issue no 55 - 25 May 2002
Risks is the TUCs weekly online bulletin for safety reps and others, read each week by over 4,000 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 and Privacy statement. The TUC website lists future health and safety events in Whats On - new events are covered below.
Laura Moffatt MPs early day motion (EDM 1376) calls upon the Department of Health 'to ban the use of powdered high protein gloves known to cause latex allergies and ensure that all ambulance, acute, community and primary care trust workers receive the equipment and the training to avoid harm to latex-sensitive patients; and calls on MPs to raise with Trusts in their constituency how they are minimizing the risks of latex allergy amongst their staff and patients.' See the latex allergy motion EDM 1376 and check if your MP has signed yet - if not, ask why not.
The HSC has published its Strategy for improving health and safety on the railways 2002-2005. Richard Clifton, HSE director of railway policy, said: 'Rail companies can expect safety case assessment and approval to be dealt with in a professional and timely manner. Employees and their trade union safety representatives can expect concerns they raise to be dealt with properly, and the case for employee involvement to be promoted as part of a modern and efficient system of safety management. All those who work on and travel by rail can expect the independent safety regulator to press the rail industry to deliver the improvements that will provide a safer railway for Britain." The HSC strategy highlights key areas for improvement, covering rail safety, reducing assaults on rail workers, and improving recognition and understanding of occupational health issues. It sets out HSC's priorities for regulating the railways over the next three years.
The leader of Britain's train drivers has accused Jarvis of trying to "prop up" its share price by suggesting the Potters Bar crash (Risks 54) could have been caused by sabotage. Jarvis has reiterated its belief that sabotage, rather than poor maintenance, caused the derailment. Seven people died and 76 others were injured in the crash. Mick Rix, general secretary of ASLEF, said: "Jarvis are jumping the gun on the industry's own internal investigation into this accident for commercial considerations. It seems most unlikely that sabotage was the cause of the Potters Bar crash. Speculation from the company has more to do with propping up its share price than getting at the truth.' The HSE investigation has found 'no evidence so far to support speculation in the press about vandalism or deliberate damage.' Rail safety experts have also said sabotage is highly unlikely to be the cause of the crash.
Train drivers union ASLEF says train operators must be compelled to bring back a second trained worker on all trains. Delegates to the unions conference declared their total opposition to 'driver only operation' (DOO) on Britains trains and pledged to resist any moves by employers to extend it. The union wants to a second trained employee restored where DOO has already been imposed. 'We need a total review of DOO,' said Brighton delegate Simon Weller. 'We want additional safety-trained people on the train.' ASLEF believes that the elimination of guards from many services raises real concerns about passenger safety in the event of an accident, as well as leaving travellers without access to assistance in the event of an incident on the train. ASLEF general secretary Mick Rix said 'maintenance and renewal work must now be brought back under proper control and supervision. We believe we can win that argument. This time we have to say we are not going to tolerate it any more.'
London Underground union RMT says it may be forced to take industrial action over safety. RMT officials have described talks on the safety of the controversial part privatisation of the Tube as a "sham" and a 'gamble' (Risks 40). Bob Crow, RMT general secretary, says that unless LU enters into meaningful consultations he will set in motion a ballot for industrial action. "LU has withheld information, failed to consult our reps properly and failed to provide us with up-to-date documents," Mr Crow said, adding the Public Private Partnership (PPP) of the Tube was being "rushed through" to comply with a political deadline.
A student who died after being hit by a train while working part-time for a railway maintenance sub-contractor was "unlawfully killed," an inquest jury has decided. Michael Mungovan, 21, who was just three days into the job, was working without qualified supervision near Vauxhall station, London on 9 October 2000, Southwark Coroner's Court was told. Police have confirmed they will reopen the criminal investigation. Mr Mungovan was sent to the job by employment agency McGinley Recruitment Services, used by sub-contractors Balfour Beatty Rail Maintenance Ltd (BBRM) to maintain the line for its owners, Railtrack. Bob Crow, of the RMT union, said: "If this young lad has been placed in danger by his employer, then surely there should be action taken." Mr Crow said there were different rules for individuals who caused deaths, such as Gary Hart in the Selby rail crash (Risks 42), and corporations. RMT has called for all maintenance work to be brought back in-house (Risks 54).
The TUC is urging unions to conduct stress MOTs of their members' workplaces during European safety week, 14-20 October. Union workplace safety reps will be using risk assessment and TUC checklists in their continuing battle to reduce work-related stress. The TUC co-ordinated campaign will include a national conference on stress and adverts broadcast on community radio stations. Owen Tudor, TUC health and safety specialist, said: 'A modern spectre is haunting Europe - the spectre of stress. It is creating misery for workers and inefficiency for the economy. We cannot afford to keep burdening our workers with overwork, lack of support and bullying if we want a social Europe and a competitive Europe. European Health and Safety Week is immensely valuable because it provides safety reps with an open door for creating partnerships with managers.'
Allergies to the latex gloves worn for protection against infections like hepatitis and HIV are set to cost the NHS billions of pounds in sick pay, retraining and compensation costs, a 'latex summit' at the TUC heard on 20 May. Campaigners are calling for safer alternatives - and say replacing latex gloves can also save cash. Asthma caused by latex is the fastest growing cause of work-related asthma in Britain. Up to 3.6 million people in Britain are already allergic to latex, including up to 17 per cent of all nurses. As well as asthma, latex gloves can cause the skin condition dermatitis, and even send sufferers into anaphylactic shock, which can be fatal. Other occupations affected include food prep workers, hairdressers and police scene-of-the-crime officers. TUCs Owen Tudor said: 'The drain on the NHS's resources is intolerable and unnecessary, and the suffering that is caused is a tragedy because it doesn't need to happen.' Warren Town of the Society of Radiographers added: "We have seen a marked increase in the number of claims of this type. It is indicative of the current working environment in the NHS. Staff are overworked and tired. There is a lack of care for staff in hospitals.'
Public sector union UNISON has called for urgent action from the Scottish Executive after latest figures show attacks on health service staff have soared. The union wants the pilot "Guardian Angel" protection scheme to be extended to public sector workers who visit patients at home and wants the automatic prosecution of violent relatives who abuse care staff. Speaking at UNISONs Scottish health and safety conference, Jim Devine said: "The overall aim of any policy would be obviously to prevent injury and damage to staff and that is why UNISON is attracted to the Guardian Angel protection project which is being piloted at St Johns Hospital in West Lothian.' Calling for abusive relatives to be charged and prosecuted, Devine added 'in some Trusts nearly 30 per cent of the assaults are being carried out by relatives and visitors it is not acceptable for relatives to be physically and verbally abusing NHS staff. It is not part of the job."
The HSE has issued its prescription for the control of stress in UK health services. A research report, jointly funded by health union UNISON and the Royal College of Nursing, focuses on ways to detect and manage stress, and follows a studies showing stress is a top cause of ill-health and sick leave in the health service. HSEs Murray Devine said: "This study has shown that using the principles of risk management, it is possible to identify likely stressors and take appropriate action I urge all those responsible for managing health and safety in the health service to read and act on this report in order to start to reduce the levels of work related stress in their workforce." Jon Richards of UNISON said: 'We have known for years that stress is a problem in the NHS. However until now there has not been much work done which evaluates practical steps to reduce it. This report is a major step forward which looks at simple but effective changes that all health service employers can implement."
The former owner of a Staffordshire demolition firm has been jailed for 18 months after being convicted of the manslaughter of a father and son. Brian Dean was found responsible for the deaths of Michael Redgate, 46, and his son Carl, 18, after they were sent to demolish a disused kiln without proper instruction and who were buried when the kiln collapsed (Risks 51). Dave Boulton, the HSE investigating inspector, said: 'It is important to understand that if you are in charge of work activities and someone is killed, you could be on trial for manslaughter.' Construction union UCATTs leader George Brumwell welcomed the first prison sentence given to a director of a construction company following the death a worker: 'For years we in UCATT have been campaigning for custodial sentences for directors responsible for the manslaughter of their employees. This sentence should send shockwaves through the building industry where health and safety regulations are all to often ignored.'
The brother of one of three men who died in a warehouse collapse in Hull says he does not accept that the tragedy was an accident. Kevin Walsh pledged to continue the fight for justice. Mr Walsh's brother Shaughan, 43, of Beverley Road, Hull, was among the three workers crushed to death in the April 2000 collapse. The others were David Jowett, 44, and Anthony Laughton, 38. Mr Walsh was responding to the accidental death verdict returned by the jury following a four-week inquest. Coroner Geoffrey Saul directed the jury to choose between that and an open verdict. Supported by UCATT, the GMB and the Transport and General Workers' Union, the families have organised a series of protests and marches calling on the government to introduce promised corporate killing legislation. Mr Walsh said: "We would like to say a massive thank you to the GMB, the TGWU and UCATT for 100 per cent support, and also the hundreds of other people across the country who have helped us. All three unions have asked us to stay strong. That is what we will do and we will continue to fight. This is not over." The HSE confirmed it will now investigate a "number of prima facie breaches" of legislation which came to light during the inquest.
A German lorry driver who caused the deaths of four people, including a father and his two children, has been jailed for five years. Chelmsford Crown Court was told that Egon Boerner had ignored regulations governing driving hours for lorry drivers and been driving excessively over a 43-hour period before the crash on 24 August last year. Boerner had pleaded guilty to four counts of causing death by dangerous driving at a previous hearing.
The number of qualified council staff employed to protect workers from injury has reached an all-time low and has coincided with a 50 per cent rise in work fatalities in the local authority-enforced sector. Interim figures show the number of full-time equivalents working in health and safety dropped to 1,070 in 2000/01. The figure, based on 378 local authority returns, is the lowest ever recorded, three per cent down on last year and 12 per cent lower than 1998/9. In the last year, workplace fatalities in the local authority-enforced sector rose from 12 to 18 while health and safety inspections dropped by four per cent. Thin on the ground, a September 2000 report from the TUC, revealed there is a direct correlation between the number of local authority safety inspector numbers and workplace injuries - cut one and the other goes up.
Leader of the Commons Robin Cook has denied that screens at a new air traffic control centre have caused errors including planes being sent to the wrong airspace. Mr Cook said National Air Traffic Services (Nats) "completely rejects" allegations that controllers at the new Swanwick centre in Hampshire have had difficulty reading the screens. Nats denied reports that an air traffic controller sent a Glasgow plane to Cardiff after misreading small computer text. Mr Cook said Nats had been annoyed at the competence of its staff being called into question. Iain Findlay of the air traffic controllers union Prospect supported Cooks line and said safety had not been jeopardised as the problem did not affect the main control screens. "It has to be made clear that there are two screens we are talking about. One is the planning screen where there are problems with the font size and the typeface - but that's not the screen that controls the aircraft. The radar screen has all the information and is reading properly."
A new regulation on the control of dangerous substances at work has been introduced in China. The Ministry of Health says occupational diseases are a very "serious" problem. Statistics from the ministry show that 756 acute poisoning cases were reported in 2001, 110 resulting in death. The ministry says there were 13,218 reported occupational disease cases last year, up 13 per cent on 2000. It adds chronic benzene poisoning is a particular problem, especially in firms making bags, toys and leather shoes. Under the new law workers will have new rights to safety information. Factories failing to observe chemical safety standards could be closed, fined between 50,000 and 300,000 yuan (£4,000-£24,000) or could face criminal charges.
Anger is mounting about a possible cover-up after it was revealed 21 miners died in a mining accident in early May in northern China. At least 23 miners were in the unlicensed Fuyuan coal mine in Yuncheng, Shanxi province, when it was flooded with water mixed with gas on 4 May, with only two miners escaping to safety. Police have detained Zhang Shunhe, the head of the mine, who did not report the accident until 12 May, reports say. The Xinhua Daily Telegraph claims that even after police detained Zhang, he said there was nobody trapped in the mine. China has the world's biggest mining industry and also the deadliest. More than 5,600 people were killed in coal mine accidents last year, the semi-official China News Service has said. Other mining accidents killed nearly 2,000, it said.
Two million workers die each year through work-related accidents and diseases and that is just the tip of the iceberg, a new International Labour Organisation (ILO) report says. Latest ILO estimates for the year 2000 show that annually there are two million work-related deaths - more than 5,000 every day - and for every fatal accident there are another 500-2,000 injuries, depending on the type of job. ILO adds that for every fatal work-related disease there are about 100 illnesses causing absence from work. The ILO report says the number of work deaths has increased since 1990, mainly because work-related communicable diseases were not counted previously and cases of work-related cancer and circulatory diseases have increased. Figures for fatal accidents went up slightly in developing countries but decreased in most industrialised countries. According to the ILO figures, the biggest work-related killer is cancer, causing roughly 640,000 or 32 per cent of deaths, followed by circulatory diseases at 23 per cent, then accidents at 19 per cent and communicable diseases at 17 per cent. Asbestos alone, the report says, claims some 100,000 lives annually.
At least 36 workers were killed and 10 injured in a major fire at an Agra shoe factory. About 100 people were in the factory when the fire broke out on the morning of 24 May. The exact cause of the fire was not known but it is believed to have spread rapidly due to chemicals kept in the factory. Help was sought from the army and air force to rescue people trapped inside the burning building in the bustling Jeoni Mandi market area of the city, Senior Superintendent of Police V K Maurya said. As firefighters struggled to control the blaze, the two-storey building collapsed, hampering rescue efforts.
Japan's health ministry has announced that there were 143 cases of karoshi - death from overwork - last year, the highest level since it first highlighted the problem in 1987. Although working hours have been falling, the level of workplace anxiety has been heightened by the economic slump, which has forced many firms to cut jobs for the first time since World War II. Some of the change may be explained by a redefinition of karoshi; the ministry now applies a far broader definition, examining the deceased's working conditions in the six months before death. Legal cases are increasing the pressure for action to prevent karoshi, in both the private and public sectors.
South Africas trade union federation Cosatu says a recent disaster at the Noligwa Mine is more evidence that the mining industry is still not enforcing safety laws. Six miners were killed in a rock fall last week. In the same week, two other miners died at Iscor's Saldanha plant. Cosatu spokesman Vukani Mde says the country cannot afford to lose workers through preventable accidents. He says Cosatu will also urge the Labour Department to intensify its campaign to ensure compliance with safety laws.
Summonses on behalf of 36 former asbestos workers have been issued in the Johannesburg high court against four mining companies. The workers, who are claiming damages amounting to R25 million (£1.7m) for asbestos-related illnesses, were employed by African Chrysotile Asbestos or controlling companies Msauli Asbes, Gencor and Hanova Mining. Richard Spoor, an occupational health attorney in Nelspruit, said the summonses were prepared and principally issued to stop Msauli approving the payment of a special dividend to its shareholders at its annual general meeting this week. On 26 February the National Union of Mineworkers obtained an interim interdict against Msauli restraining the company from paying out a special dividend of R1 a share. Shareholders would have received R7 million, approaching £0.5 million. Spoor said summonses in batches of several hundred at a time are being prepared and will be issued on behalf of former Gefco workers.
People who spend more of their working lives in jobs where they have few opportunities to decide what work to do and how to go about doing it tend to die earlier than employees given more decision-making opportunities, according to new research. Dr. Benjamin C Amick III, of the University of Texas found: "If people aren't working meaningful jobs, that affects their health." Passive jobs, in which people may have to struggle to stay alert and awake, can actually be quite stressful, he explained. "And the really sad thing is, we know how to make work meaningful, and it doesn't come at the cost of reduced productivity." People currently employed in jobs where they have little autonomy should work with their supervisors or unions to get more control in their work lives, Amick recommended. "You can give people a modest amount of control, and that's a good thing for them," he said.
Take George W Bushs free-market ideology and mix in political debts to business backers and you have the US presidents approach to domestic policy - and nowhere has this been more apparent than in Bush's approach to worker health and safety. An American Prospect feature says 'companies heartily dislike OSHA [the safety enforcement agency] because it often costs them real money to improve working conditions. They don't want existing regulations rigorously enforced and they don't want any new ones created.' It adds: 'The president adopted the classic conservative strategy for undermining agencies that regulate business: Underfund them, and when that doesn't work, replace government regulation with Herbert Hoover-style business self-regulation.' Bush killed the ergonomics regulation (Risks 48, Risks 25) and is now turning his attention to axing funding to federal safety enforcement and research bodies. The only dissenting voice has been that of the unions, the feature concludes.
After the successful London world premiere of Not this time - the story of the Simon Jones Memorial Campaign, the film is going national. The campaign is organising showings of this critically acclaimed 25 minute film, with speakers, across the country. Libby Brooks of The Guardian said: "No matter how many times I see it, this video remains one of the most powerful pieces of film-making I've ever seen."
The European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, Europes health and safety information mountain, has restyled its website. Better than before, the website is thorough and free. It boasts 'a regular online news service with the latest safety and health news; one-click shortcuts to our global network, discussion forums and information on key safety and health topics such as musculoskeletal disorders, accident prevention and stress at work; previews of forthcoming Agency publications In addition to its own activities, the Agency's online network provides instant access to global information on legislation and regulations, good safety and health practice, research, statistics, training and other fields.' If you need health and safety information in 11 European Union languages and you want to know about safety laws across the European Union, it is the only place to go.
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!
Tell MPs what it feels like to bullied! 29 May
Calling all those who know what bullying feels like, or how difficult it is to help someone who has been bullied...The House of Lords will be debating the report stage of the Dignity At Work Bill on Wednesday 29 May. Amicus peer Baroness Gibson of Market Rasen has arranged for a committee room to be reserved in the House of Lords for a meeting called by the Amicus Campaign Against Bullying At Work. The meeting is seeking testimonies from those with first hand experience of bullying. Under the Dignity at Work Bill, sensible employers who adopt genuine anti-bullying policies would be protected, providing they respond to complaints appropriately. Dignity at Work policies would be encouraged.
TUC/CCA Conference on safety law enforcement, 8 July
In January 2002, a coalition of trade unions, safety groups and families, bereaved from work-related deaths and disasters, came together around a series of demands for reform on safety, law enforcement and corporate accountability. This conference will explore this and the Government's agenda for reform. Speakers include Alan Whitehead MP. Registration costs £25.
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
This years week will take place in Britain from 14 October, on the theme of stress - there is a special page on the TUC website devoted to the week. Unions and union branches planning Euroweek activities should contact the TUCs stress week co-ordination team at Worksafe, tel. 01535 664462, with details of what they are doing and what support they would like. More background: European Agency and HSE Euroweek webpages.
Visit the TUC http://www.tuc.org.uk/h_and_s/ website pages on health and safety. See whats on offer from TUC Publications and Whats On in health and safety.
COURSES FOR APRIL TO JULY:
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.
Newsletter (5,200 words) issued 25 May 2002
This page http://www.tuc.org.uk/workplace/tuc-4898-f0.cfm
printed 19 June 2013 at 22:11 hrs by 126.96.36.199