Issue date
03 Jul 2014
TUC Risks E-Bulletins

Number 661 - 5 July 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 [email protected]

 

Contents

UNION NEWS

OTHER NEWS

RESOURCES

INTERNATIONAL NEWS

TUC courses for safety reps

UNION NEWS

TUC welcomes official push for Rana Plaza fund

The TUC has welcomed a statement signed by international development minister Alan Duncan and ministers from six other European countries, urging retailers to donate to the Rana Plaza fund – set up for victims of the factory collapse in Bangladesh in April 2013 in which over 1,100 workers were killed. The statement – issued last week at the Forum on Responsible Business at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) – expresses concern that some companies either haven’t contributed at all or haven’t given enough to the fund. UK minister Alan Duncan said he is writing personally to a number of retailers, as he was alarmed that a number had not made any contribution to the ILO fund. TUC says so far just £11m has been raised for the fund – less than half the £24m needed to pay compensation to the victims. Many of the UK high street stores who sold clothes made at the factory still haven’t contributed, it says. TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “More than 12 months on from the tragedy it’s disgraceful that stores who sourced clothes from the factory still haven’t paid a penny into the fund, while others have donated only a minimal amount. Millions of pounds more are needed so that victims of the collapse and their families can start to get on with their lives.” She added: “It’s encouraging to see governments from across Europe joining unions and other campaigners to put pressure on those companies who still seem reluctant to contribute to the Rana Plaza fund.” The TUC has given £16,000 to the Rana Plaza Trust Fund through its development arm TUC Aid.

Ÿ  TUC news release.

Ÿ  Rana Plaza Trust Fund donors.

Ÿ  OECD statement on Rana Plaza, 26 June 2014 and ministers’ statement.

Ÿ  The Guardian.

Heathrow Express in dangerous PR blunder

Rail union RMT is demanding an immediate official investigation into an incident at Heathrow Express it says is one of the “most flagrant breaches of safety rules and regulations that the union has come across in recent years.” The union said the “disgraceful incident” involved Heathrow Express (HEX) managing director Keith Greenfield acting as a customer service representative (CSR) without the required training. The union described it as “the latest PR stunt dreamed up to undermine the company’s staff.” RMT wants the company’s entire senior management team to be suspended from duty while an investigation by rail regulator ORR takes place. In a letter to ORR, RMT acting general secretary Mick Cash writes: “It has been brought to my intention that management at HEX have wilfully and knowingly committed a serious safety breach that had the potential to put staff and passenger safety at risk.” He added: “On Thursday 26 June 2014 the HEX managing director, Keith Greenfield acted in the role of CSR without the necessary competence or experience to do so. The individual concerned has not received any training in the job he undertook, including how to act in an emergency situation. Mr Greenfield was briefed on the safety requirements for the job yet chose to undertake these duties even though he was aware he lacked all necessary qualification to carry out the task.” Mick Cash added: “This is a disgraceful incident that we expect to be fully and urgently investigated by the ORR and while that investigation is taking place it is only right that the entire HEX senior management team should be suspended.” The union leader warned: “The halving of numbers, the removal of on board staff and the driving forwards of Driver Only Operation, would render services inherently unsafe and make evacuation in the wake of an emergency incident or terrorist alert an absolute nightmare”, adding the company should “abandon the dangerous publicity stunts and start talking seriously about a safe and secure future for this vital London transport link.”

Ÿ  RMT news release. Morning Star.

Rail safety goes south up north

Rail union RMT says it will hold summit talks with Northern MPs on 15 July in response to what it calls “a co-ordinated attack” on Northern Rail and Trans Pennine Express safety and services “unleashed by the government from its offices in London.” The union was acting in the wake of a government franchising consultation it says would “rip the two franchises to shreds in the name of maximising private profit.” The government plan could result in Driver Only Operation (DOO) on both franchises, as well as staffing cuts and price rises. RMT has warned that DOO, where trains operate without a guard, could be disastrous for safety (Risks 460). RMT acting general secretary Mick Cash said: “It is sickening that only last week we had the grotesque sight of George Osborne parading around, talking about a High Speed Rail link in the North that’s light years off into the future, if it ever sees the light of day, while at the same time he is the driving force between real cuts to jobs, services and safety in the region right here, right now.” He added that planned cuts to the two franchises “would slash jobs, destroy safety and axe ticket offices and other passenger services while allowing fares and profits to soar through the roof. RMT is gearing up for a political, industrial and public campaign to stop this act of savage vandalism to rail services across the north and into Scotland dead in its tracks.” Calling for the rail system to be brought back into public ownership, he warned that rolling stock and investment was being “shipped south… while the north is systematically robbed of capacity despite surging demand. The message to the public could not be clearer – ‘pay more to travel on overcrowded, unstaffed trains where your safety is reduced to a lottery’. That is the message RMT will be taking out to the stations in the weeks ahead.”

Ÿ  RMT news release.

Education changes put staff and pupils at risk

Government-imposed changes to the education system have undermined the safety of staff and pupils, the union NASUWT has charged. The union was speaking out after a Health and Safety Executive (HSE) probe uncovered a criminal failure to deal properly with asbestos in more than 1 in 8 schools inspected (Risks 660).  NASUWT general secretary Chris Keates said: “These results come as no surprise. They are yet another example of where increased ‘freedoms’ in and fragmentation of the system lead to important statutory and good practice provisions being ignored. It is alarming and disturbing that nearly a third of schools were either given written advice or served with an improvement notice regarding deficiencies in their asbestos management.” The union leader added: “Asbestos is lethal. It is unacceptable that children and the workforce are being put at risk as a consequence of a failure to put in place mechanisms which monitor compliance with important legislative provisions. It is equally unacceptable that there is no coherent funded national plan for the systematic removal of asbestos from schools.”

Ÿ  NASUWT news release.

TV carpenter suffered work-limiting injury

A 60-year-old carpenter from Romford has received £10,000 in compensation after TV company ITV failed to make safe the This Morning broadcast studio. The carpenter, whose name has not been released but who has been a member of the union BECTU for nearly 40 years, was working in Studio 8 – the set of the This Morning programme – when the incident happened. Contractors had dug a ditch in the studio floor, but left it uncovered. The BECTU member immediately flagged the issue to the studio manager, but was ignored. While the programme was being filmed live and the member was carrying out his own work he fell into the uncovered ditch and sustained a cartilage tear in his right knee. The injury needed two surgical procedures to correct. ITV initially denied the incident had taken place and then sought to blame the employee, but witnesses came forward to support his case. Following the incident, the union member did not return to full time work, and his knee requires constant strapping. The incident accelerated underlying arthritic conditions by at least three years. Vincent Reynolds of Thompsons Solicitors, the law firm brought in by BECTU to act in the case, said: “The case shows that employers will try but ultimately can’t fob off claims blaming anyone but themselves when it’s in their hands to sort things and make the workplace safe.” BECTU supervising official Spencer MacDonald said: “The requirements on managers to ensure a safe work environment apply regardless of whether it’s a studio, a building site, a warehouse or a factory.”

Ÿ  Thompsons Solicitors news release.

OTHER NEWS

Government says HSE Is OK but must sell itself

A government decision to maintain the independence of the UK’s health and safety regulator has been welcomed by the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH). The safety professionals’ body was commenting last week after the Department for Work and Pensions published its full response to the Triennial Review of the role of the Health and Safety Executive (Risks 638). In his foreword to the government response, safety minister Mike Penning said he wanted to ensure HSE “delivers value for money to the taxpayer, whilst ensuring safety for the nation”. He added: “At my request, HSE has already made good progress on increasing the opportunities for commercial income, building on work it had already begun. Selling our expertise abroad will not only help businesses and governments to save lives, but, as part of our long-term economic plan, will show the world we’re leading the way in exporting expertise overseas.” The government response accepts a Triennial Review recommendation that HSE should continue to operate as a non-departmental public body, functioning ‘at arm’s length’ from ministers. Richard Jones, head of policy and public affairs at IOSH, welcomed this recognition, but added: “IOSH remains disappointed that neither further funding for HSE nor a single enforcement agency have been considered and that the focus is entirely on further commercialisation.”  In the coming months, HSE is to begin testing “demand for a fully-chargeable inspection service for organisations with mature health and safety management systems.” The government response also includes plans to set up a panel to review the controversial Fee for Intervention (FFI) scheme, effectively a spot fines system administered by HSE inspectors.

Ÿ  The Government Response to the Triennial Review of the Health and Safety Executive, DWP, June 2014.

Ÿ  IOSH news release. EEF news release.

Performance pay is bad for your health

Performance-related pay is bad for your health, a new study has found. After analysing survey results of more than 2,500 people from across Britain. Aberdeen University researchers concluded “being in jobs with a performance pay element increases the likelihood of health deterioration.” Professor Keith Bender and Professor Ioannis Theodossiou, whose findings are published in the journal Oxford Economic Papers, set out to investigate the impact across a wide variety of occupations. Professor Bender said workers reported consistently greater odds of ill-health the longer they were employed in performance-related contracts, affecting both stress levels and other indicators. He added: “One of things we know from economic theory is that performance-related pay makes explicit to workers the value of their time. You have to work to get paid and that makes people very aware of the 'cost of time'. Therefore, instead of going and exercising at lunchtime, they are more likely to stay working, or to work late at night having a take-away rather than going home and preparing a healthy meal.” He added: “This is not going to cause illness or injury immediately but there is likely to be a cumulative effect on health if done consistently over time.” The researchers found that people who were paid by performance were more likely to drink heavily than those in other types of contracts such as being paid by the hour or a salary. But the report notes: “A more consistent pattern is found with a series of measures of stress, where increases in the time spent in performance pay increase the hazard of five measures of stress.”  The report also warns that the findings may under-estimate the detrimental health effects of performance pay, with a “positive bias due to healthier workers selecting performance-pay jobs.”

Keith A. Bender and Ioannis Theodossiou. The unintended consequences of the rat race: the detrimental effects of performance pay on health, Oxford Economic Papers, volume 66, Number 3, pages 824-847, 2014. Herald Scotland.

More on the issue from Hazards and Karoshi.jp

Here’s a plan that works – take a break

A simple plan of action backed up by a commitment from senior management could be the best way for employers to ensure their workers get regular screen breaks, according to a new study funded by the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH). IOSH teamed up with academics at the University of Derby to investigate what can be done to encourage office and call centre workers to take more postural breaks. The researchers carried out a field study of 195 people to analyse their break-taking behaviour. They analysed the impact of different techniques, including pre-planning when to take breaks and using a buzzer to remind staff to change their posture after an hour’s inactivity. The study revealed that planning breaks led to a meaningful increase in postural changes over a day. The buzzer, by contrast, did not significantly increase break-taking.  The study also found that workers were more likely to change their behaviour in relation to taking postural breaks if companies made sure their employees understood the benefits, had the backing of senior management, and if management made changes to the work environment to support the goal. Principal researcher Dr Claire Williams from the University of Derby said: “The power of this intervention lies in its simplicity – with a pen and paper and a few minutes of thought, participants wrote plans which helped them change their postural break taking behaviour.”

Ÿ  IOSH news release and move more research.

M&S shopworker wins asbestos cancer case

A 53-year-old shopworker who was exposed to asbestos on the shop floor whilst working for Marks & Spencer, has won her case for cancer compensation in the High Court. Janice Allen worked in two M&S stores between 1978 and 1987, first in its flagship store on London's Oxford Street and then at its Uxbridge branch as a supervisor. In 2013 she was diagnosed with the asbestos cancer mesothelioma and told she has only months to live. The retail giant admitted negligently exposing Mrs Allen to asbestos, after her lawyers applied for a court order requiring the firm to disclose documents including surveys of stores. With the case listed for trial on 25 June 2014, Marks & Spencer made Mrs Allen an offer described as ‘derisory’ by her lawyers, Leigh Day. However, at the doors of the court, Marks & Spencer asked to negotiate further and agreed to pay Mrs Allen a “significant” undisclosed sum. The case was supported by witness William Wallace, a health and safety officer who had worked in M&S stores. He was the whistleblower who told the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) about unsafe handling of asbestos at M&S stores, leading to the retailer receiving a £1m fine in 2011 for criminal safety breaches (Risks 525). Mrs Allen said she was “devastated and distraught” by her diagnosis, adding: “I feel betrayed by Marks & Spencer. The company used to portray itself like a family; they engendered loyalty. I worked very hard, I met my husband there. But to think beneath the surface they were exposing people to deadly risks, to asbestos, it's so cynical. We were looking forward to enjoying life in the coming years; instead I have to face the fact I will not live to see my grandchildren.”

Ÿ  Leigh Day solicitors.

Ÿ  The Guardian.

Ÿ  Daily Mail.

Asbestos neighbour caused husband’s death

The widow of a man who lost his life to asbestos-related cancer has received a six-figure compensation settlement. In another case highlighting the potent killing power of asbestos, Lindsey Aherne, 63, received the payout after her husband, Denis, died of mesothelioma in 2012. He grew up next to the Cape Asbestos factory in Barking, London. The factory closed down in 1969, and Denis moved away in the 1960s – but his early exposures living half a mile from the factory were enough to seal his fate. Children at Denis’s school used to play with the asbestos fibres in the playground, throwing “snowballs” of it to each other. Lindsey faced a two year battle for justice. “During the settlement process I tried not to get bitter or twisted. What’s the point?” said Lindsey. But towards the end, when [Cape] weren’t settling, I was angry they were putting me through so much anguish. We can’t change the past but they could try to make our future better. They were fighting every one of the cases. I settled in the end because I didn’t want to go to court.”

Ÿ  Barking and Dagenham Post.

Dud safety equipment led to windfarm death

The grieving mother of a teenage construction worker who fell nearly 60ft to his death from a wind turbine after his equipment failed, has condemned the safety errors which cost her son his life. Antonio Basilio Brazao was 19 when he fell down the shaft of a wind turbine at the Earlsburn Wind Farm near Fintry, Stirlingshire in 2007. He had been working for Falck Renewables inside a Nordex UK turbine. Speaking ahead of the Fatal Accident Inquiry into his death his mother Karen Brazao said fully functioning safety equipment would have saved her son’s life. “It’s heartbreaking for us to know that if this safety equipment was working as it should have been our son would still be with us today,” she said. “What is so difficult to comprehend is how there wasn’t just one fault but seemingly a host of safety mistakes which resulted in the death of Antonio. How can this be allowed to happen? I only hope that this is the last time someone dies because of poor safety equipment.” The teenager was wearing a full body harness connected to a HACA fall arrest system, however the break lock on the safety equipment failed, leaving him to fall nearly 60ft. He died at the scene of severe head injuries. In June 2012, Nordex UK was fined £26,000 after admitting criminal health and safety failings (Risks 561). Law firm Slater & Gordon said the family will be taking civil action against HACA, Nordex UK and Falck Renewables plc.

Ÿ  Slater & Gordon news release.

Young mechanic was crushed by two buses

Regional bus operator West Midlands Travel has been fined £150,000 after a young employee died when he was crushed between two buses. Lee Baker, a 24-year-old assistant mechanic, was working a night shift at the company’s Walsall depot when the incident happened in the early hours of Saturday 22 October 2011. Wolverhampton Crown Court heard that he was attempting to move a double-decker bus to get access to a pit, but the reverse gear wouldn’t work. He and a colleague attempted to push it backwards to get it past a single-decker parked ten feet away and sideways on to the double-decker. Mr Baker went into the cab of the bus, which had an automatic safety device engaging the parking brake when the doors are open. He intended to put the gearbox in neutral but inadvertently left it in drive. As a result, when he got off and closed the doors, the parking brake automatically disengaged after three seconds and the bus moved towards the two men who were then in front of the bus ready to push. His colleague managed to jump out of the way, but Mr Baker was crushed between the two vehicles. Mr Baker, who lived with his partner, Donna Perigo, and their then 20-month-old daughter, Katie, died in hospital some three-and-a-half months later on 12 February 2012, having never regained consciousness. A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found that no supervisor was on duty at the time of the incident, training was inadequate and that West Midlands Travel, a subsidiary of the National Express Group, had failed to perform a suitable risk assessment. The company, which had earlier pleaded guilty to two criminal safety offences, was fined £150,000 and ordered to pay costs of £35,119. Donna Perigo said: “Nothing will ever bring Lee back. My main aim has always been to prevent something like this happening again. I do not want anyone else to be in the position that I’m in now – in tragic circumstances that could have been prevented.” She added: “Lee’s death has been tough on all of us. We will never forget what has happened but now we can at last put it to one side and focus on the future.”

Ÿ  HSE news release.

Ÿ  Express and Star.

Ÿ  Walsall Advertiser.

Firm fined after worker is crushed by falling MDF

A joinery firm has been fined for safety failings after an employee was crushed by half a tonne of MDF boards at its premises in Basildon. The 50-year-old worker suffered two collapsed lungs, a broken collar bone, five broken ribs and a gash to his head following the incident at Specialist Joinery Projects Ltd on 26 September 2013. He was hospitalised for two weeks and returned to work on light duties in January 2014. Basildon Magistrates’ Court heard that the employee was working in the joinery shop of the factory, selecting MDF boards to be cut down to size. The boards were stored vertically and leant against racking. The worker had removed three boards, but as he removed the fourth, a suction effect caused a further 15 of the 30kg boards to topple over on top of him, knocking him over. As he fell he gashed his head on a stack of timber, and was then pinned to the concrete floor under the weight of the boards for several minutes before being freed. A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found that the MDF boards were unsecured and not racked, and that the approximate weight of the boards falling on the worker would have been half a tonne. Specialist Joinery Projects Ltd was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay £598 in costs after pleading guilty to a criminal breach of the Work at Height Regulations 2005. HSE inspector Kim Tichias said: “The risks from falling timber and board material in the woodworking industry are well known. There have been a number of incidents in recent years, including fatalities, where poorly stored and unsecured boards have fallen on workers.”

Ÿ  HSE news release and woodworking webpages.

Defective remote control cost waste worker his legs

A scrap metal company and a businessman have been sentenced for serious criminal safety breaches that led to a worker losing both legs as the doors of a 16-tonne baling machine closed on him. Piotr Sarna, 42, was dealing with a problem inside the five-metre long baler at H Ripley & Co’s site in Westfield, East Sussex, when the doors of the machine began to close. He tried to use a remote control to stop them, but it failed to respond. He made a desperate attempt to escape in the remaining seconds, but the jaws hit his legs as he scrambled away. One leg was severed and the other was severely crushed and was amputated later in hospital. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigated the 24 May 2011 incident. It found the company’s isolation procedure for the baler was totally inadequate. It also found the remote control, built by co-defendant John Platt, was seriously flawed. Lewes Crown Court heard that it was possible for the baler, used to compact scrap metal, to take only one minute and 15 seconds to go from ‘car to cube’. The maximum force of its doors was some 180 tonnes. The secondhand, fire-damaged machine purchased by the scrap company needed a new radio remote control system, which was manufactured and installed by John Platt. HSE found this had several serious flaws. As a result, once the baler doors started closing, the remote control failed to activate to stop them. Neither was it robust enough for the demands of working in a scrap metal yard. H Ripley & Co was fined £60,000 plug £34,633 costs after admitting a criminal safety offence. John Platt also pleaded guilty and was fined £10,000 with £5,000 costs.

Ÿ  HSE news release and waste webpages.

Ÿ  Hastings Observer.

Poorly set guards led to severe hand injuries

A company that makes metal components for the automotive industry has been fined after a worker suffered horrific hand injuries in an incorrectly-guarded machine. The 56-year-old agency worker, who has asked not to be named, was operating a 160-tonne power press at the RSM Industries Ltd factory in Exhall, when the incident happened on 8 May 2013. He had his hand in the machine removing finished pieces of metal when he accidentally hit the foot pedal, causing the machine to start up. Magistrates in Nuneaton heard the worker’s right hand was crushed and he had to have three and a half fingers and half his palm amputated. A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found there had been new guards fitted to the machine but the interlock, which prevented the press from operating if the guards were anything other than fully closed, had not been correctly adjusted and set. The company’s daily checks failed to pick up the fault with the guards on 12 separate occasions. RSM Industries Ltd pleaded guilty to two criminal safety breaches and was fined £8,000 with £11,300 costs. Speaking after the hearing, HSE principal inspector Sue Thompson said: “The worker suffered life-changing injuries. He spent 35 hours in surgery undergoing seven different operations and is now severely disabled with the loss of his dominant hand. He has not been able to return to work and is still receiving treatment.” She said the incident “was entirely preventable had the company thoroughly examined the machine before it was brought back into use and carried out adequate daily checks. The fact the fault was missed a dozen different times shows a complete lack of diligence.” HSE said there are around a dozen deaths and 40,000 injuries each year due to incidents where workers have been using machines.

Ÿ  HSE news release and work equipment webpages. Coventry Telegraph.

RESOURCES

RISCTOX chemical online database goes live

The RISCTOX chemicals database, developed by the European Trade Union Institute (ETUI) and the Spanish union safety institute ISTAS, has gone live online, giving workers access to health and safety information on over 100,000 chemicals. According to ETUI, each chemical data ‘card’ specifies the chemical’s classification and labelling, its main work uses (solvent, cleaner, paint stripper, etc), how it affects health, and the occupational diseases it causes. “The information can be called up simply by entering either the chemical’s name or its identification number in the main international chemical inventories into a search box,” ETUI says. “Of the 100,000 or so chemicals listed, the trade unions have identified nearly 570 as substances of very high concern (SVHC) for putting on their list of priority substances. These are chemicals commonly used in many workplaces that need priority treatment under REACH, the regulation governing the marketing and use of chemicals in the European Union.”

Ÿ  ETUI publication alert and RISCTOX database.

INTERNATIONAL NEWS

Global: Journal will make asbestos scientist own up

The asbestos industry’s attempt to put a healthy gloss on is unhealthy products is continuing, but its favourite consultant is facing renewed flak after his undeclared links to the industry were exposed. Toxicologist David Bernstein has been paid vast sums by asbestos firms and industry groups to write papers supporting continued asbestos use, with these appearing in scientific journals. But in the latest, ‘Health risks of chrysotile asbestos’, just published in the journal Current Opinion in Pulmonary Medicine, he states explicitly: “There are no conflicts of interest.” According to Kathleen Ruff, a Canadian campaigner who has worked to expose payments to scientists – including some UK experts (Risks 626) - by industry lobby groups, “asbestos industry companies and lobby groups have paid Bernstein more than a million dollars. Yet in the article, Bernstein falsely states that he has no conflicting interests.” She said among his roles, Bernstein helped “to re-launch asbestos trade by Zimbabwe”, as well as receiving funds from the asbestos industry to speak in support of asbestos at events from Brazil to Vietnam. She added: “Bernstein is a permanent fixture on the speakers’ list of asbestos lobby groups.” Ruff submitted a 22 June complaint to the publisher of Current Opinion in Pulmonary Medicine stating that Bernstein’s conduct violates the journal’s Conflict of Interests requirements. “I request that Current Opinion in Pulmonary Medicine publish a correction that discloses the actual and extensive nature of Mr Bernstein’s conflicting interests,” she noted. A 1 July email response from the journal’s publisher said “we will publish an erratum that states he is a paid consultant to the chrysotile asbestos industry and name the commercial organisations he has been paid by in the last 36 months.” Ruff responded that the disclosure should also include Bernstein’s work for asbestos lobbying organisations, which might not be described as “commercial” entities.

Ÿ  RightOnCanada.ca. David Bernstein.

Ÿ  Health risks of chrysotile asbestos, Current Opinion in Pulmonary Medicine, volume 20, issue 4, pages 366-370, July 2014.

Ÿ  Complaint to the journal.

Ÿ  Background from Hazards and RightOnCanada on David Bernstein’s industry links.

New Zealand: Action demanded on ‘terrible’ safety record

New Zealand’s national union federation CTU has called for urgent action to address the country’s “terrible” workplace safety record. CTU president Helen Kelly made the call last week in an uncompromising oral submission to a parliamentary select committee hearing on a Health and Safety Reform Bill. “It is possible to turn around the terrible record of health and safety in this country, but this will only be possible if all the pieces of the jigsaw are put together,” she said. “We know that workers have a critical role to play in making workplaces safe. Worker voices need to be heard and taken seriously through formal processes within the workplace. Worker representation in decisions about workplace health and safety adds insight and value which can save lives. It is likely that the 29 men who were killed in the Pike River mine explosion would be alive today if better health and safety regulation had been in place” (Risks 619). The union leader added: “I have 28 reports pinned to my wall in my office of forestry workers killed in NZ forests in the last five years. Not one refers to a health and safety representative system despite many occurring in firms large enough to have required them by law. All would have benefited from one. Not one of these employers can show that workers genuinely having an official role to play in their own, and their workmates, health and safety would lead to abuse – or even really be clear about what that abuse might be, underscores to us one of the reasons why NZ workplaces are so dangerous.”

Ÿ  NZCTU news release.

Ÿ  Health and Safety Reform Bill.

Turkey: Unions share the pain of ‘industrial homicide’

An international union solidarity mission on the one month anniversary of the “killing of 301 mineworkers in an avoidable industrial disaster” (Risks 655) has visited the site of the disaster in the mining town of Soma in Turkey. Global union federation IndustriALL said the mission “delivered a message of international anger to Turkey’s political authorities and public opinion, calling for immediate action including ratification and implementation of ILO Convention 176 on safety and health in mines. Illegal and irresponsible outsourcing and subcontracting in the country must also be seriously tackled and reversed by the Turkish authorities.” The IndustriALL delegation met with the Parliamentary Commission formed to investigate the tragedy. Speaking at the Soma site, IndustriALL assistant general secretary Kemal Özkan said: “Turkey’s mining industry must see a change of business model. In recent years the unbridled privatisation, subcontracting, and cutting corners on health and safety have together transferred value from the Turkish people to private investors. Hundreds of workers have paid with life and limb for this unfair and unsustainable model.” He added: “We reject this model and will campaign hard to replace it. Every mine accident is avoidable and the responsibility lies with government and the employer.” Soma Holding’s lawyers have told a court the company was not at fault, saying that “the accident might even be caused by sabotage.” The company’s chair, Can Gürkan, and general manager, Ramazan Doğru, are still under arrest along with several other officials while the owner, Alp Gürkan, is being investigated on charges of fraud.

Ÿ  IndustriALL news release.

Ÿ  Hurriyet Daily.

USA: How to win safer workplaces

Focusing campaigns to improve workplace safety regulation and practices at the local rather than national level can reap enormous benefits, according to a new how-to manual. The guide from the Center for Progressive Reform concentrates on the progress on worker safety issues likely to come at the state and local levels, far from “the general dysfunction in Washington.” ‘Winning safer workplaces: A manual for state and local policy reform’ offers local advocacy groups a series of off-the-shelf policy proposals, “all ripe for enactment by state legislatures, city or county councils, or state or local agencies.” CPR president Rena Steinzor said the decision to focus on advancing a state and local agenda was born of “a hard truth. When it comes to advancing the cause of worker safety, Washington is simply not prepared to step up its game.” She added: “Underfunding, resistance by industry, and political polarisation have tied OSHA [the official federal safety regulator] up in knots. The tragic result is that workers die and are injured every day in incidents that could and should have been prevented. This manual is intended to help state and local groups – especially those new to the field of workplace health and safety – by providing them with a menu of policy proposals that they can tailor to their communities’ needs.” The manual focuses on three key areas. The first covers worker empowerment, including safety committees, training, whistleblower protection laws and “citizen lawsuits so that workers won’t have to rely on under-resourced government agencies alone to enforce safety standards.” The second area is making sure crime doesn’t pay, through stricter penalties and naming and shaming. And the final priority is strengthening institutions, so police and prosecutors make workplace safety a priority, as well as pressure for more robust fatality investigations, responsible contractor laws and greater accountability of regulators.

Ÿ  CPR news release and guide, Winning safer workplaces: A manual for state and local policy reform.

Ÿ  The Pump Handle.

TUC courses for safety reps

COURSES FOR 2014

Ÿ  TUC courses

 

 

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