Toggle high contrast
Issue date
TUC Risks E-Bulletins

Number 664 - 26 July 2014

Asbestos - the hidden killer Hazards magazine Hazards at Work

Risks is the TUC's weekly online bulletin for safety reps and others. To receive this bulletin every week, click here. Past issues are available. Disclaimer and Privacy

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







Sinking feeling as disaster ferry rules set to be scrapped

In March 1987 the P&O ferry Herald of Free Enterprise sank outside Zeebrugge, resulting in 188 deaths. An inquiry led to a considerable number of safety improvements. Now, in what the TUC describes as “another outbreak of deregulatory zeal,” the government want to remove some of these regulations. Writing in the Stronger Unions blog, TUC head of safety Hugh Robertson notes: “It is not because this type of ferry no longer operates. There are 84 similar ferries flying the British flag. Nor is it because new designs mean that the regulations are no longer needed, after all the regulations are not about ferry design but safety measures. It is because the requirements are seen as being ‘red-tape’ and a cost to business… Their justification for removing safety rules brought in after the Zeebrugge disaster is that they go beyond the requirements for ships operating in countries like the Philippines or Bangladesh.” Among the provisions to be cut is the requirement for watertight emergency lockers on the open deck that can be accessed if the ship capsizes. These are for things like axes and ladders. The justification for lifting the requirement is that “even if a situation occurred where the equipment could be used, it is unlikely that he degree of crew organisation necessary to make use of it could be maintained in the face of a catastrophic capsize.” The consultation document adds that the government has been advised that a ship may sink too fast to use the equipment. Also for the axe is a requirement to weigh cargo to ensure a ship is not overloaded – again, not because it is not a necessary safety rule, but because it only applies to UK ships. According to TUC’s Hugh Robertson: “Of all the pieces of stupid, dangerous, ideologically-driven, anti-regulatory, claptrap, this is up there along with the proposals to exempt the self-employed from the Health and Safety at Work Act.” He added: “To say that you want to remove safety regulations solely because other countries do not have them is just part of the dangerous and reckless race to the bottom that this government has excelled in.” Four passengers on an Isle of Wight ferry were hospitalised on 19 July after the upper car deck of the St Helen collapsed.

Ÿ  Stronger Unions blog.

Ÿ  MCA Consultation Document.

Ÿ  BBC News Online.

Grayling’s dumb solution is an embarrassing turkey

A proposed law the justice secretary Chris Grayling says will “slay the health and safety culture” has been condemned by the TUC and labelled “a turkey” by Labour. In an interview to the Daily Telegraph, the Cabinet minister claimed that the Bill, which went before the House of Commons this week, was to address cases where a “person does something dumb, hurts themselves and sues the employer anyway.” The Telegraph and then the Daily Mail printed his comments uncritically. But the Social Action, Responsibility and Heroism Bill (SARAH), also called the Hero’s Bill, would in fact tell a court what it must consider in determining a claim in negligence or breach of statutory duty. The TUC says even the government admits this has nothing to do with the “health and safety culture”. Other government arguments to justify the Bill, including claims a fear of litigation prevents volunteering and deters community heroes, are equally bogus, it says. According to TUC’s Hugh Robertson: “Of course Grayling knows that he can make sweeping and completely misleading statements with no fear of anyone in the media actually picking him up on it because there is clearly no interest in achieving any kind of balance amongst some of the newspapers, and of course stories about unions stopping workers being killed does not sell papers.” Speaking in the Commons debate, Labour’s Sadiq Khan said the Bill has been variously described as “complete gobbledygook” and “a turkey.” He added that the government’s own figures showed volunteering was up and workplace compensation claims had fallen dramatically. “And let’s be clear - this Bill is targeted at negligence and not at health and safety at all,” he said. “So when the Lord Chancellor claims, as he does, that this Bill will finally slay much of the ‘elf and safety’ culture, he must be honest and admit he is being disingenuous, to say the least.” He said Grayling could have brought forward a bill to protect the rights of victims. “Instead, we have the SARAH Bill. A turkey of a Bill. A vacuous Bill. Without doubt the most embarrassing and pathetic Bill the Ministry of Justice has published since the department was first formed.”

Ÿ  TUC Stronger Unions blog and Compensation Myth report.

Ÿ  SARAH on the parliament webpages.

Ÿ  Response from Labour’s Sadiq Khan.

Ÿ  Daily Telegraph.

Ÿ  Daily Mail.

Ÿ  ITV News.

Ÿ  BBC News Online.

Wilting workers need heat wave help

As summer temperatures soar, the TUC is calling on employers to relax workplace dress codes temporarily to help their staff work through the heatwave as comfortably as possible. Although there is a legal limit below which workplace temperatures should not fall (16°C), there is no upper limit. For many years the TUC has been pushing for a change in safety regulations to introduce a new maximum temperature of 30°C – or 27°C for those doing strenuous work – with employers forced to adopt cooling measures when the workplace temperature hits 24°C. In the meantime employers can help their overheating staff by allowing them to leave their more formal office attire at home for the rest of the week, says the TUC. TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “When it’s hot outside, it’s no fun for those trapped inside in overheated workplaces. Extreme heat can be as unpleasant to work in as extreme cold, and so long as the UK has no legal maximum working temperature, many workers will be working in conditions that are not just personally unpleasant, but will also be affecting their productivity.” She added: “Now is the time for employers to relax the dress code rules temporarily and allow their staff to dress down for summer. Making sure that everyone has access to fans, portable air conditioning units and cold drinking water should help reduce the heat in offices, factories, shops, hospitals, schools and other workplaces across the country.”

Ÿ  TUC news release and Worksmart advice.

Ÿ  Usdaw news release.

Ÿ  The Independent.

Occupational therapists in bullying victory

Occupational therapists at Greenwich council are celebrating victory in a ‘bullying culture’ dispute. The therapists, members of Unite, took three days of strike action over alleged bullying and harassment, and the suspension of a work colleague accused of being too friendly with staff (Risks 654). Following a council hearing, the occupational therapist, who was suspended on gross misconduct allegations after she made a complaint about bullying and harassment, had the charges against her dropped. Now Unite has called for the council bosses to explain why the ‘flimsy’ allegations were made in the first place and why the cash-strapped council had clocked up thousands of pounds in agency fees during the dispute. Unite regional officer Onay Kasab said: “While we welcome the decision, there are now serious questions to be asked. The council’s case quickly collapsed once it came under the spotlight at a hearing where we were able to question the evidence. Under examination, council managers had difficulty specifying the allegations.” He added: “We believe it is important in light of the collapse of the case and the clearly flimsy nature of the allegations and evidence, that those managers, who made the decision to suspend our member, explain themselves. While our member was suspended, the council paid an agency member of staff to provide cover. During this time of austerity, when resources are scarce and services cut, to waste money like this is inexcusable.” The union officer concluded: “I want to congratulate our Unite members at Greenwich. I am clear that it was strike action that forced the council to see sense. Our members should be proud that they stood for what is right and were prepared to stand shoulder to shoulder with a victimised colleague.”

Ÿ  Unite news release.

UCATT secures Labour safety commitments

Construction union UCATT says it secured ‘several key commitments’ from the Labour Party at its National Policy Forum meeting in Milton Keynes last week. The policy commitments from Labour cover issues including blacklisting, false self-employment, asbestos compensation and labour rights in Qatar. On blacklisting, the policy forum agreed: “If the current government will not launch a full inquiry into the disgraceful practice of blacklisting in the construction industry the next Labour government will. This inquiry will be transparent and public to ensure the truth is set out.” The forum backed action on self-employment abuses, noting: “False self-employment in construction is a scandal that is costing the taxpayer hundreds of millions each year… The next Labour government will put this right…”  Labour’s policy forum also agreed to “introduce legislation for a proper compensation scheme for sufferers of asbestosis and asbestos related conditions, ensuring they are given the payment they are duly owed without delay, by enshrining the levy on the insurance industry in law. This will secure a sustainable funding stream for compensation for victims and ongoing research into asbestos related diseases and their treatment.”  The forum also decried human rights abuses in Qatar, noting that if the 2022 World Cup hosts “fail to take appropriate steps Labour will call for Qatar’s right to host the 2022 World Cup to be removed.” Steve Murphy, general secretary of UCATT, said: “UCATT is delighted that Labour has agreed these commitments. Labour has listened to UCATT’s concerns and the concerns of construction workers.”

Ÿ  UCATT news release.

Shopworkers welcome alcohol sales talks

Shopworkers’ trade union leader John Hannett has welcomed a government commitment to meet with the union and business representatives to look further at a proposal to provide greater protection for workers selling alcohol. A coalition of staff and business representatives are calling on the government to accept an amendment, tabled by Lord Foulkes of Cumnock, which will give extra legal protection to staff who are assaulted whilst selling alcohol (Risks 663). The amendment was debated in the House of Lords on 21 June, during the committee stage of the Criminal Courts and Justice Bill. John Hannett, general secretary of the retail union Usdaw, said: “Shop and bar workers are expected to enforce the law by preventing under-age purchases and refusing customers who have already had too much to drink. Parliament has placed a unique duty on these workers, who take on a pseudo police officer role, so it is only right they also provide the additional protection needed to help keep them safe.” He added: “A meeting will provide us with an opportunity to explain to the minister what life is like for workers on the frontline of policing the sale of alcohol, how exposed staff are to violence and just how frustrating it is to see attackers let off with lenient sentences, cautions or not face any punishment at all.”

Ÿ  Hansard, 21 July 2014, Column 993, 7.20 pm: Amendment 41, Moved by Lord Foulkes of Cumnock.


HSE slammed for deadly silica standard defence

Hundreds of thousands of workers in the UK are being put at risk and more than 1,000 could die every year due to inadequate safeguards for a workplace dust known to cause cancer and other diseases, according to research by University of Stirling academics. The study is critical of the workplace safety regulator, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which it says is wrong to resist a tightening of the current silica exposure standard. The HSE has argued that technological limitations make monitoring below the current exposure standard impractical. In addition, potentially affected industries such as fracking have argued that the cost of implementing tighter controls would be prohibitive. But the report from Stirling University’s Occupational and Environmental Health and Safety Research Group notes: “Modern science can obtain and analyse dust on Mars. If HSE’s science can’t obtain and analyse adequately one of the most commonly encountered and deadly workplace dust exposures here on Earth, you have to ask who on Earth is the watchdog protecting?” In the US, the HSE’s equivalent, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), is arguing for a rule change to halve the exposure standard. OSHA, in evidence to public hearing, has stated that monitoring a tighter exposure standard is technically feasible and, as well as saving thousands of lives, would deliver huge economic savings, rather than job losses. It also says tightening the standard would drive further improvements in dust control and monitoring technology. Respirable crystalline silica exposure is linked to lung cancer, silicosis and other breathing disorders and kidney and autoimmune diseases.

Ÿ  Stirling University news release and full report.

Ÿ  BBC News Online.

Ÿ  The Herald.

Ÿ   Central FM.

Ÿ  SHP Online.

Suspended sentence for stone dust failings

The director of a London masonry company has been handed a suspended prison sentence for exposing workers to harmful stone dust and ignoring notices to improve extraction ventilation. Employees at Redmist International Ltd were exposed to potentially deadly stone dust containing silica for a period of six months between January and June 2013. The company and director Ghausal Islam, 52, were sentenced last week after an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) identified serious concerns. Southwark Crown Court heard that stone dust was commonplace at Redmist during regular polishing and grinding work. The dust can if inhaled cause lung cancer, silicosis, occupational asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and kidney disease. But an HSE inspection on 24 January 2013 revealed that an extraction ventilation system in the factory was inadequate and hadn’t been properly tested to ensure it was fit for purpose. Two improvement notices were served by HSE requiring urgent changes, but follow-up visits on 5 June and 13 June established that nothing had changed, and that employees were still facing potentially harmful exposure. Company director Ghausal Islam was sentenced to 10 months in prison, suspended for two years, and was also ordered to pay £9,000 in costs for a criminal safety breach. Redmist International Ltd escaped penalty for separate breaches of the same legislation because it is no longer trading and is the subject of a winding up order. HSE inspector Saif Deen commented: “Stone dust can be incredibly harmful and exposure, even over a relatively short period, can have devastating consequences. It is therefore vital that companies involved in processes that generate airborne dust have effective systems in place to extract harmful particles, and provide adequate personal protective equipment for their employees.” He added: “That didn’t happen at Redmist International and the company, under the lead of Ghausul Islam, displayed a poor performance over the period of our investigation. The clear concerns we identified were blatantly ignored and HSE will not hesitate to prosecute when worker safety is compromised in this way.”

Ÿ  HSE news release.

Rail accidents surge as staffing levels fall

Rail passengers and staff have been the victims of a surge in incidents resulting in injury and death as staffing levels are cut back, latest statistics show. A new report on rail health and safety from the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) showed incidents involving track maintenance workers at their highest level for seven years, with three deaths, 79 major injuries and 1,641 reported minor injuries. Deaths and injuries involving passengers have also increased. ORR also reported that the number of signals passed at danger (SPADS) - when trains go through a red light - rose 17 per cent. ORR railway safety director Ian Prosser said: “ORR's on-going programme of targeted inspections will focus on station management, electrical and worker safety, level crossings and the condition of tracks, bridges and tunnels, to ensure that there is no compromise on safety.” He added: “A proactive approach to managing risk on the railways is both the safest and most efficient way of working. ORR will work with the rail industry to improve its management and culture so that it 'predicts and prevents' problems before they create a safety risk or cause disruption, protecting all those travelling or working on Britain's railways.” Mick Cash, general secretary of the rail union RMT. said the statistics lay were “shocking and shameful” and said those responsible should be “hanging their heads in shame as they have blood on their hands.” He said: “RMT safety reps continue to report flagrant breaches of procedures and regulations as staff numbers are hacked to the bone, work is contracted out and casualised with corners cut in a desperate drive to try to keep services running against a backdrop of savage financial cuts.” He said the union was “in no doubt that the catalogue of death and injuries on our railways, among both staff and passengers, will continue to increase” unless the government’s cuts programme is reversed.

Ÿ  ORR news release.

Ÿ  RMT news release.

Ÿ  Morning Star.

Cameron says ‘no’ to blacklisting inquiry

The prime minister has confirmed he will not support a public inquiry into blacklisting of union reps for raising safety and other concerns on site. In an interview with journalist Adam Smith, author of the bestseller ‘Obama and Me’, David Cameron said: “What is needed is to make sure we exercise the legislation that is now in place, this is something that happened under the last government and now there is now legislation in place to stop illegal blacklisting.” Asked directly by Smith if there should be a public inquiry, the prime minister said:  “As I say I think enforcing the law that we have now is the most important thing.” Describing blacklisting as a national scandal “akin to McCarthyism”, Blacklist Support Group secretary Dave Smith, said: “Blacklisting of trade unionists is no longer an industrial relations issue; it is a major human rights conspiracy between multinational corporations and the state. Despite all this, David Cameron has said ‘no’ to a public inquiry.” He added: “Blacklisting is working class phone-hacking. Only a fully independent public inquiry will get to the truth of the blacklisting human rights scandal… It is not surprising that a Conservative prime minister funded by big business does not want a public inquiry. But that is what blacklisted workers, their unions and the TUC are calling for.” Senior directors of three of the UK's largest construction companies last week apologised to MPs investigating the blacklisting of employees. Representatives from Balfour Beatty, Laing O'Rourke and Vinci Construction were appearing before the Scottish Affairs Committee.

Ÿ  Blacklist blog.

Ÿ  BBC News Online.

Ÿ  Scottish Affairs Committee blacklisting inquiry.

Property firm fined after ignoring wood dust risks

A property maintenance firm has appeared in court after ignoring safety concerns at its joinery workshop in Dukinfield. High Peak Remedial Services Ltd was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after it failed to comply with an enforcement notice requiring its wood dust extractor to be properly tested. Trafford Magistrates’ Court was told an HSE inspector issued an improvement notice during a routine visit to the workshop on 13 July 2013, after it emerged the company had not arranged a recent test of its extraction system. Wood dust can cause serious health problems, including cancer of the nose and occupational asthma, if it is inhaled. The court heard High Peak Remedial Services was given over eight weeks to comply with the enforcement notice, but asked for an extension on the day before it was due to expire. The firm was then given another four weeks to arrange a test but it again failed to meet the deadline. High Peak Remedial Services Ltd was fined £8,000 and ordered to pay prosecution costs of £1,662 after pleading guilty to a criminal failure to comply with an improvement notice. HSE inspector Emily Osborne said carpenters and joiners are four times as likely to develop occupational asthma as the general working population, adding: “We gave the firm several chances to arrange for an engineer to visit the workshop over a three-month period, but it failed to take any action. We therefore had no choice but to prosecute.”

Ÿ  HSE news release and woodworking webpages.

Aerospace firm lands workers with nerve damage

A Nottinghamshire aerospace engineering company has been ordered to pay more than £190,000 in fines and costs for failing to protect its employees from the effects of vibration. It total, 24 workers were diagnosed with debilitating nerve conditions. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuted SPS Aerostructures Ltd after the workers developed either hand arm vibration syndrome (HAVS) or carpal tunnel syndrome from being exposed to high levels of vibration for several years at the company’s premises in Annesley. Nottingham Crown Court heard that although HSE was notified of an employee being diagnosed with HAVS in 2010, the issue dated back to 2005 when the company’s health and safety committee asked it to carry out a suitable risk assessment for exposure to vibration, and act on the result. An assessment of the company’s tools took place in 2006 which identified some, including drills, grinders and hammers, that posed a high risk from exposure to vibration. However, they were not taken out of service and no controls were put on their use until 2010. In addition, some employees used their own tools, which were also not assessed and so no controls put in place. HSE found that although SPS Aerostructures provided some health surveillance for employees, it was not sufficient to identify symptoms early and refer individuals to occupational health specialists for timely diagnosis and management. The court was told some of the employees at SPS Aerostructures Ltd had to undergo operations and some had to be removed from the work they were doing. One was given work without any vibration exposure but was later made redundant. A skilled metal sheet worker, he is now unable to work in this field. SPS Aerostructures Ltd was fined £125,000 plus £65,805 in costs after admitting two criminal safety breaches. HSE inspector Dawn Smith said: “SPS Aerostructures Ltd was, from 2005, regularly being made aware that employees were suffering from vibration-related symptoms. They were being supplied with this information directly from staff and from their occupational health nurse. However, they chose to ignore this information and allowed employees to work unrestricted with high risk tools, or their own tools.” She added: “The company was slow to implement improvements even after HSE’s involvement and had to be issued with an improvement notice in 2011 to ensure compliance.”

Ÿ  HSE news release and vibration webpages.

Dangerous developer goes directly to jail

A developer has been sent to prison for 30 months after repeatedly breaching prohibition notices stopping unsafe work on the redevelopment a former office block in Parkeston, Essex. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) visited the site on 28 February 2013 following complaints from local residents worried about debris falling from upper storeys and the danger facing workers at height but with no falls protection. Eze Kinsley, the developer who was found to be in control of workers at the site, verbally abused the HSE inspector who visited. The inspector had to return with Essex police officers to serve prohibition notices requiring an immediate stop to unsafe work at the site. Mr Kinsley reacted strongly to this, physically assaulting the inspector. After further reports that work had not stopped, HSE issued a further prohibition notice on 3 April 2013, which was breached within one hour of being served. Eze Kinsley, who was prosecuted by the HSE at Colchester Magistrates’ Court, was given a 30 month prison sentence after being convicted of two criminal safety offences. The jail term will be served concurrently with three 12-month prison sentences after he was also convicted of three counts of contravening a prohibition notice. He was also ordered to pay costs of £5,000. Mr Kinsley was found guilty of assaulting an inspector from HSE at a separate court appearance. HSE inspector Jonathan Elven said working conditions on this site were “truly appalling with absolutely no provision for workers’ safety”, and added: “Mr Kinsley refused to accept that he had a responsibility to make sure people who worked for him, and any member of the public living or working near his site, were not subjected to unnecessary risks – and vigorously and violently resisted all attempts to make him take actions to protect them.”

Ÿ  HSE news release.

Ÿ  Construction Enquirer.

Airbus fined £200,000 over worker’s death

Aeroplane manufacturer Airbus has been fined following the death of an employee who was crushed between a tractor and a fertiliser spreader at the firm’s plant in Broughton. The company was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after an investigation found Donny Williams and his co-workers had received no training on how to work on the equipment at the time the incident happened on 16 November 2011. Mold Crown Court heard that the 62-year-old worked in the maintenance department, servicing the fleet of vehicles used by Airbus at the site. He was asked to fit a fertiliser spreader to the back of a tractor as part of a trial to spread granular de-icer onto the plant’s runway. Mr Williams asked a colleague to help him with this job by starting the tractor and pulling a lever in the tractor cab. As the other worker did this, he heard Mr Williams shout and turned to see him trapped between the tractor’s rear tyre and the spreader. Although his colleagues managed to release him, Mr Williams died shortly after having been taken to hospital. HSE’s investigation found that fitters were untrained in the procedures used a “trial and error” approach. The incident could have been avoided if the well-known “safe-stop” industry practice had been adopted by making sure the hand brake is fully applied, all controls and equipment are in neutral, the engine is stopped and the key is removed. Airbus Operations Ltd was fined £200,000 and ordered to pay £58,891 in costs after pleading guilty to a criminal safety offence. Mr William’s widow, Sheila, said: “I can only hope that Airbus has learned from this and that they and all other companies in the country will take great care of the lives of their workers.”

Ÿ  HSE news release and tractor safety guide.

Ÿ  BBC News Online.

Magnet drops metal sheet on worker’s foot

A Herefordshire steelwork company has been fined after an employee was hurt when a metal sheet fell on his foot. Hereford Magistrates’ Court heard the 30-year-old man, who has asked not to be named, was working at Frank H Dale Ltd’s premises in Leominster when the incident happened on 3 October 2012. He had been asked to move some metal sheets, each six metres long, 35 centimetres wide and 10 millimetres thick, using an overhead travelling crane with a permanent lifting magnet placed in the centre. The sheets had to be moved about ten metres and lifted around 1.5 metres from the ground and placed on a conveyor. The employee had successfully moved two of the metal sheets, each of which weighed 180kg. The third sheet, however, detached from the magnet, bounced off the conveyor and landed on his foot. He fractured three toes and was off work for six weeks. A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found the magnet was unsuitable for lifting long and thin sheet metal and the manufacturer’s instructions for its use were not followed. Frank H Dale Ltd pleaded guilty to a criminal safety offence and was fined £12,000 plus £11,631.40 in costs. HSE inspector Tariq Khan said: “This incident could easily have been avoided had the company provided suitable training. Most permanent lifting magnets are supplied with comprehensive instructions and companies must ensure users understand them and are trained in their use – many suppliers of this equipment may provide training. Although the steel sheet was within the safe working load for the magnet being used at the time, it was not designed to lift long, thin pieces of sheet metal.”

Ÿ  HSE news release and guidance on the safe use of magnetic lifting equipment.

Burnout linked to performance management

The closely policed pressure to perform at work is creating a generation of burnout victims, experts have warned. Online publication Equal Times reports almost one worker in ten is at risk of burnout. In some professions, the numbers affected are as high as 40 per cent. “It is often the people most devoted to their work that suffer from burnout,” explained Dr Patrick Mesters, director of the European Institute for Intervention and Research on Burnout (EIIRBO) in Brussels. “Burnout deprives companies of their best employees. And it’s not at all surprising.” The symptoms of burnout are similar to those of depression: persistent physical and emotional exhaustion, aggressive behaviour. What differentiates it, however, is the fact that all the symptoms are in fact caused by the person’s working environment – a universe that has evolved considerably in recent decades, to the extent that it promotes physical and emotional exhaustion. “Many factors can lead to burnout,” continued Dr Mesters. “They, of course, include overwork and the imbalance between work and personal life. But many people also complain about work losing its meaning and a lack of recognition from their colleagues and superiors. The individual feels increasingly isolated in his or her work. This can lead to feelings of overload and loss of control.” According to Equal Times: “The way the working environment is organised appears to be a major factor in the development of burnout. It is an environment that is increasingly dehumanised and pressurised, an environment that is increasingly taking over people’s personal lives.”

Ÿ  Equal Times.

Ÿ  European Institute for Intervention and Research on Burnout.

Payout for school asbestos exposure

A man who believes he developed terminal cancer after being exposed to asbestos while a schoolboy in Devon has received a payout of £275,000. Chris Wallace, 36, was diagnosed with an asbestos-related mesothelioma at 30. His case comes on the heels of another highlighting the potent risks of asbestos, with the widow an asbestos cancer victim who grew up in streets adjacent to a London asbestos factory also receiving a six figure settlement (Risks 661). In the latest case, Devon County Council settled Chris Wallace’s claim just a few weeks before the case went to court. The award was made without an admission of liability. Mr Wallace, who has peritoneal mesothelioma - which develops in tissues covering the abdomen, and usually kills within two years - said he attended Yeo Valley Primary School, Yeo Valley Junior School, South Molton Juniors and South Molton Community College between 1982 and 1993.He collated examples of when he may have been in contact with asbestos. The Wisbech resident said: “It was a very difficult case, having to prove you were there and that you were exposed to a certain level. The council has to take a large chunk of responsibility. They know it's in the building and children are at risk of getting to it.”

Ÿ  BBC News Online.


Australia: Safety regulator must apologise for bullying staff

The official safety regulator in the Australian state of New South Wales must apologise for the institutional bullying of its staff, a parliamentary committee has said. Greens MP and industrial relations spokesperson David Shoebridge, who sat on the committee and originally pushed for the inquiry, expressed concern that WorkCover NSW has so far given no signal that it would respond to confirmation bullying was entrenched in its ranks. A key recommendation from the committee, which issued its report in June, was that WorkCover apologise to their workforce and to one former employee in particular. The state’s Industrial Relations Commission found last year that Wayne Butler, who won an unfair dismissal claim, had been the subject of a “witch hunt” (Risks 612). Mr Shoebridge said: “There’s a complete lack of insight from management. The most they’ve done is said that they’re considering the report. Until they can bring themselves to apologise they will not the regain the trust of their workforce.” The Public Service Association, the union representing staff at WorkCover NSW, said problems were also identified with the way the organisation runs workers’ compensation, with a plethora of complaints from injured workers who felt they were treated rudely and aggressively by the official state compensation agency.

Ÿ  Government News.

Global: FIFA told to abide by global guidelines

Two global bodies have backed union calls for football’s governing body FIFA to take action on the labour abuses in Qatar that could see 4,000 workers die preparing facilities for the 2022 World Cup. The support came in a joint article from John Ruggie, the UN Secretary-General’s special representative for business and human rights and Roel Nieuwenkamp, chair of the OECD Working Party on Responsible Business Conduct, and was written in response to the deadly warning issued by global union confederation ITUC (Risks 647). Ruggie and Nieuwenkamp call on FIFA to take “proactive action” to prevent “three Rana Plazas in slow motion.” Their article notes: “This figure amounts to more than three times the reported death toll of last year’s Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh, one of the worst industrial accidents of our time. Despite these serious impacts, and calls from human rights and labour organisations to cease construction of these stadiums and hold the 2022 games elsewhere, preparations in Qatar are continuing.” It adds: “FIFA can be considered to be a multinational enterprise itself. Therefore, it should apply the OECD Guidelines [OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises] and UNGPs [UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights] and conduct due diligence on its operations in order to ensure that it is not contributing to adverse impacts.” It concludes: “Rather than waiting to respond to conflicts or addressing adverse impacts after they have occurred, FIFA and related organisations should take a proactive role in preventing such situations in the first place. Presently, and most urgently, such a response should involve taking action to assure that the cost of upcoming events does not include human lives.” Ruggie and Nieuwenkamp urge the Qatar government, FIFA and the companies linked to the 2022 World Cup to abide by the UNGPs and the OECD Guidelines.

Ÿ  UNI news release

Ÿ  Ruggie and Nieuwenkamp’s article on the Institute for Human Rights and Business (IHRB) website.

Peru: Unions reject disastrous safety reforms

Unions in Peru are fighting to stop a package of economic incentives which would have a devastating effect on workplace safety and environmental standards from becoming law. The proposed measures, aimed at attracting foreign investment and boosting growth, were approved by the country’s Congress on 3 July. The global union IndustriALL has written to Peruvian president Ollanta Humala urging him to shelve the proposed measures and instead to engage with trade unions and other interested parties in a debate on growing the economy while ensuring full respect for labour, social and environmental rights. In its letter, IndustriALL stressed the importance of promoting sustainable development. In 2008, the then newly-elected government passed a law on workplace health and safety with the promise of forging a new culture of risk prevention and enforcement through labour-management health and safety committees. Employers resisted implementing the law, with disastrous results - 436 workers have died in the last three years in industrial accidents. The government is now further loosening controls through cost-cutting measures that could see accident prevention hived off to third-party service providers, a reduction in the frequency of health testing, limits on the time available for trade unionists to be involved in health and safety issues, and a decrease in fines and criminal penalties for safety violations.

Ÿ  IndustriALL news report.

Thailand: Nation ‘on trial’ in food industry scandal

The integrity of Thailand is ‘on trial’ after it allowed a company to prosecute a human rights defender who exposed modern day slavery in its canned fruit and fishing industry, a global union has said. The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) is demanding that charges against Andy Hall, a UK citizen who is due to stand trial in September on charges of criminal defamation, be dropped. The criminal and civil cases were brought against Andy Hall by Thailand’s Natural Fruit Company following his research into the company’s operations for the report ‘Cheap has a high price’, published by the non-profit group Finnwatch (Risks 596). Hall exposed smuggling of migrant workers along with the use of child labour, forced overtime and violence against workers. ITF acting general secretary Steve Cotton commented: “Andy Hall’s investigations into the fruit and fish industries in Thailand helped expose shocking abuses there to a worldwide audience. He should be praised, not prosecuted. Thailand’s attorney general must act now to disallow this case, which is an example of blatant victimisation of someone for no greater crime than telling an unacceptable truth.” He added: “This legal case attempts to shoot the messenger and leave the true offender untouched. Thailand must address the unforgiveable abuses being allowed to take place on its lands and waters, and also ensure the right to freedom of opinion.” ITF president Paddy Crumlin said: “Thailand itself is on trial. Its failure to act has rightly led to it being downgraded by the US government over human trafficking. If ever a country needed to allow defenders of human rights to identify problems, it’s this one. This impending trial is a national and international embarrassment and should be called off immediately.”

Ÿ  ITF news release.

Ÿ  Andy Hall blog.  

TUC courses for safety reps


Ÿ  TUC courses



The person responsible for the Risks e-bulletin is Hugh Robertson