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Tribunal fees will leave workers unprotected
The TUC has warned that a system of tribunal fees due to come into effect in July will 'embolden' rogue employers while leaving workers more vulnerable to safety and other abuses. The union body added that the fees will price many of the UK's lowest paid workers out of justice. It believes they have been set 'disproportionately high' in order to deter many people from taking valid claims to tribunal. Anyone who believes they 'suffer a detriment, dismissal or redundancy for health and safety reasons' may be required to pay an initial fee of £250 and a further £950 if the case goes to a tribunal, the maximum 'level 2' charges under the new system. A safety rep complaining of an employer 'failure to pay for or allow time off to carry out safety rep duties or undertake training' - denial of the legal right to safety rep training makes up the lion's share of safety-related tribunal cases - will have to stump up £160 to kick off a case and a further £250 to take it to tribunal. The same 'level 1' charges apply to workers complaining about an employer's 'failure to pay remuneration whilst suspended from work for health and safety reasons whilst pregnant or on maternity leave.' TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said: 'Introducing tribunal fees will serve only to embolden rogue employers, who will be able to mistreat staff without fear of sanction. Regardless of what ministers say this is not about cutting red tape for businesses. It is yet another attack on workers' employment rights and will result in victims being deterred from making genuine claims.' She said a 'remission scheme' reducing the fees for the lowest paid 'is woefully inadequate and many of the UK's most vulnerable workers will simply be priced out of justice.'
Campaigners slam the 'war' on safety
A major lobby of parliament has heard angry calls from union leaders and campaigners for the government to reverse an unprecedented attack on workplace safety protections. A large group of Labour MPs, including several shadow ministers, joined hundreds of protesters at an 11 June lobby of parliament called by the unions Unite and UCATT. Labour leader Ed Miliband issued a statement 'warmly welcoming' the lobbyists and indicated protecting people at work would be a priority for the next Labour government. David Cameron's pledge to 'wage war against the excessive health and safety culture' was repeatedly condemned during the Save Our Safety lobby. UCATT general secretary Steve Murphy said: 'This government will have blood on its hands. And it will be workers' blood.' Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail said she was 'sick to death' of journalists who mocked the so-called ''elf and safety culture.' Bereaved mum Linda Whelan received an emotional standing ovation in a packed Commons committee room as she told health and safety campaigners of her anger and her determination to fight back. Her son Craig died in a workplace fireball. Those in the room rose to their feet as she told them: 'It is 11 years on Thursday since I buried my son. My biggest fear is that more and more people are going to be burying their loved ones as well.' Ms Whelan, a founder of Families Against Corporate Killers (FACK), appealed to unions and campaigners to 'stand together and fight' to stop the destruction of health and safety laws. 'The government is lying about the burden on business - lack of health and safety is a massive burden on us, in heartache and lifelong loss, but it also costs the public purse far more than good health and safety does,' she said.
Bakers turn up the heat on safety
Workers are paying a high price for the government's unending assault on safety protections, the conference of the bakers' union BFAWU has heard. Manchester branch secretary David Hough, attending the union's national conference in Bridlington, told the Morning Star he had performed first aid on an agency worker last week after the man collapsed in the heat of Kara Foods bakery - only to be told he did not need to file an accident report. 'The first question from management: 'Is he coming back in?'', he told the paper. 'I said no. Their response was: 'We'll get another one in to replace him.' That's what they think about people - we're no different to the buns on the conveyor belt,' he said. Hazards Campaign coordinator Hilda Palmer told delegates the coalition government's 'massive attack' on health and safety legislation amounted to murder. Chancellor George Osborne had cut the Health and Safety Executive's funding by 35 per cent, she said, with firms in turn subjected to 11,000 fewer unannounced inspections each year and most exempted entirely from official scrutiny. 'Health and safety isn't a joke,' she said. 'It's about going to work and coming home again alive. It's about going to work and not dying years later because of something you breathed in that got in your lungs. It's not a case of too much red tape - there's too many bloody bandages.'
Savage rail cuts will damage safety
Network Rail cannot find savings of £2 billion over five years without dire consequences for rail safety, the union RMT has warned. The union was speaking out after the rail regulator told Network Rail it must make the cut while at the same time improving punctuality and safety. The Office of Rail Regulation's (ORR) chief executive Richard Price said the 'industry must continue to improve its efficiency to reduce its dependence on public subsidy.' RMT general secretary Bob Crow said ORR's requirement that the cost cuts must not come at the expense of safety was unattainable. 'This £2bn worth of cuts, driven by the government through their enforcers the ORR, would mean massive cuts to renewals and maintenance, compromising safety and leading to more breakdowns, failures and delays. Far from improving performance it would mean overhead lines coming down and track and signal failures leading to travel misery for millions,' he said. 'Cuts on this scale would drag us right back to the grim days of Railtrack and the tragedies of Hatfield and Potters Bar.' The union leader added any threat of compulsory job losses at Network Rail 'would lead to preparations for a national strike ballot.' The cuts demand came a day after it was revealed the company's net debt had reached more than £30bn.
Bromley must not penalise sick employees
The London Borough of Bromley must drop its 'extreme, dangerous and vindictive' proposal to withhold cost of living pay rises from genuinely sick employees, GMB has said. The union has been in consultation with the council for a number of weeks regarding a proposal to move to local pay bargaining. One change would mean any employee could have their pay rise withheld for unsatisfactory 'performance' - and that includes sickness, according to the council. GMB's Nick Day said: 'Bromley council is using a move to local pay bargaining to attack workers with genuine sickness. Bromley can use formal procedures it already has in agreements to deal with sickness, capability and conduct so it should not use this move to local pay bargaining stop sick workers getting cost of living rises.' He added: 'Under these new proposals Bromley employees could have their pay rise withheld without having the means to defend themselves.' He said he had written to the council calling on it 'to drop its proposals and instead use appraisals, its existing people management procedures plus counselling and mentoring to support its staff in improving performance.'
Job cuts threaten safe air traffic control
The lives of airline workers and the flying public would be put at risk if cuts to air traffic control go ahead, the union PCS has warned. Staff working for UK air traffic control provider, NATS, demonstrated outside the Department for Transport on 12 June against plans to cut jobs and costs in the service. More than 2,000 postcards completed by members of the two protesting unions at NATS - Prospect and PCS - were handed to a representative of the UK government's aviation minister, Simon Burns. Under the Single European Skies (SES) proposals, the European Commission wants to halve Air Traffic Management (ATM) costs by 2020, resulting in huge job losses across Europe. The protest marks the start of the European Transport Federation's campaign against the SES proposals, which will see air traffic unions across Europe either take industrial action or organise demonstrations. Jeremy Gautrey, PCS aviation group secretary, said: 'There is no bigger risk to safety and service delivery in air traffic than cuts to air traffic management staff. Cuts in staff and forced redundancies will be met robustly with industrial action by ATM workers across Europe.' Emily Boase, Prospect national secretary, said: 'The UK is one of the most efficient providers of air traffic control services, with the least delays in Europe. All this will be put at risk if the Commission's proposals are carried through.'
Call for better rights for safety reps at sea
Members of the seafarers' union Nautilus International in the UK are being urged to contact their MP and encourage them to sign an Early Day Motion (EDM) calling for improved rights for union safety reps onboard ships. Nautilus says under current laws, shore-based health and safety representatives have a legal right to attend a trade union-approved health and safety training course as soon as possible, whilst seafarers are only required to undertake onboard health and safety training at some stage. The union is concerned that this compromises the health and safety of seafarers working on UK-flagged ships and is backing MPs who have called on the government to offer the same protection to UK seafarers that they do to shore-based employees. The early day motion tabled by Labour MP Katy Clark 'calls on the government to take steps to bring seafarer health and safety representatives up to the legal status of their land-based counterparts.'
ASLEF anger as guard's sentence is upheld
Train drivers' union ASLEF has described an appeal court's decision to reject a train guard's appeal against a five year manslaughter sentence as 'scandalous.' Christopher McGee, who was convicted in November 2012 of causing the death of train passenger Georgia Varley, has had his appeal against the length of his sentence rejected. The teenager was 'high on drink and drugs', said ASLEF, when she fell under a train at James Street station in Liverpool in what the union described as a 'tragic accident'. The 46-year-old guard had given the all-clear to the train driver to move out of James Street Station while the 16-year-old was leaning on the side of the carriage, causing her to lose her balance and fall between the platform and the train. He was found guilty of manslaughter by gross negligence. Giving his judgment at the Court of Appeal in London, Lord Justice Pitchford said the guard had taken the 'inexplicable' decision to give the driver the signal to move off, knowing there was a 'gross risk of death or serious injury' to a drunken teenager. He concluded the sentence of five years was 'appropriate'. ASLEF general secretary Mick Whelan said: 'It is scandalous that the court has chosen to uphold this sentence, in the face of the evidence, for what was a terrible and tragic accident. While we feel for the family and friends of Georgia Varley, Chris was doing his job, he did not mean to cause her death and the sentence he was given was entirely inappropriate.'
Strike action plan over teacher workloads
Scotland's largest teaching union has backed a campaign of action, including strikes, over increased workloads created by the new curriculum. Delegates at the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) conference in Perth last week carried a motion calling for a campaign of action to be in place by December in protest against increased workloads. EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan said: 'Workload problems have always been there but it is probably as intense as I have known it in 33 years as a teacher. That has been coupled with a two-year pay freeze, staff numbers have reduced and there is an ever-growing list of demands on teachers.' Union president Susan Quinn has challenged education secretary Mike Russell to come up with measures to reduce the 'hoops of red tape teachers have to jump through' as a result of the implementation of Curriculum for Excellence (CfE).
Blacklisting is 20 years old and counting
The union Unite has evidence that vetting of building industry workers is ongoing, four years after the discovery of a secret list that denied people work for years. The union revelation came in a BBC Panorama programme broadcast this week that included the first TV interview with the woman who helped run the now-defunct blacklisting operation. The programme confirmed the long-held union claim that publicly-financed construction projects such as the Olympic Park, the Millennium Dome and the extension of London Underground's Jubilee Line were all built by workers who had been checked against the list. It featured an interview with Mary Kerr, who worked alongside her husband Ian Kerr, the long-time director of the industry-backed covert blacklisting group The Consulting Association. Mrs Kerr defended the list, saying: 'Unfortunately there are people in this life who do cause trouble. I can't say whether people on that list caused genuine trouble but certainly I know some of them would have.' Unite's Gail Cartmail told Panorama the union has seen evidence that suggests blacklisting continues in the construction industry. 'There's evidence that blacklisting is a contemporary problem and while I think it's unlikely that the industry would set up an organisation like The Consulting Association again there is evidence that people are active and busy vetting and comparing names to lists they hold,' she said. A growing number of local authorities are voting to deny contracts to blacklisters. In a statement after the broadcast, the union-backed grassroots Blacklist Support Group said: 'The Panorama evidence is damning. Blacklisting is not some historic issue - it is happening today on Crossrail, the largest publicly funded project in the UK. Yet the blacklisting firms continue to act as if they are above the law.' It added: 'The blacklisting scandal is crying out for a full Leveson-style public inquiry. After Panorama, it is time for politicians to act. If celebrity phone hacking deserved a full public inquiry, why should blacklisted building workers be any different?'
Unions to keep up the pressure on blacklisters
Unions have vowed to keep up their battle for justice from the major construction firms linked to a blacklisting scandal. Unite general secretary Len McCluskey has launched a national mobilisation against Crossrail consortium Bam Ferrovial Kier (BFK), which has included more than 350 UK protests in the past three weeks, with a thousand more planned over the next six months. 'It's clear that blacklisting activity is continuing at Crossrail,' McCluskey told the Guardian. 'Time and time again Unite has called on BFK to work constructively with us to implement a union agreement to deliver stability and safety. Instead BFK refuses to engage with us, even though we have significant evidence of blacklisting and there have been a series of unacceptable and avoidable incidents, with one worker being left with severe burns across his body.' GMB legal officer Maria Ludkin said the 70 blacklisting damages claims lodged in the High Court last week (Risks 608) will be the first of several 'monthly waves'. She told the Construction Manager news website: 'Since we lodged these claims, we have had a lot of coverage in the regional press and many phone calls from members who think they might have been on the list. We intend to batch-issue claims every month.'
Tragedies expose 'low risk' dangers
A series of tragedies have cast further doubt on the government's decision to exempt supposedly 'low risk' workplaces including shops from routine safety inspections (Risks 607). A four-year-old boy died in hospital on 8 June, four days after suffering serious head injuries when a mirror fell on him in the Hugo Boss store in Bicester Outlet shopping village. Thames Valley Police is appealing for witnesses. This week Lee Anderson, 31, appeared at the High Court in Glasgow, accused of murdering grocer Javaid Ali at his Paisely store. It is alleged he struck the 48-year-old on the neck and wrist with a knife or similar instrument. Also this week, a man who launched a "vicious attack" on betting shop staff in Midlothian after losing £200 was given a life sentence. Mark Rutter, 40, was ordered to serve two years and eight months before he can ask to be released for the attack at William Hill in Dalkeith. One betting shop worker was stabbed in the neck by Rutter and another was punched. Last month, 55-year-old betting shop manager Andrew Iacovou was bludgeoned to death with a hammer in the Ladbrokes shop where he worked (Risks 608). Critics of the government strategy to exempt retail and other 'low risk' workplaces from preventive inspections also point out the risk rating ignores the sometimes sky high occupational disease risks in these jobs. A US government study published last week reported that work-related musculoskeletal disorders are much higher in retail workers than in the workforce as a whole.
- Thames Valley Police news release. The Guardian. The Sun. BBC News Online on the Mark Rutter conviction, Javaid Ali prosecution and Hugo Boss tragedy. Workers' Compensation Claims for Musculoskeletal Disorders Among Wholesale and Retail Trade Industry Workers ? Ohio, 2005-2009, CDC, June 2013.
New blueprint for a waste industry safety drive
A new plan to drive down the number of people killed and seriously injured in the notoriously deadly waste and recycling industry has been published. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) convened Waste Industry Safety and Health (WISH) Forum has been working on its blueprint for better risk management since a 'landmark' summit in February (Risks 594). HSE says the final plan puts the focus on those areas where industry leaders agree action needs to be concentrated. It outlines 24 immediate action points under five strategic themes - providing strong leadership, involving the workforce, building competence, creating healthier and safer workplaces, and providing support for small and medium sized employers. HSE says key initiatives include 'the industry developing its own leadership standards, publishing new training materials on successful worker involvement, and work with customers to use their leverage to promote improved competence.' Graeme Walker, HSE's waste and recycling lead, said: 'This is a really important development in the drive for improved health and safety in the waste and recycling sector - it shows the industry's unequivocal commitment to reducing the number of people killed, injured or made unwell. We know from our experience in other sectors, such as construction, that long-term sustainable improvements rely on strong industry leadership and that is what we are seeing here.' Between 2004/5 and 2011/12, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) received reports of 97 workers and 19 members of the public being fatally injured - and 3,722 employees suffering major injuries - in waste and recycling activities, making it one of Britain's most dangerous sectors.
Firm fined for skip lorry death
A Sheffield company that crushes rubble from construction and demolition waste has been fined £300,000 after an employee was killed by an overturning skip lorry in Derbyshire. David Vickers, 37, of Walton, near Chesterfield, died on 22 July 2008 when the skip lorry he was driving flipped and landed on top of him. Derby Crown Court heard he had exited the cab of the truck he was driving to deploy the stabilising rear outriggers before raising a skip using the lifting arms. However, as he did so the vehicle overturned and landed on top of him. He died at the scene. A subsequent investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the skip was mis-hooked, with the hooks engaging on the lip of a base plate rather than a catch bar, the correct part of the skip. This meant that it tipped normally until reaching an angle of approximately 70 degrees, at which point it broke free and swung out backwards causing the front of the vehicle to lift several feet off the ground. The offside outrigger retracted causing the lorry to tip over. Adis Scaffolding Limited, which is now in liquidation, pleaded guilty to a criminal safety offence and was fined £300,000 and ordered to pay £124,468 in costs. HSE inspector Edward Walker said: 'The failings by Adis Scaffolding Limited were substantial, ranging from unsuitable equipment, an inadequate risk assessment, inadequate training and instruction, and an absence of safe systems of work.' He added: 'These failings led to a situation where things went badly wrong, and where David was placed in an impossible situation. His tragic death could easily have been avoided with better planning, management and foresight.' As a result of the incident HSE issued an industry-wide safety alert highlighting the dangers of incorrect engagement of hooks on skips.
Recycling worker crushed between two trucks
A Bolton company has been convicted of a criminal safety offence after a driver suffered serious injuries when he was crushed between two trucks at a recycling plant. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuted DS Smith Paper Ltd after the incident at the Severnside site. The company was sentenced at Manchester Crown Court on 11 June 2013. The 61-year-old worker, who asked not to be named, suffered fractured ribs, a fractured right collar bone, a punctured right lung and multiple bruising after being crushed between his own HGV and another vehicle on 26 February 2010. During a four-day trial at Manchester Crown Court in May, the jury heard the worker had emptied his load of paper and had got out of his truck to close its rear doors, using two buttons on the side of the vehicle. As he did this, another truck reversed into the warehouse through a separate doorway and trapped him between the vehicles. There were no barriers in the tipping shed to separate vehicles entering through different doors, and the supervisor wasn't present to indicate whether it was safe for drivers to enter the site. DS Smith Paper Ltd was found guilty of breaching the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 by failing to make sure the site was safe for vehicles and pedestrians. The company was fined £80,000 and ordered to pay £49,822 in prosecution costs.
Children face a greater risk from asbestos exposure
A heavyweight government scientific advisory committee has concluded that children are far more vulnerable to asbestos exposure than adults. The Committee on Carcinogenicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment (CoC) was asked for advice on the relative vulnerability of children to asbestos to inform discussions of the Department for Education's Asbestos in Schools Steering Group. In findings published last week, CoC concludes '... it is well recognised by this committee that, due to the increased life expectancy of children compared to adults, there is an increased lifetime risk of mesothelioma as a result of the long latency period of the disease. Because of differences in life expectancy, for a given dose of asbestos the lifetime risk of developing mesothelioma is predicted to be about 3.5 times greater for a child first exposed at age 5 compared to an adult first exposed at age 25 and about 5 times greater when compared to an adult first exposed at age 30.' In the light of the findings, the Asbestos in Schools Group (AiS) and the Joint Union Asbestos Committee (JUAC) repeated their call for an independent review of government policies. They say the review 'must be an honest and open assessment of policies and must not be manipulated to justify present policies. Once the review is complete the government must delay no longer, and must urgently implement measures that really do make our schools safe from the dangers of asbestos.' JUAC chair Julie Winn said: 'The fact that children are more vulnerable to asbestos makes schools unique workplaces as they contain large numbers of children. The knowledge and science in terms of intrinsic susceptibility is incomplete. Children cannot control their exposure and they do not assume the risk voluntarily.' She added: 'Any policy approach that adopts anything other than a precautionary approach is socially and morally unacceptable. Where there is uncertainty policy should err on the side of health and safety and a precautionary approach should be taken. An independent review of government policy is long overdue.'
- Committee on Carcinogenicity (COC) Statement on the relative vulnerability of children to asbestos compared to adults, June 2013. JUAC news release. ATL news release. NUT news release. ITV News.
Mum dies from asbestos cancer that killed her dad
A mother-of-three who contracted cancer from childhood cuddles with her father in his asbestos-covered overalls has died. Debbie Brewer, 53, spent seven years battling mesothelioma, an incurable asbestos-related cancer. She was exposed to asbestos welcoming her father Phillip Northmore home after he finished work as an asbestos lagger at the Royal Navy's Devonport dockyard in Plymouth. Mr Northmore died from asbestos-related lung cancer at the age of 68 in 2006. Three months after his death, Ms Brewer was diagnosed with mesothelioma herself. The following year she was awarded six-figure compensation by the Ministry of Defence who owned the dockyard when her father worked there and admitted liability. As her illness progressed she became a tireless asbestos campaigner for an asbestos ban and for better research into the disease. She launched a highly regarded 'Mesothelioma and me' blog to offer support to other sufferers.
China: Deadly fire shows why workers need unions
A fire earlier this month that killed 120 workers behind locked doors at a poultry plant in northeast China (Risks 608) highlights the need for independent unions to protect workers, the global union for the food sector has said. IUF points out that the factory had earlier been praised by the Chinese government for its 'innovative approach' to poultry processing and was recognised as a 'top 100' agricultural firm in Jilin Province. 'Most reports have focused on corrupt state officials' cosy relationship with business at the expense of worker and product safety and environmental degradation,' IUF said. 'But state officials and employers will tolerate dangerous workplaces as long as workers are not free to organise collectively for workplace safety. The root cause of the Baoyuanfeng fire and other workplace tragedies lies in the denial of workers' rights to form independent trade unions, their sole means for exercising human rights at the workplace.' IUF added: 'Unless and until Chinese workers secure this right, workplace tragedies will continue. Poultry workers globally suffer the consequences of fierce employer opposition. The industry is plagued with low wages, intense line speeds, high rates of repetitive strain and other injuries and extreme exploitation of a vulnerable workforce which is often heavily reliant on migrant labour. Consumers concerned about the quality and safety of the product should look to remedying these conditions by supporting efforts to build strong independent unions empowered to negotiate and enforce strict safety standards.'
Global: Chemical safety laws really work
Two new academic papers have concluded chemical safety regulations can be highly effective in reducing the risks to workers and the related disease toll. A US study looking at the impact of a Toxics Use Reduction Act (TURA) in Massachusetts found that reported use of known or suspected carcinogens by industries in the state declined 32 per cent from 1990 to 2010 while releases to the environment declined 93 per cent from 1991 to 2010. Michael Ellenbecker, director of the Toxics Use Reduction Institute (TURI) created alongside the act to work with businesses to reduce chemical risks, said: 'These significant reductions show that when companies are required to examine their use of a toxic chemical, many find ways to use it more efficiently, while many others find options for replacing it with a safer substitute chemical or process.' Use of chemicals associated with lung cancer, the biggest occupational cancer killer, decreased 29 per cent while releases to the environment decreased 77 per cent. TURI's Rachel Massey, one of the authors of the report, concluded: 'Continued work to minimise the use of carcinogens in manufacturing and services can help to reduce the burden of cancer in Massachusetts and beyond. Reducing our exposure to chemical carcinogens in our workplaces, our environment and in our consumer products is one component of a comprehensive strategy to prevent cancer.' A second paper looking at the impact of chemical control laws in Europe, including the REACH regulations, concluded 'that the prevention of environmental exposure that is or may be related to cancer should become an integral part of cancer policies and cancer control programmes.' The paper published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health notes: 'With the precautionary principle and that of physical-chemical hygiene in mind, the European regulations discussed in this article prove to be important steps towards a healthier living environment.'
- TURI news release and executive summary and full report, Opportunities for Cancer Prevention: Trends in the Use and Release of Carcinogens in Massachusetts, TURI, June 2013.
- Cathy Rigolle and others. How effective is the European legislation regarding cancer-related chemical agents? Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, volume 67, number 7, pages 539-541, 2013 [abstract].
Global: Gap joins Walmart in race to the bottom
The decision by US clothing retailer Gap to join Walmart in a non-binding and unenforceable 'Bangladesh safety programme' has been condemned by unions worldwide. The two retail giants have ignored calls to join the global Bangladesh Fire and Safety Building Accord that has already been welcomed by the ILO and OECD and signed by more than 40 US, Canadian and European brands. Sharan Burrow, ITUC general secretary, said: 'Gap and Walmart are now unfortunate bedfellows in a public relations effort that aims to protect their business model rather than Bangladeshi workers. Their refusal to join the global, binding effort brings shame upon them.' Walmart and Gap have announced they are working on their own 'safety programme' with some employer lobby groups and the US Bipartisan Policy Center, a think-tank of US political figures that 'works to address the key challenges' facing the USA. 'The Bipartisan Policy Center has a very strong track record on advocacy around US policy issues, but it doesn't seem to have any background on fire and building safety or on Bangladesh. Walmart and Gap have avoided any commitments and can simply step away from their own programme any time they choose,' said Burrow. 'Three weeks ago Walmart said its own unilateral plan would bring faster results than the global accord, yet now they are launching into a new programme with Gap, causing even greater confusion and uncertainty. Gap said earlier that they were close to signing the global accord, but in the end didn't want anything legally-binding.'
- ITUC news release. Joint statement by AFL-CIO and ChangetoWin. OECD news release. ILO news release. IndustriALL news release. UNI news release.
Global: Key scientists in asbestos 'crime-fraud' probe
A series of academic papers used by the asbestos industry in a bid to frustrate compensation claims from workers suffering deadly diseases were potentially part of a 'crime-fraud', a US court has found. The articles, financed by Georgia-Pacific, were intended to cast doubt on the capability of chrysotile asbestos to cause cancer. In a unanimous decision, five judges of a New York Appeal Court ruled on 6 June that Georgia-Pacific must allow an in-camera (private) review of documents and raw data related to eleven published research studies, funded by Georgia-Pacific, concerning the health effects of the company's asbestos-containing joint compound. The appellate court rejected Georgia-Pacific's argument that the documents were protected by attorney-client privilege and should therefore not be disclosed. The five judges noted that the crime-fraud exception encompasses 'a fraudulent scheme, an alleged breach of fiduciary duty or an accusation of some other wrongful conduct'. The court noted that the studies were intended to cast doubt on the capability of chrysotile asbestos to cause cancer and that the authors did not disclose that Georgia-Pacific's counsel participated in lengthy discussions of the manuscripts and suggested revisions. The articles, published in the journals Inhalation Toxicology, the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene, the Annals of Occupational Hygiene and Risk Analysis were untruthfully presented as being independent, bona fide research. The publisher of one of the journals, Inhalation Toxicology, has published an apology 'on behalf of the authors' relating to four of the papers identified by the appeal court. A prominent UK researcher sometimes used by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), Edinburgh University Professor Ken Donaldson, is a co-author of three of the papers. The statement and apology from the journal publisher notes 'Dr Donaldson has been listed as potential testifying expert witness by Georgia-Pacific'. In 2009, Professor Donaldson was appointed an honorary principal scientist at the Institute of Occupational Medicine.
Events and Courses
HSE recruiting inspectors
The HSE is currently recruiting inspectors in Aberdeen/Inverness, Sheffield, Nottingham/Northampton, London, Bedford, Basingstoke and Chelmsford. The TUC is encouraging union health and safety representatives to apply where they feel they have the relevant skills. TUC Health and Safety head, Hugh Robertson said 'Union health and safety representatives can bring to the job both experience and a knowledge of the workplace and I hope that some will consider applying and sharing the talents that they have developed during their time representing and protecting members.'
TUC courses for safety reps
COURSES FOR APRIL TO JULY 2013
- Visit the TUC www.tuc.org.uk/healthandsafety website pages on health and safety. You can also follow us on twitter at www.twitter.com/TUCHandS or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/TUChealthandsafety
- 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: 14 June, 2013