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Risks is the TUC's weekly newsletter for safety reps and others, sponsored by Thompsons Solicitors.







TUC e-cigs warning vindicated after vaping-related death

A TUC warning on the dangers of allowing vaping in enclosed workspaces has been given added weight after US authorities this week confirmed a person had died after developing a severe respiratory disease due to the use of electronic cigarettes. US government experts are also investigating a spate of cases of a mystery lung disease linked to vaping. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said there were 193 ‘potential cases’ in 22 US states. The cases were reported over the course of two months between 28 June and 20 August. CDC director Robert Redfield said: “We are saddened to hear of the first death related to the outbreak of severe lung disease in those who use e-cigarette or 'vaping' devices.” He added: “This tragic death in Illinois reinforces the serious risks associated with e-cigarette products.” Last year the TUC warned that Britain was the world’s second biggest vape market after the US. “The TUC has always been clear where we stand on vaping, which is that there should be no use of e-cigarettes in workplaces where smoking is prohibited,” a TUC safety spokesperson said. He said while e-cigarettes can play a role in smoking cessation programmes, “they are not without health risks – and the long-term effects of e-cigarettes on health remain unclear” ( Risks 871 ). Commenting on new evidence, TUC head of safety Laurie Heselden said: “The official US investigation into serious lung diseases linked to vaping reinforces the TUC’s argument for workplace smoking bans to include e-cigarettes. The latest revelations raise worrying questions and amplify the case for precaution.”
BBC News Online . TUC’s updated Ensuring smoke-free workplaces guide, including an e-cigarettes section.

New Unite call for culpable homicide legislation in Scotland

Unite has repeated its call on the Scottish parliament to pass a proposed culpable homicide law. The construction union’s statement came after the death of a worker on a Sir Robert McAlpine site in Glasgow. The 43-year-old worker died in a 22 August incident at the £40 million revamp of the St Enoch Centre in Glasgow city centre. The Culpable Homicide (Scotland) bill proposed by Claire Baker MSP would create statutory culpable homicide criteria whereby death is caused “recklessly, or by gross negligence” ( Risks 875 ). Health and Safety Executive (HSE) figures show a sharp increase in the numbers killed at work in Scotland, up from 17 in 2017/18 to 29 in 2018/19. Stevie Dillon, Unite regional coordinating officer, said: “Unite has repeatedly called for greater enforcement and regulation in the construction industry including stronger health and safety standards. In cases like the tragic death at the St Enoch’s Centre, we demand a full investigation and where it is shown that the incident occurred through recklessness or negligence then directors must face the consequences of their inaction.” He added: “It is absolutely tragic that there has been a 70 per cent increase in deaths related to workplace incidents in the last year across all industries. Claire Baker’s Culpable Homicide (Scotland) bill provides a clear way forward to tackle this scourge in the workplace, and it’s an imperative that this proposed legislation becomes a priority for the Scottish parliament.” In Australia, the state government in Western Australia this week became the latest in the country to place industrial manslaughter legislation proposals before parliament. A survey this month found widespread public support across Australia for this type of law. Industrial manslaughter laws already in place in Queensland and the Australian Capital Territory (ACT).
Unite news release . GlasgowLive . Evening Times . Falkirk Herald . STV News . BBC News Online . Construction Enquirer .
UnionsWA news release . Queensland Unions news release . Mining Weekly.

Zoonoses warning on Scotland’s animal lab cuts

Scientists’ union Prospect is calling on the Scottish government to urgently review proposals to close regional post-mortem facilities in the country, which is says will result in the loss of key scientific, research and analytical expertise vital for disease control. Prospect negotiator Jane Rose, speaking on behalf of managers and specialists at Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC), said: “The disease surveillance work undertaken by our members at SRUC is critical to ensure that Scotland is able to react quickly to disease outbreaks, particularly in zoonotic infections such as swine and avian flu that carry a risk to human health. Closing regional centres severely compromises that ability, escalates the risk of spread and contamination and adds significantly to our carbon footprint as the distances for transporting potentially contaminated materials will inevitably increase." Prospect said the SRUC's proposals are the direct result of the Scottish government's decision to slash more than £1m from the disease surveillance budget. Rose added: “The potential loss of more than 30 key posts across the country will have an immediate and significant impact on Scotland’s capacity in animal disease prevention, detection, diagnosis and containment.” A range of jobs can place workers at especially high risk of zoonoses, animal diseases that can be transmitted to humans. Prospect’s guide to zoonotic infections notes: “According to the Health and Safety Executive, approximately 300,000 people in a variety of occupations are potentially exposed. People at risk include employees in animal-related occupations, forestry workers and engineers who may be exposed to ticks when walking through bracken.”
Prospect news release . Prospect guide to zoonotic infections .

Relaxing driving time limits could end in deaths warns Unite

A no deal Brexit could result in lorry driving time limits being relaxed, leading to exhausted drivers posing a danger to other road users, Unite has warned. The transport union is calling on the government to rule out explicitly any relaxation or suspension of EU regulations which govern driving time for lorry driver. It warns many professional drivers already face unsustainable workloads. Unite national officer for road transport Adrian Jones said: “The problems associated with a no deal Brexit will not just be confined to Kent, it will create delays throughout the entire lorry and logistics network in the UK. Unite will totally oppose any relaxation in driving regulations. This would result in exhausted drivers, with potentially lethal consequences for road users. In a sensible world the government would rule out a disastrous no deal Brexit.” Currently HGV drivers are restricted to driving for nine hours a day, extended to 10 hours twice a week, and a total of 56 hours driving a week. Unite says their actual working week can be far longer when taking into account other duties. The union says its ‘highly confidential’ survey of over 4,000 HGV drivers last year found that fatigue and tiredness were already massive issues for drivers ( Risks 857 ). The survey found that 29 per cent of drivers had fallen asleep at the wheel. Jones said cabinet members “Grant Shapps and or Michael Gove need to urgently meet with Unite to explain what plans are in store for drivers and rule out any relaxation in the driving regulations. The bottom line is that workers have a legal right to not work if they believe they would be placed in danger. The government must remember that when planning for a no deal.”
Unite news release . Unite Live .

Unite holds ballot over Glasgow bus safety

Unite has informed bus firm First Glasgow that it intends to ballot drivers for industrial action to protect public safety. The union said service changes cooked up without consultation and set to take effect in October will result in ‘significant cuts’ in running times and recovery times for drivers. Mick Dowds, Unite’s national convenor, stated: “Unite members are furious that at a time when public safety is paramount and after Unite welcomed the Speed Awareness Agreement alongside supporting other health and safety initiatives such as ‘Destressing the Driver’, First Glasgow is blatantly scurrying around with a new set of rosters. This will directly impact on drivers’ wellbeing and could have a catastrophic effect on passengers and the public.” He added: “First Group announced some time ago that it intended to sell its passenger operations including its flagship First Glasgow company. This latest development highlights exactly why Unite has been calling on local authorities such as Glasgow to bring passenger services back into public and municipal ownership. This is essential to ensure services meet the needs of communities and those most vulnerable in society rather than having diminished services in the chase for profit.”
Unite news release . The Scotsman . STV News . BBC News Online .

You can’t afford to go sick at Sainsbury's distribution centre

A new attendance procedure at a Sainsbury’s distribution depot could leave staff out of pocket if they are injured of get sick, their union has said. Usdaw members at Sainsbury’s Waltham Point depot are involved in a dispute that has already seen a series of one-day stoppages. The union is concerned at changes to the attendance policy which it says are being implemented unilaterally by the company. Usdaw divisional officer Nigel Scully said: “Individuals do get ill and/or injured and need to be in a position where they can recover without having to worry whether they will be getting paid. The company’s changes mean that our members, including many who have given significant years’ service, could quickly end up without any sick pay, meaning that financial worries are likely to be added to any other issues they are going through.” He added that industrial action was “a last resort following many meetings where we have tried to work with the company to find an agreement. We continue to call on the company to enter serious negotiations and ensure that our members have adequate sick pay provisions in line with other staff across the Sainsbury’s estate including our retail members.”
Usdaw news release . Logistics Manager .

Union reps ‘assaulted’ by NHS managers at privatisation meetings

Union reps attempting to attend a Frimley Health NHS Foundation Trust privatisation meeting were ‘physically assaulted’ by senior managers, their union GMB has said. The Morning Star reported that staff attended the meeting at Wexham Park hospital, which was called by the trust to update workers on plans to privatise more than 1,000 jobs. But GMB officers were asked to leave the briefing by the trust’s deputy chief executive Janet King after being told the meeting was for staff only. The GMB officers argued they had a right to be there because of possible changes to employment contracts, hours, terms and conditions and working practices. As the GMB officers attempted to leave the room while speaking to people arriving late to the meeting, they were jostled and physically pushed by senior trust management, according to the union. In response, union members walked out of the meeting in protest and went to speak to their union officers outside of the meeting. GMB regional officer Gary Palmer told the Morning Star: “I have to say in all my time attending consultation meetings, even when the subject matter is as distasteful to the union as this, I have never been so shabbily treated as potentially physically assaulted for trying to represent members.” GMB regional officer Asia Allison said: “This sort of behaviour will not stop the GMB doing what it does best, representing and organising workers and defending NHS jobs and services. We will continue to fight against the formation of a wholly owned subsidiary by Frimley Health Trust and the backdoor privatisation of our members’ jobs.”
Morning Star . Slough Express .


Mental health problems now top cause of NHS sick leave

Mental health problems including stress, depression and anxiety are the most common reason NHS staff in England take sick days, according to latest NHS Digital statistics. Workers took a total of 17.7 million days of sick leave between December 2017 and November 2018, the new figures show. Of these, almost a quarter, or 4.2 million, were taken due to stress, anxiety, depression or other psychiatric illnesses. That was more than the next two most common reasons combined, musculoskeletal conditions and colds. Responding to the latest statistics, health service union UNISON said the government must invest more money in NHS services. The union’s deputy head of health, Helga Pile, said staff were having to contend with problems including intolerable work pressure, bullying and intimidation and violence from patients. “Chronic staff shortages mean NHS employees are routinely being asked to do more with fewer resources as they desperately try to keep the service afloat,” she said. “The government urgently needs to invest in the NHS to cut staff shortages and reduce burnout, and workers suffering anxiety, depression and stress must get rapid access to mental health support services.”
NHS Sickness Absence Rates April 2019, Provisional Statistics , NHS Digital, published 22 August 2019. The Independent . The Metro .

Quango discriminated against chronically ill lawyer

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) discriminated against an associate lawyer who suffered severe fatigue caused by chronic kidney disease, an employment tribunal has found. According to the reserved judgment, Mr R Cunningham, a barrister, started working at the FCA as an associate lawyer in 2010. In January 2017, Cunningham was diagnosed with renal problems and by April 2017 he was suffering from ‘extreme tiredness’, according to a note from his doctor. The FCA reduced his hours accordingly. The Law Gazette reports that in June 2017 Cunningham commenced a period of sick leave and did not return to the FCA until February 2018. The same month, he attended his annual appraisal meeting where he was awarded a score of one, meaning ‘below standards’. As a result, he did not receive a pay rise or a bonus. The tribunal found that Cunningham’s low score resulted from poor board reports he wrote – one of which was labelled ‘disappointing’ by a manager– and his refusal to lead a particular case. The tribunal found that both of the problems identified were caused by his kidney disease. It added that Cunningham’s poor board reporting was ‘uncharacteristic’ and that he had previously been praised for his ‘strong and clear’ drafting. It said: “The discriminatory effect is considerable; because of his illness he performs poorly and because he performs poorly, he does not get a pay rise, does not get a bonus and loses the prestige of being regarded as a good performer.” The tribunal will make a decision on any compensation at a later hearing.
The Law Gazette . Personnel Today . Mr R Cunningham v Financial Conduct Authority , Employment Tribunal decision, 3201141/2018, August 2019.

Vehicle servicing firmed fined over crushed employee

Volvo Group UK Limited has been fined after an employee was crushed by a truck, leading to serious injury. Glasgow Sheriff Court heard that on 7 June 2016 an employee of the firm was testing the brakes of a low-loader truck unit and trailer at its Cardonald depot, Glasgow. He had raised the trailer off the ground using a pit jack. He did not apply the truck handbrake or use any wheel chocks to prevent the vehicle rolling. Whilst adjusting the brakes at the first axle, the truck unit rolled forward causing the jack to slip off the axle of the trailer, roll towards him and strike him on the body, crushing him against a set of steps in the pit and fracturing his spine. An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that Volvo Group UK Limited had failed to provide a sufficient number of wheel chocks for use by its employees and failed to provide information, instruction, supervision and training to its employees in their use. Volvo Group also failed to provide a suitable induction for the employee in safe working practices. Volvo Group UK Limited pleaded guilty to two criminal safety offences and was fined £13,333.33. HSE inspector Jennie Stafford said: “Those in control of work have a responsibility to devise safe methods of working and to provide the necessary information, instruction and training to their workers in the safe system of working.” She added: “If a suitable safe system of work had been in place prior to the incident, the life-changing injuries sustained by the employee could have been prevented.”
HSE news release .


Don’t let excessive work temperatures hurt you

Last weekend’s record high Bank Holiday temperatures may be behind us – but did your workplace have a proper, protective agreement in place before the thermometer topped out? Excessive heat can make work unpleasant and downright dangerous unless employers act to protect their staff. Even if the scorching temperatures have now abated, they’ll be back and a good employer will have an agreed policy in place to ensure staff don’t have to suffer. The TUC’s ‘Cool it’ guide gives union reps pointers on how to negotiate suitable protective agreements in consultation with the workforce.
TUC workplace temperature webpages and guide, Cool it! A TUC guide for trade union activists on dealing with high temperatures in the workplace .


TUC ‘respiratory health’ briefing, London, 27 September

‘Respiratory health – a workplace issue', a TUC briefing for trade union health and safety reps, will take place at the union body’s national HQ in London on 27 September 2019. As well as top speakers, the event will include presentations from the Health and Safety Executive, a union personal injury law firm and the Trade Union Clean Air Network.
‘Respiratory health – a workplace issue', TUC briefing , Congress House, 23-28 Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3LS, Friday 27 September 2019. Registration from 9.45am, event starts at 10.15. Lunch provided. Free event. Registration is required: phone 020 7467 1218 or email the TUC .

Work-Stress Network conference, Birmingham, 23-24 November

The UK National Work-Stress Network 2019 annual conference “will focus on the tools and strategies needed by trade unionists to support their members, protect themselves and get employers engaged in tackling work stress to our make workplaces a safer place for all.” Speakers include top campaigner Hilda Palmer, barrister and academic Professor Diana Kloss MBE and Gail Kinman, professor in occupational health psychology at the University of Bedford.
Work-Stress Network conference , Hillscourt Conference Centre, Rose Hill, Rednal, Birmingham, B45 8RS, 23-24 November 2019. Booking form .


China: Rhinestone workers dying of silica dust disease

Workers making the rhinestones often found on high street jewellery, fashion and decorative items are developing the deadly lung disease silicosis, according to a new study. Researchers diagnosed 98 cases of silicosis between the years 2006-2012 in a single crystal rhinestone factory in Guangdong province, China. Crystal rhinestones are imitation gemstones with quartz sand the main raw material. Workers in the rhinestone manufacturing industry are exposed to crystalline silica dust when cutting, grinding, polishing and buffing the artificial crystals. Inhaling crystalline silica dust can lead to the deadly lung-scarring disease silicosis, lung cancer and autoimmune conditions. The authors, publishing their findings in the journal Occupational Medicine, note that the rhinestone workers developing silicosis were on average first exposed to silica dust at age 22 and were diagnosed at 33 years old. Most of the workers who developed the disease were drilling holes into rhinestones. Lead author Dr Cuiju Wen called for health screening for the workers, adding: “The rhinestones manufacturing industry is labour intensive, most of the activities within the factory involved in this study involve manual work. The first step in protecting these workers is to change the manufacturing processes to automatic methods, this will decrease the time that workers are exposed to silica dust. Appropriate ventilation should be installed, workers would benefit from using wet methods and they should be provided with personal respiratory protective equipment.” Demand for rhinestones is high and may be fuelled in part by the renewed popularity of ballroom dancing. The company responsible for making the costumes for the BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing programme estimates that 3.5 million rhinestones are used per series.
C Wen and others. Silicosis in rhinestone-manufacturing workers in South China , Occupational Medicine, kqz107, published first online 22 August 2019.

USA: Boss told to pay $1m in safety retaliation case

Factory boss William ‘Billy’ Lloyd fired two of his employees after they cooperated with government safety inspectors, a federal jury has ruled. Following the April court decision, US District Judge Mitchell S Goldberg this month ordered Lloyd to pay the former workers $1,047,399 in back wages and punitive damages. At the time they were fired by Lloyd Industries, officials with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) were investigating the company for an incident that caused parts of three fingers of a worker to be “crunched off” by a steel-bending press. The worker, Josh Elbode, 21, said the press was malfunctioning. Goldberg awarded plant manager Dino Sanna $829,689. Of that amount, $400,000 was punitive damages with the rest back wages. Hourly worker Matthew Spillane was awarded $217,710, with $100,000 of that amount punitive damages. Sanna, 69, spoke with OSHA investigators with Lloyd’s knowledge, but was fired on the same day that OSHA fined Lloyd Industries $822,000 for safety violations in 2015. Spillane photographed Lloyd Industries equipment with his mobile phone for Elbode’s workers’ compensation claim. Elbode gave the photos to OSHA. “I didn’t want anybody else hurt on that machine,” Spillane said. Lloyd fired him as he clocked in for his shift in November 2014. Goldberg, in explaining his decision, said that Spillane and Sanna were “terminated publicly in the plant and alarmingly close in time to OSHA events.” Lloyd also has to post an anti-retaliatory notice in his 60-employee Montgomeryville factory for two months, according to Goldberg’s order. OSHA has designated the firm as a “severe violator,” with 40 serious injuries in the last two decades.
OSHA news release and Whistleblower Protection Program . Philadelphia Inquirer .

USA: What will AI mean for workplace safety?

Artificial Intelligence (AI) could have a major impact on workplace safety and health, the head of US government’s occupational health research body has said. John Howard, director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH, said the organisation has been at the forefront of workplace safety and robotics, creating the Center for Occupational Robotics Research (CORR). “AI applications in the workplace of the future raise important issues for occupational safety and health,” he said in a blog posting. “Maximising the potential occupational safety and health benefits of AI applications, while minimising any potential challenges, is critical.” Calling for input to “address the potential advantages and challenges of this technology” and its privacy and safety implications, Howard noted: “Occupational safety and health practitioners, researchers, employers and workers must consider the ramifications of AI-enabled applications in the workplace. Before AI-enabled devices or systems are introduced into a workplace, a thorough preplacement safety and health review of their benefits and risks should be performed.” In a separate commentary in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine published online this month, Howard noted AI could see “job displacement from automation and management of human‐machine interactions,” adding: “Engaging in strategic foresight about AI workplace applications will shift occupational research and practice from a reactive posture to a proactive one. Understanding the possibilities and challenges of AI for the future of work will help mitigate the unfavourable effects of AI on worker safety, health, and well‐being.”
NIOSH Science Blog . John Howard. Artificial Intelligence: Implications for the Future of Work , American Journal of Industrial Medicine, published online ahead of print, 22 August 2019.


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