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



HSE accused of being ‘missing in action’ on Covid-19

The Health and Safety Executive’s “worrying lack of on the ground intelligence” on the workplace Covid-19 crisis and a shocking failure to inspect workplaces has been criticised in a new report. ‘Abdication’, an analysis of HSE’s performance throughout the crisis, says the ‘absentee regulator’ is unaware of outbreaks and is failing to either undertake inspections or enforcement action for criminal breaches of reporting and safety rules related to Covid-19. Despite receiving thousands of ‘concerns’ from workers about Covid-19 practices, HSE only left the office to undertake inspections on 64 occasions between April and June, the report noted, with most of the ‘spot checks’ promised by Boris Johnson apparently taking place by phone. The regulator confirmed it had closed no workplace for Covid-related safety breaches, and in in 7 July response to Hazards admitted it had issued only “around a dozen notices related to Covid-19.” On 2 July, HSE told Hazards is was aware of ‘about 20 outbreaks’ in workplaces – in a week Public Health England (PHE) reported 43 workplace outbreaks, figures that did not include outbreaks in schools, hospitals and care homes. The real total was consistently over 100 workplace outbreaks each week. A ‘spate’ of reports to Hazards from union reps revealed even work-related Covid-19 deaths and large outbreaks were going unreported to HSE by employers. HSE’s Covid-19 disease reporting webpage records just 119 reported deaths up to 11 July, a fraction of the number occurring in the health care sector alone. HSE enforcement records show it has taken no enforcement action for criminal failures by employers to report Covid cases. Echoing calls from HSE unions for the regulator’s slashed budget to be reinstated to increase its enforcement capacity (Risks 956), the report warned the ‘missing in action’ regulator is now suffering real reputational harm. It said: “It is not just about resources. It is about an abdication of responsibility. Throughout the Covid-19 HSE has been little more than third tier player in a PHE and government show.” The report concluded: “The absentee regulator isn’t just hurting workers. It is doing itself no favours at all.”
Abdication: HSE has been missing in action throughout the Covid-19 crisis, Hazards, number 150, 2020, and Hazards infections special issue. ETUC note on occupational health and safety violations under Covid-19. Covid-19 disease reports to HSE.
EVENT: Safety reps taking the lead – during and after Covid-19, Hazards Campaign national Hazards Conference 2020 workshop, 12:00 noon, 1 August.

Data flaws exposed on Oldham spike link to high risk jobs

A surge in Covid-19 cases in Oldham has been linked to “at-risk occupations”, but concerns have been raised about poor or absent data on occupation in virus testing results. Health officials in the Greater Manchester town imposed new restrictions on 28 July after the confirmed number of Covid-19 cases rose from 26 to 119 in the week to 25 July. Officials said a significant proportion of recent cases in the town involved multiple individuals testing positive within a single household, showing that household spread was a real issue. Two-thirds of the new cases were in the town’s Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities, the council said. Oldham now has the third highest infection rate in England – at 50.5 cases per 100,000 people – behind Blackburn with Darwen (77.2) and Leicester (56), according to the latest NHS data. Katrina Stephens, director of public health for Oldham council, said the new cases involved younger people, aged 20 to 40, and many were in areas of high deprivation. She added they were likely to be among those in “at-risk occupations,” such as warehouse workers, taxi drivers, manufacturing jobs and health and social care workers. Stephens said local authorities were being given incomplete data about the occupation and recent location history of people who had tested positive, which she said is important to track the virus.
BBC News Online. The Guardian. ITV News.

Royal Mail warned it could face Covid action

Royal Mail has been warned it could face enforcement action unless it acts on a catalogue of safety failings at a mail centre and a delivery office in Kent. The Communication Workers’ Union (CWU) said the safety shortcomings identified by a Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspector had earlier been drawn to the attention of management by CWU area safety representatives (ASRs). A branch briefing from CWU national safety officer Dave Joyce noted: “Our two ASRs covering Ashford Delivery Office and Medway Mail Centre confirmed the findings of the HSE inspector in relation to issues they had been raising with the employer for some time, without response and the rising pressure in the operation for more productivity which will ultimately encourage unsafe acts.” CWU said problems identified by HSE included no social distancing, hygiene failures, a lack of cleaning, a shortage of hand washing facilities, a lack of management support and “unrealistic work targets and expectations of pre-Covid-19 levels encouraging unsafe work systems.” Some of the issues raised were “business wide”, Dave Joyce said. He added: “The lessons learned from this visit need to be widely communicated to avoid possible HSE enforcement action, prosecutions and fines in other mail centres and delivery offices.”
CWU bulletin.

PCS says no return without consultation

Government departments must consult ‘properly’ with PCS over safe working before submitting plans to get more people back into their workplaces, the civil service union has said. The union was commenting after talks with Cabinet Office officials on 27 July, where they discussed civil service chief executive Alex Chisholm’s letter instructing departments to accelerate the return to the workplace from 1 August. The union said it remains “opposed to this change of position as the scientific advice has not changed; it still remains that members should work at home where they can.” Departments had been asked to submit their return-to-the workplace plans by 29 July, which PCS said ruled out any prospect of “substantive consultation”. The union has asked that departments delay submitting plans until the unions had been properly consulted. “Along with that we asked for a guarantee that our members will not be instructed to return to the workplace if they can work from home or for a medical reason they should stay at home,” the union said.  In reply, the Cabinet Office stated that the 29 July plans were not fixed and that they could be changed after the fact through consultation with the unions. “Over the past months many departmental leaders have said that working from home is the default position; nobody will be forced to return to the office and that nobody would be asked to return to office working for the foreseeable future,” PCS said. “We will ask them to recommit themselves to these promises despite the CEO’s letter… Over the next few months all members might face being told to go to the workplace. So joining PCS is more vital than ever.”
PCS news release, related news release and Mark Sewotka video message. Daily Mail. The Express. Civil Service World.

More cleaners needed to make schools safe

Some cleaners in English schools are still having to work without protective kit and are not given the ‘deep-clean’ training needed to keep people safe, a UNISON survey has found. The union is calling on the government to provide schools with money to hire extra cleaners. Figures released by UNISON show that almost three in ten (29 per cent) staff say there has been no increase in cleaning services since many schools reopened at the start of June. The survey was based on responses from more than 8,000 employees working in primary, nursery and special schools in England. UNISON says the findings are concerning, given schools are preparing to reopen fully in September. Instead of specialist ‘deep-clean’ teams, regular cleaning staff are expected to carry out this potentially hazardous work, according to nearly two thirds (65 per cent) of school workers. A fifth (20 per cent) of those who took part in the survey said cleaners at their school had no access to the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). UNISON head of education Jon Richards said: “Cleaning a school properly is a specialist job, yet the workers doing this are often overlooked, underpaid and haven’t been trained for the extra demands. Lots more cleaners are needed. Other staff shouldn’t be expected to step in to help out. Teaching assistants are stretched enough as it is. They should be focusing on supporting pupils, not standing in for cleaners.” Richards added: “Everyone wants to see children back in the classroom, but this must be done safely. Given the extra cleaning needed, the government must give schools the money to employ cleaners with the necessary training and protective kit to keep the whole school safe.”
UNISON news release.

Earlier lockdown would have saved bus driver lives

Imposing an earlier lockdown in England would have saved workers’ lives, according to a report into the high death rate of London bus drivers in the pandemic by a leading expert on health and social inequalities. Male London bus drivers aged 20 to 65 were 3.5 times more likely to die from Covid-19 between March and May than men in other occupations across England and Wales, said Sir Michael Marmot of the Institute of Health Equity (IHE). The report was commissioned by Transport for London amid major concerns over the deaths of bus drivers in the capital. “Driving a bus, coach or taxi is among the frontline occupations associated with increased risk of death from Covid-19. Because London was an early centre of the pandemic, it is likely that the increased risk among London bus drivers is associated with exposure,” said Prof Marmot. “Our review explicitly suggests that lockdown was the main factor that saved bus drivers’ lives. If lockdown had occurred earlier, it would likely have saved more lives. For those with high blood pressure, exposure to Covid-19 is particularly hazardous, disproportionately affecting drivers of ethnic minority backgrounds. In addition to reducing exposure to the virus, all drivers should therefore be screened for health risk, with those most vulnerable to dying from the virus receiving the most benefit.” The report noted that heart disease has been known to be an occupational hazard to bus driver since the 1950s. Ten bus companies were working for TFL at the start of the pandemic, employing about 30,000 people, of whom 34 reportedly died with Covid-19. Of those, at least 29 were among the 25,000 bus drivers. The report found there may have been two more, one of whom went off sick in February, while the other died in June. The findings are not limited to London. Looking at excess mortality for England and Wales over the period from March to May, it was higher everywhere for bus and coach drivers than other occupations.
Institute of Health Equity (IHE) news release. London Bus Drivers Review, IHE, 2020. TfL statement. The Guardian. Morning Star.

Public inquiry call into bus worker virus deaths

Poor working conditions have been an unacceptable contributor to the high Covid-19 death toll affecting bus drivers, Unite has said. Commenting on the Transport for London (TfL) commissioned report that found an earlier lockdown would have saved lives amongst London bus drivers, Unite regional officer John Murphy said: “This report makes it quite clear that in its approach to lockdown the government tried to lock the stable door after the horse had bolted. London bus drivers and their families paid a terrible price for the government’s mistakes during the pandemic and these should be fully scrutinised in a public inquiry.” He added: “The report also highlights the serious health consequences driving buses can have on staff, which left many drivers especially vulnerable to the virus. Bus companies cannot continue to ignore the impact carrying out the role has on their drivers’ wellbeing. Driving a bus has always been incredibly stressful and fatiguing, especially in cities where there’s lots of passengers and busy streets. Practices such as remote sign on, drivers waiting at bus stops to begin their shifts and excessive hours, as well as a lack of access to toilet, hygiene and meal facilities, compound the role’s numerous health risks.” Calling for bus companies to address these problems, he said: “In the immediate term, the monitoring of drivers’ health by employers needs to seriously improve, as does access to hand washing facilities. As a priority, bus companies must also disclose their plans to deal with further incidents. The risks associated with bus driving existed long before the coronavirus pandemic, however, and it is crucial that reforms protect against not only the immediate threat, but the long-term impacts drivers face on their health and wellbeing.”
Unite news release.

Bus report an indictment of ‘sluggish’ government

Transport union RMT has slammed the government and employers for a ‘sluggish and irresponsible’ response to the Covid-19 threat to bus workers. The union said among 13 deaths certificates provided by relatives of drivers who died of Covid-19, in seven cases hypertension was identified by the certifying doctor as a contributory factor to the death. “This is clearly indicative of both the sedentary nature of bus driving and work-related stress, which the report alludes to,” the union said. RMT senior assistant general secretary Mick Lynch said: “This report is an indictment of the government’s sluggish and irresponsible initial responses to the Covid-19 pandemic. While the timing of actions by most companies was similar, the majority of actions were probably initiated after most of the drivers who died had become infected. Bus companies need to be more proactive in understanding existing health conditions of bus drivers, supporting better health and identifying those most at risk of Covid-19 mortality.” He added: “In particular that employers should have strategies to create healthy and supportive workplaces – within and outside the health service – that have zero tolerance for discrimination and empower BAME [Black, Asian and minority ethnic] staff to raise concerns about occupational risk and safety.”
RMT news release. The Guardian.

Union welcomes face coverings across transport hubs

A requirement for face covering use in all indoor transport hubs in England has been welcomed by the rail union TSSA. TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes said the mandatory use of face coverings from 24 July applies in all enclosed stations, ports, terminals and airports. He said: “Our union welcomes this step as face coverings, alongside proper personal protective equipment, are likely to play a key role in reducing transmission of this deadly virus. We must continue to do everything possible to keep passengers and our heroic transport workers safe in the fight to overcome the Covid pandemic as the use of public transport begins to increase in the weeks and months to come.” Cortes added: “If face coverings are good enough for shops, they are good enough for our transport network – so this plan makes sense. However, it’s important to stress that people must not interpret the use of a face covering as a licence to breach physical distancing measures. Nor should transport workers be expected to put themselves in any danger by policing the regulations. It falls to British Transport Police to enforce these public health instructions - which I’d urge all passengers to fully comply with, for everyone’s sake.”
TSSA news release.

School staff should be allowed to wear face masks

Unions have called for teachers, support staff  and pupils to be allowed to wear face masks in schools in England, in order to protect them and help limit the spread of coronavirus. The government does not currently recommend the use of face coverings in schools. However, with face coverings now mandatory in most enclosed public spaces across England, including inside shops and on public transport, unions have told the Guardian newspaper the current policy in schools is out of step with wider public health policy. They want teachers and school staff to have the same protection as other workers. NEU deputy general secretary Avis Gilmore said: “It remains our view that no member of staff or pupil should be prevented from wearing a face mask if they wish to do so and we anticipate that the majority of schools and colleges will respect this.” Karen Leonard, a national officer at the school support staff union GMB, said: “GMB’s position is to allow school staff to wear masks if they want to. Staff who may be vulnerable or at increased risk should not be prevented from wearing them.” Teaching union NASUWT said there is now a strong case for wearing masks to also be compulsory for older children when they return to school in September. “The government’s wider public health advice confirms that whilst children aged under 11 are not required to wear face masks, they are mandatory for children aged over 11 when they visit a range of other facilities,” said the NASUWT’s general secretary, Dr Patrick Roach. “So there is a strong argument that face masks should also be made compulsory for children when they return to secondary schools in September.”
The Guardian.

Union calls for public support for shopworkers

Retail union Usdaw is urging shoppers to support shopworkers, as the wearing of face coverings became mandatory in shops in England. The union is asking shoppers to follow the law by wearing a face covering, while following existing social distancing and hygiene procedures. Commenting on the new requirement which came into effect on 24 July, Usdaw general secretary Paddy Lillis said: “We encourage everyone to support shopworkers by remembering to wear a face covering, unless you are covered by an exemption. We’ve been talking to employers about this and making sure that they have clear policies and procedures in place. We expect employers to put up clear signage to remind customers about the rules.” He added: “The government has said that shopworkers are not expected to enforce this law, but we are concerned that it may be a flashpoint for abuse of staff.” The retail union leader said “face coverings are not a replacement for social distancing measures that are already in place, such as screens, distance markers, hygiene measures and limits on numbers of customers in stores. We expect employers to keep these in place and support our members in making sure that customers follow the rules. Our plea to customers is to wear a face covering and keep following social distancing measures. We also ask you to remember that shopworkers are doing their best in a difficult situation, and to always treat them with the respect they deserve.”
Usdaw news release.

Concrete plant shuts after Covid cluster

Balfour Beatty has closed down its concrete manufacturing plant in Bristol after 20 workers tested positive for Covid-19. The Avonmouth factory produces concrete segments for Balfour’s tunnelling contract at Hinkley Point C. The contractor stressed that only the manufacturing plant was affected and work continues as normal at the Hinkley nuclear site. Balfour said: “We can confirm that 20 employees working at our manufacturing facility in Avonmouth, Bristol have tested positive for Covid-19 as of Monday 27 July. In response, we undertook a deep clean of the facility over the weekend and initiated the NHS’ Test and Trace procedure.” The construction giant added: “Having engaged with Public Health England and Bristol City Council we have now taken the responsible decision to close the facility until further notice to reduce the potential further spread of Covid-19… During the Covid-19 pandemic, our sites and contracts have remained operational where we are able to appropriately implement Balfour Beatty’s Covid-19 Site Operating Procedures which are fully aligned to the latest UK government guidelines. These include preventative health and safety measures such as enhanced hygiene and cleaning measures, daily briefings on Covid-19 practices including the controls around 2 metre working, temperature checks for all individuals on arrival, and changes to working practices and site arrangements, including within all shared facilities, to maintain social distancing on site.”
Construction Enquirer.

Firefighters agree to continue ‘vital’ coronavirus role

Firefighters have agreed to continue aiding the coronavirus response, warning that the virus threat “remains serious” despite the government’s easing of lockdown restrictions. Their union FBU has assured the public that “firefighters aren’t going to abandon their communities now,” as preparations for a second wave of Covid-19 infections commence. An agreement reached on 26 March has allowed firefighters to drive ambulances, deliver vital supplies to the elderly and vulnerable, and move the bodies of the deceased. Since then, a number of further activities have been agreed, including assembling personal protective equipment (PPE) and training care home staff in infection, prevention and control. The FBU, fire chiefs, and fire service employers have agreed to extend the work until 30 September, six months longer than planned, with the possibility for further renewal. Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said: “The government may be signalling that the pandemic is over – but for the emergency services on the ground, the threat from coronavirus remains serious. As lockdown restrictions ease, the risks of infections may increase – and firefighters aren’t going to abandon their communities now. As summer draws to a close in the coming weeks, preparations must be made for any potential second wave in the approach to winter.” He added: “It’s vital that fire services do all that they can to prevent coronavirus outbreaks among personnel. To keep firefighters safe, we have agreed detailed risk assessments for each area of Covid-19 response work, which should help prevent mass absences in fire and rescue services whilst also protecting the public. Come what may, firefighters are here to protect the public – and we’re here to make sure they do so safely.”
FBU news release.


HSE refuses to see the light on night work cancer risks

A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) position statement on night work cancer risks has been dismissed as ‘nonsense’ by leading occupational cancer experts. Since a 2016 study backed by HSE and Cancer Research UK (CRUK) concluded the classification of night work as a cause of breast cancer was ‘no longer justified’, both organisations have stuck by this conclusion. However, an international expert working group convened in 2019 by the UN’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) confirmed not only the previous ‘probable’ breast cancer rating for night work, it added prostate, colon and rectal cancers to the work-related associations. Questioned by Hazards magazine on IARC’s new findings, published in a June 2020 IARC monograph, an HSE spokesperson said: “HSE’s position on this matter remains unchanged.” HSE added: “The IARC review highlighted the challenges in measuring the potential effects of night shift work whilst taking into account other cancer risk factors when performing research studies, and that large-scale studies may not necessarily be able to provide the appropriate evidence to clarify if there is a causal link between night shift work and cancer.” However, Eva Schernhammer, a Harvard Medical School expert who was on the IARC working group, described the HSE responses as “pretty stunning” and “difficult for me to reconcile.” She added that HSE’s comments on the research challenges were “such nonsense! It was the study that they funded, that should not have been conducted at the first place given the limited information it allowed to draw – underpowered, too short follow-up, women long out of night work given their age. But clearly there are other large-scale studies which very much were able to 1) take into account other cancer risk factors; and 2) were very much able to provide the appropriate evidence.” ‘In the dark’, the new Hazards magazine report on the controversy, concluded: “As HSE sits on the sidelines, the known at-risk group of night workers it is ignoring has just increased by at least 2 million and could equate to several hundred extra work-related cancers each year.”
In the dark: HSE refuses to see the light on night work and cancer risks, Hazards magazine, number 150, 2020.  IARC Monographs Volume 124: Night Shift Work, June 2020.

Teacher took her own life due to work stress

A primary school teacher took her own life after struggling with job related anxiety which had increased after school staffing changes. Esther Leonard-Williams overdosed the night before she was due to return to the classroom after half term last October, an inquest heard. The 31-year-old worked at a St Ives primary school in Cornwall. Her mother Sarah told the coroner: “Esther loved her work and adored the children in her class.” Her GP told the inquest: “She was a primary school teacher struggling with job-related anxiety.” The doctor said she was under “greater pressure and scrutiny” following changes at the school and she had some thoughts that she would be “better off dead” but had no plans or intent to harm herself. The inquest in Truro heard she had a panic attack at the school and was having “awful nightmares” and told her mother “I don't want to do this anymore.” Her boyfriend Charlie Shields said they had been lying in bed when she had a fit and paramedics spent hours giving her CPR before she was flown to hospital from her family's home in Helston. But she died the next day from brain stem injury caused by lack of oxygen to her brain. Charlie said: “Esther was quite anxious about her job. She did not want to go back to work but she did not want to go off sick because she did not want to make a fuss about nothing.” Cornwall's coroner Andrew Cox concluded that she took excessive medication with the intention of ending her life.
Falmouth Packet. Cornwall Live. More on work-related suicide.

Crossrail firms face safety blacklisting court test

A Unite member who believes he was blacklisted by London’s flagship Crossrail project is taking his case to court. Daniel Collins said Crossrail, as well as several agencies and contractors working on the project, had conspired to deny him work. He argues he was blacklisted that after he raised serious safety issues with his employer soon after starting a role on the Bond Street Crossrail station project. He was told he was no longer need because there had been a “reduction in work”, despite previously being told there was three years’ worth of work available. After a series of job applications were rejected, Collins launched ‘subject access requests’ that he says established he has been blacklisted by Crossrail, Costain, Skanska, NG Bailey, T Clarke and the employment agencies OnSite and Beaver Management Services Ltd. He is represented by union law firm Thompsons Solicitors, which previously supported Unite in a successful claim for 256 blacklisted construction workers. Rachel Halliday, for Thompsons, said: “We have sent letters before claim to Crossrail, and six contractors working on the Crossrail project, and we await their responses.” She said the union-backed legal case is “seeking compensation for those affected but also effective action by the companies to end blacklisting as a practice.” Unite assistant general secretary Howard Beckett said: “Unite is launching this landmark contemporary blacklisting case on behalf of our member who we say was blacklisted out of the industry.” He added: “It is truly sickening that a worker who has raised legitimate safety concerns in order to protect their fellow workers, has been forced out of the industry, due to their public spirited actions. Sadly Unite believes that this is not an isolated case and that other workers have also suffered from blacklisting. Those responsible must be exposed.”
Thompsons Solicitors news release.

Costain fined £1.2m after cage collapse injuries

Costain and one of its subcontractors have been fined after two workers were injured when a mobile elevating work platform (MEWP) was struck by a collapsing reinforcement cage during construction of a bypass. Manchester Minshull Street Crown Court heard that in the summer of 2015, to support the construction of the A556 bypass in Cheshire, work had started to build a pier designed to eventually support a bridge. This involved erecting a steel cage. On 3 August, two workers on a MEWP were working on the structure, when it collapsed. The cage crashed into the MEWP, causing it to fall on its side. The first employee sustained life changing head injuries and the second a leg fracture. A third worker nearby escaped injury by moving away just in time. A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found there was no temporary support for the reinforcement cage during construction of the central pier. Costain was principal contractor and Brenbuild Limited was appointed by Costain to construct seven bridges and an underpass. Both firms were aware the cage was visibly leaning and that workers on site had raised concerns. Brenbuild Limited failed to stop work to prevent injuries from the risk of collapse and to implement control measures to prevent instability. Costain failed to plan, manage and monitor construction of the central pier. Brenbuild Limited pleaded guilty to criminal safety breaches and was fined £80,000 and ordered to pay costs of £21,730.11. Costain also pleaded guilty and was fined £1.2m and ordered to pay costs of £21,644.51.
Construction Enquirer.


Hazards Conference 2020 online, 10:00am-5:30pm 1 August!

The Hazards 2020 Conference this year will be held online on Saturday 1 August. The organisers of the free day-long event, the national Hazards Campaign, say the Zoom conference starts with an international plenary and is followed by four workshops with top speakers and experts. You don’t have to follow the conference all day – the event is tightly timetabled, so you can dip in and out to see the bits of particular interest. The conference starts at 10am with a plenary session, followed by four workshops: Safety reps taking the lead – during and after Covid-19 (start time 12:00pm); fighting inequality in health and safety (start time 1:30pm); mental health and Covid-19 (start time 3:00pm); and toxics out - air pollution and just transition after Covid-19 (start time 4:30pm). Each Zoom workshop will provide an opportunity to join in the discussions.
Hazards Conference event alert and timetable. Sign up, circulate to safety reps and activists. Email Janet Newsham or phone 07734 317 158 for more information.
Support the Hazards Campaign: The conference is free of charge but if you, your union branch or organisation would like to donate to the Hazards Campaign, bank transfers can be made to: Hazards 2020; Account number: 20090430; Sort Code: 608301; Bank: Unity Trust Bank, Four Brindleyplace, Birmingham, B1 2JB. Ref: Your organisation/name.


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 says 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.


Global: Paper sector campaigns reinvented for Covid-19

Unions in the pulp and paper industry from around 20 countries have met online to analyse and formulate their organising response to Covid-19 on the sector. Sector co-chairs Leeann Foster, international vice-president of North American union USW and Pontus Georgsson, president of Swedish union Pappers, stressed the pandemic has underlined the importance of health and safety at work. Leeanne Foster said: “There is so much strength and expertise in this group. We have risen to the challenge of Covid and gone beyond. We must reinvent ourselves in the crisis.” IndustriALL, the global union for the sector, is campaigning for International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) occupational health and safety conventions to be recognised as ‘fundamental’ and for Covid-19 to be recognised as an occupational disease. IndustriALL assistant general secretary Kemal Özkan said: “We see increasing attacks on workers’ and human rights and we have to push back. International solidarity is crucial and together we are strong enough to defend those in need.”
IndustriALL news release.

Malaysia: Union leader targeted for safety warnings

A Malaysian union leader has faced government harassment since airing safety concerns in a report for Channel 4 News in the UK. N Gopalkishnam, the targeted union leader, said the government should focus instead on taking serious steps to ensure the safety and health of workers in factories exporting personal protective equipment. On 16 June, Channel 4 News revealed the failure of the biggest rubber glove manufacturer in the world, Top Glove, to comply with the social distancing rules imposed by Malaysian authorities. The investigative report also exposed the poor living conditions of migrant workers at the company. Gopalkishnam, general secretary of National Union of Transport Equipment and Allied Industries Workers (NUTEAIW), told the broadcaster that the violation of the Covid-19 prevention protocol puts the entire Top Glove workforce at risk. He urged the UK National Health Service (NHS) to stop buying medical gloves from the company. In response, Home Ministry officers called Gopalkishnam several times and visited NUTEAIW’s office unannounced. After a meeting on 24 July, Gopalkishnam said: “It puzzles me that, during the meeting, the Home Ministry officers were only interested in persons behind the video and my contacts in the factory. Why don’t they care about workers’ health and violation of social distancing rules in the factory?” Valter Sanches, general secretary of the global union federation IndustriALL said: “IndustriALL calls on the Malaysian government to respect this trade union leader’s freedom of expression and stop all investigations against Gopalkishnam. To fight Covid-19, all governments need trade unions to act as their eyes and ears in workplaces to prevent the spread of coronavirus.”
IndustriALL news report.

USA: Regulator told to release work injury and illness data

The US workplace safety regulator OSHA must make public workplace injuries and illnesses records, a federal court has ruled. The just announced decision came in response to a legal challenge by rights advocacy group Public Citizen. OSHA has until 18 August to provide the data from 237,000 employers, under a federal court ruling that ends a two-year battle over the agency’s controversial electronic record-keeping rule. The regulation, formally known as the Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses rule, requires employers with 250 or more employees and certain employers in high risk industries with 20 or more employees to electronically submit their injury and illness data to OSHA. The Obama administration planned to make that data public. Public Citizen used the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to request the information, which employers record on OSHA Form 300A and submit to the agency electronically. Public Citizen sued OSHA to obtain the records after the agency withheld the data in full, claiming that the records contained confidential commercial information exempt from disclosure. However, in June a magistrate judge recommended the court enter judgment for Public Citizen, finding that the records are not confidential. OSHA subsequently agreed to produce the records in full, and a federal court entered an order requiring that OSHA produce the requested records by 18 August. “Workplace injury and illness data should not be hidden from public view,” said Michael Kirkpatrick, an attorney with Public Citizen. “Release of Form 300A data, as required under FOIA, will have a significant impact on efforts to protect worker health and safety. The records should provide important information to help researchers identify the causes of work-related injuries and illnesses and develop solutions.”
Public Citizen news release. Business Insurance.


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