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Risks is the TUC's weekly newsletter for safety reps and others, sponsored by Thompsons Solicitors.



Airport workers call for action on death road

Liverpool council must act without delay to address the hazardous conditions on road near to the city’s airport, Unite has said. The call follows the recent death of Unite member, Cinzia Ceravolo in August. She was killed trying to cross Hale Road on her journey home from work at Liverpool John Lennon Airport.  Airport workers, the union says, have little option but to attempt to cross the dangerous road on their way to and from work. Unite’s members say that they stand ready to give evidence to the council to make the case for the crossing to be made safer. Unite general secretary Sharon Graham: “As a part owner of Liverpool airport, the council must act to prevent further tragedies, and Unite’s members at the airport have their union’s full support in this campaign.”  Cinzia’s loved ones and colleagues have made a film to highlight the dangers of Hale Road and how workers are forced to use the dangerous crossing.
Unite news release, film and open letter to Liverpool mayor Joanne Anderson.

RMT warning of rail disaster repeat risk

Twenty-three years after 31 lives were lost in the Ladbroke Grove rail disaster, rail union RMT has warned that government policy is in danger of dragging the railways closer towards ‘the same cocktail of conditions that lead to tragedy’ on 5 October 1999. RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: “Privatisation, fragmentation and a complete absence of corporate responsibility were at the heart of the tragedy. The proliferation of private agencies and contractors, often employing casual staff on zero hours contracts is rapidly dragging us back to the edge. The contingency staff utilised by employers during official trade union strike action are often undertrained and inexperienced.” He concluded: “We will use every tool at our disposal to both defend our members industrially and keep safety at the top of the agenda while demanding the renationalisation of our railways. This is only way to guarantee a safe railway for passengers and rail staff.”
RMT news release.

Rail workers fight for a safe, sustainable network

Ongoing rail strikes involving the unions RMT, ASLEF, TSSA and Unite are critical to the fight for a safe and sustainable rail system, the global transport unions’ federation ITF has said. The union body noted: “Network Rail, the company in charge of the UK railway infrastructure and maintenance, (still publicly owned), plans to cut 2,500 maintenance jobs. These jobs are critical to safety on the railways, and the unions are defending the safety of both workers and passengers by insisting that there be no compulsory redundancies.” ITF added unions in countries including Belgium, France, the US and Korea have also been mobilising to defend safety and services. The demands of ITF’s global ITF campaign for Safe and Sustainable Rail include “safety - ensuring railways are properly staffed and that staff have decent pay and conditions, as well as proper training on occupational health and safety.”
ITF news release.

Serco workers strike over impossible rosters

Royal Navy vessels using the dockyard at Plymouth will be unable to refuel on 7 and 8 October as barge crews take strike action over the imposition of an punishing rota system. The dozen barge crew workers, who are members of Unite, are in dispute with their employer, outsourcing giant Serco, over the imposition an ‘impossible’ roster. Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “This imposed roster means workers are left not knowing whether they are coming or going. It’s totally unacceptable, and we know it is unnecessary because the same employer, Serco, operates a different, fairer system just along the coast.” She added: “Unite is totally committed to defending the jobs, pay and conditions of its members. Our members employed by Serco in Plymouth will receive the union’s full support.”
Unite news release.



Concerns grow over ‘sunsetting’ of EU rules

Alarm at government plans to ‘sunset’ all retained EU laws is spreading. The laws, which include many key employment protections and 55 workplace safety and chemical regulations (Risks 1061), are being targeted as part of a government drive to remove “burdensome EU regulation”. The Brexit Freedoms Bill proposes to end the special status retained EU law has on the UK statute books by 2023. Business secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg, who unveiled the bill, argued it would pave the way for regulations that work for the UK so businesses and the economy can innovate and grow. However, wildlife and other environmental campaigns have joined unions and others in vocally opposing the move. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) said the bill, alongside other recent proposals are “an unprecedented attack on nature and the laws that protect it.”. And Joan Edwards, director of policy at The Wildlife Trusts said: “At a time when nature needs us most, the government is threatening to turn a very bad situation into a complete disaster.”
CIEH news report. BEIS retained EU law dashboard. Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill.

Rees-Mogg seeking to bypass HSE fracking scrutiny

Ministers are actively examining ways to evade legal scrutiny of new oil and gas projects, including fracking. The Guardian reports that senior staff working on energy projects in the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) have been instructed to look into ideas raised by Jacob Rees-Mogg, the business secretary, to escape potential judicial review of policies or public consultation. Proposals in an email, written by a senior official who explains that they are relaying Rees-Mogg’s views, include a move to “streamline” requirements from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), with the email noting this “would speed matters up further”. The tactic would of questionable legal legitimacy, as ministers are not allowed to interfere with HSE’s day-to-day regulatory functions.
The Guardian.

Action call on workplace suicide prevention

One-in-four employees admit to having experienced suicidal thoughts at work, research by a suicide charity has found. Announcing its findings based on responses from 2,001 UK adults, R;pple said its new ‘Working 9-Alive’ campaign is seeking mandatory suicide prevention rquirements on employers, “entrenched in their existing health and safety policies.” R;pple said it wants businesses to be more accountable. The charity found that around a quarter of employees (23 per cent) don’t benefit from any mental health policies in their workplace, and almost two-fifths (38 per cent) feel that their workplace mental health policies could be better. A further fifth of employees (20 per cent) see their workplace mental health policies as a “tick box” exercise.
R;pple Suicide Prevention.

Protesters urge work disease centre rethink

Campaigners fighting to keep open a specialist occupational disease assessment site are to take to the streets in protest. Barrow's Phoenix House is among several sites across the country to have been earmarked for closure by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP).  The team processes benefits claims for people with industrial injuries such as asbestosis and mesothelioma, a form of cancer. Campaign groups representing occupational disease sufferers say the closure would mean processing delays and lead to people “dying without being able to afford care and heating.”  A protest is due to be held in Barrow town centre on 15 October. In a letter to the DWP, Joanne Gordon, the chair of the Asbestos Victims Support Groups' Forum UK, said: “In our view it is imperative that no closure or job losses are made unless or until the skillsets of the current Barrow office staff can be replicated at an alternative, whether that is through staff transfer, skills training programmes and/or the implementation of fully tested systems and processes at an alternative site. “
North West Mail. Asbestos Forum.

Firms fined for workers’ excessive radiation exposure

A company that provides diagnostic imaging services, and its radiopharmaceutical subsidiary company, have been given six-figure fines following incidents at two sites in which employees were exposed to radiation. On 25 March 2019, a vial of a radioactive substance (FDG) leaked after it was installed into a shielded dispensing pot in the dispensing laboratory of Alliance Medical Limited’s (AML) Positron emission tomography-computed tomography (PET-CT) facility at St James’s University Hospital in Leeds. Two members of staff received skin doses in excess of the permitted annual dose limit. In a second incident, on 15 November 2019, the same radioactive substance was unknowingly handled during the production process at the Alliance Medical Radiopharmacy Limited (AMRL) facility at Keele University Science Park. A member of staff received a radiation dose in excess of the annual dose limit. Alliance Medical Limited pleaded guilty to criminal breaches of the Ionising Radiations Regulations 2017 and was fined £300,000 plus £11,382 costs. Alliance Medical Radiopharmacy Limited, also pleaded guilty and was fined £120,000 with £11,382 costs.
HSE news release and advice, Health and Safety: Ionising Radiation.

BBC ‘endangering’ World Service Vietnamese staff

Journalists at the BBC World Service have said plans to move its Vietnamese service from London to Thailand pose a danger to press freedom and to its journalists. Several reporters at the World Service raised concerns that the Vietnamese state had a history of abducting journalists from Thailand. Because of concerns about freedom of speech, the BBC’s Vietnamese-language service has traditionally operated out of London, in common with most of the World Service’s operations. The relocation of the Vietnamese team is one of a series of cost-saving measures, which includes cutting almost 400 jobs to save the BBC about £28m a year. The Thai service will also move from London to Bangkok, the Korean service to Seoul, and the Bangla service to Dhaka.
The Guardian.

HSE silica inspection initiative targets manufacturers

Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspectors have begun a targeted inspection initiative focusing on manufacturing businesses where materials that contain silica are used. The inspections, which started on 3 October, are checking whether employers and workers know the risks involved when dealing with silica and whether businesses have control measures in place to protect workers’ respiratory health.  Firms including brick and tile manufacturers, foundries, stone working sites and manufacturers of kitchen worktops will be visited. The regulator says if any health and safety breaches are discovered, HSE will take enforcement action to make sure workers’ health is protected. However, HSE had faced sustained criticism for refusing to introduce a tighter exposure standard for respirable silica, with the current standard lagging significantly behind international best practice and leading to significant levels of occupational disease even where it is observed.
HSE news release and updates on the HSE silica campaign.
ACTION: Send an e-postcard to HSE demanding it introduce a more protective UK silica standard no higher than 0.05mg/m³ and with a phased move to 0.025mg/m³.



·Cancer risks in healthcare workers, ETUI webinar, 12 October

In the healthcare sector, 12.7 million workers across the EU are potentially exposed to Hazardous Medicinal Products (HMPs). These can also pose health risks to nurses, pharmacists, cleaners and other exposed workers. The Europe-wide trade union research institute ETUI has identified 121 HMPs commonly used in the healthcare sector which can cause cancer or reproductive disorders in professionals exposed to them. ETUI, which has produced a new report on the topic, is hosting a one-hour webinar on 12 October, with presentations from key experts and a Q&A session.
Cancer risks in healthcare workers: Identification of Hazardous Medicinal Products (HMPs), ETUI webinar, 10-11am UK time, 12 October 2022. Register. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.
The ETUI's list of hazardous medicinal products (HMPs), ETUI report, October 2022.



Global: New ILO head puts social justice first

The new director-general of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) has said social justice and equality will be cornerstones of his approach. Gilbert F Houngbo, whose term as head of the UN employment rights body began on 1 October 2022, said “at policy-making level, be it national, international or multilateral, in trade agreements, in foreign direct investment or in whole supply chains, we have to ensure that social justice remains at the core, and therefore contributes to the fight against inequality.” Identifying occupational health and safety as one of six key priorities, he noted: “Another important point is the major decision taken by the International Labour Conference (ILC) in June, for the integration of Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) as part of the Fundamental Conventions. So another issue is implementing our Conventions and modernising our supervisory mechanisms to take into account the demands of today's world.”
ILO news release.

Global: Health and care workers hurt by pandemic

At least a quarter of health and care workers surveyed reported anxiety, depression and burnout symptoms working in the pandemic, new research has found. A report by the Qatar Foundation, World Innovation Summit for Health (WISH), in collaboration with the World Health Organisation (WHO), ‘Our duty of care: A global call to action to protect the mental health of health and care workers’, found that 23 to 46 per cent of health and care workers reported symptoms of anxiety during the Covid-19 pandemic and 20 to 37 per cent experienced depressive symptoms. Burnout among health and care workers during the pandemic ranged from 41 to 52 per cent in pooled estimates. The report highlights 10 policy actions as a framework for immediate uptake, such as investing in workplace environments and culture that prevent burnout, promote staff wellbeing, and support quality care. This includes the obligations and roles of governments and employers for occupational safety and health.
WHO news release and report, Our duty of care: A global call to action to protect the mental health of health and care workers, October 2022.

Korea: Make road transport ‘safe rates’ laws permanent

There is overwhelming evidence for the link between road safety and driver pay, international experts and global union leaders have told South Korean lawmakers.  A discussion forum on the ‘Global Trends towards Safe Rates and Implications for Legislative Improvements’ was held in the South Korean National Assembly on 28 September, the day before a parliamentary committee started reviewing an extension of Safe Rates legislation, which is set to lapse at the end of the year. Members of the Assembly heard from the delegation from the global transport unions federation ITF. Stephen Cotton,  the ITF general secretary, said: “The Safe Rates law lapses at the end of this year and some businesses have been shamelessly lobbying to stop its renewal. They want to trim costs by putting Korean road-users lives on the line. But Korea’s lawmakers and transport authorities around the world must understand: Safe Rates works.”
ITF news release.

USA: Amazon sues regulator after safety action

Amazon, the world’s biggest retailer, is suing a workplace safety regulator in Washington state, after it was penalised for a series of safety violations. In a lawsuit filed 3 October in a federal court in Seattle, Amazon accused Washington Department of Labor & Industries of stacking the system against employers and violating their due process rights. Amazon faces $81,000 in fines from four citations issued between May 2021 and March 2022 over safety concerns at three of its Washington warehouses. Regulators have accused Amazon of setting an unsafe pace of work that puts employees at risk of musculoskeletal injuries.  After issuing three citations against the company, the department wrote in its fourth that Amazon was aware of these hazards and was “knowingly putting workers at risk.” In its court filings, Amazon argued the measures required by the regulator to mitigate risks would be ‘tremendously disruptive’ and require a ‘costly study’.
Seattle Times. Lincoln Star Journal. Confined Space.
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