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






Union and business say end zero hours

Leading figures from unions, business and community organisations have called for new rights for workers to end exploitation through zero hours contracts. A Zero in on Zero Hours event, held at the TUC’s Congress House HQ on 13 January, considered how unions, good employers and voluntary sector organisations can campaign together in 2020 to put an end to the injustice of zero hours contracts. Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the TUC, said: “The government has promised new laws on workers’ rights. But the current proposals for a ‘right to request’ predictable hours will achieve nothing. Ireland has shown the way by banning zero hours contracts. Britain must do the same.” The TUC leader added: “This isn’t just about doing the right thing for working people. It’s about supporting good employers too. It’s not fair if bad employers undercut them with business models based on the exploitation of workers.” Ian Hodson, national president of the bakers’ union BFAWU, said: “Our members on zero hours contracts are very vulnerable. Many of them feel powerless to complain, even if they suffer serious problems at work like bullying and sexual harassment. The response from managers can be threats to cut their hours of work. But they simply can’t afford to lose any pay, so what can they do?” Julian Richer, managing director of top electronics goods retailer Richer Sounds, said: “These evil ways of exploiting people at work must be banned – as indeed they are in the great majority of European countries. If we can’t give working people basic security, we should be ashamed.”
TUC news release and research on zero hours contracts. Thompsons Solicitors news release.

Casualised university staff are ‘second-class citizens’

Staff on casualised contracts in UK universities are vulnerable and invisible ‘second-class academics’, a new study has found. The report says universities’ statements about how much they value their staff ring hollow when put against how thousands of staff without secure contracts staff are treated. 'Second class academic citizens', by Nick Megoran and Olivia Mason of Newcastle University for the university lecturers’ union UCU, concludes casualised academic labour is 'dehumanising'. The report calls on the government to insist that universities are honest about the extent of casualisation and instruct the Office for Students to demand comprehensive data about universities’ use of casualised staff. It also calls for individual universities to work with UCU to negotiate the transition of casualised staff onto more secure contracts. Previous UCU research has revealed that casualised staff report the lack of security is damaging their mental and physical health, while holding down multiple jobs and struggling to pay the bills (Risks 905). Over two-thirds of respondents (71 per cent) said they believed their mental health had been damaged by working on insecure contracts and more than two-fifths (43 per cent) said it had impacted on their physical wellbeing. UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: “We need to have an honest conversation about casualisation that draws out the real extent of the problem and how we can secure improvements for staff. The Office for Students should demand that universities disclose the extent of teaching - measured in classroom hours - that is being done by casualised staff. Students would be shocked by the levels of casualisation in universities and the toll that being in insecure employment takes on people.”
UCU news release. Second class academic citizens, report for UCU, Nick Megoran and Olivia Mason, Newcastle University, January 2020.

Unions raise concern for safety of prison staff

The Joint Unions in Prisons Alliance (JUPA) has written to prisons minister Lucy Frazer QC, raising the ‘urgent issue’ of health and safety conditions for prison staff. The letter reads: “Our members are raising growing concerns about threats to their health and safety at work, and the impact this has on their ability to perform their professional roles safely and effectively.” JUPA brings together nine national unions representing staff working across the prison system in England and Wales. JUPA’s ‘Safe Inside’ report on the health and safety of prison staff found that: 78 per cent of all respondents had experienced verbal abuse in the past 12 months; 26 per cent of all respondents had experienced physical abuse; and 53 per cent had experienced exposure to psychoactive substances, in instances where inmates were using them. This resulted in 39 per cent of those exposed doing their job becoming ill and almost all of them reporting feelings of light-headedness, dizziness, confusion and tiredness. Nearly two in three prison workers reported they felt unsafe at work. UNISON national officer Ben Priestley said: “Prison is a tough and demanding working environment for probation staff. The JUPA report into health and safety violations in prison is a wake-up call to the Ministry of Justice. Her Majesty’s Prisons and Probation Service must work harder to protect our members. This will be on the agenda when we meet with the Prisons and Probation Minister Lucy Fraser next month.” UNISON said it believes that prison and probationary staff have a right to work in safety without the fear of being attacked. But it is concerned government cuts and austerity measures have contributed to a crisis in the prison service, not just for prison staff but supporting services such as probation and education services. The JUPA letter concludes: “As an alliance, we are keen to work with you to find ways to improve the conditions for our members working in prison settings across England and Wales, and ensure a safe and effective prison service.”
UNISON news release.

Prison riot shows the cost of government inaction

A failure by the government to introduce better protection for prison officers contributed to the escalation of a prison riot, the union POA has said. The union was commenting after prisoners at HMP Stocken rioted on Mike Wing on 18 January. The incident involving five prisoners started when a prison officer was attacked from behind by a prisoner yielding a pool ball in a sock. Staff then withdrew from the wing for their own safety. Before unlocking that morning, management held a meeting with staff to discuss intelligence that had been received that suggested a disturbance was planned. The injured prison officer was escorted to hospital and later returned home where he was recovering from concussion. Mark Fairhurst, national chair of the prison officers’ union POA, said: “The levels of violence and the incidents my members have dealt with since the beginning of the year highlight the need to issue the vital protective equipment staff have been waiting for since October 2018 without delay. Placing criteria on the issue of equipment that can be used to quell violence and protect staff and prisoners is unacceptable and my members have had enough.” Commenting on a government failure to meet a commitment to provide prison officers with the incapacitant spray PAVA, he added: “I have written to the secretary of state Robert Buckland requesting an urgent meeting and I still await an acknowledgement, proof that those in power make bold statements praising brave prison officers, when in reality they do absolutely nothing to improve their working conditions or ensure they are safe. Having spoken to staff involved in this incident it is clear that if PAVA had been carried the incident would never have escalated. Asking prison officers to do their job effectively is like asking a firefighter to quell a blaze without a hose and water. Staff should not be placed at risk daily due to a reluctance to roll out measures that could prevent these incidents occurring.” There was a similar disturbance involving 60 prisoners at the jail in 2015.
POA news release. BBC News Online.

Tube protests in union anti-violence campaign

London Underground union RMT is challenging Transport for London (TfL) to address its ‘continuous failure’ to take proper steps to tackle the workplace violence faced by its members at London Underground (LUL) stations. A 21 January protest outside TfL’s London HQ was timed to coincide with a meeting of LUL’s Workplace Violence Group. RMT said the demonstration was part of the union’s campaign to fight for a safe workplace by ending lone working, to demand that all existing Revenue Control Inspector vacancies be filled and to carry out an audit of all stations to ensure safe staffing levels. RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “There is an epidemic of violence and crime on London Underground borne out by all the statistics and it is RMT members in the front line without the staffing resources and back up that they need to deal with this appalling situation.” He added: “RMT is launching a new campaign that will put safety and security of both our members and the travelling public on London Underground centre stage. Be under no illusions, RMT will take whatever action, including industrial action, to guarantee a safe working environment for our members and to protect their status and conditions against this background of violence."
RMT news release.

Safety warning on unstaffed rail stations

Only 10 per cent of railway stations are fully staffed, 45 per cent are only staffed some of the time and a ‘massive’ 45 per cent of stations are totally unstaffed, research by the transport union RMT has found. The report reveals that every year millions of passengers pass through stations which are unstaffed for part or all of the day. A parliamentary motion, tabled by MPs, has warned that government and train operating company policies to reduce and casualise station staffing and to de-staff stations threatens passenger safety and service, with the MPs highlighting the vital role station staff play in protecting safety, advising passengers, deterring crime and violence, preventing suicides and assisting older and disabled passengers. RMT is calling on the government to ensure that its response to the rail review commits to reversing these ‘damaging’ cuts to station staffing. The union says this is essential to tackle the epidemic of violence on the railways and make our railways safe, secure and accessible for all passengers. The union adds it is clear that in the pursuit of profit, private train companies are closing ticket offices and slashing staffing, with no regard for the impact on passengers. RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “It has never been more apparent that the privatised and fragmented railway has failed to deliver an affordable, accessible and reliable service for passengers. Violence on the railways is soaring, yet the private train companies continue to close ticket offices and cut staffing at stations. These damaging cuts only serve to benefit their shareholders’ profits, not passengers.” He added: “RMT is calling on the government to prove that it is serious about improving the rail passenger experience and ensure that its review commits to a fully staffed and accessible railway.”
RMT news release. Staff our Stations (SOS) campaign. Early Day Motion #38ORR – Estimates of Station Usage.  

Stressed out teachers strike at Bridgend school

Teachers at Archbishop McGrath Catholic High School in Bridgend have taken the first of four planned days of strike action this month over the ‘detrimental and inappropriate’ treatment of NASUWT members which the union says is affecting their health and welfare. Commenting ahead of the 15 January walk out, NASUWT leader Chris Keates said: “The NASUWT members at Archbishop McGrath regret any disruption this strike action causes to pupils or parents, but they have been left with no choice other than to take this action due to the repeated failure of the employer to take seriously their concerns about the way in which they are being managed.” She added: “Members have reported extremely high levels of work-related stress and anxiety as a result of unrealistic expectations and unreasonable deadlines being imposed on them. When they have attempted to discuss this with the employer their concerns have been dismissed. The NASUWT has repeatedly attempted to work with the employer to find a resolution to the dispute, but the concerns of members remain unaddressed. We hope that the employer will recognise the need to take its duty of care to its employees seriously so that further strike action can be avoided.” Mark Morris, NASUWT national executive member for South East Wales, said: “The NASUWT members at Archbishop McGrath want a safe, supportive and respectful working environment. At the moment that cannot be guaranteed. We will continue to be in discussions with the employer to try to avoid further disruption, but we need the employer to wake up to the reality of the situation in the school.”
NASUWT news release. BBC News Online. Wales Online.


New building safety regulator to be run by HSE  

The Health and Safety Executive is to set up a new building safety team immediately, ahead of a new law requiring the formation of the Building Safety Regulator. The new regulator, which will operate from within HSE, will “be at the heart” of the government’s “biggest change in building safety for a generation.” It will be tasked with raising building safety and performance standards, including overseeing a more stringent regime for higher risk buildings in the wake of the Grenfell disaster. HSE chair Martin Temple said: “HSE’s vast experience of working in partnership with industry and others to improve lives will ensure people are confident the creation of the new regulator is in good hands.” The plan for HSE to take on the role came when housing secretary Robert Jenrick announced a raft of measures “to ensure residents are safe in their homes.” The minister said he will start to name and shame building owners where remediation has not started to remove unsafe Aluminium Composite Material (ACM) cladding from their buildings. Announcing the programme on 20 January in the House of Commons, Jenrick said: “Progress on improving building safety needs to move significantly faster to ensure people are safe in their homes and building owners are held to account. That’s why today I’m announcing a major package of reforms, including establishing the Building Safety Regulator within the Health and Safety Executive to oversee the new regime and publishing consolidated guidance for building owners.” He added: “Unless swift progress is seen in the coming weeks, I will publicly name building owners where action to remediate unsafe ACM cladding has not started. There can be no more excuses for delay, I’m demanding immediate action.”
Ministry of Housing news release. Construction Enquirer.

Buildings regulator ‘must be properly resourced’

The new Buildings Safety Regulator, to be based in the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), must be given the resources to do its job properly, the TUC and HSE inspectors’ and specialists’ union Prospect have said. The new body will be based at the HSE because of its vast experience at safety regulation, said Prospect. But it warned that “cuts in recent years have left the HSE struggling to fulfil its functions and to recruit and retain skilled staff.” Garry Graham, Prospect deputy general secretary, said: “Prospect welcomes in principle the formation of the new buildings regulator, in particular its inclusion within the Health and Safety Executive. HSE has a breadth of regulatory experience at its disposal and it is a deserved vote of confidence in its staff that it will be managing the formation of the new regulator. Over the past few years, however, funding constraint has led to more and more pressure being put on HSE staff with recruitment and retention falling behind requirements. It is essential that the formation of the new body is backed up by appropriate levels of both funding and regulation to give it the teeth and resources it needs to do a proper job.” TUC head of safety Laurie Heselden also sounded a note of caution. “The HSE has itself suffered massive funding cuts since 2010. It is critical that the HSE receives new funding to perform its new duties, and that the skills, competencies and expert roles of existing enforcement agencies, such as the Fire and Rescue Services are recognised, nurtured and built upon. The new building safety regulator must augment existing enforcement agencies and cement joint working, it must not denude the role of existing enforcement agencies.”
Prospect news release.

PM vows to look into his ‘scandalous’ Grenfell inquiry pick

Boris Johnson has told Grenfell survivors he will investigate the role of a key member of the public inquiry after it was revealed she had links to the company that made the tower’s deadly cladding. The prime minister met representatives of the Grenfell community at a pre-arranged visit to Downing Street on 16 January after it emerged that Benita Mehra was previously president of a charity that received a £71,000 donation from the philanthropic arm of Arconic, the US firm that made the panels found to be the main cause of fire spread. Sources at the meeting said that when challenged, the prime minister told them that he would investigate the appointment and stressed that anything that caused discomfort to the bereaved and survivors should not be allowed to happen. Last month Johnson appointed Mehra, an engineer, to be one of three people presiding over the inquiry. However, between 2015 and 2018, she was president of the Women’s Engineering Society charity when it received a grant from the Arconic Foundation. Before the link to the US firm’s charity arm emerged, her appointment had angered some in the Grenfell community because she replaced another expert who had greater experience of social housing and community relations, which some believe is lacking in the inquiry leadership. Grenfell United, the survivors and bereaved group that first discovered Mehra’s link to Arconic, has insisted her position represents a conflict of interest and called for her to stand down. The group said her appointment was “a slap in the face”. David Lammy MP, backed their demand, calling her appointment, which was personally signed off by Johnson, “scandalous”. The Guardian reports that Downing Street declined to comment on what Johnson said about Mehra, in what it described as a private meeting. However it said in a statement: “The prime minister reaffirmed his commitment to getting to the truth of what happened, learn lessons and deliver justice for victims.”
The Guardian. Morning Star.

One in six have been bullied recently at work

A quarter of employees think their company turns a blind eye to workplace bullying and harassment, according to a report by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD). Although 15 per cent have experienced bullying in the past three years, more than half of them did not report it to the firm. The report by the CIPD, which represents human resources (HR) professionals, was based on two online surveys carried out by polling organisation YouGov. One canvassed the views of more than 2,000 workers, while the other surveyed HR professionals and decision makers. The CIPD also conducted an online focus group with workers who had experienced bullying and harassment. Some people said they suffered from stress, anxiety, insomnia, heart palpitations and suicidal thoughts. The most common form of bullying or harassment was “being undermined or humiliated in my job,” reported by 55 per cent of women affected and 50 per cent of men. This was followed by “persistent unwarranted criticism” and “unwanted personal remarks.” Around 4 per cent of employees said they had been sexually harassed over the past three years, the CIPD said. It described the problem as “stubborn,” despite decades of equalities legislation. But it said there had been “positive change” in the past two years in employees’ willingness to stand up to sexual harassment, with 33 per cent feeling more confident to challenge it. Rachel Suff, senior employment relations adviser at the CIPD, said the survey was “a wake-up call to employers to put training managers at the heart of efforts to prevent inappropriate workplace behaviour.” She added: “Our research shows that managers who've received training can help to stop conflict from occurring and are much better at fostering healthy relationships in their team. And when conflict does occur, they can help to resolve the issue more quickly and effectively.”
CIPD news release and Managing conflict in the workplace report, 21 January 2020. BBC News Online.

Warning on deadly pressures on gig economy couriers

RoSPA has launched new guidance aimed at helping self-employed gig economy workers, such as couriers and taxi drivers, stay safe on the road. The safety charity’s new guide stresses the importance of maintaining bicycles and motor vehicles, how to avoid experiencing fatigue while on the road, and how to drive and ride safely in the dark. Nick Lloyd, head of road safety at RoSPA, said: “Driving is one of the most dangerous activities that most of us will ever do, and driving for work tends to be risker than driving for private reasons. People who drive professionally are more likely to crash even after their higher mileages are taken into consideration.” He added: “Our hope is that by providing tailored guidance to gig economy workers, we might be able to help avoid incidents on the road. We also want to see a move away from a relentless targets-driven culture which can lead to unsafe workloads, cause fatigue and result in collisions.” The guide notes that gig workers frequently receive their jobs via mobile phone while on the move, despite the risks of an accident or a fine for using the phone while in transit.
 RoSPA news release and Driving and riding for work in the gig economy factsheet.

Boss faked dead worker’s signature after fatal fall

A contracts manager who forged a dead worker’s signature after he was killed in a fall through a broken roof at work has been jailed for two years. Kenneth Drake suffered mortal head injuries when the roof he was working on collapsed and he fell to the floor below. The 54-year-old died a short time later. An investigation was launched by police and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). At the time of the tragedy on 24 September 2015, Kenneth, or ‘Ken’ as he was known to friends and family, was employed as a roofer by Roofing Consultants Ltd. Contracts manager Mark Bray, 49, was jailed after pleading guilty to criminal safety offences and to perverting the course of justice. Ken Drake was the foreman of a team hired to replace the 'fragile' roof at Abbey Architectural Ironmongery Company Limited. The roof was in such a state of disrepair that High Ridge Roofing Solutions, the company originally contacted to carry out the work, concluded it needed it replacing, the court was told. High Ridge then subcontracted the work to Warrington based Roofing Consultants Limited and a team was sent in replace the broken roof. However, the roofing team were not equipped with full body harnesses, nets or 'easi-dec' - a platform designed to make fragile roofs safer - Manchester Crown Court heard. The court heard Bray, 49, who was jailed for two years, had visited the site the day before Mr Drake's death and had seen the health and safety violations. After Mr Drake's death, Bray forged and backdated health and safety documents, even forging the deceased Mr Drake's signature. Roofing Consultants Limited was fined £100,000 and were also ordered to pay £30,000 in prosecution costs after pleading guilty to a criminal safety offence. High Ridge Roofing Solutions Limited was fined £12,000 plus £33,000 costs after being convicted of a criminal breach of the Construction Design and Management Regulations 2015 following a trial. Detective Chief Inspector Richard Eales, of Greater Manchester Police's Major Incident Team, said: “Cutting corners in this way is dangerous and can ultimately rip families apart, because it was these actions that had absolutely cataclysmic consequences and led to Ken’s unnecessary and preventable death.” He added: “The fact that Bray went on to forge Ken’s signature demonstrates than rather than thinking about Ken and his loved ones in the aftermath of his death, Bray’s sole thought was to cover his tracks and prevent the investigation from establishing what had occurred.”
Greater Manchester Police news release. Liverpool Echo. Cheshire Live.

Dad killed in ‘tragic and wholly avoidable’ incident

A Sheffield based company has been fined £700,000 after a 64-year-old worker was fatally wounded by shrapnel ejected from testing equipment. Sheffield Crown Court heard that on 10 June 2015, John Townsend was leak testing eight 1,500 litre cylinders at Chesterfield Special Cylinders Ltd’s Sheffield site, by applying compressed air inside to create pressure. Whilst in the process of venting the air through the test manifold, it catastrophically failed and fatally injured Mr Townsend. The father-of-two was due to retire the week after the incident. An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that prior to installing the fittings, 1.5 litres of a mineral oil-based corrosion inhibitor had been placed into each of the cylinders. The incident occurred because the inhibitor contaminated the leak test manifold during venting of cylinders and was subjected to enough pressure inside the manifold to ignite and cause the test equipment to fail. Chesterfield Special Cylinders Ltd, a subsidiary of engineering firm Pressure Technologies, was found guilty of a criminal breach of safety law. The company was fined £700,000 with full costs of £169,498.82. HSE inspector Eddy Tarn commented: “This was a tragic and wholly avoidable incident, caused by the failure of the company to identify any additional risks that arise when work processes are adapted. Companies should accurately identify and control all potential hazards in the workplace and thereafter monitor performance through effective supervision.” In a statement, John Townsend’s daughter, Louise Townsend, said: “It’s been a battle to come to terms with him being taken from us so abruptly, and also to understand how he was left exposed to the risks he was that led to his death.” She added:  “We are very grateful to my dad’s union, Unite, and their lawyers Thompsons Solicitors, who have worked hard to make sure Pressure Technologies were held to account, and I’d urge anyone who isn’t already a member to join a union. They were there when we needed them and if it wasn’t for pressure from Unite, we’d still be waiting for answers.”
Unite news release. HSE news release. Thompsons Solicitors news release. Sheffield Star. Yorkshire Post.

Site firm fined after worker crushed by concrete slab

A construction company has been fined half a million pounds after a father-of-two was killed when a re-enforced concrete slab collapsed underneath him during a demolition job. Southwark Crown Court heard that on 14 April 2014, 33-year-old labourer Dainius Rupsys from Lithuania was working with an excavator operator at the McGee Group Limited site in London’s Grosvenor Square, as part of the operation to demolish the existing multi-storey building before 31 residential flats could be built. He had been burning through reinforcing steel bars with an oxy-propane lance to assist the excavator operator’s efforts to remove part of the re-enforced concrete slab. Another worker had alerted the supervisor that their work had made the structure unsafe and the demolition was halted. However, the supervisor then ordered the removal of props supporting the remaining slab and less than ten minutes later it collapsed. The court heard that the 360 excavator may have moved back onto the slab after the props were removed. Mr Rupsys, the 360 excavator and its operator in the cab all fell with the slab. Mr Rupsys suffered severe head injuries and died at the scene, while the excavator operator injured his back. McGee Group Limited, the principal contractor for the project, pleaded guilty to a criminal breach of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 and was fined £500,000 with £66,236.22 in costs. HSE inspector Andrew Verrall-Withers commented: “In the weeks prior to this tragic incident workers were regularly put at an acute risk of falling. This is a case of a company wanting to have good systems to protect the workers, but not paying enough attention to what was actually happening at the site.”
HSE news release. Construction Enquirer.


Get resourced up for biggest ever 28 April campaign day!

New resources for International Workers’ Memorial Day on 28 April 2020, including stickers ribbons and posters, can now be ordered from the national Hazards Campaign. The 28 April 2020 campaign theme will be ‘tackling psychosocial hazards at work – taking the stress out of the job’. Unions and campaigners will seek to highlight the harm caused by occupational stress and related conditions, including depression, anxiety, burnout, work-related alcohol and drug dependency, and work-related suicides. Tag lines for the union-led event, which has become the world’s biggest health and safety campaign day, include ‘Unions - Fighting for hearts and minds’ (Risks 929).
Hazards Campaign blog and 28 April 2020 order resources.
Email the details of your 28 April 2020 plans to the TUC at:
ITUC/Hazards 28 April 2020 International Workers’ Memorial Day website. TUC Workers’ Memorial Day pages.


Australia: Deadly silica disease ‘worst crisis’ since asbestos

The rate at which stonemasons in Australia are contracting a deadly dust-related lung disease has almost doubled in a year, new figures have revealed. In the last year alone, 20 per cent of stonemasons tested in Queensland were diagnosed with silicosis.  Some have called the startling figures the worst industrial health crisis since the asbestos tragedy. Silicosis is caused when materials such as artificial stone benchtops are cut and workers inhale tiny particles of silica dust, leading to progressive lung scarring and life-threatening breathing difficulties. Early testing of stonemasons had found one in ten had contracted silicosis, but as Aus$2million (£1.05m) was injected into a more comprehensive testing programme for the industry, that figure nearly doubled to one in five. Queensland industrial relations minister Grace Grace said the state’s government had acted decisively and would continue to do so. “I have written to various federal ministers multiple times since 2018, highlighting the need for a national response to this serious matter,” she added.  The figures came to light after the federal government established a $5million (£2.62m) national dust disease taskforce last year. Its final report is not due until December this year, but it is feared the number of diagnoses could rise before then, as the industry resists tighter standards. While Australian unions have been campaigning for a stricter exposure standard for silica dust, the stone industry is pressing the federal government to allow it to ‘self-regulate’. Calling on the national authorities to reject the move, the unions warn some of most hazardous companies are “trying to get approval to be able to dictate the safety rules for people who work with their product. In our view this is just a cynical ploy by these groups to undercut the changes we have fought for, and will mean that the suppliers can wash their hands of any health issues caused by their products.” The unions add: “These companies need to be accountable to the authorities, not to themselves.”
Courier Mail. Daily Mail.
We are union OHS reps petition.

China: Officials punished for burying blast death toll

A total of 29 officials have been punished after the death toll in a factory blast in central China's Hunan Province was intentionally underreported, the state media agency Xinhua has reported. The number of fatalities in the 4 December 2019 explosion at a workshop of a fireworks company in the city of Liuyang was initially given as seven, but the provincial authorities later confirmed 13 people were killed. Liu Fayu, then Party chief of Chengtanjiang Township who ordered concealment of the death toll and who had some bodies transferred and hidden, has been detained for investigation by supervisory authorities. Other officials who participated in, turned a blind eye to or failed to find the concealment have received penalties such as being removed from posts, major demerits and internal Party warnings. Ten people from the fireworks company have been placed under ‘criminal compulsory measures’ on suspicion of the crime of causing a major workplace incident.
Peoples’ Daily.

Ireland: Union demands access to sites as deaths spike

The Irish construction union SIPTU has called for its organisers to be granted a legal right of access to building sites across the country following a doubling in the number of construction workers who died in workplace incidents. SIPTU sector organiser John Regan said: “New figures released by the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) indicate that the number of workplace deaths in the construction sector more than doubled in the last year from five in 2018 to 12 in 2019. The HSA also recorded 940 non-fatal accidents in the sector during 2019.” He added: “These worrying statistics are disappointing but not surprising. The issue of bogus self-employment is one of the key issues leading to increased fatalities in the construction industry. Workers forced into becoming self-employed are often not fully aware of their responsibilities under health and safety legislation. The HSA in its annual statement also identified self-employment in the construction sector as a contributory factor in the rise of accidents on sites. Another issue is that of employers passing on the costs of mandatory construction safe pass training to workers. These costs should be covered by employers who must also accept their responsibility for ensuring their workers have adequate safety training.” The union officer concluded: “The government must act to ensure greater safety on building sites by amending the 2005 Health and Safety Act to give union organisers access to all building sites. Our organisers would ensure greater compliance with health and safety legislation. Union membership also provides workers with greater protection and confidence in highlighting breaches of safety regulations and standards in their workplace.”
SIPTU news release. HSA news release.


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