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

UNION NEWS

OTHER NEWS

RESOURCES

INTERNATIONAL NEWS

UNION NEWS

Exhausted bus drivers prepare for strike action

Bus drivers’ union Unite is warning that London could face gridlock if exhausted bus drivers have to resort to industrial action later this year. The union is preparing for a consultative ballot of over 20,000 members employed as London bus drivers later this month and, provided a yes vote is secured, a full industrial action ballot will then follow. Unite is demanding that London bus operators and Transport for London (TfL) take decisive action to tackle the chronic levels of fatigue being experienced by bus drivers (Risks 913). It is sharply critical of individual bus operators who have suggested that the solution is simply about ensuring drivers get more sleep. Unite is instead demanding a ‘revolution’ in how bus driving is scheduled to ensure that drivers can finish on time, are able to utilise all of their breaks, work to proper schedules, have enough running time to complete their journey, are treated with respect and receive proper training. Unite regional officer John Murphy said: “London bus drivers have had enough; they are permanently fatigued and at risk of being a danger to other road users, bus passengers and themselves.” He added: “TfL cannot simply sweep this problem under the carpet. It must act decisively and stop trying to pass the problem onto bus operators who have consistently failed to resolve the issue and have instead allowed it to worsen. For the last 25 years bus operators have been failing to deal with this problem. Unite members are saying enough is enough.”
Unite news release.
 

Electric bus sound could pose dangers warns Unite

The new sound chosen for London’s electric buses creates dangers for road users and pedestrians as it sounds nothing like a traditional bus, the drivers’ union Unite has warned. The sound, which is being trialled this month, has been described as “like a spaceship”. Unite says the reason given for adding an artificial sound is that electric buses are very quiet and so can potentially pose dangers for blind and partially sighted pedestrians. The union says it was consulted last year on some potential sounds for London buses, but ‘firmly rejected’ the selected option because it did not sound like a bus. No further consultation took place and Unite, which represents over 20,000 London bus drivers, was not aware a trial of the “spaceship” sound would begin in January. Unite lead officer for London buses John Murphy said: “Unite recognises that it is imperative that the new electric buses make a clearly audible sound for safety reasons. However, we believe that the sound chosen is potentially dangerous as it sounds nothing like a bus.” He added: “In a world where people are increasingly distracted when walking, due to the use of electronic devices it is essential that there is a clear and obvious sound of a London bus. If people hear the spaceship sound they won’t think ‘bus’ and could place themselves unintentionally in danger.” The Unite officer added that the union “is also concerned that drivers have not been widely consulted about the new sound and there are potential concerns about whether they will find it distracting or if it will affect their health. Unite urges Transport for London to pause the rollout of the new sound, undertake a wider consultation with all stakeholders and agree a sound like a bus.” Research by the US Department of Transportation has suggested people are 40 per cent more likely to be hit by an electric or hybrid car than one with a noisy combustion engine.
Unite news release. Wired. Evening Standard. Traffic Technology Today.
 

Stab vests being trialled for cash-in-transit crews

In the face of a rise in knife crime, the union CWU has welcomed a trial of stab vests for workers delivering cash and valuables to post offices. “All workers in at-risk occupations must have the best available protections,” said CWU assistant secretary Andy Furey. Volunteer employees at four Post Office Supply Chain depots – in London, Manchester, Sheffield and Swansea – will be wearing the new kit over the next couple of months, he said, adding that both the company and the union will be monitoring and reviewing the vests in accordance with agreed criteria, which will include comfort, ease to wear whilst driving and crossing the pavement when delivering to Post Offices, together with ease of putting the vests on. “It’s a sad fact of life these days that knife crime is on the increase in the UK and, due to the nature of our CViT [cash and valuables in transit] crew members’ work, there is an increased vulnerability which we need to address,” the CWU official said. The union said as well as providing physical protection to crew members in the event of a knife attack, the vests are also intended to act as a visual deterrent to criminals. “Thankfully, our members do not experience large numbers of attacks – but even one attack is one too many,” Furey said. CWU national safety officer Dave Joyce, who will be examining safe systems of work, standard operating procedures and the legally-required information, supervision and training associated with the trial, said “over the past year, both the company and the union have become increasingly concerned at the level of knife crime being reported in the retail environment and on UK streets in large cities.” He added: “Whilst the Post Office’s annual robbery risk assessment has, to date, concluded the armed robbery risk to be low, there has been a notable increase in the presence of blades during robberies and an increase in violence used in robberies at Post Office branches. And it’s for these reasons that the time is right for a trial of body armour whilst robbery risk assessment continues to be reviewed.”
CWU news release.
 

‘Cowardly’ attack on prison officers condemned

Prison officers’ union POA has condemned a ‘vicious and cowardly’ attack on prison officers at HMP Whitemoor on 9 January 2020. Two prisoners on ‘A’ Wing at the high security prison attacked a prison officer from behind with bladed weapons. Both attackers were wearing what appeared to be suicide belts, which were later found to be fake. According to the POA, the attack “resulted in hospital attendance for five members of staff. Had it not been for the brave intervention of staff at the prison this attack could have been much worse.” Commenting immediately after the incident, POA general secretary Steve Gillan said: “I have received a full briefing on this cowardly and vicious attack and there is no doubt in my mind that but for the bravery of staff then this morning we could have been talking about a death of a prison officer at Whitemoor Prison. This was an extremely serious attack on hard working staff.” He added the union will continue to work with the government and employers “to eradicate the disgraceful attacks on our members throughout the criminal justice system, but we also expect the police, Crown Prosecution Service and the courts to deal with violence against Prison Staff in a robust and effective manner.” He said the union also condemned “the recent attacks on our members at Deerbolt, Holme House and Feltham Prisons. Now is the time for [the] government and employer to work with the POA to restore control, order and discipline in the prison service.”
POA news release. BBC News Online.
 

Action call after Winchester prison violence spike

Prison officers at Winchester prison have demanded urgent action after an inspectors’ report said that violence had “increased” at the notorious jail and safety remained a “major concern.” The inspection, carried out last June and July and whose findings were published on 7 January, found high levels of violence, self-harm and suicides over the past three years, with a “significant deterioration” in conditions during that time. Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, said Winchester was not safe enough, adding violence had increased markedly, particularly against staff. The probe was ordered after the 174-year-old prison was put into special measures in 2018 due to government concerns about poor conditions and lack of proper resources for prisoners and staff. Further concerns were raised in August, when 150 inmates were transferred to other jails after a riot, which culminated in skirmishes between prisoners, police and special prison officers. POA national executive committee member Sarah Rigby told the Morning Star: “Prison staff at Winchester do a superb job under very difficult circumstances. They continue to have problems with high levels of drug use, which is affecting both staff and prisoners on a daily basis and making an already difficult job near impossible at times.” She added: “The high levels of drug use must be addressed to try to make the prison safer. All incidents of violence against staff are serious and must be treated as such. Staff need support from management in addressing these issues if things are to improve. Only after improvements are made and the prison is stabilised can we begin to rehabilitate the prisoners who are held there.” Prison Reform Trust director Peter Dawson said conditions at the jail were “surely a matter” for Justice Secretary Robert Buckland, given that the government plans to send more people to prison for longer. He warned that having too many prisoners was not a problem any individual prison governor could solve.
HM Inspector of Prisons news release. Morning Star.
 

Fire emergency call mergers ‘unsafe and unsustainable’

The firefighters’ union FBU has issued a ‘safety critical notice’ after Surrey and West Sussex control rooms were merged, without an increase in staff. The union is concerned that emergency fire control staff cannot handle the current volume of 999 calls, and is calling on Surrey Fire and Rescue Service to address the “significant risk to both public and firefighter safety.” The FBU said Surrey’s control room, which handles 999 calls, has not increased its minimum level of staffing since taking on West Sussex. More than 9,000 extra calls per annum will be handled by just four staff, corresponding to a 79 per cent increase in incidents. Within days of the merger, just three staff were available for one shift, the union said. In addition, East Sussex Fire Authority has just voted to merge its control room with Surrey and West Sussex, potentially adding a further 9,500 calls each year. Richard Jones, FBU South East executive council member, said: “This is blatantly unsafe and unsustainable. Surrey’s emergency fire control room is consistently understaffed and control staff were already desperately overstretched before the merger. We’re seeing fatigued staff break down in tears, with the immense pressure causing work-related sickness. The brigade is institutionally unprepared for this merger and it’s causing dangerous operational failures. Now fire service bosses are planning to pile on coverage for East Sussex as well – it’s totally reckless. We should not be thinking about adding more pressure until Surrey addresses its understaffing and operational failings. It’s dangerous for control staff, for firefighters, and for the public.” The FBU said it has issued a safety critical notice to the Surrey, West Sussex and East Sussex fire authorities, as well as the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
FBU news release.
 

Hoax ambulance calls are stressing out call handlers

Ambulance trusts have been flooded with at least 42,000 hoax calls in just three years leaving overloaded staff stressed out, a GMB investigation has revealed. Responses to Freedom of Information Act (FOI) requests by the union also revealed more than 2,000 calls that were classed as ‘vexatious or abusive’. One trust – South Central Ambulance Service – refused the request, meaning the true number could be even higher. GMB national officer Rachel Harrison commented: “Like paramedics and ambulance workers, our NHS call handlers are desperately trying to save lives while years of Conservative cuts leave them underpaid, overworked and underappreciated. Call handlers and emergency medical dispatchers do a hard job, under pressure and work to save lives every day.” She added: “The last thing they need are tens of thousands of hoax calls making a tough job even tougher. This is a matter of life and death – it's just not right for a minority to waste the time of those who are serving the wider public and working to keep people alive.”
GMB news release.
 

'Not enough' being done to protect emergency workers

More violent individuals who assault emergency service workers need to be brought to justice, the union GMB has said.  The union was commenting after the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) revealed 20,000 offenders were charged between November 2018 and November 2019 under the 'Protect the Protectors' legislation, which was passed following a long campaign by unions including GMB. According to a recent GMB survey of ambulance workers, only 3.4 per cent said that the risk of violence had reduced since the Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Act was put into force. The legislation made it a specific offence to commit a common assault against an emergency worker. It is also now an aggravating factor for sentencing purposes when an emergency worker is a victim of other types of assault. GMB national secretary Rehana Azam commented: “Every prosecution is a small victory but not enough is being done to protect our public service heroes. No-one should go to work in fear of violence and abuse. It's time to give our heroic emergency workers the protection they deserve.” She added: “Having secured the passage of this landmark legislation, much more must now be done to secure closer working between employers and agencies to ensure that more prosecutions are brought and offenders held to account.”
GMB news release. CPS news release.
 

Bin collectors vote for action over safety concerns

Bin collectors in Sandwell have voted for industrial action after private outsourcing company Serco urged workers to ignore the company’s own safety rules. The ballot saw members vote to take action short of strike – effectively working to rule. Their union, GMB said Serco has removed two rounds from the Sandwell domestic waste contract and put the work onto existing crews. This is in on top of all the new build houses placed onto rounds over the last few years. This has led to “serious concerns” about health and safety as workers are having to cut corners to try and get work finished, the union said. But when GMB advised members to make sure they follow the company's safe working practices, Serco “hauled workers into management meetings about their performance levels.” Initial talks with the company failed to reach a resolution, so GMB offered mediation through ACAS. GMB said this has not yet led to an agreed way forward. Darren James, GMB branch secretary, said: “The ballot result shows the strength of feeling among our members – they don’t want to inconvenience the public but they are angry and they want Serco to know it. Their safety and the safety of the public must come ahead of Serco’s bottom line. Hopefully the council and Serco take note before industrial action takes place.”
GMB news release.
 

Teaching union launches new work health drive

Scottish teaching union EIS has published a new resource to promote health and wellbeing for teachers. It says its online guide is intended to support the union's current ‘Time to Tackle Workload’ campaign. EIS said excessive workload demands are one of the most frequently cited concerns amongst Scotland’s teachers. It said its survey last year found 88 per cent of respondents reported that their stress levels had either stayed the same or increased over the past year, while 76 per cent said that they felt stressed either 'frequently' or 'all of the time' in their jobs. EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan said: “Excessive teacher workload is a matter of serious concern, and this led to the launch of the Time to Tackle Workload campaign last year. The results of our survey indicated that teachers are working an average of 46 hours per week – eleven hours over and above their contractual commitment of a 35-hour working week.” He added: “With excessive workload comes an increased likelihood of stress and stress-related illness, which is detrimental to teachers' health and wellbeing and which also has a negative impact on the learning environment for young people. This new online resource brings together a range of free, quality assured advice and guidance on a range of issues related to health and wellbeing.”
EIS news release and guide, A teacher health and wellbeing resource.
 

Northumbria Police sign Dying to Work charter

Northumbria Police and the Northumbria office of the Police and Crime Commissioner have signed the TUC’s Dying to Work Charter, on behalf of over 5,000 police officers and police staff. The Dying to Work campaign aims to protect the employment rights of individuals with a terminal illness. The charter sets out an agreed way in which an employee should be treated and supported in the event of a terminal diagnosis. UNISON, which signed the charter last year in its own role as an employer, said the emphasis is on choice, ensuring an individual has help and support however they decide to proceed – whether continuing at work in some way, spending their remaining time with family and friends, or some other option. Ben Priestley, UNISON national officer with the police and justice group, welcomed the Northumbria announcement as “great news”. He added: “The charter guarantees the dignity and security of employees who wish to remain at work after receiving a terminal illness diagnosis. The Police Staff Council for England and Wales is promoting the charter to all forces as part of the agreement for the 2019 pay award. In addition to Northumbria, the Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Northamptonshire and Nottinghamshire forces have already signed up. UNISON hopes that many more forces will follow suit.” Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner Kim McGuinness said: “Your job should be the last thing on your mind when you’re given a terminal diagnosis. You need dignity, you need money, you need a responsible employer who will step up and help you through the difficulties that lie ahead. Our officers and staff help so many people in their times of need – it’s only right that our organisations do the same.”
UNISON news release. Dying to Work campaign.
 

OTHER NEWS

Suffering stonemason’s plea for action on deadly silica dust

A former stonemason suffering from lung disease is calling for the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to introduce a tighter occupational exposure standard for crystalline silica dust. In 2014, David Wood was diagnosed with silicosis, a condition caused by inhaling crystalline silica dust that leads to hardening and scarring of the lungs. Batley resident David, 64, who had worked it several quarries and stone yards across West Yorkshire, was forced to retire aged 59 when his health deteriorated. He has now joined with his legal team from the personal injury law firm Irwin Mitchell in calling for stricter occupational exposure limit for silica dust to prevent others from suffering the life-threatening condition. David said: “I had to retire in 2014 after my diagnosis and I have found it incredibly hard coming to terms with the fact that I can no longer work as I used to really enjoy it. Retirement is not something that I ever considered as stonemasonry was always in demand. I hoped to go on for a lot longer.” He added: “All I can hope for now is that stricter safety measures are put in place for people working with silica, as I wouldn’t want anyone else to suffer the way I have.” Silicosis remains an important health problem in the UK, with around one in six of all silicosis cases affecting workers under the age of 46, according to a 2019 scientific paper co-written by researchers from HSE's Centre for Workplace Health. His lawyer, Ian Toft, said David is now at a greater risk of developing lung cancer, tuberculosis and systemic sclerosis. Furthermore, the progressive nature of silicosis means that it will get worse over time. Settlements are normally secured on a final basis, meaning no other claims can ever be brought even if there is a deterioration of somebody’s condition. However, David’s case included a specific provision that if his condition deteriorates or if he develops other related conditions, he can return to court and request further financial assistance. “This settlement for David is hugely important in ensuring that he will receive the treatment required to manage his illness,” the specialist work diseases lawyer said. “In addition, the fact that the case can be revisited at court if David develops illness in the future will undoubtedly provide him with some peace of mind.” He added “there still remains a need for tighter safety standards regarding silica and we are calling for these to be implemented sooner rather than later.”
Irwin Mitchell news release. David’s story is examined in detail in the new issue of the union safety journal Hazards. See: Biting the dust: HSE defends a silica standard six times more deadly, Hazards, number 148, December 2019.
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.
 

Investing in worker health leads to ‘productivity boost’

Over 90 per cent of companies investing in employee health and wellbeing have seen workforce productivity increase and an improvement in workforce relations, research by the manufacturing employers’ group Make UK has found. The lobby group also found the same proportion of employers “are investing in professional occupational health (OH) services, including counselling, health screening and mental-health first aiders.” Make UK said against an “alarming backdrop of ever-increasing skills shortages, rapid technological change and an ageing workforce, manufacturers are investing more than ever before in their employees’ health and wellbeing. Counselling, health-screening and mental health first aiders are the norm in factories across the UK with modern and flexible working opportunities sitting at the heart of British industry.” It added: “This investment in people has brought with it a boost in productivity for 90 per cent of manufacturers along with improvements in workforce relations. Manufacturing companies also saw a reduction in absenteeism alongside a strengthening of staff retention as a return for wellbeing spend on staff.” Tim Thomas, Make UK’s director of labour market and skills policy, said: “There is a clear message from manufacturers that they realise a healthy and happy workforce is an effective one. Employers have also recognised that jobs within their businesses should be flexible and include career development and flexible working pathways in order that they retain staff. And in doing so, there is now clear evidence that productivity will improve as a result.” But he added “there is still a lot more to be done and manufacturers must continue to work hard to put health and wellbeing at the heart of their business plans. With 10 per cent of the manufacturing workforce due to retire in the next three years and the pressures of new immigration rules post-Brexit, skilled workers have never been more important.”
Make UK news release.
 

Killed within hours of starting new job

A vehicle recovery and repair company has been fined for a criminal safety breach after a new worker suffered fatal crush injuries during maintenance work, only hours after he had started his new job. Birmingham Magistrates’ Court heard that on 24 November 2014, Albert Road Recovery and Repair Limited employee John Glenn, 56, was fatally injured when a rigid vehicle fell suddenly from an inadequate axle support prop at its premises in Coventry. An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that a cable reel drum jack was used to support the vehicle, which was not an appropriate piece of equipment for the task being undertaken. The now dissolved company, Albert Road Recovery and Repair Limited, was found guilty of a criminal safety offence and was fined £20,000. HSE inspector John Glynn commented: “This incident led to the tragic death of John Glenn and occurred within hours of him starting his new job. It was completely avoidable. Not only did the company fail to adequately induct the new starter into their business, it failed to adequately instruct and supervise him on his first day and provided him with completely unsuitable tools and equipment. Had the company considered the risks properly, they would have had safe systems of work and approved vehicle repair equipment in place.”
HSE news release. Fleet News.
 

Delivery drivers ‘less valuable than the food they carry'

Jeremy Corbyn has joined delivery drivers in demanding an end to the gig economy after a moped rider was stabbed to death in London. The Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn visited the scene of the knife attack in Finsbury Park where a 30-year-old man named locally as Taki Dine was killed on the evening of 3 January. Friends and fellow moped riders said he was Algerian and worked for Deliveroo and UberEats as a delivery driver. Speaking at the scene the day after the tragedy, Mr Corbyn, whose Islington North constituency includes Finsbury Park, said: “People should not be carrying knives. A human life has been taken. There are a lot of people working as delivery drivers, they must have better conditions of employment and employers must take more responsibility for their safety too.” He added: “Delivery drivers do a great job in London all of the time. Yet they are vulnerable. They’re often on zero hours contracts, yet the food they are carrying is insured. So the delivery driver is less valuable than the food they are carrying.”
Evening Standard. Daily Mail. Morning Star. BBC News Online.  ITV News.
 

Builder injured working on McAlpine director’s house

Construction giant Sir Robert McAlpine Ltd has been fined £260,000 for criminal safety breaches after a worker fell 4.8 metres through an unprotected opening while working on the house of a McAlpine’s director. Leeds Magistrates’ Court heard how, on 28 April 2016, Mark Smith, 36, was working at Stone Gappe Hall, Lothersdale, Keighley, owned by Richard McAlpine, a director of the McAlpine group of companies. Smith was attaching straps to a water tank whilst preparing to move it to a lower floor of a water tower at the property, in order to paint the floor. A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found that Smith fell through an opening that did not have fixed edge protection. He sustained serious injuries including a right tibial shaft fracture, a distal fibular fracture, a fracture to the left patella, orbital and nasal fractures, lacerations to the face and injuries to his head and ribs, leading to him being hospitalised for nine days. He continues to suffer from psychological damage and has been unable to return to work. Sir Robert McAlpine Ltd pleaded guilty to criminal safety breaches and was fined £260,000 and ordered to pay £38,299 in costs. HSE inspector Paul Thompson commented: “This incident could have easily been prevented if the company had undertaken a thorough risk assessment and installed adequate edge protection around the opening to prevent falls.” Sir Robert McAlpine Ltd was a major player behind a blacklisting scandal, which saw site workers raising safety concerns systematically denied work. Director Cullum McAlpine was the founding chair of The Consulting Association, the industry-financed covert surveillance outfit that managed the blacklisting records (Risks 887). The illegal operation was shut down by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) in 2009.
HSE news release. Construction Enquirer.
 

Baggage handler suffers brain injury in fall from plane

An airport ground support company has been fined for a criminal safety breach after a baggage handler suffered a brain injury when she fell from a height of more than two metres. Luton Magistrates’ Court heard that on 24 December 2016 Rebecca Smith, an employee of Menzies Aviation (UK) Limited, was injured as luggage was being loaded onto an aircraft at London Luton Airport. She fell 2.2 metres through a gap in the railing at the top of a luggage belt-loader while fastening cargo straps, when the belt loader was struck by a passing vehicle. She was knocked unconsciousness and suffered a brain injury and fractures of the skull and cheekbone. She also suffered permanent hearing loss in her right ear. An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found Menzies Aviation (UK) Limited had foreseen the risk of a collision between the vehicles operating in a congested space around the aircraft during a turnaround but had failed to implement measures to guard against the risk of driver error when manoeuvring vehicles around aircraft. The investigation also found the company was aware that belt-loaders had a gap in the railings between the aircraft and the barriers but failed to put in place any meaningful measure to control the risk. Menzies Aviation (UK) Limited pleaded guilty to a criminal health and safety offence and was fined £181,500 and ordered to pay costs of £21,043. HSE inspector Emma Page commented: “Airports are busy and complex workplaces where workers face many hazards, particularly from the movement and operation of aircraft and vehicles. Currently, accident rates in the industry are well above the national average for all industries. Companies should assess the risks to their own and others’ employees and put in place measures to control these risks.”
HSE news release.
 

RESOURCES

Making women visible in health and safety

Greater efforts are needed to make sure occupational risks to women are taken into proper account, the global food and farming union federation IUF has said. It says while trade unions help make workplaces safer and healthier for all workers, women and men, “women's occupational health and safety (OHS) is neglected, putting workers at risk of injury and ill-health.” Launching its new guide, IUF notes: “Many women trade union members have raised concerns that health and safety issues particularly affecting women at work (such as gender-related violence, pregnancy, menstruation and menopause) are not being adequately addressed.”  The global union says its new resource “on integrating gender into workplace health and safety” includes a brief outline of the problem, specific concerns raised by IUF affiliates, and proposals for action. It incorporates a briefing on do-it-yourself research, including body and hazard mapping, and a checklist of issues which can help trade union members fully integrate gender into occupational health and safety. According to IUF, “a gendered approach” to occupational health and safety “emphasises that it is the employers' responsibility to make the workplace safe for every worker and exposes the dangers of behaviour-based safety, which makes the individual worker responsible for workplace safety.” The guide is available in English, French and Spanish editions.
IUF news release and full guide, Making women visible in occupational health and safety, January 2020.
 

INTERNATIONAL NEWS

Cambodia: Concern as building collapse kills 36 workers

The collapse of a seven-storey building in the small coastal town of Kep in Southern Cambodia on 3 January has killed 36 workers, authorities have confirmed. The incident came just over six months after the collapse of a building in the Cambodian town of Sihanoukville that killed 28 people. “We want to express our sincere condolences to the families of those who perished in this tragic accident which can have been avoidable had institutional safety measures been put in place,” said Ambet Yuson, general secretary of the global construction union federation BWI. “We strongly call on the government of Cambodia to work closely with the Building and Wood Workers’ Trade Union Federation of Cambodia (BWTUC) to hold those responsible accountable and to increase and strengthen safety and health inspections to prevent further accidents across the country.” Organisers from the BWTUC immediately undertook a mission to the town, denouncing lax enforcement of building standards and the scant regard shown for workers’ lives on this construction site and many others. “This horrific accident underscores the need for stronger building standards and better law enforcement. The building’s owners had only received approval to build five floors, however seven were under construction. These flagrant violations are part of a pattern of violation that is killing workers every year in Cambodia,” said BWTUC vice-president Chhlonh Sou. BWTUC called on the government to ensure access for the 23 surviving victims to the National Social Security Fund and to take serious action against both the construction company and the building’s owner. In addition, the union requested the government undertake inspections of all construction projects across the country.
BWI news release. Jakarta Post.
 

Canada: Mountie’s suicide exposes ‘deficient’ management

An internal report that reviewed the suicide death of a constable in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and its aftermath has concluded the force doesn't know nearly enough about the problem of suicide in the ranks. Jean-Pascal Nolin - a father of two who had served nearly 12 years with the force - died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound on 17 March 2016. Nolin's suicide came more than a year after he took part in the police response to a fatal Parliament Hill shooting in Ottawa in October 2014. An internal report on his death, its aftermath and the underlying factors found the RCMP lacks awareness about Mountie suicides - and its ability to prevent suicides in the ranks probably falls short as a result. “Sadly, the force must sometimes learn and grow in the wake of a tragedy,” noted the report, obtained through an access to information request. “The fact that the employer has not developed a strategy to closely monitor and adequately detect any decompensation in its employees' mental health contributed to putting Nolin at risk.” The report, authored by members of the RCMP's hazardous occurrence investigation team, points to gaps in the way the RCMP handles mental health and suggests several improvements. One of its main recommendations is for fresh research - for the RCMP to find out how many active and retired members have killed themselves or have attempted to, and why. “The non-existence of a national study on the specific trends relating to member and employee related suicides may have left RCMP programmes and courses unwittingly deficient in content specific to these trends and issues,” notes the 39-page report. “This lack of educational awareness impacted the RCMP's ability to intervene in Nolin's situation.” The report says a national study should look into the work and life factors that put Mounties’ mental health at risk, and should find out whether they “are succumbing to mental illness for endemic reasons within the control of or further influence by the employer.”
CBC News. More on work-related suicides.
UK ACTION: Use the Hazards e-postcard to tell the HSE to inspect for work-related suicide risks and to investigate and require the reporting of suicides suspected to be work-related. www.hazards.org/hsesuicide
 

USA: Call for employers to act on work suicides

A trio of US advocacy groups is calling on employers to take a proactive role in suicide prevention in the workplace. The National Guidelines for Workplace Suicide Prevention were developed by the American Association of Suicidology, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and United Suicide Survivors International – with input from experts, union and safety leaders and workers who have experienced a suicide crisis on the job. In 2018, the groups conducted an online survey of 256 people from 41 states and found that 46 per cent of the respondents said they knew at least one friend, co-worker or family member who had attempted suicide, while 43 per cent reported having lost at least one friend to suicide. Additionally, a 2018 analysis from the US government’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concluded that suicides among the US working age population rose 34 per cent from 2000 to 2016. According to the groups, the guidelines – part of an 88-page report – are applicable to small and large employers in all industries and throughout the public and private sectors. “We aim to change the culture of workplaces to reduce elements that cause job strain like sleep disruption, job insecurity and low job control – things shown to be connected to suicide risk,” AAS executive director Colleen Creighton said. “We know these guidelines will not only save lives, but will also alleviate intense emotional suffering by making changes to systems while helping individuals in the workplace.”
National Guidelines for Workplace Suicide Prevention, American Association of Suicidology (AAS), the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and United Suicide Survivors International, October 2019. AAS news release. Safety and Health Magazine.
 

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