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






Two million workers losing out on holidays

A shocking 1 in 14 UK workers are not getting their legal holiday entitlement, a new TUC analysis has found. The union body estimates that nearly two million employees (1.96m) are not getting the minimum paid leave entitlement they are due. And over a million (1.145m) are not getting any paid leave at all. Women workers (8.3 per cent) are worse affected than men (5.9 per cent), with workers in education, retail and health and social care least likely to get their holiday entitlement. The TUC said the number of people taking unpaid holiday claims to tribunals has more than doubled since tribunal fees were abolished in 2017, following a legal victory by UNISON (Risks 823). Workers are missing out on holidays because of unrealistic workloads that do not allow time to take leave and because employers are deliberately denying holiday requests and ‘managing out’ people’s leave, the TUC said. It added that minimum holiday entitlements play a vital role in reducing the detrimental impact of overwork. People who work excessive hours are at risk of developing heart disease, stress, mental illness, strokes, and diabetes, which also impacts on co-workers, friends and relatives. In Japan, deaths from heart disease and suicide (Risks 893) linked to overwork are government recognised and compensated occupational diseases (Risks 684). The TUC wants the government tax office HMRC to be granted new powers to clamp down on employers who deny staff their statutory holiday entitlement. This would include the power to ensure that workers are fully compensated for missed holidays. TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “The government must toughen up enforcement to stop bosses cheating working people out of their holidays. And ministers must not resurrect tribunal fees which stopped people enforcing their rights.” UK workers are entitled to a minimum of 5.6 weeks of paid leave through the Working Time Regulations 1998 (amended 2009), a health and safety law. This means 28 days for a typical 5-day week, with pro-rata entitlement for those who work fewer than 5 days. The minimum entitlement includes the UK's public holidays. Individuals could be entitled to additional leave in their employment contracts.
TUC news release.
RESOURCES: Fatigue - a guide for health and safety representatives, TUC, 2016. Work and suicide: A TUC guide to prevention for trade union activists, TUC, 2019. More on health and safety and long working hours.

Government must ban zero hours contracts, says TUC 

The TUC has renewed its call for a ban on zero hours contracts, after new official figures showed the numbers affected had reached a record high. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures reveal 974,000 people are now employed on a “zero hour contract” in their main job, representing a record 3.0 per cent of all people in employment. TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “We now have nearly a million workers on zero hours contracts. For many people this means having shifts cancelled at the last minute, and not knowing whether they will have enough money for food, bills or rent. Ireland has shown the way by banning zero hours contracts. Now the UK government must do the same.” Commenting on real wages figures showing that, on some measures, real earnings have finally caught up with their pre-crisis peak, the TUC leader said: “Today’s wages figures are nothing to celebrate after a decade of terrible wage growth. Families are experiencing record levels of in-work poverty, and record levels of debt. No more excuses: government needs a plan to get decent wage growth for everyone.” Studies have shown higher paid, higher status work is relatively immune to work-related health problems. Occupational injuries, cancers, nervous system disorders, suicides, reproductive problems, strain injuries and cardiovascular diseases are all concentrated in less well remunerated work. The lower your grade, the higher your risks (Risks 855).
TUC news release, blog and ban zero hours contracts petition. Employment in the UK: February 2020, ONS.
More on the work-related hazards of low pay and insecure work.

Inquiry call as Amazon UK warehouse injuries spike

Amazon warehouses have been hit by more than 600 serious injuries or near misses in the past three years, a GMB investigation has found. The shocking figures came to light in response to Freedom of Information Act requests submitted by GMB to local authorities across the UK. They show that between 2016/17 and 2018/19 a total of 622 legally required RIDDOR injury reports were made from Amazon warehouses to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) – with the number rising each year. For workplace injuries to be reported to the HSE, they must severe enough to prevent someone from performing their usual work duties for at least seven days, or be from a specified list of injuries that includes fractures, amputation, crushing, scalping and burning. GMB national officer Mick Rix said: “Amazon are spending millions on PR campaigns trying to persuade people its warehouses are great places to work. But the facts are there for all to see - things are getting worse.” He added: “Hundreds of stricken Amazon workers are needing urgent medical attention. Conditions are hellish. We’ve tried over and over again to get Amazon to talk to use to try and improve safety for workers. But enough is enough – it’s now time for a full parliamentary inquiry.”  Jack Dromey, the MP for Birmingham Erdington whose patch includes Amazon’s huge Rugeley depot, said: “Amazon purports to be a 21st century company. It behaves like a 19th century mill owner. Amazon owner, the American billionaire, Jeff Bezos, should be called to account by parliament for his actions. How can he or Amazon justify refusing to talk to their workers’ union, the GMB, on safety? Their behaviour is disgraceful.”
GMB news release. BBC News Online. The Guardian. Morning Star.

PM’s ‘zero’ leadership shambles undermines flood response

The firefighters’ union FBU has criticised the “shambles” of Boris Johnson’s flooding response, saying that he should be “ashamed” of the government’s failure to plan for floods in the long-term. The union said funding for fire and rescue services in England has been cut by £141.5m over the four-year local government finance settlement, covering 2016/17 to 2020/21, including a £3.2m cut to the services covering areas with severe “risk to life” flood warnings. Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said: “This prime minister has shown absolutely zero leadership as flooding devastates our communities. Firefighters are on the ground fighting to keep people, homes, and businesses safe, while Boris Johnson cowers in Westminster. Flooding is nothing new, and will only get worse with climate change, but our ability to tackle its consequences has been utterly undermined by a lack of long-term planning from this shambles of a government.” The union leader added: “The Tories have slashed fire and rescue funding, bungled flood defences, and refused to recognise in law the role of firefighters and control staff in responding to these emergencies. Boris Johnson should be ashamed.” The union points out that firefighters in England still do not have a statutory duty to respond to flooding. This role is recognised in statute in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Without it, fire and rescue services cannot guarantee the funding and resources needed to properly tackle floods. In a 25 February update, Caroline Douglass, the director of incident management at the Environment Agency, said: “We are in our fourth week of exceptional river levels and stormy weather; with the effects of climate change, we need to prepare for more frequent periods of extreme weather like this.”
FBU news release. Environment Agency news release, update and related release.

RMT strike plan as train safety goes south west

RMT has confirmed a further two days of strike action will take place on South Western Railway (SWR) after guards voted for industrial action for what the rail union described as an ‘historic’ sixth time. The union said the company’s ‘unremitting’ failure to give assurances that their new operational model won't move to driver controlled operation – which RMT said would leave the role of the guard ‘butchered completely’ – meant that further strike action was inevitable, in defence of the safety critical role of the guard. The two 24-hour walk outs are scheduled to start at 10am on Monday 9 March and Thursday 12 March. RMT general secretary Mick Cash said the guards had been left with no choice but to take further strike action. “We are appalled by management's bullying and harassment tactics in their attempt to get our members return to work,” he said. “The company's constant barrage of lengthy letters every time our guard members take legal and legitimate industrial action is intimidating, degrading, humiliating and offensive. RMT will not tolerate our members being bullied or intimidated by any company at any time whether we are in dispute or not.” Adding that the union remained available for talks, he said: “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.”
RMT news release.

RSPCA faces strike action over ill-treatment of staff

Staff at the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) have voted for strike action over new ‘performance pay’ contracts. Unite said that its members had voted by 73 per cent to strike over the contracts, which the union states were being imposed arbitrarily by ‘bullying’ management. It is urging RSPCA to avert the strike action and join it in last-ditch talks at the conciliation service Acas. Unite said the crux of the dispute is management’s proposal to replace the recently negotiated incremental pay scheme with a performance pay arrangement, a move the union believes could exacerbate plummeting staff morale in an organisation where bullying has been ‘endemic’. Unite regional officer Jesika Parmar said: “These new contracts are very detrimental to our members. Certain members of the management team have adopted a bullying attitude to staff in a bid to get them to sign the new contract before the deadline of 31 March – such behaviour is deplorable.” In an open letter to RSPCA chief executive Chris Sherwood, Unite said that talks to date over pay and new contracts had been ‘deliberately restrictive, disingenuous and designed to fail’.
Unite news release and open letter. Morning Star.
RESOURCES: Bullying at work: Guidance for workplace representatives, TUC, 2019.

Usdaw urges MPs to back motion on shop violence

Retail trade union Usdaw is urging MPs to sign up to a House of Commons motion calling for a government clampdown on the soaring workplace violence facing retail staff. The House of Commons Early Day Motion (EDM) proposed by Labour MP Gareth Thomas urges the government to heed calls from the union and retail trade bodies (Risks 924) to introduce a ‘stand-alone’ offence on violence against shopworkers. It notes this “would provide not only a clear deterrent to those thinking of assaulting shopworkers but also clear routes to prosecution for the police and courts dealing with this growing problem.” Welcoming the motion, Usdaw general secretary Paddy Lillis commented: “All too often the criminals feel they can get away with assaulting staff and are not punished. That’s why we need government action to help protect staff through the creation of a simple stand-alone offence that is widely recognised and understood by the public, police, the judiciary and most importantly criminals.” The motion cites research by Usdaw that found over 400 retail workers were assaulted each day last year and that 62 per cent of retail staff have been the victim of either verbal or physical abuse, adding “the view of respected criminologists is that levels of violence against shopworkers have reached epidemic proportions with lasting effects on the lives of workers, both mentally and physically.”
Usdaw news release.
ACTION: Urge your MP to sign EDM 207 - Assaults on shopworkers – Gareth Thomas MP.

Welsh health board signs TUC’s dying to work charter

Hywel Dda University Health Board has become the latest employer to sign up to the TUC’s Dying to Work Charter, a measure aimed at helping employees who become terminally ill at work. The Dying to Work campaign is seeking greater security for terminally ill workers, with the charter offering affected individuals additional employment protections when they need them the most. The initiative now covers over a million workers across the private and public sectors. Hywel Dda University Health Board’s deputy CEO, Dr Phil Kloer, commented: “This is a very positive step forward in supporting our staff when they need it most. We are proud to sign up to this Charter today which will strengthen our values as an organisation and as an employer.” Gareth Hathway, Wales TUC’s Dying to Work lead, said: “Your job should be the least of your worries when you get a terminal diagnosis. It’s fantastic to see trade unions and employers working in partnership to protect the 10,000 employees at Hywel Dda University Health Board. The charter will be a great comfort to those who need it and their families.” Nadia Probert, the UNISON branch secretary at the health board, said: “I am very pleased the health board is working with the trade unions and is backing Wales TUC’s campaign to better support the rights of workers following a terminal diagnosis.  Employers have a duty of care to their workforce and we hope others will follow Hywel Dda’s example and sign up to the charter too.”
TUC news release and Dying to Work Charter.

Union summit sets out to beat prison violence

Understaffing in Britain’s prisons is a key factor in the soaring violence affecting staff and prisoners, the Joint Unions in Prisons Alliance (JUPA) has warned. A JUPA report last year highlighted a sharp rise in assaults on staff in prisons, up 12 by over a fifth (21 per cent) in 12 months, with an average of 28 assaults on staff every day (Risks 902). Over a quarter (26 per cent) of staff working in prisons had been the victim of physical violence in the preceding year, according to the coalition of nine trade unions and professional organisations. JUPA found that one in seven (14 per cent) staff who were a victim of recent physical violence said they had been assaulted more than ten times in the past year. JUPA warned this daily threat of violence and abuse impacts on the mental health of prison staff and has exacerbated a staff retention crisis. It points to the last five annual reports of the HM Chief Inspector of Prisons for England and Wales, which have each cited the reduction in prison officers as a key contributor to the growing violence in prisons. A summit this week organised by JUPA heard from unions representing staff employed by the prison service HMPPS, private prison providers, and staff working for contractors providing cleaning, maintenance, and healthcare and education services. Ahead of the London event, JUPA noted: “In addition to significant concerns about the safety of members, with an ageing prison population and cases of assaults and self-harm at continuing high levels, the alliance is also concerned about the impact of current conditions on the welfare of prisoners.”
PCS news release. UCU webpage on JUPA.


Bad jobs link to ‘shocking’ life expectancy gap

Life expectancy has stalled for the first time in more than 100 years and even reversed for the most deprived women in society, according to a landmark review which shows the gap in health inequalities is yawning even wider than it did a decade ago. It concludes this is in large part due to the impact of cuts linked to the government’s austerity policies. The report calls on the government to reduce child poverty to 10 per cent, reduce “poor quality, low-paid and insecure” work, make sure the national living wage and benefits give people the minimum needed for a healthy life, and invest more in the most deprived areas. Sir Michael Marmot’s review, 10 years after he warned that growing inequalities in society would lead to worse health, reveals a ‘shocking’ picture across England, which he says is no different to the rest of the UK and which could have been prevented. The government has not taken the opportunity to improve people’s lives and life chances over the last 10 years, his report says. Real cuts to people’s incomes are damaging the nation’s health for the long term. Not only are lifespans stalling, but people are living for more years in poor health. “This damage to the nation’s health need not have happened. It is shocking,” said Marmot, who is the director of the UCL Institute of Health Equity. The report, which calls for “fair employment and good work for all”, also found that so-called ‘deaths of despair’ relating to drugs, alcohol and suicide are on the rise amongst the middle-aged, a phenomenon also linked directly to bad jobs (Risks 790). Commenting on the findings, GMB national secretary Rehana Azam said: “The government is driving up the retirement age at exactly the wrong time, cheating hard-working people out of their pensions when we should be looking after them. Endless Tory austerity has hollowed out our ability to care for our elderly, leaving many of our eldest working just to survive.” She added: “We now have evidence life expectancy is getting shorter - the government can’t ignore this. If the Conservatives cared about our elders, they would lower the retirement age and ensure people can access the pensions and care they need for a good quality of life.”
Health Equity in England: The Marmot Review 10 Years On, Institute for Health Equity, February 2020; full report and executive summary. GMB news releaseThe Guardian. BBC News Online.

‘Real changes’ needed to tackle NHS violence

It is ‘beyond unacceptable’ that violence and harassment of NHS workers has become the new normal, health service unions have said. The unions were commenting after newly released NHS Staff Survey figures revealed 15 per cent of NHS staff had experienced physical violence from members of the public and patients in the past year, rising to over a third (34 per cent) among ambulance trust staff. In an open letter to NHS staff commenting on the figures, health secretary Matt Hancock noted: “There is far too much violence against NHS staff, and too much acceptance that it’s part of the job,” adding: “It is appalling that this happens at all. Even more so that it happens disproportionately to black and minority ethnic staff.” His letter said in an effort to address the problem “the NHS has joined forces with the police and the Crown Prosecution Service to approve a joint agreement on offences against emergency workers. This will ensure that those who act violently and with criminal intent towards NHS staff are swiftly brought to justice.” Commenting on the new figures, UNISON assistant general secretary Christina McAnea said: “Violence and harassment have become the new normal for NHS staff, which is beyond unacceptable. Staff are overwhelmed and working in overcrowded departments, creating an unhealthy environment where these problems flourish. No wonder more than two fifths of staff feel unwell as a result of work stress.” She added: “Matt Hancock’s tough talk is welcome, but it comes many months after he promised to tackle violence. These figures show there’s been no noticeable change. Morale shows little sign of improvement, which will do nothing to encourage despondent nurses and other health employees to stay in the NHS. The NHS urgently needs more staff and a properly funded people plan to help solve its problems.” GMB national officer Rachel Harrison said: “This survey shows that GMB’s successful campaign to get the Protect the Protectors legislation passed was just the start – much more needs to be done.” She added: “More prosecutions need to be brought to bring perpetrators to justice, and trusts must do much more overall to protect their employees from abuse. The current procedures are not adequate.”
Health secretary Matt Hancock’s letter to the workforce on violence against NHS staff. NHS Staff Survey publication notice. UNISON news release. GMB news release. NHS Confederation news release. Nursing Times.

Samaritans drop ‘bullying’ chief exec choice

The Samaritans charity has abandoned the appointment of its new CEO after media reports that the Alzheimer’s Society paid out as much as £750,000 to staff who signed non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) during his tenure. Jeremy Hughes will no longer take the helm at the suicide prevention charity from May following whistleblower allegations that he displayed bullying behaviour to staff and presided over a toxic culture at the dementia charity. The decision to rescind the appointment came on 26 February, after Unite has earlier called on the trustees of the Samaritans to reverse their decision to appoint Hughes. The union, which represents around 50 staff at the suicide prevention charity, said it was especially concerned about the proposed chief executive’s management style as the union has had to represent a large number of members who were subjected to bullying at the Samaritans by former members of its management team. After trustees had been locked in talks for days, a Samaritans spokesperson said on 26 February: “In light of events over the past week, the board of trustees has decided that it cannot proceed with the appointment of Jeremy Hughes as CEO, which was due to start in May. This decision is not in any way based on the allegations themselves, which Samaritans is not in a position to judge. It will begin a new CEO recruitment process in due course.”
Unite news release. The Guardian and earlier article. Samaritans January 2020 news release on Jeremy Hughes’ appointment as CEO. ThirdSector. Civil Society News.

Airlines must take action now on toxic cabin air

Airlines must take immediate action to stop ‘aerotoxic fume events’ occurring during flights, cabin crew union Unite has said. The union, which is taking several major airlines to court as a result of members suffering severe health effects caused by exposure to toxic cabin air (Risks 915), made the call after the dangers to pilots and cabin crew were highlighted in a BBC Radio File on Four programme. The union said it has a growing number of members employed by airlines whose health has been damaged a result of frequent exposure to toxic air during fume events on flights. A ‘groundbreaking’ Unite legal case on behalf of affected members is expected to be heard in the high court in 2021. The union said it is pursuing over 200 cases involving eight airlines. Unite assistant general secretary for legal services Howard Beckett commented: “The airlines have got to stop buck passing and take immediate measures to stop toxic air flooding into cabins and cockpits. Airline staff are having their health damaged by being exposed to fume events and many have been forced out of the industry as a result.” He added: “These injuries can result in life changing neurological symptoms with immunity systems irreparably damaged. In extreme cases these poisonous toxins have been found in staff post mortem. While Unite has launched legal action this can’t be the end of the matter. Airlines have to take responsibility for the health and wellbeing of their staff and customers and install filters and other measures to prevent future fume events with immediate effect.” The union operates an online ‘fume events register’, where affected members can log their toxic exposures on flights.
Something in the air, File on Four, BBC Radio 4, 25 February 2020. Unite news release, aerotoxic campaign resources, fume events register, factsheet, poster and campaign card. US AFA fume event webpages.
EVENT: ‘Everybody flies’ aerotoxic syndrome documentary. UK cinema screening dates and locations in March 2020. Film trailer.

Don’t penalise workplace injury victims, coalition warns

A broad coalition is urging the government to step back from plans to push more workplace injury cases through the small claims court process.  The meeting this week in parliament, chaired by Usdaw general secretary Paddy Lillis and addressed by representatives of The Law Society, the British Safety Council and union law firm Thompsons, heard government measures intended to target spurious whiplash claims would also deny justice to genuine workplace injury victims. The measures, now being implemented as part of Civil Liability Act 2018, would change the rules for employer liability personal injury cases, by doubling the minimum compensation payout threshold dealt with through the small claims court, where access to legal costs is not available. This proposal is opposed by the Association of British Insurers, trade unions, personal injury solicitors, the British Safety Council, The Law Society and the Justice Select Committee. Paddy Lillis of the retail union Usdaw commented: “Employees injured at work need legal representation to help ensure that those responsible are held to account and that health and safety standards in the workplace are maintained. We remain concerned that the government is still considering moving a significant number of these cases into the small claims court where legal costs cannot be recovered, forcing injured employees to represent themselves in a complex legal process without adequate advice and support.” He added the union is also “concerned about the inevitable erosion of workplace health and safety standards if injured workers are not able to seek legal redress. The government has already rightly excluded vulnerable road users such as pedestrians, horse riders, motorcyclists and cyclists from the proposed increase as well as children and protected adults. The employment relationship and the evidential complexity of cases mean that injured employees are also vulnerable claimants and should therefore also be excluded.”
Usdaw news release.

HSE inspections follow welding cancer alert

The government’s workplace safety regulator is reminding employers that they must protect their workers’ health by controlling the risks from welding fume. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) says its current programme of inspections will review health and safety standards across the country in the light of revised guidance requiring more stringent controls. HSE says employers must “have adequate controls in place to avoid or reduce exposure to welding fume. Employers should be using local exhaust ventilation where effective and provide suitable respiratory protective equipment where necessary to protect workers in the metal fabrication industry from inhaling fumes.” The inspections follow a safety alert issued in February 2019 after new evidence showed exposure to mild steel welding fume can cause cancer. HSE updated its guidance to reflect this. It says the evidence from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) shows that exposure to mild steel welding fume can cause lung cancer and possibly kidney cancer in humans (Risks 797). HSE head of manufacturing John Rowe said: “Employers and workers should know the risk, plan their work and use the right controls when welding activity is carried out. If they are not HSE will use enforcement to bring about improvements. It is our mission that all workers are protected and are not made ill or killed by their work. Everyone should be able to leave work and go home healthy and safe.”
HSE news release. Welding, Molybdenum Trioxide, and Indium Tin Oxide, IARC Monographs on the Evaluation of Carcinogenic Risks to Humans, Volume 118.
RESOURCES: TUC guidance on occupational cancer prevention: Occupational Cancer - A Workplace Guide. ITUC/Hazards work cancer hazards blog.

Director dodges jail after ignoring HSE stop work orders

The former director of a construction company has received a suspended prison sentence after ignoring official stop work orders on a potentially deadly site. Imtiaz Hussain, then a director of Bradford Builders (UK) Ltd, failed to comply with legally binding Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prohibition notices relating to unsafe work at height during roofing work on a new build house. Manchester Crown Court heard that between July and December 2018 Hussain was the person in control of the work at a construction site building two semi-detached houses in Oldham. HSE site inspections in July and August 2018 resulted in both prohibition and improvement notices being issued for multiple health and safety failings, including unsafe work at height. On 6 December 2018, an HSE site visit took place following a report of unsafe roof work the previous week. Roof work was being carried out from a scaffold at the rear of the building. Two further prohibition notices were served on the two separate scaffolds at the site, due to missing guardrails and scaffold boards and the resulting risk of falls. A subsequent investigation by HSE found that Imtiaz Hussain failed to comply with prohibition notices issued after the HSE inspector’s visits. Imtiaz Hussain pleaded guilty to three criminal safety offences and was sentenced to eight months imprisonment suspended for two years, 200 hours unpaid work in the community and was ordered to pay costs of £5,000. HSE inspector David Norton commented: “These risks could so easily have been avoided by simply having suitable scaffolding in place put up by a competent scaffolding contractor.” He added “failure to comply with prohibition or improvement notices is likely to result in prosecution.”
HSE news release.

Discharge for boss who threatened HSE inspector

A waste site owner who abused and threatened a Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspector has received a conditional discharge after pleading guilty to a public order offence. The HSE inspector was conducting an inspection at a waste and recycling site belonging to Jacob Alexander Thompson in August 2019. While at the Teesside premises on 23 August 2019, the inspector became aware of an individual pointing at him across the yard. The individual, Thompson, then crossed the yard towards the inspector, shouting obscenities. The inspector was subjected to repeated verbal abuse and offensive language and was physically threatened when Thompson stepped towards him and raised his fist as he told him aggressively to leave. Jacob Alexander Thompson, 38, was prosecuted at Teesside Magistrates’ Court following an investigation by Cleveland Police. HSE principal inspector Victoria Wise commented: “Thompson’s aggression, threats and abuse are wholly unacceptable. HSE will not tolerate any form of violence, aggression or abuse. Our inspectors are warranted to attend premises to carry out their job to ensure the safety and health of those working there. Any aggressive or violent words or actions taken against HSE staff in the course of their duties will be reported to the police.” She added: “I would like to thank Cleveland Police for their help and support in dealing with this serious matter.” Thompson pleaded guilty to an offence under Section 4 of the Public Order Act 1986. He was ordered to pay £100 compensation and costs of £85. He also received a conditional discharge of six months.
HSE news release.
National Hazards Conference, 31 July-2 August 2020
The National Hazards Conference is the UK’s biggest organising and education event for trade union safety reps and activists. This year’s event, organised by the Hazards Campaign and to be held at the University of Keele in Stoke-on-Trent, will take place from 31 July to 2 August. There will be plenary sessions, meetings and a comprehensive workshop programme. Delegates have the opportunity to exchange experience and information with, and learn from, safety reps and activists from other unions, sectors and jobs across the UK. The union-backed Hazards Campaign is urging union safety reps to get the event in their diaries now. The campaign is also seeking sponsorship for the event from unions at all levels, from the workplace to the branch, regional and national levels.
Sponsor the National Hazards Conference. Conference updates.


Global: Dock unions warn about lashing dangers

International transport unions have called upon ship operators to ensure lashing work is undertaken by shore-based dock workers. The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) and the European Transport Workers’ Federation (ETF) said that lashing – securing loads safely and securely – is expert work that should only be undertaken by trained dock workers rather than already over-stretched seafarers. The union bodies noted that on 11 February, a Dutch registered container vessel, OOCL Raum, spilled seven containers overboard during a stormy passage from Kotka, Finland, to Rotterdam in the Netherlands. The vessel, operated by Hong Kong-based Orient Overseas Container Lines and owned by JR Shipping BV of the Netherlands, carries containers that are often lashed or secured by the ship’s crew. On 1 January 2020, new rules contained in shipboard collective agreements came into force in Europe requiring containers to be lashed by shoreside dock workers. “Vessels that are not properly lashed pose a danger not only to the ship’s crew, but also to the marine environment. Ships these days are already under-crewed and seafarers have enough work getting vessels safely between ports. Fatigue is already a dangerous reality of life on ships,” said Niek Stam, vice-chair of the ITF Dockers’ Section. “So-called responsible shipowners need to reconsider their actions that put us all to risk. Shipping already suffers from a poor reputation, and incidents like this only harden public opinion. Lashing is dangerous work and should be undertaken by trained dockers.” Last month, UK seafarers’ union Nautilus warned that an international agreement that cargo handling should be carried out by trained dock workers rather than seafarers was being flouted in UK ports (Risks 933). Nautilus/ITF inspector Tommy Molloy said: “Seafarers require adequate rest and enough time for scarce shore leave. They don't want more money for doing someone else's job.”
ITF news release.

Korea: Trade secrets law protects Samsung, not workers

Global electronics giant Samsung, which in 2018 made a public apology (Risks 877) for the toxic workplace exposures that led to a spate of occupational diseases known to have killed over 100 workers in Korea (Risks 899), can keep its toxic secrets, a court has ruled. On 20 February 2020, the Seoul administrative court ruled in favour of Samsung Electronics Co Ltd, allowing it to withhold certain information regarding the chemicals used in its microchip production. By law, the company is required to provide the government with biannual reports on the exposure levels of about 190 hazardous chemicals. In 2018, a court ordered the government to release in full this information relating to Samsung’s LCD factories, despite the company’s fierce opposition. Samsung took the case to the administrative court, claiming its rivals could use any such full disclosure to “deduce” trade secrets related to chip production. Campaign group SHARPS, which advocates for Samsung’s occupational disease victims, had pressed for the full disclosure because this information can be used as evidence for workers’ compensation petitions. The advocacy group, which has appealed the latest court decision, commented: “The latest ruling is in tune with a revised trade secret law that took effect on 21 February. The amendment exempts companies from the disclosure of information on hazardous materials should they prove it as core national technology. It does not spell out what constitutes ‘a core national technology,’ but empowers them to lodge criminal complaints and seek punitive damages for any such disclosure.” SHARPS, supported by 14 lawmakers, has pledged to reverse the trade secrets amendment. At a 24 February press conference, a statement from the 14 lawmakers noted: “Unknown to us, controversial clauses were deeply hidden in the amendment. We repent our negligence in the legislation and take responsibility.” SHARPS said it “will also petition the Constitutional Court to determine the constitutionality of the amendment.”
SHARPS blog on trade secrets vs safety and related post.


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