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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

HSE ‘must investigate’ every work-related suicide

The Health and Safety Executive ‘must investigate every work-related suicide’, two top experts have said. Writing in the British Medical Journal, and criticising the explicit exclusion of suicides from HSE’s reporting requirements, the two professors note: “Whenever events at someone’s work seem to be linked to their suicide, it is reasonable to expect that everyone involved will want to find out what happened and how a similar event can be prevented from happening again.”
Sarah Waters and Martin McKee. Ofsted: a case of official negligence?, BBC News Online

TUC demands work-related suicide probes

Work-related suicides should be reported by employers and investigated by the safety regulator, unions have said. The Trades Union Congress (TUC), teaching and other unions are all backing a change in Health and Safety Executive (HSE) rules so it investigates work-related suicides. The TUC said work-related stress is now at ‘epidemic levels.’ Under RIDDOR, employers have a duty to report workplace deaths, but with an explicit exception for suicides – unlike other countries.
The Guardian. Unite news release.

Take ACTION! Send an e-postcard to tell HSE to investigate and record work-related suicides and suicide risks.

Rise in shoplifting is driving shop violence

Retail union Usdaw has warned a rise in shoplifting is driving an increase in violence against shopworkers. The union is concerned that crime statistics show a significant increase in shoplifting across England and Wales in the 12 months to December 2022. Usdaw general secretary Paddy Lillis said: “theft from shops has long been a major flashpoint for violence and abuse against shopworkers. Having to deal with repeated and persistent shoplifters can cause issues beyond the theft itself like anxiety, fear and in some cases physical harm to retail workers.”
Usdaw news release. Morning Star.

‘Shocking’ epidemic of sexual assault in the NHS

NHS trusts recorded more than 35,000 cases of rape, sexual assault, harassment, stalking, and abusive remarks between 2017 and 2022, a joint investigation by The BMJ and the Guardian has found. Responses to Freedom of Information requests show that a total of 35,606 incidents were recorded on NHS premises over this five year period. The investigation found that fewer than one in 10 trusts has a dedicated policy to deal with sexual assault and harassment, and are no longer obliged to report abuse of staff to a central database.
Medical colleges and unions call for inquiry over “shocking” levels of sexual assault in the NHS
Opinion: With sexual harassment or assault, what you permit, you promote

Tube workers facing threats of violence

Rail union RMT has called on Transport for London (TfL) to end its cuts programme, which is forcing repeated station closures across the London Underground network, exposing staff up to abuse from frustrated passengers. It is a legal requirement for a certain number of staff to be present at Tube stations. Due to shortages, however, RMT members are being transferred to short-staffed stations to keep some open while others are closed. RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: “The cuts to Tube staff are creating chronic shortages across the network leading to unprecedented station closures. Frustration amongst the travelling public has boiled over in some cases to nasty threats of violence and verbal abuse of our members, something RMT will not tolerate.”
RMT news release.

Continued opposition to Tory rules axe

The battle against the government’s now significantly scaled back plan to axe EU derived laws by the end of the year is not over, civil service union Prospect has said. The union’s public services sector conference reaffirmed the union’s opposition to the Retained EU Law (REUL) Bill. The union’s HSE branch argued that the Bill will make it more difficult for HSE staff to make things better for the workforce.
Prospect news release.

School improvement fund ‘nowhere near enough’

More than £450 million provided by the government to improve hundreds of dilapidated school buildings across the country is “nowhere near enough,” a teaching union has warned. The Department for Education said that 859 schools will receive a share of a £456m pot to help refurbish and repair buildings. But Association of School and College Leaders general secretary Geoff Barton said: “It is the bare minimum and nowhere near enough to meet the cost of remedial work to repair or replace all defective elements in the school estate in England, which at the last count stood at £11.4 billion.”
Morning Star.

Ministers must come clean on school collapse risks

The government must publish information showing the location and extent of school buildings it has admitted are “very likely” to collapse. Commenting ahead of Labour questions to the minister in the Commons, NASUWT general secretary Dr Patrick Roach said: “It is unacceptable for the government to sit on vital information that affects the day-to-day safety and welfare of children, young people and staff working in schools.” He added: “School staff and parents have a right to know if their schools are at risk and what is being done to ensure the safety of their schools.”
NASUWT news release.

Dog handler compensated for road traffic injuries

A search dog handler injured in a car crash with a drink driver has secured a six-figure compensation settlement with the help of his wife’s union. David Bentley, 67, suffered life-changing injuries including several broken bones and requiring multiple operations in November 2018 following a head-on collision with the drunk, uninsured driver. He also developed PTSD and had to take early retirement as a result of his injuries. Two dogs were killed in the incident. NASUWT, his wife’s union, retained Thompsons Solicitors to act in a compensation case involving the Motor Insurance Bureau. David commented: “Thank goodness I could access free legal advice and claim compensation through my wife’s trade union membership.”
Thompsons Solicitors news release. EssexLive.

Eight out of 10 firms are safety criminals

More than 80 per cent of businesses checked during an inspection blitz on the Isle of Wight were in criminal breach of safety laws. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) two-day inspection programme on the island found 84 per cent of businesses in breach of health and safety regulations. Eleven HSE inspectors visited the island and made unannounced inspections of 33 businesses. The initiative resulting in four prohibition notices, 37 improvement notices and ‘numerous’ instances of written advice. HSE told Hazards magazine it did not anticipate taking any prosecutions in relation to the criminal offences.
HSE news release.

£1.9m fine after worker killed by HGV

Two major transport companies have been fined a total of £2.2m after a depot manager was killed when he was hit by a HGV in Birmingham. Neil Roberts, 60, was working for Turners Limited when he was struck by a reversing HGV. The incident happened at the premises of The Haulage Group Ltd (previously known as Howell Group Ltd) when the vehicle reversed out of a parking space in the transport yard. An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the companies had failed to manage the risks. Turners Limited pleaded guilty to two criminal safety offences and was fined £1.9m plus £7,300 costs.
HSE news release

Young worker’s injury caught on camera

CCTV footage of the moment a young worker’s arm was caught in a machine, breaking it in two places, has been released by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). The 22-year-old had only recently started working as a manufacturing operative for Gates Engineering and Services UK Limited. A 60m lathe started as the young worker reached to retrieve rubber material that had fallen from the machine, which then caught his arm. Gates Engineering and Services UK Limited was fined £200,000 plus £3,653.70 costs.
HSE news release.

International news

Australia: Low wages put road transport safety at risk

An Australian transport union leader has warned the safety and livelihood of truck drivers and others is being ‘gravely compromised’ due to the industry’s poor conditions and inadequate pay rates. TWU national secretary Michael Kaine told Sky News Australia: “There are decades of evidence that show in road transport that if you have poor conditions and poor rates of pay, then there is a safety outcome on our roads,” Kaine told Sky News Australia. “That is a critical concern.”
TWU safe rates campaign. More on the hazards of low pay.

USA: Minnesota acts to protect warehouse workers

Minnesota lawmakers have passed a bill that would provide more protection for warehouse workers who have to meet productivity quotas, a move aimed at helping employees at companies like Amazon. The bill prohibits companies from firing or taking any adverse actions against an employee for failing to meet a quota that has not been disclosed to them. It also says companies can’t implement productivity quotas that prevent workers from taking breaks, and allows the state to open an investigation if a company has an injury rate 30 per cent or higher compared to its peers.
ABC News.
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