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

UNION NEWS
Meditation lessons ‘not the answer to brutal police cuts’
Record high stress shows bosses need to fix bad jobs
Under-resourced fire crews left to tackle flood dangers
Train track sewage risks ‘could lead to strikes’
RMT steps up strike action over SWR driver only plans
Dismay at ‘bombardment’ of attacks on firefighters
Welsh teachers want aggression tackled
Retail staff facing routine ‘shocking’ violence
OTHER NEWS
Stark warning to employers on the cost of work stress
Unions back Suzy Lamplugh work violence charter
Union calls for safety assurances after theatre ceiling collapse
Drone registration scheme will improve safety, say UK pilots
Manslaughter charges over 2015 mill blast deaths
Dairy farm fined after worker blinded by disinfectant
INTERNATIONAL NEWS
Australia: Another state to get a safer silica standard
Brazil: Dam owner Vale failed to report deadly danger signs
Japan: Microsoft four-day week shows less works better
USA: Chemical firm fined $1.59m after deadly explosion
 

UNION NEWS

 

Meditation lessons ‘not the answer to brutal police cuts’

The roll out across England and Wales of meditation lessons to reduce stress for police staff does not address the long-term budget cuts that are the root cause of the problem, the union Unite has said. The union, which represents crime scene investigators, police dispatchers and other frontline support roles, said that a 25 per cent reduction in police staff numbers since 2010 has led to an “explosion of stress-related sick leave” that is “impacting on the effectiveness of forces as a whole”.  Unite said that while ‘mindfulness’ meditation lessons may help some staff to deal with the pressure, the solution to the problem is to increase funding and reverse the fall in police staff numbers. Unite officer with national responsibilities for police staff, Caren Evans, said: “Any initiative to improve the wellbeing of police staff, many of who perform stressful and often harrowing tasks, is to be welcomed. However no amount of meditation will address the root cause of the massive amounts of stress police staff are under. Over the last nine years, police staff, who are the foundations on which forces depend, have been reduced by 25 per cent because of Tory cuts.” She added: “Call handlers, police dispatchers and other vital personnel are running on skeleton staffs. Shortages are so acute that many have no time to take meal breaks while on shift or even take annual leave. This has led to an explosion in stress-related sick leave and is impacting on the effectiveness of forces as a whole. Ultimately, nearly a decade of cuts to police staff will not be undone by 15 minutes of sitting quietly in a room.” The Unite officer concluded: “The government must bring police staff numbers back to health, otherwise the situation will continue to get worse and police officers – including the 20,000 new officers ministers are planning to recruit – will not receive the support needed to do their jobs properly.” 
Unite news release. The Guardian.
 

Record high stress shows bosses need to fix bad jobs

The root causes of record high levels of stress-related ill-health at work must be tackled by employers, the TUC has said. The union call came as latest Health and Safety Executive (HSE) statistics revealed a shocking 602,000 workers in Great Britain are now suffering from work-related stress, depression or anxiety, with workload cited as the most common cause (Risks 922). The TUC’s Kathryn Mackridge said we spend a significant amount of our adult life at work, with UK workers working longer hours than any other country in Europe. In a blog posting, the policy officer added the rise in insecure work can impact on workers’ stress levels, mental health and wellbeing. She warned young workers could be particularly at risks as they are overrepresented in low-paying jobs and insecure work, such as zero hours contracts, agency and casual work. TUC figures show 40 per cent of workers on agency contracts or in casual work are aged 16–24, and 36 per cent of workers on zero hours contracts are aged under 25. She added employers are increasingly signing up to “awareness days” and “wellbeing initiatives” without investing in the resources, policies and training to support the workers being harmed by bad management practices. “These initiatives often encourage workers to divulge mental health issues and focus on fixing the individual through ‘resilience’, rather than recognising the drivers of stress and poor mental health as a workplace issue that should be tackled collectively.” She added: “Posters encouraging workers to talk about their mental health issues is not an inherently bad idea, but only if the support is there – trade union recognition, a robust sickness policy, a fair disciplinary and grievance process.” Mackridge concluded: “Every day unions are supporting members, negotiating better policies and holding employers to account on mental health in the workplace. As well as continuing and expanding this great work, we must force employers and the government to tackle the causes of workplace stress and poor mental health at the source. This means getting a £10 an hour living wage, banning zero hour contracts and stamping out harassment and abuse at work. Staying healthy and happy at work is not down to individual workers to figure out on their own.” The work-related stress, anxiety and depression figures represent a new all-time high, up from the previous record of 595,000 affected workers in 2017/18 (Risks 874) to 602,000 in 2018/19. 
TUC blog. Work-related stress, anxiety or depression statistics in Great Britain 2019, HSE, 2019.
TUC resources: TUC guide to responding to harmful work-related stress; Tackling workplace stress using the HSE Stress Management Standards, TUC and HSE guidance for health and safety representatives; TUC workbook on mental health in the workplace; TUC mental health awareness training; TUC health, safety and wellbeing guide.
 

Under-resourced fire crews left to tackle flood dangers

There must be a new statutory duty for firefighters in England to respond to flooding, the firefighters’ union FBU has said. The union said England lags behind other parts of the UK, where fire services have a legal duty to respond to floods and can obtain funds to cover the costs of this work.  Speaking after large areas of Yorkshire and Derbyshire were hit by severe floods, Pete Smith, FBU executive council member for Yorkshire and Humberside, said: “Our firefighters are working tirelessly on the ground to save lives, property, and communities in South Yorkshire, but the crews responding to this incident are, like firefighters across the country, overstretched and under-resourced. Firefighter numbers in South Yorkshire have been cut by 27 per cent since 2010, and the government has cut our funding by £3.3 million. Worryingly, we have heard that South Yorkshire’s high-volume pumping appliance, vital for flooding response, was unavailable for a period due to staffing shortages. Firefighters are doing everything they can with what they have, but their work needs to be properly funded by government.” Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said: “The hard work of firefighters responding to flooding across England is not currently recognised by government. Unlike in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, firefighters in England do not have a statutory duty to respond to flooding. That means there is no guarantee of proper national funding, training, or specialist equipment for crews on the ground, all while fire budgets and firefighter numbers have been slashed. When the prime minister inevitably comes posing for photos with hardworking firefighters, they won’t forget how much damage this government has done to them.” Commenting after Boris Johnson posed with a mob in a flooded Specsavers in Matlock, TUC regional secretary Bill Adams said: “Instead of messing around with a mop, the prime minister should be taking this crisis seriously and providing emergency funding for devastated communities. We need a government that will put working families first and invest properly in tackling climate change.”
FBU news release. TUC news release. Environment Agency news release. BBC News Online. The Mirror. The Guardian.
Health and safety in flooded areas, TUC, 2014. When it pours: Flood preparation can save lives, Hazards magazine factsheet.
 

Train track sewage risks ‘could lead to strikes’

Unite has warned the broken promise to end the practice of train toilets dropping sewage on tracks by the end of the year (Risks 922) is putting the health of rail maintenance staff in danger - and it says unless immediate action is taken the union will ballot for industrial action. The union said it has discovered the dirty practice could continue to 2023, the revised date when Abellio-run East Midlands Railways says it plans to stop dumping sewage on the tracks. Unite said when the sewage is flushed from the trains it also becomes stuck on the undercarriage of trains and unless there are specialised washing facilities, maintenance workers have to clean the sewage off before repair work and inspections can be undertaken. This is a particular issue at the Neville Hill maintenance depot in Leeds, the union said, where workers maintain trains from both East Midlands Railways and London North Eastern Railways (LNER). Both companies operate trains which allow sewage to drop onto tracks and their trains. Unite national health and safety adviser Rob Miguel said: “Although Neville Hill is not the only depot whose workers are affected by the problem, it is the one that is subject to a report commissioned by the Office of the Rail and Road (ORR) and undertaken by the science division of the Health and Safety Executive.” The HSE research found the “highest levels of airborne coliforms, measured in two samples, were an order of magnitude greater than found in sewage treatment plants. This suggests a potential for significant exposure to these bacteria, exacerbated by the enclosed space in which the workers were generating dust.” The HSE report recommended that specialised washing facilities should be introduced to ensure that workers’ health is no longer placed at risk. Unite says seven years ago there was a cellulitis epidemic at Neville Hill affecting six people, two of whom nearly died. The workers were affected by a particularly dangerous strain emanating from untreated sewage. There have been further less serious outbreaks of cellulitis more recently. Unite has now said that unless the specialist washing facilities are introduced immediately, it will ballot its 130 members at Neville Hill for industrial action.
Unite news release. Yorkshire Post. The Guardian.
 

RMT steps up strike action over SWR driver only plans

Rail union RMT has confirmed that a total of 27 days of strike action will take place in December on South Western Railway (SWR) after the company “dangled a potential breakthrough deal in front of the union and then failed to honour it, offering no reasons for the delay.” The union said the company’s “unremitting failure” to give assurances that their new operational model won't move to driver controlled operation “with the role of the guard butchered completely” means the union has been left with no alternative but to call further industrial action. RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “At the last meeting we held with SWR, principles in agreements were made in good faith with the company’s negotiating team and we now feel hugely let down again. As long as the company continues to refuse to give assurances on the future operational role of the guard we will remain in dispute.” He added: “I want to congratulate our members on their continued resolve in their fight for safety and the role of the guard on SWR. It is wholly down to the management side that the core issue of the safety critical competencies and the role of the guard has not been agreed. The union remains available for talks.”
RMT news release. BBC News Online. Sky News.
 

Dismay at ‘bombardment’ of attacks on firefighters

There were 1,170 attacks on UK firefighters in the last year, according to new research from the Fire Brigades Union (FBU). The union findings were released in the wake of bonfire night, which saw “appalling” attacks on firefighters across the UK, as overstretched and under-resourced crews faced one of their busiest nights of the year. The FBU research shows in England there were 961 attacks on firefighters in 2018/19, up by 3 per cent on the year before. Both Scotland and Wales saw attacks on firefighters rise by over a third, with 72 and 44 attacks respectively. Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said: “The attacks we’ve seen on our hardworking firefighters are absolutely appalling. Firefighters put their own lives on the line to save others – they are a vital part of the community and will save anyone and everyone, regardless of who they are, which could even include their attackers.” He added: “This bonfire night has seen attacks on overstretched and under-resourced crews across the country. The Tories have cut 11,500 firefighters since 2010; the last thing these crews need is to be attacked on one of their busiest nights of the year.” There were six bonfire night attacks on Scottish firefighters, according to the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service. In Manchester, firefighters were attacked by a 40-strong group throwing fireworks, while in Leeds a police helicopter was called in and several arrests made, after West Yorkshire fire and rescue service firefighters were attacked.
FBU news release.
 

Welsh teachers want aggression tackled

Posters should be displayed in Welsh schools warning against violence or threats to staff, the teaching union NEU Cymru has said. The union claims aggressive behaviour is a growing concern and is calling for a review of the causes. It adds that funding cuts are making the problem worse, as well as issues around discipline at home and wider problems in society. David Evans, Wales secretary of NEU Cymru, said: “It's not an every day occurrence in every school - incidents are few and far between, but even one attack is one too many. It highlights the difficulty in dealing with it. Managers have to deal with unusual incidents but they have to deal with it properly and ensure people are protected in their workplace.” He said there needed to be a consistent response from local authorities. He added that the poster idea was “a start” and highlighted the issue, but cited a need for respect for teachers from the minority causing problems. The issue was discussed last week by delegates to the union’s conference in Newport.
BBC News Online.
 

Retail staff facing routine ‘shocking’ violence

An average shopworker is verbally abused, threatened or assaulted more than 21 times a year, research by the retail union Usdaw has round. The annual survey results, published to coincide with the union’s 11-17 November Respect for Shopworkers Week and which include a harrowing dossier of case histories, revealed round two-thirds of shopworkers have experienced verbal abuse, 41 per cent were threatened by a customer, and nearly 5 per cent were assaulted. This amounts to around 400 assaults every day across all shopworkers, the union said. Paddy Lillis, Usdaw general secretary, said: “Violence, threats and abuse against workers continue to increase.” He criticised the government’s failure to act on the findings of its own call for evidence, launched five months ago. “This continued delay is extremely concerning for our members; Usdaw has been calling for action for many years. Even in the time since the Home Office ‘call for evidence’ closed, the Association of Convenience Stores has revealed that there have been an estimated 200,000 assaults and threats against retail and wholesale staff. Our message is clear; abuse is not a part of the job. We continue to call for stiffer penalties for those who assault shopworkers and the introduction of a simple stand-alone offence that is widely recognised and understood by the public, police, courts and most importantly criminals.” He said: “Retail staff have a crucial role in our communities and that role must be valued and respected, they deserve the protection of the law.”
Usdaw news release and Respect for Shopworkers Week, 11-17 November 2019. BBC News Online.

 

OTHER NEWS

 

Stark warning to employers on the cost of work stress

Employers must ensure that they are investing in their people rather than paying lip service to addressing work-related stress, a mental health charity has warned. James Rudoni, managing director of Mates in Mind was commenting after new Health and Safety Executive (HSE) figures revealed work-related stress, depression or anxiety was at an all-time high (Risks 922). HSE said it now accounted for 44 per cent of all work-related ill-health cases. The human cost of these trends “cannot be ignored,” Rudoni said, adding: “Mates in Mind understand that if organisations are to make meaningful changes and do more than pay lip service to the topic of mental health, they must address the harmful reaction people have to undue pressure and demands placed on them at work, and the impacts this has on their mental health. Within the HSE report, respondents cited workload pressures, including tight deadlines, too much responsibility and a lack of managerial support as the main factors causing work-related stress, depression or anxiety. Other factors included: a lack of managerial support, organisational changes at work, violence and role uncertainty (lack of clarity about job role and uncertain of what to do).” He said: “With the HSE’s report highlighting the challenges which work-related ill-health poses and the specific areas in which employers and organisations can work to be better and make a change - the report comes as an important warning that more organisations need to take action.”
Mates in Mind news release.
 

Unions back Suzy Lamplugh work violence charter

The unions GMB and NASUWT have pledged their support for the Suzy Lamplugh Trust’s charter for employee safety. ‘Suzy’s Charter for Workplace Safety’ is intended to help employers and employees to make workplaces safer for everyone, the trust said. Welcoming the charter’s launch, Chris Keates, NASUWT’s acting general secretary, said: “The evidence laid out by the Suzy Lamplugh Trust on violence in the workplace very much reflects the experiences of teachers, shown through extensive research carried out by the NASUWT. Too many people, including teachers and headteachers, are going to work each day with an expectation that they will be verbally or physically abused.” She added: “All workers are entitled to a safe working environment, free from violence and abuse. Verbal and physical abuse is unacceptable and must be faced with zero tolerance. The NASUWT fully supports the new charter from the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, especially as it complements the NASUWT’s campaign on verbal and physical abuse in the workplace.” GMB national safety director Dan Shears said: “We strongly support Suzy’s Charter for Workplace Safety. GMB members work in a number of sectors where violence and aggression are known risks, and lone working is common. Suzy’s Charter gives clear guidelines on the steps that employers can take to reduce risks, and we will be doing our best to ensure that it is adopted in every workplace where we have members.”
NASUWT news release.  Suzy Lamplugh Trust news release and Suzy’s Charter for Workplace Safety.
 

Union calls for safety assurances after theatre ceiling collapse

Theatre technicians’ union Bectu has said it will work with its sister unions and a theatre owner to ensure safety is prioritised after several audience members were injured when a London theatre’s ceiling collapsed. The incident occurred at the Piccadilly Theatre during a 6 November performance of Death of a Salesman starring US actor Wendell Pierce. The collapse, which led to the performance being abandoned and over 1,000 people being evacuated from the venue, is believed to have been caused by a water leak. Bectu assistant national secretary Helen Ryan commented: “Bectu are relieved that no one was seriously hurt and praise the professionalism of staff and our members in how this incident was dealt with and the building safely evacuated.” She added: “We welcome Ambassadors Theatre Group’s (ATG) offer of support to workers at this time and the agreement to continue to pay them while alternative work locations are sought. We are however planning to work with our sister unions to arrange a joint meeting with ATG to ensure theatre safety is paramount for workers and audiences. Well maintained theatres are extremely important in attracting visitors to London and to the UK economy.” Two days after the incident, Ambassador Theatre Group said permission to return to the theatre had been granted by safety inspectors from Westminster City Council “provided the affected area is covered and off-limits until repairs are completed.” In a statement, it added an annual safety check had taken place at the theatre in February and the venue was also “undergoing a multi-million pound modernisation and improvement programme.”
BECTU news release. BBC News Online. Variety.
 

Drone registration scheme will improve safety, say UK pilots

UK pilots’ union BALPA has said a new drones registration scheme will help improve safety in the air.  Under the new arrangements, UK drone pilots have until the end of November to register their details with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). The mandatory requirement to register covers owners of drones or model aircraft weighing more than 250g. Owners of unregistered drones could then face the threat of a fine. As well as the CAA drone registration scheme, drone users must also take an online test. BALPA head of flight safety, Dr Rob Hunter, said: “We have been calling for drone registration for some time now as we believe that in the same way that other vehicles – be it those in the air or on the ground – are registered, so should drones. Drones bring huge potential commercial and leisure benefits, but ensuring they’re integrated into the skies safely is a key concern for BALPA.” He added: “Following on from earlier improvements to restrictions around airports, this is another measure to encourage responsible drone operation, which is desperately needed to ensure a collision between an aircraft and a drone is avoided.”
CAA drone registration requirements. BALPA news release. BBC News Online. The Guardian.
 

Manslaughter charges over 2015 mill blast deaths

A company and its management are facing criminal charges over the deaths of four workers in an explosion at a wood flour mill. Derek Moore, Dorothy Bailey, Jason Shingler and William Barks were employees at Wood Flour Mills in Bosley, Cheshire, when they died in July 2015 (Risks 715). Owners Wood Treatment Ltd has now been charged with corporate manslaughter. Director George Boden is accused of manslaughter by gross negligence and two managers also face charges. A four-storey building was destroyed in the blast and large fires broke out at the mill on 17 July 2015. The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said the charges were the result of a “lengthy and complex” investigation by Cheshire Police and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). In the wake of the explosion, HSE issued prohibition notices stopping certain work processes at the site, as well as improvement notices (Risks 717). Wood Treatment Ltd is charged with four offences of corporate manslaughter under the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007, relating to the four deaths, and one criminal health and safety offence. George Boden will face four charges of manslaughter by gross negligence and one criminal health and safety offence when he appears at Stockport Magistrates' Court on 2 December. Managers Philip Smith and Peter Shingler will appear alongside him, charged with criminal health and safety offences.
CPS news release. BBC News Online. The Guardian.
 

Dairy farm fined after worker blinded by disinfectant

Beechdean Farm Limited has been fined for a criminal safety offence after an employee was permanently blinded by corrosive cleaning chemicals. High Wycombe Magistrates’ Court heard that in August 2017, an employee was cleaning the walls of the dairy at Old House Farm in North Dean, Buckinghamshire, using the corrosive disinfectant DM CiD, which contains potassium hydroxide. The pump sprayer being used unexpectedly developed a fault and ruptured. The worker’s face became covered in the caustic and corrosive disinfectant, rendering him permanently blind in both eyes. An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that Beechdean Farm Limited failed to plan and supervise the use of chemicals for cleaning the dairy and did not have effective emergency arrangements in place. Beechdean Farm Limited guilty to a criminal safety offence and was fined £8,000 and ordered to pay costs of £11,879.94. HSE inspector Stephen Faulkner commented: “While it was possible for both the pump sprayer and the chemical to be used for cleaning, this incident could so easily have been avoided by implementing correct control measures, safe working practices and appropriate emergency arrangements.” He added: “Agriculture is an industry with a high accident rate, and the chemicals and activity involved in this incident are common in dairy farming, so this case should send a message to farms about the dangers of working with chemicals.”
HSE news release.

 

INTERNATIONAL NEWS

 

Australia: Another state to get a safer silica standard

Workers exposed to silica dust in the Australian state of New South Wales (NSW) will be protected by a new, more stringent exposure standard, the state’s government has announced. NSW minister for better regulation and innovation Kevin Anderson said the initiative is good news for those working in the manufactured stone, sandstone stonemasonry, as well as the tunnelling and domestic construction industries. “To reduce the possible exposure to silica dust, the NSW government will support SafeWork Australia’s recommendation to reduce the Australian Workplace Exposure Standard from 0.1 to 0.05 mg/m3, and will also support SafeWork Australia undertaking further research on whether a reduction to 0.02 mg/m3 is achievable,” Mr Anderson said. “We will also boost safety rebates available to the manufactured stone fabrication industry, by introducing an industry specific safety rebate of $1,000 until June 2020, to assist with improved safety controls.” He said a programme of education, inspections and enforcement will follow. “Silicosis is entirely preventable with the correct safety measures in place, which is why the NSW government supports the reduction of the acceptable exposure standard so that we can better protect people who work with products containing silica,” he said. The NSW announcement follows action in the neighbouring state of Victoria, which in May called for a 0.02 mg/m3 workplace exposure limit for silica to be introduced nationwide (Risks 909). The UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE) continues to defend its 0.1 mg/m3 limit, a position strongly criticised by workplace health advocates and unions (Risks 916).
Safework NSW news release. NSCA Foundation News. The Conversation.
UK ACTION: Send an e-postcard to HSE demanding it introduce a more protective silica standard no higher than 0.05mg/m³ and with a phased move to 0.025mg/m³. www.hazards.org/HSEstopkillingus   
 

Brazil: Dam owner Vale failed to report deadly danger signs

The collapse of a dam that killed at least 250 people in Brazil in January (Risks 883) could have been prevented if its owner had reported defects to authorities, the mining regulator has concluded. The National Mineral Agency (ANM) said in a statement that mining giant Vale had failed to report warning signs. A sea of waste from the Feijão dam engulfed a canteen, offices and farms in Brumadinho, in Minas Gerais state. The disaster – Brazil’s worst - also raised concerns that other mining dams in Brazil could be at risk of collapse. "If ANM had been correctly informed it could have taken precautionary measures and forced the company (Vale) to take emergency actions that could have avoided the disaster,” the statement from ANM said. The regulator's report, citing internal company documents, detailed several issues tell-tale issues that it said Vale should have reported. including the appearance of sediment in drainage water. Addressing a news conference, ANM head Victor Bicca said: “The serious fact is that when there is sediment it must be reported. Period. It wasn't. If it had been communicated, the area would immediately have been submitted to daily inspections,” he said. “But we didn't know what was happening.” Vale now faces more than 20 new fines from the regulator.  In its own statement, Vale said it would analyse the report but could not comment further. Vale and German safety firm Tüv Süd already face criminal charges over the dam collapse.
BBC News Online. Wall Street Journal. Voice of America.
 

Japan: Microsoft four-day week shows less works better

Microsoft’s introduction of a four-day week without loss of pay for its employees in Japan led to a massive increase in productivity, the software giant has said. The Microsoft Japan trial began in August 2019, from when offices shut every Friday, giving about 2,300 full-time employees a paid day off. The company found that, based on sales per employee, workers were almost 40 per cent more productive in the compressed hours of August 2019 as they were the same month a year earlier. On their day off, workers were encouraged to make use of the time by volunteering, learning, and taking rest “to further improve productivity and creativity,” according to a company blog. In the coming months, the company said it will instigate another trial with slightly different parameters designed to reduce work stresses. Microsoft Japan’s trial is seen as especially significant because it’s the biggest yet in terms of both staff numbers and the apparent effect on productivity. Perpetual Guardian, the New Zealand estate management firm that was one of the first to go public with a research-backed assessment of its trial, and then adopted the policy in November 2018, found that productivity was unharmed by the shortened work week, while staff stress levels were dramatically improved. More recently, recruitment firm ICE Group this year became the first company in Ireland to adopt a four-day week for all its staff. In September, the Labour Party conference heard the average working week in the UK would be cut to 32 hours within 10 years under a Labour government. TUC’s Kate Bell, arguing that the UK should cut working hours, said “while the relationship isn’t totally straightforward, countries with shorter average hours generally see higher productivity than the UK.”
TUC blog. Sora News 24. Quartz at work.
 

USA: Chemical firm fined $1.59m after deadly explosion

A US silicone factory has been fined $1.59 million (£1.23m) for safety violations that were uncovered following a blast on 3 May 2019 that killed four workers. The deadly incident in Waukegan, around 50 miles north of Chicago, happened at AB Specialty Silicones where the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) identified 12 ‘wilful’ federal safety violations. The regulator found AB Specialty Silicones failed to ensure that electrical equipment and installations in the production area of the plant complied with OSHA electrical standards and were approved for hazardous locations. The company also used forklifts powered by liquid propane to transport volatile flammable liquids and operated these forklifts in areas where employees handled and processed volatile flammable liquids and gases, creating the potential for ignition. Nine employees were on the site at the time of the blast. Four workers were found dead in the rubble, three were injured and two escaped unharmed. Loren Sweatt, a Labor Department principal deputy assistant secretary for OSHA, said: “Employers must employ hazard recognition to protect workers from harm, especially in high hazard industries. By ignoring safety and health requirements, this employer created an unsafe work environment with deadly consequences.” OSHA acting regional administrator Nancy Hauter said: “An employer's adherence to safety and health standards, including the proper use of electrical equipment and forklifts when handling flammable liquids, is critical to preventing fire, explosions and other incidents that can seriously or fatally injure workers.” OSHA has now placed the company on its ‘Severe Violator Enforcement Program’. AB Specialty Silicones has not indicated yet whether it intends to contest the penalty.
OSHA news release.
 

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