|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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
More than six out of 10 workers in the food industry have been injured at work, but many of these injuries go unreported, a survey by the bakers’ union BFAWU has found. The study found 62 per cent of respondents had been injured at work however over a fifth (21 per cent) were not reported to management. The union said this suggests “there is a cohort of injured food workers not captured in official safety statistics.” BFAWU linked this to management attitudes to health and safety, which the survey indicated was ‘negative’ in 27 per cent of workplaces. Ian Hodson, BFAWU’s national president, said “there appears to be massive under-reporting of accidents because people are scared of reprimand, or because management sweep known problems under the carpet.” He added that “deliberate swingeing cuts to the Health and Safety Executive by a government committed to freeing employers from what they dishonestly call ‘red tape’ mean less inspections and prosecutions. Put all that together and you have a potentially lethal cocktail, a time bomb waiting to go off.” The union leader said: “The government may be happy to look the other way and employers may be encouraged to think they can get away with poor health and safety, but the BFAWU won't stand idly by. Health and safety is everybody’s business, and good practice is in everybody’s interest – management and workers alike. Our members should know that if they encounter a health and safety issue in the workplace, the BFAWU will back them all the way.”
Midwife burn-out is leading to safety fears, according to a survey by the midwives’ union RCM. The union said over half (52 per cent) of midwives and maternity support workers (MSWs) who responded to its survey said that they had seen an error, near miss or incident that could have hurt service users in the last month. Half of the respondents also ‘strongly agreed’ or ‘agreed’ with the statement: ‘I am worried about making a mistake at work because I am exhausted.’ The survey findings were announced as RCM launched a ‘Caring for You’ campaign, aiming “to improve the health, safety and wellbeing at work of midwives and MSWs, so they are able to provide high-quality maternity care for women and their families.” RCM said its survey paints “a worrying picture of midwives and MSWs facing staffing shortages and increasing demands, showing that they are overworked and under pressure to deliver safe, high-quality care with dwindling resources.” Almost half (48 per cent) of respondents to the survey said they felt stress every day or most days. The most common reasons for stress were workload (78 per cent), staff shortages (76 per cent) and not enough time to do the job (65 per cent). The survey found that a significant proportion of staff are going without breaks, food and drink and working very long hours. Only a fifth (21 per cent) of respondents said they take their break entitlement most or all of the time. A large proportion (62 per cent) of respondents reported they are dehydrated at work because they don’t have time to drink. In workplaces that that do not take positive action on health, safety and wellbeing, over half (53 per cent) of respondents would not be confident about raising concerns. RCM director for services to members Suzanne Tyler said: “This campaign is not just outlining the problems, it is also offering solutions. We are asking trusts to sign up to the Caring for You Charter and to work with the RCM and its health and safety representatives. Ultimately, this will improve staff wellbeing, and help to deliver better and safer care.”
A dramatic increase in the number of passengers falling into the platform gap at London Tube stations has confirmed union warnings linking falling staffing to increasing risks. The Transport for London figures, obtained in a Freedom of Information request, show that the number of passengers falling between the train and the platform has more than trebled in ten years, with rail union RMT laying the blame on dangerous overcrowding and the axing of safety-critical station staff. A total of 307 incidents were recorded last year, up from under a hundred less than 10 years ago. The TfL figures also reveal there has been an increase in the number of falls onto the platform or into the carriage as passengers board or leave trains. Last year 288 were reported, three times the number when statistics was first recorded in 2003. RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “The severe and escalating dangers at the Platform/Train interface on both Tube and mainline are catapulted into the public eye by these shocking new figures. Only a fool would sit back and ignore a three-fold increase in potentially lethal incidents.” He added: “RMT has warned that axing 800 station staff, against a background of chronic overcrowding, unleashes a poisonous cocktail across the Tube network that threatens life and limb. The union is demanding action and that means reversing the staffing cuts and taking RMT’s warning about overcrowding seriously instead of winging it which is exactly what is happening at the moment.”
Offshore union Unite has condemned a publicity stunt by four senior offshore helicopter safety and aviation chiefs as “offensive and dangerous”. The union was commenting after trade publication Energy Voice reported that Gilles Bruniaux, vice president of aviation safety for Airbus Helicopters; Gretchen Haskins, chief executive of HeliOffshore; Duncan Trapp, vice president of safety and quality for CHC Helicopters; and Les Linklater, Step Change in Safety executive director, all raised their hands to say they would fly on Super Puma H225 helicopters and would also allow their children to fly. However, a European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) directive indicated both H225 and AS332 (L2) variants should cease flying across Europe. The move followed the Accident Investigation Board Norway’s (AIBN) request as its preliminary report identified a “catastrophic failure” and signs of ‘fatigue’ in parts of the main gearbox which rendered early safety warnings “not effective”. The findings were published just hours after the safety and helicopter chiefs, in a publicity stunt, backed the H225s. The EASA move comes on the back of the fatal 29 April crash of a H225 (LN-OJF) on the coast of Norway in which 13 passengers and crew died. Wullie Wallace, Unite’s regional industrial officer, said the union had been inundated with calls from members angered by offshore safety bosses joining the stunt, adding: “Unite’s offshore members are disgusted at a publicity stunt by four senior offshore experts in voting with a show of hands to say that they would fly in the Super Puma 225s and also voting to say that they would allow their children to fly in these helicopters. It is grossly offensive and dangerous for any individual to say the safety of offshore workers can be guaranteed.” He said: “The actions of Les Linklater, executive director of Step Change in Safety, an organisation which states that its number one priority is the health and safety of offshore workers, voting to say he would fly in these helicopters beggars belief.”
Companies are misusing drug tests to “play judge and jury” over workers and to intimidate their staff, GMB reps have said. Delegates at the union’s annual congress called for companies to offer “proper training and support” on substance abuse and “not just sanction after sanction.” They heard firms were abusing drug tests to victimise workers. Northern delegate Gary Dewart, a health and safety rep at EDF Energy in Sunderland, said: “It is essential that employers look to support and help vulnerable workers and mitigate not spend valuable management time on sham investigations which in too many cases result in sackings rather than providing the type of vital support required in today’s workplace,” the Morning Star reported. Delegate Ronnie Davison said substance abuse was “not handled correctly” by management. She said companies would “jump to conclusions” and allow “personal opinions and the views of managers to come into play.” She called for a “better understanding” of substance abuse from employers and executives. “They have a duty of care to their workforce, and a duty not to be judge and jury,” she said.
Ÿ Morning Star.
Research by the Blacklist Support Group (BSG) has revealed that an undercover police officer masqueraded as a union activist to spy on members of the rail union RMT. Photographic evidence unearthed by BSG secretary Dave Smith shows that in October 2004 Carlo Neri was present at a union protest following the sacking of the prominent union activist Steve Hedley at the Kings Cross terminal for the Channel Tunnel Rail Link (CTRL). The presence of the undercover officer from the Metropolitan Police’s Special Demonstration Squad was captured on camera by freelance photographer Andrew Wiard. The photographs show Neri standing behind an RMT banner with the slogan ‘Reinstate Steve Hedley’ while handing out leaflets to construction workers who had walked out in support of the victimised union activist. Steve, now an elected senior assistant general secretary at RMT, commented: “I am appalled that a secret police spy thought that it was justified to turn up on a peaceful RMT picket line in order to gather information. I had earlier housed this person rent free as he claimed he was being made homeless and feel shocked that taxpayers’ money could be used like this to betray the trust of people engaged in completely legitimate industrial action.” The photographs were rediscovered by Dave Smith while undertaking research for the updated version of the groundbreaking book ‘Blacklisted’. RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “RMT has been aware for some time that there was a destroyed ‘rail file’ at the heart of the blacklisting conspiracy that has never been properly investigated.” He added: “Both of RMT's assistant general secretaries, Steve Hedley and Mick Lynch, were blacklisted and the union is demanding to know how many others were being spied on by the police and the employers’ organisations. The fight for truth and justice goes on.”
Thousands of workers at a huge warehouse used by online retailer Asos are being subjected to a catalogue of abuse by their anti-union bosses, a Morning Star investigation has found. More than 4,000 employees of the hugely popular clothing retailer suffer regular body searches, are spied on by an increasing number of CCTV cameras and even made to remove their shoes and socks if they trigger a security alarm when they leave work. Workers at the distribution centre in Yorkshire must go through a security check when they go to the loo, with guards posted outside toilets and at a canteen area. Employees at the firm have had to urinate at water stations because toilets were a 15-minute walk away. GMB is campaigning to organise the workforce, but Asos refuses to recognise the union. This month GMB will make a symbolic stand, declaring its campaign will continue, by ‘sponsoring’ a traffic roundabout outside the road entry to the warehouse. GMB hoardings will be unveiled on 17 June by GMB general secretary Tim Roache and TUC Yorkshire and Humber region secretary Bill Adams. GMB organiser Deanne Ferguson said: “To hear how Asos workers are suffering is sickening and has to stop.”
Ÿ Morning Star.
Shiftwork may increase stroke severity by interfering with the body's internal clock, with men faring worst, new research suggests. Study co-author David Earnest, of the Department of Neuroscience and Experimental Therapeutics at Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine, said: “A person on a shiftwork schedule, especially on rotating shifts, challenges or confuses their internal body clocks by having irregular sleep-wake patterns or meal times.” The study’s conclusion that shiftwork may increase stroke severity came after analysing the stroke outcomes of male and female rats that were subject to circadian rhythm disruption. The team found that the rats exposed to a shiftwork schedule had much more severe stroke outcomes than the control group. They were more likely to have brain damage, loss of sensation, and poorer limb movement as a result of ischaemic stroke. “This research has clear implications for shiftworkers with odd schedules, but probably extends to many of us who keep schedules that differ greatly from day to day, especially from weekdays to weekends,” said Earnest. “These irregular schedules can produce what is known as 'social jet lag,' which similarly unwinds our body clocks so they no longer keep accurate time, and thus can lead to the same effects on human health as shiftwork.” The authors say their findings indicate that shiftworkers and other individuals with irregular sleep schedules should be monitored more closely for cardiovascular disease risk factors, such as high blood pressure and obesity.
Ÿ David Earnest and others. Sex differences in the impact of shift work schedules on pathological outcomes in an animal model of ischemic stroke, Endocrinology, published online ahead of print, 2 June 2016. Medical News Today.
A Kent tyre company has been sentenced for criminal safety failings, over ten years after 21-year-old Matthew Hoare was killed when a tyre exploded. Canterbury Crown Court heard how Matthew, an employee of Sandwich-based Watling Tyre Service Limited, was repairing a puncture to the tyre of a ‘dresser loading shovel’ when it exploded on 27 January 2006. An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that Matthew was working on his own with inadequate work equipment that was not properly maintained. He was not trained or competent to undertake the work he was told to complete, HSE found. Matthew’s mother, Carolyn, said her son had complained about the substandard training at his work. “He would go to the management and complain,” she said. “He was told if he didn't want to do the work the firm would find somebody who did.” Speaking after the 1 June sentencing hearing, HSE principal inspector Mike Walters said: “Employees need to be provided with properly maintained equipment and the correct equipment to undertake tasks whilst out on site. Employees also need to be trained and competent in the tasks they were asked to undertake.” Watling Tyre Service Limited pleaded guilty to two criminal safety offences at a 29 January 2016 hearing. On 1 June, it was fined £1 million and ordered to pay costs of £99,485.
Scottish Power has been fined £1.75 million after a worker was seriously scalded at Longannet Power Station in Alloa, his injuries forcing him to give up his job. Dunfermline Sheriff Court heard how plant controller David Roscoe was engulfed by steam which escaped from a defective pipeline valve at the coal-fired power plant in October 2013. The energy giant had known about the fault for more than four years but didn’t repair it, Dunfermline Sheriff Court heard. Sheriff Charles MacNair slammed the firm’s safety procedures, saying: “The system failed so woefully it cannot be described as a working system.” The prosecution was brought against Scottish Power Generation Ltd, a subsidiary of Scottish Power and operator of the power station which is now closed. Sheriff MacNair judged their level of culpability for the incident as “high”. He said there were too many safety questions to which they had no answers. He imposed a fine of £2.5 million but a discount was given for the early guilty plea to a criminal safety offence, reducing the fine to £1.75 million. David Roscoe was unable to return to work and was medically retired last December. Scottish Power has settled a “substantial” compensation claim. Health and Safety Executive principal inspector Fiona MacNeill said: “The plant controller suffered severe and life changing injuries. This case has highlighted the importance for every employer of ensuring that systems are in place for maintaining work equipment in a safe condition, efficient working order and in good repair.”
A Dumfries haulage company has been fined after the death of a man who was crushed by a failed hydraulic ramp on Christmas Eve two years ago. Ayr Sheriff Court heard how J & J Currie Limited was delivering and offloading a vehicle from a trailer at Arnimean, Galloway Forest. One of the trailer hydraulic ramps failed to lower and Andrew Adams, aged 61, attempted to carry out a repair. He removed a hoseburst valve, resulting in a catastrophic release of hydraulic pressure. The ramp collapsed onto him as the ratchet strap, which had been used to secure the ramp, failed. He died from severe crushing injuries. An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) into the 24 December 2014 incident found there was an absence of effective planning, and failure to realise that the repair was more complex than initially thought, and the risks were higher than was envisaged. Neither Mr Andrews nor the delivery driver had the required competence to undertake the hydraulic repair. The method of securing the upright ramp was unsuitable due to the condition of the strap. J & J Currie Limited pleaded guilty to two criminal safety offences and was fined £45,000. HSE inspector Jane Scott said: “This tragic loss of life could have been avoided and highlights the risks associated with maintenance and repair, and the need for those undertaking work to be competent, ensuring work is planned, and the risks are fully understood and managed.”
A civil engineering and plant hire company in Derbyshire has been fined £300,000 after a worker was fatally crushed between two vehicles while refuelling. Derby Crown Court heard how 39-year-old Matthew Lambert was refuelling his road sweeper at the yard of Leedale Limited. The refuelling point on the vehicle was at the rear, and it was while he was refuelling that a tipper lorry reversed into him. The sweeper driver was crushed between the two vehicles and died of catastrophic head injuries. Matthew Lambert's parents Barry and Beverley said they were pleased the judge cleared their son of being at fault. Speaking outside the courtroom, Beverley Lambert, said: “Nothing is going to bring Matthew back and this is the end of something we have been living for two-and-a-half years so at least we now have some closure. We can now move on with our lives because this has been hanging over us for so long now.” Barry Lambert said: “People have been saying that Matthew should not have been at the back of the lorry when the incident took place but now they know exactly how he died and who was to blame.” A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation into the 26 November 2013 incident found there were no marked or identified vehicle and pedestrian routes. There were no rules on or control of reversing manoeuvres, and the lighting at the site was poor and below the required standard. Leedale Limited, of Ripley, Derbyshire, pleaded guilty to criminal safety breaches and was fined £300,000 and ordered to pay costs of £50,737.
Global unions have linked up to develop a strategy to resist the assault by employers in the North Sea on decent, safe work. Maritime and oil and gas unions affiliated to IndustriAll and the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) met in Aberdeen last month to agree a joint approach. The oil service, subsea and maritime supply companies situated in the North Sea continental shelves are considered the main targets of the campaign to expose the industry’s role in a ‘race to the bottom’ which the unions say has seen over 50,000 British, Danish and Norwegian workers lose their jobs. IndustriALL general secretary Jyrki Raina said: “The competition to cut costs and reduce working conditions in this region is stark. The sheer level of the cutbacks being made is having a severe impact on health and safety of workers.” ITF general secretary Steve Cotton said: “The Oil and Gas Authority are talking about the desire to retain people and skills in the sector and to retrain and redeploy the workforce, but we need to see real commitment to that in terms of action.”
Airport workers united across borders on 1 June, to deliver a highly critical message about the abuse of workers in the industry. Global unions represented workers in the sector said while airlines and airports are getting richer, their workers are being paid less, worked more, and are having their job security torn away. On the 1 June day of action, airport workers waved banners and leafleted in over 30 airports around the world to deliver their message to the public and to the members of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), whose AGM began on 1 June. An accompanying research report, ‘Record profits for airlines; airport workers under pressure,’ shows that although the global airline industry is expected to make record profits of US$36.3 billion this year, airlines “have created a race to the bottom, putting airport workers, safety and the quality of services under pressure.” The report was released by a new union group called Airports United, which says it is determined to secure economic justice and job security for those helping build the industry’s success. Alice Dale of the global union UNI said: “The report shows that airports and airlines are taking workers on a race to the bottom. UNI Property Services members, including cleaners and security guards are feeling the brunt of this irresponsible business model.” Steve Cotton, general secretary of the transport unions’ federation, said: “Airports United is made up of the workers who are the backbone of this successful world industry. In return they’re being worked harder, for less, without job security.” He added: “This new emerging network represents tens of thousands of airport workers in over 100 airports globally and aims to grow significantly over the next few years. It is launching with a clear mission to improve the industry for all concerned.”
Three years after the creation of the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, the landmark agreement is making significant headway, the global union for the sector has said. IndustriALL said the collapse of Rana Plaza garment factory on 24 April 2013, killing over 1,100 and injuring thousands more, brought an end to the tolerance of voluntary, non-transparent, non-enforceable factory inspections in Bangladesh. “We would not accept anything less than a legally binding agreement to make Bangladesh’s garment industry safe and sustainable,” said IndustriALL general secretary Jyrki Raina on the creation of the Accord. IndustriALL policy director Jenny Holdcroft said: “The work doesn’t end when you sign the dotted line.” An inspected factory agrees a corrective action plan (CAP), together with a time plan in which to make the remedies. It is against the CAP that progress is measured. Three years after is creation, the Accord has inspected 1,651 factories and made more than 50,000 safety renovations but IndustriALL says pressure needs to be maintained as many essential safety improvements are yet to be made. “So yes, there are still challenges, but the Accord is the most successful engagement to date because it is cooperative, legally binding and transparent,” said Jenny Holdcroft. So far, 26 factories that did not undertake required measures within the set time frame, have had business with Accord brands terminated. UNI deputy general secretary Christy Hoffman said: “Even though great progress has been made in the garment industry, changing 30 year old ways of working takes time. We can’t collectively walk away. We need to finish the job we have started and carry on as long as it takes.”
In what has been described as an ‘unprecedented’ ruling, authorities in South Korea have recognised malignant lymphoma (non-Hodgkin lymphoma) as an occupational disease. The Korea Workers’ Compensation and Welfare Service (KCOMWEL) decision on 1 June approved workers’ compensation to Park Hyo-soon, a former Samsung Electronics Co Ltd employee who died of the blood disorder four years ago. Her family were supported throughout the lengthy adjudication process by victims’ campaign and advocacy organisation SHARPS. The group says it has identified around 200 Samsung workers who developed the blood condition. In 2002, Park Hyo-soon got a job as chip-line operator at Samsung, a few months before graduating high school. She was diagnosed with terminal lymphoma in 2010, about four years after she quit her job at Samsung. She died in 2012, aged just 28. In a statement, SHARPS said: “Korea Workers’ Compensation and Welfare Service (KCOMWEL) on 1 June decided to grant workers’ compensation to the late Park Hyo-soon, aged 28 years, citing that non-Hodgkin lymphoma, or malignant lymphoma, constitutes an occupational disease as she could have developed it as a result of exposure to benzene or other materials.” It added: “KCOMWEL’s decision is significant because for the first time it declared malignant lymphoma an occupational disease.”
The deaths of 11 workers in a Qatar labour camp fire on 1 June is yet another example of the government’s complete disregard for the migrant workers building the huge infrastructure programme in the lead-up to the 2022 World Cup, global union ITUC has said. A further 12 workers were injured in the fire, which happened in a labour camp housing workers on the Salwa tourism development, which includes a 362-room Hilton Hotels resort. Sharan Burrow, ITUC general secretary, said: “Yet more families of migrant workers have been deprived of their loved ones due to the shocking conditions of the workers, adding “1.4 million workers are living in these labour camps, the vast majority of them in crowded, squalid and dangerous conditions. Open cooking plates, faulty electrical wiring, gas bottles where they shouldn’t be – these are hazards that those who are forced to live in labour camps have to face each day, on top of their often dangerous and unhealthy working environment.” The global union leader said: “The construction companies and global brands such as Hilton cannot escape their responsibility to workers who are trapped in Qatar without rights. Huge profits are being made on the back of modern slavery, and another 11 lives have been lost simply because Qatar refuses to bring its laws into the modern era.” Qatar pledged to build an extra 40,000 hotel rooms as part of its bid for the 2022 World Cup. ITUC said the country is notorious for poor fire safety, with fatalities from fires a common occurrence.
Ÿ Course dates now appearing at www.tuceducation.org.uk/findacourse/
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