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

Union News

Safety regulator must tackle sexual harassment at work

Sexual harassment at work is “a form of violence and assault” and should be targeted like other hazards by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), unions and campaigners have said. A letter to the safety regulator reflects concern that HSE is neglecting the trauma and occupational distress caused by harassment within the workplace and instead treating sexual harassment as solely an equality issue.  STUC general secretary Roz Foyer commented: “Workers across the country cannot be left in the lurch whilst statutory bodies pass the buck on who is responsible for protecting them from violence in the workplace.”
STUC news release.  

Violence, threats and abuse hurt retail workers

Nearly a third of shopworkers are on the verge of quitting due to spiralling levels of in-store violence, threats and abuse, retail union Usdaw has warned. Around 30 per cent are considering a change of job and four in 10 feel anxious at work because of abusive customers, according to Usdaw’s latest annual survey. The poll of more than 7,700 staff found that about threequarters have suffered verbal abuse, and 49 per cent have been directly threatened. Eight per cent have been assaulted, up on 2019’s five per cent.
Usdaw news release and report. Morning Star.

Case for work-related Covid recognition hardens

Pressure is increasing on the Westminster government to recognise Covid as an occupational disease. In January, a Welsh senior coroner found that the two nurses most likely contracted Covid either from patients or their colleagues while working in hospitals in the first few months of the pandemic. TUC head of safety Shelly Asquith said the union body is urging the government to follow the advice of its own experts and approve Covid as an occupational disease for health and social care workers.
The Medical Republic.

Staffing on railways vital to protect women

Staffing levels on railways are vital to protect women passengers, the TUC Women’s Conference has heard. Delegates were told that railways in Britain have become profit-driven under the Conservative government, with bosses planning to close most ticket offices and extend driver-only operation (DOO). Ann Joss of RMT said: “We need to keep drivers on the train [and] keep those trains safe for women.” Train driver Kerry Cassidy, from Aslef, said that the strikes “haven’t just been about pay, we are also fighting for jobs, for services, for safety.”
Morning Star.

‘Me, work and the menopause’ campaign

Retail trade union Usdaw has launched a new campaign about the menopause to raise awareness and to seek better workplace rights. The union said it is clear that the menopause is an occupational health issue. Paddy Lillis, the Usdaw general secretary, commented: “Usdaw has developed this campaign to enable more women to recognise and feel able to discuss their menopause symptoms in the workplace and equip reps with the tools they need to open up conversations about the menopause at work.”
Usdaw news release and Me, work and the menopause campaign.
REGISTER for TUC Menopause webinar this Thursday, 2-3pm

Menopause is a workplace issue

Teachers should not have to feel they must hide symptoms of the menopause and employers must instead make necessary adjustments at work to protect their health and wellbeing, NASUWT has said. The teaching union warned employers are still failing to recognise the impact the menopause can have. The union wants workplaces to use health and safety legislation to ensure related hazards are addressed through ‘reasonable adjustments’, ending a situation where women feel they have to hide menopause symptoms.
NASUWT news release.
REGISTER for TUC Menopause webinar this Thursday, 2-3pm

Other News

Young workers told to take asbestos ‘seriously’

Millennials, gen Z workers and other younger people who work as plumbers, electricians, and in other trades need to take the risk of asbestos much more seriously, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has warned. The workplace regulator has launched a new campaign to raise awareness of the risks associated with the cancer-causing fibre. The campaign, called Asbestos and You, will target all tradespeople with a focus on younger workers in trades such as plastering and joinery.HSE news release and Asbestos and You campaign.

Asbestos boss jailed over unsafe removal jobs

An asbestos removal company has been convicted and its director given a prison sentence after failing to ensure the safe removal of asbestos. Its director, Daniel Luke Cockcroft, advertised as a licensed asbestos removal company and removed licensable material from domestic properties throughout Britain – despite never having held a licence. The company was convicted of two criminal safety offences and is awaiting sentence. Cockcroft pleaded guilty to criminal safety charges and was imprisoned for six months.
HSE news release. Yorkshire Post.

Unsafe director fined after house partially collapses

Construction company Servotec and its director Shaun Brae have been fined after a house partially collapsed in Manchester and Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspectors had to impose a series of stop work prohibition notices. Two of the notices were issued for structural problems, another for silica exposures and an improvement notice was imposed over breaches of asbestos regulations.
HSE news release.

Workers killed by Covid-19 remembered 

A vigil in memory of workers killed by Covid-19 was held on 11 March - the third anniversary of the World Health Organisations’ declaration of a pandemic. The event, outside the People’s History Museum in Manchester, was organised by Manchester Hazards, the workplace health and safety research and campaign group. Spokesperson Edward Garner said: “Many people died at work of Covid; so many in the front line, protecting others. We will remember them.”
Morning Star.

Council fined after school caretaker dies

A council has been fined after a school caretaker died following a fall from a ladder. David Mobsby, 71, who was working at Blatchington Mill School in Hove, suffered a fatal head injury in the fall on 3 August 2018. An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found Brighton and Hove City Council, the local authority that employs staff at the school, had failed to ensure that the cleaning of the school’s bike shed was properly planned, appropriately supervised, and carried out using a safe work method.
HSE news release.

Whisky plant worker gets £45k for noise damage

A Dumbarton bottling plant worker has been awarded £45,494.13 in compensation after her employer didn’t do enough to protect her hearing from deafening workplace noise. Margaret Denny raised the legal action after sustaining permanent hearing loss and developing tinnitus whilst working at Chivas Brothers and its predecessors Allied Distillers. Risk assessments carried out at the facility in the 2000s found that noise levels in the hall were in excess of 85 decibels.
Dumbarton Reporter.

International news

Germany: Labour standards return to the meat industry

Two years after the German government banned subcontracting in the meat sector, research by the food union NGG has found widespread improvements in safety and working conditions. Since the Protection Control Law for the Meat Industry was passed 35,000 subcontracted workers have been hired directly by meat companies, collective bargaining has secured a substantial pay increase and occupational health and safety has ‘dramatically improved’, the union says, with union membership increasing.
IUF news release.

South Korea: Anger at 69-hour workweek proposal

South Korea’s conservative government has proposed increasing the legal cap on weekly work hours from 52 to 69 hours, triggering backlash from the opposition and wage earners who fear the plan will ruin work-life balance in a country well known for workaholism. The move is opposed by unions and opposition parties, who say South Koreans toil more than many of their overseas counterparts.
Financial Times. Washington Post.

USA: Prison time for trench collapse death

A US construction company operator has been jailed in connection with the death of labourer Luis Sánchez Almonte, who was fatally crushed in a trench collapse in 2018. Supreme Court Justice Danny K Chun convicted Jiaxi “Jimmy” Liu of the construction group WSC Group of criminally negligent homicide, in addition to offenses related to workers compensation fraud.
Confined Space blog. The City.

Global: Union initiatives protect mental health

As part of a commitment by global transport unions’ federation ITF to ensuring unions are equipped to protect their members’ mental health, the union body commissioned research on the impact of the pandemic on young public transport workers. ITF said it “recognises occupational safety and health (OSH) as one the key global themes in the lead-up to the 46th Congress in 2024,” adding “it is vital that mental health is treated on a par with physical health in the workplace.”
ITF news release and full report, Essential public services, essential workers’ health
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