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TUC Risks E-Bulletins

Number 648 -29 March 2014

Asbestos - the hidden killer Hazards magazine Hazards at Work

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Editor: Rory O'Neill of Hazards magazine. Comments to the TUC at


Union News



Events and Courses

Union News

Rail unions get movement on director gravy train

Network Rail bosses have drawn up plans to significantly curb their six figures bonuses in the wake of strong union-led criticism over failures in their safety record (Risks 641). But documents leaked to the rail union TSSA show that while the firm will scale back bonuses to top directors, they are planning to increase base salaries to compensate. The changes come in the wake of criticism from the Commons Transport Select Committee over the firm's “callous disregard” towards bereaved families whose loved ones have died on unsafe level crossings (Risks 646).  In January, the Lord Chief Justice called for the bonuses to be “severely reduced” after he threw out an appeal by Network Rail over a £500,000 fine imposed on it after a 10-year-old boy suffered life-changing injuries on an unsafe level crossing in Suffolk. Outlining the plan, Michael O’Higgins, chair of Network Rail’s remuneration committee, said it was working on “a move towards a far lower level of variable pay for directors, potentially coupled with higher base pay.” TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes responded: “We obviously welcome any sinner that repenteth but, given the amounts involved here, this could be one of the most expensive conversions ever seen on the Road to Damascus.” He added: “Network Rail is a public sector company and we must make sure that this move is not used merely to rob Peter to pay Paul and hike base salaries by large amounts. All these people are already handsomely rewarded as it is and they each earned five times more than the prime minister last year.”

Ÿ  TSSA news release.

Unions challenge World Cup migrant labour abuse

A union-coordinated joint mission to expose the abuse suffered by migrant construction workers in Qatar has kicked off this week. The delegation, which includes representatives of UK unions and Labour MPs, is investigating the working conditions that see hundreds of migrant construction workers die in Qatar every year. The plight of the workers has been in the public eye as Qatar begins work on stadiums for football’s 2022 World Cup. The joint mission is being instigated by the Building Workers’ International (BWI), the international federation for construction unions. The delegation will be meeting with migrant construction workers and investigating their working and living conditions. UCATT general secretary Steve Murphy, who is on the delegation, said: “Hundreds of construction workers are dying needlessly in Qatar every year. It is vital that Qatar is forced to act and to ensure that this appalling death toll and abuse of workers is ended immediately. Pressure must be placed on Qatar to ensure that the deaths of workers are no longer ignored.” A March report from the global union confederation ITUC concluded the Qatari authorities continue to ignore criticism of state-sanctioned health, safety and employment abuses of migrant labour, with their response focussed on public relations and not improving conditions (Risks 647). Unions have also accused football’s ruling body FIFA of “timewasting”, and failing to apply meaningful pressure for change.

Ÿ  UCATT news release. BWI news release.

Ÿ  Foul play, a Hazards photofile on the global union campaign around the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. The case against Qatar, ITUC report.

Union body wins death threats investigation

The Honduran ambassador to the UK has promised to investigate death threats and victimisation of trade unionists in the country after an approach by unions. The London-based International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) won the commitment after a high-level delegation including ITF president Paddy Crumlin and Victor Crespo, president of the ITF-affiliated Sindicato Gremial de Trabajadores del Muelle (SGTM), met with ambassador Romero-Martinez last week. The delegation told the ambassador SGTM members have been subject to a catalogue of human and trade union rights abuses in Puerto Cortés since September 2012, when global terminal operator ICTSI won the concession to run the port. The union has been trying to negotiate with the company’s subsidiary in Honduras over a collective bargaining agreement for workers. ITF says Victor Crespo has faced death threats and an attempt on his life, and had to leave the country for his own protection. His father was later killed in suspicious circumstances. Meanwhile SGTM members taking part in peaceful protests both in Honduras and at an ICTSI terminal in Portland, USA, were sought by Honduran police for arrest, in some cases detained and charged with crimes against the state. Speaking from the steps of the London embassy, ITF president Paddy Crumlin said: “We have had a productive, open and frank conversation. The ambassador has agreed that there should be an investigation into the abuses of trade union rights, and human rights being reported in Puerto Cortés. We have all agreed, all of us, that engagement from all sides is essential if we’re to bring about an end to this situation.”

Ÿ  ITF news release and related news release.

Lugging school spuds caused shoulder injury

A kitchen worker at Pengar School in Llanelli was left in agony after continually lifting sacks of potatoes onto a trolley. The potato peeling machine in Tina Bowen’s school kitchen had been broken for a long period of time. As a result, the UNISON member had to use a machine at a different school which required her to lift the heavy sacks of potatoes onto a trolley and push them across a car park. She would then have to load the clean potatoes back onto the trolley to take them back to Pengar School to be cooked. During one trip, Tina felt severe pain in her left shoulder. As a result of the injury, she was absent from work for six months. “I can barely describe how unbearable the pain in my shoulder was during those six months,” she said. “My movement was so restricted that I could hardly even dress myself. I wish that the management had fixed the potato peeler earlier or provided me with a safe alternative; this could all have been avoided.” A UNISON backed compensation case secured a payout of several thousand pounds. Margaret Thomas, UNISON regional secretary in Wales, said: “When important equipment breaks down, it isn't good enough for employers to just expect employees to lump it and make do - it's about putting safe alternatives in place. We are pleased that we were able to help secure Tina the compensation she deserved for her injury but remain baffled as to why the council didn’t fix the problem in the first place to avoid the injury.”

Ÿ  Thompsons Solicitors news release.

Auto assessor forced to retire after work fall

An automotive assessor employed by Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council was forced to retire after a five foot fall at work. John Williams, a UNISON member for nine years, was leaning into a car on a mechanical ramp to inspect the handbrake when, without his knowledge, a trainee raised the ramp from ground level. Having completed the checks, John stepped out of the vehicle – expecting to place his feet onto the ground – and instead found himself falling five feet onto the concrete floor below. He sustained neck, shoulder and lower back injuries. Medical tests confirmed that pre-existing arthritis was made worse by the impact. The combination of his injuries forced John into an unwanted early retirement. Facing a union backed compensation claim, Blaenau Gwent Country Borough Council admitted it had failed to provide adequate training and supervision to the trainee. John Williams said: “I was planning to stay on at work for at least the next couple of years as I was fit and healthy enough to continue. However, after the accident this just wasn’t possible. Effectively the accident forced me out from the job I loved and robbed me of vital future earnings.” Justin Thomas from Thompsons Solicitors, the law firm brought in by UNISON to act in the case, said: “This case highlights the dangers of a workplace where employers haven’t carried out basic risk assessments. Had the trainee received adequate supervision and training, John would still be in work now.”

Ÿ  Thompsons Solicitors news release.


Standing up for site workers - and their safety

One of the biggest names in the UK construction industry has pledged to support efforts to achieve a “fair resolution for the injustice” suffered by blacklisted workers. Caroline Murphy, who this week resigned from the board of Murphy Group, the construction giant founded by her father, said: “It has been my experience as deputy chair of the Murphy Group of construction companies, that safety and quality are inextricably linked.” In a guest posting on TUC’s Stronger Unions blog, she said proper planning of safety “also allows space for ordering the tasks in a way that facilitates the best finish in terms of quality. So, a safer worker creates better quality infrastructure which is in turn safer for the men, women and children who ultimately come to use it.” She said because of this, she has “been especially saddened by the involvement in blacklisting by the construction industry and hope that in exiting my position as a director, I may be able to support the efforts of those striving for a fair resolution for the injustice they have suffered.” Commenting on the TUC coordinated 20 November 2013 national day of action on blacklisting (Risks 632), she wrote: “It was heartbreaking to hear first-hand the way in which this has impacted the lives of the men on the blacklist and their families.” The former construction industry high flyer, who is also a trained civil engineer and union rep who now intends to concentrate on campaigning for civil rights and improved business ethics, concluded: “The call on 20 November was for companies involved in this practice to ‘own up, clean up and pay up’. The Trades Union Congress and Labour’s Ed Miliband have called for a public inquiry into blacklisting. This campaign deserves our full support. It is not only a construction industry issue: It affects every one of us, every day as we turn the handle of every door.”

Ÿ  TUC Stronger Unions blog.

Ÿ  Caroline Murphy blog and news release.

Ÿ  Construction Enquirer.

Demolition worker was crushed by steelwork

A demolition contractor has been fined for criminal safety failings after a worker suffered life-changing injuries when steelwork he was dismantling collapsed on top of him. The 39-year-old from Barnsley sustained serious crush injuries including a fractured sternum and vertebrae in the incident at a former block works in Shawell, Lutterworth, Leicestershire, on 11 March 2013. His employer, HCL Equipment Contracts Limited, was prosecuted at Leicester Magistrates’ Court. The court heard the injured man and a colleague used ladders to access the top of the steelwork, which was seven metres high. Both men wore harnesses and lanyards, which were the incorrect type, and used propane gas cutting equipment to cut the steelwork into pieces, which were then dropped through a gap in the centre of the frame into a designated dropping area. After clearing parts of the steelwork, the men began to cut through a standing conveyor, with the intention of weakening it so it would fall onto the platform so they could continue the dismantling operation. A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found that the injured man was finishing a cut made by a colleague when the conveyor began to descend. He was unable to get out of the way of the falling frame, which weighed 380kg, and it struck him. HSE found that no safe escape route was planned. It concluded the incident could have been prevented with better planning, management and training. The worker, whose name has not been released, suffered a fractured sternum, two broken vertebrae, eight fractured ribs, broken teeth and required 58 stitches in a head wound. HCL Equipment Contracts Limited was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay £491 in costs after pleading guilty to a criminal safety offence.

Ÿ  HSE news release and demolition webpages.

Ÿ  Construction Enquirer.

Contractors exposed workers to asbestos dust

A Bath building contractor exposed two of its employees to asbestos dust while working at a residential property in the city, a court has heard. Geoff Thomas and Son Ltd allowed the workmen to demolish a basement ceiling in January 2013 without checking for the presence of asbestos. When it realised the deadly fibre was present, it sent the pair to work on other jobs without decontaminating their clothes. Bath Magistrates heard the firm had been contracted by Curo Places Ltd, formerly Somer Community Housing Trust, to replace the ceiling. The two employees carried out the job using hand tools and pulled parts of the ceiling – made of asbestos insulation board – down by hand. When the firm realised the ceiling contained asbestos, it sent the workers off to do other jobs without decontaminating their clothes or tools. HSE’s investigation found the contractors failed to make any assessment for the presence of asbestos before work started and once they did identify it they failed to prevent its spread. The company, which was not licensed to handle asbestos, also failed in its legal duty to notify HSE of the work in advance. Geoff Thomas and Son Ltd pleaded guilty to two criminal breaches of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 and was fined £5,000 plus costs of £637. HSE inspector Paul Newton said: “It was clear the work would disturb the fabric of the building, creating a risk of exposing asbestos, so a full survey of the area should have been carried out before work started and suitable plans put in place to deal with it.” He added: “Geoff Thomas and Son then compounded the problem by failing to decontaminate the workers, their clothes and equipment once the asbestos had been identified. Instead they were allowed to go to other jobs and return home, potentially spreading the asbestos to their workmates and families.”

Ÿ  HSE news release and asbestos webpages.

Study raises concerns over fracking dangers

The lack of publicly available data on the UK's onshore oil and gas drilling means there are significant “unknowns” about the safety of future fracking wells, according to a new study. “The research confirms that well failure in hydrocarbon wells is an issue and that publicly available data in Europe on this seems to be sparse,” said Professor Richard Davies of Durham University, who led the study. “In the UK, wells are monitored by well inspectors but there is no information in the public domain, so we don't really know the full extent of well failures. There were unknowns we couldn't get to the bottom of.” While a lot of well data is made public in the US, it was not detailed enough for the researchers to distinguish serious and minor well failures. “But in the UK we don't even have that,” said Davies, whose study was funded by the government and oil firms Total, Shell and Chevron but monitored by an independent academic board. Tony Bosworth, energy campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said: “This report highlights that oil and gas well failure is widespread and the best way to avoid the risk this brings is not to frack or go after other hard to reach and polluting fossil fuels.” In February, TUC warned that the known dangers of shale gas exploitation and the poorly understood risks of fracking processes meant the industry must be tightly regulated (Risks 643).

Ÿ  Richard J Davies and others. Oil and gas wells and their integrity: Implications for shale and unconventional resource exploitation, Marine and Petroleum Geology, published online 25 March 2014.

Ÿ  The Guardian.

Ÿ  FoE fracking webpages.

Ÿ  Dangers of Fracking website.

Atos quits government fit for work tests

Private company Atos is to quit its contract to assess whether benefits claimants are fit to work, the government and the company have announced. Disabilities minister Mike Penning, who is also responsible for workplace health and safety, said a new company would be appointed in early 2015. Atos, whose contract had been due to end in August 2015, had previously said it would carry on with the tests until a new company could be put in place. Claimants applying for employment and support allowance must take a work capability assessment to see how their disability or illness affects their ability to work. Disability campaigners and unions have described the work tests as harsh and unfair. Reports in the press have linked the assessments to suicides and extreme hardship, as people wrongly assessed as fit for work face a drop in their welfare payments. In a statement, Atos indicated problems related to the tests were the result of government welfare policy, not the company’s behaviour, citing a National Audit Office (NAO) report in support of the claim. It added: “Feedback from judges back up the NAO assertion and reveal that Atos Healthcare reports are a reason for successful appeals in only 0.3 per cent of cases.” Disability minister Mike Penning said the government was looking for a provider to replace Atos “with the view to increasing the number of assessments and reducing waiting times".” He said: “I am pleased to confirm that Atos will not receive a single penny of compensation from the taxpayer for the early termination of their contract. Quite the contrary, Atos has made a substantial financial settlement to the department.”

Ÿ  Atos news release.

Ÿ  BBC News Online.

Ÿ   Daily Mirror.

Welcome for new progress on safer lorry designs

Lorry design should be improved to make vehicles inherently safer, European lawmakers have said. The European Parliament’s Transport Committee last week voted in favour of changes to the Vehicle Weights and Dimensions Directive. These allow lorry cabs to be redesigned to reduce blind spots, improving the direct vision of the driver. The decision has been welcomed by IOSH, the professional body for safety officers. Chair of the IOSH London metropolitan branch Nigel Burgess, who is both a qualified HGV driver and a cyclist, added: “The directive is not only good news for cyclists; it is also great news for lorry drivers who have many pressures and distractions to deal with during their working day. Drivers are professionals with their own families and do not deserve to suffer the psychological stress of colliding with a cyclist or pedestrian simply because of poor vehicle design. Whilst mandatory implementation for new lorries may not occur immediately, this news is a major step in the right direction to reduce deaths and major injuries on the road.” Amendments agreed by the committee would also enable lorries to be fitted with an energy absorbing crash system at the front of the cab and allow for a more rounded cab design to push vulnerable road users to the side of the vehicle if there was a collision. The committee wants the improvements to become mandatory for all new lorries by 2022.

Ÿ  IOSH news release.

Road tragedies expose statistical hole

Hundreds of workers die each year on Britain’s roads while working, but you’d not know it from the statistics. Almost all work-related road deaths are classified as ‘road traffic accidents’ and are not included in the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) annual work fatalities total. But road deaths while working claim about five times as many lives as workplace fatalities from all other causes, official statistics show. Incidents this month have highlighted the occupational peril on our roads. Sheila Hyslop, 50, died in hospital on 14 March, five days after falling off her bicycle while delivering telephone directories in Dumfries. She was taken to the Western General Hospital in Edinburgh for treatment to a serious head injury but Police Scotland confirmed she subsequently died as a result of the fall. On 24 March, a lorry driver died when his lorry overturned on the main A34 route in Berkshire. The man, aged in his 60s, died at the scene of the crash near Tot Hill services. Neither death will make it into HSE’s annual fatalities total.

Ÿ  Thames Valley Police news release.

Ÿ  BBC News Online coverage of the cyclist and lorry driver deaths.

Ÿ  Daily Record.

Ÿ  Newbury Weekly News.

Skull fractured by catapulted metal peg

A Staffordshire company that makes copper products for the power industry has been fined after a worker suffered life-changing injuries when he was hit on the head by a metal peg. The two-kilogramme peg was attached to a ten-tonne overhead crane and fabric sling that was being used to apply torque to bolts being tightened on an extrusion press at Thomas Bolton Ltd in Froghall on 30 August 2012. Stafford Magistrates’ Court heard the peg was catapulted out of the sling, through the factory roof and back down into the factory some 26 metres away, hitting an employee on the head. The 63-year-old man, who has asked not to be named, was admitted to hospital and although discharged the same day, has not been able to return to work. A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found Thomas Bolton Ltd had not carried out a suitable risk assessment of the task being undertaken and did not properly plan the work or use appropriate equipment. The firm was fined £19,050 and ordered to pay £10,361 in costs after pleading guilty to criminal breaches of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998.

Ÿ  HSE news release.

Textile firm crushed worker’s fingers

A Huddersfield woman was left with lasting hand damage when her fingers were crushed in a yarn processing machine. The 59-year-old was injured at Lawton Yarns Ltd’s Ravensthorpe factory in Dewsbury as she reached under the rollers of a carding machine to retrieve some fibres. Her fingers got caught and drawn into the machine. Kirklees Magistrates heard that three fingers of her right hand were badly crushed and she has required multiple visits to hospital for operations and physiotherapy. She has not regained full use of her hand since the incident on 7 March 2013. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuted Lawton Yarns Ltd after finding it had failed to fully assess the risks of the miniature carding machine, despite having several full-size carding machines at the premises. The court was told the company bought the machine second-hand in 2000 and had assessed it, fitted guards and developed a safe system of work. However, it didn’t take into account the risks of access to the carding rollers from the underside, a well-recognised danger in the industry. As a result, no action had been taken to guard that part of the machine, and prevent workers getting too close to dangerous moving parts. Lawton Yarns Ltd was fined £5,000 with £648 to pay in costs after admitting single criminal breaches of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations and Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations. HSE inspector Neil Hope-Collins said: “The incident demonstrates that a risk assessment is not an administrative, paper exercise. If companies do not do it properly in the first place, they will always struggle to put in place proper safeguards.”

Ÿ  HSE news release and manufacturing webpages.

Injury at food firm leaves a costly aftertaste

A Kent-based international food manufacturer has been prosecuted for criminal safety failings after a worker’s hand was trapped by a sealing machine. Craig Brandie, a 24-year-old employee of Veetee Foods Ltd, suffered a crushed finger when he and colleagues began to clean the machine after an oil leak. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuted Veetee Foods Ltd at Medway Magistrates’ Court after finding the machine’s safety guard had been disabled. The court was told the incident, on 22 March 2012, happened at the start of a nightshift at the plant, when production was halted because of an oil leak on a machine that sealed containers of cooked food. Mr Brandie was cleaning a conveyor section of the machine when it began running. Part of the mechanism clamped down on his left hand, trapping it until colleagues were able to free him. He suffered a crushed index finger, although he has since been able to return to work elsewhere. HSE found the interlocked safety gate to the machine had been defeated, allowing workers to get too close to dangerous moving parts. HSE could not determine how long it had not been functioning as suitable guard checks were not undertaken by the company. Veetee Foods Ltd was fined £12,000 and ordered to pay £3,023 after admitting a criminal breach of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998. HSE inspector Guy Widdowson said: “If Veetee Foods Ltd had ensured machinery guards were in place and being used, their employee would not have been harmed. Indeed, it was more down to luck that such an event did not lead to a more serious injury.”

Ÿ  HSE news release and equipment safety webpages.


Australia: Warning over 'third wave' of asbestos diseases

Women are likely to form a significant proportion of the ‘third-wave’ of people with asbestos-related diseases in Australia, according to a new research report. ‘The Asbestos Narratives’ presents the findings of a study conducted by Southern Cross University, which investigated the social and psychological impacts of asbestos disease. Associate professor Rick van der Zwan, director of the university’s Regional Initiative for Social Innovation and Research (RISIR) and project leader, said more than 60 men and women shared their experiences of living with an asbestos-related diagnosis. “Women are likely to form a significant proportion of the emerging third wave of exposure to asbestos and may suffer considerable hardship as a result,” he said. “Exposure to asbestos can result in a range of debilitating diseases, all of which can leave people physically and socially isolated.” One of the key aspects of the project was the development of the ‘Dusted Community’, an online peer-to-peer support group for individuals with a diagnosed asbestos disease, for their carers and for their families. “What we found was that people with asbestos-related diagnosis, and their carers, were often socially isolated and looking for a way to connect with people in similar situations, regardless of their location. This was particular important for people in regional areas, who had limited access to formal support groups,” the professor added. “An important part of our research showed that emerging technology has the potential to reduce the social impact of an asbestos-related disease.” Approximately 3,500 people die in Australia from asbestos-related diseases each year, he said.

Ÿ  SCU news release.

Ÿ  ABC News.

Bangladesh: Rana Plaza fund payouts to start

The 3,600 workers and families owed compensation from the Rana Plaza factory collapse last year will be able to claim payment from 24 March, the global unions that pressed for the creation of the fund have said. An advance payment equivalent to US$650 will be made to every beneficiary before the one-year anniversary on 24 April. On 18 March the Coordination Committee of the Rana Plaza Trust Fund approved the inclusion of Primark as the eighth brand to publicly pay into the fund. All payments and support will be conducted under the auspices of the ILO-chaired fund. The initial payment of US$650 will be made between 10 and 24 April. This process will include assistance to all claimants in setting up bank accounts. These payments will total US$2 million. There is still some way to go to properly compensate those affected - an estimated US$40 million is required. IndustriALL assistant general secretary Monika Kemperle said: “Months of work under the expert stewardship of the ILO has brought us to this point.” She added: “The job is not finished though, many brands are still yet to contribute while further contributions will be expected from the eight brands that have already paid. But the one-year anniversary of that terrible disaster will not pass with the 3,600 families still waiting.” The Rana Plaza brands that have not yet publicly contributed to the fund are: Adler Modemärkte, Auchan, Ascena Retail, Benetton, Carrefour, Cato Fashions, Children's Place, Grabalok, Gueldenpfennig, Kids for Fashion, KiK, LPP, Manifattura Corona, Matalan, NKD, PWT, Walmart and Yes Zee.

Ÿ  UNI news release.

Ÿ  IndustriALL news release.

Ÿ  ILO news release.

Ÿ  Rana Plaza Trust Fund.

Ÿ  Equal Times.

Ÿ  Join the LabourStart campaign to get all the global brands to pay up.

France: More ‘work-related’ suicides at telecoms giant

Ten employees of the telecoms giant Orange France have killed themselves since the beginning of 2014, nearly as many as the whole of last year, an organisation that monitors work conditions at the firm has said. Labelling it a “serious alert”, the Observatory for Stress and Forced Mobility said the majority of these suicides – eight out of ten - were “explicitly related to work.” Orange, previously known as France Telecom, was hit by a wave of suicides six years ago which led to a national scandal and the resignation of top company bosses (Risks 450). The suicide deaths triggered questions about management strategies, particularly the stress and insecurity accompanying a company restructuring following a 2004 privatisation. According to the observatory, which is responsible for monitoring working conditions at the company, there were 11 suicides in the group in 2013. Unions at Orange had already raised the alarm last month. “Within one year, the situation has deteriorated,” they had said in a statement, pointing to planned job losses and inadequate recruitment. In 2012, former company boss Didier Lombard was put under formal police investigation, accused of installing “brutal management methods” that amounted to “moral harassment.” He remains under investigation. An official report by the works inspectorate in 2010 blamed a climate of “management harassment” that it said had “psychologically weakened staff and attacked their physical and mental health.”

Ÿ  Observatory for Stress and Forced Mobility news release (in French).

Ÿ  The Guardian.

The Independent.

More on work-related suicides.

USA: Unions press for a safer silica standard

Workers are continuing to die of preventable lung diseases because of years of footdragging on a safer silica exposure standard, the US national union federation AFL-CIO has warned. AFL-CIO safety and health director Peg Seminario, testifying before a hearing of the national safety regulator OSHA, noted that changes to the current exposure standard - now more than 40 years old - were first proposed in 1997. She warned: “Every day that a final standard is delayed, workers will continue to be at increased risk of disease and death.” An estimated 2 million US workers are exposed to silica dust and, according to public health experts, more than 7,000 workers develop silicosis and 200 die each year as a result of this suffocating lung disease. Silica is also linked to deaths from lung cancer, pulmonary and kidney diseases. Seminario said that permissible exposure limit in the proposed standard, while set at half the current level, is still too high. She called for a stricter standard be adopted and said that other provisions in the standard should be strengthened, so fewer workers are exposed, exposures are reduced at source and firms are required to draft compliance plans and to introduce more widespread medical surveillance programmes. Employer groups from industries where silica exposure is prevalent - including sand and gravel, brick and fracking - together with the US Chamber of Commerce and other corporate groups have testified or will testify against the proposed rule during the 14 days of hearings in Washington DC running from 18 March.

Ÿ  AFL-CIO Now blog. OSHA hearings.

Events and Courses

What are you doing on 28 April?

It’s time you told the world just what you were planning for 28 April, Workers’ Memorial Day. And that task just got a little easier, thanks to a new poster from global union federation ITUC and the UK-based Hazards magazine. This year’s international poster features 9-year-old Jetaime Medina, who lost her father Tony to the asbestos cancer mesothelioma. He was 42. With mum Maitea and brother Javier, 13, and sister Nadine, 11, the family is backing calls for tougher regulation and enforcement of workplace safety standards.  The poster is intended to be an organising tool for unions reps. Designed to be striking and functional, is can be used to advertise both local and national Workers’ Memorial Day 2014 events – just fill out details of your event in the space provided. Jetaime’s story reminds us that 28 April is not just about injuries – work-related health problems kill at least 100 times the number as ‘accidents’ at work.

Ÿ  ITUC/Hazards 28 April 2014 International Workers’ Memorial Day poster.

Ÿ  TUC workers’ Memorial Day 2014 webpages.

Ÿ  ITUC/Hazards 28 April global webpages and facebook page

Are you geared up for 28 April?

Workers’ Memorial Day, the biggest event on the union safety calendar, is fast approaching. So, have you sorted your action kit for 28 April? The Hazards Campaign is providing everything from the poster you stick on the wall to the t-shirt you stick on your back. You can: Get hold of your free 28 April posters; get ready to stick your stickers; splash out on a car sticker and forget-me-knot purple ribbons; and slip into a high quality ‘We didn’t vote to die’ or ‘Stop it you’re killing us’ t-shirt. Make sure your event is really something to see!

Posters: free (A3 and A4 available). Stickers: £1 for a single sticker, £0.50 each for 2-10, and £0.25 each for 11-100, with bigger discounts for bigger orders. Lapel stickers: £1 for a single sticker, £0.50 each for 2-10, and £0.25 each for 11-100. Car stickers: £1 each, £30 per 100. Purple ribbons: £0.30 each, £30 per 100. T-shirts: in s, m, l, xl, xxl, xxxl. £6. Order from the Hazards Campaign, Windrush Millennium Centre, 70 Alexandra Road, Manchester M16 7WD.  Tel: 0161 636 7557. Email:

Ÿ  For news, resources and updates on UK Workers’ Memorial Day 2014 activities, see the TUC 28 April webpages.

What will you be doing on 28 April?

The TUC webpages for Workers’ Memorial Day on 28 April 2014 are now up, ready and waiting to list your planned activities. This year the theme for the annual event is 'Protecting workers around the world through strong regulation, enforcement and union rights.' The TUC 28 April webpage notes: “The TUC believes that we should use the day to highlight the need for strong regulation at national, European and global level. We need to stop companies in the UK from benefiting from the lack of health and safety standards that lead to disasters such as the Bangladesh factory collapse that killed over 1,100 workers.” It adds: “We also need a strong strategy on health and safety from the European Commission which will raise standards throughout Europe, while in the UK we need an end to the cuts in enforcement and regulation and instead action to tackle the huge number of occupational diseases and injuries.” Among other activities, the TUC will be urging people to contact candidates in the European elections scheduled for Thursday 22 May 2014 to press the case for better workplace health and safety standards.

Ÿ  TUC Workers’ Memorial Day, 28 April 2014 webpages. If you know of any union 28 April events, email details to the TUC health and safety department.

TUC courses for safety reps

COURSES FOR January to March 2014

Ÿ  TUC courses


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