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



Work from home advice takes effect

People in England should now work from home if they can, as part of the government's Plan B guidance to curb the spread of the Covid-19 omicron variant. The changes, which took full effect on 13 December, bring England in line with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Despite the new rules, Boris Johnson warned on 12 December that the UK faced an “omicron emergency”, with a “tidal wave” of the new variant coming. In a televised address, he said boosters would be offered to everyone over 18 in England, with the aim of giving a jab to everyone who wants one by the end of the month. The plan includes a a non-mandatory work from home if you can recommendation. In the last week of November, many people were yet to go back to the office full-time - but seven in 10 travelled to work at least once. In response to last week’s announcement by the UK government that ‘Plan B’ restrictions are to come into effect, the TUC called for Treasury support to protect jobs, and for the sick pay system to be fixed to reduce the spread of the omicron variant (Risks 1025). TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Furlough was the great success in the first response to the pandemic. The rise of the omicron variant shows why the UK needs a permanent short-time working scheme – ready to go when a new crisis hits.” She added: “If we’re serious about stopping omicron, ministers must fix our broken sick pay system, so every worker gets a decent amount to live off if they are sick or have to self-isolate. That’s how we make sure people can follow the rules and stop the spread.”
DWP work from home guidance. BBC News Online. New Scientist.

So, where’s the Plan B for jobs asks the TUC

The approval by MPs of the UK government’s Plan B could result in a ‘miserable Christmas’ for many unless it also acts to protect jobs and incomes, the TUC has said. Responding to the 14 December approval by the Commons of the Plan B restrictions, TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Stopping the spread of omicron is vital. But where is the Plan B for protecting jobs and livelihoods? These new restrictions are already hitting demand on the high street as people reduce their contact with others.” She added: “Unless ministers step in quickly, jobs will go and companies will go to the wall. Ministers must get real about what is happening. It’s time to bring in a permanent short-time working scheme - learning from the success of furlough in protecting jobs and incomes. And they must provide extra help for hard-hit sectors like travel, hospitality, retail and the arts. Otherwise thousands of workers will face a miserable Christmas.” Calling for additional measures to keep workers safe, the TUC leader added: “If we’re serious about controlling omicron, we must fix our broken sick pay system once and for all. It beggars belief that we are heading into another wave of the pandemic with millions of workers still unable to afford to self-isolate. Ministers must raise sick pay to the level of the real living wage, and every worker should be able to get it. That’s how we make sure people can follow the rules and stop the spread.”
TUC news release.

TUC reiterates call for short-term working scheme

The UK government must introduce a furlough-style short-term working scheme to protect under-threat jobs, the TUC has said. Last week the union body said this type of scheme was necessary to save jobs expected to be impacted by the tighter Plan B Covid-19 controls, intended to reduce transmission of the omicron variant. Reiterating the call in response to the latest employment figures published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) on 14 December, which show payroll employees up on pre-pandemic levels, but self-employment down by 759,000 and the level of real pay falling for six months since April, TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “It is good to see jobs were recovering – but the situation has changed since these figures. The omicron variant is spreading fast, and the economy is slowing. We need a Plan B to protect jobs and livelihoods now.” Wales TUC general secretary Shavanah Taj said the Welsh government should put pressure on Boris Johnson’s government to ensure “the Chancellor listens to the trade union movement and reboots the furlough scheme so that workers’ Christmas pay packets aren’t empty.” In previous lockdowns, research by Wales Fiscal Analysis found low earners in Wales were ten times more likely to work in a shutdown sector than high earners. Women, younger people and workers of Bangladeshi, Black Caribbean and Pakistani ethnicity were significantly more likely to be working in shutdown sectors in Wales.
TUC news release and wage analysis. Wales TUC news release. Community news release. ONS labour market statistics, December 2021.

Union pressure will make workplaces safer

Union reps must be fully involved in decisions about how to deal with the omicron variant at work, the TUC has said. TUC head of safety Shelly Asquith said employers will need to adjust safety plans to deal with the increased risk acknowledged by the UK government when it introduced Plan B. “The risk level has changed, and so too must workplace risk assessments. Employers are duty-bound to update risk assessments as the Covid situation changes, and to consult union reps and/or the wider workforce on those changes,” Asquith wrote in a TUC blog post. She said a multiple mitigations approach was the proper way to go, highlighting the need for effective ventilation assessments and control, suitable PPE, measures to protect vulnerable staff and measures to encourage vaccination of workers. But a critical role for unions is using its workplace organisation to make sure safety practices are introduced and maintained, the TUC safety specialist noted. “Employers must work with unions to address safety concerns, and where they fail to do so, unions can discuss any necessary action required, including reporting a breach to authorities, or collective action,” she wrote. “Throughout the pandemic, unions have successfully organised for safer work, from socially distanced walk-outs demanding proper PPE, to petitions securing higher rates of sick pay. Whether it be an open letter or downing of tools, your union will be able to advise you on the best way to take, and to escalate, action. Everyone has the right to safety at work.”
TUC blog. Napo news release.

Those who can’t work from home need protection

The UK government must introduce urgent and effective measures to ensure that workers who cannot work from home are protected, Unite has said. The union said the Plan B advice to work from home where possible “does not apply to the majority of Unite’s members who will still be expected to work normally” in the automotive, construction, food production, passenger transport, logistics, healthcare and other sectors. The union said the government has provided little or no information to employers and workers in these sectors to ensure that the danger of at work transmission is minimised. Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “The government’s mixed messaging has left workers confused and worried. It is not enough just to say that if you have to go out to work you should carry on doing so. The government must implement measures to maximise safety within our workplaces in order to protect those people who have kept this country going.” She added: “It is clear that additional measures are needed in all sectors of the economy in order to reduce the risk of infection.” Unite caled on all workplaces to conduct reviews of their risk assessments and initiate appropriate control measures such as ventilation, barriers, social distancing with appropriate signage and ensuring hygiene facilities are adequate. It added that it wants face coverings to be mandatory in crowded and communal workplace areas, with the more protective FFP2 type masks “provided for certain types of work such as that undertaken by frontline health workers.” Employers should also be provided with free lateral flow tests, the union said.
Unite news release.

Dyson won’t let staff work from home

The vacuum cleaner maker Dyson has told many of its UK employees to continue working in the office, despite government guidance that workers “should work from home” if they can. The company’s billionaire owner, Sir James Dyson, has consistently opposed working from home and the company has stuck to that line despite the rise of the omicron variant, stoking concern among some employees. All Dyson offices should remain open, according to an internal message sent to all UK staff last week after the prime minister announced the new Plan B guidance advising work from home. In contrast to lockdowns earlier in the pandemic, the Plan B guidance does not legally oblige companies to allow staff to work from home, but Boris Johnson said on 8 December that people should work from home where possible as a precaution against omicron. Employees at Dyson have expressed frustration with its policy requiring them to work in the office. One worker, who declined to be named, told the Guardian: “Since the summer everyone in the UK has been mandated to work five days a week in the office. It is as draconian as it sounds.” The worker said the policy went against the spirit of the new government guidance. The Guardian reported a wave of large office employers have told workers to remain at home, although some will keep offices open for business-critical functions or exceptional reasons such as for workers with mental health issues. The magazine publisher Future last week reversed its demand for staff to come into the office after its stance was revealed by the Guardian.
The Guardian and related article.

Employers should be forced to allow home working

Just recommending employees work from home won’t work if employers are still free to just say no, Scotland’s national union body has warned. STUC was commenting after Nicola Sturgeon urged Scots to work from home until the middle of January amid growing concerns about the omicron covid variant. In a 7 December statement, the first minister told MSPs: “We already advise people to work from home wherever practical. Today, I am asking employers to ensure that this is happening. To be blunt, if you had staff working from home at this start of the pandemic, please now enable them to do so again.” Sturgeon repeated the call in a 10 December speech. Responding to the work from home request, STUC general secretary Roz Foyer said: “It all fine and well for the first minister to appeal to workers to work from home if they can and to say that employers should facilitate this, but she needs to be more direct. Too often we have seen employers refusing such requests and many workers are now worried about asking. Once again workers are being called on make judgments on whether to work from home even where they know their employer will not be sympathetic. That’s an invidious position they should not be placed in.” The STUC leader added: “The first minister needs to instruct employers to comply and withdraw all government support from any companies that fail to do so. We will be contacting the government to press for a more direct position including immediate consideration of using legal powers to force companies to comply.”
STUC news release. First minister’s 10 December speech. TSSA news release. Daily Record.

Furlough and sick pay guarantees now essential

There must be UK government guarantees on furlough, sick pay and workers’ safety in the wake of the Covid Plan B measures announced last week by the prime minister and taking full effect this week, the union GMB has said. Dan Shears, GMB national health and safety director, said: “If Covid restrictions lead to employers calling for help or laying off workers - GMB supports reintroduction of the furlough scheme, or something very like it. We need a clear plan from the government around this so workers and businesses know what's coming.” He added: “As during previous waves of Covid, GMB will be calling for full sick pay for all workers who suffer Covid-related absence, so no one has to make a choice between the greater good and feeding their families. Workers’ health and safety must be a priority.”
GMB news release.

Royal Mail sickness absences almost double

Royal Mail has confirmed that absence levels are almost double those seen in 2018 before the coronavirus pandemic. A source with close knowledge of the company’s operations told the BBC the internal situation is “horrific” due to sickness and increased demand in the run-up to Christmas. “The combination of people off with stress or Covid, combined with increased demand to send goods by post and the build-up to Christmas, had led us here,” the person said. An open letter published by the postal workers’ union CWU on 10 December it said that times were still "very difficult" for workers. Terry Pullinger, deputy general secretary of postal at the CWU, wrote: “Trying to maintain a great public service throughout the pandemic has been incredibly difficult for everybody, especially whilst deploying major changes and considering the great annual challenge of the Christmas period pressure.” The CWU indicated the blame lies with “managerial capability issues,” saying that “postal workers and the public deserve better.”
BBC News Online. Personnel Today.

Most firms say statutory sick pay should be higher

The statutory sick pay (SSP) system is broken and needs urgent reform, the CIPD is warning. The professional body for HR and people development made the reform call in a new report, ‘What should an effective sick pay system look like?’, which includes a survey of over 1,000 employers. CIPD found nearly two-thirds (62 per cent) of employers agree that the SSP rate is too low and should be increased. The Covid pandemic has exposed how the current UK SSP rate of just £96.35 per week for up to 28 weeks is “financially inadequate... with many people still working when ill or needing to self-isolate”, it said. With concerns now growing about the potential impact of the omicron variant, the CIPD said “steps must be taken to ensure SSP provides a better financial safety net.” It added the UK government must “raise the level of SSP to be at least equivalent to someone earning the National Minimum Wage/National Living Wage.” Echoing other TUC recommendations (Risks 1025), CIPD called for a widening of eligibility for SSP by removing the lower earnings limit and expanding coverage. Rachel Suff, senior employment relations adviser at the CIPD, said: “Not only does SSP need to provide an effective financial safety net for those unable to work when sick, it needs to better reflect today’s labour market. As well as immediate reform to remove the lower earnings limit, government should consult on how the system could cover those in atypical work including the self-employed. We also need to more flexibility so that it’s easier for people to have a phased and sustainable return to work. This will bolster their chances of an effective full-time return in the long-term.” 
CIPD news release and full recommendations. What should an effective sick pay system look like?, CIPD, December 2021.

Government must up safety measures in schools

Boris Johnson’s government must increase safety mitigations in schools and colleges to avoid disruption to education in England, teaching union NEU has said. Dr Mary Bousted, the NEU’s joint general secretary, said: “With Covid infection rates rising in schools it is absolute folly that no mention of this has been made in Boris Johnson's statements, nor as far as we are aware are any measures being considered for the new year. We cannot be caught out again. To act now and make our schools and colleges as Covid-secure as possible is something which must be done as a matter of urgency.” NEU last week outlined its requirements for a ‘fit for purpose’ Plan B. This includes the wearing of face coverings by pupils and staff in secondary communal areas and by primary staff in communal areas. This should be extended to secondary classrooms for staff and students, the union said. It also wanted close contacts to not attend until they had a negative PCR test, following the Scottish model, and 10-day isolation for close contacts of confirmed or suspected Omicron cases. NEU is also calling for improved classroom ventilation guidance, more social distancing measures, and provision of more protective respirators – FFP2 or FFP3 masks – for at-risk vulnerable staff and pupils. “As more becomes known about the omicron variant these measures may need to be enhanced further or may no longer be necessary, following the vaccination effort, but for now, we are calling on the government to adopt a cautious approach - a Plan B to stop the disruption of education,” Bousted said.NEU news release.

Tories told to name the date for the Covid inquiry

The UK government must stop “dragging its feet” on a Covid-19 public inquiry, the TUC has demanded, as a coalition of bereaved families, medics and experts call for a timetable to be published immediately. The union body has joined forces with Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice, a group of doctors with long Covid symptoms, scientists in the Independent Sage advisory group and other important stakeholders to set out their key demands for the probe. In a 10 December legal letter to prime minister Boris Johnson, the organisations are calling for an inquiry to start no later than 4 April next year, noting an “inordinate” amount of time has been wasted already. Ministers have previously promised that an investigation into the government’s handling of the virus — first detected in Britain in early 2020 — would start in spring 2022, but no further details have been forthcoming. The signatories plan to apply for core participant status in the inquiry, allowing them to suggest questions, see documents and receive advance copies of the probe’s final report. TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “With reports that Downing Street held a Christmas Party last year while the rest of us followed the rules and did not see close family and friends, we urgently need a public inquiry. The government must get on with announcing the start date and talking to unions, bereaved families and other stakeholders.”
Morning Star. Wales Online.

Covid pressures bad for your health

Too many digital meetings, increasing workload and a lack of social connection with colleagues have all enhanced the risk of health and wellbeing problems for remote workers during the Covid-19 pandemic, researchers have found. The study, for the safety professionals’ organisation IOSH, found a positive effect, with employees reporting that the greater flexibility offered by homeworking has created more opportunities for recreational activities. ‘Learning from the Covid-19 pandemic: approaches to support employee health and wellbeing’, based on the experiences of five major organisations, examined how employers could support workers’ health and wellbeing and identify barriers and facilitators to this. It makes eight recommendations to protect employee health and wellbeing, to serve during this and any future pandemics, including senior management demonstrating their commitment to this area through regular communication, acting on feedback and sharing personal stories, and involving employees in job design and redesign. Duncan Spencer, head of advice and practice at IOSH, said: “With some people continuing to work remotely while others have moved a hybrid system as we continue to live with the pandemic, it is clear that more needs to be done to protect the health and wellbeing of workers and I hope that organisations might be able to follow some or all of the recommendations.” He added: “What is clear is that if we don’t act on this, there is a strong possibility we will face a health and wellbeing crisis among our workforce.”
IOSH news release and report, Learning from the COVID-19 pandemic: Approaches to support employee health and wellbeing, IOSH, December2021.


Safety concerns over ‘vanishingly rare’ lorry inspections

A UK-based lorry can, on average, travel the equivalent of three and a half times around the world without expecting to undergo an on-the-spot check, research by Unite has found. The shocking statistic was uncovered by the union in a Freedom of Information request. It said its concerns at the lack of scrutiny has been ‘greatly heightened’ following the government’s decision to relax the cabotage rules in October, which now allow lorries registered anywhere in the world to make an unlimited number of collections and deliveries during a 14-day period in the UK. Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “These figures are alarming and demonstrate that on-the-spot inspections of lorries and HGV drivers are vanishingly rare on the UK’s roads. This has serious safety implications and the government needs to be explaining how it ensures that all lorries and HGV drivers on the UK’s roads are doing so safely and abiding by the law.” In total there were 114,653 on-the-spot inspections made by the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) in 2020/21 to check on the road worthiness of lorries and if the driver was abiding by the HGV driving regulations. The number of on-the-spot inspections carried out by the DVSA has declined by 39 per cent since 2016/17 when 186,460 were undertaken. The union said the Department for Transport recorded that GB registered lorries undertook a ‘staggering’ 10,066 billion miles of journeys in 2020. This means that an on-the-spot inspection of an HGV only occurs on average once every 87,797 miles, which equates to a lorry driving three and half times around the earth without being stopped and inspected.
Unite news release.

Shock as 1 in 4 inspections find poor rig safety

A union representing offshore workers has warned there could be a ‘catastrophic’ disaster after the government admitted that one in four official inspections had found poor safety maintenance standards on North Sea installations. The government admission, which also revealed fewer than 1-in-20 installations were fully compliant, came in an answer to a written parliamentary question tabled by Stockton North Labour MP Alex Cunningham. In a written response from health and safety minister Chloe Smith, the government admitted that one in four inspections carried out by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found poor standards of safety maintenance on installations. Just three out of 67 inspections found full compliance. RMT general secretary Mick Lynch commented: “These findings show the escalating threat that commercial pressure and light touch regulation pose to the safety of offshore oil and gas workers.” He added: “Our offshore members are facing existential threats to their industry, no Just Transition and declining safety standards in a multiple hazard workplace. RMT called on industry to use the pandemic to clear these dangerous safety critical and environmental backlogs.” The RMT leader warned: “These figures show that some in the offshore industry are going in the opposite direction which increases the risk of a catastrophic safety or environmental incident offshore. RMT will continue to work day and night to prevent this.”
RMT news release. Parliamentary question and answer.  Morning Star.

Unite action call on dangerous bus design flaw

Unite is calling on Transport for London (TfL), bus operators and the mayor of London to act swiftly to resolve a potentially deadly design flaw on London buses. The union said it has been raising concerns about ‘pedal confusion’ since the summer and the problem was again highlighted last week when it was cited as a possible factor in the death of 32-year-old commuter Melissa Burr at Victoria bus station in August this year. Unite lead officer for London buses John Murphy said: “Unite's members work hard every day to keep London's passengers and road users safe but it is vital that the buses they drive are also safe, which is why we are pressing TfL and the bus operators to work with us to eradicate any possibility of pedal confusion.” He added: “TfL has a duty to respond to any and all safety concerns put before it.” Unite said there is a particular problem with newer buses, especially electric vehicles, where the accelerator and brake pedals are similar in shape and height. The union said it had also identified that driver fatigue is a factor but is concerned that drivers are not reporting incidences for fear of disciplinary action. “Without urgent action taken to modify the pedal design on buses, especially newer models, and proper steps taken to reduce driver fatigue, then the problems and dangers of pedal confusion will continue,” John Murphy said. “Pedal confusion is certainly far more common than has previously been reported but if our members seek to raise this issue they will receive the full support of Unite.” The union said it is likely to be a nationwide problem “and will increase as more operators purchase electric vehicles, unless urgent modifications are made to their design.” A 2011 report for TfL found pedal confusion was responsible for series of ‘unintended acceleration (UA) incidents.’
Unite news release. Evening Standard. TfL pedal confusion report, 2011.

TSSA welcomes London transport e-scooter ban

Transport for London’s (TfL) decision to enforce a ban on the use of electric scooters (e-scooters) across the network has been welcomed by the transport and travel union TSSA. The rules, which came into force on 13 December, follow calls by TSSA for action after serious incidents on the underground system (Risks 1020). In a 1 November incident, an e-scooter lithium battery caught fire on an underground train and continued to blaze on the platform. And on 26 October at Stanmore, firefighters were required to attend a station fire in staff accommodation, following ignition of an e-scooter lithium battery being held in lost property. TSSA organising director Lorraine Ward commented: “Our union always puts the safety of our members and the travelling public first and foremost. So, it’s good to see TfL agreeing with us and banning e-scooters across the London travel network. This shows we were right to raise the alarm in the wake of the serious incident at Parsons Green because one thing is for sure, it was only a matter of time before people got badly hurt, or worse. So today I’m again calling on Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, to implement a further ban across the wider travel network without delay. That should be a no brainer.”
TSSA news release.

Scotland moves on ‘right to disconnect’

The Scottish government has become the first in the UK to announce support for a ‘right to disconnect’ for staff working for government departments and devolved agencies. Alongside its 9 December budget statement, the Scottish government announced that there is an expectation that bodies responsible to Scottish ministers will have meaningful discussions on a right to disconnect. Prospect said the decision was a victory for its campaign. It said as a leading public service union, it has been lobbying the Scottish government to make the move as part of its wider campaign across the union. Prospect added that it wants conversations between unions and employers to put in place the right rules for each workplace, rather than a one size fits all approach. Prospect national secretary Richard Hardy said: “This is an important step forward in our campaign to achieve a right to disconnect for public sector workers in Scotland. We are consistently hearing reports of an increase in burn out, stress and blurring of lines between home and work life. This is a trend that existed before the pandemic but has been accelerated because of it.” He added: “We will now seek to engage with employers and our members to progress this in each workplace.”
Prospect news release and research and guide on the right to disconnect.

Community service after asbestos disturbance conviction

A contractor has been handed 100 hours community service and 10 day rehabilitation activity after labourers disturbed asbestos and worked dangerously at height while refurbishing a disused park toilet block. Southwark Crown Court heard how, in 2019, a charity hired local contractor Fahadh Rasheed to convert a toilet block in Valentines Park, Ilford, into a community meeting centre. The work included replacing the weather-damaged roof. Rasheed employed unskilled and untrained labourers to undertake this work. The labourers disturbed a significant amount of asbestos insulation board present in the structure, spreading asbestos debris around the site. The construction work was brought to the attention of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) by a member of the public who observed the labourers working on the roof, without scaffolding or other control measures to prevent them falling. The asbestos was later cleaned up by a licensed asbestos removal company. An HSE investigation found that Rasheed had not carried out a refurbishment and demolition asbestos survey before work began. Furthermore, he had not ensured the workers he engaged had the necessary skills, knowledge and experience, including asbestos awareness training, to undertake this work. Rasheed was found guilty by a jury of a criminal breach of safety regulations. At the sentencing hearing he was given a community order including 100 hours unpaid work and a 10 day rehabilitation activity requirement.
HSE news release. Construction Enquirer.


Europe: Gig economy workers set to get employee rights

Gig economy companies operating in the European Union, such as Uber and Deliveroo, must ensure workers get the minimum wage, access to sick pay, holidays and other employment rights under plans for new laws to crack down on fake self-employment. Publishing long-awaited draft legislation on 9 December, the European Commission said the burden of proof on employment status would shift to companies, rather than the individuals that work for them. Until now, gig economy workers have had to go to court to prove they are employees, or risk being denied basic rights. Nicolas Schmit, EU commissioner for jobs and social rights, said internet platforms “have used grey zones in our legislation [and] all possible ambiguities” to develop their business models, resulting in a “misclassification” of millions of workers. Companies that did not allow people to work for other firms, or had rules about appearance and how to carry out tasks, could be classed as employers, under the proposals, under criteria used to determine employment status. The new rules would not apply to genuinely independent contractors. Under the directive, workers would also gain rights over algorithms, to stop situations where people are denied jobs, working hours or even fired as a result of the use of Artificial Intelligence. Instead, workers would have the right to receive explanations for and contest automated decisions, while companies would have to ensure access to a human contact for anything that would have a significant impact on the person. TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said the UK government should follow the EU lead. “The government must keep the pace with the EU on new rights for gig workers. And ministers must bring forward the long-awaited employment bill to end exploitative work practices,” she said.
Draft EU directive on improving working conditions in platform work and related 9 December speech by Commissioner Schmit. The Guardian.
RESOURCES. When AI is the boss: An introduction for union reps, TUC, December 2021.
Seven ways platform workers are fighting back, TUC, 2021. 

USA: Amazon again tells workers to stay in disaster’s path

Amazon has been accused of putting corporate profits above worker safety following the tornado-caused partial collapse of its Edwardsville, Illinois warehouse that left at least six people dead. “How many workers must die for Amazon to have a policy for extreme weather events? Time and time again Amazon puts its bottom line above the lives of its employees,” said Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), in a statement. “Requiring workers to work through such a major tornado warning event as this was inexcusable.” Appelbaum's remarks came after an outbreak of over 20 devastating tornadoes late on Friday 10 December tore through multiple states and killed dozens of people. In addition to Illinois, affected states included Arkansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, and Tennessee. Local officials said on 12 December that at least six people died from the Amazon warehouse collapse. Criticism of Amazon on social media said the world’s largest retailer had previously failed to close warehouses in the face of extreme weather events. In his statement, RWDSU’s Appelbaum called the event “another outrageous example of the company putting profits over the health and safety of their workers, and we cannot stand for this. Amazon cannot continue to be let off the hook for putting hardworking people's lives at risk,” he said, vowing that his union would “not back down until Amazon is held accountable for these and so many more dangerous labour practices.” Amazon workers are banned from carrying mobile phones at work, so couldn’t call emergency services or concerned family.
RWDSU news release. Common Dreams. Bloomberg. NBC News. MSN News. The Verge. The Independent. BBC News Online. Confined Space blog.
OSHA Tornado preparedness and response webpages.

USA: Climate weather crisis hurts the low paid

Extreme weather events are hitting lower paid, vulnerable workers hardest, a doctors’ network has said. The US Migrant Clinicians Network said tornado-related fatalities in the destruction of the Mayfield Consumer Products candle factory in Kentucky, in which at least eight workers died, and the Illonois Amazon warehouse where six were killed, “has shone a spotlight on the inadequacies of worker protections as the climate crisis ramps up. Migrant Clinicians Network (MCN) is concerned about several critical components in this tragedy that are bound to repeat across the country unless climate-integrated disaster preparedness and worker protections are given consistent, thorough review and full implementation with the most vulnerable workers in mind.” The network stated: “As has become typical in such a disaster, the workers most affected are those who are low-wage, with no safer alternatives like flexibility in shift times, work-from-home options, or ability to refuse to work. These workers additionally have minimal input into workplace disaster preparedness plans.” MCN added: “Workers must be provided with basic rights at the workplace.” It pointed out workers at the Amazon warehouse were not allowed access to their phones, adding: “In the Kentucky candle factory, workers who requested to go home were reportedly told they would be fired if they left the job site, despite the tornado sirens. The building was levelled by a tornado shortly thereafter.” MCN concluded: “Basic comprehensive workers’ rights, including the right to a safe and healthy workplace and the right to paid leave, ensure that workers are in the best position to stay safe, should disaster strike.”
MCN blog. The Guardian. NPR.


TUC Hazards at Work 6th Edition

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