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Members of the union GMB protested outside a government-backed Amazon sales summit in Manchester to expose the abusive way the retail giant treats its warehouse workers. GMB organised its demonstration in the wake of revelations about oppressive management techniques, with some workers resorting to urinating in plastic bottles rather than face disciplinary action for leaving their workstation. GMB accused the company was ‘treating workers like robots’. GMB national officer Mick Rix told Business Insider that the union had around 1,000 members in Amazon. “We have decided to rock up and make a little bit of noise,” he said, ahead of the 15 May protest. “We want to bring attention to a number of things that Amazon are doing in terms of their treatment of workers, and its all-aggressive way of operating. The ‘Amazon Seller Summit’ was intended to encourage third-party sellers to use Amazon Marketplace to sell their wares overseas and was held at Old Trafford in Manchester ‘in partnership’ with the Department for International Trade. “Trade unions make the workplace safer,” Rix told Business Insider. “We bring enormous expertise into regulating working practices and the whole issue is not about fighting the company's productivity, it's about doing things in a smarter way.” Some of the measures Rix would like to see include more breaks introduced for warehouse workers. He would also like to see workers be able to ‘slow down’ during the day. A letter from the US National Coalition on Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH), published this week in the New York Times, criticised multibillionaire Amazon owner Jeff Bezos’ statement that “the only way that I can see to deploy this much financial resource is by converting my Amazon winnings into space travel.” NYCOSH said it named Amazon as a ‘Dirty Dozen’ employer in the US this year (Risks 847), because of its abusive employment practices and record of seven warehouse deaths in five years. “Mr Bezos needs to pay much more attention to what is happening here on Earth,” the safety group said.
The government must fully implement and enforce new European Union regulations which will improve safety by placing import duties on inferior quality tyres imported from China, transport and manufacturing union Unite has said. The union said it has been ‘increasingly alarmed’ that low cost inferior quality tyres have been flooding the market from China and other Asian countries. It says there are significant safety concerns associated with poor quality tyres as they have a much shorter road life and are more likely to ‘blowout’. Unite says that under the provisional regulations published this month by the European Union, inferior quality tyres made in China for use on buses and lorries will be subject to anti-dumping duties of between 29 per cent and 68 per cent. There will now be a six-month consultation period on the measure, during which time Unite said it will be lobbying the government to ensure that not only are the new regulations fully implemented in the UK immediately, they continue after the country leaves the EU next year. Unite national officer for rubber, Tony Devlin said: “This is an important first step forward in our battle to ensure tyre safety on our roads and to preserve tyre jobs. The regulations currently only apply to tyres for lorries and buses and we believe that it should apply to all imported tyres. They should also apply to all inferior quality tyres and not just those from China. Safety concerns should never be comprised on the grounds of price.” He added: “It is imperative that the government fully implements these new regulations and ensures that they remain in place after the UK leaves the European Union next year. Any failure by the government not to fully support these regulations would be a complete betrayal of all UK road users and UK tyre workers.”
Pupils and school staff in Scottish schools are being put at risk as a result of the failure of some schools to act on information about violent and disruptive pupils, teaching union NASUWT has said. The union is concerned that schools are ‘failing in their duty to record and address all incidents of serious pupil violence and disruption’, it warned. According to NASUWT, adequate risk assessments are not always being undertaken of pupils who persistently display high levels of aggression and violence in school. Even where such assessments are made, it adds, the details are often not shared or passed on to school staff and adequate steps put in place to ensure the safety of pupils and staff is protected. Addressing the union’s Scottish conference, Chris Keates, NASUWT’s general secretary, said: “Where a pupil is known to exhibit violent and disruptive behaviour, a risk assessment should be undertaken and action taken to support the pupil to address their behaviour and to protect other pupils and staff. However, there are too many cases where schools and local authorities fail to act on reports of serious disruption and violence and fail to provide both pupils and staff with the protection and support they need. The NASUWT is continuing to challenge those schools and local authorities which leave teachers recklessly exposed to violent pupil behaviour.” Jane Peckham, NASUWT national official in Scotland, said: “Pupil behaviour is one of the top concerns that teachers raise about their job. Yet evidence shows that teachers are not receiving the support they need to tackle these issues. The NASUWT believes there should be a zero tolerance policy on violent behaviour in schools. Failing to deal with this problem will only make matters worse and endangers pupils and staff.”
New regulations targeting an abuse of lasers that has put transport workers and the public in danger has passed its final parliamentary hurdle and will become law. Welcoming the new rules, which were given Royal Assent on 10 May, pilots’ union BALPA said the law came after its lengthy campaign to tackle laser misuse. The law gives police forces more powers to catch those who shine lasers at aircraft, road vehicles and boats and tougher punishments for those caught. BALPA general secretary Brian Strutton said: “Pilots have been pushing for tougher punishments and greater police powers around lasers for many years. We are very pleased the government has taken up this important issue and has now passed this new legislation which we hope will have a meaningful effect on the number of laser attacks on aircraft and other modes of transport.” He added: “Shining a laser at an aircraft is extremely dangerous and has the potential to cause a crash that could be fatal to not only those on board, but people on the ground too. Members of the public should know that by shining a laser at an aircraft, they now face the serious prospect of jail time.” Under the new law, it is a crime to shine or direct a laser beam that dazzles or distracts, or is likely to dazzle or distract, air traffic controllers, pilots, captains of boats and drivers of road vehicles. As well as widening the list to include air traffic facilities, offenders face much tougher penalties of up to five years in prison, an unlimited fine or both.
Unite is taking action on mental health, which it says is a ‘key concern’ in the workplace. The union, which is running is running a series of mental health awareness, is also highlighting how bad management practices can be a major contributory factor to poor mental health (Risks 848). The union launched the UK-wide activities to coincide with mental health awareness week, which ran from 14 May to 18 May. The union says there are a number of companies that are already ‘going the extra mile’ and working with the union to promote good mental health in the workplace, including Arriva Trains, BA Avonics, Barclays, Royal Mail, Sellafield and Scottish and Southern Energy. Unite director for education Jim Mowatt said: “Our members are increasingly highlighting how mental health issues are a key concern in the workplace. Unite is providing training and advice for our activists to ensure that our members receive the support and are all able to access the help they need.” He added: “We are also highlighting where employers’ working practices are resulting in workplace mental ill-health. Unite is breaking down the barriers and taboos to ensure that mental health problems are no longer a silent epidemic that is not talked about.” TUC head of safety Hugh Robertson called this year for a broad approach to mental health in the workplace, adding “that is best done in co-operation with the union” (Risks 841). The union body offers mental health awareness training for union reps.
Unite news release. Mental Health Awareness Week.
More employees are approaching their managers with concerns around mental health, but most companies are poorly equipped to respond, a new survey has found. An Institute of Directors (IoD) poll of 700 managers found almost four in 10 (39 per cent) had been approached by staff with such a concern, up from just over a quarter (27 per cent) in 2017. However, fewer than one in five firms (17 per cent) offered mental health training for managers. The IoD findings were released to coincide with the start of Mental Health Awareness Week. Poor relationships with line managers and workload have the biggest negative impact on employees' mental health, the survey found, both reported by 37 per cent of respondents. Just over four in 10 respondents (42 per cent) said some of their employees took time off work due to mental health problems. In over two-thirds (68 per cent) of cases where a worker asked for mental health support, they were referred by their firm to their GP. IoD director general Stephen Martin said: “While mental health is no longer the taboo subject it was, much work remains to be done. Directors must take to heart the importance of their workforce’s mental health, just as they would their physical health. The bottom line is this: the workplace shouldn’t be somewhere that people feel they have to hide the problems they are facing. In fact, it should be one of the places where help is most easily found.” He added: “We want businesses to see tackling mental health not as a drain on resources but as a positive investment in the well-being of their staff.”
Men who work as labourers or in other physically demanding roles have a greater risk of dying early than those with more sedentary jobs, a new study has found. The research, from an international team of researchers, reveals an apparent “physical activity paradox” where exercise can be harmful at work but beneficial to health when performed in leisure time. Lead author Pieter Coenen, a public health researcher at VU University medical centre in Amsterdam, said he believes the disparity may reflect the different types of exercise people get at work compared with those in their free time. “While we know leisure-time physical activity is good for you, we found that occupational physical activity has an 18 per cent increased risk of early mortality for men,” Coenen said. “These men are dying earlier than those who are not physically active in their occupation.” He said the difference was not explained by ‘lifestyle’ factors. His team combined the results from 17 published studies, giving them data on nearly 200,000 people. Most of the studies they included took lifestyle factors, such as smoking and alcohol intake, into account. “If you go out for a run for half an hour in your leisure time,” Coenen said, “that increases your heart rate and you feel well afterwards, but when you are physically active at work, it’s a very different type of activity. You are working for eight hours a day and have limited rest periods. You are lifting, doing repetitive movements, and manual handling.” He added: “Our hypothesis is that these kinds of activities actually strain your cardiovascular system rather than help you to improve the fitness of your cardiovascular system.”
The construction industry should target health risks as well as safety and should ‘design out’ these risks, a House of Lords inquiry has been told. B&CE, a not-for-profit construction industry insurance and occupational health advice body, told a Lords select committee inquiry into ‘offsite manufacture for construction’ that more emphasis on tackling occupational health risks would reduce the likelihood of these conditions, improve productivity and reduce ‘the risk of workers developing latent health conditions.’ It called on the government to drive the change in focus. Margaret Grahamslaw, head of occupational health at B&CE said: “We believe that the construction sector should focus on treating health equally to safety – often safety takes priority and hazards to health are not addressed. There should be a greater emphasis on designing out risks and hazards at the start of the construction lifecycle, along with the provision of a wider variety of ‘standardised’ products so that offsite manufacture becomes easier and more convenient for contractors of all sizes.” She added: “We believe government should lead a change in culture, by setting the expectation for major projects, for example, that there are no risks to health. This will not be achieved quickly, as it requires cultural and behavioural change, but it should be our ambition.”
Reckless drivers are routinely putting the lives of roadworkers at risk, research by Highways England has found. Its figures reveals a catalogue of serious incidents and near misses ranging from motorists driving into coned off areas where road workers are working to physical and verbal abuse. On average there are nearly 300 incidents a week of incursions and abuse reported by road workers who are busy improving Britain’s 4,300 miles of motorways and strategic A roads. Of almost 3,500 incidents recorded between July 2017 until September 2017, 150 were serious, leading to four road workers and two motorists being injured. Thousands of road workers’ lives are being put at risk, said Highways England. The agency’s director of safety, Mike Wilson, said: “Drivers who selfishly and illegally ignore these traffic restrictions force their way through are putting both their lives and those of our road workers at risk – all to save a few minutes on their journey.” Highways England is urging motorists to “respect our road workers – slow down near road works and obey speed limits and signs.” It adds “just because workers aren’t visible, it doesn’t mean they are not present. This is especially true when operations take place at night, but also applies when visibility is restricted by works vehicles and equipment.” It asks motorists to “think what it would be like if you had to contend with lorries and cars driving through your place of work.” Road traffic accidents are the number one cause of work-related fatalities in the UK, but are not included in the official Health and Safety Executive (HSE) annual workplace death statistics. Neither does the safety regulator investigate or enforce occupational road safety incidents.
An epidemic of the use of the drug ‘spice’ in UK prisons is putting the nurses called in to treat inmates at risk, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has warned. It said it had members who had been left sick, unconscious or unable to drive after treating prisoners who had taken the illegal drug, which is a potent synthetic cannabis substitute. In some places 50 inmates were being treated each week, the RCN said. A report last year by HM Inspectorate of Prisons raised concern over the widespread use of the drug. It said inmates were sometimes not diluting it with tobacco, leading to serious medical emergencies. The RCN said nurses and healthcare assistants are often the first on the scene when inmates need emergency care. They are expected to enter cells before the smoke is clear. But it says NHS staff should be allowed to assess the danger of the situation before rushing in and called on the prison service to do more to combat the problem. RCN chief executive Janet Davies said: “Spice poses a serious threat to nurses, healthcare assistants and prison staff, whose safety and long-term health is being put at risk day in, day out.” She added: “As dedicated health professionals, prison nursing staff are expected to offer high quality care, but they should not be expected to put their own well-being on the line to deliver it. I have heard some truly shocking stories of nursing staff passing out or being unable to drive after exposure to spice.” The RCN has written to Michael Spurr, chief executive officer of HM Prison & Probation Service (HMPPS), calling on prison bosses to do more to protect nurses and other health workers from the effects of the drug. Janet Davies said: “The scale of this problem demands swift and effective action from HM Prison & Probation Service. We would like to see an urgent review of the guidance that properly reflects the risks posed by this extremely dangerous drug.”
The majority of nurses regularly go through entire shifts without drinking water or taking breaks, a survey has found. Threequarters of nurses do not have time to take a break during one or two shifts every week, according to the poll of 2,000 nurses by journal Nursing Standard. Almost three in five said they are regularly unable to have a drink of water and more than half (57 per cent) said they did not have access to healthy food at work. One nurse said she had received treatment for kidney stones because she had not been able to drink enough fluid, while another told of having a “total meltdown” and suicidal thoughts because of work pressures. Earlier this year, a midwife sacked from Wakefield’s Pinderfields Hospital won an appeal against her dismissal after more than 40,000 people signed an online petition calling for her to be reinstated. UNISON member Jane Greaves said she was off work with a kidney infection she believed she contracted at Pinderfields Hospital’s birth centre - which doesn’t have a staff toilet (Risks 845). She said low staffing levels meant she was unable to leave the unit to go to the toilet during 12-hour shifts.
A Somerset pre-cast concrete products manufacturing company has been fined after a 43-year-old man was fatally injured. Bath Magistrates’ Court heard how Jeffery Baulf, a maintenance fitter employed by CPM Group Limited, was carrying out maintenance work. A conveyor started moving and Mr Baulf suffered fatal injuries when he became trapped. An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) into the 2 October 2016 incident found the company had not implemented procedures to ensure machinery was isolated before starting maintenance work, preventing its operation. The court heard that the maintenance task was authorised by Mr Baulf’s supervisor but the required control measures were not checked before work started, as the procedure required. CPM Group Limited pleaded guilty to a criminal health and safety offence and was fined £660,000 and ordered to pay costs of £14,563.57. HSE inspector Leo Diez commented: “This tragic incident, which led to the avoidable death of a man, was easily prevented and the risk should have been identified.” He added: “Employers should make sure they apply effective control measures to minimise the risk from dangerous parts of machinery. Maintenance work should only be carried out when the piece of plant/equipment is isolated and confirmed safe.” Mr Baulf’s wife, Jayne, said: “Losing Jeff in this way was truly shocking and heart breaking for all of us. We think of him every minute of every day. Our lives will never be the same again. Knowing that CPM could have prevented it makes it all the more difficult to bear.”
Supermarket giant Tesco has been fined £1.6 million after a customer at a London store was left seriously injured. Tesco Stores Limited pleaded guilty to two criminal safety offences relating to an August 2014 incident when the driver of one of its vehicles ran into a member of the public whilst reversing into the loading bay of the Greenford Tesco Metro store, in Ealing, west London. In a case brought by Ealing Council, Tesco was also ordered at Isleworth Crown Court to pay the council’s costs of £50,000. The incident occurred when the driver ran into the victim whilst taking part in an unassisted reverse, causing the victim to become stuck between the loading bay and the vehicle. The impact caused the victim, who was a self-employed tradesman, to suffer a number of serious and life-changing injuries. A ‘prolonged and detailed’ investigation by the council’s health and safety team established that Tesco failed to manage the risks of vehicles and pedestrians both using the car park of the premises, which is open to the public at all times. The organisation also failed to notice that drivers were often reversing on site unassisted, contrary to its internal procedures. Ealing council leader Julian Bell said: “This is a great result for the council. I am very pleased that the court has recognised the seriousness of these offences and imposed a fine reflecting this.”
Blackmail charges against two officers of the construction union CFMEU that have been headline news for three years have been dropped in a major blow to the Australian government. CFMEU state leaders John Setka and Shaun Reardon had demanded a union safety presence on a Boral site, but found themselves accused of ‘blackmailing’ managers Paul Dalton and Peter Head at a café meeting in April 2013. It was alleged the pair had threatened to blockade Boral plants and trucks if the company refused to meet union demands. Prosecutors finally dropped the charges this week midway through a pre-trial committal hearing in Melbourne Magistrates’ Court. The charges against the union officials came at the recommendation of a Royal Commission investigating trade unions. The meeting at North Melbourne’s Auction Rooms cafe was called by Boral in the hope the union would lift a ban on its cement deliveries to sites run by the construction firm Grocon, where a union dispute centred on safety concerns. Grocon had refused to allow CFMEU to appoint union health and safety representatives at Grocon sites. Setka and Reardon were charged in 2015 after an investigation by a joint Victorian and federal police unit, following a referral by the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption. Commenting after the case was dropped, the union officers’ lawyer, Peter Gordon, said the conversation about workplace safety in the café had been the subject of “gross and illegal distortion.” He said: “If there is to be farness and impartiality to our justice system, then the same sort of scrutiny that has been applied to John Setka and Shaun Reardon over the past three years should now be focused on Boral, it should be focused on the trade union Royal Commission and those responsible for the distortion of evidence that made these charges possible in the first place.” A statement from the two vindicated CFMEU officials noted: ““The CFMEU’s campaign was about saving lives. And our penalty for that is to be targeted, prosecuted and fined by government agencies and the regulators.” They noted: “It is difficult to see this case as anything other than a conspiracy among those with vested interests in ensuring workers in this country are not adequately represented.”
An international meeting of occupational health experts has called for a major global shake up to improve the prevention of work-related diseases. The 2,200 delegates to the International Congress on Occupational Health, held this month in Ireland, adopted the Dublin Statement on Occupational Health, backing wide-ranging action for prevention of occupational cancer and asbestos related diseases (ARDs) and calling for ‘decent work’. The event, organised by the International Commission on Occupational Health (ICOH), called on governments to work with ‘social partners’ to “draw up policies for the prevention of occupational cancer, including elimination of ARDs.” This should include preparation of a national prevention programme, the statement said. It also calls for international agencies, including the World Health Organisation (WHO), the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the International Social Security Association (ISSA), together with international non-governmental organisations, to throw their weight behind the preventive approach. It said these organisations and the regional development banks should “set Decent Work Programmes and prevention of occupational cancer, including an asbestos ban and elimination of ARDs, as a condition for public investment, loans and development aid.”
A total of 177 fatalities were recorded across Turkey in April, according to a monthly study released by a non-governmental workplace safety organisation. According to data compiled by the Workers’ Health and Work Safety Assembly (İSİGM), the workplace death toll in the first four months of 2018 now stands at 575. İSİGM stated that 129 of the 177 workers were contract laborers and 48 were farmers and artisans. Ten were women, four were children and eight were refugees or immigrants. Traffic accidents, falls from height and getting trapped under debris were identified as top causes of the deaths. The new statistics follow an İSİGM report released in January which said 2,006 workers died in Turkish workplaces in 2017, up from 1,970 in 2016. Commenting this week ahead of a three-day visit to Britain by Turkey’s president, Recep Erdogan, UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis warned that the UK government was ignoring widespread human rights abuses in Turkey in its determination to win trade deals. In a blog posting, he wrote: “Prime minister Theresa May travelled to Turkey to sign a £100 million arms deal in January last year, whilst foreign secretary Boris Johnson has promised a ‘jumbo trade deal’ and even urged the EU to stop pushing Turkey ‘into a corner’ over the death penalty.” The UNISON leader added: “Although the UK government vocally condemned the attempted coup for undermining democracy, they have remained almost silent on the subsequent state of emergency, mass detentions and dismissals, and the erosion of democracy and rights.”
Fewer than a third of working Americans (32 per cent) believe their employer has taken new measures to prevent and address sexual harassment in the workplace, according to a survey by the American Psychological Association. APA found that according to employees, the most common action taken was simply reminding employees of existing sexual harassment training or resources (18 per cent). A new report, ‘Workplace sexual harassment: Are employers actually responding?, from APA’s Center for Organizational Excellence, spells out the finding of its Harris Poll of 1,512 employed US adults. The data were collected as part of APA’s 2018 work and well-being survey. While the lack of meaningful change is not entirely surprising, it is disappointing, said David W Ballard, the director of the APA centre. “The #MeToo movement has given business leaders an opportunity to finally take real action addressing a complex problem that has been pervasive for generations,” Ballard said. “Our survey — as well as anecdotal reports — shows that too few employers are making comprehensive efforts that can have significant impact.” Only 10 per cent of respondents said their employer has added more training or resources related to sexual harassment since the recent increased media and public attention. Just 8 per cent said their employer implemented a more stringent policy related to sexual harassment. The survey found links between increased efforts to prevent and address workplace sexual harassment and better employee and organisational outcomes. When new steps had been taken, employees were more likely to say they were in good psychological health (90 per cent vs. 79 per cent) and that their employer provides the necessary resources to help employees meet their mental health needs (76 per cent vs. 36 per cent) and manage their stress (63 per cent vs. 31 per cent). APA said while most employers have been slow in taking new steps to address harassment, the ongoing headlines and resulting conversations may be encouraging individual employees to take action. About half of survey respondents said they are now more likely to report workplace sexual harassment if they experience it (50 per cent) or witness it (51 per cent), and that they are more likely to confront a co-worker who is engaging in inappropriate sexual behaviour at work (47 per cent).
APA news release. Workplace sexual harassment: Are employers actually responding? APA, 15 May 2018.
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