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. If you find this info useful, why not forward it to a colleague? They can sign up to RISKS here. UNION NEWS Employers must provide protection from extreme heat Unions demand extra protection from the heat PCS calls on British Museum to put safety first Firefighters slam ‘scandalous’ attack on fire service Train drivers forced to use incontinence products Newcastle pubs must get staff home safe OTHER NEWS The NHS is not living with Covid, it’s dying from it Schools to face asbestos inspections Agriculture-related jobs 21x more deadly Boss jailed after recycling worker’s horrific death MoD censured over marine’s death Firefighters seriously injured in training exercise ACTION Protect services for workers made ill by their jobs! EVENTS Protecting pregnant workers and new mums webinar, 20 July UK Hazards Conference, Keele, 29-31 July 2022 INTERNATIONAL NEWS Canada: Poor housing is killing migrant farm workers Pakistan: Mine safety still a deadly concern USA: Amazon’s warehouse ‘disciplines’ out of control
With the Met Office issuing its first ‘Red Extreme’ heat warning for parts of the UK this week, the TUC has calling on bosses to make sure that any staff working outdoors are protected from the sun and the heat. The union body says workers are entitled to remain away from the workplace if – in their opinion – the prevailing circumstances represent a real risk of serious and imminent danger which they could not be expected to avert. TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Bosses must ensure their staff are protected with regular breaks, lots of fluids, plenty of sunscreen and the right protective clothing for those working outdoors - or relaxed dress codes for those working in shops and offices. Anyone worried about their working conditions should join a union, it’s the best way to stay safe at work and make sure your voice is heard.” TUC news release
and TUC learning tool, Too hot, too cold - Too hot, too cold
. Sign the TUC petition for a maximum working temperature
Unions have reiterated TUC calls the protection of workers from excessive heat. Lynsey Mann, the GMB's health and safety officer, said: “Bosses need to do everything possible to keep workplaces cool and, more importantly, safe. Ultimately, there needs to be a legal maximum working temperature.” Unite national health and safety adviser Rob Miguel said: “Unite is pressing for a maximum temperature for safe working of 27 degrees Celsius for strenuous jobs and 30 degrees Celsius for sedentary jobs, and a trigger of 24 degrees Celsius where action should be taken to reduce temperatures indoors and strict protection measures put in place for outdoor workers.” He added: “As the climate changes, it is vital that health and safety law is updated in line with the serious challenges this presents for workers.” GMB news release
. Unite news release
. BBC News Online
. Usdaw news release
and Keep your cool leaflet
Civil service union PCS is calling on the British Museum to put staff and public safety first when the temperature soars. The union was speaking out after the museum refused to consider closing during the period covered by the 'Red extreme' heat national severe weather warning, despite high indoor temperatures and poor indoor air quality. It says on 17 July, British Museum staff and visitors were subjected to 31 degrees Celsius temperatures. PCS has assessed the risk as high and has written to the museum to insist they close for the remainder of the heat warning. PCS news release
The firefighters’ union FBU has responded formally to the government’s fire and rescue white paper, describing it as a ‘scandalous’ coordinated attack on pay, conditions and safety. In its consultation response, the union said the government proposals are an attack on firefighters’ right to have a say on their pay and conditions, including many conditions relating to safety. Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said: “Firefighters go to work to save lives. They risk their health, safety and sometimes their own lives in doing so. The very least they deserve is to be free from coordinated attacks on their livelihoods and safety, and to be paid properly and treated fairly.” FBU news release
and consultation response
The UK government and rail firms are using the pandemic ‘health emergency’ as an excuse to force through changes that mean the safety and dignity of train drivers is being disregarded. In 13 June evidence to MPs, rail union ASLEF said some train drivers were so short of breaks they had to rely on incontinence products. Eddie Dempsey, the RMT’s senior assistant general secretary, told the Commons transport select committee the government was “using the health emergency” to force through detrimental changes to working conditions.And Mick Whelan, the general secretary of ASLEF, told MPs some drivers, confined to cabs for long periods without breaks, had been forced to use “Tena products” – an incontinence brand.” He added: “People are using the pandemic as an excuse to decimate terms and conditions and force through things.” Transport Select Committee hearing on rail strikes
, 13 July 2022. The Guardian
Pubs, bars and restaurants in Newcastle will have to make sure staff get home safely after a late shift if they want an alcohol licence. Under new rules signed off by the city council in response to a Unite ‘Get me home safely’ campaign, all late-night venues that serve alcohol will have to provide free transport home for staff finishing work after 11.30pm, when public transport ends in the city. The council is the first in England to make getting staff home safely a requirement for an alcohol licence, following in the footsteps of Scottish councils East Dunbartonshire and North Ayrshire. Under the Get Me Home Safely policy, participating councils will force employers as a licensing condition to “take all reasonable steps to ensure workers are able to get home safely from work at night.” The Big Issue
. Unite Get me home safely campaign
Now is the time to face the fact that the nation’s attempt to ‘live with Covid’ is the straw that is breaking the NHS’s back, a BMJ editorial has asserted. Kamran Abbasi, editor in chief at The BMJ and Alastair McLellan, editor at the Health Service Journal (HSJ), note that the link between infections and hospital admissions has clearly not been broken, even if you just consider those being treated “primarily” for the disease. Latest ONS figures indicate just under 24,000 fatalities “involving Covid” in the first six months of 2022 - substantially smaller than the 66,000 recorded in the first half of 2021, but it is more than the 21,000 people who died in the last six months of that year. They call for a return to some of the measures taken in the last two years, such as advising people to wear masks in crowded places, ensuring good ventilation, and re-introducing free tests for the public. Efforts must also be made to improve the population’s immunity through vaccination. Editorial: The NHS is not living with covid, it’s dying from it
, BMJ, volume 378:o1779, 18 July 2022. doi: 10.1136/bmj.o1779
Number of fit notes issued hits record high
The number of fit notes issued to workers on sick leave has hit an all-time high, an analysis has found, with the number given out jumping more than 20 per cent in the last year. Research conducted by law firm GQ|Littler, based on NHS data for the year-ending March 2022, showed a 21 per cent yearly increase in the number of fit notes – up to 10.4 million from the 8.6 million issued in 2020/21. The analysis also found a 7 per cent increase in stress-related fit notes – up from 755,000 in 2020/21 to 808,000 in 2021/22. The data shows the number of fit notes issued dropped during 2020/21, having been climbing steadily until that point. The figure stood at 10.2 million in 2019/20; 9.5 million in 2018/19; and 9.2 million in 2017/18. GQ|Littler news release
. People Management
Schools in England, Scotland and Wales are to be subject to an inspection programme, looking at how they are managing the risks of asbestos, starting in the new academic year. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) said it would look at how schools are meeting requirements for dealing with the cancer-causing fibre. The regulator said its inspectors would contact the school beforehand to arrange a suitable date and time for the inspection. In statistics released on 6 July, HSE acknowledged for the first time there is evidence of higher rates of the asbestos cancer mesothelioma in teachers, noting “proportional mortality ratios are somewhat higher for teachers and administrative occupations than those for nurses, sales occupations and process operatives, and this may suggest the potential for asbestos exposure during work time was somewhat higher in these jobs…” TES magazine
. Mesothelioma statistics for Great Britain
, HSE, 6 July 2022.
The number of people killed in agriculture-related activities in the last 12 months has fallen from its high level in 2021, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has said, but the rate of fatal injuries in the sector remains the highest of all major industries. Provisional figures for 1 April 2021 to 31 March 2022 show 25 people were killed in agriculture-related jobs, 22 workers and three members of the public. The total of 25 is 16 fewer than the previous year and seven fewer than the five-year average. The worker fatal injury rate for the sector is 21 times higher than the average five-year annual rate across all industries. HSE news release
and report, Fatal injuries in agriculture, forestry and fishing in Great Britain: 1 April 2021 to 31 March 2022
, July 2022.
Recycle Cymru Ltd boss Stephen Jones has been jailed for nine years at Mold Crown Court for the manslaughter of Norman Butler in 2017. The employee had climbed up a sloping conveyor belt to unblock waste cardboard but slipped or fell into a hopper container. The 60-year-old, who was working alone, had his left foot severed above the ankle and bled to death. A computer animation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) showed how employees were expected to hang from a rope above the baler while clearing blockages. Jones, 60, was convicted of manslaughter by gross negligence on 1 July (Risks 1050
). At a 15 July sentencing hearing, judge Mr Justice Griffiths jailed him for nine years and disqualified him from being a company director after his sentence for the same period. Recycle Cymru, which went into liquidation last week, was fined £120,000. Daily Post
. BBC News Online
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has been issued with a Crown Censure by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after a Royal Marine recruit died during a routine training exercise. On 21 January 2020, Ethan Jones drowned while taking part in a training exercise involving a night beach landing at Tregantle Beach, Cornwall. The depth of the water was deeper than anticipated and a number of recruits were submerged and had to be rescued. Recruit Ethan Jones was found floating next to the landing craft. Although he was recovered from the water and transported by air to hospital, he died three days later. HSE found the MoD failed to undertake a suitable and sufficient risk assessment, failed to properly plan, failed to properly supervise, and therefore failed to ensure the safety of their employees during what should have been a routine training exercise. HSE news release
A fire service has been prosecuted after two of its firefighters received serious head injuries – with one paralysed from the chest down – during a training exercise. A team of four firefighters from Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service were carrying out a rope rescue training exercise at a disused quarry near Buxton on 29 September 2019. Two of the firefighters received head injuries when rocks fell from the cliff face and hit them. An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found there were failures in the arrangements and controls of the exercise. Staffordshire Commissioner Fire and Rescue Authority pleaded guilty to a criminal safety offence and was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay costs of £6,808.40 HSE news release
A key service supporting people who become seriously ill as a result of work is under threat. Phoenix House in Barrow is a specialist site which processes claims for Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit and compensation for asbestos-related cancer and pneumoconiosis. Many people who use the service are terminally ill. The staff at Phoenix House, members of PCS, are hugely knowledgeable about the types of illnesses their claimants have, and the operation of (often complex) compensation schemes. This expertise does not exist anywhere else in the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). But the DWP has decided to close Phoenix House. Already claimants are seeing major delays and a lack of understanding as new claims are handled elsewhere. You can help protect this essential service. Sign the petition
and share it in your networks and on Facebook
, and WhatsApp
Join TUC’s Nikki Pound, Kate Moran of Maternity Action, Ian Manborde of the union Equity and Anthony Halewood from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) on a 20 July webinar to discuss HSE's new guidance for employers on ensuring safe working environments for pregnant workers and new mothers. The TUC and Maternity Action will also share new joint guidance to support union reps.
Register now: Protecting pregnant workers and new mums
, TUC webinar, Wednesday 20 July 2022. 14:00-15:00. Register for the webinar. HSE updated advice
It is your last chance to sign up for the National Hazards Conference, the best workers’ health and safety event in the UK. 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. There is also an online option for those who would rather not attend in person. The conference features top speakers and a wide range of workshops and provides unparalleled opportunities to network and exchange ideas. 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 email@example.com
or call 07734 317158.
This month, Canada’s federal government is holding a roundtable to improve migrant farm workers’ employer-provided housing. Canadian researchers Anelyse Weiler and C Susana Caxaj, welcoming the initiative, note “policymakers are increasingly recognising that housing is a significant determinant of health. But for migrant agricultural workers, housing is also a significant determinant of death.” The academics, who are both members of a Migrant Worker Health Expert Working Group, stress “migrant agricultural workers deserve to live with the same health, safety, and dignity owed to any Canadian worker.” They call on the federal government to take urgent action to ‘significantly’ raise and enforce standards for “physical housing conditions (eg. no bunk beds), health and safety, freedom from employer control and security of tenure.” The Conversation
Continuing high numbers of mineworker deaths in Pakistan due to lax safety procedures and inadequate emergency response must be addressed, the global union IndustriALL has said. IndustriALL affiliates in the country report that as of 7 July there had been around 60 accidents in the country’s mines this year, killing more than 90 workers and severely injuring around 40. Since many mines in the country are unlicensed and illegally run. few miners are covered by national laws governing the health, safety, and welfare of mining and quarrying employees. Sultan Khan, general secretary of IndustriALL affiliate Pakistan Central Mines Labour Federation, said: “The government must commit to strictly enforcing the existing policies related to mining, and register all miners under social security schemes. We also demand that mine owners should maintain an attendance register of workers going underground.” IndustriALL news release
Internal Amazon documents reveal how routinely the company measured workers’ performance in minute detail and admonished those who fell even slightly short of expectations – sometimes before their shift ended. In the year ending April 2020, the company issued more than 13,000 ‘disciplines’ at its Staten Island warehouse, a lawyer for Amazon admitted in court papers. The facility had about 5,300 employees around that time. In March, the warehouse voted to become Amazon’s first organised workplace in the United States. Management for a warehouse in Robbinsville, NJ, with an average of about 4,200 workers as of December 2020, gave employees more than 15,000 disciplines in the year leading to April 2020, the lawyer for Amazon wrote. A North Haven, Conn., warehouse, with an average 4,800 workers as of December 2020, issued more than 5,000 such notices in the year ending in April 2020. New York Post
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