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TUC Risks E-Bulletins
 
Number 905
 
Risks is the TUC's weekly online bulletin for safety reps and others sponsored by Thompsons Solicitors. 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. logo
 

Contents

UNION NEWS

OTHER NEWS

EVENTS

INTERNATIONAL NEWS

TUC COURSES FOR SAFETY REPS

UNION NEWS

Law change needed to stop sexual harassment at work

The government must introduce a new law to make employers responsible for protecting their staff from sexual harassment at work, the TUC has said. The call came from the union body as its annual LGBT+ conference began last week in London. A TUC analysis published in May found that nearly 7 in 10 (68 per cent) lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people reported being sexually harassed at work (Risks 898). Nearly 6 in 10 (58 per cent) of those who experienced sexual harassment said it had a negative impact on their working life. Under current law, the onus is on the victim of the sexual harassment to report it to their employer after it has happened. However, two-thirds of LGBT people who’ve been sexually harassed don’t report it to their employer, the TUC found. One in four of those who didn’t report were silenced by their fear of being ‘outed’ at work. The TUC says the new prevention duty to on employers would be supported by a code of practice, explaining exactly what steps bosses need to take to prevent sexual harassment – such as carrying out mandatory training for staff and managers, and having clear policies. TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “It’s a scandal that so many people experience sexual harassment while just trying to do their jobs. We’ve got to put a stop to this once and for all. Too many LGBT+ people are being sexually harassed at work and suffering in silence.” Last week an alliance of the TUC, women’s rights organisations and charities launched a joint campaign and petition calling on the government to introduce a new law to make employers responsible for protecting their staff from sexual harassment at work (Risks 904).

Ÿ  TUC news release. Morning Star.
TUC #ThisIsNotWorking Alliance petition and campaign webpage.

Insecure university jobs bad for mental health

More than seven out of every 10 university staff (71 per cent) said their mental health has been damaged by working on insecure contracts and more than two-fifths (43 per cent) said it had impacted on their physical health, a survey by the union UCU has found. The union’s report, based on a survey of over 3,800 casualised staff, also warns that the widespread use of casual contracts is damaging the quality of research and the education students receive. Respondents said they are living in limbo, unable to make any long-term plans and feel that universities exploit their desperation. UCU acting general secretary Paul Cottrell said: “Staff teaching students and performing research in our universities say their mental health is suffering because of a lack of security.” He added the union’s report “makes it clear that staff do not want to be forced onto these types of exploitative contracts. Despite their best efforts, staff just simply cannot stay on top of their teaching, marking, feedback and research employed like this and it is students who suffer. Universities need to understand this is a real problem that must be dealt with, not excused or underplayed. Some institutions have worked with us to move staff on to more secure contracts, but overall the higher education sector is too happy to exploit its army of casualised staff.” The union said research in the US shows that students who take large numbers of courses with teachers employed on insecure contracts, or who are in institutions with large numbers of non-permanent staff, tend to graduate at a lower rate and are more likely to drop out of college.

Ÿ  UCU news release.
Resources: Download the free TUC Education Mental health and the workplace workbook. More on the work-related health effects of insecure work.

Dog attacks remain a major concern, say post workers

Postal union CWU has reminded public that dog bites are still a priority concern to postal workers, despite recent improvements in the law on dog attacks. “The number of attacks has risen,” said the union’s national health, safety and environment officer Dave Joyce, “with yearly hospital admissions for dog bites increasing by 80 per cent over the last decade and seven postal workers, on average, being attacked by dogs every working day of the year.” Describing the statistics as “unacceptable” ahead of Dog Awareness Week, which ran from 8 July and which is organised jointly by CWU and Royal Mail, he said the idea was to highlight the problem, its impact on CWU members and the repercussions for dog owners and their pets. It also set out to promote sensible measures the union says can prevent these incidents happening in the first place. “Failing in their responsibility to postal workers by failing to simply secure their dogs before opening the door and, as a result, too many dog attacks occur – 83 per cent on the doorstep or garden path,” Joyce said. “No matter what breed of dog is involved, it can present a substantial danger to postal workers, but simple precautions can avoid danger.” The union and Royal Mail are urging dog owners to “work with us” and ensure that they take the appropriate steps to prevent the risk of attacks.

Ÿ  CWU news release. Royal Mail/CWU Dog Awareness Week, Monday 8 July to Saturday 13 July.

Contamination tests to go ahead at cancer linked school site

Teaching union NASUWT has welcomed an announcement from the Scottish government that it is to order testing of the water, soil and methane membrane at the Buchanan and St Ambrose schools campus in North Lanarkshire. Last month, the union took strike action to withdraw its members from the campus over the failure of the employer, North Lanarkshire Council, “to act appropriately to address the serious concerns over the health and safety of the site”. NASUWT has been pressing for a full site survey (Risks 903). The union action followed the identification of four cases of bladder cancer in teachers who had worked in one corridor at the site (Risks 902). NASUWT general secretary Chris Keates said: “This announcement by the Scottish government is the result of the courageous and determined stance taken by our members to take strike action. The NASUWT has consistently called for a full site survey as the only way to get a true and comprehensive picture of the site and to identify whether there are any potential hazards which could affect the health and safety of staff and pupils.” She added: “The announcement of these tests will no doubt be welcomed by all staff, pupils and parents at the school, who have been experiencing deep stress and uncertainty about their welfare.”

Ÿ  NASUWT news release. Scottish government news release. Morning Star. BBC News Online.
Resources: TUC occupational cancer guide. Work cancer hazards blog. Cancers and their work causes: An ITUC/Hazards at-a-glance guide to cancer hazards.

Barking and Dagenham leads the way for London site standards

Barking and Dagenham has become the first London council to throw its weight behind Unite’s pioneering Construction Charter. Construction firms planning to work on Barking and Dagenham building projects will now need to meet the standards laid down in the charter. The charter commits the council to working with Unite to achieve the highest standards of direct employment, health and safety, apprenticeship training and the implementation of nationally agreed terms and conditions of employment. Vince Passfield, Unite deputy regional secretary for London and Eastern, said: “Barking and Dagenham is the first London borough to back Unite’s pioneering Construction Charter. The charter combines the council’s procurement power with Unite’s influence in the workplace to ensure construction projects under the control of the borough meet the highest standards. Workers will have the right to speak out on safety issues and be paid a fair rate for the job. The charter means there will be no blacklisting of workers.” The charter also protects workers from “the scourge of bogus self-employment,” Unite said. Pat Hayes, managing director at the council-owned company Be First, responsible for regeneration in the borough, said: “As a council-owned company we are committed to ensuring that our staff and those working for companies who work for us have the benefits of union membership and the safest working conditions. We are very pleased to sign up to the Unite charter and to work towards getting our supply chain to comply with it.”

Ÿ  Unite news release. Construction Enquirer.

Unilever signs up to TUC's Dying to Work charter

Usdaw, Unite and the GMB have welcomed soaps-to-soups giant Unilever adding its name to a charter protecting the rights of workers who become terminally ill at work. The formal signing of the charter took place at the company’s Port Sunlight site on the Wirral. Dying to Work was taken forward by the TUC following the case of Jacci Woodcock, an area sales manager from Derbyshire who was forced out of her job three years ago after being diagnosed with terminal breast cancer. The TUC is asking employers to sign up to its voluntary charter to stop cases like Jacci’s happening in the future. Usdaw national officer Daniel Adams said: “Workers should always be treated with dignity and respect by their employer. Signing the charter reassures our membership that, should the worst happen, they will be treated properly by their employer.” Unite national officer Rhys McCarthy said: “We are delighted that Unilever has taken a lead on this issue, working with all the unions in the business to guarantee fair treatment for terminally-ill workers.” And GMB national officer Eamon O’Hearn said: “We welcome this positive step forward which reinforces Unilever’s commitment to the protection of employees battling terminal illness across the business.” Unilever VP for human resources, Placid Jover, said: “We are really pleased to have worked with our union colleagues to sign the Dying to Work Charter, which confirms Unilever's on-going commitment to treating employees fairly and with respect at such a difficult time for them.”

Ÿ  Usdaw news release. TUC Dying to Work campaign.

OTHER NEWS

Workplace deaths up again

Workplace fatalities have increased again, latest Health and Safety Executive (HSE) figures have shown. Provisional figures for work-related fatal injuries for 2018/19 released on 3 July show 147 workers were killed, six higher than 2017/18 (Risks 857) and 12 deaths up on the 135 figure for 2016/17. HSE said the new figure shows the rate is at 0.45 deaths per 100,000 workers. HSE chair Martin Temple the new statistics “remind us that, in certain sectors of the economy, workplace death remain worryingly high. Agriculture, forestry and fishing accounts for a small fraction of the workforce of Great Britain, yet accounted for over 20 per cent of worker fatalities in the last year. This is unacceptable and more must be done to prevent such fatalities taking place. Whatever the sector, we should remember that any change in numbers provides little comfort to the family, friends and colleagues of the 147 whose lives were cut short this year while doing their job.” The figures again showed a higher risk to older workers. A quarter (25 per cent) of fatal injuries in 2018/19 were to workers aged 60 or over, despite these workers making up only around 10 per cent of the workforce. HSE also published the latest available figures on deaths from one occupational cancer, the asbestos-related cancer mesothelioma. Mesothelioma killed 2,523 in Great Britain in 2017 the newly released statistics show. In 2016 there were 2,595 deaths, and 2,549 in 2015. According to HSE: “Annual deaths are expected to remain broadly at current levels for the rest of the decade before beginning to reduce in number.” An analysis in the Guardian indicated there were 2,709 “deaths by industrial disease” recorded by coroners in England and Wales in 2018, a 44 per cent rise on the 1,878 recorded in 1995, the earliest available figure. Nine per cent of all deaths recorded by coroners in 2018 were caused by industrial disease.

Ÿ  HSE news release, 2018/19 fatalities statistics and mesothelioma deaths statistics 2017. The Guardian.

Rail safety body warned of track risks before deaths

A rail safety body had warned this year of the deadly risks facing track workers, just weeks before two were killed on a south Wales line. Gareth Delbridge, 64, from Kenfig Hill and Michael "Spike" Lewis, 58, from North Cornelly, were hit by the Swansea to Paddington train near Margam mid-morning on 3 July. A third worker was treated for shock. British Transport Police (BTP) said the men may have not heard the train coming as they were wearing ear defenders. An official warning that there were “too many near misses in which railway workers have had to jump for their lives” was issued only three months ago. The annual report of the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) released in April said every near miss should be regarded as a “failure” to deliver safety. RAIB chief inspector Simon French noted in the RAIB report: “I am concerned that, despite much effort and many initiatives, we are not seeing the hoped-for improvements in safety for track workers. Every near miss, however caused, should be viewed as a failure of the system to deliver safety.” Now RAIB is looking into how the two workers were killed by a train near Port Talbot. Rail unions have said this latest tragedy should not have been allowed to happen. Manuel Cortes, general secretary of TSSA, said: “It's too early to speculate about what has happened here but clearly something has gone badly wrong. There must now be a full investigation because it is simply not acceptable that in the 21st century people go out to work and end up losing their lives.” Mick Cash, general secretary of the RMT, said: “RMT is attempting to establish the full facts but our immediate reaction is that this is an appalling tragedy and that no-one working on the railway should be placed in the situation that has resulted in the deaths that have been reported this morning.” He added: “As well as demanding answers from Network Rail and a suspension of all similar works until the facts are established, the union will be supporting our members and their families at this time.” Network Rail said it was “shocked and distressed” that “two members of our team lost their lives.” It added union and industry reps would work alongside an independent expert to investigate the tragedy.

Ÿ  RMT news release. TSSA news release. BBC News Online, related story and story on the independent investigation.

Hundreds of schools referred to HSE over asbestos concerns

Nearly 700 schools in England have been referred to the national health and safety regulator over concerns they are failing to safely manage asbestos in their buildings, potentially putting thousands of staff and pupils at risk. It is thought that about 90 per cent of school buildings in England contain asbestos, often around pipes and boilers, and in wall and ceiling tiles. Campaigners and unions say asbestos in schools is often poorly managed and that staff are frequently unaware of its location in the buildings they work in. Last year, the government launched the asbestos management assurance process to find out more about asbestos in schools. According to information released following a freedom of information request, of the 2,952 school bodies that responded in full to the survey, 2,570 (87 per cent) reported having asbestos in at least one of their buildings. The Department for Education (DfE) has now referred 676 state-funded schools and academies in England to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) as they did not provide evidence “that they were managing asbestos in line with regulatory requirements”. The HSE will now carry out inspections of some of those schools. Kevin Courtney, the joint general secretary of the teaching union NEU, which is part of the Joint Union Asbestos Committee (JUAC), said: “The fact that nearly 700 schools have been referred to HSE because they weren’t able to satisfy the DfE that they were managing their asbestos in line with legal requirements, is a shocking indictment of current systems of oversight.” He added: “The lives of thousands of staff and pupils could be at risk in these schools. The HSE, which lacks resources following years of budget cuts, will now be expected to investigate these cases and we are concerned that it may struggle to do so.” A DfE spokesperson said: “The safety of pupils and staff is our highest priority which is why we have asked schools to provide information through the asbestos management assurance process. This data will help the department develop a greater understanding of the management of asbestos in schools. We plan to publish a report of the findings shortly.” An HSE spokesperson said: “The HSE have worked with the DfE to use the asbestos management assurance process returns to provide targeted intelligence for a planned programme of proactive visits to schools.”

Ÿ  The Guardian. Daily Star. IOSH news report.

We won’t die waiting for action on work suicides

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) should ditch its ‘deliberate blindspot’ on work-related suicide, a new report has said. The report in the occupational health and safety journal Hazards, which cites UK and international union calls for the issue to be treated seriously, says the official workplace safety regulator is wrong to steer clear of one of the major emerging occupational health problems (Risks 843). It points to the HSE reporting webpages, which note: “All deaths to workers and non-workers, with the exception of suicides, must be reported if they arise from a work-related accident, including an act of physical violence to a worker.” And HSE’s investigation guidelines instruct its workplace inspectors to steer clear. It tells inspectors, when deciding which accidents should be investigated, that they should include: “All work-related accidents which result in the death of any person, including non-workers. ‘Accident’ specifically excludes suicides and deaths from natural causes.” The article says it is “a problem not even on HSE’s radar”, with HSE’s Foresight Centre ‘horizons scanning’ programme delving into topics including “robot realities”, “the hydrogen economy” and “towards Generation Z”, while HSE continues to entirely ignore occupational suicide in its current and future plans. “Unions have warned that HSE’s refusal to deal with or record suicides artificially depresses the true toll of work-related fatalities and deflects attention from the need for preventive measures at work,” the report concludes. “HSE, meanwhile, maintains stress prevention is one of its top prevention priorities. But if HSE isn’t willing to investigate or record the most deadly, desperate consequence of terror, trauma and tyranny at work, it suggests the safety regulator’s priorities are fatally flawed.”

Ÿ  We won’t die waiting: Union action call on work-related suicides, Hazards, number 146, July 2019. ‘Don’t despair’ pin-up-at-work poster.
More on work and suicides:  Work and suicide: A TUC guide to prevention for trade union activists, January 2018. Work and suicide prevention checklist, Hazards, number 141, 2018. 7 April 2018.

UK slavery network 'had 400 victims'

Members of a gang behind the biggest modern-day slavery network ever exposed in the UK have been jailed. Police believe more than 400 victims were put to work in the West Midlands by the organised crime gang. They said one person injured while working was forced back to the factory without hospital treatment, suffering long-term health problems as a result. The gang tricked vulnerable people from Poland into England with the promise of work and a better lifestyle. But their victims were made to live in rat-infested houses and to work in menial jobs. The modern slavery network collapsed when two victims fled their captors in 2015 and told slavery charity Hope for Justice of their ordeal. Victims had been transported to the UK by bus and forced to sleep up to four in a room in squalid homes around West Bromwich, Smethwick and Walsall. The slaves were made to work long days at rubbish recycling centres, farms and turkey-gutting factories and given as little as £20 a week by their captors. One of the victims died while in captivity, and the gang removed all his personal belongings and identity documents so their plot could not be discovered. Marek Chowaniec, 30, and Marek Brzezinski, 50, were jailed for 11 and nine years respectively for trafficking, conspiracy to require another to perform forced labour and money laundering. Justyna Parczewska, 48, and Julianna Chodakowicz, 24, were jailed for eight and seven years respectively for conspiracy to require another to perform forced labour and money laundering. Natalia Zmuda, 29, was jailed for four years and six months for trafficking, conspiracy to require another to perform forced labour and money laundering. Ignacy Brzezinski, 52, Jan Sadowski, 26, and Wojciech Nowakowski, 41, were all convicted of trafficking charges, conspiracy to require and control another person to perform forced labour, and conspiracy to acquire, use and possess criminal property. Brzezinski - who is on the run - was jailed in his absence for 11 years, Sadowski for three years and Nowakowski six and a half years. Chief Inspector Nick Dale of West Midlands Police said: “They forced them into work and, if they objected, they were beaten or threatened with violence and told family members back home would be attacked. Some were told they would be taken to the woods to dig their own graves. One man who had an accident at work was forced back to the factory and denied hospital treatment, leaving him with long-term damage to his arm."

Ÿ  Hope for Justice news release. BBC News Online. Express and Star.

Workers at risk due to ‘hands off’ harassment anomaly

An ‘enforcement anomaly’ means sexual harassment is the responsibility of an equality regulator not allowed to undertake preventive inspections but is deliberately ignored by the safety regulator which can. A new report in the journal Hazards notes both the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) “said an unequivocal ‘#NotMe’ when we asked who investigates and prosecutes cases of sexual harassment at work.” Hazards says this has left a “regulatory vacuum that guarantees those employers that let bad things happen know it is safe to carry on regardless.” The article reveals that the government has designated EHRC the lead regulator on sexual harassment cases. However, unlike HSE, EHRC has no right of entry to workplaces, cannot conduct preventive inspections and needs “reasonable grounds” to believe there is a problem before it can consider an investigation. Arguing that HSE should treat sexual harassment like other forms of violence at work, Hazards notes: “HSE can catch errant employers red-handed. EHRC can’t even get in the door.” The report concludes: “Instead we have a case of officially sanctioned regulatory buck passing. And thousands of workers each year could be paying a high price.” The report comes on the heels of a TUC alliance calling for a new mandatory duty on employers to prevent sexual harassment at work (Risks 904).

Ÿ  Hands off: Time to take sexual harassment at work seriously and change the law, Hazards, number 146, July 2019. The Guardian.

Director fined after agency worker is scalped

The director of St Helens wood product manufacturer has been fined after a worker was dragged into a rotating drive shaft, suffering horrendous physical and psychological injuries. Liverpool Magistrates Court heard how, on the 30 June 2016, the agency worker had been working on a production line at Cheshire Mouldings and Woodturning Limited, making parts for staircases. Her hair caught on a rotating drive shaft, resulting in the loss of her full scalp, ears and one of her thumbs. She suffered severe physical and mental trauma and has undergone numerous reconstructive operations and has been unable to return to work since the incident. An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the company had failed to adequately guard the production line, allowing access to dangerous parts of machinery, including conveyors and drive shafts, by employees and agency workers, during both operation and cleaning. A return visit was made in April 2018 where it was discovered dangerous machine parts were still accessible, including an identical shaft to the one on which the victim was injured. A prohibition notice and an improvement notice were served to address the risks. A subsequent investigation established the production director was aware mill operatives were routinely left at risk from the machinery. Company director Paul Carney pleaded guilty to a criminal safety offence and was fined £10,800 and ordered to pay £43,241 in costs. Cheshire Mouldings and Woodturning Limited pleaded guilty to two criminal safety offences and was fined £466,666 and £7,475.90 costs. HSE principal inspector Helen Jones said: “This incident, which was easily preventable, has had a devastating impact on the victim involved and those close to her. The company failed to prevent employees accessing dangerous moving parts of machinery. Had they ensured the machine was adequately guarded employees would not have been able to access moving parts and this tragic accident would have been avoided.”

Ÿ  HSE news release.

Worker gets brain damage, director gets community service

A company director has received a community service order after a worker suffered life changing injuries in a fall from a scaffold tower during the refurbishment of a Reading pub. Reading Magistrates’ Court heard how on 2 December 2016, Cedar Ridge Construction Limited employee Samuel Goemans, 36, suffered a serious head injury after falling from a tower scaffold onto the street below. He suffered permanent brain and memory problems. The injuries resulted in him suffering seizures and losing the ability to care for himself. An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that the principal contractor failed to control the safety and planning on site and the sub-contractor carried out unsafe working practices. Principal contractor Turnkey Contractors Limited pleaded guilty to a criminal safety offence and was fined £40,000 and ordered to pay costs of £3,184. The director of Turnkey Contractors Limited, Santokh Dhanda, pleaded guilty to a criminal safety breach and was given a 100-hour community service order. The subcontractor, Cedar Ridge Construction Limited, pleaded guilty to a criminal breach of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 and was fined £40,000 and ordered to pay costs of £3,184. HSE inspector Ian Whittles said: “The case highlights the importance of following industry guidance in order to design and erect scaffolding in a safe manner, which does not raise risk to members of the public and workers using the scaffold.”

Ÿ  HSE news release and scaffolding webpages.

Firm fined after teen apprentice overcome by solvent fumes

An alloy wheel refurbishment company has been fined after a 16-year-old apprentice was overcome by vapours from a chemical used in the stripping and cleaning of alloy wheels. South Tyneside Magistrates’ Court heard how, on 12 December 2017, the employee of Wheelnut Ltd, entered an area known as the “acid room” to retrieve alloy wheels from one of three barrels of a chemical cocktail containing dichloromethane (DCM), methanol and hydrofluoric acid used in the stripping process. He was subsequently found by a colleague slumped unconscious over a barrel. An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found a risk assessment for the chemical wheel stripping process was not suitable or sufficient. Appropriate control measures should have included suitable exhaust ventilation in the room as well as respiratory protective equipment (RPE) for the employees. RPE was provided but it was not maintained in an efficient or effective state, HSE found. Several parts of it were damaged and the air feed from the compressor was not filtered correctly. The investigation found that on this occasion, and previously, the employee was not wearing the RPE when he entered the room. Employees were not provided with the necessary information, instruction and training in the risks involved with using DCM. Wheelnut Ltd pleaded guilty to a criminal safety offence and was fined £32,000 and ordered to pay full costs of £1718.50. HSE inspector Joy Craighead said: “A young worker suffered a potentially serious injury. Breathing in DCM vapour can produce narcotic effects and, at high concentrations, unconsciousness and death. In this instance, the boy made a full recovery, but it could have easily resulted in his death.”

Ÿ  HSE news release and guide on DCM risks during furniture stripping.

Site firm fined after worker poisoned by carbon monoxide

Construction 360 Ltd has been sentenced for criminal safety breaches after a worker collapsed and lost consciousness while working at the site of King Asia Foods Ltd in Sheffield. Sheffield Magistrates Court heard how, on 11 January 2018, the worker was cutting a drain into the factory floor as part of the construction of a new processing room within the packaging area of the factory. He was using a petrol driven floor saw within an enclosed space. After a time, he felt unwell and subsequently collapsed, losing consciousness. He was taken to hospital and was diagnosed with carbon monoxide poisoning. He also sustained bruising to his head, elbow and knees, and a cut to his elbow. An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found Construction 360 Ltd had failed to appropriately plan the work in the confined space of the processing room. Additionally, at the request of the director of Construction 360 Ltd, unsafe work at height had also taken place beforehand as the worker had accessed the roof of the processing room without suitable edge protection, or means of access, without checking the stability of the structure. Construction 360 Ltd pleaded guilty to a criminal safety offence and was fined £15,000 and ordered to pay £1,805 in costs. HSE inspector Sarah Robinson commented: “This incident could so easily have been avoided by simply carrying out correct control measures and safe working practices. The company failed to appropriately plan a safe system of work for the task being carried out.”

Ÿ  HSE news release.

EVENTS

Book now for the National Hazards conference, 26-28 July 2019

The 2019 National Hazards Conference, billed as the UK’s “biggest and best educational and organising event for trade union safety reps and activists”, will be held in Stoke-on-Trent from 26-28 July. The theme this year is ‘Cleaning up toxic work’ in increasingly insecure workplaces.

Ÿ  Hazards Campaign conference, 26-28 July 2019, Keele University, Stoke-on-Trent. Hazards 2019 programme and booking form.

INTERNATIONAL NEWS

Australia: Union wins inquiries into spate of mine deaths

The government in the Australian state of Queensland has announced two reviews of mining health and safety after a union called for a full inquiry into recent workplace deaths in the sector. The mining union CFMEU called for an inquiry into deaths over the past two decades, as the industry reels from its sixth fatality in 12 months. Mine operator Golding Contractors ceased operations at its Baralaba North Coal Mine after a 27-year-old "experienced mining operator" was killed early on Sunday 7 July. Queensland mines minister Anthony Lynham confirmed the new reviews the following day. “Two expert independent reviews are now underway to identify changes needed to improve health and safety in the state’s mines and quarries,” he said. “I have broadened this review. It was originally coal mine incidents only to the end of 2018, but will now include mineral mine and quarry incidents, and all fatal incidents this year.” In addition, Dr Lynham said the University of Queensland was reviewing the state's mining health and safety legislation. CFMEU district president Stephen Smyth said the union believed underlying factors, including increasing use of casual workers and an overall relaxing of safety standards, had led to the sudden series of deaths, after over 20 years without a similar body count in one year. He also raised concerns about the fact it took more than 12 hours for the mining company to contact the union safety representative. “We’d be calling on the minister to call a board of inquiry into all the fatalities that have occurred,” he said ahead of the minister’s announcement. “Something needs to happen to get to the bottom of why workers are being killed on the job.”

Ÿ  CFMEU news release. ABC News. Sydney Morning Herald.

Global: Samsung facing charges over ethics failures

Samsung Electronics could find itself in court in France for not abiding by its own ethics pledges, such as a ban on under-age labour and dangerous working conditions at its factories. The prospect of legal action against the tech giant comes as a result of a complaint filed against the company’s French subsidiary by activist groups Sherpa and ActionAid France. An investigating magistrate in Paris has now filed preliminary charges, they said. The groups presented the court with evidence of human rights and safety abuses at some of Samsung’s factories in China, South Korea and Vietnam, breaching pledges that Samsung makes on its website. They argued that under French law such pledges are legally binding. “This is the first time in France that it was recognised that corporate ethics pledges may be considered marketing practices that are binding on a firm,” the activist groups said in a statement. Based on information provided by other rights groups including China Labor Watch and SHARPS, the NGOs allege that Samsung employs children under the legal of 16, subjects its employees to abusive working hours, that housing and labour conditions fail to meet basic conditions of human dignity and put workers in danger. The plaintiffs also complained that employers worked with dangerous substances, often without adequate protection. In South Korea, for example, workers were not informed that they were working with methanol, a substance that can cause brain damage, blindness or even death. The decision in France to pursue possible charges “gives hope for all the workers in multinational production chains who should see their conditions improve since companies will have to respect their ethical commitments,” Marie-Laure Guislain of Sherpa told AFP. She hoped the decision would mark “a real turning point towards making globalisation more just and fair.”

Ÿ  Sherpa news release. Phys.org. France 24. Arab News. The Independent. Hankyoreh and related story.

Germany: Unions want 'siesta' break during heat waves

The German trade union federation DGB has called for an extended lunch break for workers struggling to cope with record temperatures. The union body said it will press for workplaces in Germany to offer employees a siesta-style midday break while temperatures remained high. “Southern countries already do it — during heat waves, we also need a siesta in Germany,” said DGB spokesperson Annelie Buntenbach. She said it was the employers’ responsibility to make sure workers had a place to recuperate during the hottest parts of the day. “It helps, for example, to have rest areas, where one can shut one's eyes for an hour or so,” she said, adding that a proper siesta meant more than just the usual half an hour lunch break. She added people need “to turn off for a longer period of time” in periods of intense heat. Last month, Germany saw the highest ever recorded June temperature, with the mercury reaching 38.9 degrees Celsius (102 degrees Fahrenheit) in some areas. Several heat-related deaths were reported in Germany, France, Italy, and Spain as temperatures spiked.

Ÿ  DW News.
TUC guide to working in heat and 2018 blog on the case for a maximum workplace temperature.

TUC COURSES FOR SAFETY REPS

Courses for 2019

Course dates now appearing at www.tuceducation.org.uk/findacourse/

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