Toggle high contrast
Issue date

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

Number 1065 * 28 October 2022

Risks is the TUC’s weekly Union Health & Safety newsletter for union members, reps and activists. 

Union News

Labour leader says Amazon should recognise union

Amazon it should recognise a union in its workplaces, Keir Starmer has said. At the TUC’s annual Congress on 20 October the Labour leader stated: “I would be very clear... to Amazon. They should recognise the GMB.” GMB said it has long campaigned for Amazon to recognise the union in order to help improve the company’s record on health and safety issues. Gary Smith, GMB general secretary, said: “It’s great to hear from the man who is on course to be prime minister that he thinks Amazon should recognise GMB as the trade union for the company’s workers. But ultimately this is a fight our members must win for themselves; and that’s just what they are doing.” He added: “Amazon workers are angry about pay and angry about the company’s health and safety record. The company needs to listen.”
GMB news release.

Train drivers shouldn't be dying for a toilet break

A train driver was killed after getting out of his cab to urinate at the track side because there were no toilets on board, drivers’ union ASLEF has said. The union is waiting for the Department for Transport’s Rail Accident Investigation Branch to produce its report into the tragedy - but it is calling on all rail operators to remedy the lack of facilities for train crew where no toilet is provided on board. The tragic death occurred at West Worthing, west Sussex, on 1 February 2022, when the driver had made a scheduled stop in sidings in a break between passenger services. He stepped down from the cab and was hit by another train and killed. Aslef assistant general secretary Simon Weller said: “We believe the driver who was hit had gone down to track level, in the dark, to urinate.” He said there had “long been concerns” about the lack of toilet facilities for crew on some trains. The company has received an ORR improvement notice for its criminal failure to provide toilets for staff on this line and “adequate time to access them”.
Morning Star.

Magistrates' courts strike over 'unworkable' computer system

PCS members at magistrates’ courts across England and Wales have gone on strike over a computer system which they say is wrecking their working lives. The union says the Common Platform computer system forced on them by HM Courts and Tribunal Service (HMCTS) is “unworkable.” The nine-day strike began on 22 October. PCS said that the new computer system had increased the time taken to carry out tasks, affected workers’ health and disrupted the running of the justice system. The union added that it had increased stress among workers and sometimes kept them working until midnight recording court cases.  PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “We’ve been left with no choice but to call strike action.” He added: “It’s adversely affecting our members’ health and their ability to do their jobs and is detrimental to the delivery of justice. HMCTS managers should listen to our members and stop the rollout immediately.”
PCS news release. Morning Star.

Ambulance strike ballot over 'unsafe' services

More than 15,000 ambulance workers across 11 trusts in England and Wales are voting on strike action. Workers are angry over the government’s imposed 4 per cent pay award as well as unsafe staffing levels across the ambulance service. Rachel Harrison, GMB acting national secretary, said the action is “about patient safety at least as much about pay. Delays up to 26 hours and 135,000 vacancies across the NHS mean a third of GMB ambulance workers think a delay they’ve been involved with has led to a death.” She added: “Ambulance workers have been telling the government for years things are unsafe. No one is listening. What else can they do?”
GMB news release.

Woolwich Ferry use of agency staff 'unsafe'

Unite has written to London Assembly members to raise concerns about the poorly trained agency workers being used to run a limited service during the Woolwich Ferry strike. The union has called on GLA members to give an assurance that the agency staffing arrangements, along with the condition of the boats, “give no cause for concern as far as safety is concerned.” Unite general secretary, Sharon Graham said: “Rather than attempting to resolve this strike, TfL [Transport for London] is just prolonging it by using poorly trained agency staff.” Unite national lead officer Onay Kasab added: “In the opinion of experienced workers on site, the shortened training given to agency staff means that they are nowhere near as well trained as the permanent staff. The workers are rightly demanding cast iron assurances from GLA members about safety. TfL are still failing these workers time and time again, bosses must use the upcoming meeting to end this dispute.”
Unite news release.

Bristol council strike over unsustainable workloads

Around 50 housing officers and team leaders, responsible for managing Bristol council’s 27,000 tenancies, have taken strike action over unsustainable workloads. The Unite members say they are angry Bristol council is refusing to act, even though the extra work is causing high rates of stress and anxiety. They are calling on the council to reduce workloads and allocate additional resources. Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Our members have had enough of the intolerable demands that they are being subjected to. Levels of stress and anxiety have rocketed.” She added: “The workers are absolutely right to take a stand against these unsustainable workloads and they have Unite’s full backing during these strikes. Bristol council needs to act now.”
Unite news release.

Avanti West Coast stressing out staff

Bosses at the strike-hit train company Avanti claim they have imposed rosters is to prevent cancellations, but the rail union RMT says the truth is that the company’s neglect has resulted in ‘dreadfully low morale’ among staff. RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: “Avanti continue to be totally unreasonable in negotiations and seem incapable of taking responsibility for the mess they have caused. They show little concern for the health and safety of our members as some of their rostering proposals would lead to unacceptable levels of fatigue amongst train managers.” He said the strike action by train managers hitting the company “is the end result of months of neglect and the only way our train managers feel they can voice their concerns.” He added: “We remain open for meaningful talks to resolve the dispute but be in no doubt our industrial campaign will continue for as long as it takes.”
RMT news release. BBC News Online.

CWU rep receives TUC'S top safety award

A Communication Workers’ Union safety rep has received the TUC’s top safety award. Jamie McGovern, who was announced as the winner of the 2022 Health and Safety Rep Award at TUC’s Congress, said: “The ambition I’ve always had is to try and support people and make sure you have a listening ear.” He added: “I’ve learned through my trade union education we’ve got to lead and not follow. And we’ve got to innovate as well.” The CWU safety rep said trade unionism was now more relevant than ever, adding: “We need that unity of strength. You are weaker as an individual. You are better supported when you are united.”
TUC Award Winners 2022.
 Other News

HSE not up to its post-Brexit work on chemicals

Key government regulators including the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) do not have the necessary staff and skills to protect workers and the public from chemical and other risks, MPs have said. The Commons public accounts committee said that regulators are “struggling to recruit and retain the skills they need to regulate effectively” amid growing demand following Britain’s exit from the EU. HSE has been tasked with operating an independent post-Brexit regulatory chemical safety regime, replacing a sophisticated EU system for setting exposure standards, regulations and regulatory systems. All existing EU regulations are set to be ‘sunset’ in a year, unless given an explicit reprieve. The report notes that government plans to cut budgets at HSE “would mean it was not resourced to take on its new functions and maintain existing ones.”
House of Commons Public Accounts Committee news release, report and Inquiry: Regulation after EU exit. Morning Star.

MPs say work suicides should be reported to HSE

Suicides at work should be reported in the same way as occupational accidents and work diseases, a group of MPs has said. The call comes from the All Party Group Parliamentary Group (APPG) on issues affecting men and boys The group, chaired by Conservative MP Mark Jenkinson, made the recommendation at the conclusion of its inquiry into male suicide. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has resisted calls for work-related suicides to be covered by its RIDDOR reporting regulations (Risks 1027). However, a key recommendation in the APPG report, “Tackling Male Suicide: A New ‘Whole System’ Approach”, calls for: “Suicides at work to be disclosed as a RIDDOR (Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations).”
APPG on issues affecting men and boys. ‘Third enquiry: Male suicide’, news release and report.
ACTION! Tell the HSE to recognise, record and take action to prevent work-related suicides. More on work-related suicides.

Monkeypox a risk to UK health workers

Monkeypox can be a significant risk to health care workers, a UK study has found. Investigators from hospitals, universities and the UK Health Security Agency investigated environmental contamination with monkeypox virus from infected patients admitted to isolation rooms at the Royal Free Hospital, London, between 24 May and 17 June 2022. Surface swabs were obtained from high-touch areas in five isolation rooms, from the personal protective equipment (PPE) of healthcare workers in doffing areas in three rooms, and from air samples collected before and during bedding changes. The researchers concluded their “data show contamination in isolation facilities and potential for suspension of monkeypox virus into the air during specific activities. PPE contamination was observed after clinical contact and changing of bedding. Contamination of hard surfaces in doffing areas supports the importance of cleaning protocols, PPE use, and doffing procedures.”
Gould S and others. Air and surface sampling for monkeypox virus in a UK hospital: an observational study. Lancet Microbe, 7 October 2022. DOI: . NHS England Airborne High Consequence Infectious Diseases Network.

Uninsured furniture retailer gets small fine

A furniture retail boss who did not have the insurance that would cover his legal liabilities if a worker suffered an injury or disease as a result of his negligence has escaped with a small fine. Exclusive Oriental Classics Ltd and its director Kian Hoo Tay appeared at Luton Magistrates Court for failing to have Employers’ Liability (Compulsory) Insurance (ELCI). The court heard an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) discovered the failure when one of the company’s employees was injured at work on 1 March 2022. The insurance policy had expired on 13 May 2021. Exclusive Oriental Classics Ltd and Kian Hoo Tay pleaded guilty and both were fined £1,650 plus £1,750 costs. HSE inspector Emma Page said: “Every employer needs to ensure that they have Employers’ Liability (Compulsory) Insurance in place to ensure against liability for injury or disease to their employees arising out of their employment.”
HSE news release.

Security guard seriously injured at abattoir

A meat production company has been fined £440,000 after a security guard at an abattoir was seriously injured by a vehicle passing through the site gate. The 63-year-old worker, who was employed by an independent security company, was on duty at the gated entrance of the Dunbia (UK) abattoir at Hatherleigh, Devon, early on the morning of 29 November 2018. Her duties included operating the gates to allow delivery vehicles to enter and exit the site. She sustained serious leg and head injuries requiring surgery when she was hit by a vehicle towing a trailer. She was holding the gate open at the time. Dunbia (UK) pleaded guilty to a criminal safety offence and was fined £440,000 plus costs of £27,016. HSE inspector Victoria Buchanan said: “This incident could have been avoided had the company assessed the risks from vehicle movements and implemented safety measures including segregating vehicles and pedestrians.”
HSE news release.

Petrol blunder saw worker engulfed in flames

A Kent groundwork contractor has been fined after a worker sustained serious burns as a result of petrol thrown on a bonfire. The 26-year-old groundworker employed by Kent County Surfacing Ltd was working on a new residential development when a co-worker threw petrol on the bonfire. The groundworker was unaware of this and after he was instructed to light the bonfire, he was engulfed in flames as the petrol vapour ignited. He suffered serious life-changing burns and underwent two skin graft operations to his left hand, left arm, left side of torso and both his legs. Kent County Surfacing Ltd, which pleaded guilty to a criminal breach of the Construction (Design & Management) Regulations, was fined £10,000 plus costs of £7,333.42. HSE inspector Ross Carter commented: “This serious incident and devastation should have been avoided if those in control of the work provided the appropriate supervision, information and instructions to their workers.”
HSE news release. Construction Enquirer.

Bernard Matthews fined after separate injuries

Bernard Matthew’s Food Ltd has been fined £400,000 following two separate incidents where employees were seriously injured. Colin Frewin was left permanently paralysed following an incident at the company’s Suffolk manufacturing plant. The 54-year-old, who suffered the injuries on 28 January 2020 that have left him paraplegic, had been tasked with cleaning a large screw conveyor used to move poultry turkeys along and chill them. As he attempted to dislodge a trapped turkey using a squeegee, he was drawn into the machine. In an earlier incident at the same plant on 12 August 2019, as 34-year-old Adriano Gama tried to remove a stuck turkey wing from the line, his gloved hand became caught in the exposed sprocket of a conveyor and was drawn into the machine, causing a broken arm and severe muscle damage. Bernard Matthews Food Ltd pleaded guilty to a criminal safety offence and was fined £400,000 and ordered to pay costs of £15,000.
HSE news release.Action

Do you have, or have you had Long Covid symptoms?

The TUC and the Long Covid Support Employment Group are interested in the experiences of people with Long Covid. Their survey aims to better understand how workers with Long Covid have been treated in the workplace and what support is needed.

If you have experienced Long Covid, complete the survey and share with others.International News

USA: Food giants use smartwatch app to monitor workers

Two of America’s largest meat companies - JBS and Tyson Foods - have invested in a smartwatch application that allows managers to monitor workers’ movements. The start-up behind the application, Mentore, claims to improve worker productivity while reducing injuries. The repetitive, fast and taxing work of cutting and packing protein makes meat processing plants some of the most dangerous workplaces in the country. However, experts said the use of digital technologies and artificial intelligence to manage workers can have negative effects, such as increased stress and injuries, particularly when companies use the technology to make disciplinary decisions. Meat companies have fought to increase the pace of work on the line, the single largest factor responsible for workplace strain injuries, a move opposed by unions.
Missouri Independent.
Enable Two-Factor Authentication

To access the admin area, you will need to setup two-factor authentication (TFA).

Setup now