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



Workers on low wages lose out on sick pay

Workers on low wages are among those most likely to lack access to sick pay and most likely to die from Covid-19, new research had concluded. Older people and those from ethnic minorities are also considered at risk of missing out on sick pay, the study from the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) found. The think tank’s probe indicates that there is a “class disparity” in accessing pay when someone is unable to work due to illness. Workers in outdoor trades, such as farming and construction, are five times more likely to miss out than bosses, while those in manufacturing, manual trades, beauty, transportation and catering are around twice as likely to be worse off, the report found. Report co-author Dr Parth Patel said: “Sick pay rates in the UK are among the lowest in the developed world, but until now it has been very poorly understood which workers actually lack access to any sick pay whatsoever. The class, race and age disparities in sick pay access revealed by this new analysis risk entrenching the inequalities exposed by the pandemic and constraining the UK’s ability to ‘live with Covid’.” UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea commented: “Those who are ill or isolating should be given their proper pay rate as soon as they’re ill.” And Paddy Lillis, general secretary of the retail union Usdaw, called for sick pay to be “paid from day one at an individual’s normal rate of pay” for all workers. IPPR said the pandemic has exposed the clear link between work and health, with its new analysis of official data revealing that people in jobs traditionally considered working class were twice as likely to die from Covid-19 than those in jobs considered middle class. IPPR said lower paid occupations have also experienced the highest Covid-19 mortality rates.
IPPR news release and report, A healthy labour market: Creating a post-pandemic world of healthier work by Parth Patel and Carsten Jung, IPPR, 4 February 2022. UNISON news release. Morning Star. More on the hazards of low pay.

Big office outbreak highlights protective role of rules

After the UK government axed social distancing and face covering rules, and two weeks after self-isolation rules were weakened, over half the workforce in a UK office where everyone was double vaxxed developed Covid-19, a new study has found. Experts from the UK Health Security Agency, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and the London School of Tropical Medicine undertook the study. In results published ahead of peer-review, they note: “In late August-September 2021, a public-facing office in England, with adherence to governmental Covid-19 control guidance and high vaccination coverage, experienced an outbreak of SARS-CoV-2 affecting 55 per cent of the workforce. At the time of this outbreak, governmental guidance for workplaces in England prioritised policies for risk assessments, adequate ventilation, frequent cleaning, self-isolation, and communication/training; however, social distancing and face covering usage were no longer compulsory. Two weeks before the outbreak, government guidance was amended so fully vaccinated people did not need to self-isolate if they were identified as a close contact of someone with Covid-19.” The authors say the outbreak demonstrates the need for multiple mitigations, noting “the importance of a layered SARS-CoV-2 transmission mitigation strategy prioritising ventilation and risk assessment-informed interventions, such as testing, social distancing, appropriate occupancy levels and transmission control measures (eg. face masks), in addition to vaccination.”
Barry Atkinson, Karin van Veldhoven, Ian Nicholls and others. An outbreak of SARS-CoV-2 in a public-facing office in England, 2021, medRxiv 2022.01.31.22269194; doi:


CWU alert on ‘sweeping’ Highway Code changes

The Communication Workers’ Union (CWU) has issued a road safety warning to its members, noting a ‘staggering’ number of drivers are unaware of major changes to driving rules. The union says surveys by motoring and road safety organisations “have worryingly revealed that millions of drivers are unaware of the sweeping changes to The Highway Code road laws which came into force on 29 January 2022.” It said one survey found two in three drivers were unaware of the new rules. The alert, issued to all its union branches by CWU’s national health and safety officer Dave Joyce, explains that the revamped code establishes a hierarchy of road users, which means those who pose the greatest risk to others have a higher level of responsibility, with drivers having a greater responsibility to look out for and give way to pedestrians and cyclists. Many of the rule changes in the code are legal requirements, the alert notes, “and to disobey these rules is to commit a criminal offence leading to prosecution and huge fines.” Joyce notes that CWU nationally “is concerned that there has been insufficient public education and as a result a lack of awareness, that could potentially lead to an increase in road accidents, road prosecutions and fines – involving some of our members.” In response, the union has issued a poster “to catch the eye of our driver members” and to signpost them explanatory materials on government websites. The alert also urges CWU branches to provide “assistance in spreading the word and raising awareness.”
DfT/DVSA news release and Highway Code changes summary. CWU Highway Code changes - alert to union branches.

Usdaw campaign for mental health at work

Retail trade union Usdaw is promoting the role of trade union workplace reps in supporting members and highlighting the benefits of mental health conversations. Paddy Lillis, the union’s general secretary said: “Usdaw has long recognised that mental health is a trade union and workplace issue. The last couple of years have proved to be a stressful and worrying time for almost everyone, but for Usdaw members the pressures of the coronavirus pandemic have been compounded by their experience as key workers.” He added that the cost of living crisis means money worries could be “a significant trigger for mental health problems. With increases in energy, food and fuel costs, along with the government’s 10 per cent National Insurance increase looming, these pressures on workers are only likely to get worse.” The union leader concluded: “Usdaw reps are campaigning on mental health to raise awareness of workplace rights and tackle stigma, which can get in the way of members talking to the union at an early stage. This can lead to them getting caught up in disciplinary procedures that could and should have been avoided. Our reps play a crucial role in ensuring members have a say in their work role and environment, to help keep them safe and promote good mental health.”
Usdaw news release and It’s good to talk campaign.

UCU condemns 'endemic’ bullying at Imperial

Lecturers’ union UCU has condemned an ‘endemic culture of bullying’ at Imperial College London. The union was speaking out after a damning report found Britain’s highest-paid university chief and another senior executive created a culture of favouritism and exclusion at the university. Imperial’s president, Alice Gast, last year apologised after an independent report found that she and the college’s chief financial officer had bullied members of staff. Gast had attempted to block the report’s release. However, redacted details published last week after the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) rejected Gast’s arguments and disagreed with her attempts to downplay the findings against her as “relatively minor.” They include accounts of Gast and chief finance officer (CFO) Muir Sanderson’s behaviour and its impact on victims who were bullied in 2019 and 2020. Jane McNeill QC, who carried out the investigation, said some witnesses had expressed a fear of retaliation. McNeill found that Gast and Sanderson had “created or contributed to a culture which involves and tolerates favouritism, exclusion, the making of disparaging comments about others and at times a lack of respect for others”. Responding to the report, UCU London regional official Barry Jones said: “It is shameful that President Alice Gast and CFO Muir Sanderson still remain in post after being found to have bullied staff and treated them with such disrespect. UCU members report an endemic culture of bullying at Imperial, a culture which hits marginalised staff the hardest.” He added: “The first step towards redressing this culture of discrimination and intimidation is for senior management to be held properly to account.”
UCU news release. Redacted report. ICO decision notice. The Guardian.

FBU firefighter cancer campaign takes off

A campaign by firefighters’ union FBU to reduce the risk of occupational cancer linked to exposure to fire contaminants is having an impact “in every corner of the fire and rescue service”, the union has said. FBU said it is now pushing hard “to build up the Firefighter Cancer and Disease Registry. The registry is based on a health survey for firefighters, and we need all firefighters– to fill it out.” It added: “With more information in the registry we will be able to get more life-saving research done.” FBU national officer Riccardo la Torre said: “We need every single firefighter to fill out that registry, whether you’ve been diagnosed with cancer, whether you’ve been diagnosed with a disease or if you’ve never been diagnosed with anything – we need you to fill out that registry now. There is so much more we need to understand about the link between cancer and other diseases and the occupation of firefighting.” He added: “We cannot protect ourselves from this danger if we don’t properly understand it and we simply cannot do that unless firefighters fill out that registry.” FBU officials have been visiting fire stations to promote awareness of and sign-ups to the cancer and disease registry. Commenting on the growing reach of the union’s related DECON campaign to reduce firefighter exposures to toxins, la Torre said: “We’re so pleased with how this project has taken off since we launched it live from a fire station. We’ve seen engagement in every corner of the fire and rescue service, we’ve seen posters going up, we’re seeing tweets, we’ve seen people with their babies wearing DECON stickers, and the training is being taken. We’re getting requests for more information and more posters all of the time.”
FBU news release, DECON campaign and cancer campaign video.

Time to get tough on asbestos, says IOSH

Stronger measures on asbestos management are needed to save lives, according to the global body for health and safety professionals. A lack of consistency in managing asbestos among duty holders and a lack of awareness and knowledge about the material, particularly among smaller businesses, are among the issues concerning the UK-based Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH). IOSH has highlighted those concerns in a verbal and written submission to the UK Work and Pensions Committee, which is undertaking an inquiry into the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) approach to asbestos management. It said although the regulations have been around in the UK for some time, the “full implementation and application” of them is lacking through the responsibility chain, which is putting lives at risk. “Awareness is not reaching down to those who are fulfilling those roles, coming into contact with the hazard and those who are placed at risk.” IOSH said. The safety professionals’ body is keen to see stronger measures introduced, with a collective effort by policy makers, government, regulators, employers and worker representatives. “We know that asbestos is still all around us. This, coupled with a worrying lack of awareness about the danger it poses and how to prevent exposure, means people are being put at risk every day,” IOSH head of health and safety Ruth Wilkinson said. “This is simply not good enough. There are many measures which can be taken to prevent exposure and we would like to see a collective effort to ensure that these are put in place and used across industry. Only by doing this can we begin to stop people being exposed to asbestos and being placed at risk of contracting an awful disease. It’s time to get tough with asbestos.”
IOSH news release.

New collaboration to reduce pesticide harm

A broad-based UK network is aiming to challenge the harm caused by pesticides and involve more workers and unions. The Pesticide Collaboration, which already includes the union Unite and the national Hazards Campaign, said pesticide use in the UK has risen significantly in the past three decades, and the area of land treated by pesticides has increased by 63 per cent since 1990. It added: “The body of evidence revealing the harms caused by pesticides to human health and the natural world is also increasing… The pesticide manufacturing industry, and those standing to profit from current (and increased) rates of pesticide use, are organised and well-funded.” The campaign said: “It has never been more crucial that those invested in a healthy, just, sustainable vision for the future are able to speak with a unified and coherent voice. There are alternatives and solutions to our current over reliance on pesticides, we just have to rally around them – that’s where The Pesticide Collaboration comes in.” It noted: “The Pesticide Collaboration brings together health and environmental organisations, academics, trade unions, farming networks and consumer groups, working under a shared vision to urgently reduce pesticide-related harms in the UK, for a healthy future.” The collaboration said its aims are to influence UK policy, explore solutions, and amplify each other’s pesticide-related work. “Throughout all our work we aim to tackle the root systemic drivers of pesticide reliance and overuse, and advocate for the solutions required to tackle them,” it added.
The Pesticide Collaboration. More information.

Probe after train driver killed at work

Investigations are continuing into the death of a Southern Railway train driver who was killed in the course of his work. The man, who has not been named, was found on the tracks near West Worthing station in Sussex on 1 February. British Transport Police (BTP) are working to establish exactly what happened and the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) has begun an investigation. BTP subsequently confirmed the death has been classified as non-suspicious. It is believed that the driver of the train got out of his cab before an express train passed through the station. It is thought he was hit by the train just before 9pm. Manuel Cortes, general secretary of the transport and travel union TSSA, said: “It is always heartbreaking to learn of the death of a member of our wider railway community. Our union sends our deepest condolences to the family of the driver who was killed. No one should die at work, and I have no doubt a full investigation will get to the bottom of what happened in this tragic case.” The TSSA leader added: “Our union takes safety on our railways incredibly seriously and we will continue doing everything we can, working with sister unions and others, to make sure our rail network is safe for workers and passengers alike.”
TSSA news release. The Argus. Worthing Herald.

Community order for dangerous construction boss

Roofing contractor Ian Davey has been ordered to undertake 80 hours of unpaid work in the community after an unpaid casual labourer suffered serious injuries when he fell through a skylight during the renovation of an old asbestos cement roof. Plymouth Magistrates’ Court heard that on 23 October 2018, the labourer, who wanted to gain industry experience having never previously worked on roofs, was instructed by Ian Davey, trading as Exe Fibreglass, to cut fibreglass for the roof of the Exeter building. Once the fibreglass was cut, the labourer went up onto the roof to observe it being fitted by Davey and another colleague. He stepped on a fragile skylight, which gave way causing him to fall five and a half metres to the floor below. He suffered multiple fractures to his hand and wrist, which required surgical wiring to repair, and also fractures to his ribs. An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found there was a lack of training or experience in the supervision of others working at height and no preventive safety measures in place for the skylights such as netting, crawl boards or safety harnesses. Ian Davey, trading as Exe Fibreglass, pleaded guilty to a criminal breach of the Work at Height Regulations 2005. He was given a 12-month community order, which includes 80 hours of unpaid work, and was ordered to pay costs of £3,000.
HSE news release. Construction Enquirer.


Covid airborne protections at work webinar, 17 February

A TUC webinar will explore the risk and the responses to Covid at work. It says the airborne virus, which mainly spreads in the air, requires measures like ventilation and face masks to reduce the chance of infection. In a HeartUnions week event on 17 February, Dr Jonathan Fluxman from Doctors in Unite will describe Covid airborne protections – the steps reps can take and what unions should demand of employers to protect workers from aerosol spread at work. Questions can be posted in the ‘Q&A’ box during the webinar.
Register for HeartUnions webinar: Covid airborne protections in the workplace, 14:00 to 15:00, Thursday 17 Feb 2022. Live captions will be available.
* The annual #HeartUnions week, which this year will run from 14-20 February, is a chance to demonstrate why unions are vital for everyone at work, and to encourage people who aren't yet in a union to join. Get your HeartUnions campaign materials online.

Candlelight Covid-19 vigils for workers, 11 March

The Hazards Campaign is organising candlelight vigils on 11 March to remember workers killed by Covid-19. The events mark the anniversary of the day two years ago of when the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the Covid-19 outbreak a pandemic. The campaign says thousands of workers have died because they have been exposed to infection at work and workers need employers to control the risks and governments to provide the resources needed to protect workers and others in workplaces. It is encouraging workers and their representatives to organise or attend events across the UK to remember all those workers who have died because of Covid-19 since the pandemic began. It suggests people might light candles, hold up pictures of work colleagues and loved ones who have died and invite people to say something about them. If people can’t or don’t want to attend an event they can to put a poster in their window or light a candle safely on their door step, and post a picture online using a hashtag.
Candlelight vigils to remember workers killed by Covid-19, 11 March 2022.
Suggested social media hashtags: #Candle4CovidkilledWorkers  #VigilForWorkers #ShineLightOnWorkers. Share details of your events on the Hazards Campaign Facebook page or Twitter feed.
Send information about what you are doing in your city, town or workplace to so that the campaign can share details on social media and through its trade union networks.


Australia: Work cancer action could save thousands a year

Over one in ten (14 per cent) cases of lung cancer in Australia could be prevented if asbestos, silica, diesel exhaust and welding fume exposure were reduced in workplaces, according to the country’s national union federation ACTU. It says the figure, based on best available data, corresponds to roughly 1,800 work-related deaths every year from lung cancer that could have been avoided with better safety measures. The ACTU is calling upon the federal government to take urgent action, including implementing recommendations made by a National Dust Diseases Taskforce. It adds there must be adequate workplace exposure standards introduced for all hazardous substances, including silica, diesel exhaust and welding fumes, to avoid more preventable deaths from lung disease. ACTU assistant secretary Liam O’Brien commented: “This fight won’t be over until all Australian workers can go to work and know they’re going to be safe from disease.” He added: “There is a plague of silicosis and cancers in workers who’ve come into contact with silica in their workplace. This risks becoming the asbestos of our generation, and we must act to prevent huge numbers of workers becoming sick and dying now. Until we have an adequate, fit-for-purpose workplace exposure standard for these dangerous substances, we’re going to continue to see deaths from lung disease caused by work exposure.”
ACTU news release.

China: New concerns after tech worker ‘overwork’ death

Claims that another Chinese tech worker has died after excessive overtime have reignited debate over the industry’s “996 culture”. The company denied that it overworked the employee, but said it would now pay more attention to the health of its employees. The 25-year-old reportedly died in hospital soon after he was taken to hospital from his home. Bilibili, the Chinese video streaming company listed in New York and Hong Kong where the man was employed as a content auditor, said company representatives went to the hospital to assist and then notified his family. Bilibili released an internal memo rejecting claims the employee – who reportedly died of a brain haemorrhage – was overworked. But reports of his death by a workplace blogger renewed heated discussion about a toxic overtime culture dubbed “996” – referring to an expectation that employees, especially in the tech industry, work from 9am to 9pm six days a week. A hashtag related to the man’s death and including the allegation of overwork trended on Weibo, receiving hundreds of millions of views, including accusations the government had not done enough to address the problems after a spate of high-profile deaths linked to overwork in 2020. Following extensive online discussion, Bilibili released a new statement. “First, the company will make the greatest efforts to expand the recruitment of auditors, and recruit 1,000 more people this year. Second, the company will pay more attention to the physical health of employees,” it said, listing increased physical examinations and the establishment of an onsite mental and physical health clinic.
South China Morning Post. Bloomberg. The Guardian. More on the hazards of overwork.

Global: Final push for ‘fundamental right’ to safe work

Workers’ unions worldwide are pressing their demand for health and safety to finally become a globally recognised fundamental principle and right at work. “It’s a no-brainer. Every working person should know that they have the right to expect that everything is done to keep them safe at work. We demand that the International Labour Organisation (ILO) adopts occupational health and safety as a fundamental right at work. It’s as important as freedom of association and the elimination of forced labour, child labour and discrimination in employment,” said ITUC general secretary Sharan Burrow. ITUC said three years have passed since the ILO Centenary Conference agreed that this would be done. In that time over 8 million people have died as a result of their work, and even more now live with life-altering injuries and illnesses because their employer did not protect them. A final decision is expected at ILO’s June 2022 conference. Sharan Burrow continued: “The Covid-19 pandemic has demonstrated beyond doubt that working people can’t wait for this any longer. Workplace deaths are preventable deaths and the latest figures show that a worker dies at least once every ten seconds. By doing this the ILO will be making a start on cutting this appalling toll of death and injuries.” To press its case, ITUC is urging unions worldwide to again take up the issue of health and safety as a fundamental right on International Workers’ Memorial Day, 28 April. The global union body is also pressing for other improvements. “Employers must take responsibility for assessing and eradicating risks in their workplaces and in their supply chains, and consulting unions on prevention through workplace health and safety committees,” Burrow said. “And we need the ILO to do more and address challenges like stress at work, musculoskeletal disorders and a convention on biological hazards like Covid-19. It is urgent that Covid-19 is recognised for the workplace threat that it is. Health and safety should be the first priority at work, not an occasional after thought.”
ITUC news release and 28 April #iwmd22 webpages.

USA: Study confirms union safety effect

New evidence has confirmed the ‘union advantage’ when it comes to workplace health and safety, US construction union LIUNA has said. LIUNA general president Terry O’Sullivan said: “Study after study continues to show the advantages of using union labour and union contractors in the construction industry. From better safety and health outcomes to stronger wages that push workers into the middle class and strengthen communities and our economy, the advantages are clear.” The union points to a new study conducted by the Illinois Economic Policy Institute (ILEPI) and the Project for Middle Class Renewal (PMCR) at the University of Illinois. It examined data from more than 37,000 inspections conducted by the US safety regulator OSHA in 2019. The study found union jobsites were 19 per cent less likely to have health and safety violations than non-union jobsites. When safety and health violations were present, OSHA inspectors issued 34 per cent fewer violations per inspection on union sites compared to non-union sites. “The union construction industry trains its workforce in these rigorous joint management apprenticeship programmes at a much higher rate of investment than the non-union side,” said ILEPI executive director Joe Manzo. “You get what you pay for, but you also bear the consequences of what you don’t pay for.” Study co-author and PMCR director Dr Robert Bruno noted this oversight and accountability as a factor in why union firms have superior safety records overall compared to non-union firms. “The data is very clear: embracing the institutions that correlate with better safety outcomes in physically demanding occupations can be a win-win-win for workers, businesses and taxpayers alike,” he said.
LHSFNA news report. The Illinois Update.
Frank Manzo, Michael Jekot and Robert Bruno. The impact of unions on construction worksite health and safety: Evidence from OSHA inspections, ILEPI, 2021.
The Union Effect: How unions make a difference on health and safety, TUC, 2016. More on the union safety effect.


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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