Risks is the TUC's weekly newsletter for safety reps and others, sponsored by Thompsons Solicitors.
The Hazards Campaign has said it is deeply concerned at the ‘political hijacking’ of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), leaving it without a TUC representative on its board for the first time in the regulator’s near 50-year history. The seat usually occupied by a high-ranking TUC official has remained vacant for a year after the TUC’s highly qualified pick to replace TUC’s Kevin Rowan, who had completed his terms on the HSE board, was twice rejected by the work and pensions secretary. Instead, last week it was announced a person who has no formal connection with unions had been appointed instead. The campaign said the move means HSE “no longer operates as a tripartite organisation or at best only pretends to operate as one.” It said it “urges the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, to reverse this dangerous and politically motivated path and return the HSE to its independent tripartite origins.”
Hazards Campaign news release. Morning Star. HSE’s first ever TUC-free board.
The TUC has urged the new prime minister “not to touch our hard-won workers’ rights”. It has been reported that Liz Truss will review all rights which derive from EU law, including safety rules, holiday pay, safe limits on working time and equal pay, with a view to watering down or getting rid of those rights. Truss also pledged an attack on the right of working people to strike for better pay and conditions. The TUC said “you can’t grow the economy by slashing workers’ rights” in a takedown of the new prime minister and chancellor’s “ideological and reckless” economic vision. The TUC says the threats to workers’ rights and limits on workers’ ability to bargain for better pay and conditions show that the Conservative government is “cooking up a recipe for low-paid, burnt-out Britain”.
Morning Star. The Guardian.
The general secretaries of Prospect and FDA trade unions have written to the new prime minister, calling on her to “restore confidence that Parliament, and Westminster politics more broadly, is a safe place to work”. The unions represent workers in parliament and across the civil service. Noting the many reports of sexual assault and misconduct, bullying and harassment by MPs, the unions urged Liz Truss to “grasp the opportunity to make a break with the past and show the leadership necessary to change the culture in Parliament.” The letter encourages the prime minister to work with the Speaker of the House of Commons and other party leaders to introduce a formal mechanism to prevent MPs accused of serious sexual misconduct from attending Parliament and to “commit to restoring ethics and standards in public life.”
Prospect news release.
The union PCS has raised concerns about a worrying Big Brother-style development which could be used to victimise home-working civil servants. The Cabinet Office says it has introduced surveillance in a bid to boost efficiency following a fall in office occupancy, despite thousands of civil servants working from home since 2020 and successfully delivering services to the public. It says it wants to see office attendance across the civil service consistently back at pre-pandemic levels. PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka responded: “This is a worrying Big Brother-style development that we fear could be used to victimise our members who work from home rather than in the office.” Intrusive surveillance has been shown to increase worker stress, strain injuries and ill-health, and reduce productivity.
PCS news release. Morning Star.
Britain’s waiting times crisis can’t be addressed successfully without fixing workforce issues, health service union has said UNISON. Commenting on new figures showing record waiting times for NHS treatment in England, UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea said; “If the new Prime Minister’s serious about tackling problems in the NHS, that must start with a serious plan to keep hold of existing staff. Services cannot run themselves. Without a way to persuade exhausted employees to stay and new people to join, the outlook is bleak for anyone needing the NHS. Committing to increase health pay above inflation is now critical. Without that, waits and delays are likely to get a whole lot worse.”
UNISON news release.
Chloe Smith has replaced Thérèse Coffey as work and pensions secretary in new prime minister Liz Truss’ first cabinet. The Conservative MP has been a minister in the department since September 2021, with her brief including the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). That role, Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work, has now been absorbed into her secretary of state role, so there is no longer a junior minister of state with dedicated responsibility for health and safety at work.
DWP news release. BBC News Online.
The Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) has highlighted ‘3 Key Areas for Action’ to support workers, in a letter to the new prime minister. Referring to “an increasingly uncertain labour market”, IOSH chief executive Vanessa Harwood-Whitcher noted occupational health and safety is now an ILO fundamental right at work. She stressed that the government’s focus should not be on compromising health and safety standards but on reinforcing them to allow workplaces to be positive drivers of innovation, improved productivity and sustainability. “In recent years, we have seen employment and health and safety issues stagnate, when we should be valuing and investing in our workers,” said the IOSH chief. The letter added it was “imperative to protect, maintain and reinforce UK health and safety standards and bring the long-awaited Employment Bill forward as a matter of urgency.”
IOSH news release.
Businesses are not doing enough to prevent work-related suicides, the Hazards Campaign warned ahead of World Suicide Prevention day on 10 September. Using data from the Office for National Statistics, Hazards Campaign research found as many as 650 suicides each year could be work-related, equalling 10 per cent of all suicides in the country. Its research highlights how Britain does not monitor or legally recognise suicides which are deemed to be work-related, unlike other countries such as the US, Japan and France.
HR Magazine. SHP podcast. More on work-related suicide.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) says it has ‘refreshed’ its silica guidance for brick and tile manufacturing, stonework and foundries ahead of manufacturing sector focused inspections later this year, in a bid to reduce the risk of related diseases including silicosis. Starting in October, HSE inspectors will begin a targeted inspection initiative focusing on manufacturing business where materials that contain silica are used, to ensure they have control measures in place to protect workers’ respiratory health. This will include brick and tile manufacturers, foundries, stone working sites and manufacturers of kitchen worktops. However, HSE has faced sustained criticism for refusing to introduce a tighter exposure standard for respirable silica, with the current standard lagging significantly behind international best practice.
HSE news release,
ACTION: Send an e-postcard to HSE demanding it introduce a more protective silica standard
Two site managers have been handed suspended jail sentences and two construction firms have been fined over the death of an 18-year-old worker on a housing site. Josh Disdel was clearing a blocked sewer when he was crushed by a van. The judge said Josh had been given no safety equipment and no risk assessment had been carried out before the incident in 2018. D Brown (Building Contractors) Ltd, who was the main contractor on the housing project, was fined £300,000, having previously been convicted by a jury of a criminal safety offence. Darrell Tripp, who was site manager on the project, was also convicted and was sentenced to eight weeks in prison suspended for two years. Subcontractor P&R Plant Hire (Lincolnshire) Ltd, who employed Josh Disdel, pleaded guilty to a criminal safety offence and was fined £24,000. Brent Woods, who was a construction manager for P&R, was convicted and handed an 18-weeks jail term, suspended for two years.
HSE news release. BBC News Online.
A roofing contractor has been fined after an employee fell from a roof ladder and died at the scene. In May 2021, roof replacement work was being carried out on a domestic property in Burnley by Richard Thornton, trading as Vanguard Roofing. On the final day on site, an employee of Mr Thornton, whose name has not been confirmed by HSE, was climbing an improperly supported triple extending access ladder on the roof, to reach scaffolding at eaves level, whilst carrying a pile of slate on their shoulder. He slipped and fell to the ground, sustaining fatal injuries. Richard Anthony Thornton pleaded guilty to breaches of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 and the Employers’ Liability (Compulsory Insurance) Act 1969. He was sentenced to six months in prison, suspended for two years, and ordered to pay costs of £3,600.
HSE news release.
How can reps ensure their employer is managing sickness absence in a clear and fair way and what support can they offer colleagues who have a brief illness, injury, or a more long-term physical or mental condition? A one-hour TUC webinar starting at 2pm on Wednesday 21 September will hear Labour Research Department expert, Lewis Emery, talk reps through understanding sickness absence policy, negotiating income protections, and how to call on their employer to avoid discrimination when they are managing sickness absence.
Sickness absence - workers' rights, TUC webinar, Wednesday 21 September 2022 14:00-15:00. Register.
The first in-person meet-up of union reps since lockdown: come and join the TUC and fellow union reps at the Union Reps Connect event in London. The day will feature talks and workshops on organising for industrial action, campaigning on work-related stress, effective ventilation, and much more! The event is hosted by TUC Education, and closes with a complimentary drinks reception.
More info and register
Australian transport union TWU is calling on authorities to investigate Qantas’ supply chain. The move comes with publication of the union’s explosive dossier of serious safety breaches at Swissport, the ground handling labour provider carrying out the bulk of Qantas’ ‘illegally outsourced’ work. Through worker safety surveys, the TWU obtained several memos sent from Swissport to workers reporting incidents, including firearms unloaded onto arrivals carousels, dangerous goods loaded onto planes without being documented and staff injuries. The TWU has provided the dossier to safety regulators, copied to the Minister for Transport, calling for safety investigations into understaffing, work pressure, lack of training, and insufficient enforcement of safety protocols.
TWU news release and dossier of Swissport safety incidents.
A new estimate that 49.6 million people are in modern slavery on any given day has exposed the need for immediate international action to end this scandal, the global union confederation ITUC has said. ‘Global Estimates of Modern Slavery: Forced Labour and Forced Marriage’, from the International Labour Organisation (ILO), Walk Free and the IOM, calculates that the number has risen by ten million in five years. Sharan Burrow, general secretary ITUC, commented: “These findings are horrifying. It’s unimaginable what the daily reality is like for these people, and it’s indefensible that this number keeps rising.”
ITUC news release. ILO news release. Global Estimates of Modern Slavery: Forced Labour and Forced Marriage, ILO/Walk Free/IOM, September 2022.
Workers in Pakistan’s garment sector are still working in dangerous conditions, IndustriALL, the global textiles and garment unions’ federation, has warned. It was speaking out ahead of the 11 September 10th anniversary of the fire at Ali Enterprises, in which more than 250 garment workers were killed and over 50 were injured. IndustriALL general secretary Atle Høie commented: “Garment workers need safe factories; safety is a right, not a privilege. We know the difference the binding mechanisms of the International Accord make to the industry and we look forward to working with brands, manufacturers and our unions to implement it in Pakistan.”
IndustriALL news release.
The first US healthcare worker to be infected with monkeypox (MPX) while at work has been reported in Los Angeles County, public health officials have confirmed. “We have identified a healthcare worker with monkeypox who appears to have been exposed to the virus at their worksite,” Dr.Rita Singhal, chief medical officer for the LA County Department of Public Health, said in a presentation to the Board of Supervisors. “This is the first case of monkeypox in a healthcare worker in the United States that has been linked to a worksite exposure.” Singhal said the county has consulted about the case with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but added the risk of MPX for healthcare workers “remains very low.”
Los Angeles Times.
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