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

Hello, and welcome to the latest edition of RISKS, the TUC’s weekly update on union health and safety news.
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Strike-busting plan ‘reckless’ and unsafe, says TUC

A government indication it could lift the ban on the use of agency workers during strikes has been described as ‘extremely reckless’ by the TUC. The union body was responding after transport secretary Grant Shapps, commenting on planned rail strikes, told the Sunday Telegraph a potential change in legislation could allow companies to hire temporary workers to cover some roles and prevent disruption. TUC deputy general secretary Paul Nowak said: “Allowing agency staff to replace striking workers would undermine the right to strike and be extremely reckless. Bringing in less qualified and experienced staff to deliver important services would create genuine safety risks for the public and for the workforce.”
TUC news release. Sunday Telegraph. Morning Star. BBC News Online.

Unions rubbish government’s strikebreaker plan

The UK government’s suggestion it could allow agency staff to replace striking rail workers is unsafe and bad business, unions have said. Mick Lynch, general secretary of the rail union RMT, said: “Grant Shapps needs to stop smearing the RMT and unshackle the rail operating companies so they can come to a negotiated settlement that can end this dispute.” TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes said: “If he plans to bring in agency workers to break a strike then we are dealing with a government hell bent on endangering railway safety.” Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “If the government continues to fly this ‘false flag’, then the trade union movement must be ready to respond.” And UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea said: “Using agency workers isn’t safe and only serves to sour relations between employers and their employees.”
RMT news release. TSSA news release. Unite news release. UNISON news release.

Industry groups say strikebreaking resolves nothing

Industry groups have said dialogue with unions is the way to resolve the rail dispute, not the use of agency workers as strikebreakers. Neil Carberry, the chief executive of REC - the agency worker industry body - tweeted: “Repealing the ban on agency workers replacing those on strike is the wrong policy - it puts agency workers and agencies in an invidious position and moves the focus away from resolving the dispute. REC will oppose any moves in this direction.” And CBI’s Matthew Percival, speaking before Grant Shapps’ comments on agency workers, said: “Continued dialogue to avert industrial action is vital.”
Neil Carberry tweet. CBI news release.

Prospect warns HSE is ‘at breaking point’

Many government agencies are facing long-term problems due to under-resourcing and capacity issues – and ‘nowhere has this been more apparent than in the Health and Safety Executive (HSE)’, Prospect has said. The union, which represents HSE inspectors and specialists, warns cuts have left the regulator ‘at breaking point’ and ‘unable to adequately fulfil its regulatory function’. Launching a campaign for HSE to be ‘properly resourced’, Prospect deputy general secretary Garry Graham said: “Our members at HSE provide a vital service to the public but they have been left unable to do it to the best of their ability due to government cuts.” He added “having a properly funded and functional inspectorate is vital for safe work. We will be looking for the whole union movement to support our campaign.”
Prospect news release. ETUC news release.

Social workers quitting over work pressure

Excessive workloads, high stress levels and low morale are rife among social workers who are at breaking point, according to a new UNISON report. ‘Social work and the impact of the Covid pandemic’ is based on a survey of nearly 3,000 social workers across the UK. More than threequarters (78 per cent) said they had experienced increased stress levels and 77 per cent were worried about their mental health due to the pressure they’re under. UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea said: “New recruits and experienced workers are at breaking point and are leaving the profession in their droves. Ministers must take these findings seriously. Councils must be sufficiently funded to recruit and retain social workers to ensure communities are properly protected.”
UNISON news release. Morning Star.

Pilot fury at Wizz Air boss work-while-fatigued call

The UK pilots’ union BALPA is warning safety must not be put on the backburner as airlines race to recover after Covid and return to profitability. BALPA was responding to ‘unacceptable’ comments made by the Wizz Air CEO József Váradi, who indicated pilots should be more willing to work when fatigued. BALPA general secretary Martin Chalk said: “An airline CEO's priority is to safely operate flights that make the airline money. If you forget your safety obligations, you can forget the rest. No-one wants fatigued pilots at the controls - the possible consequences are too devastating.” He urged the Wizz Air boss “to be as professional as his pilots in seeking to eradicate fatigue from the flight deck.”
BALPA news release. Wizz Air comments. The Guardian.

Work surveillance is hurting mental health

One in three workers feel technological surveillance by bosses has a negative impact on their mental health, new GMB research has found. Artificial intelligence should be used to make working life easier for people, not trap them in an “Orwellian nightmare,” the union warned. Its poll reveals that more than 32 per cent of the 1,600 workers consulted are concerned about the impact of technology on their “sense of wellbeing” at work.  Nearly a fifth — 18 per cent — are worried technology will make their jobs obsolete in the next five years, while only about 23 per cent say it is improving their working life. The union’s general secretary Gary Smith said: “The results are clear — we need legislation to limit workplace monitoring.”
Morning Star.


Improve building ventilation to save money and lives

Mandating improved ventilation and other forms of disease control in public buildings could save the UK economy billions of pounds each year through the prevention of ill-health and its wider impacts, experts have said. A report from the Royal Academy of Engineering and the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE) concludes the greatest gains could be made by improving ventilation and other forms of infection control in public buildings such as schools, hospitals and local community buildings including libraries and care homes. The expert review, commissioned by the government’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance, says improved ventilation reduces infection risks, boosts productivity and alleviates asthma and exposure to the air pollutants that can contribute to ‘sick building syndrome’.
CIBSE news release and report, Infection resilient environments: time for a major upgrade, NAE/CIBSE, National Engineering Policy Centre, 13 June 2022. RAE news release. The Guardian.

Report echoes FBU concerns over private BRE

Firefighters’ union FBU has welcomed ‘massively significant’ evidence revealed in a new report to the Grenfell Tower Inquiry which echoes concerns raised previously by the union. The report, written by Luke Bisby, a professor of fire and structures at Edinburgh University and an expert witness to the inquiry, exposes flaws with the Building Research Establishment (BRE), the government’s former safety research and testing body that was privatised in 1997. Prof Bisby concludes that “what emerges from this overview of the development of England's building regulatory environment, and the major cladding fires that have occurred during the same period, is a picture of increasing freedom for industry…”. He also highlights a “profound lack of competence of actors” including the BRE and “powerful commercial and ideological objectives” to increase flexibility for industry, reflecting FBU’s criticism of BRE’s approach since it was privatised (Risks 1045).
FBU news release and call for BRE to be renationalised.

Damning report on Leicester garment factories

More than half of the Leicester garment workers are still experiencing poor working conditions almost two years on from revelations about poor standards in the city’s factories, a new report suggests. The study was commissioned by the Garment and Textile Workers Trust, funded by online fashion retailer Boohoo as part of its response to exposure of poor practices in its Leicester supply chain. The 116 workers who completed a questionnaire for the University of Nottingham’s Rights Lab and De Montfort University revealed problems including not being allowed breaks or being pressured to work long shifts. Almost half (49 per cent) of those involved in the study received no sick pay. Workers said they were nervous to speak out for fear of reprisals, with more than half fearing they would lose their job.
University of Nottingham Rights Lab news release and findings and recommendations. The Guardian.

Construction bosses jailed after roofer’s death   

Two construction company bosses have been jailed for criminal safety offences after  subcontracted roofer Graham Tester, 60, fell to his death at an unsafe building site in Hove. Steven Wenham, 48, was sentenced to five years in prison and disqualified from being a company director for ten years. Both he and his company, Total Contractors Ltd, were found guilty of two safety offences. The firm was fined £190,000 plus £30,000 costs. Roofing subcontractor John Spiller, 52, was jailed for 15 months after being found not guilty of manslaughter, but guilty of two safety offences. His firm, Southern Asphalt Ltd, was fined £190,000 plus £20,000 costs.
Sussex Police news release. Construction Enquirer. Brighton and Hove News.

Directors convicted of asbestos crimes

Two asbestos company directors have received suspended jail terms and been banned for 10 years from running a company after being convicted of criminal safety breaches. James Keegan, 65, and Alan Barraclough, 51, were both directors of Keebar Construction Ltd when they took on a £2.4m contract to convert the former Joplings department store in Sunderland into student housing in 2017. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found asbestos containing materials had been broken up using sledgehammers and brute force. Judge Stephen Earl handed the defendants 14-month prison sentences suspended for two years and banned them from being company directors for 10 years. Both men were ordered to carry out 120 hours of unpaid work and pay £44,774.21 in costs.
HSE news release. Chronicle Live.


UK Hazards Conference, Keele, 29-31 July 2022

The National Hazards Conference, the biggest and best workers’ health and safety event in the UK, will again be face-to-face this year. The Hazards Campaign-organised conference, on the theme ‘Decent work is safe and healthy’, is returning to its usual Keele University venue after two years online. This year, there is also an online option for those who would rather not attend in person. The conference, which features top speakers and a wide range of workshops and provides unparalleled opportunities to network and exchange ideas, relies on delegate fees and union sponsorship to survive.
UK Hazards Conference, Keele University, 29-31 July 2022. Online booking form and programme to download or complete online. Sponsorship form.
For further information, email or call 07734 317158.


Global: Major breakthrough on workplace safety

Working people around the world are set to benefit directly from the 10 June decision at the International Labour Conference (ILC) to recognise occupational health and safety as the fifth ILO fundamental right at work. It means all the International Labour Organisation’s 187 member states have now to respect and promote core safety rights, including involvement of workers and workers’ organisations, a right to refuse dangerous work, and for workers to receive necessary information and training. Welcoming the decision, which came after high profile union campaign, Sharan Burrow, the general secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), said: “The Covid-19 pandemic showed beyond doubt that action was needed to protect workers who are all too often forced to choose between their health and their livelihood. No one should die just to make a living.”
ITUC news release. ILO news release. ETUC news release. ACTU news release. IndustriALL news release.

Global: International unions welcome fundamental safety

The decision to recognise occupational health and safety as an ILO fundamental right at work has been welcomed by global unions. IndustriALL general secretary Atle Høie said: “It is a milestone in the global efforts to stem the tide of deaths in the world of work. We can now look forward to a better tomorrow, where workers will be safe in the knowledge that health and safety will be a fundamental principle and right at work.” Anthony Bellanger, general secretary of the journalists’ global union IFJ, noted: “Media workers are particularly vulnerable to unsafe working environments, and we hope that this decision will be an important step towards ending the growing attacks on journalists while doing their job.” A statement by the construction unions’ federation BWI said: “This is a historic and colossal victory for the global trade union movement which was made possible by the collective work of many campaigners and stakeholders.”
BWI news release and Facebook video. IndustriALL news release. IFJ news release.

Europe: EU ‘playing catch-up’ on work safety

A landmark decision to make occupational health and safety an International Labour Organisation (ILO) fundamental right at work has left the European Union ‘playing catch-up’, the Europe-wide union confederation ETUC has said. It  said 12 European governments - including the UK - have yet to ratify ILO Convention 155, the main legal occupational health and safety instrument named in the ILO fundamental rights decision. It added: “ILO data also shows Malta, Romania, the UK and Estonia are among the countries who have made the biggest cuts to the number of labour inspections and labour inspectors over the last decade.”
ETUC news release.

Korea: Anger as government scuppers ‘safe rates’ deal

An agreement that would have ended a South Korea truck drivers’ strike in defence of ‘safe rates’ of pay has been scuppered after the country’s conservative government withdrew support. The move, condemned by the global transport union federation ITF, came after the government, unions and business groups had agreed a provisional deal.  The People Power Party reversed its position and negotiations broke down, according to ITF affiliate KPTU-TruckSol. Agreement, which would have ended an indefinite truck drivers’ strike which started on 7 June, would have extended a safe rates system that both government and unions studies have confirmed saves lives. “We are outraged by this backstabbing on the part of the People Power Party and South Korean government,” commented ITF general secretary Stephen Cotton.
ITF news release.

USA: Capitol riot officer suicide was job caused

The suicide of Washington DC police officer Jeff Smith, days after being injured in the 6 January 2021 attack on the US Capitol, has been accepted as a death in the line of duty. The admission came after a lengthy fight by his widow, Erin Smith, who said the force and city officials had been reluctant to admit the association between police work and suicide. Her husband killed himself nine days after the attack on his journey into work, on what would have been his first day back. A DC Police and Firefighters’ Retirement and Relief Board Order stated: “Officer Smith sustained a personal injury on January 6, 2021, while performing his duties and that his injury was the sole and direct cause of his death.”
BBC News Online. US work-related suicide classifications. More on work-related suicides.

TUC Hazards at Work 6th Edition

Stock Code: HS111
Price £22 RRP £52
Also now available as an eBook
This is the Sixth edition of the TUC's best-selling guide to health and safety at work.
Used by reps, officers, employers, professionals in the field and even enforcement officers. This incredibly popular book is now even more informative at over 400 pages, an invaluable resource, which incorporates common hazards and cause of ill health at work, and how to assess and prevent them.
The book also contains HSE and other guidance, extensive checklists, case studies and web resources.
Order your copy
There are discounts on bulk orders, over 5 copies, please contact us for details.
Those on TUC approved courses can receive discount, please call for details 0207 467 1294. Or email at:


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