hackitt issued a reminder to the offshore industry, "The statistics we have released today underline that we are far from being in a position where we can feel comfortable. Although there are instances where improvements have been sustained, the control of potential major incident risks seems to have taken a back seat. We continue to be concerned at the failure to reduce the number of hydrocarbon releases, together with an increase in the number of major injuries. This suggests that basic safety systems are not being followed." Ian Whewell, Head of HSE's Offshore Division added, "Despite the reduction in minor injuries, the overall trend for these injuries does not yet show evidence of a significant decline and the potential for minor injuries to have been major injuries remains ever present. The industry cannot afford to be complacent and faces a difficult task if it intends to achieve its current aim of being the safest offshore sector in the world by 2010 and will need to make significant improvements in hazardous incident performance to achieve this."
Falcon Crane Hire has dismissed a crane driver who was photographed sunbathing on a block suspended from a crane. Action was only taken after a passerby sent a photo to Building magazine's health and safety blunder competition. The incident happened shortly after the HSE announced it had written to firms that work with cranes demanding they improve safety. The HSE is currently investigating a Falcon crane collapse in Liverpool last year, in which a joiner was killed and a crane driver injured. Falcon was also the company involved in a fatal crane collapse in Battersea in 2005. (Risks 290) Falcon said in a statement: 'An internal investigation was immediately instigated which resulted in the crane driver being identified. On 6 August, the driver was dismissed and the Health and Safety Executive notified.' Blenheim House Construction, the contractor on the office refurbishment scheme, said it was 'shocked and disappointed'. It said: 'Such disregard for his own and others' safety and our policies will not be tolerated.' The HSE warning came after MRX Engineering Support Services Ltd, was fined £100,000 and ordered to pay £16,941 costs at Liverpool Crown Court after a man was killed and another seriously injured after they were struck by a load that fell from a crane. The company pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing at Knowsley Magistrates Court. Welder Keith Wharton, aged 41, from Kirby was killed instantly and his colleague Christopher Cansfield, 31, from Bootle sustained severe injuries including a broken neck and leg in the incident on 8 March 2007.
A Birmingham company has been fined £13,500 with costs of £2,888.04 after a worker in Wolverhampton suffered a fractured rib from a falling pallet. Goodyear Dunlop Tyres UK Ltd pleaded guilty on Tuesday 5th August 2008, to failing to take reasonable care for the health and safety of employees under Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. The court also ordered the company to pay compensation of £4,000 to the injured worker. On 15 June 2007 a casing operator was inspecting tyre casings when a forklift truck loaded with a four-high stack of heavy steel pallets passed by. The stillages were not secured to each other or to the truck, and toppled onto the worker, causing two fractures to one of his ribs. HSE inspector Amarjit Kalay said:"It is important that individuals and employers remember their duties under the law to take reasonable care of the health and safety of others, who may be affected by their acts or omissions at work. The injuries inflicted could have been significantly worse, or even fatal. Operators of lift trucks must ensure that they operate them in accordance with training and employers must ensure that they are used safely'
Kitchen appliance manufacturer Indesit, has paid £12,000 compensation to a factory worker injured at the firm's factory in Denbighshire, North Wales. The damages were secured with the support of his trade union Unite and Thompsons Solicitors. Richard Williams, from Gwynedd, North Wales, worked as an operator at the Indesit factory Denbighshire for around 34 years. On the day of his accident, Richard Williams was attempting to manually pull down a metal panel to secure it in place on a washing machine but the panel didn't move because it hadn't been positioned correctly. As a result he badly injured his left shoulder and his thumb. Mr Williams, aged 60, explained 'I still suffer from pain in my shoulder and my thumb, even from simple tasks like carrying a mug, opening jars or bottles, fastening buttons and driving the car for more than 45 minutes. I'm angry because I've had to sell my motorbike - a hobby I loved - because it was too painful to operate the clutch. All said and done, I'm relieved that I was a member of a trade union, without their support I wouldn't have secured a penny from Indesit.' Andy Richards, Unite Wales Regional Secretary said: 'Indesit is a leading UK employer and should be fully aware of its responsibilities with regard to the manual handling and work equipment regulations. Clearly Mr Williams' injuries could have been avoided if the panel had been fitted correctly.' Representing Mr. Williams, Ken Jones from Thompsons Solicitors in Liverpool comments: 'After the accident, Richard Williams took voluntary redundancy. We hope that this settlement will help to secure his retirement.'
Two companies in Essex have been fined after workers in their employment were exposed to asbestos containing materials. R Maskell Ltd of Loughton was fined £150,000 with costs of £30,000 at Ipswich Crown Court while LCH Contracts Ltd of Billericay was fined £70,000 and costs of £13,821. Both companies pleaded guilty to breaches of Regulation 15 of the Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations 2002. In 2005 R Maskell was carrying out refurbishment work and had, after discovering asbestos, sub-contracted LCH Contracts to carry out asbestos removal at St Francis Tower, Ipswich. When HSE inspectors visited the site to inspect asbestos removal work taking place, they became very concerned over the state of the building, as there was debris on floors and in black sacks on most floors of the 15 storey tower block and some appeared to be asbestos containing materials (ACM's). The HSE investigation found the building to be contaminated with ACM's and evidence was found that asbestos insulation board (AIB) had not been removed following adequate safety procedures. HSE Inspector, Nicola Surrey said, "Every year 1000 people who worked in building maintenance and repair trades die from past exposures to asbestos fibres. The exposure of employees from R Maskell Ltd and LCH Contracts Ltd to asbestos could and should have been avoided by straightforward safety precautions. HSE will not hesitate to take action against those who fall short of the law in such a way. Asbestos must be properly managed to prevent people dying from asbestos diseases in the future. If you are responsible for managing the maintenance and repair of a building, you must manage any asbestos in it. HSE has provided guidance to help people understand what they have to do to comply with their legal obligations."
Workers were used instead of sandbags for a test run of the lifeboat of a ship in Istanbul's Tuzla shipyards resulting in three deaths and 12 injuries. During the test run, the rope tying the lifeboat to the ship snapped and the boat crashed into the water, causing the deaths of Emrah Vato?lu, 19, Ramazan Ergün, 36, and Ramazan Çetinkaya, 25. The deaths were due to crushing or drowning. Nineteen workers participated in the test run, with three dead and 12 wounded as a result. Istanbul Governor Muammer Güler confirmed the death toll, saying lifeboats were usually used under extreme circumstances, arguing that experts needed to explain how the deadly accident could occur. 'The technical problem here is that fact that the boat overturned and its propeller hit something before hitting the water. The cause will be known after the technical investigation,' he said, noting that a criminal investigation had been initiated. The Shipyard, Ship Construction and Repair Workers Trade Union, Chairman Cem Dinç claimed workers were used as test dummies. 'The lifeboat was tested for weight and workers crowded onto it. The boat turned on its head and some workers fell into the water. The rope tying to boat to the ship snapped, falling on to the workers. Workers crushed each other and drowned when the boat started taking on water,' he said. There were also protests by a group of workers in front of the shipyard after the accidents. One worker, Aykut Özdemir, speaking to CNN-Türk, said, 'Our friends are dying and authorities are just silent. I had worked together with one of the dead workers that day.' Police stopped some protesters who tried to enter the shipyard. Süleyman Çelebi, head of the Confederation of Revolutionary Workers' Unions, or D?SK, said the deaths would not stop until comprehensive safety standards were implemented. 'Our efforts to end work-related deaths have been constantly ignored,' Çelebi said. 'The government, instead of taking measures, is blaming the union and the workers themselves,' he said.
New Zealand researchers have shown that outdoor workers are more likely to use sun protection measures if their workplace has a supportive approach to the issue. A study by the University of Otago found that outdoor workers who felt that their workplaces supported healthy behaviour were more likely to protect themselves from excessive sun exposure. It suggested a workplace-level approach to sun safety was more effective than an individual one. The study, published in the Health Promotion Journal of Australia, surveyed 74 horticultural, roading and building workers at 14 Central Otago workplaces during summer last year. According to the study's co-author, Tony Reeder "Overall, we found outdoor workers' perceptions of their workplace's support for sun protection and other health-related behaviours strongly influenced their personal protective behaviour," He added 'Greater attention needed to be paid to ensuring existing guidelines were translated into workplace policies and practices. To foster a supportive safety climate, skin cancer control programmes should also be developed alongside other workplace health and safety interventions. Focusing on the damage that sun exposure causes to the skin and the eyes might help increase outdoor workers' understanding of their personal risk." The researchers recommended that employers should provide sun protective gear, and supervisors needed to promote and support their use and set an example
Another study has confirmed sedentary occupations carry a significant risk of workers gaining weight than other occupations. The study from the University of North Carolina focused on 393 volunteers working at a call centre. The mean age of participants was 34 years and 71% were female. The study found sixty-eight per cent of participants gained weight averaging 0.9 kg/month for 8 months. Significantly, in contrast to walking and moderate exercise, only vigorous exercise was significantly associated with non-weight gain. The study comes after recent Australian research added to the growing evidence that shift work negatively impacts on health, revealing shift workers are more likely to smoke and to become overweight.
US safety agency OSHA, has issued citations for two wilful violations against International Truck and Engine Corp. of Illinois, with penalties totalling $125,000. OSHA also has cited the company for nine serious violations, with a $34,500 fine following inspections in February 2008. The wilful violations address the hazards of live electrical parts on 480-volt electrical panels that were not guarded against accidental contact. In addition, the company lacked appropriate control procedures to prevent unintended machine start-up. OSHA defines a wilful violation as one committed with plain indifference to, or intentional disregard for, employee safety and health. Some of the serious violations address hazards associated with improper or lack of machine guarding, damaged electrical panels, improper use of electrical equipment, improper use of powered industrial vehicles and lack of proper housekeeping within the workspaces. OSHA issues a serious citation when death or serious physical harm is likely to result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known. "These violations should not exist at any worksite," said Diane Turek, director of OSHA's Chicago North area office in Des Plaines, Ill. "They are problems that can be avoided if an employer is dedicated to protecting employees. Employers must remain dedicated to keeping the workplace safe and healthful or face close scrutiny by this agency." International Truck and Engine Corp. manufactures truck and tractor engines and has approximately 10,000 employees. OSHA has inspected this location six times, in the past, resulting in several violations.
Leading Ontario politicians have attacked a law which effectively hands inspection of propane handling facilities over to the industry following a massive propane explosion in Toronto. Opposition MPP Jim Bradley claimed the Technical Standards and Safety Act "puts Colonel Sanders in charge of the health and safety of the chickens," "Facilities that require enhanced fire protection should be inspected by the fire department." Mr. Patterson said. "It seems pretty straightforward." Massively dangerous installations are subjected only to "cursory and limited inspection," according to Mr. Patterson - and that by a non-governmental, industry-funded agency. He added that such facilities should be subject to "significant intervention" by specialists empowered to make random inspections and issue work orders. According to Brian Patterson, president of the Ontario Safety League, the province's senior public-safety advocate, 'The tragedy of Toronto is that world-class experts in fire prevention and emergency management sat on their hands because of industry lobbying to be self-regulating and to put propane everywhere. There are very, very skilled professionals in the city who have not been given access in advance to inspect these things and that's a tragedy."
US health and safety agency OSHA has imposed fines of $77,900 against, Sollis, a farm labour contractor found to be in violation of California's heat illness prevention regulations. Maria Vasquez Jimenez, an employee of Merced Farm Labour Contractor, died after working in a San Joaquin County vineyard for nine hours with little water and no shade. Employees of Solis Farm Labour Contractor were working in the same vineyard as Jimenez and other employees of Merced FLC, according to an OSHA statement reported in the local press. While Jimenez was not employed by Solis FLC, many of the health and safety violations that contributed to her death were also observed by OSHA investigators at the Solis FLC work site. "We will not tolerate employers who put their workers' lives at risk by violating key provisions of the heat illness prevention regulations," said Californian OSHA Chief Len Welsh in the statement. "All California employers are required to provide a safe and healthy workplace and this company failed to do so."
It has been reported that the Canadian Government is withholding a damning report on asbestos on the eve of an international conference at which Canada plans to defend its export of the carcinogen. The report was commissioned by 'Health Canada' to support the Conservative government's long-standing fight to keep chrysotile asbestos off a UN watch list, a position federal officials plan to argue at a convention in Rome this October. But, according to 'The Star', members of an expert panel that produced the $100,000 report say the findings justify a ban on production and use in Canada. Health Minister Tony Clement commissioned the report last year to determine the relative carcinogenic potency of chrysotile asbestos, which is linked to lung cancer and mesothelioma, which this week lead to the death of British MP John MacDougall. The panel's findings were made final in March but have yet to be released. A Health Canada spokesman said in an email the department is reviewing the report to "help further its knowledge of chrysotile asbestos fibres in relation to human health ... (and the report) will be made available to the public after the department has reviewed the findings."The panel was originally criticised by opposition parties because it was believed some of its members were so-called asbestos supporters, however the report seems to back the position of asbestos campaigners world-wide. That asbestos of all kinds are a killer. New Democrat MP Pat Martin, a supporter of a Canadian ban on asbestos, said "They want the world to believe that Quebec asbestos is somehow magically benign. ... It's cowardly and it's the very antithesis of transparency and accountability." At a UN convention in 2006, the Canadian government successfully blocked a decision by more than 100 governments that would have required all exporters to label the product as hazardous. There is only one mine still producing chrysotile asbestos in Canada which produced 13,000 tonnes in July, a four-year high. Global consumption has increased almost 25 per cent in the last five years as a result of demand in developing countries such as India.
If you enjoyed this year's Hazards Conference in Keele then why not try the European Hazards Conference. It is to be held in Bologna October 10th to 12th 2008. The format is similar to that for Hazards Conferences held in UK. The cost is ?510 for single room, ?420 + ?85 for single room extra night and ?105 shared room extra night. Additional meals cost are also available and full details are on page 10 of the information pack attached. Flight costs to Bologna or Milan (about 1-2hrs away) around about £100 to £150 return flight costs including taxes, can be found on the web from most major UK airports. The deadline for registration is 31st August. If you want to attend, or want more information then e-mail email@example.com to book your place now [marked for the attention of Caroline Bedale]. If you fancy a weekend in Italy sharing health and safety and related issues with our brothers and sisters from Europe, then don't miss this opportunity
Newsletter (5,600 words) issued 15 Aug 2008
This page http://www.tuc.org.uk/workplace/tuc-15200-f0.cfm
printed 19 May 2013 at 13:56 hrs by 188.8.131.52