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TUC Risks E-Bulletins
Number 686 - 17 January 2015
Risks is the TUC's weekly online bulletin for safety reps and others. Sign up to receive this bulletin every week. Past issues are available. Disclaimer and Privacy Editor: Rory O'Neill of Hazards magazine. Comments to the TUC at





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Health and Safety Stage 1

Diploma in  Occupational Health and Safety.



Fit for work scheme starts to dribble into action

The government’s delayed nationwide ‘Fit for work’ system is easing into action, with an advisory service now up and running and a referral system in 20 GP practices in Sheffield starting work this week. The referral system is expected to be rolled out nationwide throughout the year. Under the system, once an employee has reached or is expected to reach four weeks sickness absence they can be referred by their GP for a Fit for Work assessment by an occupational health professional, who will look at the issues preventing a return to work. The referral will usually lead to a Return to Work Plan. According to a new TUC guide for union reps: “The referral service could have significant implications for employees and trade union representatives who will need to be aware of what the new service entails and the issues that are likely to arise so they can advise members who are referred to the service.” The TUC is concerned workers may be pressured to return to work too early, and that employers are not required to act on recommended improvements to the job. The union guide advises: “Union representatives should make themselves available to give advice if a member has concerns over the service. They may even occasionally be asked to sit in on any face-to-face assessments if there is a particularly difficult problem. This may be resisted by Fit for Work but the member can refuse to attend without a representative.” TUC head of safety Hugh Robertson said: “It will be interesting to see how this service develops. Early support and help for those who are sick is a great idea but employers will need to know what to do with any advice they get. It is also important that workers are not forced back to work before they are suitably recovered. However, given that around a third of long term sickness absence is work-related, the best thing that an employer can do is prevent people getting ill in the first place.”

Ÿ  Fit For Work referrals- a TUC guide for union representatives, TUC, January 2015.

Ÿ  DWP Fit for Work guidance.

Seafarers’ union warning over car carrier safety

A stranded cargo ship which listed dramatically as it left a UK port has highlighted problems in the design and operation or car carriers, seafarers’ union Nautilus has warned. The 51,000 tonne transporter Hoegh Osaka was deliberately beached on 3 January at Bramble Bank, after it began listing as it left the Port of Southampton in Hampshire. Adverse weather has hampered salvage attempts. The vessel was carrying 1,400 cars, including 1,200 Jaguar and Land Rover products and 65 Minis, as well as 105 JCB machines. The ship was also carrying 500 tonnes of fuel, most of which is marine diesel oil. Nautilus senior national secretary Allan Graveson said the case highlighted the union’s concerns over the safety of car carrier design and operation. He told BBC News: “In reality, these vessels – both vehicle and livestock carriers - are built to the edge of safety for commercial reasons. Their design has gone beyond what is reasonable and these ships need a lot of careful management.” The union officer praised the actions of the ship’s pilot. “By running the ship onto the sandbank, his quick-thinking and professionalism had helped to avert loss of life, environmental damage and potentially catastrophic blockage of a major UK port,” he said.

Ÿ  Nautilus news release.

Ÿ  BBC News Online.

Government does nothing on rail sewage dumping

Rail union RMT has stepped up demands for urgent government action to end the “shocking practice” of train companies dumping human sewage on the railway tracks. The union was speaking out as a BBC ‘Inside Out’ programme broadcast on 12 January revealed one in ten trains are still dumping human waste on the tracks and that exposure to this excrement has serious health implications for rail workers. Members of the RMT parliamentary group discovered last year that ministers and officials do not know how much excrement is sprayed around the rail network every year. Their questions also revealed that a quarter of trains with toilets on board don’t have retention tanks and are discharging raw sewage. RMT says the government has confirmed that there is no statutory protection for track workers or passengers from these discharges. RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “It is truly appalling as we move into 2015 that this government still cannot even tell us what volume of raw and untreated sewage is being dumped at railway stations and on railway tracks the length and breadth of Britain creating both disgusting conditions and a health risk for staff and the public alike.” He added: “Not only is this a filthy way of disposing of human waste, but it also poses real health risks and dangers for RMT members out there working on the tracks and in the depots.” The RMT leader said: “This rotten practice should be stopped once and for all and the train companies should be the forced by the government to pay the price for upgrading the trains and employing staff to empty the tanks.”

 Ÿ  RMT news release.

Ÿ  BBC News Online.

Journalists show solidarity in Paris

Top officers from the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) this week attended events in Paris commemorating the deaths of eight journalists and four others in the attack on the Paris office of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo (Risks 685). NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet and assistant general secretary Seamus Dooley were among over 1m people to join the Paris event, adding an NUJ flag and a special ‘Je Suis Charlie’ NUJ placard to the flowers, pens and other tributes. Writing in the TUC’s Stronger Union’s blog, Michelle Stanistreet said she had joined members of the NUJ’s Paris branch “to honour and remember all of those journalists murdered simply for doing their jobs, as well as Charb (Stéphane Charbonnier), Cabu (Jean Cabut), Wolinski (Georges Wolinski), Tignous (Bernard Verlhac), Bernard Maris and the rest of their colleagues at Charlie Hebdo, murdered for doing their job.” She added:  “While the eyes of the world are so sharply focused on the need to defend press freedom and ideals of tolerance and democracy, it is vital to acknowledge the increasing trend for journalists to be targeted, intimidated, attacked and killed as an attempt to silence not just them, but all other journalists in their wake. Last year 118 journalists were killed with the death toll breaching 1,000 lives lost in the past decade; murders all too often accompanied by impunity by governments who facilitate and sustain a political environment where journalists and journalism are threatened and targeted without justice.”

Ÿ  TUC Stronger Unions blog. BBC News Online.

UNISON member gets car crash payout

A social worker who suffered nerve and soft tissue damage as a result of a road traffic accident unrelated to her job has secured £3,105 in compensation. The 64-year-old from Somerset was driving on the B3128 outside of Bristol, when another driver suddenly drove into the rear of her car, propelling her forward into a vehicle in front.  Her car was severely damaged and as a result of the collision she suffered nerve and soft tissue injuries to the base of her spine. In the weeks that followed, the UNISON member found that her injuries affected her personal, social and work life as she was unable to exercise or lift, and she needed two weeks off work whilst she recovered. Investigations by lawyers brought in by UNISON found that the incident was the result of the other driver’s failure to pay sufficient attention to the road. The defendant driver admitted liability and compensation was secured. UNISON regional secretary Joanne Kaye said: “This was a frightening road accident that was caused by one driver’s failure to pay attention to the road. Her membership of UNISON ensured that she had access to specialist lawyers who were able to secure her 100 per cent of her compensation.”

Ÿ  Thompsons Solicitors news release.


Work oven death firm convicted of manslaughter

A kayak manufacturer has been found guilty of corporate manslaughter after a worker became trapped and died in an industrial oven in Cheshire. Alan Catterall, 54, tried to escape using a crowbar but suffered severe burns at the Pyranha Mouldings factory in Runcorn in 2010. He died of shock. Peter Mackereth, 60, the firm's technical director and the designer of the oven, was also on trial at Liverpool Crown Court. He was found guilty of criminal safety breaches. During the five-week trial, the jury heard father-of-three Mr Catterall had gone inside the oven to scrape up dripped plastic. Another worker, who was due to marry his daughter, turned the oven on without realising he had gone inside. The oven’s design meant the moment it was switched on, the doors automatically shut and locked to save energy, the court was told. Mr Catterall was trapped inside with no way to raise the alarm. His calls for help went unheard on the noisy factory floor. Mr Catterall, who was a senior supervisor, suffered severe burns and died from shock on 23 December 2010. The first anyone knew there was a problem was when smoke began seeping from the oven, the court was told. An escape hatch has since been fitted to the oven. The Health and Safety Executive’s investigating inspector, Martin Heywood, said “there was a high risk of someone being trapped inside.” He added: “If Pyranha Mouldings and the individual prosecuted over Alan′s death had properly considered the risks to employees when they designed, installed and operated the ovens then he would still be here today.” A statement Mr Catterall's family said: “Alan was a hard-working, conscientious man and he gave Pyranha Mouldings everything. It hurts that they have not admitted any failings in their health and safety procedures.” Pyranha Mouldings and company director Peter Mackereth will be sentenced next month.

Ÿ  Daily Post.

Ÿ  Western Morning News.

Ÿ  ITV News.

Ÿ   BBC News Online

Mental health the top work-related health problem

New research shows that throughout the British Isles, mental health disorders are the most common work-related ill health problem. A team from Manchester University found mental health problems linked to work account for over half of all cases reported by occupational physicians. The researchers, whose findings have been published in the journal Occupational Medicine, studied data across three surveillance schemes from 2005 to 2012. Professor Raymond Agius, one of the authors of the study, said: “This study shows that throughout the British Isles mental health problems account for over half of all work-related ill health reported by occupational physicians, and reinforces the need for more efforts in prevention and rehabilitation to foster mental wellbeing at work.” Responding to the findings, the Society of Occupational Medicine urged employers to do more to tackle mental health problems and invest in workplace health. It said one in four adults will experience a mental health condition each year. Poor mental health is thought to cost UK employers £26 billion each year – an average of £1,035 per employee.  Better access to occupational health services could help, said SOM, but it added it is “more important that companies take a proactive approach and create a culture of ‘good work’ and promote positive employee wellbeing. By doing this they will not only increase productivity and reduce staff sickness and turnover but also reduce the burden on the NHS.” A TUC seminar on promoting good practice in workplace mental health will take place in London on 5 February. The TUC says presentations will be made by a combination of union officers, workplace reps and members with direct experience of promoting good practice in workplace mental health. The seminar will be fully participatory with time for delegates to ask questions and share their own experiences. 

Ÿ  SOM news release. A Money and others.

Ÿ  Work-related ill-health: Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, Great Britain 2005-2012, Occupational Medicine, volume 65, pages 15-21, 13 January 2015.

Ÿ  Promoting good practice in workplace mental health: A seminar for union officers, workplace representatives and activists, Congress House, Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3LS. 5 February 2015, 9.00-13.00. Register for the TUC mental health good practice seminar.

Global cancer agency slams cancer ‘bad luck’ paper

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has said it “strongly disagrees” with the conclusion of a scientific report  that concluded cancer was largely down to ‘bad luck’ (Risks 685). IARC, the World Health Organisation’s specialised cancer agency, said the study, published in the journal Science on 2 January compares the number of lifetime stem cell divisions across a wide range of tissues with lifetime cancer risk and suggests that random mutations (or ‘bad luck’) are “the major contributors to cancer overall, often more important than either hereditary or external environmental factors.” In a 15 January statement, IARC said there are “limitations and biases in the analysis” and a “serious contradiction” between the widely reported paper’s conclusion and the extensive body of scientific evidence on cancer causation. “We already knew that for an individual to develop a certain cancer there is an element of chance, yet this has little to say about the level of cancer risk in a population,” said IARC director Dr Christopher Wild. “Concluding that ‘bad luck’ is the major cause of cancer would be misleading and may detract from efforts to identify the causes of the disease and effectively prevent it.” Noting that preventive efforts and not luck had led to substantial reductions in some cancers, the IARC director concluded: “The remaining knowledge gaps on cancer aetiology should not be simply ascribed to ‘bad luck’. The search for causes must continue while also investing in prevention measures for those cancers where risk factors are known.” The Health and Safety Executive’s own ‘conservative’ estimate says over 8,000 workers in the UK die each year as a result of cancers caused by workplace exposures. Critics of the HSE estimate say the true toll could be over 20,000 occupational cancer deaths a year.

Ÿ  IARC statement, 15 January 2015.

More evidence on wood dust and lung cancer

People with substantial exposure to wood dust at work have a greatly increased risk of lung cancer, a study has found. Researchers from the universities of Montreal and Quebec conducted two population-based case control studies in Montreal, Canada. They obtained detailed job histories by interview, with each job then evaluated by expert chemist-hygienists to estimate the likelihood and level of exposure to many substances, one of which was wood dust. The most frequently wood-exposed occupations encountered were in construction, timber and furniture making industries. Study 1 found the odds ratio for lung cancer was 40 per cent higher in those “with substantial cumulative exposure to wood dust.” In study 2, the excess was 70 per cent. The paper published in January 2015 in the journal Environmental Health concludes there was “evidence of increased risk of lung cancer among workers with substantial cumulative exposure to wood dust.” Occupational exposure to wood dust is also linked to nasal, nasopharyngeal and other cancers, and is recognised by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) as a group 1 human carcinogen.

Ÿ  Eric Vallières, Javier Pintos, Marie-Elise Parent and Jack Siemiatycki. Occupational exposure to wood dust and risk of lung cancer in two population-based case-control studies in Montreal, Canada,  Environmental Health, volume 14, number 1, 7 January 2015. doi:10.1186/1476-069X-14-1

Crude oil exposure linked to kidney cancer

A study of refinery workers has found exposure to crude oil may lead to a marked increase in kidney cancer risk. Researchers looked at cancer patterns in 9,454 workers employed in the oil refinery industry in Finland in the period 1967 to 1982. The purpose of the study was to assess whether occupational exposure to hydrocarbons in oil-refining activity increases the risk of kidney cancer. They found there was a threefold increase in the kidney cancer risk for exposure to hydrocarbons in crude oil. The authors concluded occupational exposure in oil refining, particularly to crude oil, may increase kidney cancer risk. Crude oil was last evaluated by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in 1989, when it concluded there was insufficient evidence to categorise crude oil as a human carcinogen, although it did say there was supportive animal evidence.

Ÿ  Ahti Anttila and others. Kidney cancer risk in oil refining in Finland: a nested case-referent study, Journal of Occupational & Environmental Medicine, volume 57, issue 1, pages 68–72, January 2015.

Plans for NHS in Scotland to recoup asbestos costs

Plans for the health service in Scotland to recoup the cost of medical treatment from companies that exposed workers to asbestos have gone out to consultation. A bill lodged at the Scottish parliament by Stuart McMillan would introduce legislation to ensure that the NHS can claw back the money spent caring for people who have contracted conditions such as mesothelioma. The MSP said that more than £20 million a year was estimated to be spent on diagnosing and treating patients and while the NHS can already claim money back from insurers when people injured at work, there is no such system for those with industrial diseases. Campaign group Clydeside Action on Asbestos said it expected the consultation, which is open until 30 March, to provoke a negative response from the insurance industry which would be left with a multi-million pound annual bill if the proposal becomes law. The industry opposed a similar initiative in Wales (Risks 589). But Phyllis Craig, chair of Clydeside Action on Asbestos, said: “It is widely accepted that the number of people being diagnosed with asbestos conditions is increasingly placing an ever greater burden on the NHS and palliative care services. The responsibility for meeting these costs rests with the employers who exposed their staff to asbestos. It is only just that the employers and their insurers have to meet the costs of care that result from their negligence.”

Ÿ  Stuart McMillan MSP blog.

Ÿ  The Herald.

More evidence on night shift link to diabetes

African-American women who work night shifts are significantly more likely to develop diabetes than those who have never worked night shifts, a study has found, with more years working the night shift resulting in a higher risk. The increased risk of diabetes seen in shift workers was more pronounced in younger women than older women. The US study finding have been published this month in Diabetologia, the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes. As part of the Black Women’s Health Study (BWHS), 28,041 participants free of diabetes provided information in 2005 about having worked the night shift. The women were followed for incident diabetes during the next eight years. Thirty-seven per cent of the women reported having worked the night shift, with 5 per cent having worked that shift for at least 10 years. Follow-up found that compared to those never having worked the night shift, the increased risk of developing diabetes was 17 per cent for 1–2 years night shift work; 23 per cent for 3–9 years, and 42 per cent for 10 or more years. After adjustment for body mass index (BMI) and lifestyle factors such as diet and smoking status, the association between increasing years of night shift work and increasing diabetes risk remained statistically significant, with a 23 per cent increase in those who had worked night shifts for 10 years or more versus those who never had worked the night shift.  The authors said their study “has important public health implications”, adding there should be “consideration of avoiding shift work in favour of other work arrangements when possible.” The study adds to a slew of recent studies showing a link between shiftwork and diabetes (Risks 665, Risks 551, Risks 535).

Ÿ  Varsha Vimalananda and others.

Ÿ  Night-shift work and incident diabetes among African-American women, Diabetologia, 14 January 2015.

Changes afoot on site safety management rules

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has given the construction industry six months grace to switch over to the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 (CDM), due to come into force from April this year. Under the CDM shake-up, changes to the original 2007 regulations mean there will no longer be an official role of CDM coordinator. Instead, clients will need to appoint a Principal Designer and Principal Contractor to fulfil their duties. Following industry consultation, HSE guidance now gives firms six months to appoint a principal designer on jobs already underway on 6 April 2015. Philip White, HSE chief inspector of construction, said: “The guidance may be subject to change while the regulations are awaiting parliamentary approval but we want duty holders to have the opportunity to familiarise themselves with the main requirements before they come into force. In addition we have worked with the industry to produce guidance to assist small businesses. Both sets of guidance complement each other and will help anyone affected by CDM 2015 to prepare for the changes in the law.”

Ÿ  HSE news release and draft industry guidance to the CDM Regulations 2015.

Ÿ  Construction Enquirer.

Farmer fined over driver’s electrocution

A Wiltshire farm owner has been fined after an HGV driver was electrocuted while making a delivery to his farm. Salisbury Magistrates’ Court heard that self-employed HGV driver Nigel Fox was delivering cattle feed to Tony Slade’s Chestnut Tree Farm in Sutton Mandeville on 2 November 2012. Mr Fox, who was 59 at the time, was raising the tipper body of his articulated lorry when it hit the 11kV overhead power line which crossed the farmyard close to the feed silo he was trying to fill. He was electrocuted and died at the scene. He was discovered a short while later by an electricity supply network engineer who was sent out to locate the line fault. An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that Tony Slade had made no attempt to remove or reduce the serious risk associated with the power line crossing the yard, by diverting the cable or providing signs or barriers to warn visitors of its existence – despite its proximity to the cattle feed offloading point. He was fined £20,000 and ordered to pay costs of £5,609 after pleading guilty to a criminal safety offence. Sally Fox, Nigel’s widow, said: “Nigel was known for being a diligent, responsible worker, a talented musician, and a much loved and respected member of the community.” She added: “Besides myself, he left two children, Harriet and George, and a devoted sister, Jackie. For the family members most close to him, his untimely death has resulted in intense grief and a sense of loss that, over two years later, the family is still struggling to come to terms with. From my perspective as his wife, the stress, anxiety, and sadness have taken an unmistakable toll on my emotional and physical wellbeing. I have been unable to work, which has resulted in an unrecoverable career.”

Ÿ  HSE news release and guidance on working near overhead power cables.

Ÿ  BBC News Online.

Highways Agency gets a ticking off over death

The Highways Agency has been issued with a Crown Censure – an official ticking off delivered by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) - for its criminal safety failings after an experienced traffic officer was struck and killed by an out of control car on the M25. Grandfather John Walmsley, 59, was deployed with a colleague to an incident on the motorway, between junctions 4 and 5 clockwise, on 25 September 2012. They were faced with a car that had spun around after heavy rain, ending up pointing in the wrong direction in a live lane on the motorway. Mr Walmsley and his workmate had towed the vehicle to the hard shoulder and the pair, along with the car’s driver, were awaiting a recovery vehicle. Mr Walmsley then walked down the hard shoulder, and was using his phone, to keep his eye out for the truck when a second car went out of control on the same bend, skidded across the carriageway and hit him. He died at the scene. The driver that struck him was subsequently convicted of causing death by careless driving. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigated the incident and decided to deliver a Crown Censure. HSE found that despite the introduction in July 2011 by the Highways Agency of formal quarterly supervision checks of traffic officers by a team manager, these checks were not carried out with Mr Walmsley between August 2011 and the date of his death over a year later. The Censure was administered at Ashford Borough Council by HSE’s regional director Tim Galloway and accepted by Simon Sheldon-Wilson, executive director of customer operations for the Highways Agency. The Highways Agency cannot face prosecution in the same way as non-government bodies. Instead of facing the courts and the prospect of related penalties for criminal safety offences, government bodies receive a Crown Censure, an official warning.

Ÿ  HSE news release.

Ink firm’s failings led to worker’s death

A West Yorkshire company has been fined after a worker died when he was crushed beneath a one tonne silo of varnish that slid from a forklift truck and toppled onto him. Wayne Potts, 39, died from his injuries hours after the incident on 25 March 2011 at Gardiner Colours Ltd in Normanton. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuted the company, which makes inks, varnishes and coatings, after an investigation highlighted several criminal safety failings, crucially the failure by Gardiner’s to spot risks to its workforce. Leeds Crown Court was told that a customer of the company had returned part of an order as it couldn’t decant varnish from a silo and had asked for the liquid be re-sent in 10kg plastic containers. Because of difficulties in changing the order, workers were tasked with decanting the varnish directly from the silo into the containers via a tap at the base of the silo, which had been raised on the forklift. As Wayne Potts worked on the decanting, the silo slid off the forklift and fell directly onto him. He died in hospital later the same night. The court also heard it had been dangerous for the forklift to be used to balance heavy loads for extended periods – a job it was not designed for. HSE said the failures by Gardiner Colours Ltd to provide a safe working environment had exposed employees to serious risk and led to Mr Potts’ death. There was evidence that this was not the only incident at Gardiner Colours that had involved a load falling from a forklift truck. HSE said a near-miss ought to have alerted the company to the risk of a silo falling. The company was fined £66,000 and ordered to pay £50,000 in costs after admitting a criminal safety offence.

Ÿ  HSE news release. Wakefield Express.


Global: Trade ties tie Thailand to Russian asbestos

The Russian government is keen on expanding trade and joint ventures with Thai companies – and Thailand's industry minister admits asbestos trade is one of its targets. Chakramon Phasukavanich said Thailand already has close trade ties with Russia but the quickest way to tighten them would be to create more joint ventures as they do not need time and huge capital. “Russian companies are looking at Thailand as a hub for the Asean Economic Community and Thailand also presents itself as a good place for Russian investors to produce and add more value to their products,” Mr Chakramon said. The minister admitted the countries had discussed asbestos after environmental groups had asked the Thai government to ban imports, which mostly come from Russia. On 23 December 2014, the Thai cabinet rejected a proposal from the country’s public health ministry to outlaw asbestos, citing lack of evidence of asbestos-related disease in Thailand. It also threw out the industry ministry's proposal to phase out asbestos in products by 2020. “If the use of asbestos is banned by law, it would be retroactively applied and the burden to replace all products that contain asbestos would fall on the government. This would require a lot of money,” said Mr Chakramon. The minister’s comments were dismissed by asbestos campaigners. They point out that no asbestos ban law had ever been “retroactively applied”, so the costs argument was entirely spurious. Russia's minister of industry and trade Danis Manturov said the country was looking to increase trade “through joint ventures and we are encouraging Thai investors to invest more in Russia.” Russia has taken over the role as the global lobbyist for the asbestos trade. Asia is the key target for the global asbestos industry’s export drive.

Ÿ  Bangkok Post.

Ireland: Union action call after sharp rise in work deaths

In the wake of figures showing a 17 per cent rise in work related deaths, the union SIPTU has called on the Irish government to stop cuts to the safety regulator and to oppose European Commission deregulation plans for safety. Figures released this month by the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) show that 55 people were killed in work related accidents in 2014, compared to 47 in 2013. SIPTU health and safety adviser, Sylvester Cronin, said: “We are alarmed by the significant increase in the number of occupational fatalities in Ireland in 2014. The emphasis on prevention of work-related accidents and illnesses has been severely hampered by the year on year reductions in budget allocations for the relevant statutory authority, the HSA, since 2008. SIPTU has on numerous occasions warned that such reductions on preventative services would inevitably lead to increases in work-related accidents, illnesses and deaths. Sadly it would seem our fears have materialised.” Cronin added: “To end this wanton waste of human lives the government must end cuts to these services.” The union safety specialist also said the Irish government must oppose the European Commission’s “attempts to deregulate occupational safety and health legislation or we will see more alarming increases in work related accidents, illnesses and deaths” (Risks 684).

Ÿ  SIPTU news release.

USA: Public health body wants breast cancer prevention

An American Public Health Association (APHA) policy statement on ‘Breast Cancer and Occupation: The Need for Action’ is thought to be the first such call by a major public health body on breast cancer and the risks faced by women due to the hazards in the work environment. The policy statement says “gender and social class bias” could explain the lack of research and preventive efforts on occupational breast cancer. It concludes: “Action required starts with making a national priority of promoting and supporting research on occupational and other environmental causes of breast cancer. Other public health actions include hazard surveillance and primary prevention activities such as reductions in the use of toxic materials, informed substitution, and green chemistry efforts.” The related webpage includes detailed information on the research establishing a clear occupational breast cancer risk. The impetus for the resolution came from a groundbreaking study by Stirling University’s Jim Brophy, Margie Keith, Andy Watterson and others, who in a 2009 paper revealed that working in a “toxic soup” of chemicals can double a woman's risk of developing breast cancer (Risks 583). High risk jobs included those in agriculture, plastics, food packaging, metal manufacture and the bar and gambling industry, according the study. The research led to prevention initiatives and calls worldwide, including a campaign by the North American steelworkers’ union USW (Risks 594). APHA is the largest and oldest public health organisation in the world.

Ÿ  Breast Cancer and Occupation: The Need for Action, APHA, posted online January 2015.

USA: Wal-Mart locks staff in at night

Sick and injured workers at Wal-Mart stores in the US have found themselves trapped in locked stores, unable to get medical attention, a New York Times report has revealed. For more than 15 years, Wal-Mart Stores Inc, the world's largest retailer, has locked in overnight employees at some of its Wal-Mart and Sam's Club stores. It is a policy that many employees say has created disconcerting situations, such as when a worker in Indiana suffered a heart attack, when hurricanes hit in Florida and when workers' wives have gone into labour. “You could be bleeding to death, and they'll have you locked in,” said Michael Rodriguez, whose ankle was smashed by heavy machinery at a Sam’s Club store in Corpus Christi, Texas. It was over an hour before a manager was tracked down, and returned to the store to open the doors. Rodriguez said he had been warned that anyone leaving through a fire door would be fired, unless there was actually a fire. “Being locked in in an emergency like that, that's not right,” he said. Mona Williams, Wal-Mart's vice president for communications, said the company used lock-ins to protect stores and employees in high-crime areas. She said Wal-Mart locked in workers - the company calls them associates - at 10 per cent of its stores, a percentage that has declined as Wal-Mart has opened more 24-hour stores. Several Wal-Mart employees told the New York Times that as recently as a few months ago they had been locked in on some nights without a manager who had a key. The main reason that Wal-Mart and Sam's Club stores lock in workers, several former store managers said, was not to protect employees but to stop ‘shrinkage’ - theft by employees and outsiders.

Ÿ  New York Times.

TUC courses for safety reps


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 Health and Safety Stage 1

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