Risks is the TUC's weekly online bulletin for safety reps and others, read each week by over 14,000 subscribers and 1,500 on the TUC website. To receive this bulletin every week, click here . Past issues are available . This edition contains Useful links TUC courses for safety reps Disclaimer and Privacy statement .UNION NEWS
- Scrooge rail bosses in brush with cleaners
- Radiation advice agreed for airline staff
- Call to cut working hours at sea
- Bus drivers put industry on hours warning
- Outrage at 'terrible' school asbestos message
- GMB fingers food firm on union rights
- Blast deaths fireworks firm was fined before
- Union seeks answers after officer is stabbed
- Safety is 'No.1 priority' for London Olympics
- Smoking ban dates announced
- Work safety system has saved over 5,000 lives
- HSC consults on safety structure reforms
- Greedy boss fined over death of worker
- Firm fined after two lose hands
- Czech worker injured by unsafe saw
- Weak killing law won't work
- Families vow to continue killing campaign
- Asia: Mobile phone factories poison workers
- Europe: Unions deplore 'inadequate' chemical compromise
- USA: BP neglects victims, kills some more, spies on critics
Scrooge rail bosses in brush with cleaners
Rail and Tube cleaners fed up with dirty and dangerous work for poverty pay have taken their campaign to rail company HQs. Rail bosses on 4 December were treated to special performances of the Cleaners' Christmas Carol at the offices of Network Rail, the Association of Train Operating Companies and Metronet. RMT general secretary Bob Crow said 'every day is Christmas day' for fat cat rail bosses, 'but for the cleaners who work on the contracts these companies are responsible for, it will be the usual pittance of poverty pay. Many of the jobs they do are dangerous and require special safety certificates, and without them London's Tube and railway system would disappear under a mountain of rubbish, food scraps and frequently vomit, blood, urine and excrement.' He added: 'After a suicide or accidental death it is our cleaner members who have to remove body parts stuck to the train or lying on the track or platform. They get no special training or pay for this and no counselling and have to do it all for £5.35 an hour, and this disgrace has to stop.' He said last week Network Rail announced it had made £747 million in profits, 'yet they seem happy for their own contractors to pay poverty wages to railway cleaners.'
Radiation advice agreed for airline staff
Cleaners and security staff who came into contact with planes linked to the London radiation poisoning death of ex-spy Alexander Litvinenko are to be given help and advice. The deal struck by the union GMB with aircraft cleaning contractor OCS means employees who have cleaned the three planes taken out of service for radiation checks will be contacted and given support. GMB has made the same agreement for the 244 security guards working for G4S at Heathrow. The union said the agreement meant its members will receive 'the necessary screening from NHS Direct to check that their health is not affected by their work on the BA aircraft cleaning contract.' It added each could have worked for several hours on the affected aircraft over the weeks since the 25 October incident. GMB senior organiser Eamonn Coy said: 'This could affect hundreds of workers at Heathrow. They may have cleaned the affected aircraft many times since the incident. Heathrow security workers will have come into contact with the passengers leaving the planes after their flights.' He added: 'OCS and G4S have agreed to contact everyone who has worked on the contaminated planes and put them in touch with NHS Direct for screening. GMB has been told that it is very unlikely that peoples' health will have been affected as the radiation levels are so low but we have to err on side of caution.' The death of Mr Litvinenko, 43, in a London hospital on 23 November has been linked to poisoning by the highly toxic radioactive isotope polonium-210, which was found in his body, with more traces found at venues he had visited in London on 1 November - the day he fell ill. The Health Protection Agency (HPA) said just over 3,000 people in the UK had called the NHS Direct line since the radiation scare, with 179 followed up for further investigation. Only a family member of Mr Litvinenko had so far yielded a positive result, said HPA.
- GMB news release. Health Protection Agency news release. BBC News Online on the radiation poisonings and on staff advice.
- Health Protection Agency guidance on polonium-210. Information regarding Polonium-210 involved in recent events in the United Kingdom - advice from the US Centers for Disease Control.
Call to cut working hours at sea
Urgent action is needed to tackle excessive working hours at sea, maritime trade union Nautilus UK has said. The union was commenting after a survey of 1,800 seafarers found that almost half of respondents had a working week in excess of 85 hours. Half of those who took part in the study also agreed their working hours were a danger to their personal safety. A further 37 per cent said excessive working hours posed a danger to the safe operations of their ship. The six-year study was co-sponsored by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) and the Health and Safety Executive, with support from Nautilus and the Seafarers' International Research Centre (SIRC) at Cardiff University. It concludes that working hours at sea need to be much better recorded. 'This proves conclusively the serious nature of the problem and the massive scale to which fatigue is suffered by seafarers,' said Nautilus UK general secretary Brian Orrell. Mary Martyn, head of MCA's seafarer health and safety branch, said: 'We support the report's conclusion that a co-operative approach is needed, involving regulators, shipping companies and seafarers. Given the global nature of shipping, it is a problem that needs to be addressed at national and international level.'
- MCA news release. BBC News Online. Personnel Today.
- Seafarers' International Research Centre.
- Summary and full report of the Cardiff Fatigue Research Project [pdf].
Bus drivers put industry on hours warning
Bus drivers have backed a call for a major cut in their driving hours. At the union TGWU's passenger transport conference last month, the drivers supported a demand for the maximum driving time to be cut by an hour to four and a half hours in one continuous period. TGWU leaders welcomed the decision and said they will prepare the campaign to run alongside its 'spring offensive' on pay. 'Cutting the number of hours came back from the conference as the major issue bus drivers united behind,' said Graham Stevenson, TGWU national organiser for transport. 'We will be taking this forward in negotiations with the bus operators and looking at the political dimension of lobbying government ministers.' Delegates to the conference represented bus workers from all the major operators including FirstGroup, Arriva, Stagecoach, Go-ahead and National Express as well as a number of smaller regional operators and municipal bus companies. Bus drivers' hours currently allow for a maximum driving time of five and a half hours in one continuous period and a 10 hour working day. 'On pay and hours the message to the bus industry is clear for 2007 that we expect to see changes to improve the safety and working conditions of bus drivers across all operators and all parts of the UK,' said Graham Stevenson.
Outrage at 'terrible' school asbestos message
The union GMB has said the clearing of a former headmaster of safety charges after a Derby school was contaminated with asbestos dust sends out a 'terrible message'. In a case brought by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), Phillip Robinson, 50, denied a charge of failing to ensure the health and safety of others. The former head teacher at Silverhill Primary School was cleared at Leicester Crown Court of endangering pupils, staff and contractors by exposing them to asbestos during a window replacement programme over two years ago. Mr Robinson said he had 'no training' on the risks of asbestos and was unaware of its presence in the window panels. The court heard he gave the go-ahead for the £68,000 scheme to replace old windows in February 2004, but failed to tell glaziers a survey had found asbestos in the pre-fabricated premises. Richard Morgan, GMB branch secretary of Derbyshire community branch, said: 'It seems that the jury acquitted Mr Robinson due to his history as a teacher without seemingly considering his negligence to those for whom he had responsibility.' He added: 'The trial should have been about his duty to others and not his ability as a teacher. This verdict sends out a terrible message on two counts. Firstly that by pleading ignorance of the law you are in some way not responsible, and secondly it clouds the issue of where full responsibility lies when governing bodies take over the financial running of schools. Unless this problem is resolved, very soon, I fear that exposure to this well known carcinogen will happen again.' Derby City Council and the contractor, Horizon Windows and Glass, both pleaded guilty and will be sentenced in the new year.
GMB fingers food firm on union rights
The union GMB has told a food multinational to 'get real' after it defended a safety record that includes several recent serious injuries. The London plants of Katsouris Fresh Foods, owned by the Icelandic Bakkavör Group, has 2,500 mainly Asian and mostly migrant workers producing ready meals for supermarkets including Tesco, Sainsbury and Waitrose. Earlier this year GMB revealed evidence of inadequate safety standards, including two workers who had lost fingers (Risks 272). Katsouris has since said its health and safety record is significantly better than most in the industry and the level of incidents is lower than the industry norm. It acknowledged that there had been 16 reportable accidents this year but said it was working very hard to reduce the numbers. GMB however charged that Katsouris management is refusing to recognise the union, which wants to bargain on the workers' behalf on safety and other issues. According to GMB: 'The company has refused to allow the union an input to improve the dreadful health and safety regime in what is a very dangerous working environment with very fast machines and lines. Several union members have been badly injured and disabled by these machines.' GMB organiser Eamonn Coy said: 'Bakkavör need to get real... These 2,500 Bakkavör mainly migrant workers need a trades union to negotiate for them and improve health and safety.' He added: 'GMB will take the campaign to Bakkavör's ultimate consumers who will not stand for economic exploitation of migrant workers or cutting corners on health and safety or on food hygiene.' Tesco, Sainsbury and Waitrose said they took safety issues seriously and were investigating the allegations.
Blast deaths fireworks firm was fined before
Two firefighters have been killed and 12 people injured in a massive explosion at a Sussex fireworks depot whose owners had a previous conviction for safety offences. One of the men who died in the 3 December blast at Festival Fireworks was retired firefighter Brian Wembridge, 63, who had been re-employed by East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service as a photographer and cameraman. The other was 49-year-old control room staff member Geoff Wicker, who was also a retained firefighter. Police and senior firefighters have promised a thorough investigation into the incident, which will also involve the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Commenting on the deaths of the two firefighters, FBU general secretary Matt Wrack said: 'We are deeply saddened at the loss of the two members of the fire and rescue service who died in the line of duty in East Sussex.' He added: 'Local and national FBU officials will be looking at all health and safety issues relating to the incident. They will be co-operating fully with the HSE and local brigade managers.' It was revealed this week that the firm that owns the fireworks depot had been fined for storing explosives without a licence. HSE said Festival Fireworks was fined £1,000 under its previous name, Sussex Fireworks and Displays, in 1999. An HSE spokesperson said Sussex Fireworks had pleaded guilty to contravening the Explosives Act. The business, near Lewes, was last inspected on 11 October and currently has a licence covering three buildings.
- FBU news release. BBC News Online plus tributes from Tony Blair and David Cameron. The Telegraph. The Scotsman. Hastings Today.
Union seeks answers after officer is stabbed
A Greater Manchester police community support officer (PCSO) who was in intensive care after being stabbed in the neck is recovering in hospital. Gary Etchells had been helping a housing organisation serve an eviction notice in Stalybridge when he was stabbed in the neck. Staff and bailiffs representing New Charter Housing Association had requested a police presence while they carried out the eviction on Monday morning. Deputy chief constable Dave Whatton, of Greater Manchester Police, said: 'Police officers and the local police community support officer had arranged to attend while the eviction was being carried out.' He said a man came out of the house and 'attacked those present. He lunged with a knife and cut the police community support officer on the neck.' Mr Etchells, who is among some 7,000 PCSOs across the UK, was not wearing a stab-proof vest or body armour at the time of the attack. Ben Priestly, UNISON national officer for PCSOs, said: 'This attack is very shocking and it highlights the very difficult and sometimes dangerous situations that PCSOs are put in. We will be working with Greater Manchester police to investigate this stabbing and to ensure that any lessons learnt are put in place quickly.' He added, however, that 'across the country PCSOs have different powers and are given different levels of training. UNISON is seeking the standardisation of these powers and training to ensure that every PCSO, wherever they work, has the tools, ability and confidence to do the job they are asked to do.'
Safety is 'No.1 priority' for London Olympics
Health and safety will be the 'number one priority' for London's 2012 Olympics, the organisations responsible have said. The Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) and CLM, the consortium that won the tender to build the venues and infrastructure (Risks 273), made the commitment to health and safety as CLM signed up to the ODA's health and safety standard. ODA chief executive David Higgins said: 'Health and Safety is our number one priority - it is vital we ensure that the workers constructing the facilities for the London 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games are kept safe and healthy. It is not just about reducing risk and injury but promoting good health in the workforce.' He added: 'Health and safety is at the heart of our planning for the project and I am very pleased that CLM have today committed to our health and safety standard.' CLM chief executive Ron Brooks said: 'We must do our utmost to protect and promote the health and wellbeing of our workforces as we deliver this exciting project. As with every part of this project it is vital we get the planning right. This standard shows we are doing that for health and safety. Our role as delivery partner is to ensure that all work meets the highest possible health and safety standards.' The ODA says its health safety and environment standard was published earlier this year and is based around the principles of consultation and engagement, minimising risk for construction workers and making the London 2012 Games healthier and safer by design. TUC last year said that safety must be a priority for the 2012 Olympics (Risks 214).
Smoking ban dates announced
The smoking ban for all enclosed public places and workplaces will begin in Wales from April and England from July, the health secretary, Patricia Hewitt, has announced. 'Thousands of lives will be saved and the health of thousands more protected,' she said. Businesses which do not enforce the ban face fines of up to £2,500. Smoking was banned in nearly all enclosed public places in Scotland in March this year. Brendan Barber, general secretary of the TUC, said: 'We're pleased that the government has moved quickly to bring in the ban and make all public places and workplaces smoke free by next July. The UK's pubs, bars and restaurants will become healthier places to work overnight, and in the longer term fewer workers will fall ill or die as a result of second-hand smoke. But employers shouldn't leave it until the last minute before thinking about how to introduce the smoking ban in their factories or offices. To help them start to act now, the TUC has produced a simple guide containing advice on how employers should go about closing smoking rooms, how to introduce smoking restrictions and how they can help smoking staff give up.' Deborah Arnott, director of the anti-smoking charity ASH, said: 'This law is good for health. The only losers are the tobacco companies who have fought this incredibly important measure.'
- DH news release. TUC news release. The Guardian.
- Smokefree England and Smoking Ban Wales websites.
- TUC smoking webpages and guide to implementing a workplace ban. Hazards smoking news and resources.
Work safety system has saved over 5,000 lives
The UK's workplace health and safety system has saved over 5,000 lives, according to a new official report. The Health and Safety Commission's (HSC) Measuring up... Performance report 2006 estimates this is the number of lives saved since the introduction of the 1974 Health and Safety at Work Act, as a result of measures to reduce the number of workplace accidents. HSC chair Bill Callaghan, said: 'As a society, we've come a long way since 1974 when the current health and safety law was introduced and 600 people were regularly killed at work each year. Our most recent fatal injury statistics show that the number has reached a record low of 212, this is encouraging, but we still need to do more. The changing economy and the increasing number of migrant workers are key challenges.' He added: 'As illustrated by this report, HSE and local authorities are doing a great deal of work, frequently in close partnership with businesses, health and safety groups, other government bodies and trade unions. This is an important strand of the Commission's strategy and shows that it is having tangible benefits for workers. The report also shows that the unique role and powers of health and safety inspectors to enforce the law continue to remain a vital part of our effort to drive up safety standards.'
HSC consults on safety structure reforms
The Health and Safety Commission (HSC) has published a public consultation document seeking views on merging health and safety oversight body HSC and its enforcement arm the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) into a single health and safety authority. HSC says a merger with HSE 'will modernise our corporate governance and provide a stronger voice for health and safety.' It says the merger will provide: A more accountable structure in line with current best practice; better decision making and a clearer public and regulatory presence; for the continued independence of the safety regulator; a balanced structure at arm's length from ministers; and membership for representatives from employer and employee backgrounds, with a seat for local government and a member designated to maintain links with the devolved authorities. Commenting on the consultation, HSC chair Bill Callaghan said the organisation had concluded 'that merging the Commission and Executive into a single body will give us a more robust governance framework, improve our working practices and create a stronger voice for health and safety in Great Britain. We believe that our proposals take the best from the existing governance arrangements, updating them to instil the drivers necessary for re-invigorating the decision-making framework within which we work and strengthening our existing partnerships, particularly those with local authorities.'
- HSC news release. A stronger voice for health and safety - A Consultative Document on merging the Health and Safety Commission and Health and Safety Executive, CD210. Comments on the consultation should be sent to Ami Badmus, HSE, Rose Court, 2 Southwark Bridge, London. SE1 9HS. Closing date for comments, 5 March 2007.
Greedy boss fined over death of worker
A businessman has been called 'greedy and ruthless, with no moral scruples' by a judge after a fatal workplace incident. Shaun Riley, aged 31, from Leigh, died in January 2003 after a dumper truck overturned during drainage work at Heskin Hall Farm, Heskin, Lancashire, where he had been assigned to operate a dumper truck carrying two-and-a-half tonnes of soil. The truck overturned, and he was buried. His brother and cousin, also working on the site, were among those who tried to dig him free. He was airlifted to hospital, but died next day from multiple injuries. Ian Connor, the HSE inspector who investigated the case, said: 'The truck was fitted with seat belts and rollover protection but Mr Riley was not wearing his belt and was neither trained nor supervised on the work he was undertaking. Even though the truck overturned, there is every chance he would have survived the incident if he had been wearing his seat belt. It is vital that everybody who operates a dumper truck is properly trained and that there is a high standard of supervision to ensure that they always use the vehicle safely.' He added: 'This tragic incident was entirely avoidable had sensible precautions, as outlined in the free HSE construction information sheet 'Safe use of site dumpers', been adopted by Mr Riley's employer, Chargot Ltd, and the principal contractor in control of the site, Ruttle Contracting Ltd.' At Preston Crown Court, Judge Anthony Russell QC said: 'My impression is that this was an inhouse job, done over the years as and when people were available, with no thought given to health and safety regulations.' Referring to the farm owner, 61-year-old contractor George T Ruttle, he said: 'I regard Mr George Ruttle as a greedy and ruthless businessman, with no moral scruples,' adding he had 'turned a blind eye' to obvious safety lapses. Company director Mr Ruttle was fined £75,000 and ordered to pay £103,500 costs. His company, Ruttle Contracting Ltd, was fined £100,000 with £75,000 costs, and Mr Riley's employer, Shargot Ltd, was fined £5,000 with £37,500 costs. They were convicted by a jury of safety offences after a two week trial, after hearing what Judge Russell described as 'compelling evidence.'
- HSE news release. The Bolton News. Lancashire Evening Post.
- Safe use of site dumpers, HSE construction information sheet [pdf].
Firm fined after two lose hands
A company has been fined £175,000 for selling a grass collector which it had been warned posed a safety risk and which subsequently chopped off the hands of two workers at separate firms. Agricultural machinery firm Kubota UK was warned in 1999 that its bladed grass collector had injured a man. But despite advice from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), the Thame-based company continued to supply the product unaltered until it was forced to stop in May 2004. One man from Wales and one from Kent lost their hands while cleaning blockages in the machine. The company admitted three charges under health and safety legislation of breaching general duties when supplying equipment to be used at work. Roger Adams, an employee of North West Kent College in Dartford, had to have his hand amputated at the wrist in October 2003. The second victim, Stephen Sandham, from Llangollen, working for Wight Landscapes Ltd in Wrexham, Wales, had to have a substantial part of his hand amputated. Sentencing at Oxford Crown Court, Judge Bruce McIntyre said the failure to act had 'life-changing' consequences for the injury victims. 'The risk of injury to respective victims was obvious, foreseeable and continuing over a prolonged period,' he said. Kubota UK, a subsidiary of the Japanese multinational Kubota, was also ordered to pay nearly £22,000 in costs. The firm was prosecuted by HSE for supplying the two machines that caused injury and a further 88 'similar dangerous pieces of machinery' between 1999 and 2004. HSE inspector Iain Evans said: 'Kubota UK Ltd disregarded advice from HSE despite being given a written undertaking to implement additional safety on their grass collectors. The size of fines reflects the needless amputations that occurred as a result of the company's lack of action and the number of other employees across the country that have been put at risk. It is part of the HSE sensible approach enforcement to prosecute those businesses which fail to comply with previous HSE advice.'
Czech worker injured by unsafe saw
An Oldham firm has been fined £10,500 after a Czech employee suffered serious hand injuries in a circular saw. Factory Reconstruction Co (Manchester) Ltd was also ordered to pay £1,956 costs at Trafford Magistrates Court after pleading guilty to three criminal HSE charges. The charges were brought after Czech employee Jaroslav Linka suffered serious injuries to his left hand while using an inadequately guarded circular saw. HSE inspector Lisa Bailey said: 'Mr Linka, who had been a mine worker in the Czech Republic, was exposed to unnecessary danger whilst using a circular saw to prepare wood for the construction of pallets.' She said the company had failed to carry out a risk assessment, and added the severe lacerations to his left hand 'could have been prevented with simple guarding and provision of adequate training in the use of a circular saw.' The HSE inspector said: 'It is particularly important that companies employing foreign workers make sure that these workers are adequately trained and understand UK health and safety requirements. Employers must be certain that supervision and workers understand one another and that management decisions and instructions will be properly understood and acted upon.'
Weak killing law won't work
The draft corporate killing legislation debated in parliament on 4 December would have made no practical difference to the four major railway disasters since 1997 had it already been in place, a study for rail union RMT has found. The 'corporate manslaughter' label is the only achievement the government can claim if the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Bill passes unamended, concludes the report, prepared for RMT by Thompsons Solicitors. The report adds that the bill marks a 'significant retreat' in the government's policy. For the Southall, Ladbroke Grove, Hatfield and Potters Bar crashes, which killed a total of 49 and injured approaching 700 people, the draft law would have made no practical difference in sanctions or establishing individual accountability, the report says. Instead, the bill expressly prevents individuals being held to account, provides a 'glaring loophole' allowing companies to establish complex corporate structures to avoid liability and encourages companies to shift responsibility for health and safety to more junior managers. Speaking ahead of the Commons debate, RMT general secretary Bob Crow said: 'To have any effect such a law would expect employers to take workers' health and safety far more seriously, and would put those whose negligence caused unnecessary deaths in the dock and potentially behind bars. If this bill is passed as it stands it will achieve neither.' He added: 'If the law is to achieve any real purpose it is essential that company directors have specific health and safety responsibilities and stand to be held accountable if their failure to observe them results in death.' Trade union amendments, including a call for 'individual liabilities' strongly supported by the TUC, were not voted on by MPs so for now remain outside the scope of the planned law. The measures can however now be considered by the Lords.
- RMT news release, report summary and letter from Bob Crow to Labour MPs. Hansard report of the debate.
- House of Commons amendments to the Bill considered on 4 December. Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Bill.
Families vow to continue killing campaign
Relatives bereaved by workplace tragedies have vowed to continue their campaign for companies and their directors to be made more responsible for safety crimes. The call came after the 4 December Commons debate on the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Bill. Members of Families Against Corporate Killers - Fack - met with Home Office minister Gerry Sutcliffe ahead of the debate to argue additional measures are needed to make firms and negligent bosses liable for the death of their employees and others who may be killed by work activities. Fack says the Bill as it stands may make it easier to hold larger corporations to account but still has plenty of loopholes. Dorothy Wright, whose son Mark was killed last year in an explosion at a recycling plant, said: 'Like us he was a law abiding citizen, going to work where he had the right to expect his employer to obey health and safety law and protect him. When that failed, we have a right to expect justice.' Linda Whelan, whose son Craig was killed in a fire in a chimney at Metal Box in Bolton, said: 'Isn't this another form of terrorism in our workforce? I want employers who put lives at risk to face corporate manslaughter charges.' Fack also wants to see penalties including imprisonment of individual company directors who kill by gross negligence or recklessness plus a wider range of penalties for the employing organisation. Linzi Herbertson, whose husband Andrew was killed on an Oldham construction site, said: 'We can't bring back the people we have lost to employers' gross negligence, but we can campaign to stop others dying utterly needless deaths.' A Fack spokesperson told Risks it would continue campaign for more effective legislation, and would now take its case to the House of Lords.
Asia: Mobile phone factories poison workers
Workers manufacturing mobile phones in Asia are being poisoned, according to new report. Research by SOMO - the Netherlands-based Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations - reveals safety and labour standards abuses in factories producing phones for the five largest mobile telephone companies, Nokia, Motorola, Samsung, Sony Ericsson and LG. The study looked at factories in China, Thailand, the Philippines and India. SOMO researcher Joseph Wilde said: 'Particularly in the Chinese and Thai factories, where components for mobile telephones are made, a number of international labour and health and safety standards are violated. Employee initiatives to improve working conditions are thwarted by the factory owners.' The report charges that health and safety measures in many factories are inadequate. It says there is not enough protection from hazardous chemicals and adds workers do not receive training for working with these toxic substances, leading to chronic work-related ill-health. In a factory in China producing lenses for Motorola phones, researchers encountered nine workers who had been poisoned through unprotected contact with the neurotoxic solvent n-hexane. In Thailand, workers using lead solder to make motors for Nokia phones had to buy their own protective masks and gloves. The report calls on the companies to improve their safety practices, particularly their oversight of contractors.
Europe: Unions deplore 'inadequate' chemical compromise
A deal on Europe's long debated REACH chemical safety legislation is a 'decisive step' but does not do enough to protect workers' health, unions have warned. The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) said the compromise position on REACH, agreed by the European Parliament and the Finnish Presidency of the Council last week, 'enables Europe to adopt a more socially responsible approach to managing chemical risks. However, the ETUC deplores the inadequacy of the text with regard to protecting the health of workers.' ETUC said it welcomed a shift of the burden of proof on chemicals onto industry, 'but regrets that the compromise falls short in its ability to protect workers' health. In fact, some of the important steps forward that were demanded by the ETUC and up to now also supported by the Parliament have been lost following pressure from the chemical industry.' Commenting on the weakening of the duty to substitute hazardous substances where possible, seen by health advocates as the crucial clause in the deal, ETUC said: 'Industry will be able to go on using certain extremely dangerous substances even if safer alternatives are available, which is inconsistent with the substitution principle defined in existing legislation on workers' protection.' It added that the exclusion of substances produced in volumes of under 10 tonnes a year from the requirement to produce a chemical safety report would leave many workers in the dark about hazards. According to ETUC: 'The REACH reform has been subjected to the most intense lobbying campaign ever mounted by industry within the European institutions. In view of this, the ETUC emphasises that the future of European industry cannot be determined solely by the demands imposed by competitiveness. Confidentiality of data must not be allowed to have a negative impact on human health and environmental safety.'
- ETUC news release . European Parliament news release . Greens/EFA in the European Parliament news release . Women in Europe for a Common Future news release . BBC News Online . Business Insurance . International Herald Tribune .
USA: BP neglects victims, kills some more, spies on critics
The already tarnished image of London-based oil giant BP is taking further flak, after the deaths of more workers at its US installations, accusations that it has reneged on promises to the injury victims of last year's Texas City blast, and allegations it spied on a bereaved daughter and her lawyer. The March 2005 explosion killed 15 workers and injured 180. Now BP has confirmed two more contractor fatalities. The first fatality occurred on the Alaskan North Slope on 13 November, when a worker walking across a drill pad apparently fell, striking his head, said BP spokesperson Ronnie Chappell. The second man died 17 November, after the drilling of a well in Eastern Oklahoma had been completed. That contract worker was helping to prepare the rig to be moved when he also sustained a fatal head injury. The two accidents, which had not been previously reported, follow a long chain of recent problems that include a major refinery explosion and a pair of major oil spills in Alaska. Meanwhile, the company has also received $384,000 (£195k) in fines from Indiana OSHA for safety violations at its refinery in Whiting, Indiana. The office cited the British oil company for 14 violations, ranging from inadequate record-keeping to not correcting problems with relief-valve systems at the plant. It has also been alleged that BP has not been living up to it promises to pay the medical bills of victims of the March 2005 explosion and has been neglecting its responsibility to maintain the plant. These accusations come from explosion victims who had previously settled claims with the company. The UK multinational has also been accused of spying on Eva Rowe and her attorney. Rowe is the daughter of two victims of the Texas City explosion. She settled her lawsuit with BP on the eve of trial (Risks 284). BP's defence team hired private investigators to gather information on the 22-year-old, whose parents were killed in the 2005 explosions at the Texas City refinery, court records state.
- Confined Space on recent BP deaths and the Texas City aftermath .
- More on BP's health and safety record .
Tell your MP to support directors' duties!
Get your MP to sign up to Early Day Motion EDM 359 on directors' duties. The motion - sponsored by Labour MP Ian Stewart and designed to send a message to the government on the strength of feeling on the issue - says: 'That this House welcomes the provisions of the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Bill; notes that it does not include any mention of health and safety duties applying to company directors; further notes that the report by the Home Affairs and Work and Pensions Select Committees (First Joint Report of Session 2005-06) clearly supported the introduction of such directors' duties; and calls on the government to introduce appropriate legislation to ensure that company directors who neglect health and safety to the point of causing death or serious injury can be prosecuted.' Make sure your MP is signed up and speaking up.
- EDM 359 on directors' duties - check to see if your MP has signed. If not, ask why not. Find your MP - you just need to know your postcode, MP's name or constituency name.
EVENTS AND COURSES
TUC courses for safety reps
COURSES FOR SEPTEMBER TO DECEMBER 2006
- Northern , North West, Southern & Eastern, Yorkshire & Humber, South West, Midlands, Scotland, Wales
- COURSES FOR JANUARY TO MARCH 2007
- Northern , Southern & Eastern , Yorkshire & Humber , South West , Midlands , Scotland , Wales
- Visit the TUC http://www.tuc.org.uk/h_and_s/ website pages on health and safety. See what's on offer from TUC Publications and What's On in health and safety.
- Subscribe to Hazards magazine, supported by the TUC as a key source of information for union safety reps.
- What's new in the HSC/E and the European Agency.
- HSE Books , PO Box 1999, Sudbury, Suffolk CO10 2WA. Tel: 01787 881165; fax: 01787 313995
Issued: 8 December, 2006