issue no 45 - 16 March 2002
Risks is the TUCs weekly online bulletin for safety reps and others, read each week by over 3,500 subscribers and 1,000 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 Privacy The TUC website lists future health and safety events in Whats On - new events are covered below.
The TUC is asking safety reps for their views once again. Every two years, the TUC conducts an 'omnibus' survey of safety reps - in 2000, over nine thousand safety reps responded. The results of this survey determine the TUCs priorities and provide the TUC with a vast amount of information which can be used in campaigning for better safety standards. If you are a safety rep, download our questionnaire, complete it and send it back by 1 July.
The TUC is publishing a regularly updated list of union activities across Great Britain to mark Workers' Memorial Day 2002 on or about Sunday, 28 April. WMD is the worldwide union campaign day where trades unionists pledge to 'remember the dead, and fight like hell for the living,' a quote borrowed from self-confessed 'hellraiser' Mother Jones, who in the early 1900s fought in the US for trade union, and safety rights. If your union organisation is doing something - planting a tree, inaugurating a memorial, or holding a protest or event - let the TUC know.
The TUC has welcomed the European Commission's new five-year plan for health and safety, but has warned that it will require a serious commitment from governments and real money for implementation. The plan includes proposals to legislate on RSI, open discussions with employers and unions on ways of reducing stress at work and promises greater priority for womens health and safety. TUC general secretary John Monks said: 'A modern economy doesn't have to mean driving the workforce into the ground with mental or physical strain, and unions are ready to work in partnership with employers and the Commission to put this plan into effect.' The Commission's plan will go before a special EU conference in Barcelona on 22-23 April, where Amicus national women's officer and TUC member of the Health and Safety Commission Maureen Rooney will represent the TUC. She said: 'With women's participation in the economy growing all over Europe, we cannot afford to ignore the injuries and illnesses suffered in silence by so many women at work.' The Euro-plan also includes: injury, illness and sickness absence targets; a special focus on asbestos, back strains and noise-induced deafness; and support for tougher enforcement and more risk education and vocational training.
General union GMB is calling on the government to stop dragging its feet and take urgent action to protect an estimated three million workers from passive smoking. On National No Smoking Day, 12 March, GMB director of health and environment Nigel Bryson, said: 'It has been over two and a half years since the Health and Safety Commission first consulted stakeholders on proposals for tougher controls on smoking at work and we have heard very little since apart from the development of a voluntary code for the hospitality industry.' The GMB is calling for a ban on workplace smoking but with the proviso that separate smoking rooms are provided for smokers in order to address their welfare needs. The GMB is also calling on increased protection for those working in the hospitality industry such as bars and restaurants. 'A voluntary code is not enough for workers in the hospitality industry, we need tougher action in the form of a legally enforceable code of practice,' said Bryson. Anti-smoking campaigners have warned that smoking is linked to 14 different types of cancer, causing about 70,000 deaths each year.
An actress who missed out on a West End transfer after breaking her pelvis in a fall from the stage has received substantial compensation in an out-of-court settlement. Janet Watling, a member of actors union Equity, was appearing in a tour of The Accused. At an after-performance meeting she realised she had left her keys in the dressing room and returned to collect them. In the dark she fell from the stage into the auditorium. Her injuries prevented her from continuing with the tour that ended up in Londons West End.
Cornish postal workers are to hold a strike ballot in a saga that began with an anthrax scare where workers were not warned about a suspect package. Postal worker John Newton was sacked following the affair and colleagues in Falmouth began an overtime ban in protest (Risks 39). In November, powder spilled from a package that tore open at the Falmouth sorting office. It was addressed to a former diplomat who had worked in Afghanistan. Police removed the package, but it later turned out to be a hoax. But staff at Falmouth only learned about the package two days later, said Communications Workers Union spokesperson Clive Welsford. He said Mr Newton complained they were not warned to take precautions - including washing their hands. Posters protesting about the handling of the affair were pinned up, but removed by the management, said Mr Welsford. Managers have since transferred some collection work to Truro, and now the CWU is to ballot for strike action in Falmouth as a result.
The TUC is calling for joint investigations by police and safety watchdog HSE into all work-related deaths. In its comments to an official consultation, TUC adds it wants each workplace death treated as possible manslaughter. The enforcers should follow risk management principles, however, and look for failings in the safety system rather than for scapegoats. The TUC wants better training for the police, the Crown Prosecution Service and HSE in how to handle work-related deaths. John Monks, TUC general secretary, commenting ahead of a 20 March meeting of MPs and the families of victims of "corporate killing," said: "Everyone from judges to Ministers, from employers to unions, agrees with the policy of getting tougher with employers whose negligence causes death. We need to turn that agreement into practical legislation, and we are concerned at the delay in bringing that legislation before parliament."
Transco is to be prosecuted over the deaths of four members of the same family in a gas explosion more than two years ago. Scotlands Crown Office said it would take the action in relation to the deaths of Andrew Findlay, 34, his wife Janette, 36, and their children Stacey, 13, and Daryl, 11, in a gas blast at their Larkhall home in 1999. The Scottish prosecution service said it was taking culpable homicide proceedings against the gas distribution network. The decision follows investigations by the Hamilton Procurator Fiscal, and reports by the HSE and the police. Ian Tasker of the Scottish Trades Union Congress commented: 'This decision to initiate criminal proceedings against the gas transportation company should be seen as a significant move towards ensuring companies are seen to be accountable for actions or failures which result in the deaths of individuals." UNISON senior national officer Dave Johnson said: 'The charge of culpable homicide is extremely serious, yet here we have a management that thinks it can cut over a third of its staff and still run a safe gas network system.' He added: 'Transco must now think again about its plans to cut nearly 4,000 jobs.'
Railtrack and Thames Trains may both be prosecuted over the Paddington rail crash. Survivors and those bereaved by the October 1999 crash have been informed by the HSE that there is sufficient evidence to bring charges. But HSE has added that it cannot proceed with court action at present because the Crown Prosecution Service is still considering whether to bring criminal prosecutions. Thirty-one people died in the Paddington accident, in which a Thames train went through a red light and crashed almost head on with a London-bound Great Western express.
A landmark tribunal ruling means many businesses may have to give holiday pay to ill or injured workers on long-term sick leave. A worker who had been off work for months with a bad back has won the right to receive holiday pay for the time he has been absent. An employment appeal tribunal confirmed the decision, involving the Working Time Regulations, which entitle employees to 20 days' paid annual leave. Employers organisations are not happy with the ruling. "This ruling potentially increases employers costs with no benefit to workers' health and safety, which was the purpose behind the legislation," said Peter Schofield from the Engineering Employers' Federation. But lawyer John Hayes of Bracher Rawlins commented: "This is one of the only countries in the European Union where employees do not have the right to be paid at their ordinary rate of pay when they are off on sickness absence."
The European Parliament has voted through more stringent workplace noise controls. Final fixes to the wording of the EU's directive on "minimum health and safety requirements regarding the exposure of workers to the risks arising from physical agents [noise]" included giving five years' grace to the leisure and entertainment sector, during which the European Commission will assess the directive's likely impact and consider drawing up an exemption for the sector. "This is a balanced result and a victory for common sense and public health," Stephen Hughes, a Labour MEP, said. MEPs voted to lower the maximum noise exposure limit for workers without ear protection from 90 to 87 decibels. The reduction seems small but amounts to a 50 per cent cut in the volume above which employers must provide safeguards such as engineering controls or earplugs.
Workers in New South Wales would face Third World conditions under proposed changes to health and safety regulations that would remove employer obligations to provide washrooms or toilets, unions have warned. Draft regulations would no longer require employers to provide basic facilities like toilets and washrooms. Labor Council secretary John Robertson says unions will fight any changes to regulations that allow employers to downgrade on-site facilities. "We raised this issue with the government last year and thought it had been dealt with. I don't know whether this is just the bureaucrats not understanding what is expected, but I'm going to find out." Robertson says he'll take up the matter directly with NSW Industrial Relations Minister John Della Bosca. A union campaign in the US recently won a government clarification of the right to go on company time.
New Zealand's union movement says workplace accidents and diseases cost more than $4.5 billion (£1.37 billion) a year and is demanding tough new health and safety rules. Council of Trade Unions (NZCTU) president Ross Wilson told a parliamentary committee that the present health and safety law had failed to improve the appalling workplace injury and death rate. NZCTU says 6,000 submissions from the union campaign supporting tougher workplace health and safety law were delivered to parliament on 1 March. In the past eight months enforcement agency Occupational Safety and Health has investigated 52 workplace deaths. The work fatalities rate in New Zealand is one of the worst in the developed world, running seven times higher than the UK.
New Zealand's bosses are being warned they must take serious steps to minimise stress in the workplace after a landmark Court of Appeal decision. Ross Wilson, from the Council of Trade Unions, says the decision "confirms beyond doubt that there is an existing liability, a very important liability on all employers to prevent the health consequences of stress." Former probation officer Chris Gilbert will be paid up to $600,000 (£200,000) by the Corrections Department for having to retire 14 years early because of work-related stress.
The International Federation of Journalists has blamed a "failure of discipline and disregard of international law" by the Israeli authorities for the killing of an Italian journalist and the wounding of a French colleague in the Palestinian territories. Aidan White, general secretary of IFJ, the global umbrella group for journalists unions, said the death in a hail of bullets of freelance photographer Raffaele Ciriello was 'inevitable given the persistent failure of discipline and disregard of the rights of journalists under international law." Another freelance journalist working for French media was severely injured in the incident. IFJ says it intends to establish a safety centre for journalists in the Palestinian Territories. But the IFJ warns that while journalists can do much to minimise risks, it is impossible to protect them from ill-disciplined military actions.
Men and women in the painting trades or who work in paint manufacturing may have an increased risk of cancer, depending on the job they do, according to the results of a large study conducted in Sweden. The researcher team, headed by Dr Linda Morris Brown of the US National Cancer Institute, conclude: "Our results are consistent with the report of the International Agency for Research on Cancer that classified painting as an occupationally related cause of cancer, and they provide additional evidence that the risk of certain cancers is increased by exposures in the paint manufacturing process." The findings are published in the March issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.
Unions worldwide are calling on the International Labour Organisation to make a stand in defence of Zimbabwes trades unionists. A letter to ILO director-general Juan Somavia from Guy Ryder, head of global union confederation ICFTU, says: 'The ICFTU will greatly appreciate your timely representation to the Zimbabwean authorities to the effect that they should at all costs ensure the safety of trade unionists and fully respect the right of the trade union leaders to go around discharging their daily trade union activities.' The letter adds: 'In response to widespread and deep fears expressed by trade unionists in Zimbabwe for their safety as well as for victimisation while discharging their duties, I appeal to you to intervene with the Zimbabwean authorities to offer protection to trade unionists and their leaders in the discharge of their duties.' In the wake of the tarnished presidential election won by Robert Mugabe, the unions in the country are operating in a precarious and often dangerous environment. "Everybody is terrified", stated a spokesperson for Zimbabwes national union federation ZCTU after police attempted to enter and then stopped a legitimate union meeting with a threat to bring in the armed forces.
Physios union the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy has a new safety web resource, giving details of the unions safety structure, safety news, and useful inks. The site, which will develop further over the coming months, is intended to provide support for CSP safety representatives.
The union-backed Asian Workers' Occupational Health, Safety and Environment Institute now has a newsletter, available by email. The Bangkok-based Institute, a much needed and valued training resource for the region created and backed by international union organisations, says 'improving occupational health, safety and environment in Asia is an important task for trade unions. Deaths from injury in the region are estimated to be at least 200,000 per year.' It adds: 'One objective of OHSE Institute is to ensure that unions see occupational health and safety as an organising issue.'
Only newly announced events, events next week and very important events will be listed here in future. But there is a comprehensive listing of health and safety events on the TUC website - bookmark it for easy reference!
ITF global action for rail safety, 26 March
Over 200,000 railway workers across the globe will unite later this month to call for better working conditions and improved rail safety standards. The third International Railway Worker's Action Day on Tuesday 26 March 2002 will see railway workers from across 85 unions, in 51 countries, campaign in solidarity for "safety not profit." The event, co-ordinated by the International Transport Worker's Federation (ITF), 'has become a focal point for trade unionists to think globally and act locally.'
TUC Beat bullying at work seminar, Glasgow, 26 March
The latest in the regional series of seminars on bullying will take place from 9.30am to 3pm in Glasgow. Registration costs £11.75 for trade unions and £23.50 for others - you can register on the web, email Liz Wood or phone 020 7467 1250.
Employment agencies action, 24 April
The Simon Jones Memorial Campaign is calling a national day of action 'against profiteering employment agencies' on Wednesday 24 April 2002, the fourth anniversary of Simon's death. The campaign says: 'We are asking supporters of our campaign across the country and internationally to mark the anniversary of Simon's death by demonstrating, in whatever way they see fit, at an employment agency in their area that profits from the casualisation that killed Simon.'
Workers' Memorial Day 2002, 28 April
TUC is planning to highlight occupational health, including access to occupational health services, and rehabilitation. Ask your union for details of Workers Memorial Day events or organise your own. Hazards magazine round up of Workers Memorial Day resources. If you are organising an event, let the TUC know by email.
Hazards 2002, National Hazards Conference, 6-8 September
The National Hazards Conference will be held in Manchester for the second year running. Further details from Greater Manchester Hazards Centre. There is a financial appeal to keep registration costs down, backed by the TUC.
European Week of Health and Safety 2002, 14-21 October
Next years week will take place in Britain from 14 October, on the theme of stress.
Visit the TUC health and safety website or the main TUC website pages on health and safety. See whats on offer from TUC Publications and Whats On in health and safety.
TUC courses for safety reps
Wales (also as pdf) Scotland North West Midlands South East and East Anglia (also as pdf) South West (also as pdf)
For details of courses in the Northern, Yorkshire and Humberside regions, contact the TUC Regional Education Officer
Subscribe to Hazards magazine, supported by the TUC as a key source of information for union safety reps.
Whats new in the HSC/E and the European Agency.
HSE Books , PO Box 1999, Sudbury, Suffolk CO10 2WA. Tel: 01787 881165; fax: 01787 313995.
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Newsletter (3,800 words) issued 16 Mar 2002
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printed 25 May 2013 at 08:56 hrs by 126.96.36.199