Issue date
02 Aug 2018
TUC Risks E-Bulletins
 
Number 860
 
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 healthandsafety@tuc.org.uk.
 
Contents

UNION NEWS

OTHER NEWS

INTERNATIONAL NEWS

TUC COURSES FOR SAFETY REPS

UNION NEWS

Unions welcome call by MPs for work temperature ceiling

Unions have welcomed a call by MPs for a maximum workplace temperature. The recommendation from the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) is included in its new report, ‘Heatwaves: adapting to climate change’. This warns of 7,000 heat-related deaths every year in the UK by 2050 if the government doesn't act quickly. It adds, in a lengthy list of recommendations: “The government should consult on introducing maximum workplace temperatures, especially for work that involves significant physical effort.” Launching the report, Labour MP Mary Creagh, who chairs committee, said: “Heatwaves threaten health, well-being and productivity.” TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “The law only gives minimum working temperatures, but the hot summer we’re having has shown the need for a maximum limit too. It’s great to have support from MPs for this commonsense policy, and we hope the government will take quick action.” Jerry Swain, Unite’s national officer for construction, said site workers sweltering outside or in confined indoor areas were both at risk. “We’ve had reports where nothing is being done and people are just expected to carry on working. Heat can make you lightheaded or dizzy and on a construction site, where you’ve got machinery, that’s a real risk,” he said. Dan Shears, health and safety director with the GMB, said “there is a clear need to look again at a maximum workplace temperature, and to develop clear and unambiguous guidance on what should done when temperatures hit 25 degrees.” He added: “It shouldn't take a heatwave alert to force employers to take action. This is an issue every year, and it is only likely to become more common, so the government should act now by implementing the EAC recommendations in full.”

Ÿ  TUC news release, guide to working in heat and blog on the case for a maximum workplace temperature. Heatwaves: adapting to climate change, Environmental Audit Committee, 26 July 2018 – news release and full report.
GMB news release. BBC News Online. The Guardian.

Budweiser sacks safety rep for raising safety concerns

GMB has said it members at brewery giant Budweiser could take industrial action after a senior safety rep fired for raising safety concerns. Members at the company’s AB-InBev Brewery in Salmesbury, Preston, were balloted this week in a dispute over the sacking ‘disgrace’. Paul Morley, the site’s senior health and safety rep, was dismissed on 13 June for ‘refusing a reasonable management request’. He had raised concerns over the safety implications of a management initiative to speed up the brewing process. He said management had not conducted a proper assessment of the fatigue risks that could arise. Shaun Buckley, GMB regional organiser, said: “Paul Morley has been sacked simply for trying to look after the well-being of his colleagues. It’s a disgrace. GMB understands management want to streamline processes –all we ask is they follow the appropriate health and safety assessments in doing so.” An AB-InBev spokesperson said the firm would continue to have discussions with union representatives.

Ÿ  GMB news release. Morning Star. BBC News Online. Beer Today.

New jobs cull has made newspaper ‘unsafe for staff’

Management at Newsquest’s Northern Echo, which faces the loss of eight further posts, has been warned the cuts could result in a criminal breach of safety law, leaving the remaining staff unsafe at work. The latest cuts, and failure to fill a vacancy, represent a fifth (21 per cent) of the staff who produce the flagship Northern Echo and Darlington and Stockton Times, Durham Times and Advertiser Series. A letter, sent by NUJ reps on 12 July to the publication’s management, said: “We are currently seeking advice as to whether there has been any breach by the company of the Working Time Regulations or on health and safety grounds. To this end, we request copies of the risk assessment, which should have been carried out at the time of the three redundancies at the end of 2017, and following the withdrawal of freelance support.” The union said individuals have been known to start a 9am shift at 5.20am in order to get all the necessary tasks done to meet deadlines. Staff have individually clocked up 100 hours in lieu in six months with no prospect of getting the time back. The staff are still waiting for a reply to their letter. The union believes their employment conditions will be unsafe and will inevitably have an impact on the service they can provide to readers. NUJ organiser Chris Morley said: “The aggravating and reckless nature of this latest proposed cull of about a fifth of remaining jobs is that the chapel warned in no uncertain terms just weeks ago that staffing levels were at intolerable levels and demanded to see the risk assessments the company was required to produce under health and safety legislation.” He added: “Members’ genuine concerns on this have been met first with silence and then body-blow news of more savage cuts. The conditions our members report are simply not sustainable for people to endure and, I believe, they are now potentially unsafe.” Morley concluded: “UK management must stick up for their employees and not put health at risk through an uncaring pursuit of unsustainable levels of profit to trigger their fat bonuses.”

Ÿ  NUJ news release.

Millions missing out on legal holiday entitlement, warns TUC

A new TUC analysis has revealed that 1 in 12 UK workers are not getting their legal holiday entitlement. The analysis estimates that 2.2 million employees are not getting the minimum paid leave entitlement to which they are entitled under a workplace safety law. Over half of this number (1.2 million) are not getting any paid leave at all. The analysis shows workers are losing out on nearly £3bn worth of paid leave a year. The sectors in which workers are most likely to lose out are agriculture (14.9 per cent), mining and quarrying (14.7 per cent) and accommodation and food (13.9 per cent). The sectors with highest numbers of staff losing out are retail (348,000), education (342,000) and health and social care workers (291,000). Working people are entitled to a statutory annual minimum of 28 days paid leave, pro rata and including public holidays, under the Working Time Regulations. Minimum holiday entitlements are a vital part of reducing overwork, says the TUC. It warns that people who work excessive hours are at risk of developing heart disease, stress, mental illness, strokes, and diabetes, which also impacts on co-workers, friends, and relatives. Overwork has also been linked to suicide. The TUC wants HMRC to be granted new powers to clamp down on employers who deny staff their statutory holiday entitlement. The government has recently consulted on enforcing holiday entitlements but has yet to announce any plans. The TUC says ministers must guarantee all UK workers can take the holidays to which they are entitled. TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said “while many workers are away enjoying time off with friends and family, millions are missing out. And that puts them at risk of burnout. Employers have no excuse for robbing staff of their well-earned leave. UK workers put in billions of hours of unpaid overtime as it is.” She added: “The government must toughen up enforcement to stop bosses cheating staff out of their leave.”

Ÿ  TUC news release and blog. Personnel Today.

Union raises mental health concerns in BT

Communications union CWU has started talks with BT aimed at improving the company’s approach to mental health at work. The union said it made the move after delegates at CWU’s annual conference highlighted difficulties workers with mental health problems have experienced getting the assistance and understanding they need from managers. One representative highlighted the company’s ‘performance management’ (PM) process, an approach that has been described as management-by-stress. Delegates overwhelmingly carried a motion committing the union enter in to talks with BT to ensure that all managers receive mandatory mental health training within three months of their appointment – and that any declared mental health issues are taken into consideration when formulating any coaching or performance plans. Reporting that BT Group-level talks got underway last week, assistant secretary Dave Jukes said: “We’ve already had discussions with BT’s lead on mental health and well-being, and are in the process of working through the support that is currently available for people with mental ill-health and clarifying the details of how managers are trained in this area.” He added: “The CWU has asked for, and been promised, full visibility as to the level of mental health awareness training managers receive at the time of their induction and when any follow-up training is provided. It’s no good having that training 12 months down the line if managers have mental health issues to deal with when they first take over the job. It’s early days in these talks – but all the early indications are that the company is keen to work alongside the CWU to address the concerns raised by branches at CWU annual conference.”

Ÿ  CWU news release

Pilots call for government to strengthen ‘unsafe’ drone law

Pilots are urging the government to strengthen new drone laws, saying the restrictions introduced this week don’t go far enough to eliminate the threat of a serious collision. The British Airline Pilots’ Association (BALPA) said it is pleased the government has listened to its calls to tighten laws on drones, but says they need to go much further to make the use of drones near airports safe. The new law limits drones to 400ft and prevents them from flying within 1km of an airport boundary. But pilots say aircraft could easily be below 400ft at this point on approach to an airport, which means there is still a significant collision risk. BALPA is urging the government to consider extending the 1km exclusion to prevent potential collisions. BALPA head of flight safety, Dr Rob Hunter, said: “The government has committed to a consultation on the new laws which BALPA will be contribute to. We are urging the government to consider following the example set by Australia where unmanned operations must not be flown within 3nm [nautical miles (around 5.5km)] of an airfield.” He added: “BALPA is not anti-drone and we understand the commercial considerations in not making laws too restrictive. But safety must come first and allowing hobbyist or commercial drones to be flown in an area where they could come in to contact with a manned aircraft, increases the risk of a catastrophic collision.”

Ÿ  BALPA news release.

Unions call for action on prison staff safety

Unions representing prison officers have called for government action after new figures revealed an alarming rise in prison violence. The latest Ministry of Justice ‘Safety in Custody’ report, released last week, shows assaults on staff are up 26 per cent on the previous year, while serious assaults on staff are up 11 per cent. The rise has been linked to a sharp increase in the use of drugs in prisons. There has been a 20.4 per cent increase in prisoners testing positive for drugs, including psychoactive substances, which were present in 60 per cent of all positive drug tests. Responding to these figures, Adrian Axtell, national officer with the union Community, said “the use of new psychoactive substances has risen dramatically and this will come as no surprise to our members who have to deal with the serious consequences of such drugs every day. Urgent action needs to be taken to support staff dealing with these drugs and the knock on effect this has on levels of violence.” He added: “We welcome the announcement of a pilot project to clamp down on drugs supply, and we will be asking for good practice to be replicated across all prisons. However, while our prisons continue to be understaffed and under resourced, small reforms and projects will have little impact.” Mark Fairhurst, national chair of the prison officers’ union POA, said: “We remain committed to working with the employer to ensure violence in our workplace is eradicated but must insist that the protective measures we fought for are rolled out without delay. PAVA spray, rigid cuffs and adequate staffing levels that provide predictable regimes will all contribute towards improving safety. We will not stand by and allow violence to increase. It is clear the employer has failed to keep their staff safe.” He added: “The POA will not fail their members and will use any means necessary to protect the health and safety of hard working, brave and professional prison staff.”

Ÿ  Community news release. POA news release. Morning Star.

OTHER NEWS

Heavy toll of injury suffered by abattoir workers

The human cost of Britain’s meat consumption is revealed by shocking figures which show that at least two abattoir workers suffer serious injuries each week and amputations are inflicted at a rate of more than one per month. Data obtained by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism (BIJ) and the ‘i’ newspaper show that employees in slaughterhouses and meat processing plants are subjected to some of the most dangerous working conditions in the United Kingdom, with 100 workers suffering major injuries in a single year. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) said the £8bn meat processing industry, which has a high level of migrant employees from within the European Union, was at the “top end of our concern level” in terms of injury rates. The HSE figures covering a six-year period from April 2011 to March 2017 showed that 800 workers suffered reported serious injuries – an average of more than two per week – and 4,500 had to take off more than three days to recover from accidents. In the same period, four workers died (all in 2011) and 78 suffered the amputation of fingers, parts of fingers or limbs as a result of workplace incidents – of which 18 took place in the single year of 2016/17. John Rowe, head of the manufacturing sector for HSE, said: “It is a concern for HSE the level of injuries we see to employees in the meat processing sector. They are at the top end of our concern level when it comes to injury and ill-health rates.” TUC head of safety Hugh Robertson commented: “It’s clear that the industry has got massive problems and needs to sort it out. While there has been a lot of good guidance published by industry bodies, we know the practice on the ground is very, very different. It’s leading to a large number of workers, many of them vulnerable, getting their health ruined as a result of their employer forcing unnecessary risk on them.” He added: “We know that a lot of abattoirs are dependent on migrant workers. Unions are concerned that they often have little knowledge of their rights and, even when they do know their rights, are unable to protect them because many of them are on temporary contracts or employed through an agency.”

Ÿ  Bureau of Investigative Journalism report. i News.

We are still sick, just not off sick anymore

The average number of sick days taken fell to an all-time low last year, however workplace experts have warned “unhealthy” working practices such as presenteeism are distorting the picture. Figures released by the Office for National Statistics showed that employees took an average of 4.1 days off sick in 2017 – almost half the 7.2 days taken in 1993, when records began. The proportion of working hours lost to sickness absence dropped to 1.9 per cent in 2017, down from 2 per cent in 2016. Minor illnesses, such as coughs and colds, accounted for 34.5 per cent of working hours lost in 2017. Musculoskeletal problems represented 17.7 per cent of absences, and stress, depression or anxiety were given as the reason for 7.6 per cent of absences. Musculoskeletal issues were more common among older workers and were behind 20.8 per cent of working time lost by 50-64 year olds and 18.7 per cent of hours lost by 35-49 year olds. The ONS said there had been an increase in the number of workers aged 25-34 who attributed their absence to mental health conditions. This proportion increased from 7.2 per cent in 2009 to 9.6 per cent in 2017. Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the TUC, said people are more likely to go to work when ill than stay home when well, so employers needed to “ditch the myth that UK workers are pulling sickies”. She told Personnel Today: “If someone is poorly, good employers will encourage them to rest up and get better. UK workers already put in billions of pounds worth of unpaid overtime every year. They shouldn’t have to battle through illness as well.” Cary Cooper, president of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) and professor of organisational psychology and health at the University of Manchester, said the statistics were not a true reflection of sickness rates among the UK’s workers. “It’s not real. What’s pumping it is presenteeism,” he told the Independent. “If it was really a drop in sickness absence rates, you would have a productivity rise. And we haven’t seen a productivity rise in years.”

Ÿ  ONS release. Personnel Today. The Independent. The Daily Mail.

Asbestos giant fails in latest bid to keep deadly secrets

The Court of Appeal has ruled that a prominent asbestos victims’ advocate should be given copies of key documents that could reveal what an asbestos industry giant really knew about the risks posed by its deadly product. The latest ruling in favour of Graham Dring, on behalf of the Asbestos Victims Support Group Forum UK, requires Cape Intermediate Holdings Limited, a global manufacturer of asbestos products, to hand over documents used in a trial in which Cape was a defendant. The forum’s lawyers, Leigh Day, said the case is highly significant as it upholds an essential part of an earlier decision believed to have been first to grant a non-party to a legal case an entitlement to copies of such a large number of documents used at trial. Cape argued in the original case (Risks 830) and at appeal that Mr Dring did not have a ‘legitimate interest’ in the documents. Although the Court of Appeal reduced the scope of the documents that must be made available to the Forum, it upheld access to all documents which had been read by the trial judge or which he was invited to read. The Forum has maintained throughout that its aim is to provide the documents to interested parties, including academics, lawyers, and members of the public. Graham Dring of the Asbestos Forum said: “The Court of Appeal judgment should provide access to a significant amount of documents, which Cape intermediate Holdings (Cape) have refused to disclose: documents which may assist mesothelioma sufferers and their families to claim compensation, and which may throw light on the way early knowledge of the dangers of asbestos was hidden from the public.” He added: “The Forum’s application for disclosure was only made possible because our legal team represented us pro bono, confronting a company with deep pockets and access to the most expensive legal representation. The Forum and our legal team have been vindicated by this judgment and Cape should now cease their self-serving resistance to disclosure and accept this judgment in full.”

Ÿ  Leigh Day news release. Asbestos Victims Support Groups Forum.

Manslaughter jail terms could rise – but critics unimpressed

Employers, carers and organisations convicted of gross negligence manslaughter could face longer prison terms after changes to sentencing guidelines – although workplace safety experts have questioned whether deadly employers really have any real cause for additional concern. The Sentencing Council, which promotes greater consistency of sentencing in English and Welsh courts, has for the first time produced a definitive set of recommendations for judges across all manslaughter cases. Gross negligence manslaughter charges can be brought against employers, for example, where their disregard for the safety of employees, motivated by cost-cutting, has led to someone being killed. Commenting on the new guidelines, justice minister Rory Stewart said: “These guidelines will make sure sentences reflect the severity of the crime, helping protect workers and keep communities safe.” He added “it is expected that in some gross negligence cases sentences will increase - eg. if an employer’s long-standing and serious disregard for the safety of employees, motivated by cost-cutting, has led to someone being killed.” However, Steve Tombs, professor of criminology at The Open University, said “the Sentencing Council’s mention of workplace death is at best a red herring, at worst an ideological con trick, a smoke and mirrors claim that companies which kill are at risk of a corporate manslaughter conviction.” Commenting on the decade old Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act (CMCHAct) 2007, he said: “The reality is quite different,” with the law so far “sparsely used.” There have been just 26 companies successfully prosecuted so far, with a handful of acquittals in a period where “there were 4,264 officially recorded work-related deaths. This is not, of course, to mention the tens of thousands of workers who die each year as a result of workplace exposures, deaths technically covered by the CMCHAct but which seem to represent almost insurmountable evidentiary challenges. Best estimates suggest there are up to 50,000 occupationally-related deaths in the UK every year.”

Ÿ  Sentencing Council news release and new guidelines. The Guardian. Brave New Europe.

Golf club guilty after worker found dead near 14th hole

Hinckley Golf Club has been convicted on criminal safety charges relating to the death of a course manager. Douglas Johnstone, who was known as Dougie, suffered a fatal brain injury when the branch of an already collapsed poplar tree, blown over in a storm, struck him on the head while he was using a chainsaw without a safety helmet. Sentencing at Leicester Crown Court, Judge Martin Hurst said the tragedy happened against a background of “a systemic failure to deal with health and safety” at the club. He said the club had since taken “substantial steps” to voluntarily improve its health and safety arrangements, but added: “The other side of the coin is that the steps now taken demonstrate the woeful state of health and safety before.” A trial was told Johnstone was not qualified to use the motorised saw, although club officials believed he was, according to his job application. He had exaggerated his credentials. The court heard that Mr Johnstone was carrying out the chainsaw work unaccompanied, after other ground workers had gone home for the day, as darkness closed in. The 56-year-old died alone, and his body was found beside the tree, near the 14th hole, the following morning, on 28 December 2013. The jury took seven-and-a-half hours of deliberations to find the golf club guilty of three criminal health and safety offences, between January and December 2013. Hinckley Golf Club was fined £75,000 with £75,000 costs and has been given three years to pay. Councillor Kevin Morrell, executive member for environmental services at Hinckley and Bosworth Borough Council, which brought the prosecution, said: “This case serves as a reminder to any organisation run by volunteers that they have the same health and safety responsibilities to their employees as any other business.”

Ÿ  Hinckley and Bosworth Borough Council news release. Leicester Mercury.

Transport fined after worker killed by reversing lorry

A haulage company has been fined £150,000 after worker was crushed to death by a reversing lorry following a series of health and safety blunders. Kevin Scott died while acting as an untrained banksman at Tooles Transport yard in Rushock Trading Estate, Droitwich. The company was sentenced at Worcester Crown Court after being convicted of a criminal safety offence at an earlier four-week trial. Kevin Scott, aged 60, died on 11 December 2013 after he was crushed by the goods vehicle at the yard at around 6pm. The lorry was performing a blind side reversing manoeuvre. Judge Robert Juckes QC said Mr Scott was an 'experienced driver' who had worked for Tooles Transport for a number of years. Shaun Jennings, another experienced driver, was driving the lorry which killed Mr Scott. Judge Juckes said Mr Jennings performed this blind side reverse because of the position of other vehicles in the yard and it was not a manoeuvre he would have chosen to perform. He said ‘sloppy practice’ had developed in the yard. The court heard around 60 drivers used the yard and they were exposed to risk as a result of the substandard working practices. Judge Juckes imposed a fine of £150,000 which the company must pay over five years. The firm was also ordered to pay costs of £253,728.07.

Ÿ  HSE news release. Halesowen News.

Firm fined over spray booth explosion deaths

A company has been fined after an explosion and fire in a paint-spraying booth killed two of its workers. Barry Joy, 56 and Daniel Timbers, 28, were killed at Harford Attachments, Norwich in July 2015. At Norwich Magistrates' Court in May, managing director Steven Kidd pleaded guilty on the firm's behalf to two criminal breaches of health and safety law. In a sentencing hearing at Norwich Crown Court, the firm was fined £145,000, to be paid over seven years, and ordered to pay costs of £65,900. Lawyers for the company had asked for a ‘lenient’ fine. They said the firm is in a “parlous position”, as it is paying off more than £220,000 of invoices to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) for interventions. The criminal health and safety breaches related to failing to ensure both workers were not exposed to risk of death or serious injury from sources of ignition. Paint sprayer Mr Joy and production operative Mr Timbers could only be identified using dental records because their bodies were so badly burned, an inquest last year heard. The jury concluded the men were killed by the effects of fire and the inhalation of combustion fumes. Speaking after the sentencing, HSE inspector Keith Waller said: “This was a tragic and wholly avoidable incident, caused by the failure of the company to implement safe systems of work, and failure to ensure that health and safety documentation was communicated and followed.” Nick Timbers, father of Daniel, said after sentencing “there has been no justice” for his son or Mr Joy. “We are disgusted. The fine is miniscule. How can you put a price of £145,000 on two lives?,” he said.

Ÿ  HSE news release. Norwich Evening News. BBC News Online.

INTERNATIONAL NEWS

Global: Union warning on superbugs in the workplace

Global food and farming union IUF has issued new guidance on antimicrobial resistance (AMR) at work and says the problem must be “recognised as a workplace hazard”. The union body says the development of 'superbugs' resistant to antibiotic treatment has emerged as a major global threat to public health, killing hundreds of thousands of people annually. Health authorities predict that without concerted action millions more may soon succumb to infections that are successfully treated today but whose carriers are mutating to defy prevention and treatment. “Yet worker health and safety has been almost completely ignored in the global fight against AMR,” warns IUF. It says workers involved in raising and processing meat and poultry “are routinely exposed to AMR pathogens due to the reckless overuse of antibiotics in the meat production chain and the contamination of farms and processing facilities. Once exposed, they in turn become potential vectors for transmission.” IUF says sustained efforts to limit the spread of AMR “requires that it be recognised as a workplace hazard and appropriate measures are implemented by governments and employers to minimise the impact on worker health.” It adds unions representing the workers who are in the frontline of exposure must be involved in the development and implementation of these measures at every stage.

Ÿ  IUF news release and guide, Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) - A Workplace Hazard.

Australia: Worker bullied by boss took her own life

A veteran social worker was ‘teased, bullied and humiliated’ by her manager in front of her colleagues in the lead up to her suicide, an Australian inquest has heard. Paula Schubert, 53, worked for the Northern Territory Department of Children and Families for more than three decades before her death in November 2016. Coroner Greg Cavanagh said the conduct of her boss, Patricia Butler, in the weeks before her death was “in short... shocking”. The coroner found Ms Butler concocted a 'scheme' to demote Ms Schubert after she was diagnosed with schizophrenia. The manager told Ms Schubert she would have to bring a plunger to work instead of buying coffee, referring to her “impending change of roles [and less pay].” But the “most extraordinary part of the evidence” was on the morning of 15 November, the coroner said, two days before Ms Schubert was found hanged in her bedroom. Ms Schubert appeared to be in a 'zombie like state' shortly before she was called in to a meeting. She “sat in a team meeting and apparently did little else other than draw a picture,” Mr Cavanagh said. “At the end of the meeting Ms Butler said ‘Paula will share her minutes with everyone’. Paula looked surprised. Ms Butler said it was a good drawing and she should share it with everybody.” Ms Schubert's psychiatrist, Dr David Chapman, said this incident was a 'critical event'. “To expose somebody who was already under a degree of stress… to then have effectively a public humiliation in the workplace, given the fear that she would lose her job, that's critical,” he said. Mr Cavanagh found Ms Butler's actions constituted bullying and harassment. “There might be a tendency to wonder how a scheme to demote an employee because of mental health issues could operate in a modern government department,” he said. He recommended the employer should ensure managers “are aware of their responsibility toward employees and in particular to refrain from bullying behaviour” and ensure they are trained to “ensure a sound understanding of the appropriate supportive behaviours and accommodation of persons suffering impairment.” Territory Families said it accepted the coroner’s findings and would ‘rigorously’ implement the inquest’s recommendations.

Ÿ  NT coroner’s findings. ABC News. Daily Mail. The Australian. More on work-related suicides.

Global: Truck drivers are overworked, underpaid and at risk

Economic pressure is pushing commercial drivers to work extremely long hours, contributing significantly to truck crashes, a top researcher has warned. Michael Belzer, an associate professor of economics and transportation expert at Wayne State University in the US maintains long working hours and intense economic pressure are important to everyday motorists, “because the truck driver’s workplace is everyone’s roadway. Trucking casualties claim not only the lives of truck drivers, but a significant number of other roadway users – pedestrians, bicyclists, and automobile drivers and passengers.” He points to US data, which shows in 2015, 3,836 people lost their lives in heavy vehicle crashes. He says research “shows a strong link between pay and safety. We calculated that, at 60 cents per mile, truck drivers will trade labour for leisure, working fewer hours and thereby reducing crashes and improving highway safety.” He said the Australian transport workers’ union TWU called last month for the reinstatement of the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal, scrapped by the government in 2016. “The government decided to kill it based on a private consulting report that claimed that the link between pay rates and safety was bogus. However, the report actually showed a 50 per cent decline in fatal heavy truck crashes after the tribunal was established in 2012.” Safe rates are not just an Australian or American problem, says Belzer. “In 2015, trucking employers, labour organisations and 25 governments signed a tripartite global consensus agreement at the International Labour Office in Geneva, Switzerland. All parties agreed that low rates paid to truck and bus companies and their drivers contributes to unnecessary dangers on the world’s highways, pledging to conduct further research on the problem.” He concludes: “In my view, a ‘safe rates’ programme – raising pay rates by about 50 per cent and paying drivers for all working time – would go a long way toward reducing this risk and the cost borne by victims of crashes.”

Ÿ  The Conversation. More on low pay is an occupational hazard.

Korea: Workers told to ‘go home’ as stress takes its toll

While Japan famously brought the world the concept of karoshi, or death from overwork, South Koreans work longer hours, according to labour data. The South Korean police say work pressure plays a role in more than 500 suicides in the country each year, out of a national total of about 14,000. Now South Korea’s leaders are trying to change that. A new law that took effect in July caps the working week for many employees at 52 hours. The government is pushing companies to let employees go home for the night and to free up their weekends. A call to the Ministry of Labour is greeted with a recorded voice message that says: “Our society is breaking away from overwork.” South Koreans often suffer from a work culture they call gapjil. This word describes the imperious sense of entitlement that authority figures feel over their employees, whom they expect to wait on them and cater to their whims. But there are signs of change. When a government employee, a new mother, died last year after collapsing at her office on a Sunday morning, President Moon Jae-in, who was still a candidate at the time, wrote on Facebook: “We can no longer be a society where overwork and working until late is a given.” The president wants companies to hire more people to get the work done. He cites research that showed a rise in labour productivity with every percentage point of weekly work hours reduced. During his campaign, he pledged to create 500,000 new jobs by enforcing the 52-hour work week. “Habitual long-extended work has been the culprit behind Korea’s low labour productivity,” he said as the work week cap took effect.

Ÿ  New York Times.

TUC COURSES FOR SAFETY REPS

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