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



Government creates ‘recipe for chaos and infections’

New back-to-work safety guidelines for England will cause widespread confusion and lead to more infections, the TUC has said. Commenting after the business department updated its ‘working safety during coronavirus’ guidance on 14 July, TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “We all want the economy to unlock as soon as possible. But these new back-to-work safety guidelines are a recipe for chaos and rising infections.” Under the changes, stipulations on mask wearing, social distancing and work-from-home have all gone. O’Grady said the new guidelines were produced without proper consultation with either unions or employers and were only released two full working days before the restrictions were set to end on 19 July. “Instead of providing clear and consistent guidance on how to keep staff safe at work, the government is abandoning workers and employers,” the TUC leader said. “As infection rates surge, every employer must by law carry out a thorough risk assessment and take action to keep their workers safe. But these inadequate guidelines will leave many employers with more questions than answers and worried about their liability if they get things wrong.” She added: “Wearing face coverings should remain a legal requirement on public transport and in shops – it is not a matter of ‘personal responsibility’, nor should it be left to individual employers to decide. Workplace safety rules must protect shop workers, bus drivers and others working in public settings.” 
TUC news release and blog. Working safely during coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance from Step 4, BEIS, updated 14 July 2021. UNISON blog. Sky News. The Guardian and related story. Morning Star and related story. The Independent.
The lifting of final Covid19 restrictions: what impact for workplaces and unions?, online TUC crowdcast, 2-3pm, 28 July 2021. Register online.

Ending free work Covid tests is ‘barmy’

The UK government’s decision to no longer supply free lateral flow tests to employers has been labelled as ‘barmy’ by Unite. The union warned the decision will lead to an increase in exposure to Covid-19 in the workplace. The closing date for business orders for the tests was 19 July, when the government also lifted almost all restrictions in England as well as axing the work from home recommendation. The decision to stop providing employers with free tests comes at a time when the number of people infected with Covid-19 is increasing rapidly. Unite said it is especially concerned that the decision to end free testing in sectors such as social care, construction and retail and hospitality – where workers may be reluctant or unable to access testing for themselves – will lead to a further significant increase in infections. Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail said: “This is a barmy and reckless decision by the government. Responsible employers who are ensuring that their workers are regularly undertaking lateral flow tests should be congratulated for their public spirited approach. Instead they are now being told to source tests from a private provider, which will dramatically increase costs.” She added: “Unite fears some employers will simply stop testing due to the increased cost and the complications. How on earth the government believes that it can get on top of surging levels of Covid-19 when it is discouraging testing is difficult, if not impossible, to explain. Not only should the government reverse its decision to end the supply of free tests to employers it should instead be encouraging many more employers to use the scheme to keep the virus in check and to reduce the number of workers who are becoming infected.”
Unite news release.

Masks 'expected' to be worn in shops

The government has said it “expects and recommends” shoppers wear face masks in England, but this is no longer required by law. Social distancing will also not be a requirement and people working from home can start to return to work, ministers said. The new guidance leaves firms to decide what if any protective measures to employ. Shopworkers’ trade union Usdaw welcomed early indications that retailers are keeping important safety measures in place. Last week Sainsbury's and Tesco joined the bookseller, Waterstones, which had said customers should continue to wear masks to protect staff and other shoppers. The union is calling for the whole retail industry to follow suit, to avoid customer confusion, and for the shopping public to abide by the policies and respect shopworkers. Paddy Lillis, Usdaw general secretary, said: “It is deeply disappointing that the government has ploughed on with ending mandatory safety measures within shops... despite concerns from shopworkers. So we welcome the early responses from the retail industry and we hope all stores will continue to put staff and customer safety first.” He said the updated government guidance released on 14 July “provides no assurances for staff or employers, it is a real mess. Protection for retail workers through customers wearing face coverings and maintaining social distancing should be backed up by the law and not left to individual choice.” The British Retail Consortium (BRC), which represents big chains, said violence and abuse against shop workers had been on the rise during the pandemic, adding that “colleagues cannot be put in the firing line because of this change in policy.”  BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said retailers will be asking customers to be “considerate to those around them” when choosing whether to wear a face covering.
Usdaw news release and related release. The Observer. Morning Star. BBC News Online and related story.

Transport action by mayors welcomed by Unite

Unite has welcomed efforts by the mayors of London and West Yorkshire to try and maintain protection of workers and passengers on public transport. The union warned, however, that the patchwork protection of compulsory mask wearing that is emerging in the UK is ‘creating chaos and confusion’ for workers and passengers alike. Unite said this is a direct result of the government’s ‘reckless’ announcement that face coverings will no longer be compulsory on public transport after 19 July. Welcoming the decision by Sadiq Khan, London’s mayor, to require the wearing of masks and face coverings on the capital’s public transport network, Unite lead officer for London buses, John Murphy, said: “Sadiq Khan has shown real political leadership by maintaining the requirement that face masks will continue to be mandatory throughout London’s public transport network... It will not only help to reduce the spread of Covid-19 but it will also help to provide comfort to many commuters who are extremely nervous about returning to the workplace after 16 months.” But he added: “It is unfortunate that Boris Johnson’s irresponsibility means this measure is not being implemented across the nation’s entire public transport network, leaving the country, and even routes in and out of the capital, with patchwork protection.” West Yorkshire mayor Tracy Brabin said she would require the wearing of face masks in all bus stations in the county. She made it clear that she would like to make mask wearing compulsory on all buses and trains in West Yorkshire, but does not have the power to do so. Mask wearing will remain compulsory on all public transport and in Scotland and Wales and on Transport for London (TfL) run services in London. Finn Brennan, ASLEF’s organiser on the London Underground, said: We welcome this move by the Mayor of London, but, without legal enforcement, there will still be lots of potential for challenges and disruption.”
Unite news releases on the London and West Yorkshire mayoral decisions.  ASLEF news release. TSSA news release.

RMT warns of threat of violence to staff

The UK government’s botched and confused approach to face coverings on public transport in England will place transport workers at risk of violence, RMT has warned.  General secretary Mick Lynch said “we now have the ludicrous position where a passenger travelling through London will have different rules on the Tube and the main line services. There will also be a change of policy on trains at the Welsh and Scottish borders which is a total nonsense and will leave staff right at the sharp end and dangerously exposed when it comes to enforcement.” He added that the “chaotic approach” will leave transport staff at “heightened risk of abuse and assault. That is wholly down to the confused, inconsistent and botched messaging from the government.” The RMT leader said the union “will continue to support and advise our members in their legal right to a safe place of work. The train operators, bus companies and, most importantly, the government should be following the best practice on face coverings in the name of consistency, common sense and public safety and that should be backed by law. They cannot step back from this critical issue and leave our members set up as punch bags.”
RMT news release.

Anger and incredulity as maskless MPs put staff at risk

Members of parliament (MPs) must be made to wear masks to protect parliamentary staff, unions have told Commons speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle. New guidelines that came into force on 19 July require mask wearing by parliamentary staff, but they are only ‘encouraged’ for MPs. A joint letter from the House trade union side has now asked the Speaker to reconsider. The union call came ahead of Sajid Javid testing positive for Covid-19 and the prime minister and chancellor going into self-isolation. Workers have been told the absence of an ‘employment relationship’ between parliament and MPs means there is no ability to mandate MPs to wear a mask. However, the unions point out parliament enforces a dress code that allows the Speaker to prevent access to the Chamber to an MP dressed inappropriately which could be extended, as a temporary public health measure, to MPs who seek to enter the Chamber without a mask. The letter from the trade union side reads: “It would be fair to say that the reaction of staff across parliament has been one of incredulity, anger and concern. This is a stark example of how rules in parliament apply only to some and not to others. It also hints at a failure by the employer to exercise its duty of care to its own employees.” It urges the Speaker “to urgently reconsider the guidance provided to members so that all staff and members are content that the appropriate measures have been taken to protect their health.” The GMB comments have been echoed by the unions Prospect and FDA.
GMB news release. Prospect news release.

Dismay at critical worker isolation exemption

The union GMB has said it is ‘appalled’ at a UK government said health and social care workers in close contact with someone who has tested positive for Covid-19 and advised to self-isolate by the NHS Covid app “will be permitted to attend work in exceptional circumstances.”  The union was commenting after the health secretary’s 19 July announcement that health and social care workers will be exempt from self-isolation - for work purposes only – after being pinged by the app. Health secretary Sajid Javid said: “As we learn to live with this virus, it’s important that we ensure frontline staff can keep providing the best possible care and support to people up and down the country.” He added: “The government has backed healthcare services at every turn through this global pandemic and these new rules will fortify our collective defences against this awful virus, by allowing fully vaccinated frontline NHS and social care staff to continue to work when needed.” Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi told MPs the change in isolation rules would happen shortly in England, with letters to be sent to those eligible. Commenting on 19 July, GMB national officer Rachel Harrison said: “Our NHS and ambulance service are operating under extreme pressures with chronic staff shortages, fatigue and exhaustion. Yet today - the government’s so called Freedom Day - they have had to issue exemptions for staff as services struggle to cope with rising cases.” She added: “Ministers have no regard for the welfare of staff at all. That’s apparent, as the guidelines only exempt staff from self-isolation to attend work, and not outside of work. If this is a safe thing to do, why does it also come with the caveat of not being able to work with clinically extremely vulnerable people?” The UK government has said exceptions for other “critical workers” – a classification ministers would not define - will be “considered on a case-by-case basis.”
GMB news release. DHSC news release. BBC News Online, update and article on critical worker exemptions.

Isolation changes could have ‘dreadful’ consequences

The UK government’s decision to allow ‘critical workers’ to continuing working after being ‘pinged’ by the NHS Covid app should not be used to bully staff back to work, UNISON has said. Responding to the new government guidance issued on 19 July, allowing frontline NHS and social care staff to work rather than self-isolate in exceptional circumstances, UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea said: “Rather than a hell-for-leather rush, changes to restrictions should have been managed sensibly in stages. Any moves towards changing isolation rules for health and care workers must be voluntary. Staff shouldn’t be bullied to come back.” She added: “In the care sector, many reckless employers will see it as a green light to pressure staff who’ve been pinged to come into work.  A reduction in isolation must go hand in hand with improved safety measures such as enhanced PPE, and staff must be regularly tested during working hours. With infections increasing, the public must continue to play their part in limiting Covid spread by wearing face masks.” The UNISON leader said: “If care workers who’ve been in contact with someone with the virus are pushed back to work without proper safeguards in place, the consequences could be dreadful. Everything possible must be done to ensure staff in hospitals and care homes don’t bring in the virus or take it home. That includes making sure they are fully paid when sick or isolating.”
UNISON news release.

England may have to reimpose Covid rules in weeks

Face masks, working from home and other Covid restrictions could be reintroduced in England in early August if hospital admissions rise above anticipated levels, scientists advising the UK government have warned. Members of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) have reportedly said Boris Johnson should be ready to take action in the first week of August to avoid the NHS being overwhelmed. The ‘i’ newspaper reports that Sage scientists have advised if admissions exceed central estimates – that daily hospitalisations in the UK will peak at the end of next month at between 1,000 and 2,000 and daily deaths will reach 100 to 200 – some measures such as mandatory masks and working from home advice should be reinstated at the beginning of August. Recent government figures show that in the middle of July – six weeks ahead of the forecasted peak and before removal of England’s coronavirus restrictions on 19 July – the UK had already reached 745 daily hospital admissions and this has continued to rise. On 19 July, there were 4,567 patients in hospital with coronavirus – 611 of whom were on beds with ventilators – and from 8-14 July the figure rose by 38.4 per cent. On 20 July, 46,558 new people tested positive and 96 people died – the highest daily death toll in nearly four months. England’s chief medical officer, Prof Chris Whitty, last week said hospitalisations were doubling approximately every three weeks and could reach “quite scary” levels within weeks. He also said restrictions may need to be reimposed.
The i. The Guardian.

Expert warning on ‘misguided’ compulsory care jabs

Legal and medical experts have warned that mandatory vaccination of care home staff is “unnecessary, disproportionate, and misguided.” Writing in the BMJ, Lydia Hayes, professor of Law at Kent University and Allyson Pollock, professor of public health at Newcastle University, say the government decision to remove the right of care home staff in England to choose whether or not to be vaccinated against Covid-19 is a profound departure from public health norms. They said the intended next step is a rapid and massive expansion of compulsory vaccination to legally require Covid-19 and flu vaccination of all frontline health and social care workers, subject to consultation. But the editorial warns vaccination “is not a panacea for safety” and “will not remedy the serious shortcomings of the care sector in England.”  It notes government consultation documents and subsequent media reports have claimed that mandatory vaccination is necessary because of low vaccination take up rates in some care homes. But figures show that by 20 June 2021, over 90 per cent of care home residents in England had received two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine, 84 per cent of care workers in England had received a first dose, and 72 per cent of care workers had received a second dose - in line with Sage recommendations. According to regulatory law, safety in care homes “is achieved through adequate staffing levels, training, equipment, cleanliness, personal protective equipment, risk assessment, and consultation with staff and residents,” Hayes and Pollock write. “Care workers need paid time in which to access vaccination and good training, decent wages (including sick pay), personal protective equipment, and strong infection control measures.” In Australia, official figures last year revealed state-run aged care homes with mandatory safe staffing levels had few cases and no deaths from Covid-19. Private facilities without a minimum staffing levels requirement had hundreds of deaths.
Lydia Hayes and Allyson M Pollock. Editorial: Mandatory covid-19 vaccination for care workers, BMJ, 2021;374:n1684. Published 8 July 2021.
Experts criticise Australia's aged care failings over COVID-19, the Lancet, volume 396, issue 10259, Pages 1,322-1,323, 24 October 2020. DOI:

Concern over missing fire service virus case numbers

The firefighters’ union FBU has said it fears there has been underreporting of Covid infections in the fire service as both the UK government and the workplace safety regulator declined to make the figures public. The union said the UK government did not hand over statistics on Covid-19 cases and deaths in the fire service in a response from fire minister Kit Malthouse to a parliamentary question.  A Freedom of Information (FOI) request to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) was also unsuccessful, with the safety regulator refusing the information on cost grounds. The FBU said this twin refusal had “aroused concern” that “the government is hiding failure of fire and rescue service employers to report Covid figures properly. Employers, including in the fire service, have a legal obligation to report cases of Covid exposure, infection and deaths to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) where exposure occurs as a result of a person’s work.” FBU general secretary Matt Wrack said: “The repeated refusal to provide basic, up-to-date statistics on Covid and how it is reported in the fire and rescue service is a disgrace. It suggests that fire service employers aren’t reporting these cases correctly.” He added: “As frontline workers our members are risking their safety to go to work – not least when they perform extra Covid duties, such as transferring Covid patients and moving the bodies of the deceased, which they have done. The least the government can do is to help keep track of the situation, and provide data to improve working conditions and support those workers who need it.”
FBU news release.

Police will retain staff Covid protections

UNISON has welcomed a decision by the National Police Chiefs Council for England and Wales to keep all existing Covid-19 protections in place for the police workforce. The move came after police staff unions and staff associations met with senior police leaders prior to the ending of lockdown restrictions in England. UNISON national officer for police and probation Ben Priestley said: “UNISON applauds the clear and decisive decision taken by the National Police Chiefs Council… to keep all existing Covid health and safety protections in place for policing after 19 July.” He added: “Recognising the danger to police operational capability and to the police workforce of rising infection rates – and rising self-isolation – the council has demonstrated real leadership in protecting its workforce, and the general public, at a time when government relaxation of Covid rules threatens all of our health and safety.”
UNISON news release.

Support staff strike at business department

PCS members working for the outsourced contractor ISS at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) in London took strike action this week over low pay and Covid safety. Cleaners, security guards and other support staff employed by ISS had voted 97.3 per cent in favour of strike action on an 82 per cent turnout. PCS said as well as issues over poor pay and conditions, its members have concerns around Covid safety. The union is calling on ISS to agree a return-to-work protocol. PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “ISS is treating its staff appallingly and despite repeated strike actions in recent years, it seems the contractor has not learnt its lesson. Support staff have had enough of poor pay and the least they deserve is a decent rise and to be treated with dignity at work. There has also been scant regard for the safety of staff during the continuing Covid pandemic.” He added: "BEIS holds ultimate responsibility for the ISS contract and it is the height of hypocrisy to say you are committed to workers’ rights when you turn a blind eye to bad practices by bad bosses within your own department.  This latest episode shows why ISS must be stripped of their contract and that all staff should be taken in-house and directly employed by the civil service."
PCS news release and update.

Welsh workers at risk from Covid, warn unions

Welsh workers are being “put at risk” because of a lack of capacity to enforce Covid risk assessments, according to the country’s lead trade union body. Businesses will still be expected to assess the risk of catching coronavirus in their workplaces after most rules in Wales are scrapped on 7 August. But the Wales TUC says some bosses are not doing the assessments required. Under current Welsh government plans, from 7 August there will be no rules in Wales on the number of people who you can meet, indoors or out. All businesses will be allowed to trade, and specific laws requiring social distancing in the workplace will end. Shavanah Taj, Wales TUC general secretary, said it research has “consistently shown that in far too many workplaces in Wales risk assessments simply aren't being done” (Risks 1002). She added “our concern is that in reality the Welsh government and the relevant enforcement bodies do not have the capacity to monitor whether bosses are following the Covid regulations on risk assessments - and consequently workers are being put at risk.” She also criticised Welsh government guidelines for being too complicated and leaving people confused about their rights and obligations. Calling for “clear, accessible guidance,” she said: “There are so many different pieces of guidance on the Welsh government's website that it is difficult for both workers and employers to know how to effectively assess workplace risk.” In a 14 July statement, the Welsh government said from 17 July there would be “a specific requirement for employers to provide comprehensive information on the risks and mitigations identified in the Covid risk assessment with their employees.”
Wales TUC news release. First minister’s statement and Welsh government coronavirus legislation webpages. BBC News Online.


UK government reneges on sick pay reforms

The TUC has accused the UK government of abandoning low-paid workers after it reneged on plans to reform statutory sick pay – including removing the ‘lower earnings limit’ to ensure all workers can access sick pay. According to a TUC analysis, two million workers in the UK do not earn enough to qualify for statutory sick pay. The union body said the government’s failure to include sick pay reform in its 20 July response to the 'Health is everyone's business' consultation is “yet another example of penny pinching and grossly irresponsible.” TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “The government has abandoned millions of low-paid workers at the worst possible time. With Covid cases going through the roof, its refusal to make sick pay available for all is grossly irresponsible and will help drive infections still higher. This is yet another example of short-sighted penny pinching from the Treasury, which is undermining Britain's public health effort.” The TUC leader added: “Rather than supporting people to self-isolate, ministers are making it financially impossible. This boils down to political choices. Giving everyone access to statutory sick pay would cost less than one per cent of the failed test and trace scheme. Over a year and a half into the pandemic, it's high time the government did the right thing by making sick pay available to all and raising it to a real Living Wage.” As recently as January, ministers had promised reforms that would address the level of sick pay and the lower earnings limit, but have since been blocked by the chancellor.
TUC news release. Health is everyone’s business: proposals to reduce ill health-related job loss, UK government consultation response, 20 July 2021.

Inadequate sick pay puts us all at risk, says STUC

The refusal by Boris Johnson’s administration to raise sick pay levels risks the health of us all, Scottish union federation STUC has said. The union body was commenting on the UK government official response this week to a consultation on proposals to reduce ill-health related job loss. The consultation sought views on a range of measures related to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP), but the government maintained that the pandemic was “not the right time to introduce changes to the rate of SSP or its eligibility criteria”. STUC general secretary Roz Foyer commented: “It is an absolute scandal that a global pandemic, where thousands of people need to isolate to keep us all safe, has not yet pushed the UK government to increase our paltry sick pay levels.” She added: “Sick pay is a public health issue. It will often determine whether a worker can self-isolate or not, and that should worry us all. For workers to properly follow the current guidance, support must be there for them to do so without falling into debt, missing rent payments or being unable to provide for themselves and their dependants. For many part-time and insecure workers, sick pay isn’t even available to them. The UK government is putting us all at risk by not tackling this glaring issue. This makes it all the more important that employers in Scotland provide fair work that delivers adequate levels of sick pay to all workers.”
STUC news release.

Keep staff safe as temperatures soar, say unions

Employers must make sure their staff are protected from the sun and heat as temperatures soar this week, the TUC has said. The demand from the union body came as the Met Office this week issued one of its new-style extreme amber heat weather warnings for the first time. Working in hot weather can lead to dehydration, tiredness, muscle cramps, rashes, fainting, and extreme cases loss of consciousness and death. The TUC is calling for flexible working to avoid stifling heat at work and on the commute, as well as measures to keep workplaces cool and relaxed dress codes. It adds allowing workers to take frequent breaks and providing a supply of cold drinks will help keep stop workers wilting. The TUC says staff will have their own ideas about how best to cope with the excessive heat, so employers should listen to them and their unions. Outside tasks should be scheduled where possible to avoid the hottest parts of the day, the TUC says, and employers should provide canopies or shades where possible. All outdoor workers should be provided with sun protection. TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “We all love the summer sun. But working in sweltering conditions in a baking shop or stifling office can be unbearable and dangerous.” She added: “Indoor workplaces should be kept cool, with relaxed dress codes and flexible working to make use of the coolest hours of the day. And bosses must make sure outdoor workers are protected with regular breaks, lots of fluids, plenty of sunscreen and the right protective clothing.” She said workers required to wear PPE because of Covid rules or other hazards will need extra breaks and other mitigating measures.
TUC news release. TUC guide to getting organised for safer, cooler working conditions Sign the TUC petition for a maximum working temperature. PCS news release. ASLEF news release. Morning Star.

Action call on harassment of LGBT workers

The TUC and general secretaries of more than 39 British trade unions have written to equalities minister Liz Truss to call for an urgent reset in the government’s approach to LGBT rights. The open letter – signed by general secretaries representing over five million union members – criticises the government for its “inaction” on tackling discrimination and harassment faced by LGBT people.  The intervention follows the UK government’s recent decisions to scrap its LGBT Action Plan and to disband its LGBT Advisory Panel. The union leaders say these moves have “dismayed” many in the LGBT community and sent out a worrying message to wider society. TUC evidence shows nearly half of all trans workers have experienced bullying or harassment at work. Seven in ten LGBT workers have experienced sexual harassment at work. The union leaders say ministers must urgently develop a new strategy in consultation with unions to make sure all workplaces are safe for LGBT people. They call on the government to introduce a new duty on employers to protect workers from harassment by customers and clients, and a specific duty to protect workers from sexual harassment. TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Everybody deserves to be treated with dignity and to be safe at work. But many LGBT workers still experience shocking levels of discrimination and harassment in workplaces across the UK.” The TUC leader said: “Ministers must take a lead, and change the law so that employers have to protect their staff from homophobic and transphobic abuse by customers and clients. And they need to reconsider scrapping the LGBT Action Plan and LGBT Advisory Panel.”
TUC news release and letter to the equalities minister.

Most disabled women sexually harassed at work

Around 7 in 10 (68 per cent) disabled women say they have been sexually harassed at work, according to a new poll from the TUC. It found younger disabled women aged 18 to 34 are even more likely to have experienced sexual harassment, with almost 8 out of 10 (78 per cent) reporting being harassed at work. This new TUC survey – which is the first major study into the sexual harassment of disabled women at work in Great Britain, and which was carried out by YouGov – found that of those surveyed: Around 2 in 5 (38 per cent) have experienced unwelcome sexual advances at work; more than 1 in 3 (36 per cent) say they have experienced unwanted touching; and almost 1 in 5 (18 per cent) experienced sexual assault. The research, based on responses from over 1,100 disabled women, revealed that 1 in 25 (4 per cent) have experienced a serious sexual assault or rape at work. Two-thirds (67 per cent) of disabled women who experienced sexual harassment at work said they did not report the harassment to their boss the most recent time it happened. Of these, the most common reason was that they did not believe they would be taken seriously (39 per cent), while almost a third (30 per cent) were worried it would have a negative impact on their career or work relationships. Of those who did report the most recent instance of sexual harassment, more than half (53 per cent) said it was not dealt with satisfactorily. TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Ministers must change the law to make employers protect workers from sexual harassment specifically, and from all forms of harassment by customers and clients.” The TUC wants a new duty on employers to prevent sexual harassment, a statutory code of practice on sexual harassment and harassment at work, and for the forthcoming employment bill to include action to tackle third-party harassment.
TUC news release and report, Sexual harassment of disabled women in the workplace, July 2021.

‘Unacceptable’ agriculture tops deadly sectors list

The agriculture sector has been accused of an unacceptable neglect of safety after new official figures showed it remains top of the deadly workplaces table. Provisional figures from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) show from 1 April 2020 until 31 March 2021 41 people were killed in agriculture related activities in Great Britain, almost double the 23 deaths in the previous year. HSE’s report, ‘Fatal injuries in agriculture, forestry and fishing in Great Britain 2020/21’, shows that agriculture continues to have the worst rate of fatal injuries of all the major industrial sectors, at around 20 times higher than the average five-year annual rate across all industries. HSE said the statistics show older workers are most at risk, with more than half of workers killed aged 60 years or older. When comparing older and younger age groups, the fatal injury rate is more than four times higher for the 65s and over, compared to the 16-24 age group. The youngest person killed was a two-year-old child who died after being overcome by slurry fumes. Acting head of agriculture at HSE Adrian Hodkinson said: “It is not acceptable that agriculture continues to fail to manage risk in the workplace. We need everyone to play their part to improve their behaviour, do things the right way and ‘call out’ poor practices whenever they are seen.” He added: “It is disappointing to be highlighting another high annual fatality rate in the industry when the causes are well known and the precautions to avoid injury are straightforward.”
HSE news release and report, Fatal injuries in agriculture, forestry and fishing in Great Britain 2020/21, 19 July 2021.

Stress and fatigue causing farm accidents, study finds

Stress and fatigue have been identified as key causes of agricultural accidents, a study has concluded. The University of Aberdeen research team found that “lapses in situation awareness” related to stress and fatigue were a main contributory factor. The Non-Technical Skills in Agriculture group (NTSAg) said the project was the first to look at the the issue. Researcher Ilinca-Ruxandra Tone interviewed farmers from the UK and Ireland. Her research found many lapses had occurred “at a perception level”, such as a failure to notice something. Other lapses included misjudging the size of a vehicle, and some of these incidents were attributed to a recent change in equipment or machinery or over-familiarity with existing equipment. “We found consistently that farmers' stress and fatigue can negatively affect their mental picture of what is going on which leads to accidents and incidents,” she said. “This is hugely significant given that stress and fatigue are prevalent issues in agriculture, alongside more serious mental health issues, and our findings extend our knowledge to establish a link between stress and fatigue and situation awareness.”
Farmers Weekly. BBC News Online. The Scotsman.
University of Aberdeen farm safety project and NTSAg website.

Tool firm fined after engineering fatality

Cheltenham Tool Company Limited has been fined after an employee was fatally injured while moving heavy machinery. Cheltenham Magistrates’ Court heard how on 13 November 2019, 57-year-old Ian Challinor, a maintenance engineer at the company, was working with colleagues to move a large, heavy milling machine using a forklift and machine-moving skates. During the work, the machine became unstable and toppled onto him, causing fatal head injuries. An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the company had failed to assess and plan the task of moving the machine to determine a safe system of work, provide clear instructions to the workers and supervise the activity. In addition, the skates used were not adequately maintained or subject to a suitable inspection programme to ensure that they were safe to use. Cheltenham Tool Company Limited pleaded guilty to a criminal safety offence and was fined £30,000 and ordered to pay costs of £13,033. HSE inspector Annette Walker said: “This was a tragic and wholly avoidable incident, caused by the failure of the company to ensure that this one-off task could be undertaken in a safe manner. The lifting and movement of heavy machinery is a specialist and often complex task requiring significant planning, expertise, knowledge and specialist equipment to ensure the risks are controlled.”
HSE news release.


It’s up to us on Covid, TUC webinar, 28 July

Join a TUC crowdcast on 28 July to explore how to keep work safe now restrictions have been lifted. The online hour-long event, kicking off at 2pm, will look at how unions can ensure employers do not do away with Covid safety measures and with any changes made in consultation with unions. The TUC says: “A safely managed transition out of lockdown is the best way to protect health, the economy and our NHS. Unfortunately the government has failed to consult unions or employer groups on its new guidance. So it’s up to us. Our unions have to assert ourselves and ensure there is no cutting corners on safety. Employers must engage you on any changes made to Covid risk assessments.”
The lifting of final Covid-19 restrictions: what impact for workplaces and unions?, online TUC crowdcast, 2pm-3pm, 28 July 2021. Register online.

National Hazards Conference, online, 31 July-1 August 2021

The biggest national event for trade union safety reps and activists is barely a week away! The National Hazards Conference will again be online, running over the weekend of Saturday 31 July to Sunday 1 August. Sharan Burrow, general secretary of the global trade union confederation ITUC, is keynote speaker at the opening session on Saturday and will spell out why health and safety must be recognised worldwide as an ILO Fundamental Right at Work. Andy McDonald, Labour’s shadow employment secretary, is the keynote speaker at the Sunday session. After the opening sessions each day, there is a wide range of workshops on issues from asbestos, to gender and health and safety to ‘challenging micro-management and other draconian work practices’.

National Hazards Conference 2021, 31 July-1 August, online. Attendance is free. Register separately for each day.
Saturday 31 July 2021: 10am-3.30pm – register.
Sunday 1 August 2021: 10am-1.00pm – register.
Further information: email

Lifting Covid restrictions, TUC LESE briefing, 3 August

‘Lifting Covid restrictions and the impact on workers in London, the South East and the East of England’ is an online zoom event from 6pm on Tuesday 3 August for union officers, reps, activists and organisers. The TUC’s regional office, TUC LESE, says the majority of legally enforceable restrictions may have ended, but all employers must still comply with their legal duties to make sure they are operating a safe environment, for workers and customers. There will be presentations by Shelly Asquith, TUC health and safety officer, Dan Shears, GMB national health and safety director, Pete Kavanagh, Unite London and Eastern regional secretary, and senior reps, including Sujata Patel from Usdaw and a Unison Rep.
Lifting Covid restrictions and the impact on workers in London, the South East and the East of England, TUC LESE Zoom briefing 18.00-19.30, Tuesday 3 August 2021. To register and receive a zoom link, email

STOP PRESS! Briefings are being added in other TUC regions, including:
* North West from 6-7pm on Thursday, 22 July.
* Midlands, from 2–3pm, Monday 2 August.
Check the TUC events webpage for other events.


Australia: Unions call for national action on silicosis

Unions in Australia are calling on the federal government to take action to address deadly silicosis risks at work. National union body ACTU says a National Dust Disease Taskforce’s (NDDT) report released last week fails to make meaningful recommendations on prevention of the devastating occupational lung disease. Unions say the while they support the NDDT recommendations on data gathering, coordination of information and awareness raising, medical diagnosis and research, these come at the expense of improved prevention. The concerns were raised last week when unions met with federal health minister Greg Hunt. Commenting after the meeting, ACTU assistant secretary Liam O’Brien: “Exposure to high quantities of silica causes silicosis, lung damage and autoimmune diseases like scleroderma. These are entirely preventable if the federal government introduces legislation to control hazards, properly funds workplace education and invests in alternative products.” He added: “The NDDT report is welcome in its pursuit for further information and awareness training, and medical diagnosis and research – however this does little for prevention. We need government action now to protect workers when working with high levels of silica.” O’Brien also called for a reform of the compensation system, which currently provides just two years of cover after diagnosis. “Workers with silicosis can expect a lifetime living with the incurable disease, but compensation runs out two years after diagnosis. This must be fixed so that workers are supported for as long as necessary. He said some workers “can expect a lifetime living with incurable disease” and “need long-term health, financial and vocational support and retraining assistance that will enable suffers to return to safe and meaningful work.”
ACTU news release.

Global: Women far more likely to face work violence

Women are more likely to face violence and harassment at work, a new poll commissioned by the global union confederation ITUC has indicated. The respondents, in ten countries, were asked “Do you think men or women are more likely to face violence and harassment, or are they equally likely?” for nine professions: teaching, nursing, doctors, journalism, law, sport, politics, finance and banking, and building and construction. One in three respondents thought women are more likely than men to face violence and harassment at work. Excluding building and construction, fewer than one in ten people thought that men are more likely to face violence and harassment across each of the industries. The 10 countries covered by the report were Australia, Brazil, France, Great Britain, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico and the USA. Over 12,000 people were interviewed for the report.
ITUC news release and full report.

USA: Snack workers strike over ‘suicide’ shifts

Hundreds of works at PepsiCo-owned Frito-Lay have taken strike action at a production plant in Topeka, Kansas over working conditions they say have seen workers die in the heat and endure forced overtime shifts known as ‘suicides’.  The appalling conditions facing the workers who make household name snacks including Fritos, Doritos and Cheetos, this week went viral on Twitter. Many of the 850 workers at the facility say they work 84 hours a week with no days off. Workers are nominally supposed to work eight-hour shifts, but because of shortages, workers are often forced to add on an extra four hours before or after their shifts. Workers call these extended shifts "suicides," because they say the schedule kills you over time. Some workers haven't had a single day off in five months, including Saturdays and Sundays. Frito-Lay workers, who are represented by the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers Local 218, are demanding a pay increase and an end to forced overtime. Mark McCarter, a 59-year-old union steward at Frito-Lay who has worked at the Topeka facility for 37 years, said: “You come in at 7am and not only do you work eight hours, but when you get off at 3pm, they suicide you [force you to work a double shift] and have you come back at 3am.” The union rep added: “This is not a good job. At 7am, our warehouse is 100 degrees. We don't have air conditioning. We have cooks in the kitchen on the fryers that are 130 or 140 degrees making chips and sweating like pigs. Meanwhile, the managers have A/C.” McCarter concluded: “We're hoping we can get these people back to work with a decent wage and some kind of alternative to all this forced overtime. Honestly, I don't know how what they're doing is legal.” A Frito-Lay spokesperson said: “We have no knowledge of any associate taking their own life as a result of work conditions, and there have been no confirmed job-related deaths at the Topeka plant.”
Frito-Lay statement, 19 July 2021. Motherboard. The Independent. Jacobin magazine. CBS News.



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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