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A government minister has been caught out by the TUC dangerously misrepresenting common sense safety proposals as “Brussels over-regulation.” Business minister Matthew Hancock told the Daily Mail on 24 November that the European Commission plan for more accurate labelling of rubber gloves would cause the price to soar. He vowed to block the move, noting: “This EU power grab for our kitchen sinks is completely bonkers. These over-zealous proposals underscore the need for EU reform and why we must fight Brussels over-regulation to get the best deal for Britain”. TUC head of safety Hugh Robertson said the minister was getting needless aerated over plans approved by the European Parliament earlier this year to require that “gloves which are labelled as being detergent-resistant, should be, well… detergent-resistant. Even more shockingly, they believe that oven gloves should be able to withstand the heat of an oven.” The change was needed because the 25-year-old workplace Personal Protective Equipment Regulations exempt equipment “for private use providing protection against heat, damp and water.” But as many businesses such as restaurants buy products intended to protect their workers from supermarkets, buying gloves without the necessary protection could lead to problems for workers relying on them throughout their working day. “The new proposals are that, if a product for domestic use is labelled for a specific function then, like a product intended for the workplace, it should be required to be appropriate for that function,” Hugh Robertson explained. “In other words a pair of detergent-resistant Marigold gloves should be just that, and oven-gloves should be heat resistant. This will not stop glove companies from being able to sell gloves that are not detergent-resistant, it is just they will not be able to make the claim that they are.” Dismissing the ministers “outrageous” claims, he said: “Whose side is he on? The cowboys or the consumers?” He added: “This is a very simple change to a wide-ranging regulation that we have had for a quarter of a century. It closes a small loophole that should never have been there anyway and will be of benefit to consumers, many workers, and of course, all honest glove manufacturers.”
Ÿ EC proposals on PPE.
Ÿ Daily Mail.
Unite is looking for trouble and intends to nip workplace health and safety problems in the bud rather than letting them fester and get worse. The union’s new national ‘Looking for trouble’ health and safety campaign is urging Unite safety reps to: “Look for it. Find it. Fix it.” Unite says: “Unite is committed to improving the working conditions of all its members. That is why Unite is looking for trouble on workplace health and safety issues. If the union does not look for trouble, trouble will develop anyway, and potentially get worse before it is identified.” Unite says worker participation is central to a successful campaign strategy, and the tools used by its union reps make full use of this. They include hazard and body mapping, workplace audits, accident and near miss investigations, designing work to fit the workers and ensuring workers can raise concerns without fear of victimisation. The union notes that strong health and safety organisation, good agreements and good training are other crucial components of its strategy.
A top official of the professional body for human resources managers has found himself in the firing line after telling a conference that blacklisting of trade unionists is a “big fuss about very little.” Mike Emmott, a senior employee relations adviser with the Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development (CIPD), was a keynote speaker at the 50th anniversary conference of the Manchester Industrial Relations Society on 21 November. During the Q&A session he was questioned by GMB political officer Neil Smith over the CIPD’s inaction on blacklisting (Risks 680). In 2013 CIPD confirmed to parliament it was investigating 19 members linked to blacklisting, but it has so far failed to take any related action. Emmott claimed he did not know a great deal about the issue but then went on to describe the blacklisting scandal as a “big fuss about very little.” He added that he found “union moral outrage over blacklisting, rather distasteful.” Sir Brendan Barber, who heads the conciliation service ACAS and who followed Emmott on the platform, said he “disagreed”, adding “blacklisting is a major injustice that has not been resolved” and that “raises huge issues about corporate culture and responsibility.” Steve Acheson, Blacklist Support Group (BSG) chair, said: “BSG has submitted a complaint to the CIPD for breaches of the code of ethical conduct but two years later not a single member of the professional body has faced any sanction.” Neil Smith, the GMB political officer whose question sparked the row, said: “GMB will continue to campaign to name and shame those guilty of blacklisting and will work with other groups to get justice for those that were wronged. CIPD and others involved will be taken to task no matter how long it takes.” GMB national officer Justin Bowden said: “This senior CIPD employee has yet again let slip that some senior HR managers don't actually think they did anything wrong when they were running the blacklist.” He added: “Mike Emmott is either an empty vessel or a total hypocrite.”
Ÿ Morning Star.
Threequarters of NHS workers say there are not enough staff in their ward or team and almost two-thirds (63 per cent) are worried about patient safety as a result, a new survey from UNISON has found. The online survey of 3,380 UNISON members reveals how workers are working harder and putting in longer hours for free to make up for the staff shortages. Nearly two-thirds (64 per cent) of NHS staff work overtime and almost three in five (58 per cent) said their workload has increased. The survey found that 70 per cent are not paid when they work over their shift, two-thirds rarely leave work on time and half (49 per cent) are not able to take breaks because of their workload. A “staggering” four in five (83 per cent) NHS workers say they now have to work more for less money. Christina McAnea, UNISON head of health, said: “NHS staff are overworked and underpaid. They come in to work early, work through their breaks and rarely leave on time. The NHS depends on the goodwill and commitment of the workforce and this is now at breaking point.” She added: “Low morale is endemic. And a demotivated, stressed workforce is bad for patients and bad for the NHS. It’s time NHS workers get a fair deal for the invaluable work they do.”
Prison employers are failing to meet any of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) stress management benchmarks, an independent study for the prisons officers’ union POA has found. Researchers from the University of Bedfordshire examined the work-related stress and wellbeing of prison officers and of nurses in psychiatric secure hospitals. The POA described the finding of the study as ‘shocking’, and said it highlighted the need for an urgent review, including and evaluation the feasibility of the planned extension of the prison officer retirement age to 68. The findings, presented last week at a seminar in the House of Commons, highlighted the failure of the service to meet any of the HSE stress management benchmarks. The study showed the levels of psychological wellbeing and job satisfaction in the service is considerably poorer than those found in other “highly stressed” occupational groups. More than four out of five respondents (84 per cent) indicated that they felt under pressure to come into work when they felt unwell. They also revealed that disclosing work related stress and “failure to cope” is highly stigmatised in the sector and little support seems to be available. Threequarters (75 per cent) indicated that working after 60 years of age would impair their job performance “very much”. The union POA noted: “There is overwhelming evidence for an urgent review of members’ working conditions and staffing levels as well as plans to increase the pension age.”
Rail union RMT is stepping up the pressure on Transport Scotland and Network Rail to end quickly the ‘filthy and disgusting’ practice of dumping raw sewage on rail tracks. In a meeting with the transport agencies earlier this month, RMT officials urged both organisations to put pressure on Scotrail’s new operators, Abellio, to bring forward the proposed date for the fitting of retention tanks across the fleet from December 2017 to April 2016 “to eradicate this scandal.” To back up its campaign, on 18 November RMT members leafleted outside the Transport Scotland offices. The union has made it clear that the union does not rule out “an industrial response to bring a halt to the discharge of human waste onto the tracks if there is any dragging of heels.” RMT general secretary Mick Cash said “the union believes that April 2016 is a perfectly realistic and achievable target for halting this filthy and disgusting practice. Abellio are set to make a fortune out of the Scotrail franchise and the very least they should be forced to do is to dip in their pockets and retro-fit the retention tanks.” He added: “RMT has said all along that if it was wealthy bankers getting sprayed with sewage rather than rail workers then this scandal would be ended overnight. RMT’s campaign goes on.”
A maintenance worker who suffered a traumatic brain injury at work has received a “significant” compensation payout from a Premier Foods company. Unite member Tom Williams, 65, was tasked with removing a pillar from the ceiling of the engineering stores at Manor Bakeries Ltd to create a new walkway in the building. His employer failed to carry out a risk assessment to highlight the potential dangers of removing the pillar, or to give Tom, and the team supporting him to remove the pillar, training on how best to complete the job. Tom used an angle grinder in an attempt to remove the bottom section of the pillar. However, this led to the top section falling from the ceiling, striking him on the head. His injuries included fractures to his neck and swelling to his brain and caused Tom to fall into a coma. Part of his skull had to be removed and after spending seven months in hospital, Tom now requires 24-hour care and supervision, which he will need for the rest of his life. He has been left with aphasia and dysphasia, which limit his ability to understand and process words. He also suffers from fatigue, unsteadiness, right-sided hearing loss, tinnitus, neck pain and is prone to depression. His wife, Barbara, suffers with depression and has had treatment from a psychologist to help her come to terms with her husband’s injuries. The compensation package negotiated by union solicitors includes a funded care plan with guaranteed, index linked annual payments to cover the cost of 24-hour professional care, alongside further recurring payments and a capital sum to ensure Tom’s care needs will be met for the rest of his life. Barbara said: “Tom is a changed man; he will have to live with his conditions for the rest of his life supported by his family and carers. That’s why securing compensation was so important for us, so we now know that his long-term care needs will always be looked after.” The bakery firm is part of the giant Premier Foods group. The settlement is one of a number recently following injuries to its employees (Risks 678, Risks 677).
Ÿ Wirral Globe.
A stonemasonry company has been convicted of corporate manslaughter after a young stonemason’s mate was crushed to death by a giant block of limestone. Cavendish Masonry Limited, which was found guilty by a jury at Oxford Crown Court, had previously pleaded guilty to criminal safety breaches. The firm was fined £150,000 and ordered to pay £87,117.69 costs. The court heard that on 9 February 2010, 23-year-old employee David Evans was erecting a large wall at the Well Barn Estate in Moulsford, Wallingford. A two tonne limestone block fell off a concrete lintel and crushed him. He was taken to the John Radcliffe Hospital by air ambulance and was pronounced dead later the same day. Cavendish was found guilty of a gross breach of its duty of care in its management and organisation of its activities at The Well Barn estate, by failing to take reasonable care in the planning and execution of those activities contrary to section 1 (1) of the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007. Investigating officer Det Con David Edwards said: “This has been a long and complex investigation. I am very grateful for the patience and support of David’s family, the hard work of both the Health and Safety Executive, the expert witnesses in this case and the prosecution team. I now hope that the Evans family can now start to rebuild their lives.” HSE inspector Peter Snelgrove, said: “David Evans’ tragic death was completely avoidable had Cavendish Masonry Limited properly planned and managed the installation of the heavy limestone.”
A Middlesex property development firm and a Buckinghamshire contractor have been fined for criminal safety failings after a worker was killed whilst driving a dumper truck. Geoffrey Crow, 48, sustained fatal crush injuries in the incident at the former RAF Chenies site on 13 February 2012. The dumper fell into a deep and completely unguarded 6.5 metre excavation, overturned and landed directly on top of him. He was killed instantly by the five-tonne machine. Harrow-based Lois Gastoneaux Ltd and Michael Brett, a self-employed contractor working on the site at the time, were sentenced at St Albans Crown Court. The court heard that Mr Crow, known to his friends as ‘Geoff’, was working at ground level whilst others were working to excavate a deep basement for a swimming pool at a new build property belonging to the sole director of Lois Gastoneaux Ltd, Kevin Andrews. A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found that despite operations being underway for some three weeks at the site, there were no measures in place to prevent people or vehicles falling into the excavation, or to prevent any collapse of the excavation faces onto those working below ground. None of the workers on site had relevant experience or was used to operating plant machinery as large as those they were asked to use on this job. The seat belt on the machine Mr Crow was driving was not working. Lois Gastoneaux Ltd was fined £150,000 plus £28,033 in costs. Michael Brett was fined £2,000 and ordered to pay £1,500 in costs.
Working night shifts can increase the risk of developing obesity as sleeping during the day burns fewer calories than at night, according to new research. The study found that night shift patterns disrupt the metabolism of employees, causing them to use less energy than they normally would over the course of a day. The effect was particularly pronounced when the employees were trying sleep during the day as, despite suffering more disturbed sleep, they burned between 12 and 16 per cent fewer calories than when sleeping at night. The findings may help to explain why those who work night shifts are more likely to suffer from obesity and related conditions such as heart disease. Commenting on the findings published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), lead author Dr Kenneth Wright, director of the sleep and chronobiology laboratory at the University of Colorado, said lower energy use may accentuate the poor diet and lack of exercise that is often seen in night shift workers. He said: “Specifically, the 52-59kcal lower total daily energy expenditure on night shifts, if recurrent without a reduction in food intake, would contribute to weight gain. As little as 50 kcal excess calorie storage per day can increase weight over time and if increased exhaustion and fatigue levels associated with shift work results in reduced physical activity levels, this would promote weight gain.” An estimated 4.1 million people in the UK work shifts. Shiftwork has been associated with a range of health problems (Risks 639) including reduced brain function (Risks 679) and an increased risk of breast cancer, diabetes (Risks 665), heart disease and stroke.
Ÿ Andrew W McHilla, Edward L Melanson, Janine Higgins, Elizabeth Connicke, Thomas M Moehlmana, Ellen R Stotharda, and Kenneth P Wright, Jr. Impact of circadian misalignment on energy metabolism during simulated nightshift work, PNAS, November 201410.1073/pnas.1412021111
Ÿ The Guardian.
There has been another rise in the number of physical assaults against NHS staff, new statistics from NHS Protect reveal. Figures published this week show a rise of 8.7 per cent in reported assaults, from 63,199 in 2012/13 to 68,683 in 2013/14. Commenting on the statistics, UNISON head of health, Christina McAnea said: “It is absolutely shocking that every day more than 188 NHS workers are physically attacked. The fact this figure is rising year on year should ring alarm bells.” She added: “The cuts and pressure on the service have caused growing patient frustration but no staff should be assaulted or feel unsafe at work. This is unfair on staff who do their best to care for patients and their families when they're at their most vulnerable. There can be no excuse for abusing or assaulting staff and all incidents should be taken very seriously.” She said violence on NHS premises often goes unreported, so many workers are left to suffer in silence. “The NHS must do its best to provide a safe working environment,” she said. “Both employers and the police need to take these incidents seriously particularly in mental health premises where we expect full support and cooperation to guarantee the safety and security of staff.” Richard Hampton of NHS Protect said: “No NHS staff should be physically assaulted and we encourage staff who are victims of violence to press charges against assailants. Those who work in the NHS have the right to provide care in a safe environment. Employers must do all they can to support staff in preventing incidents and pursuing offenders”.
Labour says it would introduce a system of licensing to clamp down on “rogue” recruitment agencies. Ed Miliband said that some agencies break minimum wage laws and exploit workers by undercutting wages of permanent staff. The Labour leader accused some agencies of “operating in the shadows of our economy and on the margins of law”, adding agency work had seen a “huge increase” in the past decade. He said: “The government sees nothing wrong with growing inequality and unfairness, but I know Britain can do better than that.” He added: “I believe the basic bargain of our country is that hard work should be rewarded. But too many people face insecurity, exploitation and unfairness at work. It will be the mission of the next government to change this.” Labour will not tolerate “a world of work that is becoming more brutal because of the way some cowboy employment agencies have been allowed to operate,” he said.
Police are investigating allegations of human trafficking and slavery in parts of Britain's fishing fleet. The Independent reports that among the claims are allegations that foreign fishermen suffering from exhaustion and malnutrition on UK-owned boats have leapt into the sea off the coast of Britain to escape abusive treatment on board. The paper says details of the inquiry emerged after a man alleged he was forced to continue working on a British prawn trawler despite having part of his finger ripped off in an accident. Henry Mahinay, 56, said that he kept working without painkillers and only rudimentary medical treatment as blood streamed down his arm before he was abandoned on the quayside of a Scottish port more than five hours later. “I took off my glove and showed the captain, as it was bleeding and I was in terrible pain,” said the father of five. “But he told me: 'It's not my responsibility to take you to hospital. It's only a small cut – now get back to work'.” After his ordeal, he was interviewed by detectives in Scotland working on allegations of maritime slavery. The Filipino taxi driver – whose finger was later partially amputated – detailed his ordeal in a 13-page statement that also forms part of a claim for unpaid wages. He says he has received less than £100 over two and a half months. “If the industry needs to survive on slavery, then the industry needs to go,” said Ken Fleming, of the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF), who has been involved in the repatriation of dozens of foreign fishermen. A dossier compiled by the ITF has detailed a series of cases in which foreign fishermen had wages unpaid and their passports kept by employers. In one case, a crew member was dumped at Newcastle Airport with no money after a month of work.
Workers have a right to toilet breaks, a UK government minister has said, after a Welsh MP raised the case of a man who had his pay docked (Risks 680).Employment relations minister Jo Swinson said firms could be breaking the law if they made deductions from salaries for visits to the toilet. Bridgend MP Madeleine Moon had told MPs on 6 November a local call centre worker was docked £50 for taking toilet breaks. Ms Swinson subsequently clarified the government’s position on toilet breaks. “Workers have a right to rest breaks, which they do have a requirement for under law and indeed if deductions are made from pay they have to be very clearly outlined, and indeed if they take somebody below the national minimum wage, then the employer could find themselves in breach of that law.” The TUC has called for the law to be changed to make it clear that workers should not have pay deducted for toilet breaks.
A Glasgow-based construction company has been fined for serious criminal safety failings after a worker was severely injured when he was crushed under nearly two tonnes of plasterboard. Stuart McNaught, a joiner for William Fulton Building Services Ltd, was putting up plasterboard inside an extension at a house in Duntocher when the incident happened in icy conditions on 6 January 2011. Dumbarton Sheriff Court was told that his employer, William Fulton, had brought more plasterboard sheets for the job and was using a forklift truck to lift the load onto the site. Mr Fulton drove the unsecured load of 82 plasterboard sheets, weighing 1,925kg, down the road towards the extension and began to lower them into a courtyard. The court heard that the forks were iced up and the road had not been gritted. Mr McNaught, then 36, and another employee were in the courtyard below the forklift and watched the boom extend over a demolished wall. As the workers began to guide the load from the forklift to the ground Mr McNaught, who was not wearing a hi-vis vest and could not see Mr Fulton, noticed the plasterboard move. As he tried to get out of the way, he slipped. The load fell off the forks and landed on Mr McNaught, trapping him. He was taken to hospital with a broken rib, pelvis, punctured lung and fractures to his right ankle and both legs. He returned to work after five months but continued to suffer from chronic pain and resigned a year later. However, he returned to the company in April this year. William Fulton Building Services Ltd was fined £8,000 after pleading guilty to a criminal safety offence.
A Shropshire laundry company has been prosecuted for serious criminal safety breaches after a teenage worker suffered severe injuries when he became trapped in machinery. Matthew Brown, 19, from Telford, suffered leg and spinal injuries when trying to retrieve an item of clothing from an industrial laundry machine at Cleantex Ltd in Telford on 22 October 2013. He suffered a broken ankle which required emergency surgery and fractures to four vertebrae. He spent nine days in hospital and was off work for seven months while recuperating and completing a course of physiotherapy. He has since returned to work on light duties. Telford Magistrates’ Court heard that an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the company failed to take effective measures to prevent access to a conveyor belt. The teenager mistakenly thought that all movement of the machine had been stopped when he entered the vertical shuttle conveyor belt area of a tunnel batch washing machine to retrieve a fallen item of laundry. While he was inside, a moveable conveyor belt unit above his head completed its cycle and began to return to ground level, trapping Mr Brown against the floor. Cleantex Ltd was fined £7,500 and ordered to pay £750 in costs after pleading guilty to a criminal breach of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998. HSE says British employers would save around 250,000 work days each year if they could just keep people safe on machinery.
Two years after the Tazreen disaster that killed more than 120 people trapped in a factory fire in Dhaka, Bangladesh, an agreement has been made between the global union IndustriALL and their local affiliates, the Clean Clothes Campaign and retailer C&A on delivering compensation to the victims. On 24 November 2012, more than 120 people burnt to death after becoming trapped behind locked exits at the Tazreen Fashions factory, which supplied clothes to global brands. In addition, 300 people were severely injured in the fire. As part of the new agreement, C&A Foundation has pledged to contribute a “significant” amount towards full and fair compensation for Tazreen victims, in addition to those funds already committed. The final details of pledge will be worked out and made public once the cost of the package has been finalised. Jyrki Raina, general secretary of IndustriALL, said: “On the second anniversary of Tazreen, we are very pleased to say that compensation for the survivors and the families of victims is finally in sight. The outline agreement between IndustriALL, the Clean Clothes Campaign and C&A provides the principles for a compensation process to give much-needed financial assistance and allow survivors to get essential medical care.” Tazreen Fashions customers included Walmart, Disney, El Corte Ingles, Edinburgh Woollen Mill, Sears, Dickies, Delat Apparel and Sean John. Two years on, none of these brands have paid compensation. Philip Jennings, general secretary at the global union UNI that represents Walmart workers in stores, said: “We congratulate C&A for taking this important step and call on other brands to follow. We ask that companies such as Walmart, Benetton and Gap do the right thing for the victims of both Tazreen and Rana Plaza, the survivors and their families, and pay into the compensation funds, an adequate and just amount.”
Asbestos campaigners have responded furiously to a decision by Italy’s top court to quash on a technicality the conviction of an asbestos company executive previously found responsible for thousands of deaths. The Court of Cassation overturned an 18-year prison sentence for Swiss billionaire Stephan Schmidheiny, the former owner of construction giant Eternit. Schmidheiny, 67, was found guilty in 2012 of causing 3,000 deaths linked to the use of asbestos in his factories – in the biggest ever trial on asbestos-related deaths (Risks 608). He was also ordered to pay tens of millions of euros in compensation to local authorities and families of the victims, who included factory workers and residents who lived near Eternit factories in northern, central and southern Italy. But Italy’s Court of Cassation said the evidence on which he was originally convicted was now out of date, because the statute of limitations had expired in the case. The ruling sparked outrage in the packed courtroom. “This is a terrible decision that wipes out 30 years of legal battles – without possibility of appeal,” said Alain Bobbio, a spokesperson for French anti-asbestos association Andeva, who was present at the court. In the original 2012 verdict, Schmidheiny and his Belgian associate, Baron Jean-Louis de Cartier, who died last year, had been found guilty of causing a “permanent health and environmental catastrophe” at their company’s Italian plants, the effects of which are still being felt 28 years after they shut down. Raffaele Guariniello, the prosecutor who secured the 2012 convictions, has already gathered a list of 300 new victims. But this time he plans to sue for murder – a crime that has no expiry date in Italian law.
Ÿ Yahoo News.
Ÿ The Local.
Labour ministers from Gulf and Asian countries have been urged to improve labour law protection, reform abusive immigration policies, and increase dialogue with trade unions and non-governmental groups. The call from 90 human rights organisations and unions came this week, ahead of the third round of the Abu Dhabi Dialogue, an inter-regional forum on labour migration between Asian countries of origin and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries of destination. Millions of contract workers from Asia and Africa, including an estimated 2.4 million domestic workers in the Gulf, are subject to a wide range of abuses, including unpaid wages, confiscation of passports, physical abuse, and forced labour. “Whether it’s the scale of abuse of domestic workers hidden from public view or the shocking death toll among construction workers, the plight of migrants in the Gulf demands urgent and profound reform,” said Rothna Begum, Middle East women’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. “This should include a thorough overhaul of the abusive kafala visa sponsorship system.” Migrants in the Gulf make an important contribution both to the economies of their own countries and those of the countries where they work. In 2011, migrant workers in GCC countries sent home more than US$60 billion in remittances. Competition for jobs in the workers’ countries of origin, combined with their relative lack of bargaining power in relation to the labour-destination countries, means that the pressure they exert for better labour protection is weak.
Ÿ Equal Times.
Courageous current and former Walmart workers are calling on the mega retailer to make reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers. The campaigners want improvements including lighter duties where medically necessary and being able to drink water or sit down while at work. They have formed a group called ‘Respect the Bump’, which made huge strides earlier this year when Walmart announced it would make accommodations for workers with complicated pregnancies, including lighter duties when medically necessary (Risks 650). At the time Walmart said the improved workplace pregnancy policies had nothing to do a series of legal challenges. But OUR Walmart, the union-backed group pressing for better working conditions at the US multinational, and a number of legal groups knew the world’s biggest retailer was feeling the heat. National union federation AFL-CIO says there is more work to do, “as the improved policy does not extend to all pregnant workers and is not being implemented consistently, so many women are still not receiving the accommodations they need.” It urged people on 28 November - the day after Thanksgiving - to join ‘Black Friday’ protests and stand with Walmart workers fighting for their right to speak out without fear of retaliation.