Issue date
11 Apr 2014
TUC Risks E-Bulletins

Number 650 - 12 April 2014

Asbestos - the hidden killer Hazards magazine Hazards at Work

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Editor: Rory O'Neill of Hazards magazine. Comments to the TUC at [email protected]

    Contents

Union News

OTHER NEWS

INTERNATIONAL NEWS

Events and Courses

Union News

Safety reps – what’s it like and what do you want?

The TUC is urging union safety reps to provide “crucial” information about their concerns at work. The tenth TUC survey of health and safety reps “is designed to provide the TUC and individual unions with information about who health and safety reps are, and what their experiences and needs are. We need this information so that the TUC and unions can do more to help health and safety reps, and so that their views and experiences are better reflected in public policy debates and the work of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE),” a TUC briefing says. The results will be used to inform campaigns for better safety standards at work, including more rights for health and safety reps. According to TUC, which is asking for responses ahead of a 27 June deadline: “Your response is crucial to ensuring that this survey provides the information we seek,” adding “we do want to know about any successes you have had in improving health and safety standards.” 

Ÿ  TUC briefing. Safety reps – complete the TUC survey now!

Schoolgirl’s death shows why we need safety rules

The tragic death of a schoolgirl in Scotland is a salutary reminder that the need for safe and healthy workplaces is important for the wider public too, unions and campaigners have said. Keane Wallis-Bennett, 12, died on 1 April when a free standing wall in the gym changing room at Liberton High School fell on her. Prime minister David Cameron described it as a “shocking accident,” adding: “Lessons will have to be learned to make sure such tragic accidents won’t happen again.” The statement prompted derision from safety campaigners, who say the government has been consistently hostile to workplace safety measures and has undermined the resources and functions of the official workplace safety regulators. Public sector UNISON said “the government, together with friends in the media, have mocked health and safety regulations as often being unnecessary 'red tape' and detrimental to business.” UNISON safety specialist Vincent Borg said: “As this case demonstrates, workplace health and safety is not just about workers - it's about the safety of our children, about patients in hospitals or the elderly or infirm who are looked after in the community.” He added: “We call on David Cameron and the government to stop mocking health and safety, to ensure adequate funding to refurbish or replace schools, and to ensure that all schools are inspected for asbestos.” Louise Taggart from the Families Against Corporate Killers (FACK) bereaved relatives campaign group said: “To hear that lessons must be learned from a prime minster who wants to ‘kill off health and safety culture’ will be cold comfort to Keane’s family and she deserved to be safe at school.”

Ÿ  UNISON news release.

Ÿ  FACK news release.

Ÿ  The Guardian.

Ÿ  Edinburgh Evening News.

Ÿ  Construction Enquirer.

Brands must be told to make Rana Plaza payouts

Companies that sourced products from the Rana Plaza garment factories in Bangladesh where over 1,100 workers died a year ago should be pressed by the government to pay “adequate compensation” to bereaved relatives and injured workers, the TUC has said. In a letter to Justine Greening, the secretary of state for international development, TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady wrote: “It is important for ministers to call on companies to pay into the fund by the first anniversary of the collapse of the Rana Plaza building on 24 April 2014 to demonstrate timely steps are being taken to rebuild the lives of workers and their families.” She added: “I look forward to hearing from you about what ministers are doing to encourage companies to make appropriate contributions to the compensation fund.” Global unions and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) are also pressing for measures to address the labour abuses that led to Rana Plaza and other disasters. ILO director-general Guy Ryder told a high level meeting organised by the Danish government this month: “Rana Plaza is a call for global action on decent working conditions.” He added: “Better working conditions are in everyone’s interests, a safer industry does not mean a less profitable one.”

Ÿ  TUC news release.

Ÿ  ILO news release.

Ÿ   Rana Plaza Trust Fund.

Ÿ  Join the LabourStart campaign to get all the global brands to pay up.

Union urges action on fatigue at sea

The union Nautilus has welcomed a call from the UK Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) for Europe-wide action to address seafarer fatigue. In a report on its investigation into the grounding of the cargoship Danio in March 2013 (Risks 649), MAIB called on the Maritime & Coastguard Agency to work closely with the European Commission and EU member states to develop a proposal to the International Maritime Organisation (IMO). This should call for vessels to carry a minimum of two watchkeepers in addition to the ship’s master, MAIB said. The investigator found the Danio grounded after the chief officer fell asleep while on watch. He had been serving on the ship for three months, working a six-on/six-off watch. Chief inspector Steve Clinch said MAIB had originally proposed safer staffing levels following its 2004 bridge watchkeeping safety study. “Ten years on, the situation remains unchanged, and since the study, the MAIB has recorded a further nine groundings of vessels operating with just two watchkeepers,” he added. “Investigation of these accidents shows that the mandated safety barriers, intended to limit the effects of cumulative fatigue that are endemic in this sector of the industry, are not working.” The MAIB chief inspector concluded: “If we do not ensure that vessels operating in and around our waters are adequately manned to enable safe navigation, then it is only a matter of time before we suffer a major accident involving loss of life or serious pollution or both.” Nautilus general secretary Mark Dickinson said: “We are painfully aware of the health and safety problems posed by fatigue and it is essential that the MAIB’s findings are acted on. We will be doing all we can to ensure that the UK and the rest of Europe picks up the proposals and secures the long overdue action at the IMO.”

Ÿ  Nautilus news release.

Chiefs told firefighters face the sack for aging

Fire chiefs have been warned firefighters forced to work extra years could face the sack just because they were getting older. The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) says the majority of firefighters over the age of 55 would fail the fitness tests to continue frontline work to a new pension age of 60, but had little chance of finding more appropriate alternative work in the service. FBU national officer Sean Starbuck told the Chief Fire Officers Association Peoples Summit last week: “Large numbers of firefighters still face the threat of being sacked simply for getting older despite the FBU submitting a significant amount of evidence highlighting that expecting them to work until 60 is unworkable. The government’s own evidence shows that 66 per cent of current firefighters over 55 are below the recommended fitness level required to safely perform the role, and non-operational jobs required for redeploying firefighters who cannot maintain operational fitness simply don’t exist.” He added: “The government must provide a guarantee that firefighters will not be punished merely for getting older: all firefighters want is a fair pensions system that is based on the realities of their jobs.”

Ÿ  FBU news release.

UNISON to appeal over employment tribunal fees

UNISON is to apply to appeal last year’s court ruling rejecting its claim for Judicial Review of the government's decision to introduce tribunal fees. The union will ask the Court of Appeal to consider the “shocking” figures released last month that revealed employment tribunal claims dropped by 79 per cent in the first six months after the government imposed fees on workers bringing a claim (Risks 647). The fees introduced on 29 July 2013 mean workers can be required to pay up to £1,200 for taking a tribunal complaint about issues including victimisation for workplace safety activities (Risks 615). The High Court had ruled it was too early to judge the full impact of the changes (Risks 642). Dave Prentis, general secretary of UNISON, said: “There is absolutely no doubt that the government's decision to introduce fees has destroyed access to justice. The fall in the number of tribunal claims being lodged is staggering and these latest figures give the government nowhere to hide. We have argued all along that there can be no price placed on justice, but the sad fact is that this is exactly what is happening.” UNISON says its campaign has already secured a significant concession from the government, so claimants who are successful will in most cases have their fees reimbursed.

Ÿ  UNISON news release.

Concerns about outside work and pollution

When pollution levels spike, outside workers can be put at particular risk, the public sector union UNISON has warned. The union, commenting as high pollution levels last week led to a marked upturn in hospital admissions in some areas, urged employers not to forget about those working outside. UNISON said official guidance accepted that the elevated levels of pollution posed health risks, especially for the elderly or those with pre-existing respiratory illnesses, who were advised to avoid strenuous exercise outside. The union said it believes this advice applies equally to workers who are older or those who have respiratory illnesses. It said employers in pollution affected areas should take a “sensible approach toward any staff who may be asked to undertake strenuous work outside.” Remedial measures could include finding alternative work indoors or working at a slower pace, UNISON said, with a risk assessment identifying appropriate interventions. The union added that “as the weather improves, employers should also begin considering their outdoor workers as it gets hotter and the sun stronger, to avoid the risks of heat stroke, sun burn and more serious long-term ill-health problems such as skin cancer.”

Ÿ  UNISON news release.

Two-year delay in diagnosing lifting hernia

Heavy lifting at work can cause hernias, a union compensation case has confirmed – although it took two years before the affected worker’s health problem was acknowledged officially. The GMB member sustained a hernia when he had to move a heavy metal bench 100 feet from one side of a warehouse to the other. Despite the weight of the bench, no equipment was provided to enable the 49-year-old man and his colleague to lift it safely. Lifting the bench to chest height, the man felt a distinct ‘pop’ in his stomach and found his belly button was protruding oddly. He sought first aid immediately but his employer failed to send him to a doctor to have his condition checked out immediately. He ended up having to take three weeks off to recover. After returning to work, the GMB member found that the suspected hernia kept popping out, affecting both his work and social life. Nearly two years after suffering the injury, the man sought expert medical advice of his own accord and finally had surgery on what was confirmed to be an umbilical hernia. The warehouse worker, whose name has not been released but who received a payout in a union backed compensation case, said: “If my bosses had thought the task through this injury would never have happened in the first place and if they had then not dismissed my injury and refused to send me for any other medicals I wouldn’t have gone through two years of pain and upset caused by the hernia.”

Ÿ  Thompsons Solicitors news release.

OTHER NEWS

‘Labour urges football to put pressure on Qatar

Football’s governing body FIFA and the UK’s national football associations should put pressure on Qatar to improve the “sub-human” working conditions of thousands of migrant labourers building facilities for the 2022 World Cup, Labour's shadow international development secretary Jim Murphy has said. Murphy, who recently returned from a mission to Qatar with the International Trade Union Confederation (Risks 649), told the Murnaghan Show on the Sky News channel: “What I saw there will stick with me for a very long time. Unless FIFA and the football authorities act on workers’ rights in Qatar, the game that I love I will be embarrassed by and ashamed by forever.” He said he had spoken during his visit to the organisers of the 2022 World Cup, who assured him there would be “massive changes” to a controversial system called kafala, under which migrant workers are “tied” to their employers. “I think we all have to, through the football authorities in this country and beyond, make sure that those promises that were given to me are now delivered on,” he said. Steve Murphy, general secretary of the construction union UCATT, said: “Migrant construction workers in Qatar are being disgracefully treated and are literally being worked to death. It is incumbent on parliament and our government to apply the maximum pressure to end this appalling abuse.” On 28 March, the International Labour Organisation’s governing body called on Qatar to reform its labour laws by a November 2014 deadline.

Ÿ  UCATT news release.

Ÿ   ITUC news release.

Ÿ  BWI news release.

Ÿ  ILO report on Freedom of Association in Qatar and report on Forced Labour in Qatar.

Ÿ  Huffington Post. BBC News Online.

Nuclear bomb firms given get-out on accidents

Private companies hired to work at the Clyde nuclear bomb bases in Scotland are being given a multi-million pound get-out by Westminster so they won’t have to pay compensation or clean-up costs after “potentially catastrophic” accidents. The Ministry of Defence (MoD) is planning to sign agreements with contractors at Faslane and Coulport that limit their financial liability in case of injuries, deaths, explosions, fires and radiation leaks to no more than £100,000. This will leave the vast majority of any costs – which could run into many millions of pounds - to be met by taxpayers. The revelation has shocked politicians, experts and campaigners, who attacked the MoD for trying to hide what they were planning. “Nuclear operations are uninsurable,” said Labour MP Paul Flynn, who has lodged a motion in the House of Commons opposing the MoD’s move. He told the Sunday Herald’s Rob Edwards: “Commerce reaps the profits and the public purse is looted to pay immeasurable costs.” Faslane is home to the UK’s four nuclear-powered submarines armed with Trident nuclear missiles, as well as a fleet of nuclear-powered and conventionally armed “hunter-killer” submarines. Coulport is where around 200 nuclear warheads are kept. A departmental minute presented to the Westminster parliament reveals that the MoD intends to limit the liability of unnamed, new contractors to £100,000 for up to ten years. It says that the MoD has already agreed to restrict the liability of the £3 billion engineering giant, Babcock, which manages the Clyde bases, to £100,000 “per nuclear event”. Edwards reports that Faslane and Coulport have a chequered safety record, experiencing a series of radiation leaks and safety incidents in recent years. Fear of hefty payouts is typically cited as one of the key pressures on firms to avoid corner-cutting.

Ÿ  Rob Edwards blog.

Ÿ  Sunday Herald.

Sentencing guidelines won’t go far enough

Draft sentencing guidelines for crimes of theft could improve the lot of shopworkers but will not be sufficient to prevent the 300 assaults they face every day, their union has said. The new draft guidelines, put out to consultation by the Sentencing Council on 3 April, cover crimes including pick-pocketing, shop theft, handling stolen goods, car theft, leaving a restaurant or petrol station without paying and stealing by employees or care workers. Welcoming the proposed changes, Usdaw general secretary John Hannett said “there is a real need to address the scourge of violence against workers and I am concerned that the attackers are getting away with relatively lenient sentences. However, simply looking at theft alone does not address the wider issue of assaults on shopworkers, which can be caused by a variety circumstances.” He said licensing laws requires shopworkers “to take on a pseudo police officer role,” which inevitably exposes them to a risk of assault, threats and abuse. “Our own survey revealed that more than 300 shopworkers a day are violently attacked whilst doing their job and many of those incidents involved the sale of alcohol,” he said. “The government has offered only warm words and sympathy for workers who put themselves on the frontline every day and these new guidelines are not enough. Our members play an important role in helping to keep communities safe by enforcing licensing laws, so they deserve proper protection. We will continue to campaign for a change in the law to ensure that proper punishments are given out and to give a clear message, that assaulting workers is totally unacceptable.”  Helen Dickinson, director general of the British Retail Consortium, said: “It is positive that the proposed new guideline recognises that the impact of theft is not merely financial but has more wide-reaching consequences for businesses and their staff.”

Ÿ  Sentencing Council news release.

Ÿ  Usdaw news release.

Agency worker was dragged into machine

A Hull-based company, which operates worldwide, has been prosecuted for neglecting the safety of its staff after an agency worker had an arm crushed when it was dragged into a machine. Jamie Rignall, 30, suffered crush injuries to his right hand and arm in the incident at JH Fenner & Co Ltd, which trades as Fenner Dunlop Europe, a leading manufacturer of industrial conveyor belts. In a prosecution brought by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), Hull Magistrates heard that Mr Rignall had worked at the factory for just four months prior to the incident and that it was his first job in the manufacturing sector, having come from an office-based background. On 27 September 2012, he was on a production line and was using his gloved hand to smooth down a rubber and fabric web that was feeding into a winding machine, a routine activity. However, his hand and then arm were drawn into the machine and became trapped. He managed to reach a safety bar to stop the winder and was freed by colleagues before being rushed to hospital. He has since needed three operations to remove swelling in his arm and skin grafts to repair the damage. There were no fixed or interlocked guards, light curtains, pressure mats or trip wires to prevent workers accessing dangerous parts. During its investigation, HSE witnessed workers on another machine which had no safety measures protecting them from the same dangers. JH Fenner & Co Ltd was fined £7,500 plus £958 in costs after admitting two criminal breaches of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998.

Ÿ  HSE news release and work equipment webpages.

Dodgy handrail led to agency worker’s fall

A Tyneside house builder has been fined after a young plasterer was seriously injured when a temporary handrail gave way as she leant on it and she fell to the floor below. The 23-year-old agency worker from Gateshead, who does not want to be named, was working for Bellway Homes Ltd when the incident happened on 4 December 2012. She broke her right wrist, fractured her forehead, jaw and cheekbone, and sustained a hairline fracture to her right hip. She also severed tendons in her left hand and suffered extensive bruising to her face, neck and back. She had to have a metal plate inserted into her right arm and required further surgery to ease later complications. She was unable to return to work as a labourer for six months and still suffers constant pain. It is unlikely she will ever return to her usual trade working as a plasterer. North Tyneside Magistrates’ Court heard how she had been clearing rubbish on the first floor of a property nearing completion and was on the landing talking to another worker in the ground floor hallway. As she leant on a temporary handrail on the landing it gave way, causing her to fall around 2.6 metres to the floor below. Bellway Homes Limited was fined £10,000 plus £904.70 costs after pleading guilty to a criminal breach of the Work at Height Regulations 2005. Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspector Emma Scott said: “This incident could easily have been prevented if Bellway Homes Limited had ensured that temporary guard rails were erected and installed correctly. Instead a young worker has been left with serious injuries which are still causing her pain and may well prevent her from continuing work in her chosen trade.”

Ÿ  HSE news release and falls webpages.

Ÿ   Construction Enquirer.

Apprentice loses finger and gets traumatised

A Northumberland company has been fined after a worker’s left hand was crushed in machinery leading to the amputation of one of his fingers. Ricky Martin, who was 18 at the time, was a third year apprentice with Miller UK Ltd when the incident occurred at its Cramlington premises on 12 March 2013. Bedlington Magistrates’ Court heard he was working on a large guillotine cutting a piece of metal, which was held in place between the blade and cutting table by mechanical clamps. As the apprentice loaded a piece of metal into the machine, his left hand came into contact with the clamps in front of the blade, trapping it. He suffered crush injuries to his hand leading to the amputation of his index finger below the second joint. His second finger was also broken. He was in hospital for three days and remained off work for six months. He suffered post traumatic stress syndrome and continues to suffer discomfort and fatigue in his hand. An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the safety guard fitted on the machine was ineffective and had been poorly maintained so was not working correctly. Miller UK Ltd pleaded guilty to a criminal safety offence and was fined £8,000 and ordered to pay £894.95 costs. HSE inspector Laura Catterall said: “This young man is now living with a permanent impairment but his injuries could have easily been avoided had Miller UK Ltd adequately assessed the risks, which would have spotted that the guard was not effective. This failing was compounded by poor maintenance and a breakdown in the fault reporting system – which together led to one of its workers suffering severe injuries.”

Ÿ  HSE news release and machinery webpages.

Ÿ  The Chronicle.

Property firm director done for safety neglect

A Gwent-based property development company and its director have been fined after being observed putting the lives of workers at serious risk. Formaction Ltd was installing a new roof on an industrial unit in Cardiff in June 2013, when a member of the public spotted the dangerous work methods and informed the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). An immediate inspection by HSE found three people working on a fragile pitched roof between five and eight metres above ground, without any measures in place to stop people falling through the roof or off its edges onto the concrete below. Formaction Ltd and director Derek Bawn were prosecuted at Cardiff Magistrates’ Court for a series of criminal breaches of the work at height regulations. The court was told HSE served a prohibition notice, stopping work at the site until the correct safety measures had been put in place and an asbestos survey conducted. Formaction Ltd and director Derek Bawn, who was one of the workers on site, had been caught by HSE undertaking dangerous work at height on four occasions between them since 2007, the court heard. The company buys, refurbishes and rents out industrial units across South Wales. Formaction Ltd was fined £3,000 plus costs of £1,323. Derek Bawn was fined £6,000 and costs of £1,323. HSE inspector Liam Osborne said: “Formaction Ltd and director Derek Bawn knew perfectly well that what they were doing was seriously unsafe and illegal, because of previous enforcement action by HSE and a warning of prosecution if they continued to work in this way. The workers were deliberately exposed to serious danger because of the serious neglect of safety precautions.” District Judge Bodfan Jenkins said: “This is a serious case, even though there was no injury. This was a death waiting to happen and was a very serious dereliction of duty.”

Ÿ  HSE news release.

Worker loses limb and job in cylinder explosion

A worker filling gas cylinders had his leg severed below the knee when a faulty cylinder he was filling exploded at Guardian Gas Ltd in Bridgend. Andrew Wright, 43, was filling the cylinder with nitrogen and carbon dioxide when the explosion happened on 29 March 2010. He subsequently had his leg amputated above the knee and has been unable to return to work since. The incident was investigated by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which prosecuted Gaspack Services Ltd at Cardiff Crown Court. The court heard that Mr Wright had filled the cylinder for use in the drinks industry to 230 bar pressure and was disconnecting the filling hose when the explosion happened. HSE’s investigation found the failed cylinder was one of a batch of cylinders that Guardian Gas had sent to Gaspack, a certified cylinder inspection body, for inspection, testing and certification to prove their safety for a further 10 years. The cylinders had been returned to Guardian Gas certified as safe to use. Gaspack’s inspection should have included internal shot blasting to remove corrosion, a thorough internal check to look for cracks or flaws and a hydro test to 345 bar pressure. HSE found that only the bottom two-thirds of the cylinder had been shot blasted and the rest of the surface was covered in rust. An examination showed the explosion was due to a large crack near the top of the cylinder. Other cylinders had also received inadequate attention, with remaining rust concealing possible flaws or cracks. An examination of the arrangements at Gaspack also revealed shortcomings in procedures, information, records, competency, supervision and monitoring. Gaspack Services Ltd admitted a criminal safety breach and was fined £30,000 and ordered to pay £60,000 costs. HSE inspector Alan Strawbridge said: “Gaspack’s failure to properly inspect the cylinders meant a critical flaw went undetected. This cylinder later exploded causing Mr Wright’s severe injuries, which could easily have claimed his life.”

Ÿ  HSE news release.

INTERNATIONAL NEWS

Australia: Probe deadly risks? Come back tomorrow

Unions in Queensland wanting to investigate potentially deadly safety breaches at work have been told they now have to give a day’s notice before they enter the workplace. A law passed last week in the state parliament changes union right-of-entry rules, and requires the 24 hour notice period before union investigators can enter a work site where they believe there are safety problems. Under other changes, union officials will no longer be able to direct members to stop work on safety grounds. Unions say the legal reforms will give dangerous employers more time to cover their tracks and will hinder a proper investigation. Michael Ravbar, divisional branch secretary with the construction union CFMEU, said: “This is a green light for dodgy builders to cover up health and safety issues and will see the vast majority of builders putting profit over the safety of their workforce.” He added: “This government is clearly putting big business ahead of workers’ rights and it’s only a matter of time before the community strikes back. We will hold the government accountable for any incident that occurs as a result of these ridiculous laws.” He said attorney-general Jarrod Bleijie, the driving force behind the law, “should be ashamed”, adding “the blood of injured workers will be on your hands.” Queensland Council of Unions president John Battams said: “We will be actively monitoring what’s happening and on the first occasion where a bad employer doesn’t do the right thing and the union cannot act because of the 24 hour notice provisions and work continues in a dangerous situation we will be making sure the people of Queensland fully understand where the responsibility lays.”

Ÿ  CFMEU news release.

Ÿ  Courier Mail.

Canada: Panel dismisses substance abuse claims

A company-fuelled perception that the workers extracting Alberta’s oil sands are alcohol and drug abusing rednecks operating deadly equipment with little regard for safety has turned out to be untrue after all. In 2012, Canada’s largest oil producer, Suncor Energy, tried to introduce random drug and alcohol testing of the thousands of oil sands workers, who are often bunked in work camps in the middle of nowhere. The move met with opposition from the union Unifor. Now, an independent arbitration panel has sided with the union, ruling random testing is “an unreasonable exercise of management rights.” Roland Lefort, head of Unifor local 707a, said: “There has to be some justification (for random testing). This would be proving there's a drug and alcohol culture in that workplace and proving there's a relationship between that and the number of incidents, and Suncor could not do that.” Testing is allowed for employees who have been in any safety-related incident on the job. But over a nine-year period, there were just 14 positive tests for alcohol involving unionised employees who had been involved in some kind of safety-related incident on the job. The panel heard that for several years, the number of safety-related incidents has been trending downward. There was also persuasive testimony offered by experts pointing to the unreliability of urine testing as a means of determining current drug and alcohol impairment (Risks 649). “There is no evidence that random testing improves safety, which is why Unifor is committed to more reliable methods to keep our members safe on the job while respecting the dignity of our members,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor's national president.

Ÿ  Unifor news release.

Ÿ  Globe and Mail.

USA: Walmart cagey on pregnant workers concessions

Walmart has improved its workplace pregnancy policies – but is saying the move has nothing to do a series of legal challenges. OUR Walmart, the union-backed group pressing for better working conditions at the US multinational, and a number of legal groups take a different view. More than a year ago, a group called A Better Balance, which advocates for workers’ rights, contacted Walmart about its policies on pregnant women. Early this year, the National Women’s Law Center filed an Equal Employment Opportunities Commission complaint on behalf of a pregnant employee whose supervisor refused to relieve her of duties that included climbing ladders with heavy boxes. Then two Walmart shareholders - employees who are members of OUR Walmart - filed a proposal with the Securities and Exchange Commission requesting that the policy be changed. Under the original policy, pregnant women could only qualify for a change in their work environment that was “both easily achievable and which will have no negative impact on the business,” with the policy adding explicitly that this did not include “creating a job, light duty or temporary alternative duty, or reassignment.” In early March, Walmart adopted new rules that it says offer reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers. All they need is a doctor’s note. These say women “may be eligible for reasonable accommodation” if they “need assistance to apply for a new job, or to perform the essential functions of a job.” In theory, that means that pregnant Walmart employees are more likely to be given less physically demanding work if they're having difficulty carrying out their duties. The campaigners say this is a start, but the company needs to go further.

Ÿ  Washington Post.

Ÿ   Businessweek.

Ÿ  Organisation United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart) facebook page.

Ÿ  UFCW blog.

USA: Shell oil rig ran aground dodging tax

The grounding of a Shell oil drilling rig in the Gulf of Alaska was in part driven by tax-dodging, the US Coast Guard has said, putting workers and the environment at risk. The organisation said Alaska’s tax laws had influenced the decision to tow the drilling rig Kulluk to Seattle for maintenance. Shell believed the rig would have qualified as taxable property on 1 January 2013 if it was still in Alaskan waters. The Kulluk broke away from its tow in late December 2012 after it ran into a vicious storm - a fairly routine winter event in Alaskan waters. Multiple attempts to maintain tow lines failed and the vessel ran aground on New Year’s Eve just off Kodiak Island. Several days before the tow initially broke, the master of the tow vessel Aiviq sent an email to the Kulluk’s towmaster expressing concerns about the conditions. “To be blunt I believe that this length of tow, at this time of year, in this location, with our current routing, guarantees an ass kicking,” said the email. The Aiviq’s master and towmaster asked Shell’s marine manager for permission to change course but the request was “not formally granted.” The US Coast Guard concluded that sufficient evidence existed for the relevant authorities to consider penalties. US senator Ed Markey, who at the time of the grounding was the top Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee, said “Shell should be held accountable for its reckless behaviour”. He added: “This report shows Shell ran through every single safety and common sense red light in moving this rig because of financial considerations.”

Ÿ  Senator Markey news release.

Ÿ  Morning Star.

Ÿ  The Telegraph

Events and Courses

It’s all coming together for 28 April!

Workers’ Memorial Day – the 28 April campaign which has become the world’s largest annual health and safety event – looks like being bigger still this year. The global union federation ITUC says it has been deluged with events listings - from protests, to seminars to local and national campaigns - which it will publicise in the coming days via social media and on its dedicated 28 April webpage. Meanwhile the TUC’s listings for Workers’ Memorial Day 2014 suggest there will be tens of thousands of workers marking the health and safety campaigners’ big day at events and activities across the land. Check out the webpages and make sure we know what you are doing.

Ÿ  TUC workers’ Memorial Day 2014 webpages.

Ÿ   ITUC/Hazards 28 April global webpages and facebook page.

Ÿ  ITUC/Hazards 28 April 2014 International Workers’ Memorial Day publicise-your-events poster. Don’t forget to tweet #iwmd14

Are you geared up for 28 April?

Workers’ Memorial Day, the biggest event on the union safety calendar, is fast approaching. So, have you sorted your action kit for 28 April? The Hazards Campaign is providing everything from the poster you stick on the wall to the t-shirt you stick on your back. You can: Get hold of your free 28 April posters; get ready to stick your stickers; splash out on a car sticker and forget-me-knot purple ribbons; and slip into a high quality ‘We didn’t vote to die’ or ‘Stop it you’re killing us’ t-shirt. Make sure your event is really something to see!

Posters: free (A3 and A4 available). Stickers: £1 for a single sticker, £0.50 each for 2-10, and £0.25 each for 11-100, with bigger discounts for bigger orders. Lapel stickers: £1 for a single sticker, £0.50 each for 2-10, and £0.25 each for 11-100. Car stickers: £1 each, £30 per 100. Purple ribbons: £0.30 each, £30 per 100. T-shirts: in s, m, l, xl, xxl, xxxl. £6. Order from the Hazards Campaign, Windrush Millennium Centre, 70 Alexandra Road, Manchester M16 7WD.  Tel: 0161 636 7557. Email: [email protected]

Ÿ  For news, resources and updates on UK Workers’ Memorial Day 2014 activities, see the TUC 28 April webpages.

What will you be doing on 28 April?

The TUC webpages for Workers’ Memorial Day on 28 April 2014 are now up, ready and waiting to list your planned activities. This year the theme for the annual event is 'Protecting workers around the world through strong regulation, enforcement and union rights.' The TUC 28 April webpage notes: “The TUC believes that we should use the day to highlight the need for strong regulation at national, European and global level. We need to stop companies in the UK from benefiting from the lack of health and safety standards that lead to disasters such as the Bangladesh factory collapse that killed over 1,100 workers.” It adds: “We also need a strong strategy on health and safety from the European Commission which will raise standards throughout Europe, while in the UK we need an end to the cuts in enforcement and regulation and instead action to tackle the huge number of occupational diseases and injuries.” Among other activities, the TUC will be urging people to contact candidates in the European elections scheduled for Thursday 22 May 2014 to press the case for better workplace health and safety standards.

Ÿ  TUC Workers’ Memorial Day, 28 April 2014 webpages. If you know of any union 28 April events, email details to the TUC health and safety department.

TUC courses for safety reps

Ÿ  View TUC courses

 

The person responsible for the Risks e-bulletin is Hugh Robertson
E: [email protected]