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TUC Risks E-Bulletins
Number 799 - 13 May 2017
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


·         Asbestos review shows ‘shocking’ official complacency

·         HSE expert advice lacks crucial intelligence

·         Union calls for security guards to protect store staff

·         No blacklist justice for Britain’s agency staff

·         Agencies still blacklisting workers, says Unite

·         Tube staff strike for victimised work violence victims

·         Pilot mental health stigma could push problems underground


·         Tory mental health pledge worthless without cash

·         Tinnitus drove top drummer to suicide

·         Prosecution delay allows boss to escape jail

·         Phoenix firm evades £750k fine for asbestos crimes

·         Site boss jailed over falling window death

·         Solar panel firm fined £250k after fall through roof

·         DHL and JCB fined after double hit on worker


·         TUC conference on insecure work, 26 June 2017


·         Australian: Nine out of 10 hospitality workers sexually harassed

·         Global: ‘Grave concerns’ as journal imposes new editor

·         Iran: Mine disaster prompts call for safety improvements




Asbestos review shows ‘shocking’ official complacency

An official review of how the UK’s workplace asbestos laws are operating has exposed the ‘shocking complacency’ of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), the TUC has said. Hugh Robertson, the union body’s head of safety, is critical of a proposal to reduce the frequency of the legally required medical examinations of those undertaking the highest risk ‘licensed’ work from every two to three years, which he says ‘seems totally irresponsible.’ He adds that he ‘was staggered by the level of complacency that there is throughout the review.’ A key concern is the repeated statement in the HSE document that the 5,000 UK deaths a year linked to asbestos are the result of past exposures when the carcinogen was “less well-regulated than today”. Robertson is also concerned that HSE fails to acknowledge that self-reporting of asbestos exposures can be misleading, as workers today are no longer working directly with asbestos so are far less likely to be aware of their exposures. While the paper concludes retaining the regulations is justified, “nowhere did the paper look at the possible effect of improving controls,” he says. “We did not get any calculations of the effect on death rates if the government were to require employers to remove the millions of tons of asbestos that is still in place.” He notes asbestos can be found in an estimated half a million workplaces and around a million homes. “Over 50,000 people have died in the UK from mesothelioma as a result of asbestos exposure, several tens of thousands more have died from lung cancer or other asbestos-related diseases. Tens of thousands more will die because of exposure that they have already had,” Robertson notes. “How many more will die over and above that will depend on what we do now. The fact that government and regulators see the status quo as the best option is a damning indictment of our health and safety system.”

TUC Stronger Unions blog. Post implementation review of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012, HSE, 2017.

HSE expert advice lacks crucial intelligence

The Health and Safety Executive’s decision to use only experts from outside the workplace to advise on health hazards on the inside is leaving gaping holes in its intelligence, the TUC has warned. TUC head of safety Hugh Robertson was commented after HSE’s Workplace Health Expert Committee (WHEC), created in 2014, published its first four reports, covering stress, silica, musculoskeletal disorders, and health issues affecting bakers. He said while the reports are informative, “the problem with them is not what they say, but more what they don’t say. The report on bakers for instance is excellent, and makes it clear that current exposure limits are not working, nor is the enforcement regime, but makes few specific recommendations. Likewise on silica, the report confirms what unions have said that silica can cause lung cancer in people who do not develop the disease silicosis, but makes no recommendation on the issue of the current limit, despite the fact that this limit was not set to prevent lung cancers (and is not even low enough to prevent silicosis).” Instead, WHEC answered just the questions posed by HSE, “and there lies part of the problem. What we need to know is whether the existing exposure limits for silica, and dust, are adequate to prevent ill-health, and if not, what it should be,” Robertson said. There was also another problem with WHEC, he said, which replaced an advisory committee in which unions and employers also played an active role (Risks 673). WHEC operates without this on-the-ground intelligence, which Robertson said could for example have revealed that workers and employers frequently ‘have not got a clue’ that a dust contains silica, and that in practice most workplaces don’t monitor exposure levels anyway. “I think that the WHEC reports show that, if you exclude workplace representatives, you allow the HSE to operate in a bubble that is divorced from the reality of working lives,” he said. “Instead we should accept that academics have a major role (and give them proper funding for work on occupational health) and use their research to apply to the very real problems we have in the workplace today, by ensuring that there is a role for unions and employers.”

TUC Stronger Unions blog. WHEC webpage and reports on stress, silica, musculoskeletal disorders and health issues of bakers.

Union calls for security guards to protect store staff

Shopworkers’ union Usdaw is calling for higher levels of security in shops, particularly small convenience stores. The union call came after latest figures from the Crime Survey for England and Wales revealed that shoplifting is continuing to rise, increasing by 8 per cent during 2016, contributing to a 21 per cent increase over the last decade. Addressing the union’s Annual Delegate Meeting, Usdaw deputy general secretary Paddy Lillis said: “Convenience store staff are at the sharp end when it comes to the risks of customer abuse. Low staffing levels and longer opening hours mean that they are exposed to increased risk. They often see more problems from shoplifting and alcohol related problems over underage purchases and drunken customers.” He told conference delegates, who backed the call for better protection: “Uniformed security guards can play a significant role in protecting staff, but the numbers of security guards in convenience stores have been reduced in recent years and many businesses have contracted out the security guard operation to third parties.” Lillis added: “In-house security guards are usually the best option. They will know more about the business. They will know the shopworkers they are working with. In contrast, contracted security guards are often moved from store to store and only work for short periods at one location.” The conference also called for a new law to address the ‘ridiculous’ absence of an explicit legal right to take a toilet break at work.

Usdaw news release. Morning Star.

No blacklist justice for Britain’s agency staff

A former union safety rep, who a succession of courts accepted was victimised for his construction site safety activities, has been told he has no legal redress against the blacklisters because he was an agency worker. This month Dave Smith received confirmation in a ruling by Kristina Pardalos, the president of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), that his human rights had been violated. The case had progressed from an employment tribunal, through the entire UK court system, finally ending up in Strasbourg. As in the earlier cases, the European Court accepted it was ‘clear’ while Smith was subcontracted to Carillion, the company interfered with his human rights by passing information onto the illegal blacklisting organisation The Consulting Association. But the ECHR ruled that because of a select committee investigation and last year’s High Court settlement, the case had been “duly considered” by the British legal system and Smith’s claim was therefore “inadmissible.” According to Smith: “This is despite the fact that no evidence was actually heard in the High Court and none of the senior managers responsible for orchestrating the blacklist conspiracy have been held to account.” Writing in the Morning Star, he added: “The ECHR ruling means that that even where human rights have been breached, agency workers remain unprotected by British employment law.” Smith concluded: “I challenge all political parties in the general election to commit themselves to extending full employment rights to the millions of workers engaged via employment agencies. In the era of zero-hours contracts and the gig economy, this is becoming a defining issue for any politician claiming to stand up for workers’ rights.”

Morning Star.

Agencies still blacklisting workers, says Unite

A year after unions secured a historic court victory for blacklisted workers, Unite says it is still fighting for justice for victims of the scandal. The High Court case concerning the blacklisting of workers by The Consulting Association, which involved most of the major construction companies operating in the UK, resulted in a massive cash settlement. Unite alone secured £20 million for the 400 members it represented. But the union says its own research has found potential cases of blacklisting on current flagship projects, with its dossier suggesting employment agencies could be operating their own blacklists. Unite is urging the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) to re-open its investigation into blacklisting. It says ICO has indicated it will launch a new call for evidence on blacklisting, but this will not begin until at least 2018. Unite assistant general secretary for construction Gail Cartmail, said: “A year after the High Court case into blacklisting ended, it is all too obvious that the blacklisting of construction workers is still occurring. Despite blacklisting being a nasty secretive practice, Unite has been able to compile a dossier of these abuses. This is why it is imperative that the ICO re-opens its investigation into blacklisting in order for these practices to be fully exposed and action taken. These injustices will continue unchecked if as feared the ICO kicks blacklisting into the long grass and doesn’t even begin to seek evidence until 2018.” She added: “Over eight years since the blacklisting scandal was first revealed in 2009, victims are still coming forward and more information about the scandal is being discovered. The only way that we are ever going to get the complete truth is by holding a full public inquiry where those involved are compelled to give evidence and reveal what they did and what they knew.”

Unite news release.

Tube staff strike for victimised work violence victims

Tube workers at London Bridge station walked out this week in a further protest against the sacking of a member of staff and the disciplining of two others. The RMT members working for London Underground (LU) staged the 24-hour strike from 10pm on 7 May in response to an incident in which a fare-dodger was violent towards staff. Two LU workers who intervened in the incident were disciplined by the transport firm. Another worker, who first approached the passenger to request to see their ticket or Oyster card, was accused by LU of provoking an incident and lost his job (Risks 796). RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “With LU making it absolutely clear they have no interest in the principles of natural justice, we have no option at all but to take this industrial action. Despite the spin from LU, the facts of this case remain the same. It is about a fare-dodger stopped and asked to pay his way, who then turns violent and attacks staff doing their job.” He added: “This was a shocking, violent incident and those that bore the brunt of it should have been supported and commended.” The union leader condemned the company’s use of replacement labour in an attempt to keep services running, calling the move an “expensive and sophisticated scabbing operation that raises serious issues about the safety of the travelling public.” Cash added: “Instead of wasting time and money on bank-rolling a scab army LU should be recognising their duty of care to front-line staff confronted with violent thugs on their stations and supporting our members who have been sacked and victimised as a result of this shocking incident. RMT will continue to fight for the sacking and disciplinary sanctions to be lifted.”

RMT news release. The Telegraph. Morning Star. Evening Standard.

Pilot mental health stigma could push problems underground

UK pilots have warned that proposed new rules could increase stigma around mental health in the sector and could push the problem underground. The British Airline Pilots’ Association (BALPA) said rules proposed by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) as a result of the Germanwings pilot suicide tragedy in 2015 (Risks 798) could be counter-productive. Measures proposed by EASA include a requirement that pilots undergo psychological testing when first employed by an airline. BALPA, however, argues there are no tests proven to be reliable for accurately determining the true mental state of a pilot. It adds that while it supports the need for psychological assessment, it could backfire if pilots fear any admission could put their job in jeopardy. BALPA head of flight safety and aeromedical examiner, Dr Rob Hunter, said: “If pilots feel they can’t be open with their mental health through fear of losing their job it will only serve to push the problem underground,” adding “we need to ensure these new rules support pilots and don’t demonise them, and offer the appropriate support where needed.” He said the union was working with airlines to ensure there are robust peer intervention programmes in place. “BALPA and the ECA (European Cockpit Association) have also continued to point out to EASA that the use of psychological testing would, sadly, almost certainly not have prevented the Germanwings tragedy,” he added. “It is wrong to assume that anyone suffering with depression is suicidal and furthermore, homicidal, such as was the case with the Germanwings co-pilot.”

BALPA news release.


Tory mental health pledge worthless without cash

A Conservative election pledge on mental health mean nothing without a commitment to proper funding, critics have said. Theresa May said this week she would introduce a new Mental Health Treatment Bill and employ more staff in mental health services by 2020. The prime minister said: “We are going to roll out mental health support to every school in the country, ensure that mental health is taken far more seriously in the workplace, and raise standards of care.” Other measures proposed include requiring large companies to train mental health first responders alongside traditional first aiders. Health secretary Jeremy Hunt told BBC One's Andrew Marr Show: “We want to stop the fact that you can lose your job for that and suffer discrimination in a way that you would not be able to suffer now if you were disabled, [or had] other conditions.” However, Royal College of Nursing (RCN) general secretary Janet Davies said the NHS needs “hard cash”, not rhetoric. She said: “Under this government, there are 4,800 fewer mental health nurses and that goes some way to explaining why patients are being failed. For as long as parity of esteem between physical and mental health services remains rhetoric, this will not change. The NHS needs to see hard cash to deliver any plans.” Labour's shadow mental health minister Barbara Keeley said that the Conservatives had “not delivered on their promise to give mental health the same priority as physical health. They appear to be offering no extra funding and have consistently raided mental health budgets over the last seven years.” She added: “Warm words from the Tories will not help to tackle the injustice of unequal treatment in mental health.”

Conservatives news release. The Observer. BBC News Online. Morning Star.

Tinnitus drove top drummer to suicide

The drummer with Manchester band Inspiral Carpets killed himself last year after struggling to cope with the effects of tinnitus, his widow has said. Speaking after an inquest recorded an open verdict on the death of Craig Hill, Rose Marie Gill said there needed to be a greater awareness around the damaging effects of the condition. Tinnitus – persistent ringing or buzzing noises in the ears - is commonly caused by excessive exposure to noise at work, and is known to affect professional musicians. Craig Hill had no reported history of depression or suicidal thoughts, but had struggled for over 20 years with the hearing disorder. After the coroner’s inquest, Rose Gill issued a statement that noted her husband’s tinnitus became “so unbearable he felt there was no cure.” She said in the statement: "For the past 20 years, Craig suffered from debilitating tinnitus, a condition caused by not protecting his hearing when enjoying the careers he loved the most - a successful musician, DJ and love of listening to music.” She added: “His condition affected his day-to-day well-being and he suffered in silence with both sleep deprivation and anxiety.” The 44-year old drummer was found by his wife hanged in his family’s home in Greenfield, Greater Manchester. A report this year in Hazards magazine warned that occupational factors including tinnitus, chemical exposures, stress and job insecurity could be behind hundreds of suicides in the UK every year (Risks 793).

The Guardian. NME. The Sun. The Mirror. The Telegraph. More on work-related suicide.

Prosecution delay allows boss to escape jail

A company boss has avoided a jail sentence because of a ‘wholly inadequate’ delay in a serious workplace injury case coming to court. Casual worker Michael Rice tripped over a broken pallet and fell into a moving sawblade, slicing off three of his fingers. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) visited the company after the incident on 20 December 2011 and issued an immediate prohibition notice. At a sentencing hearing on 2 May 2017, Alexander Mackay was fined £7,500 and ordered to pay the injured worker £10,000 compensation. Mackay, who was a partner in the company, was told by a sheriff that a "wholly inadequate delay" in bringing the case to court meant that he would not impose a prison sentence. The 65-year-old had earlier admitted a criminal safety offence. Surgeons were only able to reattach one of Mr Rice's fingers, leaving him permanently disfigured and impaired. He had been employed as a casual worker in 2010 and given basic training and was taken on again on a casual basis in 2011 and given no refresher training. Sentencing Mackay, Sheriff Alastair Brown said: “This was a gross management failure. It was your responsibility to protect employees and that cannot be delegated on to or shuffled off on others. There was an obvious danger which might have been observed by you – an obvious danger which you should have seen. You failed to take even the most basic steps to protect employees and therefore is seems that a prison sentence would be appropriate.” He added: “The only thing that makes me step away from that is the age of this case.” At an earlier hearing, Sheriff Brown had said “there is a very serious possibility of a prison sentence being imposed.”

Evening Telegraph. The Courier. BBC News Online. STV News.

Phoenix firm evades £750k fine for asbestos crimes

A North London construction firm that put 200 workers at risk of asbestos exposure is unlikely to stump up any of the £750,000 fine imposed last week after the £10m a year business went into liquidation. Barroerock Construction Limited was prosecuted after repeated asbestos failings. Canterbury Crown Court heard how the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) carried out two investigations of working practices on the site in 2013 and 2014 while Barroerock were converting into flats a former nine storey office building in Ashford, Kent, which was known to contain asbestos. The court was told on the 2013 visit HSE found the company had failed to act on a refurbishment and demolition survey. This resulted in up to 40 workers being exposed to asbestos during the early demolition phase of the project. A further visit in June 2014 after the safety regulator received complaints about safety practices, found that despite engaging a licensed asbestos contractor to remove the remaining asbestos materials, dangerous practices were continuing. About 160 people were working inside the building at the time. Barroerock Construction Limited, which had earlier pleaded guilty to two criminal safety offences, was fined £750,000 and ordered to pay costs of £14,874.68. HSE inspector Melvyn Stancliffe commented: “The company’s failings in this case has put many workers at risk to the exposure of asbestos… Failing to prevent the breathing in of asbestos fibres on the site is reckless.” However, it is believed neither the fine nor the costs will be paid. The Enfield-based company has gone into liquidation claiming “money-flow problems”, despite having an average annual turnover of £10m between 2014 and 2016. Judge Heather Norton was told that the company director Sean O’Connor has since launched a new company operating from the same address. O’Connor is also the sole director of Ronnoco Group Ltd, an active building company listed as the owner of Barroerock Construction Limited.

HSE news release. Construction Enquirer. Kent Online.

Site boss jailed over falling window death

A construction boss has been jailed for a year for manslaughter over the ‘wholly needless’ death of a lawyer crushed by half-tonne windows in Mayfair, central London. Amanda Telfer, 43, was killed when the stack of large unglazed frames collapsed on her as she walked past a building site in Hanover Square on 30 August 2012. An Old Bailey jury found the supervisor at IS Europe Limited, Kelvin Adsett, guilty of manslaughter and a criminal breach of safety law. Judge Peter Rook QC said the 64-year-old had shown “reckless disregard” for what was a life-threatening situation. Westgreen Construction Limited site manager Damian Lakin-Hall, 50, was convicted of a criminal safety offence and sentenced to six months jail, suspended for two years. IS Europe Limited was found guilty of two criminal safety offences. The company was described by the judge as the ‘altar ego’ of Adsett. The court heard it was now ‘dormant’ due to Adsett's ill-health and had just £250 in the bank. The judge said: “There would have been a fine of £100,000. However, given ISE's limited assets, the only fine I can order is £250.” Costs of £100,000 will be split between the three defendants, with insurance covering the firm's share. Another member of the public had almost been hit in a "near-miss" at the site just days before the fatal accident, the court heard. Graham Partridge, of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), said: “If Kelvin Adsett, Damian Lakin-Hall and IS Europe had complied with their legal responsibilities, Amanda Telfer would not have died.” He added: “The CPS case was that the defendants’ conduct was so bad that those involved bore criminal responsibility for Ms Telfer’s tragic death. We hope that these convictions will bring some sense of justice for her family.”

CPS news release. Evening Standard. BBC News Online.

Solar panel firm fined £250k after fall through roof

A Bristol-based solar panel installation company has been fined after a 49-year-old worker fell more than 3.5 metres through a void in a roof. The worker suffered serious injuries, including bleeding on the brain, a fractured spleen and fractured ribs. Bristol Magistrates Court heard how the worker was one of several contracted by Solarjen Limited, known as Paul O’Brien Solar Installations (SW) Limited at the time, to undertake roof works at Fairlawn School in Bristol in June 2015. An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the company failed to ensure physical guarding was in place to prevent workers from falling through voids in the roof. HSE also found the company failed to appropriately supervise the work. Solarjen Limited pleaded guilty to a criminal breach of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 and was fined £250,000 and ordered to pay costs of £12,073.14. HSE inspector Mehtaab Hamid commented: “The company failed to properly organise the work and make sure the workers knew what safety measures were needed, as well providing appropriate supervision to ensure work was not undertaken without the measures being put in place. As a result, serious harm was caused to one worker and others were put at serious risk.”

HSE news release.

DHL and JCB fined after double hit on worker

Two companies have been fined after a worker was seriously injured by a trolley carrying hydraulic rams. Stafford Crown Court heard how Martin Addison of DHL Services Limited (DHL) was auditing in-coming deliveries of equipment in an outside yard at JCB’s headquarters when he was struck from behind by falling machinery. The machinery was being towed by an electric tug and weighed approximately 770kg. The trolley toppled on its side trapping Martin Addison between it and a stillage (storage cage). He suffered multiple serious injuries including fractures and internal injuries. An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) into the incident on 16 October 2013 found there were safety failures related to this auditing activity and the segregation between employees and vehicles using this area, leading to an unsafe system of work. DHL Services Limited pleaded guilty to a criminal safety offence and was fined £266,000 and ordered to pay costs of £23,370.22. JC Bamford Excavators Limited pleaded guilty to two criminal safety offences, and was fined £375,000 with £37,235.42 costs. HSE inspector David Brassington commented: “The dangers of failing to provide effective segregation between pedestrians and vehicles are well known. Both of these companies were well versed in transport risk management and both fell well below the required standard in ensuring that such risks were effectively managed in this area.” He added: “These failings allowed a pedestrian worker into a busy area where vehicles were coming and going and as a result the worker sustained serious injuries from which he has still not recovered.”

HSE news release and workplace transport webpages. Stoke Sentinel.


TUC conference on insecure work, 26 June 2017
The TUC is to host ‘Living on the edge: The rise of job insecurity in Britain’, a major one-day conference to discuss how unions and other civil organisations can tackle insecure work. Speakers include TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady, Matthew Taylor, head of the government's independent review into modern employment practices, and union leaders and organisers. Attendance is free.

Living on the edge: The rise of job insecurity in Britain, 9.00am to 5.00pm, 26 June 2017, TUC, Congress House, 23-28 Great Russell Street, London, WC1B 3LW.



Australian: Nine out of 10 hospitality workers sexually harassed

A union poll of hospitality workers in Australia has revealed that almost 9 out of 10 (89 per cent) report being sexually harassed at work, with almost one in five (19 per cent) reporting sexual assaults. United Voice found only one-third of the over 300 workers who took part in the online survey believed their employer took sexual harassment at the workplace seriously, with nearly half believing they did not. Jess Walsh, Victorian secretary of the hospitality union, said the survey results were an indictment of the industry. “The stories people have told us are horrible. Every day young women go to work feeling unsafe, in fear of being groped, humiliated or threatened by customers or managers,” she said. “Some employers put young workers’ safety and well-being well behind their customers’ desire to have another drink. It’s wrong and it's dangerous. Young workers’ safety needs to come first second and third in the hospitality industry.” The union leader added: “If you’re a young hospitality worker, it’s time to join together and change this. You have a right to feel safe and respected when you’re at work.” The union said it will be calling for ‘crisis talks’ with employers and hospitality workers on measures to make workplaces safer.

IUF news release. United Voice news release.
Global: UN treaty ‘discredited’ as asbestos lobby prevails

A United Nations (UN) treaty on the control of toxic exports has been ‘utterly discredited’, unions have said. The charge came after a bid to add chrysotile asbestos – the only form of the cancer-causing fibre still traded – to the Rotterdam Convention’s list of the most hazardous substances was blocked for a sixth time. On 3 May, at a UN-organised conference in Geneva, a small minority of countries with commercial interests in continued asbestos use, including India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Syria and Zimbabwe, vetoed chrysotile’s addition to the treaty’s ‘prior informed consent’ list, a measure that would require exports to be accompanied by a health warning. It requires a unanimous decision of government representatives for a substance to be listed. Addition of chrysotile to the list cannot now be considered until the next conference, in two years’ time. IndustriALL’s safety director, Brian Kohler, said: “The Rotterdam Convention is broken. Enough is enough. For the Convention to be effective, it must stop allowing the financial interests of a few powerful oligarchs to threaten the lives of millions. It’s a shameful example of a dysfunctional system and a discredit to the entire United Nations system. How many hundreds of thousands of people must die from asbestos-related diseases before the parties to the Rotterdam Convention change this?” Sharan Burrow, general secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), said: “Another generation will be blighted by asbestos disease as a result of past exposures. But the chrysotile industry is determined to inflict this deadly epidemic on our grandchildren too. This criminal cabal of cancer pushers must be put out of business and brought to justice. We will do all we can to make sure this happens.” An attempt to change the voting rules so a 75 per cent majority could agree listing also failed. The highly toxic pesticide paraquat was another victim of the unanimity requirement, again missing out on listing. The Convention’s expert group had said both substances met all the requirements for listing.

IndustriALL news release. Global Asbestos Action Alliance news release. Rotterdam Convention webpages. IBAS news report. RightOnCanada. Chemistry World.

Global: ‘Grave concerns’ as journal imposes new editor

A top occupational health journal is facing a wave of criticism after a respected editor was replaced by the publisher with an industry consultant. The ‘grave concerns’ expressed by the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health’s editorial board – who were not consulted on the change – and others were amplified when the journal withdrew a paper by previous editor, David Egilman, that was critical of corporate-sponsored research, again without consulting the editorial board. This move prompted 30 past and present IJOEH editorial board members and the founding editor to send a letter to the publisher, Taylor & Francis, expressing their “grave concerns” over the future of the journal, and its recent actions. The letter noted that Egilman’s replacement, corporate consultant Andrew Maier, is chair of the fellows programme at Toxicology Excellence for Risk Assessment (TERA), a corporate consulting firm. In a separate criticism, one current IJOEH editorial board member, Leslie London of Cape Town University, said “Maier is well-known as a researcher whose interpretation of data is highly sympathetic to industry.” In April, the journal withdrew a 2016 paper by Maier’s predecessor, David Egilman, entitled ‘The production of corporate research to manufacture doubt about the health hazards of products: an overview of the Exponent Bakelite simulation study,’ with a curt statement: “This content has been removed by the publishers.” The letter from editorial board members calls for Egilman to be reinstated or for the board to choose his successor and for Taylor & Francis to keep out of the editorial process. The publisher’s behaviour has caused consternation in the wider scientific community. Michael F Jacobson, president of the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), said: “I have never seen such a heavy-handed effort by a publisher to control the editorial decisions of a scientific journal.” Calling on the publisher to reinstate Egilman, he added: “Taylor & Francis’s actions undermine the credibility and independence of the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health.”

IJOEH editorial board letter to the publisher, Taylor & Francis. CSPI statement. Retraction Watch. GroundUp.

Iran: Mine disaster prompts call for safety improvements

Global union IndustriALL has called on Iran to improve mine safety after at least 42 miners were killed and over 70 injured in a coal mine explosion on 3 May. The deadly blast took place as workers were changing shifts at the Zemestanyurt mine in Golestan, a province in northeastern Iran. In a letter to President Hassan Rouhani, IndustriALL’s general secretary Valter Sanches called on the government of Iran to urgently ratify the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) Convention 176 on Health and Safety in Mines, as well as implement the ILO Code of Practice on Safety and Health in Underground Coal Mines. Sanches also offered IndustriALL’s help to improve safety in Iranian mines. “IndustriALL Global Union is prepared to offer technical assistance, through the solid expertise of its coal mining trade unions worldwide - in addition to any technical assistance your government may wish to request from the International Labour Organisation (ILO) - to put in place stringent health and safety standards at all mining operations in Iran,” he said. The union body said a lack of adequate health and safety standards in Iran has led to previous mining disasters. In 2013, 11 miners lost their lives in two separate mining accidents, and in 2009, 20 workers were killed in various incidents. The Zemestanyurt coal mine employs around 500 workers.

IndustriALL news release. Prensa Latina.


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