|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 firstname.lastname@example.org.|
Airline safety could be put at risk by proposals put forward by the industry regulator to either scrap or sell off its medical services, the union PCS has warned. The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) last week launched a consultation on it plans. All UK pilots are required to obtain a medical licence from the CAA. PCS says the current system focuses on safety, rather than profit, and ensures pilots are fit and that they report any medical problems. It is concerned that ending or outsourcing the service would lead to a decline in safety standards. Through the union, CAA staff made a submission to senior managers in early summer outlining how the service could be maintained in-house but PCS says these views have been ignored in the published consultation. Jeremy Gautrey, PCS national officer for the aviation sector, said: “The CAA's medical department is recognised as a European leader and the services provided by CAA staff to pilots, the travelling public and airlines is first class. Safety should not be compromised in pursuit of cost effectiveness or profit.”
Human excrement dumped from trains straight onto the rail tracks has caused tomatoes to sprout on a key route into London. A thriving tomato plant, pictured this week in the Mirror, is growing on tracks at Rochford, Essex, on the Greater Anglia services route between Southend and London Liverpool Street. Rail union RMT, which has been critical of the practice of dumping human waste on the lines where their members have to work, has called for a ban on the ‘filthy and disgusting’ practice. RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “It shames Britain's railways that tons of human excrement is being dumped straight on the tracks while the private train companies make huge profits and the government does nothing.” He added: “Not only does this create filthy and dangerous working conditions for rail staff who are routinely sprayed with this waste but it also shows that the government are prepared to tolerate this scandal while greedy rail operators make a killing. RMT will continue to fight for an end to this disgusting and dangerous practice and it’s the greedy, profiteering train companies who should foot the bill.” Most modern trains are fitted with toilet tanks which are pumped out at depots, but older rolling stock does not have the same system. Ministers admit it could take years to eradicate the problem as they as wait for the older carriages to be taken out of service.
Ÿ The Mirror.
Ÿ The Standard.
Ÿ London 24.
The first leg of a blacklisting ‘crocodile tears’ tour organised by the union GMB will feature 10 demonstrations nationwide. The union says its intention is to name-and-shame 63 construction industry managers who have been implicated directly in the UK blacklisting scandal but who have not yet come clean and apologised for their actions. The three-week tour started in Darlington on 21 October, and featured a person in a crocodile suit accompanied by placard carrying union members. It came after the 16 October resumption of GMB’s High Court action in London, where the union is seeking compensation for 122 GMB members blacklisted by construction employers. Several hundred other claims, backed by unions and the Blacklist Support Group, have been merged with GMB’s into a single class action. GMB national officer Justin Bowden said: “These so-called HR professionals who ran the blacklists for the construction companies knew exactly what they were doing and they need to either apologise, come clean and say what they did, or get used to accounting in public for the damage they did to those they blacklisted and their families, especially with the public inquiry Labour has pledged after the next election.” A peaceful Blacklist Support Group demonstration at Laing O’Rourke’s Dartford headquarters on 15 October saw protesters manhandled by security staff and escorted from the premised by police.
The derailment of a freight train in north-west London last October has been blamed on a series of failures and operational issues that had all been raised repeatedly by rail union RMT. The confirmation came this week in a damning report by the Rail Accident Investigation Board (RAIB). The report into the Camden Road derailment is critical of the high turnover and loss of experienced staff, deteriorating tracks and a growing backlog of repairs, and poor knowledge of the condition of the track at senior management level. RMT says similar issues had been raised by the RAIB in a recent report into the derailment of a freight train west of Gloucester, also in October 2013. RMT general secretary Mick Cash said the report “must come as wake up call to the government and the Office of Rail Regulation who continue to demand cuts to maintenance and staffing that leave serious risks out there on Britain’s railways. It was a miracle that the consequences of the Camden Road derailment weren’t even more serious but the incident proves that officials and accountants cannot be allowed to play fast and loose with the fundamental issues that govern rail safety.” He added: “All of the issues at the heart of the RAIB report have been raised repeatedly by RMT from the loss of experience staff, to the condition of our tracks and through to the slippage of key maintenance and inspection schedules.”
Ÿ RAIB report.
New laws to protect the public from dog attacks came into force this week. The new rules and accompanying Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) Practitioners Manual for dealing with irresponsible dog ownership have been welcomed by postal workers’ union CWU, whose national Bite-Back campaign led the successful push for more effective controls. CWU general secretary Billy Hayes said the manual “is welcome as it clearly sets out what powers those in authority have and what demands they can make of irresponsible dog owners.” The new Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, which received Royal Assent earlier this year, will help prevent the thousands of dog attacks which take place each year. Irresponsible dog owners can now be made by law enforcement to attend dog training classes, muzzle their pet or get their dog microchipped. “We have fought hard to get the law tightened because of the disproportionate number of postal workers who are attacked by dogs. Around 6,300 postal workers have been attacked by dogs since 2012 for simply doing their jobs,” Billy Hayes said. CWU national safety officer Dave Joyce said: “Negligent dog owners must be aware that it’s now a criminal offence if their dog attacks the postman or woman on private property and for the first time, police and local authorities dog wardens will be able to demand that owners take action to prevent a dog attack or face Control Notices, fixed penalties and risk fines and prosecution for compliance failures.” He added: “The Bite-Back campaign has been very successful.”
Ÿ CWU news release and
Ÿ Bite Back campaign.
The leader of the firefighters’ union has hailed the brilliant work by firefighters tackling a major power station blaze in Oxfordshire, but has warned funding cuts could jeopardise this “world class service.” At its height, 25 fire engines and about 100 firefighters tackled the blaze at Didcot B power station, which began in a cooling tower at about 8pm on Sunday 19 October. Reacting to the fire, where firefighters worked overnight to contain the blaze and secure the site, FBU general secretary Matt Wrack said: “Firefighters worked brilliantly throughout the night to tackle a very dangerous fire that had the potential to cost human life.” He added: “An incident of this nature shows again how important a fully resourced, professional fire service is – something that this government does not seem to understand. Since 2010 over 5,000 firefighter jobs have been lost, 39 fire stations have been closed and response times have increased.” The union leader said: “David Cameron should understand that firefighters cannot be expected to continue giving the world class service, like they did in Didcot last night, without the service being properly funded.” Half of the Oxfordshire power station will remain “non-operational” indefinitely, its owner RWE npower said.
Scotland’s university lecturers are facing heavy workload pressures and high levels of work-related stress caused by university management practices. The findings, based partly on a survey carried out by the union EIS, indicate that teaching staff in the university sector have lower levels of wellbeing and satisfaction compared to overall scores of those working across all sectors of education. EIS says the findings reveal concerns over management and leadership, as well as significant workload pressures and a lack of access to appropriate professional development. The EIS-ULA report, ‘Workload and workplace stress’, found ‘workload’ (42 per cent) and ‘dealing with management’ (23 per cent) were the top contributors to stress. Dr Nick McKerrell, EIS-ULA president, said: “Heavy levels of workload, coupled with increasing concerns with university management practices, including managerialism, can lead to increased levels of work-related stress. Stress-related illness is one of the most significant risks to lecturers’ health and wellbeing, with serious consequences for both individual lecturers concerned as well as for the institution and the students that it serves.” Larry Flanagan, EIS general secretary, added: “The EIS would urge all employers in the higher education sector to work constructively with staff representatives to tackle the problem of excessive workload and to reduce instances of work-related stress.”
UNISON members are being expected to do more work with fewer staff for less pay, the union's national health and safety committee has warned. Meeting as this year's European Health and Safety Week kicked off on 20 October, the public sector union’s safety committee indicated this oppressive combination was the motivation behind its ‘Cut stress, not jobs’ campaign. “The truth is that our members have been at breaking point for a long time,” said committee chair Malcolm Harrington. “Over the past four years they have consistently been expected to do more, with fewer staff employed, and for less pay. In short, our members are stressed out, overworked, and underpaid.” Vice chair Pam Sian added: “It is important to remind employers and others that there is a big difference between stress and pressure. A little pressure can be motivational and help us to prioritise important work, but when the pressure becomes too much to cope with and makes us feel ill, that’s stress and it is always harmful.” In a recent survey of UNISON safety activists, 90 per cent of respondents said that stress was one of the top health and safety concerns in their workplace.
Ÿ UNISON news release and guide,
A prison officer suffered career-ending physical and psychological injuries when he was attacked by a prisoner at Her Majesty’s Young Offender’s Institute Wetherby. The Prison Officers Association (POA) member, Keith Nyberg was carrying out a routine check in the inmate’s cell when the prisoner became aggressive and threatening. The 54-year-old was attempting to restrain the prisoner but was violently attacked, receiving a bite to the chest, punches to his face, kicks to the lower body, attempts to gouge his eyes and also injuries to his shoulder, neck, lower back and left leg. He had not been warned about the significant risk posed by this prisoner and there was no protocol in place to minimise the risk. Keith suffered long-term psychological symptoms as a consequence of the attack and, after more than 20 years in the prison service, he was forced to retire on medical grounds. Doctors diagnosed an adjustment disorder with mixed anxiety and depressed mood. This meant working in the prison service became too traumatic for him. He has now received an undisclosed payout in a POA-backed compensation case. POA’s Glyn Travis said: “In the last 12 months alone there has been a 37 per cent increase in the number of prison officers subject to serious assaults.” The prisons inspector Nick Hardwick warned this week there has been a “rapid deterioration” in prison safety in England and Wales. He said staff shortages, population pressures and prison policy all contributed to problems.
A Premier Foods employee was injured at work when part of the machinery he was cleaning fell and struck him on the head. Johnathan Wain, a member of the bakers’ union BFAWU, was employed as a mixing bay operator the firm’s Stoke-on-Trent bakery. As part of weekend cleaning duties he was tasked to clean a cage in the mixing bay. When a cage is being cleaned a stainless steel pipe moves upwards but on this occasion as Johnathan shut the cage door, the pipe suddenly fell and struck his head. He suffered from concussion, headaches, dizziness and blurred vision, requiring seven weeks off work for medical treatment. Legal experts brought in by the union found that a rubber seal was missing from the pipe, which meant that it had become loose and fell without warning. Deborah Roberts, the lawyer from Thompsons Solicitors brought in by BFAWU to represent Johnathan Wain, said: “A failure to carry out basic maintenance by employers too often leads to terrible consequences for their employees. This accident kept a hardworking employee out of work for seven weeks and yet it could all have been avoided by simply replacing a rubber seal.” The union-backed case secured a £4,370 compensation payout.
A draft standard on safety management being prepared by the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) could be seriously bad news for workers, unions have warned. When ISO decided in 2013 to proceed with its own international standard for an Occupational Health and Safety Management System – ISO 45001 – both the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and unions were alarmed, and objected forcibly to ISO’s intrusion. Unions say ISO does not have an expert mandate in occupational health and safety, and unlike ILO doesn’t have to listen to those who have. The latest draft of the standard, being steered through by a working group chaired by the British Standards Institute (BSI), heightened concerns, with mentions of “workers” almost entirely removed and “worker participation” not part of the package. TUC head of safety Hugh Robertson commented: “We need strong standards on health and safety but we have ones already. These were developed by the International Labour Organisation and agreed with unions, employers and governments worldwide. They put workers and worker involvement at the heart of any standards.” He warned: “The attempt by ISO, led by the British standards body BSI, to develop separate standards which were not wanted by either employers’ or workers’ representatives, amounts to the privatisation of health and safety regulation. The unelected standards bodies, most of which have no involvement of people who actually understand the world of work, are simply trying to develop a product that they can market and make large sums of money certifying.” He added: “I do not see anything in the current proposals which will drive up standards. Instead they will undermine the existing standards, including the management standards the HSE has developed in the UK, which are far better.” Sharan Burrow, head of the global union federation ITUC, said: “ISO must be made painfully aware that a standard that ignores the critical role of affected parties in its design and implementation, which undermines ILO standards already in place and which could give an ISO stamp of approval to blame-the-worker systems just won’t work.” She added: “This isn’t about a piece of paper, it is about workers. ISO would do well to remember that.”
A family fears it is being ‘killed off one by one’ by asbestos after two cousins died of a related cancer. Two other members of the family - Charlie Glass, 68, and cousin Tommy Glass, 80 – have also developed an asbestos related condition. Charlie has already lost his brother Tommy at the age of 63 and his cousin George Glass, aged 80, to mesothelioma. The Daily Record reports that joiner Tommy died in 2011. George was a plasterer who worked for Glasgow City Council and Glasgow Corporation. The paper reports that retired electrician Charlie and cousin Tommy have pleural plaques, a condition linked to asbestos exposure and associated with an increased risk of mesothelioma. HSE warned last week that tradespeople face a dramatically elevated risk of asbestos cancers (Risks 676). Charlie told the paper: “As a family, we’re being killed off one by one. We spent years working hard to bring up families while placing trust in our employers and the government to protect us.” He added: “The first warnings about asbestos were given out in 1906 in a parliamentary report but employers didn’t protect workers or tell them about the dangers. Tragically, our story is one which affects hundreds across the country.”
The family of ex-steel worker Gordon Warner, who died last year from asbestos disease, is appealing for his former workmates to get in touch and help shed light on Mr Warner’s work at Bromford Iron and Steel in West Bromwich. Mr Warner died on 16 June 2013 aged 73 after contracting mesothelioma, an asbestos-related lung cancer. He had worked for the firm between 1967 and 1999 as a bricklayer. His family believe that he was exposed to asbestos during this period when working on asbestos lined factory furnaces. Speaking on behalf of the Warner family, Denise, Gordon’s niece, said: “As a family, it’s important we understand how Gordon got this disease. Some questions remain unanswered about Gordon’s time at Bromford Iron and Steel so we would be very grateful if any ex-colleague could help us fill in the blanks.” Alison Fahy, the lawyer from Thompsons Solicitors representing the family, said: “It is vital that Mr Warner’s former workmates come forward to assist in providing any information that can help his family form an accurate picture of Gordon’s working environment and how he came to be exposed to asbestos, which was ultimately responsible for his death.”
Ÿ Thompsons Solicitors news release. Former employees of Bromford Iron and Steel with relevant information can contact Alison Fahy on 0121 262 1231.
An East Kilbride firm has been fined for criminal safety failings after a worker was injured when a chainsaw hit him on the leg as he slipped while felling trees. Hugh Dorricot, then 26, was not wearing appropriate personal protective equipment and was not adequately trained to use a chainsaw when the incident took place at Gartsherrie Burn, Coatbridge, North Lanarkshire, on 9 March 2010. Airdrie Sheriff Court was told that Mr Dorricott was working for Enviroclean (Scotland) Ltd to clear vegetation and trees from an embankment beside Gartsherrie Burn, which sloped at an angle of approximately 45 degrees. As he began to fell one of the trees, Mr Dorricott felt the ground move away from beneath his feet causing him to fall backwards and start sliding down the embankment. As he fell, the moving chainsaw cut through his trousers and into his lower left leg. He was taken to hospital with a deep cut near his knee and underwent an operation to repair the wound. He has since recovered and returned to work. Enviroclean (Scotland) Ltd was fined £7,000 after pleading guilty to a criminal safety offence. HSE inspector Jennie Stafford said: “It is clear this incident could have been avoided had Enviroclean (Scotland) Ltd taken reasonably practicable steps – ensuring that only trained and competent users were allowed to operate the chainsaw; discussing the risk assessment with workers, clarifying the system of work and enforcing the wearing of appropriate personal protective equipment.”
An Essex firm has been fined after a maintenance engineer broke his elbow and ankle when he fell more than three metres through fragile ceiling tiles at a site in Dunton, Essex. The engineer, who does not wish to be named, was attempting to access an electrical control panel in a ceiling void to fix a faulty roller shutter door when the incident happened on 21 December 2012. He sustained a fractured elbow and ankle. Security Door Systems Ltd was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after an investigation identified the firm had failed to make sure the work on the ceiling panels was carried out safely. Basildon Magistrates’ Court heard the company didn’t have a suitable risk assessment in place for undertaking work at height on the site. Following the incident the electrical control panel was relocated to ground level to avoid the need to work on the fragile ceiling. Security Door Systems Ltd was fined £6,000 and ordered to pay costs of £440 after pleading guilty to a criminal breach of the Work at Height Regulations 2005. HSE inspector Corinne Godfrey said the firm “failed to implement measures to prevent falls through a fragile ceiling surface when work was being undertaken in the void. It was luck rather than good management that someone had not fallen before.”
A scaffolding firm has been fined after it ignored repeated requests to prove it held insurance for employees. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) was alerted to the possible lack of Employers’ Liability Insurance – a requirement under UK law – when it received a complaint about scaffolding erected by Abacus Scaffolding North West Ltd at a site in Thornton Cleveleys in October 2013. The company was contacted by HSE on several occasions up until April 2014 but it still failed to provide a copy of the insurance certificate, which allows workers to claim compensation if they are injured at work or develop work-related health problems. Abacus Scaffolding was fined £1,000 and ordered to pay £2,035 costs following a trial at Blackpool Magistrates’ Court. The company failed to attend the hearing and was found guilty of a breach of the Employers’ Liability (Compulsory Insurance) Act 1969 in its absence. HSE inspector Allen Shute said: “HSE made repeated requests but the company still failed to provide proof that it held insurance, despite it being a legal requirement. We were therefore left with no choice but to prosecute.” Employers’ liability insurance covers the cost of legal fees and compensation payouts in the event of a claim by a worker.
Australia’s transport union is calling for official action to improve safety standards in the “deadly” trucking industry. Transport Workers’ Union (TWU) assistant national secretary Michael Kaine said a new study by Life Insurance Finder confirmed trucking is Australia’s deadliest job with one in three workplace deaths occurring in the transport industry. “The TWU have been campaigning for a safer road transport industry for more than 20 years,” Mr Kaine said. “Road transport workers are 15 times more likely to be killed at work than any other worker in Australia and 330 people are killed every year in truck crashes on our roads.” He said companies put “deadly economic pressures” on drivers and operators. The union said new national polling by Essential Research showed 90 per cent of Australians say it is important the government takes action to make the trucking industry safer. It is urging the government to retain a Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal (RSRT). The RSRT is the national watchdog with the power to intervene when transport industry clients use economic pressure to force drivers to speed, skip rest breaks or illegally overload their vehicles in order to meet unrealistic delivery conditions. “We need a greater focus on road safety in this country, not a weaker one. The Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal needs to be preserved,” TWU’s Michael Kaine said of the under-threat agency.
A union-brokered safety accord has seen garment factory inspections across Bangladesh. The Bangladesh Accord this week announced that initial inspections of factories covered by the accord had been completed by the September 2014 deadline. From the initial inspections of 1,106 garment factories in the country, the Accord’s inspectors identified more than 80,000 safety issues needing to be resolved. “We have found safety hazards in all factories, which was to be expected. The safety findings have ranged from minor to significant. The Accord team is now working intensively with factory owners, brands, and labour colleagues to ensure the safety findings are corrected,” Brad Loewen, the Accord’s chief safety inspector said in a statement. Jyrki Raina, general secretary of the global union IndustriALL that was, with sister global union UNI, instrumental in the creation of the accord, said: “Thanks to the inspections the repair work has already started – the journey towards a safe and sustainable garment industry in Bangladesh is well and truly under way. We will continue to organise the factories to build strong unions capable of securing workers’ rights.” The Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh came into being after the tragedy at Rana Plaza in April 2013, when a building collapse killed over 1,100 workers. The signatory brands have committed to support the Bangladeshi garment sector with continued sourcing commitments and support for remediation where needed.
Ÿ The Guardian.
Unions don’t just protect your livelihood, they protect your life, the leader of the global union federation ITUC has said. Launching a new ITUC occupational and health and safety newsletter and webpages, ITUC general secretary Sharan Burrow said the new resources demonstrate how unions have influenced directly safety and justice from the workplace level to high level negotiations like September’s G20 meeting of labour and employment ministers. But workplace health and safety “is never a done deal”, she said. “While industry worldwide clings on to ancient hazards like asbestos and supplements them with new favourites like nanomaterials, it is evident this health and safety deficit is not an issue of knowledge, it is an issue of priorities and power.” Pressing for health and safety to be a greater organising focus for unions, the union leader concluded: “Workers shouldn’t pay the price of production. Work shouldn’t be hell, it shouldn’t hurt and it certainly shouldn’t kill. Work should be fulfilling, safe and worthwhile. Union organisation can make this happen. Working together, we make work healthier and we make work better.”
Almost a quarter of agriculture, forestry and fishery workers in New Zealand had a work-related injury claim accepted by the country’s official Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) in 2013. Provisional figures for the year released by Statistics New Zealand show that agriculture, forestry, and fishery workers made 226 injury claims per 1,000 full-time equivalent employees, and 2.6 per cent of these workers experienced an injury that resulted in a week or more off work. “Clearly workers in these areas are over represented. There is something seriously and systemically wrong when a quarter of the workforce in any particular sector are injured at work,” said Helen Kelly, president of the national union federation NZCTU. “There seems to be an acceptance that there are some sectors where a certain number of injuries, or even fatalities, are expected. This is an unacceptable perspective. Every worker should be able to return home from work safely.” She added: “The thing all three of these sectors have in common is workers have no viable form of independent representation including through unions and the current employment law makes collectivising across these types of businesses extremely difficult. The industries are then characterised by poor working conditions, high turnover, and a lack of investment in training and long hours.” Kelly warned: “Instead of dealing with this reality, the government intends to attack workers’ rights and in this environment, we can expect these disastrous statistics to be repeated next year.”
COURSES FOR 2014
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