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



Changes to sick pay rules creates a pandemic threat

Imminent changes to sick pay rules will leave those off work due to Covid-19 just £38 to get through the first week of their illness, the TUC has warned. The Tory government’s decision to end day-one statutory sick pay payments (SSP) for Covid from 24 March will put millions of workers at risk of extra hardship, the union body said. Infected workers will have to wait until their fourth day of sickness before they can receive any state support, prime minister Boris Johnson told the Commons on 21 February. The three-day waiting period already applies to all other illness absences except Covid-19, but emergency pandemic provisions are now being rolled back as ministers call for Britain to “learn to live” with the virus. The change, which could affect up to 6.8 million workers who rely on SSP as their only form of financial support when ill, means people face having to survive on less than half the £96 a week currently available, the TUC said. The move is “adding insult to injury,” it said, as Britain already has one of the lowest sick pay rates in Europe — and two million workers do not even earn enough to qualify for it. TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said that “£38 a week is a pittance for people to be able to survive on. What planet are ministers on?” She added: “The failure to provide decent sick pay to all is a threat to public health and will leave the UK vulnerable to future variants and pandemics.” GMB head of safety Dan Shears described the UK government’s sick pay move as “an act of national self-sabotage.” As a further part of the rule changes, the £500 self-isolation support payment for people on low incomes who test positive for coronavirus ended on 24 February.
Prime minister’s 21 February statement to the House of Commons, related Number 10 news story and COVID-19 Response: Living with COVID-19. GMB news release. Morning Star.

Don’t rush back into workplaces

The end of Covid restrictions should not be a greenlight for the civil service to engineer a rush back to workplaces, civil service union PCS has stressed. The union said before staff return to their workplaces risk assessments need to happen, and provision made for vulnerable workers, together with ongoing protections for isolation and sickness absence. PCS has also called “for hybrid working to be normalised.” The union was commented after prime minister Boris Johnson’s 21 February statement which PCS said “effectively announced the end of the overwhelming majority of Covid measures implemented by the government.” The prime minister told a press conference: “In England, we will remove all remaining domestic restrictions in law,” noting from 24 February “it will no longer be law to self-isolate if you test positive, and so we will also end the provision of self-isolation support payments, although Statutory Sick Pay can still be claimed for a further month. If you’re a fully vaccinated close contact or under 18 you will no longer be asked to test daily for seven days. And if you are close contact who is not fully vaccinated you will no longer be required to self-isolate.” PCS responded “that under no circumstances should the announcement to be taken as a greenlight by the civil service to engineer a headlong rush back to the circumstances that prevailed before the pandemic. There needs to be a period of reflection during which time negotiations should take place” on ongoing safety measures , provision for vulnerable workers and sickness absence and isolation rules. The union added: “PCS and our negotiators are committed to maximising safety and minimising risk.”
Prime minister’s press conference statement, 21 February 2022. PCS news release.

Government must rethink schools rules axe

Chaos will reign in schools and millions of hours of learning will be lost unless the government rows back from the ‘reckless’ decision to scrap all remaining Covid safety rules in England, three education unions have warned. GMB, UNISON and Unite are urging the prime minister to think again and keep in place free testing and the requirement to self-isolate, as an absolute minimum. The three unions say the UK government’s failure to provide clear, detailed guidance risks a super spreader free-for-all in schools and other workplaces. GMB national officer Avril Chambers said: “You have to question the motive behind this reckless decision. We suspect it’s yet another decision taken by this prime minister out of self-interest rather than for the good of the country.” She added: “The prime minister needs to act responsibly. He must leave free tests and isolation requirements in place until there is scientific evidence that they no longer serve a purpose.” Mike Short, UNISON head of education, said: “Protection and safety are what’s needed, but there’s only confusion on offer from the government. Parents and staff are desperate for a return to normality – but not at any cost.” He added: “Rather than throw caution to the wind and jeopardise the education of children who’ve lost so much, it’s time to show leadership, put aside self-interest and err on the side of caution." And Jim Kennedy, Unite national officer, said: “Once again the prime minister is disregarding working people’s and the public’s health – this time school staff, children and their families – through reckless measures meant only to please his back benchers. Unite calls on Boris Johnson to ensure that the safety of children, parents and staff are prioritised ahead of his own narrow political interests.” Teaching union NEU raised similar concerns, noting: “Whereas Omicron has faded across the population, it is nonetheless a presence in schools.”
GMB news release. UNISON news release and update. NEU news release.

End of free Covid tests is ‘a real threat’

The UK government’s ‘Living with Covid-19’ plan for removing the remaining legal restrictions presents a ‘real threat’, creative industries union Bectu has said. Among the changes announced was and end to free universal symptomatic and asymptomatic testing for the general public in England from 1 April. Expressing concern at the plan, Bectu warned creative workers can’t socially distance in their roles, increasing the risk of Covid-19 spreading within venues and putting productions at risk of closure or operating with reduced staff. Head of Bectu Philippa Childs said: “The removal of free Covid tests poses a real threat to the safe and continued operation of venues, and the safety of staff who work in them. We only need to look back to last December to see how Covid-19 outbreaks can have a devastating impact on shows’ ability to stay open.” She added: “Continuing to provide free lateral flow tests would help alleviate both workers’ and customers’ uncertainty and allow the sector to continue to operate with confidence.”
Bectu news release.

Changes ‘to hit low-paid workers hard’

The end of Covid rules will leave low paid workers are an increased risk, retail union Usdaw has warned. The union was commenting after prime minister Boris Johnson scrapped the remaining Covid legal restrictions in England and said he wanted to shift the onus from state mandates to personal responsibility. Under the Living with Covid plan which took effect on 24 February, the legal requirement to self-isolate after testing positive for Covid has ended, as well as provision of free tests. Usdaw general secretary Paddy Lillis said “there is some concern whether this is based on following the science or political convenience. Covid is still out there, and infections remain high, so we urge a cautious approach to lifting all restrictions.” He added: “Leaving self-isolation up to individuals means that many people who can’t afford to take time off may feel pressured into going into work. It could also lead to spike in infections, putting more pressure on staffing levels and on low paid workers’ finances.” The Usdaw leader said scrapping free tests “is purely an economic decision by the government. However, charging for tests will price out low-paid workers who are already struggling to make ends meet with food and fuel prices rising, energy bills soaring and real wages falling. This will be an additional cost that many cannot afford.” He said despite the government removing mask wearing and other rules, the union “will continue to call on employers to put the safety of our members first and urge the public to respect shopworkers by wearing face coverings, observing hand hygiene and maintaining social distancing.”
Usdaw news release.

Wales retains mask wearing in shops

Retail trade union Usdaw has welcomed the Welsh government decision to retain the legal requirement for shoppers to wear face coverings. While the requirement is being phased out in some public venues, face coverings will continue in Welsh retail, transport and health care settings, possibly for another month. Usdaw general secretary Paddy Lillis said: “It is sensible and measured to keep the requirement to wear a face covering in shops. While Covid appears to be in decline, the pandemic is not over yet. Wearing a face covering protects others and we welcome that the Welsh government has been clear and consistent on it being mandatory in stores.” He added: “Usdaw is urging the shopping public to wear a face covering, if they can, to help make shops safer. We ask the public to follow the rules and respect shopworkers, abuse is not a part of their job. We continue to call on retail employers to maintain appropriate safety measures, ensuring they are followed consistently in every store. Many shopworkers are at a greater risk of catching the virus, simply because of the number of people they interact with on every shift. Yet they have worked throughout the pandemic to keep our communities supplied with essentials. These key workers must be valued, respected and protected.”
Usdaw news release. Welsh government guidelines, updated 28 February 2022.


Sickness is forcing workers out of their jobs

Thousands of older workers are being forced out of the labour market by ill-health, a TUC report has warned. The analysis by the union body shows that the number of older workers who have left the labour market due to sickness and ill-health (97,000) is nearly twice the rate of those who have retired (50,000) during the pandemic.  Overall, the number of people aged 50-65 who were not looking for work increased by 200,000 since the pandemic began. The analysis shows those in working class jobs are much more likely to say they have left the labour market due to sickness. Around four in ten workers (40 per cent) in ‘process plant and machinery jobs’ and ‘elementary occupations’ - such as security guards and cleaners - say they have left the labour market due to sickness or ill-health, compared with one in ten who work in professional occupations. TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “All workers should be able to retire in dignity with a decent pension when the time is right. But many older workers – particularly BME workers and those who work in working-class professions - are being forced to stop work earlier due to ill-health. They must not be consigned to years of poverty and sickness.”  The TUC leader said the government “should stop plans for further rises in the pension age and focus on improving support for people who are being forced out of work by ill-health,” adding it “must tackle the structural inequalities that are forcing BME and low-income older workers out of the labour market before retirement age.” 
TUC news release and report, Older workers after the pandemic: creating an inclusive labour market, 23 February 2022.

Rules needed on intrusive worker surveillance

Intrusive worker surveillance tech and AI risks “spiralling out of control” without stronger regulation to protect workers, the TUC has warned. Left unchecked, the union body says that these technologies could lead to widespread discrimination, work intensification and unfair treatment. The warning came as the TUC published new polling, conducted by Britain Thinks, which revealed an overwhelming majority of workers (60 per cent) believe they have been subject to some form of surveillance and monitoring at their current or most recent job. Surveillance can include monitoring of emails and files, webcams on work computers, tracking of when and how much a worker is typing, calls made and movements made by the worker, using CCTV and trackable devices. Three in 10 (28 per cent) agree monitoring and surveillance at work has increased since Covid – and young workers are particularly likely to agree (36 per cent of 18-34 year olds). There has been a notable increase in workers reporting surveillance and monitoring in the past year alone (60 per cent in 2021 compared to 53 per cent 2020). Last year the TUC launched its manifesto, Dignity at work and the AI revolution, for the fair and transparent use of AI at work (Risks 991). Commenting on the new polling, TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said:  “Worker surveillance tech has taken off during this pandemic – and now risks spiralling out of control. Employers are delegating serious decisions to algorithms – such as recruitment, promotions and sometimes even sackings.” She added: “Workers and unions must be properly consulted on the use of AI, and be protected from its punitive ways of working. And it's time for ministers to bring forward the long-awaited employment bill to give workers a right to disconnect and properly switch off outside of working hours.”
TUC news release, TUC AI manifesto and examples of surveillance and monitoring of workers. Financial Times. People Management.

UK workers put in £27 billion in unpaid overtime

UK employers claimed £27 billion of free labour last year because of workers doing unpaid overtime, according to a new analysis published by the TUC. Commenting on 25 February, the TUC’s 18th annual Work Your Proper Hours Day, the union body said 3.8 million people did unpaid overtime in 2021, putting in an average of 7.6 unpaid hours a week. On average, that’s equivalent to £7,100 a year of wages going unpaid for work done. It said the figures show that promises to ‘build back better’ are not being fulfilled when it comes to workers being paid for all the hours they work. It said unpaid overtime was higher than in 2020. The TUC added the combination of labour shortages in parts of the economy and the cost of living crisis is likely to mean that many people are working more intensely for shrinking real pay packets. TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Britain is now facing both labour shortages and a cost of living crisis. If the government does not take action to support workers, they will end up working longer hours for less pay.” She added: “The Chancellor should use his spring statement to set out plans to tackle labour shortages in public services, and to fund training where there are skills shortages. And he should come forward with a plan to get wages rising across the economy.” She said in a rise in the hours of those working from home should be addressed by ministers “by bringing in new rights to flexible working for everyone, including a right to switch-off outside working hours.”
TUC news release. Wales TUC news release.

‘Unsustainable’ rise in teachers' working hours

An ‘unsustainable’ rise in teachers’ working hours must be tackled, teaching union NASUWT has said. Commenting on figures released by the TUC to mark Work Your Proper Hours Day last week, which suggest that teachers work among the longest hours of any profession, the union’s general secretary Dr Patrick Roach said: “Teachers yet again rank among the professions working the highest number of hours, with the TUC’s figures suggesting both an increase in the number of teachers undertaking unpaid overtime in 2021 and a rise in the number of unpaid extra hours worked. The pandemic has undoubtedly exacerbated the problem of excessive workload within teaching still further, with nine in ten teachers in our recent teacher wellbeing survey saying they have experienced more work-related stress in the last year and over half saying that levels of workload are the biggest contributor to the growth in that stress.” But he said teachers face ‘significant barriers’ to reducing the hours pressure. “Half of teachers in our survey said that their school does not provide flexible working opportunities. Member casework reveals that even where flexible working is offered, the reality is often very far from supportive or sufficient to meet teachers’ needs and offer them a genuine work/life balance. Providing world class education for children and young people does not and should not need to be at the expense of teachers’ health and welfare. Teachers deserve a better deal on their working hours, workloads and pay.”
NASUWT news release and wellbeing survey.

Teachers ranked high on the overwork league table

The appearance of teachers yet again high on league table of professions working the most unpaid overtime demonstrates the need for urgent action, teaching union NEU has said. Commenting on an analysis released by the TUC for Work Your Proper Hours Day on 25 February, NEU joint general secretary Dr Mary Bousted said: “Yet again teachers rank very highly in the list of professions working the most unpaid overtime. This is a problem that has been going on for decades. The government launched an effort to tackle workload in 2015, but it became a damp squib achieving very little.” The NEU leader added: “This is not a sustainable situation, and it is leading to burnout. Significant numbers of recently trained teachers are leaving within the first five years of qualifying, invariably citing workload as the issue. Unless the government gets serious on the root causes, these losses will continue."
NEU news release.

Cambridge tutors criticise ‘explosive workloads’

Cambridge University lecturers are accusing the institution of pressuring them into taking on “explosive workloads” to deliver its famous one-on-one tutorials. A survey of university teaching officers (UTOs) by the University and College Union (UCU) Cambridge branch found that a third (35 per cent) felt they could not refuse requests from peers and superiors to take on extra weekly tutorials, or “supervisions” as they are known, even though nearly half of those surveyed said they would like to deliver fewer of them. Michael Abberton, the president of the UCU Cambridge branch, said: “The supervision system is not working for anyone in its current set up. It exploits casual workers, who need to earn an income and accumulate teaching experience. It overburdens permanent staff, who are already under the pressure of explosive workloads.” He added: “The university and the colleges cannot keep on denying that the system needs urgent reform, with improvements over pay, contracts and training for undergraduate supervisors.” Nearly threequarters (73 per cent) of the UTOs surveyed by UCU said they delivered more than five hours of supervision a week, with preparation time averaging about 20 hours, on top of their full-time teaching schedules. Half said they worked more than 50 hours and 21 per cent exceeded 60 hours a week, with some saying they were prevented from doing the research required to further their academic careers.
UCU Cambridge branch meeting alert. The Guardian.

Bectu’s welfare policy to improve mental health

Creative industries union Bectu has launched a welfare policy to support the mental health of people working in film and TV production. Initiated by the union’s members working in the sector, the document provides a model mental health, stress and wellbeing policy for companies. Bectu said the new policy “is a result of members’ desire for clear guidance addressing stress and mental health risks faced by workers in the industry. The New Deal for Freelancers group, formed by Bectu representatives at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, reviewed working practices and conditions in the wider industry and identified greater support for welfare and general wellbeing in the film and TV sector as a key issue.” The union said research and consultation with industry stakeholders for the policy’s development unearthed a lack of existing welfare or mental health policies targeted at the industry. Measures in the new policy include ensuring productions are meeting their legal obligations to workers, including on stress risk assessment. Head of Bectu Philippa Childs said: “I am proud of our reps and members who initiated the development of this important policy, and the industry stakeholders who we worked closely with to ensure that mental wellbeing is promoted across the creative industries.” She added: “We hope this policy will spark a wider conversation about investment in the wellbeing of the UK’s talented film and TV crews.”
Bectu news release and policy.

BA workers spat at and abused as tech crashes

GMB members working for British Airways have been spat and abused as the airline cancelled flights following IT problems last weekend. The union said the blame lies with the airline’s decision to outsource IT systems to India in 2016 - as well as years of chronic under-investment in the business. In a letter to BA CEO Sean Doyle, the GMB described how workers were forced to tell disabled customers they had to sleep in the airport and watch as families put their babies to sleep on luggage. The letter warned morale among the workforce is ‘at rock bottom’ after British Airways’ fire and rehire threat during the pandemic left thousands with worse pay, terms and conditions. GMB national officer Nadine Houghton said: “This weekend our members have been spat at, suffered homophobic abuse and watched as disabled customers and babies were forced to sleep in the airport. It didn’t have to be this way – but under-investment in the business, plus the decision in 2016 to make hundreds of dedicated and loyal IT staff redundant and outsource the work to India are taking their toll.” She added: “Our experienced, dedicated and hardworking members fear this is now just the tip of the iceberg for the airline with a summer of chaos now a very real prospect. GMB invites Mr Doyle to walk a mile in their shoes and hear directly about the lasting impact BA’s failed fire and rehire policy is having on the very members you are now relying on to rebuild the airline.”
GMB news release.

Receptionist unfairly fired for severe morning sickness

A law firm receptionist has been awarded a £23,000 payout after her bosses told her she was “no longer needed” while off work sick with debilitating severe morning sickness. Kiran Nasreen was diagnosed with hyperemesis gravidarum, which can leave women bedridden and vomiting, and told her boss, Dr Akbar Ali Malik, she was unable to work. But an employment tribunal heard her texts and calls were ignored, so her husband went into the office on her behalf to explain. The panel was told Dr Malik was “hostile” and refused to take her sick notes or medical evidence because she was “no longer needed” after working at the firm for three years. Mrs Nasreen won her discrimination claim after a panel ruled that bosses believed her difficult pregnancy was “inconvenient” to the firm. The employment tribunal awarded her £23,000 compensation for pregnancy discrimination, unauthorised deduction from wages and unfair dismissal.
Full decision: Ms K Nasreen v Dr Malik T/a Malik Law Solicitors (in intervention): 3201138/2018 - Reasons. The Mirror. Daily Mail.

Union expert appointed to Scottish dog control review

Dave Joyce, the national safety officer for the union CWU, has been appointed to a Scottish government-led Dog Control and Dangerous Dogs Law Review Group. The union safety specialist, who has spearheaded the CWU ‘bite back’ campaign to protect postal workers, telephone engineers and other CWU members from dog attacks, joins a process to review Scotland’s 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act. The working group will look at the legislation, enforcement, dog owner ‘strict liability’, statutory guidance and a joint enforcement protocol involving Scottish local authorities and Police Scotland. Joyce said the legal system in Scotland differs from the rest of the UK and has presented a barrier to successful enforcement of the current dog control law. He added the number of dog attacks in Scotland rose by 80 per cent over a decade but prosecutions remained comparatively low. The CWU safety specialist re-launched its bite back campaign in Scotland in 2018, resulting in the Scottish parliament accepting the Dangerous Dogs Act should be reviewed. A post-implementation review was carried out by a committee of Scottish MSPs in 2019 and confirmed the CWU’s assertion that the act was not fit for purpose, making 35 recommendations to the government. According to CWU, there are between 2,500 and 3,000 dog attacks on postal workers across the UK every year. The union added “1,000 postal workers have been attacked through the letter box in the last five years, many having fingers bitten off.”
CWU Bite Back campaign. Union Safety.

Why no action six years after four demolition deaths?

An investigation into a building collapse that killed four demolition workers has still not reached a conclusion, six years after the tragedy, bereaved families have said. Mick Collings, Chris Huxtable, Ken Cresswell and John Shaw died on 23 February 2016 when a boiler house collapsed during the demolition of Didcot power station in Oxfordshire (Risks 929). It was six months before three of the bodies could be recovered because of the danger of a further collapse. Families Against Corporate Killers (FACK), which is supporting the bereaved families, said six years on “no time frame for any conclusion has been given” by the joint investigation involving police, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and the Crown Prosecution Service.  The four men were all experienced demolition workers employed by specialist firm the Coleman Group. Mr Cresswell’s wife Gail said there had been “six years without answers for our men, who just went to work, and also for all the men still working in this industry that need answers too, so no other families go through this dreadful nightmare like us.” Tia Huxtable, daughter of Chris Huxtable, said: “We as the family of Chris are deeply appalled that after six years, we still have no answers why my loving dad went to work on that fateful day and never returned home to us." Hilda Palmer of FACK said: “The longer this goes on, the harder it is for the families, other demolition workers are at risk and it becomes less likely that any justice will be delivered.” A Thames Valley Police statement said: "At this time we cannot put a timeframe on when the investigation will conclude, however I would like to be very clear that we will not stop in our pursuit of answers for the families.”
FACK news release. Thames Valley Police statement. BBC News Online. Morning Star.

Company convicted after electrician dies in fall

A company has been convicted of criminal safety offences and fined £1.5 million after an electrician was killed when he fell about eight metres after stepping on an unmaintained access panel. Teesside Crown Court heard that on 25 October 2016, whilst working at Cleveland Bridge UK Limited’s Darlington site, electrician Keith Poppleton was repairing wiring that had been causing a short circuit on the lifting equipment of a large overhead gantry crane. As he was walking along the crane’s walkway, an access panel gave way beneath his feet. The 54-year-old sustained fatal injuries in the fall and was pronounced dead at hospital. Judge Timothy Stead was scathing in his assessment of Cleveland Bridge, criticising its inability to introduce appropriate health and safety measures. “The entirety of the blame falls on Cleveland Bridge and its failings over a period of many years,” he said. “The highest standards of safety had to be maintained with regard to that walkway. The evidence reveals there was no inspection or maintenance of that walkway at all. This is something that had prevailed for decades.” The judge added: “The culpability here is high. The principal reasons for that are that the company allowed the breaches to subsist over a long period of time. They failed to put in place measures which are recognised standards in such circumstances.” After a prosecution brought by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), Cleveland Bridge UK Ltd was found guilty of four criminal safety offences and fined £1.5 million and ordered to pay costs of £29,239. Catherine Poppleton, the wife of the former college lecturer in electrical engineering, said: “The day Keith died a large part of me died with him. He was my world, he was the reason my life was interesting, exciting, safe and I felt loved. He was risk-averse and this respect for safety was something he practised as well as taught. I feel that the ‘me’ before losing Keith has gone. I do not feel like myself anymore, I do not feel whole.”
HSE news release. Northern Echo. The Gazette.

Boss of asbestos removal firm jailed

An asbestos management company director has been jailed for 10 months after failing to protect workers from asbestos exposure during a major refurbishment project in Plymouth. Plymouth Magistrates’ Court heard that in February 2017 concerns were raised by workers at Ensure Asbestos Management Limited, who believed they were being put in danger whilst carrying out refurbishment work at a department store where the firm had been retained to survey and remove asbestos containing material. An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) discovered irregularities in the asbestos surveys and clearance certificates, with some found to be fraudulent. Ensure Asbestos Management Limited pleaded guilty to a criminal safety offence was fined £100,000. Because the company is in liquidation, there is no prospect of a payment being made and so no order for costs was made. Billy Hopwood, the director of Ensure Asbestos Management, pleaded guilty to two criminal safety offences and was sentenced to 10 months imprisonment. He has was also disqualified from being a company director for five years. Contracts manager Phillip Hopwood pleaded guilty to three criminal breaches and will be sentenced at a later date. HSE inspector Georgina Symons commented: “Ensure Asbestos Management Limited – a previously licensed asbestos removal contractor – failed to work within the law despite having a wealth of knowledge on the risks associated with exposure to asbestos and the necessary training to have done so safely. They deliberately falsified documents and cut corners.”
HSE news release.

Suspended sentence after scrapyard worker crushed

A motor vehicle scrap company’s director has been given a suspended jail term after a worker suffered crush injuries in an incident involving a forklift truck. Cambridge Magistrates’ Court heard how on 1 March 2021, an employee of Queensferry Car Breakers Limited was injured when he was hit and run over by a forklift truck driven by his employer Ghol Mohammad Navabi. The forklift truck was being used to transport engine parts from the scrapyard up a loading ramp into the back of a metal container. Whilst Mr Navabi was inside the container, he asked the worker to collect a car bonnet. The worker left the container and walked down the ramp returning quicker than Mr Navabi expected. As he was walking back up the ramp Mr Navabi reversed down it and ran over him, which resulted in multiple fractures to the worker’s legs. An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) into the incident found that the forklift truck had not been adequately maintained, had no working foot brake, no working hand brake and the steering was defective. There were no measures in place to segregate pedestrians and moving vehicles and the company had no Employer’s Liability Compulsory Insurance. Queensferry Car Breakers Limited pleaded guilty a series of criminal safety offences and was fined £60,000 and ordered to pay costs of £3,923. Sole director Ghol Mohammad Navabi pleaded guilty to a criminal safety offence and was given a 20-week prison sentence suspended for 12 months, including 15 rehabilitation activity requirement days and 180 unpaid work hours. He was also ordered to pay prosecution costs of £3,923.
HSE news release.

Manufacturing firm fined after forklift fatality

A West Midlands manufacturing company has been fined after an employee was found fatally injured under the forks of a side-loader lift truck. Dudley Magistrates’ Court heard that on 2 September 2019, Cutting Edge Trading Limited employee Mitchell Poutney was fatally injured at the company site in Rowley Regis during a lifting operation. The unsupported forks and carriage of a side-loader lift truck descended, crushing the 23-year-old as he was working underneath. An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the company had failed to provide a safe system of work for unloading palletised goods using the side-loader forklift truck. Cutting Edge Trading Limited, which manufactures MDF skirting board and architrave, door linings and plinth and architrave blocks, pleaded guilty to a criminal safety offence and was fined £18,000 and ordered to pay costs of £10,153. HSE principal inspector Jenny Skeldon commented: “This tragic incident could have easily been prevented if this employer had acted to identify and manage the risks involved and put a safe system of work in place.”
HSE news release. Halesowen News.


Candlelit vigil for work Covid victims, 11 March

The UK Hazards Campaign is organising a national candlelit vigil to commemorated those who have died from work-related Covid-19. The event on 11 March marks the second anniversary of when the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared Covid a pandemic. The campaign suggests people light candles, hold up pictures of work colleagues and loved ones who have died and invite people to say something about them. It adds they might invite family members, workers, local trade unionists and politicians to support the event and remind them that workers are still facing risks in the workplace every day. If people don't want to attend an event they can put a poster in their window or light a candle safely on their door step, and post a picture online using one the event’s hashtags, the campaign says.
Candlelit vigil for workers who died because of Covid, 11 March 2022, nationwide. Send information about what you are doing in your city, town or workplace to Janet Newsham so that the campaign can share details on social media and through its trade union networks.
Suggested hashtags: #Candle4CovidkilledWorkers, #VigilForWorkers, #ShineLightOnWorkers


New legal duty extends PPE provision for all workers

A new briefing from the trade union law firm Thompsons Solicitors spells out a new legal duty on employers to provide PPE to all workers. The move follows a November 2020 High Court ruling in a case concerning gig or ‘limb’ workers who had been denied free PPE. The court confirmed gig workers should have the same occupational safety and health protections as employees. As a consequence, changes to the UK PPE regulations taking effect on 6 April mean all workers must be provided with suitable Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for free. The changes are set out in the Personal Protective Equipment at Work (Amendment) Regulations 2022.
Thompsons Solicitors briefing on PPE. HSE guidance on the regulations and on PPE.


Australia: State says insecure work is a health hazard

In an Australian first, Western Australia (WA) has formally recognised that job insecurity can harm both a worker’s physical and mental health. A new code of practice on psychosocial hazards in the workplace introduced by the state safety watchdog provides practical guidance on how all workplaces across the state can comply with their duties under its Occupational Safety and Health Act. Codes do not have the same legal force as regulations, but can still be used by courts to assess if an organisation has taken the “reasonable steps” required by law to ensure a safe workplace. According to Alexis Vassiley of Edith Cowan University’s Centre for Work and Wellbeing, including insecure work in WA’s code is unlikely to change much in the short term. “Real change will require legislative reform or an increase in union strength,” he noted. “Some countries in Europe, for example, now have laws limiting the numbers of temporary agency workers and those on fixed term contracts. Such laws also need to be backed up by enforcement mechanisms – notably vastly increased resources for regulators.” He continued: “The WA government’s new code of practice represents an important first step within Australia’s industrial relations landscape. Formal recognition of insecure work as a health hazard should act as spur to further reform. Insecure work is widespread. We know what’s wrong with it. It’s time to do more about it.” Two of Australia’s leading experts in this field, Michael Quinlan of the University of New South Wales Sydney and Elsa Underhill of Deakin University, told an ongoing federal Senate inquiry into job security there are three major negative outcomes of insecurity: higher incidence/frequency of injuries, including fatalities; poorer physical and mental health (such as from bullying); and poorer knowledge of, and access to, employment rights and less willingness to raise concerns.
Code of practice - Psychosocial hazards in the workplace, Western Australia Worksafe 2022. The Conversation.

Bangladesh: Child among the dead in shoe factory fire

At least three people, including a 15-year-old girl, have been killed and several others injured in a 23 February fire at an ‘illegal’ shoe factory, the global union IndustriALL has said. According to reports, the factory, owned by Uniworld Footwear Technology Limited and located in an industrial area in Savar, lacked both safety measures and a permit to operate. Christina Hajagos-Clausen, director of textiles and the garment industry at IndustriALL, said: “This tragic loss of lives once again underscores the need to have binding agreement on workers’ safety. The International Accord, which covers ready-made garments, is a proven agreement to do this, but without a global binding agreement covering all product categories, factories and brands, workers in the textile, garment, leather and shoe sector continue to put their lives at risk.” Local officials vowed to take legal action against the owner of the illegal factory and have promised financial compensation to the victims’ families. “Promises of paying compensation to the families each time a worker is killed in a factory fire is not enough. The administration must ensure that penal action is taken against the factory owner for illegal operations,” commented Apoorva Kaiwar, IndustriALL South Asia regional secretary and a signatory to the International Safety Accord.
IndustriALL news release.

Global: New ILO code to improve construction safety

More than 229 million construction workers around the globe may benefit from a revised and updated code of practice on safety and health, adopted by International Labour Organisation (ILO) experts from governments and employers’ and workers’ organisations. The ILO says the updated code, discussed during a five-day meeting of experts concluding on 25 February, takes account of new areas in the sector that require improved health and safety practices and other protective measures in view of the changes in working practices and conditions in the construction industry over the past decades. Key revisions include new or improved language proposed by unions on issues including chemicals, carcinogens, silica, asbestos, biological hazards, ergonomics, procurement and, for the first time in an adopted ILO text, psychosocial risks at work. The code is due to come into force in November this year. “I am convinced that the revised ILO Code of Practice will provide key practical guidance throughout the construction project cycle in order to protect workers in the construction sector,” said Mónica Tepfer, the worker vice-chair. “We want to acknowledge the aspirational scope of the adopted code with new provisions covering environmental sustainability, which is becoming a key priority for workers in the sector.” BWI, the global union for construction workers that coordinated the workers’ group in the negotiations, said the new code for the first time makes a clear connection between construction, extreme weather events and disaster management, and the need to take occupational health and safety into account when developing a “just transition towards environmentally sustainable economies and societies for all.”
BWI news release. ILO news release.


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