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TUC Risks E-Bulletins

Number 788 - 18 February 2017

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


 - GMB anger at ‘horrific’ bullying of ambulance call staff

 - Union wins jobs pledge in Tube staffing dispute

 - RMT in safety dispute on Arriva Rail North

 - Public backs bid to save work diseases unit

 - Usdaw warning on dangerous compensation reforms


 - Asbestos on husband’s overalls led to wife’s deadly cancer

 - More than £84m awarded by mesothelioma scheme

 - High Court rules on mesothelioma ‘lost years’

 - Heart attack plumber wins workers’ rights fight

 - Disabled people hide impairments to stay in work

 - Poor management linked to worker suicides

 - Heavy work and shifts make it harder to get pregnant

 - HSE cost recovery dispute process to be ‘independent’

 - Contractor jailed after casual labourer’s fatal fall


 - TUC Workers’ Memorial Day 2017 webpages go live!


 - Australia: Union warning on asbestos imports

 - European: Coalition calls for glyphosate ban

 - Korea: Samsung job caused multiple sclerosis, court rules



GMB anger at ‘horrific’ bullying of ambulance call staff

The union GMB is calling for urgent government action after it was revealed desperate 999 call handlers attempted suicide amid an “endemic culture of bullying” at a scandal-hit ambulance service. Leaked reports describe a “culture of fear” in the Coxheath Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) run by South East Coast Ambulance Trust (SECAmb), which saw employees subjected to repeated abuse and harassment. The investigation reports reveal female members of staff tried to take their own lives because of criticisms, threats of disciplinary, audit and capability action, photography of their clothing and verbal abuse. The dossier also revealed a third victim of bullying at the trust contemplated crashing her car in order to escape the abuse. Several workers claimed they were left under such pressure they could not concentrate on emergency calls, impairing their responses to the public. One report described an “endemic culture of bullying and harassment” by top managers. GMB regional organiser Gary Palmer said despite a series of reports finding senior managers responsible for the bullying and harassment and a subsequent cover up, they “have not only not had action taken against them as recommended, but have enjoyed promotions and impunity.” Paul Maloney, GMB Southern region secretary, said: “Staff have been ignored for years. Why does it take attempted suicides to bring these matters to a head whilst government legislation cripples the NHS through regulation and lack of funding? I can’t imagine how many tens of thousands of pounds has been spent on flawed investigations, sickness, suspensions and dismissals only to protect a jackboots regime.”

GMB Southern region news release. The Telegraph. BBC News Online.

Union wins jobs pledge in Tube staffing dispute

Staff on London’s Tube system have voted to accept a London Underground (LU) proposal to restore 325 jobs. TSSA says the move is ‘a first step’ in returning the Tube to a safe staffing level and prompted the union to call off its overtime ban. TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes said: “Enormous credit must be paid to our members on our Tube. In refusing to work overtime for the last few months, they have proved beyond any doubt that our Tube was no longer employing enough people for stations to meet minimum legal staffing requirements needed to remain open, let alone deal with congestion or other major security issues.” He said previous cuts, which saw 800 jobs go, “left all our members terrified for their own safety, as well as that of passengers.” He added that a fake bomb threat in November had exposed “the gaping holes in evacuation procedures. Had the bomb threat been real, there would have been potentially a very serious and nasty outcome.” The union leader said: “I congratulate our members on their endurance and their willingness to fight for passenger safety. We can all travel a little easier on our Tube today because of TSSA members’ warnings and actions.”

TSSA news release.

RMT in safety dispute on Arriva Rail North

Rail union RMT has informed Arriva Rail North it is in dispute with the company over the future of the safety critical role of train guards. The union said it now intends to move forward with an industrial action ballot. RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “The union’s position on driver only operation (DOO) is perfectly clear. We will not agree to any extensions of DOO and will fight to retain the safety critical role of the guard and to keep a guard on the train.” He said: “We asked Arriva Rail North whether they were prepared to guarantee a second person on all passenger services operated by the company and whether that second person would retain full operational responsibility, for train despatch, Platform Train Interface and current rule book requirements for dealing with contingency arrangements, such as evacuation and protection of the train. The response from the company was ‘we are not in a position to offer either of these guarantees at this present time’.” The union leader commented: “This has been particularly disappointing as Arriva North have reneged on their previous position when they stated they ‘were prepared to offer guarantees around a second person on board trains in addition to the driver’. This dispute, and the ballot for industrial action, were entirely preventable if the company had listened to the union’s deep-seated safety concerns, had taken them seriously and had put passenger safety before profit.” He said the union remains available for talks.

RMT news release.

Public backs bid to save work diseases unit

A union campaign to save a highly skilled Barrow team who process claims for industrial illness benefits has received wide public support. Phoenix House in Barrow has been put at risk of closure under Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) plans to shut and relocate several health assessment offices and job centres across Britain. Around 80 members of staff are based at the site, specialising in working with individuals with industrial diseases such as the asbestos cancer mesothelioma. Workers at Phoenix House process claims to the Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit and the mesothelioma payment schemes. The campaign spearheaded by the Cumbrian branch of the civil service union PCS includes a petition, which has already attracted hundreds of signatures. The petition states: “Over 1,000 combined years of experience helping victims of asbestos related lung diseases and industrial disease will be lost. Industrial disease has had and continues to have a devastating effect on workers and families throughout the country meaning this proposed closure could have an effect on every worker in the land.” Campaigners believe the facility must stay local as the Barrow borough has the highest rate of mortality for mesothelioma in England at 14.3 deaths per 100,000 people - triple the national average.

PCS save Phoenix House petition. North West Evening Mail.

Usdaw warning on dangerous compensation reforms

Proposed changes to compensation law aimed at cutting whiplash claims will have a devastating effect on injured workers and workplace safety, the retail union Usdaw has warned. Echoing warnings from the TUC, other unions, personal injury lawyers and occupational disease victims’ advocates (Risks 780), the union said lifting the small claims ceiling from £1,000 to £5,000 would price many occupational disease victims out of justice. Usdaw general secretary John Hannett said the government should take employers’ and public liability claims out of the scope of its review. “Around 70 per cent of the cases we currently take are under £5,000,” he said. Pointing to a union dossier of successful compensation cases, he said under the proposed system these would not qualify for legal costs. “Workplace injuries and diseases are often complicated cases that cannot easily be taken by individuals without proper legal representation and expert reports,” he said. “Those costs might have to be paid for out of any award the individual received for their injury, which is grossly unjust.” He added there would also be a knock-on effect on health and safety at work. “Our efforts to make workplaces safer rely on employers understanding that they can be financially liable for accidents and diseases. If workers’ access to justice is restricted, less scrupulous employers will undoubtedly let safety standards slip. The government needs to think very carefully about how they proceed, to ensure that there aren’t unintended consequences for workers’ health and safety.” The Ministry of Justice is due give its response to the consultation by 7 April.

Usdaw news release.


Asbestos on husband’s overalls led to wife’s deadly cancer

A retired chef died as a result of the asbestos cancer mesothelioma, an inquest has concluded. Jill Moore of Hoddesdon in Hertfordshire died aged 71 on 11 November 2016. The inquest, held in Ipswich, heard that prolonged exposure to asbestos on her husband Brian Moore’s overalls during his work as a mechanic between 1965 and 1990, had caused the mesothelioma diagnosed in November 2015. Assistant Suffolk coroner Kevin McCarthy said examination of Mrs Moore’s own work record showed no evidence she was ever exposed to asbestos. But, for 20 years, her late husband Brian had come into contact with asbestos materials in brakes and clutches as part of his work as a vehicle mechanic. Mr McCarthy said Mrs Moore had spoken of washing her husband’s work clothes twice weekly and shaking dust from his overalls. In 2014, after going to her GP, she was diagnosed as suffering from mesothelioma and told she might only have six months to live. The coroner said a family statement described Mrs Moore as ‘tenacious, full of life and a fighter’. He recorded a conclusion that Mrs Moore died as a result of an industrial disease.

East Anglian Daily Times. Newmarket Journal. The Mirror.

More than £84m awarded by mesothelioma scheme

More than £84 million in compensation has been awarded to sufferers, or the families of those who have died, as part of the Diffuse Mesothelioma Payment Scheme (DMPS), according to official statistics. The asbestos cancer caused the death of 2,515 people in Great Britain in 2014, according to Health and Safety Executive figures. The scheme, which is for mesothelioma victims who have been prevented from claiming compensation because they cannot trace a liable employer or an employers’ liability insurer, was introduced after a high profile campaign by unions and occupational disease victims’ advocates (Risks 637). Announcing the latest payout figures, Penny Mordaunt, the minister for disabled people, health and work, said: “It is absolutely right that the government steps in to help people who cannot get the compensation they deserve from their former employers. I want to ensure all who might benefit from this scheme are aware of it.” The average lump sum payment made through the scheme in the six months between April and September 2016 was around £141,000, up from £135,000 in 2015/16. The scheme is funded by a levy on the Employers’ Liability Compulsory Insurance industry, set this year at £40.4 million. No comparable scheme exists for victims of other occupational cancers, which kill many times more than mesothelioma, which itself only accounts for less than half of asbestos-related cancer deaths each year.

DWP news release.

High Court rules on mesothelioma ‘lost years’

A High Court ruling could mean higher payouts for the dependants of people who die from work diseases. The judgment of Judge Walden-Smith came this month in the case of Andreou v S Booth Horrocks & Sons Ltd. Stelios Andreou, 77, was exposed to asbestos in the 1960s when he was apprenticed to a heating and plumbing engineer. His lawyer Harminder Bains, from law firm Leigh Day, obtained the judgment against the employer on behalf of her client, who was diagnosed with the fatal lung disease mesothelioma in 2016. The compensation for his ‘pain and suffering’ was agreed at £90,000, the highest award allowed for this component of a mesothelioma claim. The judge however rejected a bid by the defendant to dismiss another component of a claim, the ‘lost years services’ assessment. Mrs Justice Walden-Smith ruled that the assessment of the value of the lost years claim, which refers to compensation for the amount Mr Andreou would have provided to his wife if he had not contracted mesothelioma, can be adjourned until after his death. The judge ruled: “It would not be right in my judgment for the claimant or the claimant's estate or his widow in due course not to be able to make a claim for something to which he is entitled simply by reason of it having been brought into these proceedings. This discrete matter will therefore be adjourned.” Harminder Bains said: “I welcome the judge’s decision to adjourn the hearing until after the death of Mr Andreou. This judgment should mean fairer compensation for anyone diagnosed with a life shortening illness, or who has suffered a severe injury, and are faced with the choice of whether to bring claims in their lifetimes, or after their death via their estates.”

Leigh Day news release and the full judgment.

Heart attack plumber wins workers’ rights fight

A plumber has won a legal employment rights battle in the latest significant court ruling over freelance operations in the modern workplace. Gary Smith wanted to reduce his working days at Pimlico Plumbers following a heart attack. The Court of Appeal agreed with a tribunal that said he was entitled to basic workers' rights although he was technically self-employed. The TUC has welcomed the ruling and has called on the government to clamp down on ‘shady’ employment practices. The case centred around the distinction between Mr Smith's status as either a self-employed contractor or a worker for the company. He was VAT-registered, and paying tax on a self-employed basis, but worked solely for Pimlico Plumbers for six years. After he suffered a heart attack in 2010, he wanted to cut his five-day working week, which he had been signed up to work with the firm, to three. However, the firm refused and took away his branded van, which he had hired. He claims he was dismissed in 2011. He argued that he was entitled to basic workers' rights - which would include the national minimum wage and paid holiday and the ability to bring discrimination claims. The Court of Appeal agreed with an employment tribunal decision in favour of Mr Smith, dismissing Pimlico Plumbers' appeal. Mr Smith's solicitor Jacqueline McGuigan said he was “tightly controlled” by Pimlico Plumbers and unable to work for anyone else. Commenting on the ruling, TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “This case has exposed once again the growing problem of sham self-employment. Unscrupulous bosses falsely claim their workers are self-employed to get out of paying the minimum wage and providing basics like paid holidays and rest breaks.” She added: “The government must crack down on these shady employment practices by beefing up the law. But the best form of protection for working people is to get together with a group of mates and join a union in your workplace.”

TUC news release. Court judgment. BBC News Online. The Guardian.

Disabled people hide impairments to stay in work

More than half of disabled workers have experienced bullying or harassment at work because of their impairments, a study has found. Nearly six out of 10 (58 per cent) disabled people feel at risk of losing their jobs and one in two (53 per cent) has experienced bullying or harassment at work because of their impairments, according to the research by disability charity Scope. The findings, based on 501 interviews and published ahead of the 17 February end of the consultation period on the government’s green paper on work, health and disability, have highlighted the issues disabled people face in work. Scope discovered one in five (21 per cent) hide their disability from employers and one in four (24 per cent) say their current employer is not supportive of their disability. Mark Atkinson, chief executive of Scope, said: “These figures demonstrate that employers and government need to be doing much more to support disabled people in the workplace.” He added: “It’s clear that support for disabled people both in and out of workplace need to radically improve. If the government is serious about halving the disability employment gap it must set out reforms which not only lead to a change in employer attitudes but also offer disabled people better access to in work support.”

Scope news release. Morning Star.

Poor management linked to worker suicides

Two separate inquests have revealed how poor management or witnessing horrific traumas in the workplace can leave workers suicidal. A February 2017 inquest into the death of an award-winning nurse concluded that he “killed himself while the balance of his mind was disturbed”. Amin Abdullah, 41 suffered mental health issues following a delayed disciplinary process and dismissal from his job with Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust. The inquest at Westminster Coroner’s Court, London, heard Amin died on 9 February 2016 after setting himself on fire in the grounds of Kensington Palace, London. His problems started when he made statements in support of a colleague who had been the subject of a complaint by a patient. This prompted the Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust at Charing Cross Hospital to initiate disciplinary proceedings against him. Lengthy delays in progressing the disciplinary process and a failure to provide details of the charges against him, led to Amin – who had won a clinical excellence award in 2014 - experiencing extreme distress, anxiety and difficulty sleeping. He was dismissed from the trust on 21 December 2015. His appeal against his dismissal was set for 11 February 2016, but Amin set fire to himself three days before it was due to be heard. A second February 2017 inquest heard a colleague of murdered police officers Fiona Bone and Nicola Hughes filled out his own death report before being found dead in a park. Andrew Summerscales was believed to be one of the first on the scene after Dale Cregan had killed the PCs in 2012. The 46-year-old, who left the police in 2015, was found hanged in August 2016. The inquest at Stockport Coroners' Court heard he was found wearing a tag used by police for identifying bodies which he had filled out himself. His doctor said the former PC had been diagnosed with post traumatic stress after the murder of his colleagues. The inquest also heard that Mr Summerscales had been at Hillsborough in 1989, when 96 Liverpool fans lost their lives in a crush on the terraces. Coroner Joanne Kearsley concluding that he had taken his own life, adding Mr Summerscales had endured traumas in his life.

Leigh Day news release. BBC News Online.

Heavy work and shifts make it harder to get pregnant

Being employed as a shift worker or in a physically demanding job could make it harder for a woman to get pregnant, a new study has concluded. Scientists found working outside of normal office hours or having a strenuous job may lower a woman’s chances of conceiving via IVF. The US-based study looked at 473 women attending a fertility clinic and was published in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine. Women with physically demanding jobs had a lower ovarian reserve – the number of remaining eggs - than those whose work did not regularly involve heavy lifting. Among those going through IVF at the clinic, women with more physical jobs had a lower total reserve of eggs and fewer mature eggs. Women who worked evenings, nights or rotating shifts had fewer mature eggs than those working normal hours. The researchers cautioned that the findings were drawn from a sample of women attending a fertility clinic so may not apply to those trying to conceive naturally. However, the paper concluded: “Women working non-daytime shifts and those with physically demanding jobs had fewer mature oocytes retrieved after controlled ovarian hyperstimulation. Our results provide insight into possible mechanisms linking these occupational exposures with decreased fecundity.”

Lidia Mínguez-Alarcón, Irene Souter, Paige L Williams and others. Occupational factors and markers of ovarian reserve and response among women at a fertility centre, Occupational and Environmental Medicine, published Online First, 6 February 2017. London Evening Standard.

HSE cost recovery dispute process to be ‘independent’

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has announced that it is to consult on proposals to make the dispute process for its cost recovery scheme fully independent. HSE said the scheme, Fee for Intervention (FFI), was introduced in October 2012 to shift the cost of regulating workplace health and safety from the public purse to businesses which break the law (Risks 672). It said FFI “ensures the cost burden of HSE intervention is picked up by those companies and not taxpayers.” Under the scheme, if an HSE inspector identifies serious health and safety failings in the workplace about which they need to write to the dutyholder, then that dutyholder has to pay the costs of the HSE visit. If the inspector simply issues verbal advice there is no charge. If there is disagreement on HSE’s decision, the dutyholder can dispute it. Until now, disputes were considered by a panel which consisted of two members from HSE and one independent person. However, after reviewing the current process HSE has said it “will consult with relevant stakeholders with a view to making the process fully independent.” The FFI disputes process was due to face a legal challenge, with a judicial review at the Royal Courts of Justice set for 10 and 11 May 2017 (Risks 778). A spokesperson for HSE said: “HSE has always kept the dispute process under review and following a recent application for a judicial review we believe the time is right to move to a dispute process which is completely independent of HSE.”

HSE news release and Fee for Intervention scheme guide. Construction Enquirer.

Contractor jailed after casual labourer’s fatal fall

A Manchester building contractor has been jailed following the death of a casual labourer who fell nearly seven metres through a fragile roof. Karel Lascos, 45, had been carrying out repair work at Witney Mill, Manchester when the incident occurred on 23 November 2013. Saleem Hussain had been engaged by the warehouse owner, who believed him to be a competent building contractor, to carry out repair and maintenance work on the warehouse roof. He then hired two people to do the work. A subsequent Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found that neither worker was qualified to carry out work at height. They had accessed the roof via a ladder in order to repair and seal leaking guttering. No safety precautions were in place to protect the two men from the danger of falling through the fragile roof. Manchester Crown Court heard that Saleem Hussain failed to assess the risks or put a safe working method in place. No suitable training or equipment to work on the roof had been provided. He pleaded guilty to a criminal safety offence and was sentenced to eight months imprisonment. HSE principal inspector Mike Sebastian said: “The dangers of falls through fragile roofs and working at height are well known. Simple steps such as removing the need to access the roof directly by using mobile working platforms, or boarding out the roof, or using safety harnesses, can and should be used to prevent accident and injury. Mr Hussain’s failure to take any such actions resulted in a tragic and needless loss of life.”

HSE news release.


TUC Workers’ Memorial Day 2017 webpages go live!

The TUC’s webpages for Workers’ Memorial Day have gone live. The 28 April event is commemorated throughout the world and is officially recognised by the UK government. According to the new TUC online resource: “In 2017 the theme for the day is ‘Good health and safety for all workers whoever they are’ and will focus on inequalities in occupational health and the role unions play in narrowing the inequalities gap. The TUC will particularly want to focus on the hidden and new GIG economies, the risks faced by migrant workers and the issues of gender and class.” The page includes organising ideas and a listing of planned events around the country – make sure yours isn’t missed off the list.

TUC Workers’ Memorial Day 2017 webpages. Email details of your 28 April event to the TUC health and safety department. ITUC/Hazards global 28 April events and resources page.


Australia: Union warning on asbestos imports

A four-pillar plan to fight asbestos importation to Australia has been issued by unions. The move by UNIONS NSW came after revelations that an engineering company with a history of importing asbestos is refusing to remove the illegal building material. In a case filed by RJ Engineering in the Industrial Relations Commission, the company argues it should not be required to remove the asbestos used in the construction of a wind farm in Taralga, New South Wales (NSW). The company claims it was unaware the building materials contained asbestos. But Unions NSW says this is not the first time the company has imported asbestos. Asbestos was also found in electrical tram substations built by RJ Engineering in Melbourne and Adelaide last year. The union body is calling on federal and state governments to implement its four-pillar plan to deter companies – unwittingly or otherwise – from importing asbestos. It wants a ‘reverse onus of proof’, with companies required to prove they weren’t responsible for the hazardous imports. It also wants a national procurement register, with any firm that has imported asbestos banned from all government projects. Unions NSW is also seeking an ‘exhaustive due diligence test’, arguing that the existing ‘reasonable steps’ test to establish imported materials are asbestos-free is not rigorous enough. And it wants the law enforced at the border, to prevent illegal imports. Unions NSW secretary Mark Morey said: “We are deeply concerned at the precedent that would be set if RJ Engineering wriggles out of its obligation to remove asbestos from this wind farm in Taralga.” He added: “Approximately 1,000 people die from asbestos exposure each year. Australia needs a zero tolerance approach to this deadly material.”

Unions NSW news release.

European: Coalition calls for glyphosate ban

A broad-based coalition is calling for a Europe-wide ban on the toxic pesticide glyphosate. The chemical, which is the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Round-Up, the world’s best-selling pesticide, has been linked to cancer and other health effects (Risks 776). Now a European Citizens' Initiative (ECI) supported by unions and environmental groups is calling on the European Commission “to propose to member states a ban on glyphosate, to reform the pesticide approval procedure, and to set EU-wide mandatory reduction targets for pesticide use.” Calling for backing for its petition, the ECI notes: “It seems to be commonsense that cancer-inducing poison should not be sprayed on our farms, our countryside and our neighbourhoods. We now have the chance to make our voices heard through a European Citizens Initiative - a legal route that means the European Commission has to listen to us if we collect one million signatures this year.” It adds: “We know what a constant use of glyphosate will mean for us, the people of Europe: sick people, dead animals, burnt grass, brown leaves, and a loss of biodiversity. Last year, we were able to block Monsanto’s plans in ways they did not expect. But it’s not over, and in 2017 they will be fighting hard to extend the currently short term approval of glyphosate to 15 years. Which is why we will be fighting even harder to stop them.” The global food and farming union IUF has backed calls for a ban on glyphosate (Risks 751).

European Citizens’ Initiative ‘Stop Glyphosate’ petition.

Korea: Samsung job caused multiple sclerosis, court rules

In a ground-breaking judgment, A Seoul court has ruled that the multiple sclerosis suffered by a former worker on the LCD production line at Samsung Electronics is a work-related disease. While cancers and other disorders have been recognised officially at other Samsung plants, the 10 February ruling marks the first work-related disease to be recognised on Samsung’s LCD line. The Seoul Administrative Court ruled in favour of multiple sclerosis sufferer Kim Mi-seon. Supported by the campaign group SHARPS, she had asked the court to force the Korea Workers’ Compensation and Welfare Service (KCOMEL) to reverse its decision not to approve her request for compensation for medical treatment. Kim contracted multiple sclerosis while working on the LCD production line for Samsung Electronics. She began working at Samsung Electronics’ Giheung factory in 1997, when she was 17-years-old. She contracted the disease in March 2000 and left the company three months later. Kim filed the lawsuit in 2013, after KCOMEL refused to recognise her multiple sclerosis as a work-related illness. “The fact is that Kim was exposed to organic solvents such as acetone on the job; that she worked on shifts, including a night shift, before the age of 20; that she worked on a night shift in a sealed space; and that she did not have enough exposure to ultraviolet rays appear to have been factors that caused or exacerbated her multiple sclerosis,” judge Lee Gyu-hun said. The judge noted there had already been four confirmed cases of multiple sclerosis among workers at Samsung Electronics. “The number of patients at Samsung Electronics is much higher than the standard prevalence rate, and no other risk factors were confirmed for Kim aside from her work environment,” the judge said. Lim Ja-woon, the attorney with campaign groups SHARPS who represented Kim, said: “Samsung and its suppliers repeatedly defied court requests to provide chemical data used in LCD production.” SHARPS said that since May 2013, Samsung has complied with only one out of the 13 separate disclosure requests filed by Lim with the court.

SHARPS news report. The Hankyoreh.


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