Issue date
12 Dec 2014
TUC Risks E-Bulletins
 
Number 684 - 13 December 2014
 
Risks is the TUC's weekly online bulletin for safety reps and others. Sign up to receive this bulletin every week. Past issues are available. Disclaimer and Privacy Editor: Rory O'Neill of Hazards magazine. Comments to the TUC at [email protected]
Contents

UNION NEWS

OTHER NEWS

INTERNATIONAL NEWS

COURSES FOR 2014

 

UNION NEWS

Tragedy shows the need for more HSE inspections

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) could do more to save lives if it was allowed to undertake more workplace safety inspections, a union body has said. Waltham Forest Trades Council made the claim after utility giant Thames Water was fined £300,000 for criminal failings that led to local man Raymond Holmes being killed by a reversing excavator at its Walthamstow treatment works. The 59-year-old sustained multiple crush injuries in the fatal incident at the utility company’s Coppermill Lane site on 30 April 2010. Southwark Crown Court heard that Holmes, an employee of Thames Water Utilities Limited (TWUL) for more than 30 years, was using laser levelling equipment to measure the depth of a large sand bed filter. The GMB member was struck by an excavator after the driver reversed without seeing him. Waltham Forest Trades Council, which has supported the family of Mr Holmes, claimed HSE should have carried out checks on the site and blamed government cuts for the lack of inspections. A spokesperson said: “"What is so sad about this case is that Raymond's death was easily predictable and preventable. After the incident a member of HSE's investigating team reportedly said they would have shut the site down if they'd visited before the fatal incident.” He added: “The government continues to insist health and safety protections are a burden on business but, as this case illustrates, the awful burden is in reality borne by the deceased's family and friends.” HSE’s investigation into the fatality established that although TWUL recognised the need for control measures to mitigate the risk of a collision between plant and workers, the company failed to implement sufficient measures on the day. The firm was fined £300,000 and ordered to pay £61,229 in costs after pleading guilty to a criminal safety offence.

Ÿ  HSE news release.

Ÿ  BBC News video report.

Ÿ  Construction Enquirer.

Ÿ  New Civil Engineer.

Ÿ  The Echo.

Ÿ  The Express.

 

Pilots issue warning on drones dangers

Strict regulations will need to be introduced before large drones are allowed to appear in the UK's skies, the pilots union BALPA has said. Commenting after a near collision between a drone and a plane landing at Heathrow, the union said the remotely piloted craft were putting passenger jets at “real risk” The pilot of the Airbus A320, which can carry up to 180 passengers, spotted the drone when the jet was travelling at an altitude of 700ft on its approach to the runway at the UK’s busiest airport. In a report published this week, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) gave the incident in July an “A” rating, meaning there was “serious risk of collision”. BALPA had told a House of Lords committee in October that “safe drone zones” were needed to protect planes. Commenting after the publication of the report on the Heathrow incident, the union said that the rapid increase in the number of drones operated by amateur enthusiasts now poses “a real risk” to commercial aircraft. The union’s general secretary, Jim McAuslan, said drones could cause a repeat of the “Hudson River experience”, when a plane was forced to land in water in New York in 2009 after birds were sucked into its engines. He said: “The risk of a 10 kilogram object hitting a plane is a real one that pilots are very concerned about. A small drone could be a risky distraction for a pilot coming into land and cause serious damage if they hit one.” The union leader added that there was an urgent need for rules to be tightened before much larger unmanned cargo planes - potentially the size of a Boeing 737 - took to the skies.

Ÿ  BALPA Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems campaign webpage.

Ÿ  The Standard.

Ÿ  The Guardian.

 FIFA challenged on Qatar exploitation

Building union UCATT has challenged the head of football’s global governing body to witness for himself the horrific and frequently deadly conditions faced by migrant construction workers in Qatar. The call to Sepp Blatter came as a BBC Newsnight investigation revealed top UK construction firms are among those benefiting from the use of this labour. BBC reporter Sue Lloyd-Roberts said the BBC has “uncovered worrying testimony about pay, housing conditions and safety standards from foreign workers. They include some employed by subcontractors working for one of Britain's biggest construction firms, Carillion, based in Wolverhampton.” Newsnight interviewed migrant workers who had suffered occupational injuries and diseases working on projects for the 2022 World Cup. Although employed by subcontractors on jobs run by the UK firm, their passes and protective clothing bore the Carillion logo. One injured subcontract worker told the programme he was “working for Carillion”, but had never been given protective equipment, was not compensated for the injury and had to pay for his medical treatment. On 5 December UCATT general secretary Steve Murphy gave evidence to the Council of Europe on the exploitation of migrant construction workers in Qatar. He called on FIFA president Sepp Blatter to join an unannounced visit to a labour camp in Qatar, alongside UCATT and the global union for the construction sector, BWI. “FIFA cannot continue to turn a blind eye to the appalling abuses of migrant workers in Qatar who will be increasingly employed on World Cup projects,” he said. “Sepp Blatter has a moral duty to visit the labour camps where these workers live in appalling conditions.” The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) estimates that 4,000 might die before the ribbon is cut on the final stadium.

Ÿ  UCATT news release.

Ÿ  BBC News Online.

Health worker attacked on understaffed ward

A former nursing assistant sustained such serious injuries in a violent assault at work he was forced to give up his job. Michael Martin was assisting a dying patient on the neurology ward when another patient attacked him. The UNISON member, who worked as a nursing assistant for Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust, was hit with a chair. The attacker, who had mental health problems, had been getting progressively more agitated in the run up to the assault and was demanding to be moved out of his bed. The ward had minimal staff, and Michael was one of only three staff responsible for 28 patients. He was left with fractured ribs and chronic pain. Five years on, he continues to take painkillers and has retired from the health service due on related health grounds. “To this day I still have to take painkillers to control the pain that is now a permanent feature of my daily life,” he said. “Not only have I lost my physical health, but also a career about which I was incredibly passionate.” John Cafferty, UNISON regional secretary for Yorkshire and Humberside, said: “Proper resourcing and less overcrowding, more specialist wards for violent patients and more healthcare workers with the training necessary to deal with threatening situations would mean fewer career-ending incidents.”

Ÿ  Thompsons Solicitors news release.

 Paramedic punched trying to stop brutal assault

A public spirited UNISON member who was a victim of serious violence after he intervened in a bid to stop a brutal assault has received £9,000 in compensation. The off duty paramedic from Spalding was attempting to treat a member of the public, but ended up being assaulted by two men. The man, whose name has not been released but who works for the East Midlands Ambulance Service, was on his way home from work when he witnessed the assault. Still wearing his paramedic uniform, he attempted to break up the attack and give first aid to the victim but the attackers turned on the paramedic and punched him in the jaw, knocking him to the ground. His jaw was displaced and broken in three places. The injuries required surgery and the insertion of a metal plate in his jaw and chin. As a result of his attack, he also lost a number of teeth and was unable to work for three months. He was successful in a UNISON-backed claim to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme, which allows victims of violent crime to claim compensation for injury. His bravery was rewarded when he received a Sheriff of Lincolnshire award, which commended his bravery and public spiritedness. He also received a commendation from the chief executive at his NHS trust. Helen Black, UNISON regional secretary in the East Midlands, said: “This man bravely put himself in front of danger to try and help a victim of a violent assault, and as a consequence endured months of pain. We are very pleased to have supported our member throughout his claim to ensure he got something for what he went through.”

Ÿ  Thompsons Solicitors news release.

 OTHER NEWS

Government ‘support’ short changes asbestos victims

Asbestos groups have accused ministers of putting a positive gloss on measures that “short change” victims of the asbestos cancer mesothelioma. They were commenting after an 8 December Ministry of Justice news release proclaimed ‘new support for industrial disease victims’, including working with the National Cancer Registration Service and Public Health England to speed up the process of obtaining hospital medical records. But the Asbestos Victims Support Groups Forum branded the statement from justice minister Lord Faulks “a missed opportunity” after he failed to increase payments from the Diffuse Mesothelioma Payment Scheme (Risks 683). This scheme exists to compensate mesothelioma sufferers who can prove they were negligently exposed to asbestos at work but who cannot trace a relevant employer or insurer. It is funded by a levy on the insurance companies who provide employers’ liability insurance. The asbestos groups say the levy was supposed to be set at 3 per cent of gross working premiums, a figure agreed by the insurers, government and MPs. Instead the government has used the lower than expected take-up of the scheme to set the levy at 2.2 per cent for the coming year, saving the insurers £11.6 million. Forum chair Doug Jewell said this was “very disappointing.” He added: “The government statement talks about support for industrial disease victims. However the insurance industry will receive an early Christmas present from the government of £11.6 million whilst once again asbestos victims get short changed.” The groups say mesothelioma sufferers receive less from the ‘flawed’ scheme than they would from the courts and most asbestos related conditions are not covered. They add that both of these problems could have been addressed if the extra £11.6 million had been collected. Two months ago the government lost a judicial review on its plans to take legal costs from payouts to victims of the asbestos cancer mesothelioma, and now has to rethink the proposals (Risks 675).

Ÿ  Ministry of Justice news release, details of the scheme and statement from Lord Faulks.

Ÿ  Irwin Mitchell news release.

Ÿ  Law Gazette.


Catalogue of failings at deadly disease labs

High security labs that handle the most dangerous viruses and bacteria have reported more than 100 accidents or near-misses to safety regulators in the past five years, official reports reveal. Reports obtained by the Guardian from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) reveal that more than 70 incidents at UK government, university and hospital labs were serious enough to investigate. Many led to enforcement letters, or crown prohibition notices (CPN), ordering labs to shut until improvements were made. Some were so serious they ended in legal action (Risks 653). According to the Guardian, one blunder led to live anthrax being sent from a government facility to unsuspecting labs across the UK, a serious mistake that exposed other scientists to a potentially deadly disease risk. Another caused the failure of an air handling system that helped contain foot and mouth disease at a large animal lab. Wear and tear also caused problems and potentially put researchers in danger. At a top security Ministry of Defence lab, tears were found in isolation suits at a facility handling animals infected with the Ebola virus. The reports compiled by the HSE describe at least 116 incidents and 75 completed investigations since April 2010 at laboratories where the most dangerous organisms are handled. Other investigations are under way, but the HSE cannot disclose details of those in case they lead to legal action. All of the investigations were prompted by reports from lab managers who are obliged by law to tell the HSE when an accident or near-miss happens at their facility. According to the Guardian, labs that report the most incidents may not be the most lax. One factor that affects the number of reports – and investigations – is how professional staff are at reporting near-misses. It says a culture of blame makes people hide their mistakes and crucial lessons go unlearned. Similar problems have been encountered at US facilities (Risks 673).

Ÿ  The Guardian.

Network Rail grills Carillion over deadly crash

Newly published Network Rail board minutes reveal the company’s executive committee called in Carillion to hear what action the firm was taking after three of its workers were killed in a crash on the M4 last June. Five Carillion track workers from South Wales were on their way home in the early hours from a shift at Reading. Their white Transit van collided with the back of a lorry on the hard shoulder near Chippenham. The three men who died are understood not to have been wearing seat belts in the back of the van. In its latest board minutes, Network Rail said the discussion with Carillion was to discuss that “tragic accident”, and in particular to discuss the “lessons learnt and actions being taken” by Carillion. Network Rail said it would be tightening up its approach to the wearing of seat belts, already included in its ‘Lifesaving Rules’, and would introduce a campaign and move towards a zero tolerance regime. The firm said there have been five fatalities in road accidents this year involving its employees or those of contractors and a failure to wear seat belts would appear to have been a factor in at least four of these. Carillion is now the biggest beneficiary of Network Rail contracts. It was paid a total of £281m by the rail infrastructure company over the 2013/14 financial year. The firm is the second major contractor in to be called in over safety concerns, with BAM Nuttall asked to explain a series of serious safety incidents (Risks 680).

Ÿ  Network Rail board minutes.

Ÿ  Construction Enquirer.

Ÿ  Rail Technology Magazine.

Ÿ  Network Rail Livesaving Rules.


Two jailed after site death convictions

The commercial director of a construction company has been jailed for three years and three months after being convicted of manslaughter. A safety consultant was also jailed for nine months on criminal safety charges following the death of a worker crushed during a basement excavation. Anghel Milosavlevici was employed by Siday Construction who were contracted to provide building services to a residential property in October 2010. Work included the excavation of the basement and the underpinning of the supporting walls. The 37-year-old was working in an unsupported trench when the side wall collapsed and he was fatally crushed. Siday commercial director Conrad Sidebottom was found guilty of manslaughter while self-employed safety consultant Richard Golding was convicted on health and safety charges. Deborah Jeffrey, specialist prosecutor at the CPS, said: “Anghel Milosavlevici’s tragic death was preventable and inexcusable. While working on the excavation of the house, his safety was the responsibility of Conrad Sidebottom, the commercial director of Siday, and Richard Golding, the independent health and safety consultant contracted to provide advice to Siday.” She added: “These men did not fulfil their duties, with a haphazard attitude to the safety of the employees working in the house. Their failures led to these tragic consequences, which should never have occurred.” The jury at Southwark Crown Court found Sidebottom guilty of manslaughter and Golding guilty of exposing another to a risk of health and safety.

Sidebottom was handed down a sentence of three years, three months and Golding was given a sentence of nine months. Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspector Dominic Long, who supported the joint police and HSE investigation, said: “Mr Milosavlevici’s tragic death could easily have been avoided had the basement work been better planned and managed by company owner and site manager Conrad Sidebottom… In addition, had Richard Golding inspected the site properly during his earlier visits he would have identified both that work wasn’t being carried out in accordance with a written safe system of work, and that the excavations posed a clear risk.” He said: “Both parties are culpable and their failings are shocking.”

Ÿ  CPS news release.

Ÿ  London Evening Standard.

Ÿ  Hertfordshire Mercury.

Ÿ  Construction Enquirer.

Four guilty after fatal scaffold fall

A developer, scaffolding company, its director and a roofer have been fined after a worker fell seven metres to his death during construction of a new warehouse in Staffordshire. Stafford Crown Court heard that, on 29 December 2010, experienced roofer Phillip Lonergan was installing the roof on a new warehouse being built by E2 Developments Ltd in Tutbury. He was standing on the edge of the roof when he slipped and fell through a gap of more than 50 centimetres between two scaffolding rails erected to form temporary edge protection. Lonergan, 36, died in hospital the same day from head injuries. A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found that the edge protection had been provided by Nottinghamshire-based Albion Tower and Scaffold Ltd.

The company’s director, Lee Cotterill, who had no formal qualifications as a scaffolder, had overall control of the design, planning and construction of the edge protection and personally signed it off as being safe. Roofer Peter Allum was approached by E2 to install the roof panels and he, in turn, offered a number of roofers the work, including Lonergan. The investigation also found E2 Developments was not aware of its duties under the construction, design and management (CDM) regulations. E2 Developments Ltd pleaded guilty to criminal safety breaches and was fined £66,000 with costs of £13,200. Peter Allum, 41, admitted criminal safety breaches and was fined £1,500 with £1,500 costs. Lee Cotterill, 53, guilty and was sentenced to three months in prison, suspended for 12 months, and ordered to pay costs of £4,000. Albion Tower and Scaffold (East Midlands) Ltd, of Watnall, Nottinghamshire, also pleaded guilty to criminal safety charges and was fined £53,000 and ordered to pay £15,500 in costs.

Ÿ  HSE news release and falls prevention webpages.

Ÿ  Construction Enquirer.


Trainee was trapped by cherrypicker

A construction firm has been fined after a young worker was injured when he became trapped between the basket of a cherrypicker and a steel rail during a construction project in Newcastle. The 20-year-old from Consett, who does not want to be named, was working as a trainee steel erector for Crossgill Construction Ltd when the incident happened on 21 February 2013. He had been helping to install cladding rails to a building extension at a site when he became trapped between a rail in the basket of the cherrypicker he was operating and one of the newly-installed rails. He broke his jaw in three places, suffered a severe cut all the way through the right side of his cheek as well as other cuts to the face and a bruised shoulder. He was in hospital for two days. Newcastle Magistrates’ Court heard the trainee, working with another steel erector, had just installed a fifth rail when the bottom of the basket of his cherrypicker became lodged on the steel rail below. It then came loose, causing it to shoot upwards, trapping him between the basket rail and the newly-installed steel rail above. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that Crossgill Construction Ltd had failed to properly plan and manage the risks from erecting the cladding rails. The firm was fined £6,000 after pleading guilty to a criminal safety offence and also ordered to pay £865.30 costs. HSE inspector Andrea Robbins said “a young worker was badly injured and could have been killed because Crossgill Construction Ltd failed to plan and manage the work to ensure it was carried out safely.”

Ÿ  HSE news release and construction webpages.

Viridor fined after young worker loses an eye

An Edinburgh recycling firm has been prosecuted for criminal safety failings after a young worker was severely injured and left blind in one eye when he was struck by a piece of high tensile wire. Declan Shipcott, 20, was working for Viridor Enviroscot Ltd at its materials recycling facility in Bargeddie, Glasgow, when the incident happened on 24 September 2012. Airdrie Sheriff Court heard that Mr Shipcott was helping two colleagues clear a blockage on a baler machine, which had a wire tie mechanism to bind bales of waste material. The blockage was preventing the strapping wire from wrapping around the bale. After 30 minutes they had been unable to clear the blockage and so cut the wire. The remaining wire was within a “recoil” box, which had a button to release any tension still in the wire. Mr Shipcott opened the box to find that the wire had become knotted and, unable to undo the knot, he used wire cutters to cut it free. At that point a piece of wire flicked out and struck him on the face and left eye. He was not wearing any eye protection at the time. Surgery was only partially successful and he is now blind in his left eye, although he can see light, and has been told his vision will not improve due to the extent of the damage. An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) revealed there was no safe system of work. Although there was a risk assessment for replacing the wire in the machine, there was nothing referring to cutting the wire, although the fact that wire cutters were available at the machine acknowledged that sometimes wire had to be cut. Sheriff Robert H Dickson fined Viridor £165,000, which was reduced from £250,000 because of the firm's early plea. At the 2 December hearing, the sheriff ordered the firm to pay the fine within 28 days or an arrestment order would be made. If not then paid within 14 days the company would be sold to pay the fine.

Ÿ  HSE news release.

Ÿ  The Herald.

Laundry worker loses fingers and her job

A Woking laundry company has appeared in court after an employee lost four fingers when her hand was drawn into a poorly-guarded ironing machine. The 57-year-old worker, from Old Woking, who had worked at White Knight Laundry for 15 years, suffered extensive crush and burn injuries to her right hand in the 30 September 2013 incident. She needed surgery to amputate the damaged fingers and part of her hand.

Redhill Magistrates’ Court heard the woman, who asked not to be named, had been advised she will need further surgery to remove more of her hand and will need a prosthetic to assist her in future. She has been unable to return to work. A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found the front finger-guard on the industrial feed-in ironing machine had not been properly adjusted for the task of hand-feeding linen. As a result the gap was too wide and offered inadequate protection to the workforce from dangerous moving parts. HSE said there was ample guidance from the textile industry on effective guarding owing to the well-documented risks to workers of getting caught in the in-running nip of laundry rollers. White Knight Laundry Services Ltd was fined £10,500 and ordered to pay £1,381 in costs after pleading guilty to a criminal breach of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998. HSE inspector Russell Beckett said: “The company failed to check that the ironing machine was safe to use – either practically by ensuring that it stopped when a person’s hand entered the danger zone or against published and accepted industry standards. As a result, a worker has sustained life-changing injuries and has been severely traumatised.”

Ÿ  HSE news release.

Ÿ  Surrey Advertiser.

 Steel firm fined after worker loses toes

A worker had to have three toes amputated after his foot was crushed beneath a 300kg press die. The 25-year-old was organising a lift of the press die – used to shape sheet metal – at SM Thompson Limited in Middlesbrough, when the incident happened on 17 March 2014. The worker, whose name has not been released, pushed the die off the press and used a hoist to support the overhanging end. He then planned to rest the die on his thighs while he pushed the lifting attachments into the middle to lift it out fully. However, before he took the weight the die slipped and fell, landing on the toes of his left foot. His big toe had to be amputated and he also had to undergo partial amputation of his second and middle toes. He was in hospital for seven days followed by physiotherapy, but has since returned to work. Teesside Magistrates’ Court was told that an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that SM Thompson had allowed a dangerous practice to evolve over ten years. Three workers were identified as using the same, or similar, lifting method, placing themselves in a drop hazard zone should the load fall. HSE also found that no risk assessment or proper lift planning had been carried out by the company and, although there were alternatives including the use of a loading table and straps, these were not introduced until after the incident. SM Thompson Limited was fined £7,500 and ordered to pay £1,120 costs after pleading guilty to a criminal safety offence. HSE inspector Paul Wilson said: “This worker’s injuries should not and need not have happened. This was a simple and routine work activity, but it had not been properly planned or managed, and as a result, a system of work evolved that was far from safe.”

Ÿ  HSE news release and lifting operations webpages.

Ÿ  BBC News Online.

Ÿ  The Gazette.

Firm ignored dangerous saws warning

A gate manufacturer has been fined £10,000 for criminal safety offences after it ignored a formal warning about installing guards on two circular saws. Openshaw Bespoke Timber Gates Ltd was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after it continued to expose its workforce to danger by operating the saws for one month after being ordered to take them out of use at its workshop in Droylsden. Trafford Magistrates’ Court heard that two inspectors had spotted the unprotected saws during an unannounced visit to the site on 14 April 2014. They issued a prohibition notice requiring the saws not to be used until guards had been fitted. When HSE inspectors returned to the site a month later, they found the saws still in use. No attempt had been made by the firm to fit guards. Openshaw Bespoke Timber Gates Ltd was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay £729 in prosecution costs after pleading guilty to failing to comply with a prohibition notice. HSE inspector Sarah Taylor said: “The firm has since subcontracted its wood cutting work to an outside firm so the saws are not needed. If it had done this when we first served the notice, or fitted guards to the saws, then it would have avoided having to pay a court fine.”

Ÿ  HSE news release and manufacturing webpages.

 INTERNATIONAL NEWS

USA: Cancer deceit of the petrochemical giants exposed

The petroleum industry has known for decades that benzene, one of its most important products, is a potent cause of cancer in humans but has spent millions on a cover-up, a new evidence database reveals. Internal memorandums, emails, letters and meeting minutes obtained by the Center for Public Integrity (CPI) in a year-long investigation suggest that America’s oil and chemical titans, coordinated by their trade association, the American Petroleum Institute, spent at least $36 million on research “designed to protect member company interests,” as one 2000 API summary put it. CPI says many of the documents “chronicle an unparalleled effort by five major petrochemical companies” to finance benzene research in Shanghai, China. Benzene, which is produced from crude oil to make plastics, lubricants, dyes, adhesives and pesticides, is also a key component in petrol (gasoline). According to CPI, “it is 17th most produced chemical in the US.” Benzene is accepted to be a potent human carcinogen, causing leukaemia and other cancers. In 2004, a US National Cancer Institute study suggested there’s no safe threshold for people working with the chemical. CPI’s review of around 20,000 pages of internal records reveals the petrochemical industry went to great lengths to rebut studies showing harmful effects of benzene in low doses. This included touting how the expected results of a proposed study in China could be used to reduce liability and combat stricter regulation. Critics say such documents expose this Shanghai study for what it is: An industry attempt to buy scientific evidence. “It’s all about influencing science to get what industry wants,” said Myron Mehlman, formerly chief toxicologist at Mobil, who became a whistleblower in 1989 after the company fired him for complaining about benzene levels in its gasoline. He sued Mobil, winning a $7 million judgment. Mehlman remembers hearing about the Shanghai study in 2005 and immediately firing off letters to 45 executives at sponsoring companies. “I knew the scientists would do whatever it takes and whatever the industry needs done,” he said. In response, he said, he got a consortium form letter that “just re-confirmed how the study is being done for a single purpose - to get desirable outcomes.”

Ÿ  Benzene and worker cancers: 'An American tragedy'.

Ÿ  Exposed: Decades of denial on poisons, evidence database compiled by the Center for Public Integrity, Columbia University and City University of New York.

Ÿ  The ‘dirty dozen’ documents from the database.

Europe: Union action call on work safety

The European Union must take action to stop the 100,000 deaths a year caused by occupational cancers, unions have said. The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) also condemned the European Commission for blocking health and safety improvements and for putting forward an extremely weak health and safety strategy to run until 2020. Putting together its own plan to improve conditions for Europe’s workers, the ETUC has called for wide-ranging action covering hazardous substances, strain injuries and stress. A resolution agreed by the union body says there must be legally enforceable exposure limits for 50 of the most cancer-causing chemicals and substances toxic for reproduction. It also demands a Directive on musculoskeletal disorders to prevent back injuries and other illnesses caused by heavy lifting or muscular strain. It adds there should be action “to require employers to assess and prevent psychosocial risks at work such as stress which 25 per cent of workers experience.” The union body is highly critical of the European Commission, which it says has blocked a revision of the rules on cancer-causing and mutagenic exposures at work, so only three cancer inducing chemicals have European exposure limits. Among other failings, ETUC says the commission has held back a ready to go directive on back injuries and other musculoskeletal disorders. Bernadette Ségol, general secretary of the ETUC, said: “It is a scandal that 100,000 people die every year in the EU from occupational cancers, and an outrage that the Barroso Commission refused to pass any new health and safety law. I invite the new Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and Commissioner Marianne Thyssen to take action to protect European citizens from death, disease and illness at work.”

Ÿ  ETUC news release and health and safety resolution.

Japan: Unions aim to head off overwork deaths

Workers in Japan have been offered union-run counselling in a bid to reduce the deadly impact of excessive workloads. The trade union confederation Rengo said the two days of telephone counselling was intended to reduce the chances of a worker falling victim to “karoshi,” or death from overwork. The condition is an officially recognised occupational health problem in Japan, with bereaved family members entitled to state compensation payments. Karoshi is defined as sudden brain or heart disorder after putting in overtime exceeding 100 hours the month prior to death. “When long work hours become an everyday routine, workers can’t even feel something isn’t right,” said a Rengo official. “People close to those workers, such as their family members and friends, should also consult us.” The International Labour Organisation warned last year that “there has been an increasing trend in cases of Karoshi and Karojisatsu [work-related suicide] in Japan. In 14 years, from 1997 to 2011, compensated cases of Karoshi and Karojisatsu have risen from 47 to 121 and from 2 to 66, respectively.”

Ÿ  Japan Times.

Ÿ  More on deaths from overwork.

Ÿ  ILO karoshi case study.

Global: Orange employees just got safer

The global union UNI has signed a ‘groundbreaking’ global health and safety agreement with the telecoms giant Orange. The deal, signed by UNI general secretary Philip Jennings, the president of the UNI Orange Alliance William Coker, and the French unions, will become part of the Global Agreement signed between UNI and Orange (formally France Telecom) in 2006. UNI says the ‘Worldwide Agreement on Health and Safety’ is the first of its kind for the global union “and contains important advances for all Orange employees, particularly in Africa. It is the result of extensive consultations with UNI affiliated unions and was negotiated by a UNI Alliance committee chaired by William Ange Coker, President of the UNI Orange Alliance and representatives from UNI and affiliates from France (CGT, CFDT and FO) and Poland (NSZZ).” Among the issues addressed by the agreement are access to health care and social protection, health monitoring, safety and well-being in the workplace, and public health and pandemic prevention campaigns. Over the next three years there is a commitment to develop core common health and safety standards and the provision of medical insurance and coverage against major health risks to employees and their families. The agreement also requires the creation of local health and safety committees to oversee implementation of the agreement.

Ÿ  UNI news report.

 TUC courses for safety reps

COURSES FOR 2014

Ÿ  TUC courses

 Calling all safety reps: 

TUC Education still has places available on our online courses for Union Health and  Safety Reps starting in January 2015.

  • Health and Safety Stage 1
  • Next Steps
  • Diploma in  Occupational Health and Safety.

Further details can be found here: http://www.unionlearn.org.uk/courses/course-list

The website is being redesigned and pending the re-launch you will not be able to register online. If you would like to register for any of these courses please contact Julie Lawrence: [email protected]

**TUC Risks is taking a season break. The next issue will be with you on 10 January 2015. Happy holidays.

 

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The person responsible for the Risks e-bulletin is:
Hugh Robertson
E: [email protected]

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