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Number 855
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



·         Hot workers need enough water and breaks, says TUC

·         GMB wins again as tribunal rules Hermes couriers are ‘workers’

·         Dog attacks still a major concern for posties

·         College staff consider quitting over workloads and stress

·         Work environment is harming disabled teachers

·         Activists expose police collusion in site blacklist

·         New union resource tackles sexual harassment

·         Southgate explosion shows the need for proper staffing


·         MP calls for action now to end gig economy abuses

·         Low pay is a genuine occupational hazard

·         Multinational fined after another employee killed

·         Convicted painting firm gets off lightly after death

·         Work deaths campaigner named ‘most influential’ safety person


·         Canada: Union calls for nationwide action on safety criminals

·         Global: Big Tobacco criticised over child labour

·         India: Tetley’s tea workers denied a drink


·         Courses for 2018


Hot workers need enough water and breaks, says TUC

As summer makes itself felt across the UK, the TUC has called on bosses to make sure any staff working outdoors in the baking sun are protected from the harmful effects of over-exposure to sunlight and heat. The TUC says that workers like builders, agricultural workers and gardeners who are outside for lengthy periods in high temperatures are at risk of sunstroke, sunburn and even skin cancer. And working in hot weather can also lead to dehydration, tiredness, muscle cramps, rashes, fainting, and – in extreme cases – loss of consciousness. It is urging employers with staff who work outdoors to allow plenty of breaks and to provide a supply of drinking water. The TUC adds that during hot spells, firms should organise work so outside tasks are done earlier in the morning and later in the afternoon, rather than between 11am-3pm when temperatures are highest. Employers should also provide canopies or covering over open areas, and shaded areas for breaks. The TUC says they should ensure outdoor workers have sunscreen and are given advice on the need to protect themselves from the heat and sun. They should also provide lightweight brimmed hats for all outdoor workers and make sure any protective clothing is lightweight, long-sleeved and comfortable. Advice should be available in relevant languages for migrant workers, the TUC notes. Drivers can also be at risk in overheated vehicles, the TUC warns, and their employers should take measures to rule out heat-related fatigue or discomfort. TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said “working outdoors in sweltering conditions can be unbearable and dangerous. Bosses must ensure their staff are protected with regular breaks, lots of fluids, plenty of sunscreen and the right protective clothing.” She added: “Anyone worried about their working conditions should join a union, it’s the best way to stay safe at work and make sure you are represented and your voice heard.”

Ÿ  TUC news release and temperature at work guide.

GMB wins again as tribunal rules Hermes couriers are ‘workers’

Hermes couriers are ‘workers’ and not self-employed, according to an employment tribunal ruling. The GMB-backed tribunal in Leeds involving a group of 65 Hermes couriers found they were not independent contractors, which Hermes argued, but instead were workers, and therefore entitled to rights such as the national living wage and holiday pay. The decision was described by the GMB as a “landmark” ruling. Tim Roache, GMB general secretary, said: “This is yet another ruling that shows the gig economy for what it is – old fashioned exploitation under a shiny new facade. Bosses can’t just pick and choose which laws to obey. Workers’ rights were hard won, GMB isn’t about to sit back and let them be eroded or removed by the latest loophole employers have come up with to make a few extra quid.” The union leader added: “Not only will this judgment directly affect more than 14,000 Hermes couriers across the country, it’s another nail in the coffin of the exploitative bogus self-employment model which is increasingly rife across the UK.” There will now be a further hearing in the employment tribunal to calculate the holiday pay, national minimum wage and any unlawful deductions the couriers should now receive. Labour MP Frank Field, the chair of the work and pensions select committee, said: “The decision is a mega knockback to those companies still using old means of exploiting vulnerable workers.” Michael Newman, from law firm Leigh Day which acted for the union, said: “This judgment acknowledges that Hermes couriers, as the customer-fronting ‘face of Hermes’, play an integral part in the success of the company. It confirms that they work for Hermes as part of Hermes’ business.” GMB has also announced legal action against three Amazon delivery companies, accusing them of operating bogus self-employment practices.

Ÿ  GMB news release. Leigh Day news release. The Independent. Personnel Today.

Dog attacks still a major concern for posties

Dog attacks remain a major concern for postal workers after 2,275 incidents were reported last year, the union CWU has said. The union comments came ahead of the 2018 Dog Awareness Week, which ran from 22 June. This annual initiative, jointly run by Royal Mail and the CWU and supported by a range of other organisations, is now in its fifth year. “As usual, there will be posters going up in workplaces all around the UK, area safety reps will be visiting delivery offices and there will be publicity on display at enquiry offices giving advice and tips to members of the public,” said CWU national health, safety and environment officer Dave Joyce. “The aim is to raise awareness of dog attacks on postmen and women among our own members, to engage with dog owners in the community, and also to publicise the issue among the wider public.” The CWU says that while the number of reported dog attacks has fallen, an estimated 1,000 attacks per year go unreported. Dave Joyce said in order to address this under-reporting, a part of this year’s campaign is to encourage outdoor delivery members and Parcelforce members to report all incidents with dogs, “because the next time it may not be a minor incident and could be serious. It is discovered too often following serious attacks, resulting in life-changing injuries, that several minor incidents and near misses were not properly reported and had they been, the serious attack may have been avoided.”

Ÿ  CWU news release. Morning Star. BBC News Online.

College staff consider quitting over workloads and stress

Over two-thirds (70 per cent) of further education (FE) college staff working in England have considered leaving the sector, as workloads rise and many suffer from stress, according to a poll by the National Education Union (NEU). Eighty per cent of respondents said their workload has increased over the last 12 months. Sixty-two per cent said this increase was because there are fewer staff in their workplace, 35 per cent said they had to teach more hours, 34 per cent had new subject areas to teach and 31 per cent had more classes to teach. Half (49.32 per cent) work over seven hours more than their contracted hours a week – the equivalent of an extra day - with 88 per cent saying they have to work extra hours because their workload demands it, and 37 per cent saying it is expected of them. The survey found almost 40 per cent have discussed stress with a health professional while working in the FE sector, with 12.4 per cent reporting having been signed off with stress. A further 16.44 per cent believe they are suffering with stress, but haven’t discussed it with a health professional. FE college staff said the things that most worried them about working in the sector were concerns about their job security (25.67 per cent), working conditions (24.06 per cent) and pay (15.31 per cent). Dr Mary Bousted, NEU joint general secretary, said: “It is not surprising that so many FE college staff have considered leaving – they have faced huge turmoil in the sector with the area reviews and are suffering from chronic overwork and under-pay. For too long FE colleges have been the poor relatives in education, paid little attention by government and starved of funding. This cannot continue. The government needs to recognise the vital role FE colleges play in developing a skilled workforce, educating 62 per cent of 16-18 year olds and adults who are upskilling and reskilling.”

Ÿ  NEU news release.

Work environment is harming disabled teachers

Almost two-thirds (61 per cent) of disabled teachers believe their working conditions have impacted negatively on their health in the last 12 months, according to teaching union NASUWT. A large majority (72 per cent) of disabled teachers told the union they have considered leaving the profession as a result of factors in the workplace impacting on their health. The findings were published as the NASUWT’s annual Disabled Teachers’ Consultation Conference kicked off last week in Birmingham. Delegates raised serious concerns about the lack of support for disabled teachers in the workplace, including a lack of access to reasonable adjustments, being forced to work in unsafe environments and discriminatory attitudes from employers and colleagues in schools. A real-time electronic poll of conference participants also found over half (53 per cent) of members said they had experienced difficulty when requesting disability-related reasonable adjustments in the workplace. Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT, said: “Too many disabled teachers are having to teach in working environments which is impacting negatively on their health. Many are also being discriminated, isolated and excluded at work because they are disabled.” She added: “No teacher should be forced to hide their disabilities or struggle without the reasonable adjustments they need to be able to do their jobs.”

Ÿ  NASUWT news release.

Activists expose police collusion in site blacklist

Blacklisted workers have increased the pressure on the police over their covert monitoring of union safety activists and their collusion with an illegal industry-financed blacklisting group. The 25 June edition of BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme featured blacklisted construction workers including Dave Smith and Steve Acheson, both of whom were dismissed for raising safety concerns on site. The story was also highlighted on the front page of the BBC website, where a video clip from the programme was the ‘most watched’ item that morning. The programme noted it was only in March this year the Metropolitan Police admitted its Special Branch officers working undercover had for years channelled information on possibly ‘hundreds’ of workers to the illegal blacklisting group The Consulting Association, an organisation bankrolled by major UK construction companies. Listed workers found it impossible to get work on major construction projects, even at times of major skills shortages. The association was shutdown and prosecuted after a raid by the Information Commissioner’s Office in 2009. Dave Smith, secretary of the Blacklist Support Group, told the programme: “There has always undercover police officers, but these people have been given a new passport, given a new national insurance number, and they have been literally embedded with perfectly normal campaigners in perfectly legal organisations, like trade unions, to spy on them and find out what they are doing. We’ve had people embedded with our group for more than 10 years, and I’m a trade unionist, not a terrorist.”

Ÿ  BBC News Online. Victoria Derbyshire programme, 25 June 2018.

New union resource tackles sexual harassment

Sexual harassment at work is a trade union issue – that’s the strong message in a new ‘Workplace guide to dealing with sexual harassment’ produced by the linked unions BECTU and Prospect. They say another key message in the guide is that the cause of sexual harassment always lies with the perpetrator, and never with the subject. Nor is it the responsibility of the subject of sexual harassment to prevent it from happening, states the guide, which features testimony from affected workers. The guide was published after Prospect survey results revealed that 35 per cent of women respondents had experienced sexual harassment, rising to 62 per cent amongst younger women. Young people were also least likely to tell their union. One per cent of respondents had suffered a serious sexual assault at work. According to the guide, sufferers of sexual harassment, including witnesses, can experience damage to their mental and physical health. Sexual harassment also has an impact on their work satisfaction and ability to engage with professional activities, it adds. The guide highlights the need for policies to address unusual work situations, advising union reps to press employers to assess and set guidelines. These situations could include one-to-one interactions, such as on late shifts or remote site visits, or situations where one person makes decisions about career development opportunities. Other potential dangers could occur where some physical contact is accepted as part of the job, so sexual harassers may feel less inhibited to progress to inappropriate physical contact. “The message to employers is clear: cultivating a respectful workplace is the single most valuable protection against sexual harassment and other unwanted behaviours,” Prospect and BECTU note. “Decisive action against perpetrators is also essential in demonstrating the employer’s attitude to sexual harassment.”

Ÿ  BECTU news report and guide.

Southgate explosion shows the need for proper staffing

Unions have praised their members on the London Underground system for their handling on a ‘major incident’ last week. A small explosion at Southgate Tube station on 19 June, which left five people with minor injuries, is believed to have been caused by a faulty drill battery. British Transport Police said a 23-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of doing an act likely to cause an explosion to injure or damage property, and endangering safety on the railway. Rail union RMT praised the ‘fantastic’ response of station staff in “getting people to safety whilst undertaking a full speedy evacuation in very difficult circumstances.” RMT general secretary Mick Cash said the “incident reminds us yet again of the need for a full complement of properly trained staff at all stations. Whist this incident appears not to be terror related the possibility of an attack is always on our minds and safety is our absolute priority at all times.” Manuel Cortes, general secretary of the white collar rail union TSSA, said: “I want to pay tribute to our brave Tube workers, who lead evacuation procedures and of course, they are joined in their endeavours by our courageous British Transport Police staff, who run against fleeing passengers into the danger zone. They are all a vital part of London’s security net.” He added the union would conduct its own safety audit following the incident.

Ÿ  RMT news release. TSSA news release. British Transport Police statement. The Guardian.


MP calls for action now to end gig economy abuses

A Labour MP has called on the government to end the scourge of insecure work. Stephanie Peacock, the MP for Barnsley East, sparked a 20 June parliamentary debate as a consequence of her Private Members’ Bill calling for greater protection of agency workers. Introducing the Employment and Workers’ Rights Bill, she pressured government minister Andrew Griffiths, the under-secretary of state for business, to implement better and more workplace inspections with swift action taken against erring employers. And in the wake of a series of union court victories against false self-employment, she urged the government to act now, instead of waiting for workers to take companies and employers to court one-by-one. She said the cases were “damning indictments of employment in the gig economy as a whole,” adding: “I've heard from an Amazon worker who has seen women colleagues tragically miscarry in the warehouse and where fights have broken out on the packing floor because competition for work is so high. I’ve heard the heart-breaking story of a care worker who was forced by her employers to prove she was too sick to work by providing a urine sample. And another whose care agency refused to give her work as soon as they found out she was pregnant. And I’ve heard from the Hermes worker who only gets one day a year off with his family, with damaging effects not just on him, but his wife and children too. These workers are the real face of the gig economy.” The minister responded that the government planned “the most radical shake-up of our employment law in decades and we will take the necessary action to protect workers across the United Kingdom.” GMB national officer Sarah Owen was critical of the government, pointing out that only one Conservative MP has ‘bothered’ to speak on the issue of insecure work. “GMB has been on the side of those working in insecure jobs - taking the biggest names in the gig economy to court for our members - and winning. How many cases do we have to win before the government will act and give workers the protection they deserve?” Welcoming Stephanie Peacock’s initiative, she added: “This debate lifted the lid on what life is like for far too many workers in the gig economy - a lid that clearly unscrupulous companies would like to keep sealed. But through the work of trade unions and MPs like Stephanie Peacock, workers’ voices will be heard.”

Ÿ  GMB news release. Insecure work and the gig economy, Hansard, 20 June 2018. Employment and Workers’ Rights Bill. The London Economic.

Low pay is a genuine occupational hazard

Are you sick and tired of too much work for too little pay? Well, you are also likely to be sick because of it, according to a new report in the trade union backed workers’ health publication Hazards. Presenting academic evidence, the report argues: “Workplace risks go up as your employment grade goes down, with a potentially devastating impact on health. Poor working conditions are commonly a toxic companion to poor pay. Fear of losing your ostensibly ‘permanent’ job, inability to find permanent work, scratching a living from multiple jobs or working on short-hours or zero hour contracts, at the whim of someone who claims not to be your employer can take a toll on your health.” It notes that by contrast, higher paid, higher status work “is relatively immune to work-related health problems – occupational injuries, cancers, nervous system disorders, suicides, reproductive problems, strain injuries and cardiovascular diseases are concentrated overwhelmingly in less well remunerated work. The lower your grade, the higher your risks.” The report argues that trade unions are a proven mechanism capable of addressing the pay and other inequalities that cause these increases in injury, sickness and early deaths. “There is a clear and positive union effect on pay rates. There is a substantial union safety effect. Combine the two and union membership offers a return none of us can afford to live without,” the report concludes.

Ÿ  Degraded, Hazards Magazine, Number 142, June 2018. Hazards’ low pay webpages. Unjust pay rates can be deadly, ETUC, May 2018.

Multinational fined after another employee killed

A multinational company that manufactures ready meals for retailers including Tesco, M&S, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose has been fined £176,000 after an employee suffered fatal injuries when he was struck by empty food trays in its Falkirk factory. Falkirk Sheriff Court heard that, on 22 March 2016, an employee of Bakkavor Foods Limited was assisting in unloading and moving empty food trays. The forklift truck carrying the trays made contact with a stack of empty food trays, which then collapsed and struck the employee, causing him to fall to the ground and strike his head. He died from his injuries two weeks later. An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), who did not name the victim, found Bakkavor Foods Limited had failed to ensure there was sufficient segregation between the forklift truck and the employees. Bakkavor Foods Limited pleaded guilty to a criminal safety offence and was fined £176,000. HSE inspector Stuart Easson said: “This was a tragic and wholly avoidable incident caused by the failure of the host company to implement safe systems of work. This risk was further amplified by the company’s failure to undertake safety measures including segregating vehicles and employees”. It was not the first recent fatality at a Bakkavor facility. The Icelandic owned FTSE 250 company was fined £2 million last April after Jacek Adamowicz was struck and killed by a falling bale of plastic waste stacked in the yard of its plant in Ince, Greater Manchester (Risks 798). The group’s turnover in the year to December 2017 was over £1.8 billion. Its profit before tax was £84.8 million.

Ÿ  HSE news release. Bakkavor financial performance 2017.

Convicted painting firm gets off lightly after death

A Devon painting and decorating firm that failed to maintain its mobile elevated work platforms (MEWP) or properly train its staff in their safe use has received no penalty related directly to the death of an employee after a malfunctioning platform overturned. TJ Smith Contracting Ltd employee Kenny Leach, 49, died in hospital from a cardiac arrest the day after the Bronto aerial platform he was working in toppled over on 13 December 2014. A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found that the MEWP involved in the incident failed to stop automatically before ‘overslewing’, increasing the risk of vehicle overturn. HSE said, however, “there is no suggestion that the failings of the company caused the fatal incident in Dawlish”, but did prosecute the firm for two criminal safety breaches. Exeter Crown Court heard that, prior to December 2014, there was an almost complete lack of a planned preventive maintenance systems at the company. The investigation also found that workers had not been given adequate information or instruction regarding how to use or maintain the machines or how to carry out pre-use checks. TJ Smith Contracting Ltd was convicted of two criminal safety offences and fined £60,000 and ordered to pay costs of £70,000. Questions by Hazards magazine about absence of action directly related to Kenny Leach’s death, an email response from an HSE spokesperson said: “Following the fatal incident in December 2014, HSE carried out a full and thorough investigation into the circumstances surrounding the incident and into how health and safety was managed by TJ Smith Contracting Ltd and other parties. HSE did not find sufficient evidence that a breach of health and safety legislation led directly to the death of this individual in December 2014. However, the investigation uncovered issues with TJ Smith Contracting Ltd’s planned preventative maintenance systems.” The spokesperson added: “It was found that the company was placing employees and members of the public at risk of serious injury by failing to suitably maintain their fleet of MEWPs. There was sufficient evidence that the company’s actions were serious enough to breach Regulation 2 (1) and 3 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.”

Ÿ  HSE news release. Construction Enquirer.

Work deaths campaigner named ‘most influential’ safety person

Louise Taggart, a campaigner and speaker travelling the country to expose the tragic human cost that can arise from poor health and safety standards, has been named 2018’s ‘Most Influential’ person in health and safety. The accolade was announced last week at the Safety and Health Expo in London, with Louise topping a poll of readers of the workplace safety publication SHP. A lawyer, Louise is also a trustee of Scottish Hazards and a high profile member of the national Hazards Campaign. She became a founder member of Families Against Corporate Killers (FACK) after her brother Michael was killed at work on 4 August 2005. A joint statement from the Hazards Campaign and FACK said the groups “congratulate Louise on a well-deserved award as she is making a huge difference, influencing employers and managers, and inspiring workers to make work safer.” It said she had spoken to thousands of people about the dangers of lax workplace safety standards since her brother’s death. “Louise speaks from the heart, through the fire of grief, loss and anger tempered by extensive knowledge of the law and of the safety procedures which, if followed, would have saved Michael’s life. She starkly reminds employers and managers and health and safety professionals of their legal and moral duties, the tragedy their negligence can lead to, and inspires workers to be clear about their rights and to challenge poor health and safety. Some have gone on to be safety representatives after hearing her eloquent speeches. Louise Taggart is one of the most moving speakers on the need for better health and safety, that it is never ‘pointless red tape’ or a ‘burden on business’ to follow the law, that it must be strictly enforced as it is there for a reason: to stop anyone being killed by at work by their negligent employers.”

Ÿ  SHP news report. Hazards Campaign news release. Michael’s Story.


Canada: Union calls for nationwide action on safety criminals

The United Steelworkers (USW) in Canada has applauding the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary’s (RNC) announcement that it will undertake criminal investigations into all serious injuries and deaths that occur at workplaces throughout the province. USW Canadian director Ken Neumann welcomed news that the RNC is to train officers to initiate criminal investigations at the site of every incident, rather than securing the scene and handing things over to occupational health and safety officials. “This is a significant development that sends a strong message to employers about their responsibility to provide safe workplaces,” Neumann said. “Too many Canadian workers die every year in preventable tragedies. The announcement by the RNC should be a wake-up call to negligent employers that there will be consequences to their actions.” The move by the RNC builds upon similar steps taken in the Canadian provinces of Nova Scotia and Alberta, as well as positive work by the Toronto Police Service, and should be a uniform standard across the country, said USW Western Canada director Stephen Hunt. “No matter which province they go to work in, workers deserve protection and family members of victims deserve justice. It is now incumbent on every provincial government and every police service in Canada to ensure that the Westray Law is being properly applied and enforced.” The corporate manslaughter law was introduced after a long union campaign in the wake of the 1992 Westray mine disaster in which 26 workers died. USW says its ‘Stop the killing, enforce the law’ campaign has garnered the support of hundreds of local governments, community groups, First Nations and individuals.

Ÿ  USW news release and Stop the killing, enforce the law campaign. CBC News.

Global: Big Tobacco criticised over child labour

The world’s biggest tobacco companies are coming under mounting pressure over child labour and working conditions in tobacco fields globally, from Zimbabwe to North Carolina. The firms are facing intense scrutiny from unions, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and academics. While all the major companies have child labour policies in place and have formed organisations such as the UN-recognised Eliminating Child Labour in Tobacco Growing Foundation, their actions have brought little change and are largely cosmetic, claims Marty Otañez, associate professor at the University of Colorado Denver. “There is a disconnect between what company representatives say they do and what they actually do,” he alleged. “In every segment during the tobacco production process, you find different magnitudes of child labour.” Otañez said governments were often complicit because they did not want to deter overseas investors and relied on tobacco tax revenues. Tobacco companies wouldn’t be able to maintain their current rate of profits without the use of cheap labour, he added. The big five - British American Tobacco (BAT), Philip Morris International (PMI), Altria, Japan Tobacco International (JTI), and Britain’s Imperial Brands - made combined profits before tax of nearly £20bn last year. Recent reports have found widespread child labour and work-related ill-health, including green tobacco sickness, in tobacco fields from America (Risks 732) to Zimbabwe (Risks 844). At BAT’s annual general meeting (AGM) in London in April, Jacqueline Baroncini of the global farmworkers’ union IUF asked how the company could be sure that no children under 18 were working on farms supplying tobacco to BAT. The company’s chair, Richard Burrows, said programmes in place and audits carried out assured him the policy was adhered to. Otañez calls for a more open approach. He proposes an action plan that requires tobacco companies and leaf buyers to allow better monitoring of their supply chains; fairer labour arrangements on farms, including collective bargaining rights; and help for farmers to switch away from tobacco to growing food crops. International labour standards state that children under 18 should be prohibited from hazardous work.

Ÿ  The Guardian.

India: Tetley’s tea workers denied a drink

For generations, workers living and working on tea plantations in India have struggled with lack of access to safe, potable water and adequate sanitation facilities. For the past two years, women workers on plantations in the states of Assam and West Bengal which supply tea to UK-based Tetley have been organising to demand these basic human rights. Global food workers’ union iUF says that for years workers complained to management, but their complaints were ignored. With the support of the IUF, the workers, mainly women, then formed water and sanitation committees on six plantations to document the ‘abominable’ conditions and to propose concrete improvements. IUF notes: “In response, Tetley has publicly acknowledged that plantation workers face water and sanitation 'challenges' (not human rights violations), and that it has a 'phased action plan' to address the challenges. The 'action plan' however, excludes the workers' committees.” IUF says the workers have dismissed the company’s claims, insisting that the issue is their right to water and sanitation, that lack of access to potable water and adequate sanitation facilities affect their families' lives and health, and that there is no sustainable solution without their direct involvement. They are asking unions and consumers worldwide to increase the pressure on Tetley to respect their human rights.

Ÿ  IUF news release and workers’ video. Send a message to Tetley insisting they address human rights violations by negotiating with the workers’ self-organised water and sanitation committees.


Courses for 2018

Ÿ  Course dates now appearing at

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