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

Between 9th – 11th July the TUC is running a number of events to support the union organising agenda, under the banner Organise 2020. A number of these are health and safety related, including:
  • Getting creative with the Health and Safety agenda, featuring Dave Smith. Register here.
  • Organising on mental health: from Resilience to Resistance. Register here.
  • Supporting more women to become Health and Safety reps. Register here.


UNISON safety rep recruitment drive amid Covid crisis

UNISON is launching a ‘Be on the safe side’ campaign to recruit more safety reps in workplaces across the UK. The public sector union said the move comes in the wake of its tireless campaign to protect its members at work during the Covid-19 pandemic. UNISON added it has supported its safety reps in carrying out their difficult role, whether ensuring that members have access to correct PPE, conducting workplace risk assessments or addressing the particular risks to Black and vulnerable workers. “The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the fact that it vital for every workplace to have a safety rep,” said UNISON’s acting national secretary Donna Rowe-Merriman. “A workplace without a safety rep potentially puts the safety of our members at risk. It is UNISON safety reps who keep our members safe, by holding employers to account and ensuring the voice of members is heard.” With a significant increase in membership in recent months, she said it was more important than ever for UNISON to recruit more safety reps. “UNISON members in schools, hospitals, offices, call centres and care homes know exactly what they and their colleagues need to be able to work safely while carrying out their duties. Their work skills are invaluable as a safety rep – whether as a cleaner working with chemicals, a catering assistant working with children or someone working in large office complexes or call centres, no-one understands the job better.”
UNISON news release and pointers on becoming a UNISON health and safety rep. UNISON campaign on twitter: #BeOnTheSafeSide

Covid workplace guidance ‘not fit for purpose’

The GMB has slammed the government’s updated Covid-19 workplace guidance, warning it will not protect workers or head off a second spike. Commenting on updated guidance issued on 24 June, GMB national health and safety officer Dan Shears said: “Nobody wants to get Britain back working more than GMB, but it has to be safely. The government's guidance is still not fit for purpose. It is not clear enough on the protective measures that employers must take and the policy on the provision of PPE - particularly face masks - is potentially dangerous for those workers who have been shielding and will be going back to workplaces where social distancing will not be maintained at all, let alone at 1m plus.” The GMB safety specialist added: “Shielding workers who cannot work from home will be expected to return to workplaces that are ‘Covid-safe’. This guidance still does not provide confidence or assurance that workplaces will actually be safe even if this guidance is followed. We need spot inspections and enforcement, especially if a second wave of Covid infections is to be avoided this winter.” The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) been criticised for largely abandoning workplace inspection visits during the crisis. The regulator’s return to work guidelines do not call for provision of masks for workers outside of health and social care settings.
GMB news release. UK guidance on Working safely during coronavirus (Covid-19) and updates webpage. HSE guidelines: Working safely during the coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak; PPE guidelines; Manufacturing: returning to work safely during the coronavirus outbreak, HSE, June 2020.

Public enquiry ‘imperative’ on inequality and work practices

Unite is calling for an urgent ‘warts and all’ public inquiry into the death rates of workers from Covid-19 during the pandemic. The union made its call following the publication this week of the latest Office of National Statistics (ONS) report into deaths by occupation up to 25 May 2020. The ONS found that nearly two-thirds (65.6 per cent) of Covid-19 deaths were of male workers. However, Unite said that attention must also be paid to the high level of deaths among women workers in sectors including retail, health and social care where there has been a total of 377 women worker deaths compared to 270 men. The ONS found that 17 occupations have significantly increased death rates due to Covid-19, including taxi drivers and chauffeurs (135 deaths), security guards (107 deaths) and bus and coach drivers (54 deaths). In what Unite described as ‘disturbing’ findings, the report notes that of the 17 specific occupations that had increased death rates, 11 had a high proportion of black and ethnic minority (BAEM) workers. However, the ONS report does not record deaths by ethnicity and occupation. Unite assistant general secretary Diana Holland said: “The UK has suffered terribly from the pandemic and in the cold light of day society must take a hard look at why certain workers were particularly vulnerable to Covid-19. Many of the professions with the highest number of deaths are not only low paid but have both a long and unsocial hours culture, which often creates specific health problems over time.” She added: “A full public inquiry into these deaths must investigate not only if these workers were failed by a lack of PPE, but also if they were significantly more susceptible to the disease due to the cumulative effects that working long and unsocial hours had on their health.”
Unite news release. Coronavirus (COVID-19) related deaths by occupation, England and Wales: deaths registered between 9 March and 25 May 2020, ONS, 26 June 2020.

Care staff death rate a national scandal, says UNISON

High Covid-19 death rates in men and women working in social care in England and Wales are a “national scandal”, public sector union UNISON has said. In its latest report, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported the “rates of death involving the coronavirus (Covid-19) among men and women social care workers were found to be statistically significantly higher than the rates of death involving Covid-19 among those of the same age and sex in England and Wales.” It added: “A total of 268 deaths involving Covid-19 among social care workers were registered between 9 March and 25 May 2020, with rates of 50.1 deaths per 100,000 men (97 deaths) and 19.1 deaths per 100,000 women (171 deaths). In this group, we included occupations such as care workers and home carers, which accounted for most of the deaths (204 out of 268 deaths, or 76.1 per cent), social workers, managers of residential care institutions, and care escorts.” Commenting on the new figures, which also showed there was a “statistically significant” Covid-19 death rate in health care workers, UNISON assistant general secretary Christina McAnea said: “These figures reflect a tragic national scandal. The government has failed to protect social care during this pandemic and even now, these issues are far from being resolved. Care workers have financial pressures to work when they should be shielding or self-isolating. Protective kit is being used for longer than is safe and testing is still not happening. Social care needs reform from top to toe to fix the system for good.”
UNISON news release. ONS figures of death rates in health and social care workers.

'Gruesome' figures show keyworkers need urgent protection

New Office of National Statistics (ONS) figures on Covid-19 related deaths show keyworkers need urgent protection, the GMB has said. The data show that workers in care, security, professional driving, nursing and other occupations are the most likely to die from Covid-19. John Phillips, acting GMB general secretary, said: “These gruesome figures show why keyworkers urgently need much better protection in the workplace. The fact that low paid workers are particularly at risk highlights the gaping inequality in our society.” He added: “Nobody wants to get Britain back working more than GMB, but it has to be done safely. The government's current guidance is simply not fit to halt this horrifying death toll.”
GMB news release.

Meat workers put at risk by safety check failures

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has failed to carry out basic on-site Covid-19 safety assessments, which has put hundreds of workers at risk of coronavirus infection in the meat slaughter and processing industry in England and Wales, UNISON has warned. The union raised its concerns in a letter to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) on 3 June, which is now investigating whether there have been breaches of safety regulations over the failure to carry out proper workplace risk assessments. UNISON said the move comes as sizeable outbreaks have been reported at meat processing firms, including in Anglesey and West Yorkshire. UNISON said it has pressed the FSA repeatedly for detailed risk assessments of food business operators throughout the coronavirus pandemic. However, the union said only generic assessments have been completed on a region-wide basis that don’t look at the arrangements in individual businesses. Within the meat industry, people are often working in places where it can be difficult to keep an adequate social distance, said UNISON, which represents hundreds of meat safety inspectors and vets that work in slaughterhouses, as well as environmental health officers who visit processing firms. Additionally, when the FSA has attended meat factory premises, union health and safety representatives have not allowed to accompany its inspectors, said UNISON. UNISON national food safety officer Paul Bell said: “It was clear from the beginning of the pandemic there were potential and serious dangers in the meat industry. Recent Covid-19 outbreaks have shown attention was needed from the start. Urgent action is required to make sure meat preparation businesses are safe.” He added: “Staff and consumers will understandably be worried, particularly as the two metre rule is relaxed. All employers must have proper safety measures in place and the FSA needs to visit each and every workplace to protect staff and restore confidence in the food on our plates.”
UNISON news release and 3 June 2020 letter to HSE.

Welsh meat plant ‘must comply’ with new guidance

Unite has said a Covid-19 hit meat processing plant must comply with new Welsh government guidance aimed at the prevention and management of the outbreak in the food sector. The guidance states that employers in the sector should ensure that employees “do not suffer a financial detriment as a result of self-isolation.” Wrexham firm Rowan Foods, which is dealing with an ongoing Covid-19 outbreak, has so far refused to pay self-isolating workers their normal pay. Unite regional officer Dave Griffiths commented: “Unite is surprised by public comments made by the Wrexham management team at Rowan Foods and its parent company Oscar Mayer Foods following a two-day inspection by the HSE [Health and Safety Executive]. We have hundreds of members that continue to dispute Rowan Foods version of events. The Covid positive testing at Rowan Foods tells its own story.” He added: “We are calling upon Rowan Foods to comply with Welsh government guidance and pay their workers in full when self-isolating in order to ensure that employees do not suffer a financial detriment. Only by doing this can we ensure that the virus is not transmitted further on this site, in our communities and beyond.” The Unite officer said he had contact the top management of the plant “in order to commence consultations on site in line with the new guidance. This will enable Unite the union to properly represent its members and ensure that everything is done to protect the local community and the customers of this employer.” So far 166 workers at the Rowan Foods plant have tested positive for coronavirus, although Public Health Wales said over 300 of the firm’s staff are yet to come forward for tests.
Unite news release. Welsh government statement, 26 June 2020. Wrexham News. The Metro.

Wales must not act like ‘reckless’ UK government

The Welsh government should not follow the ‘reckless’ example of the UK government and must instead continue to prioritise the safety of workers and maintain a cautious approach to the easing of the lockdown, the Wales TUC has said. General secretary Shavanah Taj said: “The greatest risk facing the Welsh economy remains a failure to get the coronavirus under control. Despite the progress that has been made, the outbreaks in Welsh meat processing plants have served to underline the challenge we face.” She added: “We have broadly supported the Welsh government’s cautious and science-led approach to easing the lockdown measures. The first minister has been right to resist pressure to simply follow the reckless decisions made by the UK government. We believe at this point that maintaining the 2m social distancing rule is the best way to protect workers in Wales.” The Wales TUC leader said: “Our priority remains protecting workers’ lives. The agencies that are tasked with ensuring that workplaces are safe have been massively undermined by 10 years of austerity. That’s why we have been calling for a new Welsh Health and Safety Taskforce to be established in order to bring enforcement agencies, unions, Welsh government and employer bodies together so that we can take a proactive, co-ordinated and strategic approach to workplace safety.” She said statutory sick pay must also be increased, “to at least the level of the Real Living Wage.”
Wales TUC news release.

‘Second spike’ danger from transport masks failings

A second spike in Covid-19 infections is becoming ‘ever more likely’ due to increasing non-compliance with face covering and social distancing rules on public transport, Unite has said. The union warning came after transport secretary Grant Shapps announced that bus and rail timetables will return to 85 per cent of normal services in early July. Unite said it is ‘increasingly concerned’ that the rules on wearing masks or face coverings and maintaining social distancing on public transport are being ignored, which it says dramatically increases the risk of infection. Only the police have the power to fine someone for flouting the rules on face coverings, the union said, adding it is responsibility of bus operators, not bus drivers, to prevent overcrowding and to order passengers not following the rules to leave a vehicle. Unite national officer for public transport Bobby Morton said: “Unite members are increasingly reporting the rules on face coverings and social distancing on public transport, especially buses, are being flouted. With the frequency of public transport increasing and passenger numbers rising, the danger of a second spike will be greatly increased unless decisive action is taken to ensure the rules are followed. It is not the role of bus drivers, nor do they have the power, to prevent someone without a face covering from boarding a bus.” He added: “The failure of bus operators and the police to deal with this increasing problem is potentially risking the health of bus workers and passengers, and could have disastrous consequences for the nation’s public health.”
Unite news release.

Two metre rule to stay on public transport

Transport union TSSA has said it is ‘pleased’ new government guidance for England continues to stress social distancing measures of at least two metres should remain in place across the transport network and says people should continue to work from home if possible. The Department for Transport (DfT) updated guidance, published on 29 June, says: “Passengers and people working on the transport network should maintain 2 metres distance from people outside their household or support bubble where possible, because the risk of transmission is small at this distance.” It adds “people who can work from home should continue to do so.” TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes commented: “Our union has been speaking to public transport operators and the government on this issue and I’m pleased ministers have listened to our concerns. It is blindingly obvious that any lowering of the two metre rule on public transport journeys will substantially increase the risk of catching the virus and that people should work from home where possible, avoiding public transport for all but essential journeys.” He added: “The DfT makes the point that transport providers should remain mindful of their obligations under health and safety, equalities and employment legislation. Quite right too – the safety of our members and those using public transport is absolutely paramount. Nothing has changed in terms of the risks we face from this virus, and that goes for both passengers and transport workers. Our union will continue pressing this point in order to save lives until our health emergency is over.”
TSSA news release. Department for Transport (DfT) updated guidance.

Leicester lockdown must come with job protection

Unite has said the lockdown intended to reverse the surge in Covid-19 cases in Leicester will not be effective unless jobs and incomes are protected. Health secretary Matt Hancock told the Commons on 29 June that non-essential shops in the city will shut on 30 June, and schools will close for most pupils on 1 July, with the stricter lockdown continuing for at least two weeks. The union, commenting ahead of the announcement, said central government must provide additional resources for health and public services across the region, and called for the furlough programme to continue at the full rate to prevent employers in the area laying workers off as they face further delays in re-opening the economy. Unite regional secretary for the East Midlands, Paresh Patel, said: “Working people need to be able to stay home and isolate in order to get this virus under control but they can only do that if they know that they will have an income. It is vital that then that the furlough scheme is extended as a matter of urgency but also where workers not on furlough are forced home sick that they get statutory sick pay from day one and on a rate that supports decent living.” He added: "I urge the government at Westminster to learn the lessons from Leicester. We are not out of this crisis and our communities and economies are extremely fragile. You have promised to do ‘whatever it takes’ to support people during these frightening times, so now is your chance to show the people of Leicester that you keep your promises.”
Unite news release. Leicester City Council news release. BBC News Online. Leicester Mercury.

Unions welcome Labour’s ‘Care for Carers’ call

The unions GMB, Unite and UNISON have backed Labour’s call for a ‘Care for Carers’ package to provide mental health support to 3 million NHS and care staff. GMB said MPs, including shadow minister for mental health Dr Rosena Allin-Khan, had heard GMB members tell of huge stress as a result of the lack of PPE and the risk that poses to their own health and the health of their families. They described increases in PTSD, depression, anxiety and addiction problems and trauma as a result of the deaths of colleagues, patients and residents. Labour’s Dr Rosena Allin-Khan said: “Many NHS and social care staff have been scared of going to work, and they have lost patients and colleagues. It has been heartbreaking to witness the toll this virus has taken on staff mental health.” She added: “We need to care for our carers. It is time for the government to give back to those who have sacrificed so much to keep our loved ones safe. Unless our staff are protected, they cannot continue their vital work of keeping us all safe.” GMB national secretary Rehana Azam said: “GMB is pleased that Labour have recognised the mental health crisis our workers face and hope the government recognise this and look seriously at these proposals.” Unite national officer Jacalyn Williams said: “These plans would create much needed support for the mental health of NHS and care staff who have faced the brunt of the worst impacts of the pandemic day after day.” She added: “After years of service cuts, staff shortages and increased workloads, there was already a mental health crisis amongst health and social care workers, but the pandemic has made the situation a lot worse. Unite welcomes Labour’s proposals and calls on the government to implement them as soon as possible.” UNISON assistant general secretary Christina McAnea said: “A one-size-fits-all approach of occupational health assistance won’t work. Support must be much more tailored to suit individual needs than is currently the case. The government needs to get much better at looking after all of those who do so much to look after all of us.”
Labour Party news release. GMB news release. Unite news release. UNISON news release.

Concern at plans to scrap social distancing in schools

The government needs to agree a ‘coherent’ strategy for reopening schools safely, teaching unions have said. Commenting on leaked reports that the government will remove social distancing requirements in schools by September, they said schools and parents needed the government to provide the ‘necessary evidence’ and strategy for a return for all pupils. NEU joint general secretary Dr Mary Bousted said: “Schools and parents need to see from government a clearly thought-out plan outlining the scientific reasoning behind a return for all pupils. This is essential to reassure families and school staff that whatever the return to school looks like it is as safe as possible for the whole school community.” She added: “There will be serious challenges ahead and they need to be dealt with seriously. Head teachers need to have a clear idea of what they are planning for. It is essential that government speaks to the teaching unions and education professionals to ensure we have a coherent strategy that is workable for September and includes planning for any second spikes or regional outbreaks that may occur.” NASUWT general secretary Dr Patrick Roach said: “The NASUWT wants to see schools open to all children as soon as it is safe to do so. However, we remain concerned that the government continues to set arbitrary dates for the return of pupils to schools, without providing the necessary evidence that its plans will not undermine public health or the health and safety of children, young people and staff in schools.”
NEU news release and NEU's 10 point National Education Recovery Plan. NASUWT news release. BBC News Online.

School cleaners, janitors and support staff 'do not feel safe'

More than 1,700 school cleaners, janitors and support staff in Scotland have told the country’s leader they do not feel safe at work and are being put at risk every day. In an open letter to Nicola Sturgeon, the GMB members raised concerns over personal protective equipment (PPE) and risk assessments. Schools in Scotland are set to return in August with no social distancing in place, if coronavirus is suppressed adequately. The letter says the workers were being given the ‘bare minimum’ PPE and many of them only had access to hand-washing facilities. “We do not feel safe at work and we are being put at risk every day,” the letter says. The letter is signed by staff who call themselves “the workforce that seems to have been forgotten.” It says they had been working throughout lockdown in school hubs and were now worried because guidelines for site-specific risk assessments were not being carried out and some staff did not have the PPE they needed to feel safe. They add current guidance, to keep their members who work in schools safe, must be revised and must be more robust. “Your government's guidelines are very clear in that a full individual risk assessment should be carried out before any staff and pupils return. We are the staff working in and opening up schools, and we need you as our first minister to enforce these guidelines.” They also say they do not feel safe using public transport to get to and from work. The letter adds that due to cuts to cleaning budgets and staffing, many workers have multiple contracts or are required to move between buildings throughout the day. “Some of our colleagues have been very sick and some have died. Without proper protections and investment now, more of us will catch this virus and more of us could die,” the letter says.
BBC News Online.

PCS warns reopening jobcentres creates ‘perfect storm’

The reopening jobcentres as early as next week could create a perfect storm as staff and customers are faced with a lack of social distancing, inadequate personal protective equipment and the real risk of Covid-19 being brought into workplaces, civil service union PCS has said. While the reopening is understood to be gradual, involving possibly three centres next week, the union said a lack of adequate protection for staff and customers “could lead to pandemonium.” A statement from the union said: “For PCS our members’ safety is paramount. We have made it clear to DWP that any move to reinstate the jobcentre network, beyond its emergency coronavirus provision now is premature while the threat from the virus remains all too real and we have called on them to delay it until it is safe. Any proposal to do so would put our members at greater risk of contracting the virus and would in all likelihood mean bringing the virus into the workplace.” The statement added: “PCS is fundamentally opposed to this decision and has serious health and safety concerns… PCS does not accept that all the safeguards required to make jobcentres safe are in place and that we should not be opening the doors for an increased service until they are.” The union said the 2 metre physical distancing rule must be retained.
PCS news release.


Masks shortage must not put site worker lives at risk

Construction union Unite is urging workers not to risk their health if they are not supplied with the correct personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect against dust, fumes and other site hazards. The union’s warning came after a survey by trade bodies ECA, BESA, SELECT, SNIPEF, LEIA and the CICV Forum found over six in 10 engineering services businesses (63 per cent) were struggling to obtain respiratory protective equipment. Of the businesses have difficulties obtaining FFP3 dust masks, 15 per cent said their situation was ‘impossible’, and 36 per cent said it was ‘highly challenging’. Another 44 per cent of firms said they were having ‘sustained difficulty’ in obtaining even the lower spec FFP2 masks for use on site. Even when available, masks are going for greatly inflated prices. The shortage is understood to be a result of the vastly increased demand for face masks due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Unite national officer Jerry Swain said: “Workers must not place their health at risk. If PPE is required and the correct masks are not available then work has to be delayed until they can be sourced. Workers must not feel pressurised into taking shortcuts with their safety.” He added: “If a worker is at all uncertain about whether they require PPE they must request to see an appropriate risk assessment. If they still believe it is unsafe, an employee legally has a right to remove themselves from a dangerous situation. Unite will fully support a member who declines to work due to safety concerns.” The Unite officer said: “Clearly most responsible employers will follow the rules and reschedule work but there remains too many rogue employers who are willing to risk the health of their workers. It is all too easy to forget because of the pandemic that there are many reasons why an appropriate mask may be required while undertaking construction work other than preventing the spread of Covid-19. Even when you are socially distancing you may still need to wear a mask because of the dangerous nature of the work being undertaken.”
Unite news release. ECA news release. Construction Enquirer.

Government plan for just 12 new fire inspectors criticised

The UK government expects to fund just a dozen extra staff to inspect and enforce fire safety in more than 2 million homes after Grenfell, a new analysis has found. Firefighters’ union FBU had said this is a “gross underestimate” of the resources needed to tackle the building safety crisis in England. The union is urging ministers to establish a permanent statutory advisory body for the fire and rescue service, allowing the voices of frontline firefighters and inspectors to influence the “dangerously short-termist thinking” of Whitehall and to provide a ‘reality check’ before final votes take place on the Fire Safety Bill. The government estimates that just £700,000 extra a year will be required for the inspections, which would pay for just twelve full-time fire safety inspectors. The maximum estimated spend is £2.1m, which would pay for just 35 inspectors, less than one per brigade in England, FBU said. The Home Office assessment “does not include any additional enforcement costs”, FBU said. Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said: “At best, the government is planning to fund less than one extra fire inspector in each fire service for a massively expanded workload. We should be talking about immediately doubling inspector numbers to make a dent in this crisis.” He added: “Oversights like this are symptomatic of a system that excludes those most affected from the policymaking process. With better engagement with tenants and firefighters, the chances of another disaster like Grenfell could be significantly reduced. The government must finally bring back a statutory fire sector body that represents the views of frontline firefighters, fire safety inspectors, and tenants. It’s the only way to end the dangerously short-termist thinking that prospers in Whitehall.”
FBU news release.

New law needed to protect shopworkers says Coop and Usdaw

Shopworkers’ trade union Usdaw and convenience store giant the Co-op have challenged “government inertia” on the protection of retail staff from violence and abuse. Their comments came on the first anniversary of the closure of the UK government’s call for evidence on violence against retail staff. In the last year, store crime has ‘rocketed’ by 140 per cent year on year and abuse is on the rise despite key worker classification, they warn. Paddy Lillis, the Usdaw general secretary, said: “At a time when we should all be working together to get through this crisis, it is a disgrace that people working to keep food on the shelves for their local communities are being abused and assaulted. Urgent action is required. Our message is clear, abuse is not part of the job.” He added: “We want the government to legislate for stiffer penalties for those who assault workers; a simple stand-alone offence that is widely recognised and understood by the public, police, CPS, the judiciary and most importantly criminals. Retail staff have a crucial role in our communities and that role must be valued and respected, they deserve the protection of the law.” Co-op Food CEO Jo Whitfield, backing a law proposed by Labour MP Alex Norris intended to address violence against retail staff, said: “This is not a Co-op problem, it’s a societal one that all retailers are concerned about. So today, I’m calling upon MPs to support their constituents in backing Alex Norris’ bill and I will also be asking my peers at other retailers to do the same. Enough is enough – store workers need to know that the government is serious about tackling this issue and as an industry we must be united in protecting our workers.” 
Usdaw news release.

Families criticise migrant crush deaths case delays

The families of five migrant workers who were crushed to death at a scrap metal plant four years ago say they have been treated “as if our lives do not matter” after the criminal investigation was hit with further delays. The men, who were from the Gambia and Senegal and were employed on zero-hours agency contracts, were killed on 7 July 2016 when a 3.6-metre wall and 263 tonnes of metal collapsed on top of them at the Hawkeswood Metal Recycling site in Birmingham (Risks 872). The deaths of Almamo Jammeh, 45, Ousmane Diaby, 39, Bangally Dukureh, 55, Saibo Sillah, 42, and Muhamadou Jagana, 49, are believed to be the single biggest loss of life at a recycling plant in the UK. Despite a four-year criminal investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and an inquest’s finding that the risk of the tragedy was foreseeable, no one has yet been arrested or prosecuted over the deaths. The men’s families say they were distraught after being told recently that the investigation had been delayed further, despite “repeated promises” from the HSE that it would decide whether to prosecute the scrap metal firm Shredmet, which owns the site, before next week’s fourth anniversary of the tragedy. HSE said it had been carrying out a thorough criminal investigation which had “taken longer than we had hoped”. It said changes to the legal team and disruption caused by coronavirus had added further delay. “It is precisely because these lives matter that we are diligently progressing the thorough investigation they deserve,” the regulator said.
Birmingham Live. The Guardian.

Firm fined £200k after warehouse worker loses leg

A parcels firm has been fined £200,000 after a Scottish warehouse worker lost a leg. Les More was hit by a forklift truck and trapped under the vehicle for an hour. Surgeons couldn’t save his left leg which had to be amputated above the knee. DX Network Services was criticised by Sheriff Douglas Brown over the “clearly foreseeable” incident. The firm had initially blamed Les and the forklift driver for the incident. But the sheriff said there had been a “systemic failure” by the company to separate forklifts and pedestrians at the Eurocentral depot in Lanarkshire. DX Networks, which employs 3,500 people in the UK, admitted a criminal breach of workplace safety laws. Hamilton Sheriff Court heard the warehouse operative Les, 58, spent six weeks in hospital, including 15 days in intensive care, after the incident in January 2018. The court heard his wife had to give up her job to become his full-time carer and their home has had to be modified. Sheriff Brown said he would have fined the firm £300,000 had it not pleaded guilty.
Daily Record.


Help build a database of coronavirus risk assessments

The TUC is collating the risk assessments published by employers as they start to open again after lockdown. The TUC said its aim is to support a safe return by increasing transparency about how safety is being addressed in each sector and to pressure non-compliant employers to conduct the proper risk assessments and publish them online. “You can help by checking out your own employer or others in your sector, and entering them into the database at”, the TUC said.
COVID Secure Check portal.


Get your essential TUC guide to Hazards at Work

The 6th edition of TUC’s best-selling Hazards at Work guide is the best single source on health and safety, union style. The revised new edition is packed with advice on health and safety laws and good practice at work. It covers all the classic hazards and has new Covid-19 related advice and reworked chapters on mental health, bullying, harassment, and all the other modern workplace causes of illness and injury. It also has extensive checklists, case studies and links to online resources.
Reps, unions, employers can order online from the TUC shop. Single copies, £22. For large orders, email the TUC.


Europe: Probe exposes trucking ‘pandemic of exploitation’

Road transport companies are using Covid-19 to further exploit truck drivers and cut transport prices, pay, conditions and health and safety across Europe, an investigation from union bodies FNV-VNB, ITF and IUF has revealed. A new report and documentary video released by the groups reveals that human trafficking is alive in European trucking, and has uncovered shocking human rights abuses on the doorstep of the European Union, said Stephen Cotton, general secretary of the global transport union ITF. “Long before Covid, the European road transport industry was plagued by exploitation of drivers and human rights abuses. The pandemic has exacerbated the abuse, and this explosive investigation has exposed the pandemic of exploitation occurring on European roads,” said Cotton. Sue Longley, general secretary of the global food and farming union IUF, said: “Health and safety in the food and drink supply chain is a life and death issue for everyone, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic. The findings of this report show that no multinational can guarantee that their transport supply chains are free from exploitation, which means they cannot guarantee that product is being safely transported.” She added: “I call on all multinationals in the food and drink industry to work with the IUF, ITF and FNV-VNB to ensure they provide consumers across Europe with product that has been transported in a supply chain that guarantees safety and workers’ rights.”
ITF news release, report and documentary video.

Germany: Meat union demands strict regulation and enforcement

New coronavirus hotspots in Germany's meat processing plants have highlighted the massive abuse of subcontracted migrant labour on which the industry depends, unions have said. More than 1,500 workers have been infected with Covid-19 at the giant Tönnies pork processing plant in Rheda-Wiedenbrück alone (Risks 953), where local authorities have re-imposed strict lockdowns just as economic activity was reviving. Draft legislation published in May 2020 and due to take effect on 1 January 2021 would require the meat companies to directly employ their workforce, impose new oversight of working hours and payment and enforce strict liability for violations. However, unions say companies initially responded by threatening to leave Germany. Following the latest outbreaks, on 23 June Tönnies joined with two other leading companies in a pledge to voluntarily renounce subcontracting. The NGG union, which has been fighting for years to raise standards in the meat industry, denounced the companies’ declaration as a smokescreen to avoid strict legal regulation, stating: “Voluntary solutions in the meat industry have never worked and will not work. Working and living conditions in the meat industry will only be improved through strong laws.”
IUF news release.

Germany: Amazon workers walk out over outbreaks

Amazon warehouse workers in Germany walked out this week after staff at several logistics centres tested positive for the coronavirus. The strikes hit six of the e-commerce giant’s warehouses across the country. Ahead of the walkout, the union Verdi said that Amazon is endangering the lives of warehouse workers. “Amazon has so far shown no insight and is endangering the health of employees in favour of corporate profit,” said Orhan Akman, who is responsible for the retail and mail order sectors at Verdi. A recent outbreak at a warehouse in the town of Bad Hersfeld infected at least 30 Amazon workers, the union said. Strikes are being held at Amazon warehouses in Leipzig, Bad Hersfeld, Rheinberg, Werne and Koblenz. Over 50 Amazon ‘fulfilment centres’ around the world have seen cases of the coronavirus, while some have dubbed the warehouses as “breeding grounds of coronavirus.” At least eight Amazon warehouse workers have died of Covid-19.  
CNBC News. The Verge.

India: Advocacy group condemns release of LG managers

A workplace and environment health advocacy group has slammed an Indian court decision that has allowed three South Koreans managers at a LG Polymers plant where a deadly gas leak occurred to leave the country. The Asian Network for the Rights of Occupational and Environmental Victims (ANROEV) said the passports of the South Korean bosses had been confiscated because of the importance of their evidence in the ongoing investigation in the styrene monomer vapour leak from a storage tank at the plant owned by the Korean multinational LG Chem. At least 12 people died and many hundreds were made sick after the incident at the LG Polymers plant in Visakhapatnam on 7 May (Risks 947). ANROEV’s Jagdish Patel, an occupational health expert, said once the LG Chem personnel left India, they would likely avoid responsibility and not return, as happened in the Bhopal tragedy and other cases. ANROEV said both LG Chem and LG Polymers, should be held accountable for the deaths and injuries and damage to crops and the environment. The company should pay for long-term health surveillance and support should be provided to the community at the expense of the company, Jagdish Patel told The Hindu newspaper. There should be an impartial investigation into the tragedy and civil society and victims’ representatives should be part of the process and the negotiation of any settlement with the company, he said.
The Hindu.


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