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Number 1071 *9 December 2022

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

Union News

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Safety and Health Practitioner Award

Public voting is open in the SHP annual awards, for Most Influential in Health and Safety 2022, closes this Sunday.
See nominees and vote here.

Glasgow Council mandates safe travel home for night workers

The Get Me Home Safely campaign led by Unite hospitality workers has seen a new victory, as Glasgow City Council has passed a motion requiring hospitality businesses to provide free and safe transport home for late-night workers after 23:00.
It will apply to any new alcohol licences, or existing businesses applying for extended operating hours. The call was led by hotel worker and Unite member Caitlin Lee, who was sexually assaulted as she was walking home after finishing her shift, after her employer had refused to pay for her taxi home.
BBC News
Get Me Home Safely Campaign

Scots teachers live in fear of being attacked

Scotland's teachers have been attacked thousands of times in the past year, UNISON figures have revealed. Council staff reported more than 22,000 incidents, with the majority of attacks against teachers and classroom assistants. Union leaders are now calling for new legislation and protection for staff.
Daily Record.

Bristol council housing officers in safety strike

Around 50 Bristol council housing officers and team leaders, responsible for managing the local authority’s 27,000 tenancies, are to recommence strike action over unsustainable workloads on 14, 15 and 16 December. The Unite members say extra work caused by a sharp increase in casework with vulnerable tenants is causing high rates of stress and anxiety. Unite General Secretary Sharon Graham said: “Our members cannot carry on with unsustainable workloads being forced upon them. Stress and anxiety amongst the housing workforce have gone through the roof. Bristol council cannot let this situation go on any longer, it must present a full resourced plan our members can accept.”
Unite news release.

Felixstowe protest over bullying management

Hundreds of port of Felixstowe workers protested on 5 December in defence of seven Unite members who have been victimised by “malicious” bosses. The union said the workers at the firm, owned by multinational CK Hutchison, have been victimised on trumped up charges, including one union rep who the company is attempting to suspend for failing to say ‘good morning’ to a manager. Unite General Secretary Sharon Graham said: “It’s clear the Felixstowe bosses think they can intimidate the union and its reps.” She added: “Unite cannot and will not accept the victimisation of our union members. The trumped-up charges against those who have been prominent in fighting for a new deal must be dropped”.
Unite news release.

Low-paid workers cannot afford sick leave

Retail union Usdaw is reiterating its call for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) reform after it found most low-paid workers cannot afford to take sick leave. The union’s survey found that 76 per cent of respondents cannot afford to go sick on SSP of just £99.35 a week, rising to 9 in 10 for those on in-work benefits. Usdaw surveyed over 7,500 members, who are mainly low-paid key workers in retail. The union wants the government to reform SSP so it reflects an individual’s average pay. It also wants the removal of the lower earnings limit of £123 per week, which means the worst off workers currently do not qualify for SSP, and also wants payment to kick in from day one of all absences.
Usdaw news release.

MP can visit Commons despite serious allegations

A union has expressed concerns that a sitting Conservative MP who has been reported to the police regarding allegations of rape and sexual assault is at liberty to continue to visit the Commons. Mike Clancy, General Secretary of Prospect, said: “This MP remains free to visit the House of Commons and interact with staff despite these very serious allegations. The Commons Commission is finally looking into excluding MPs from parliament when they are under investigation for this kind of thing – that inquiry needs to be expedited.”
Prospect news release. The Guardian.

Three reasons retail workers are hurting

A group of retail workers visited the House of Commons on 6 December to share their experience of work-related stresses with the Shadow Minister for Mental Health, Doctor Rosena Allin-Khan. Violence, threats and abuse against retail workers impacts over 70 per cent of shopworkers, Usdaw’s survey found, and is worse in the run-up to Christmas. And Christmas and New Year working leaves retail workers stressed and exhausted, but they get too little time off to help them recover.
Usdaw news release.

Record numbers of construction suicides

Suicides in the English and Welsh construction industries have hit their highest rate since analysis began, a Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) analysis has confirmed. The data, compiled by Professor Billy Hare, shows the suicide rate for construction occupations in England and Wales in 2021 was 34 per 100,000 in employment. This is the highest rate since analysis of the data began. The research identified that the number of suicides in construction in England and Wales rose from 26 to 34 per 100,000 in the seven years to 2021, meaning those in this industry were nearly four times more likely to take their own life compared to other sectors last year.
GCU news release.
ACTION! Tell the HSE to recognise, record and take action to prevent work-related suicides. More on work-related suicides.

Take better care of workers, businesses warned

British businesses must take better care of their workforce, or risk greater uncertainty, safety professionals’ organisation IOSH has warned. It said new research commissioned by IOSH ‘paints a gloomy picture’ of the workplace. Nearly half of respondents don’t believe their employer has their health and safety in mind, while four in ten don’t agree their work is supportive of their physical and mental wellbeing.
IOSH news release and Catch the Wave e-book.

Care home nurses need Covid trauma support

Those on the front line of the Covid pandemic need mental health support to help them recover from, or manage, the stress and trauma they faced, according to University of East Anglia (UEA) research. A new report “shows that care home nurses were completely unprepared for the extraordinary situation they found themselves in during the Covid-19 pandemic, and that this has impacted their mental health and wellbeing,” said lead researcher Diane Bunn.
UEA news release.

Long Covid linked to labour market exit

Long Covid is likely to have contributed to the record number of people leaving the labour market in Britain, an Office for National Statistics (ONS) study has found. In the year to July, more than 200,000 people left the workforce because they had the condition, it reported. The analysis identifies for the first time a link between long Covid and the recent workforce exodus, which has seen 600,000 workers go “missing” from the job market since early 2020. Responding to the analysis, TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady urged ministers to ensure that Long Covid sufferers are recognised as disabled in law so that they receive support and protections at work, and for Long Covid to be recognised as an occupational disease.
Self-reported long COVID and labour market outcomes, Morning Star.

Firm fined for sewage clean-up infection

A company has been fined £126,100 plus £43,494 costs after an employee became seriously ill when he contracted a blood infection while working at a lake contaminated with sewage. He was working for Adler and Allan Ltd during a clean-up operation at a lake near Churchbridge, Staffordshire. Dead fish had to be cleaned out of the lake after it was contaminated with sewage when a nearby pipe burst. The employee worked at the lake for two weeks before contracting Leptospirosis (Weil’s Disease), a disease related to contact with rat urine, and becoming seriously ill. The infection meant he had to limit contact with his family and did not make a full recovery for around four months. For the first two weeks of the job, there were no on-site toilets or welfare units available to the company’s employees.
HSE news release and leptospirosis webpage.

More school children die of Strep A infection

More primary school children have died after catching invasive Group A Streptococcal disease (iGAS), or Strep A. The bacteria can cause Strep Throat, Scarlet Fever and other conditions. Early treatment with antibiotics is important as it helps reduce the risk of complications and the spread of the infection. A least fifteen children in Britain have now died in the current outbreak.
Department for Education info

Disabled council worker gets harassment payout

A disabled council worker who was ‘humiliated’ by a boss has been awarded compensation. A tribunal found comments made by Rotherham Council's former assistant chief executive amounted to disability-related harassment. The panel ordered the council to pay £4,881.11 for ‘injury to feelings’.
BBC News Online.

There should be a right to flexible work

Employees will be given the right to ask for flexible working from their first day at a new job, the government has proposed. New legislation will mean that workers will not have to wait for 26 weeks to seek flexible arrangements, as set out under the current law. However, TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said “we'd like the government to go much further to ensure that flexible work now becomes the norm.” She added: “Ministers must change the law so that every job advert makes clear what kind of flexible working is available in that role. And they should give workers the legal right to work flexibly from their first day in a job - not just the right to ask.”
BBC News Online.

Paint firm fined over worker’s serious burns

A chemicals company has been fined £800,000 plus £14,032 costs after a worker suffered life-changing injuries in an explosion. The employee at International Paint Limited’s Gateshead premises spent eight days on life support and has been left with all-over body scarring, partial blindness to one eye, hearing damage, and other injuries. He was off work for 16 months. The employee, who was 49 at the time, was making paint in a large mixing vessel, which involved the use of flammable liquids.
HSE news release. Newcastle Chronicle.

Husband ‘a stranger’ after work injuries

The wife of a man left severely disabled by a workplace accident says he is a “stranger in her husband’s body”. Sue McFarlane’s partner John, 57, suffered life-changing brain injuries fall of 2.5 metres from a delivery vehicle to a concrete floor at the vehicle parts company where he worked. Sue is now John’s registered carer. He can never work or drive again and is classed as 80 per cent disabled. Autoneum Great Britain Ltd was fined £30,000 with £10,126 costs after admitting a criminal safety offence. Sue said: “John doesn’t really understand what’s going on. It’s so hard for the whole family, for everyone. His sons have lost the man who was their dad.”
HSE news release.

International News

Australia: Big progress for women’s workplace safety

A Respect@Work Bill has been passed in Australia’s parliament, signalling the new Labour government’s firm commitment to gender equality. The new law will mean women can earn a living safe from sexual harassment, Australian Unions said. They added that in swift succession to this ‘long overdue’ policy move, the government has also moved to ratify the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) Violence and Harassment Convention, C190 – which recognises every worker’s fundamental right to be free from all forms of violence and harassment at work.
Australian Unions.

Global: Violence at work affects one in five

More than one in five people in employment have experienced violence and harassment at work, whether physical, psychological or sexual, according to a new analysis by the International Labour Organisation (ILO). ‘Experiences of Violence and Harassment at Work: A global first survey’ found 17.9 per cent of employed men and women said they had experienced psychological violence and harassment in their working life, and 8.5 per cent had faced physical violence and harassment.
ILO news release and report, Experiences of Violence and Harassment at Work: A global first survey.

China: Garment factory fire kills 38

China's worst workplace fire in nearly a decade killed 38 people after a fire in an undergarment factory staffed mostly by elderly women on 22 November. China Labour Bulletin reported the tragedy in the city of Anyang, Henan province: welding equipment ignited highly flammable cotton material on the ground floor of the warehouse. The blaze quickly consumed the entire two-storey building. Some 89 people escaped with their lives. The ground floor housed a warehouse operated by Kaixinda Trading Company, and the second floor was rented out by Kaixinda to three separate undergarment workshops.
China Labour Bulletin.

USA: ‘PTO Woes’ are making workers skip holiday

Stressed out workers are skipping paid time off (PTO) because unmanageable workloads, a survey suggests. Nearly nine in 10 (87 per cent) of the 1,399 US workers polled by job site Monster reported they’d experienced what has been dubbed ‘PTO Woes’. Nearly 70 per cent of workers fear that a “work crisis” will await when they return.
Fortune magazine.
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