Risks 614 - 20 July 2013

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Asbestos - the hidden killer
Hazards magazine
Hazards at work

Risks is the TUC's weekly online bulletin for safety reps and others, read each week by over 23,000 subscribers. 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

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

Union News

Workers need protection from the heat

Sweltering workers struggling to cope in this summer's heat wave need legal protection, the TUC has said. The union body warns that because there is no maximum temperature for workplaces many workers are forced to work in conditions that are not only uncomfortable, but that could damage their health. Although workplace temperatures cannot legally fall below 16 degrees celsius, there is no upper limit. The TUC wants to see a maximum temperature of 30 degrees - or 27 degrees for those doing strenuous work - with employers asked to start thinking about cooling measures when the workplace temperature hits 24 degrees. Describing the absence of a maximum temperature a 'major omission' from the Approved Code of Practice (ACoP) to the workplace regulations, TUC says safety reps 'often find that employers refuse to accept arguments that they have to take action on high temperatures, but are far more likely to take action when it gets to cold. This is simply because there is a set figure in the Approved Code of Practice.' TUC says a Health and Safety Executive (HSE) consultation on possible revisions to the ACoP provide a 'perfect opportunity' to raise the issue. It says HSE's proposals 'have totally ignored the issue. So we will still have a minimum temperature but no maximum. This is despite over a decade of campaigning and research showing the scale of the problem.' Pointing out that potentially deadly health problems can arise from overheating at work, TUC is urging concerned individuals to call for a maximum workplace temperature in responses to the ACoP consultation. An Early Day Motion tabled this week by Labour MP Linda Riordan commends the TUC and says workers should be sent home by law when temperatures get higher than 30 degrees (86F) to prevent potentially fatal accidents. It adds those doing 'strenuous work' should be allowed to down tools when their workplace temperature reaches 27 degrees.

Cable to hold directors to account - sometimes

Government proposals to make company directors more accountable are 'complete double standards' that treat financial misconduct with far greater seriousness than the deadly safety abuses by those running firms, the TUC has charged. Business secretary Vince Cable this week proposed that the people responsible for failed companies should be personally liable for the firm's debts as part of an overhaul of company rules. Directors deemed to be reckless should be disqualified from being able to work at another firm, he added, with individual regulators allowed to disqualify directors in their particular industries. The business secretary announced the proposals in a speech at the London Stock Exchange at an event on 'Responsible Capitalism', marking the publication a related government discussion paper on 'Transparency and Trust'. The TUC, though, said the government's failure to support health and safety duties on directors, despite these having broad-based support, showed the government's blindspot when it comes to protecting health and safety at work. The discussion document makes repeated references to the 'safety and stability' and 'safety and soundness' of firms, but ignores the safety of those working for the firms. TUC head of safety Hugh Robertson commented: 'This is complete double standards. Successive governments have refused to introduce exactly this legal requirement for health and safety offences, but are now doing so for financial offences. While we welcome this proposal, what does it say about a society that puts financial misconduct above protecting the lives of those at work?'

NUJ action call as EDL 'thugs' threaten journalist

Members of the English Defence League have been strongly condemned for harassment and threats of violence targeted at a young reporter. Sarah Marshall, a trainee reporter on the Doncaster Free Press, was threatened on the Casuals United website over an incident at an EDL rally in Sheffield six weeks ago. The website has a picture of her and the threat: 'If Miss Marshall is not dealt with we will be outside Doncaster Free Press until she is.' The site gave contact details for the paper. The EDL accused Sarah Marshall of ripping up flowers laid at Sheffield cenotaph in honour of drummer Lee Rigby. A video from the event has been posted on the site. But journalists' union the NUJ reports: 'Not only is the accusation incorrect, the woman in the video is not Sarah Marshall.' The trainee has been supported by her employer. She has been told to not to go to the paper's office for her safety. She is also receiving support from the NUJ. Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said: 'This is absolutely disgraceful. These thugs should be sought by the police and prosecuted. The NUJ will not tolerate these serious threats. This harassment of Sarah and other staff on the newspaper must be taken seriously. We are offering Sarah all the support we can.' She added: 'This is yet another example of the EDL's record of targeting the press. We know from experience that the EDL has attacked journalists and its members are capable of following up these threats. Attempts to prevent journalists working constitute a serious attack on press freedom and individual liberty; it must be dealt with.' The police have confirmed they are investigating a report of harassment.

Blood testing staff strike for safety

Hospital pathologists, who test blood samples and monitor blood transfusions, took strike action on 16 July at major hospitals in Leeds and Bradford. Unite said the dispute at St James's Hospital in Leeds, Leeds General Infirmary and Bradford Royal Infirmary is because there are no longer the staffing levels necessary to provide healthy work and a safe service for the public. The union said management plans could also mean cuts of £20,000 a year in staff pay. Pathology staff provide essential blood testing, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. A total of 140 staff are affected by the dispute. Unite regional officer Terry Cunliffe said: 'The trust is imposing new working patterns that put patients and staff safety in jeopardy in an attempt to save cash. There are insufficient staff to run these rotas, and existing staff will be forced to work excessive unsocial hours to the detriment of family life and health.' He added: 'We are asking for management to retract the imposition of these inadequate arrangements, due to come into force on 26 August, and negotiate with us to agree safe and robust arrangements which are workable and to maintain quality services. Our members are highly skilled professionals who have not taken this action lightly. We have already suspended our first strike day for four weeks to try and avoid this strike.'

Strike vote over firefighter pensions plan

Firefighters are to vote on strike action over an 'unworkable' pension scheme proposal they say could lead to thousands facing the sack as they get older. The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) decision to hold a strike vote after almost two years of negotiations was prompted when Westminster set a 12 July deadline for firefighters to accept the government proposals ? or face imposition of the changes. FBU general secretary Matt Wrack, commenting on the government's intention to bulldoze through changes in the retirement age for firefighters from 55 to 60 (Risks 596), said: 'Expecting large numbers of 60-year-olds to fight fires and rescue families is dangerous to the public and to firefighters. The government is simply ignoring the evidence about the physical demands of firefighting and has been unable to answer our concerns during two years of negotiations.' He added: 'None of us want a strike, but we cannot compromise on public and firefighter safety. We hope common sense prevails, and the government returns to the negotiating table.' A government review reported two-thirds of firefighters aged over 55 fail the fitness tests. The government has claimed that older firefighters would be moved to less physically demanding roles, but FBU research found only a 'handful' of redeployment opportunities in fire and rescue services, 'meaning mass sackings would be inevitable.' Alongside the changes to retirement age, the government is threatening significant reductions in firefighter pension benefits. Under the government plan, firefighters who retire or are forced out of work at age 55 will lose around 50 per cent of their pensions. The industrial action ballot will take place between 18 July and 29 August.

Spat over railway safety claims

Rail union RMT has accused the rail regulator of 'complacency' after it boasted about the rail system's safety record when the same report shows injuries to track workers have increased. The Office of Rail Regulation's latest safety report said Britain's railways are performing better than all other European railways in managing passenger and level crossing rail safety. But ORR director of railway safety, Ian Prosser, also noted: 'ORR's analysis shows there is considerable room for improvement in specific areas, such as planned track maintenance, management of civil structures and the safety of track workers. It is now essential the rail industry works as one to deliver an even safer railway.' The report revealed there had been an eight per cent worsening in track worker safety. RMT said the ORR report 'dripped with complacency'. General secretary Bob Crow told SHP, the magazine of the Institution for Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH): 'The fact is that it is the ORR that is demanding the cuts that are leading to the casualisation of safety-critical track work and the ushering in of a zero-hours culture. While our members are getting injured out on the railways at increasing frequency RMT's fight for a safe working environment goes on.' Last month RMT warned that savings of £2 billion over five years demanded by ORR couldn't be implemented without dire consequences for rail safety (Risks 609).

Mechanic escapes death in explosion horror

A heavy goods vehicle mechanic suffered life-threatening injuries after a makeshift heating system exploded at work. Unite member David Loade, 52, who worked at a transport depot in Gloucestershire, suffered severe burns to his face and hands after he was instructed to help his supervisor replace a 45-gallon drum being used to burn wood pellets. The drum was part of a makeshift heating system being used by his employer, Wincanton Group, after they failed to fix a boiler that had broken down three weeks earlier. David spent two weeks in intensive care following the incident in December 2010, which happened after he was instructed to replace a drum that had buckled from the heat. His supervisor attempted to use a blowtorch to cut the top off the drum but it exploded as soon as the flame touched the surface. An investigation showed that the drum had previously contained flammable liquid antifreeze. The flames engulfed David, who was standing a foot away. He was rushed to hospital in an air ambulance and spent two weeks in a critical condition. He required skin grafts and treatment for internal burns and also suffered damage to his vocal chords. Although Wincanton Group admitted primary liability, accepting that they had been in breach of health and safety regulations, it said David had contributed to the accident, a claim union solicitors say was never accepted or proved. David said: 'It was a long road to recovery and to be partly blamed for an accident caused by my employer's absolute failure to protect my safety was a bit hard to take.' He was awarded an undisclosed payout in a union-backed compensation case.

OTHER NEWS

TUC slams CBI's sick spin

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) had found workplace sickness absence is at a new record low, but has let itself down by regurgitating 'sickie' and other myths, the TUC has said. The employer lobby group CBI/Pfizer Absence and Workplace Health Survey found the average absence rate was 5.3 days in 2012, down from 6.5 days in 2010. According to the CBI survey of 153 managers, absence rates in the public and private sector were down to 6.9 (from 8.1) and 4.9 (from 5.9) days respectively. CBI said an estimated one in eight sick days were 'taken for non-genuine reasons, with one in five employers believing employees take 'sickies' as an occasional perk.' TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady responded: 'It is unfortunate that the report makes the claim that one in eight sick days are taken for 'non-genuine' reasons. This figure is based on the views of managers, gathered using an online survey open to all, rather than any hard evidence. In fact sickness absence is at an all-time low.' She added: 'Much of this is down to better management of sickness absence and joint working with unions. But the TUC has consistently warned about the effects on productivity of workers feeling obliged or pressurised to come into work when they are ill. There is evidence that this 'presenteeism' is a growing trend.' The union leader also queried CBI's claim that billions would be saved by bring public sector sickness absence rates in line with the private sector. 'The causes of such differences in sickness absence are well known - greater stress and more sick pay schemes in many public sector jobs. The private sector is more likely to expect the state to pick up the cost. Indeed, many public sector workers such as nurses and care workers are discouraged, or even prohibited from coming into work when they have minor infectious illnesses for fear of transmitting them to their vulnerable patients or clients.'

Dangers of toxic cocktails are under-estimated

New studies have highlighted the real and really under-estimated dangers of exposure to cocktails of chemicals at work. A team from the Institute for the Environment at Brunel University reviewed the scientific literature and found that commonly applied 'uncertainty factors' led to 'ill-founded' assurances about the effects are these mixtures. These factors are typically used to extrapolate toxicology results from laboratory animal studies to human populations, and are assumed to be conservative and to represent a worst-case scenario. But researchers make these assumptions 'without any consideration or little knowledge of the literature on the subject,' said lead author Olwenn Martin. The review, published in the journal Environmental Health, found no support for the 'urban myth' that the default uncertainty factor is over-conservative, she added. The study concludes that as a 'pragmatic interim measure' additional uncertainty factors should be used until the data gaps about toxicity, exposure and chemical-specific assessment factors can be determined. Martin says this would lead to a more protective system 'lowering authorised 'safe' levels, that should provide a commercial incentive to generate the missing data, at least for the chemicals for which exposure is estimated to be close to the derived 'safe' level.' A second study, from Texas Tech University, looked at exposures to low levels of both arsenic and oestrogen. Itfound that low doses of both chemicals together - even at levels low enough to be considered 'safe' for humans if they were on their own - can cause cancer in prostate cells. The combination of the two chemicals was almost twice as likely to create cancer in prostate cells, the research found. The study was published online in the journal The Prostate.

Hearing test saved man from nose cancer

A Kent pensioner has been awarded £70,000 damages after wood dust exposure caused his nasal cancer. Peter Spillett, 66, worked as a timberman for 25 years. He repaired wooden jetties, piers and wharfs - which meant he was inhaling dust every day. Mr Spillett worked for Mowlem Marine, now Carillion, from 1984 to 2009, repairing the wooden structures along the River Medway and the Thames Estuary. The compensation award came after a four-year legal battle. He was diagnosed with the disease after being persuaded by his family to visit his GP when they noticed he was having problems hearing. The visit saved his life because the resulting minor operation to correct his hearing revealed he had nasal cancer. 'When the cancer was discovered, my specialist said that if it had gone on untreated, it would have killed me within 12 months,' he said. 'We worked off a barge and cut damaged timbers out by chainsaw and if it was reusable, we cut it up on the boat into manageable sizes. There was a lot of sawing, planing, cutting and drilling of very old, very well-seasoned wood which created very fine dust that I inhaled.' His solicitor Pauline Chandler, an expert in industrial disease cases at the law firm Pannone, said people who develop nasal cancer 'do not realise that exposure to wood dust in the past may be the cause. People with this condition are, therefore, dependent on their doctors asking about their work history and advising them that there might be a connection with the work they did.'

MPs fear over HSE site safety shift

An anticipated move by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) which would remove the legal requirement on contractors to establish their sub-contractors are 'competent' has alarmed MPs. An early day motion tabled by Labour MP Jim Sheridan warns that 'the current review of the Construction Design and Management Regulations (CDM 2007) by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), planned for August 2013, will remove the reference to individual competence.' The motion 'recognises that the inclusion of competence in the CDM regulations is vital to ensure that the number of serious injuries and fatalities on construction sites are kept to a minimum' and adds the 'inclusion in the CDM regulations ensures that competence is extended to the supply chain relationships that are so vital in the construction industry.' He early day motion urges 'the government and HSE to consider retaining the reference, to ensure the principal contractor always has responsibility for checking all those working on a site are competent.'

Developer escapes jail over asbestos crimes

A property developer who exposed workers to asbestos has been given an eight-month suspended prison sentence and been ordered to pay fines and costs of £100,000. Nottingham Crown Court heard that James Roger Carlton, 64, ignored the presence of asbestos insulation board at the site of the former King Edward VI School in Retford. He knew the potentially dangerous material formed part of the pre-fabricated buildings on the site, but ignored advice on its safe removal. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) visited the school, which was being converted into a retirement complex, on 1 March 2012 during a construction safety initiative. An inspector identified the type of building which is known to contain asbestos, and gave Carlton advice on what he needed to do to comply with the law on its removal. Eight days later, a complaint was received by HSE from a member of the public advising that the asbestos was not being removed properly. Carlton, trading as Heathcliff Developments, was told to have surveys carried out and to arrange for the licensed removal of the material. However, when inspectors re-visited the site they found building rubble containing asbestos. A prohibition notice was immediately served to stop all work. HSE inspectors made a third unannounced visit and found workers in breach of the prohibition notice. Two workers were putting asbestos insulation board into a lockable skip and 'dry sweeping' the dust, which resulted in large clouds of contaminated dust billowing across the site. The court heard that although employees had been wearing disposable overalls and face masks, no other controls were in place so not enough was done to protect them from the risk of exposure. Carlton, also known as Roger Stephen Parry, pleaded guilty to 12 criminal safety breaches at an earlier hearing. He was sentenced to eight months in prison, suspended for two years, for the breach of the prohibition notice. He was also fined £55,000 and ordered to pay a further £45,000 in costs.

Scaffolding firm sentenced over worker's death

A scaffolding firm has been ordered to pay more than £100,000 in fines and costs following the death of an employee who plunged 13 metres through the roof of a Skelmersdale warehouse. Tony Causby, 42, was helping to dismantle scaffolding when he stepped onto a fragile skylight and fell to the floor below. Atherton-based S&S Scaffolding Ltd was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) for serious criminal safety breaches following an investigation into the incident at the warehouse on 14 December 2010. Liverpool Crown Court heard Mr Causby had helped to erect the scaffolding at the end of October ahead of work to replace damaged cladding and guttering on the roof. He returned to the site on 14 December as part of the dismantling team, although he was employed by S&S Scaffolding as a labourer rather than a scaffolder. Mr Causby had just returned to the roof with another labourer after his lunch break when he stepped on a skylight, which broke and gave way. He was taken to hospital where he was pronounced dead. The company had failed to arrange for covers to be put on the skylights nearest to where its employees were working to prevent them falling through. S&S Scaffolding Ltd pleaded guilty to a criminal safety breach and was fined £75,000 and ordered to pay £31,517 in prosecution costs. Mr Causby's partner, Debra Wyley, 44, said: 'It is difficult to put into words how Tony's death has affected our lives. I feel our son is missing out on so many things that his dad would have done with him, like football, rugby and taking him swimming.' She added: 'I started having panic attacks and wouldn't go out because I felt people were looking at me because of what had happened. I rarely go out to socialise and hate mixing with other families and attending family dos. I miss Tony so much. He was such a big part of our lives and was very close to my family.'

Fines over PC's work gunshot death

A police force and one of its officers have been fined for criminal health and safety failings that led to a constable being shot dead. PC Ian Terry, 32, was shot by a colleague during a firearms training session at a disused warehouse in Newton Heath, Manchester on 9 June 2008. As firearms officers were practising apprehending armed criminals in a car, Ian Terry was killed by the colleague using a shotgun. PC Terry was role-playing an armed criminal when he received severe injuries to his chest. He was pronounced dead at hospital. A training officer responsible for the course - who was referred to as Constable Francis during the trial to protect his identity - was found guilty of failing to protect his work colleague. Another firearms trainer, known as Sergeant Eric, was found not guilty. Greater Manchester Police pleaded guilty in March to failing to adequately monitor the training course. At Manchester Crown Court last week Greater Manchester Police was fined £166,666 and ordered to pay costs of £90,000. PC Francis was fined £2,000 with £500 costs. HSE principal inspector Mike Calcutt said the 'death was entirely preventable.'

Nurse traumatised by the job killed himself

A nurse was found hanged at his home after being traumatised by the job and a poorly handled accusation from a patient, an inquest heard. Christopher Milnes, 50, was fully exonerated of inappropriate contact with the female patient but at the inquest his family hit out at Morecambe Bay NHS Trust for taking so long to inform him he was in the clear. The false claim was made while Mr Milnes was working at the Royal Lancaster Infirmary in May 2012, however it was October before he was informed he had been cleared. He was found dead at home on 16 December. His brother, Ian Milnes, told the inquest that in the 18 months before his death, Christopher dealt with 'so much death and trauma' as a nurse while employed by an agency across the country, which caused him stress. This included the death of a child at the Royal Lancaster Infirmary. South and East Cumbria Coroner Ian Smith recorded a verdict that Mr Milnes died as a consequence of his own actions while suffering from stress. 'He was told there was no foundation in what was alleged but he was still stressed,' said Mr Smith. 'He was also stressed from the very traumatic events he had been party to as a nurse.' In a statement released to the Westmorland Gazette after the hearing, David Wilkinson, director of workforce and organisational development at Morecambe Bay NHS Trust, said it was 'regrettable that there was a delay in holding the meeting with Mr Milne to advise him that no further action would be taken.'

Recycling plant chops off finger

Two businesses have been prosecuted for safety failings after an employee's hand was caught in a saw, resulting in debilitating injuries. In a prosecution brought by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), Caerphilly Magistrates' Court heard that the 33-year-old man from Nantyglo was operating a saw to cut lengths of lead into smaller, more manageable pieces at the Jamestown Industries lead recycling plant in Ebbw Vale on 21 February 2012. The court heard that the man, an employee of Hertfordshire-based Envirowales - the company responsible for the day-to-day running of Jamestown Industries - tried to dislodge a piece of lead which had become jammed, believing the saw blade was fully retracted and out of reach. However, his right hand made contact with the blade, severing his third finger. He was taken to Morriston hospital, where he had his finger amputated above the second knuckle. The saw had also gone through the tendons and artery of his middle finger. The employee, who asked not to be named, returned to work four months after the incident but has difficulty picking up small items and his grip is poor. He also experiences aches and constant pins and needles in his hand. An HSE investigation found that the employee was not supervised at the time of the incident and there was no experienced operator working with him. Envirowales Ltd and Jamestown Industries Ltd both pleaded guilty to a criminal safety offence and were fined £4,000 in total and ordered to pay costs of £8,600 - both to be split equally between Envirowales and Jamestown.

International News

Bangladesh: New labour law 'falls short'

Amendments to Bangladesh's labour law make some improvements but still fall far short of protecting worker's rights and meeting international standards, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW). It says donors and international investors should press the government of Bangladesh to make further amendments to the law 'to fully ensure workers' rights to form unions, bargain collectively, and participate in workplace decisions on safety.' Under domestic and international pressure after April's catastrophic Rana Plaza textile factory collapse, on the Bangladeshi parliament this week enacted the changes to the Labor Act. 'The Bangladesh government desperately wants to move the spotlight away from the Rana Plaza disaster, so it's not surprising it is now trying to show that it belatedly cares about workers' rights,' said Phil Robertson, deputy director at HRW Asia. 'This would be good news if the new law fully met international standards, but the sad reality is that the government has consciously limited basic workers' rights while exposing workers to continued risks and exploitation.' Echoing concerns raised by unions, HRW said it believes the changes will leave union leaders vulnerable to victimisation and points out the law still includes some serious restrictions on its coverage, notably retaining a ban on unions in the export processing zones and imposing limits on industrial action. HRW is also concerned that 'participation committees' and 'safety committees' duplicate roles that 'should be handled by a union acting as the duly organised and elected representative of the workers.' Robertson warns: 'The government has not only missed a golden opportunity to get rid of provisions that limit workers' rights, it has even snuck into the law new and harmful regulations. Even after Rana Plaza, the government still is not fully committed to the protection of workers' rights and safety.' Over 1,100 garment workers died in the April disaster.

China: Dust activist pays for double-lung transplant

Four years ago, a young Chinese migrant worker, Zhang Haichao, came to global prominence after voluntarily undergoing surgery to prove he was suffering from the deadly occupational lung disease pneumoconiosis (Risks 441). Zhang used his experiences to highlight the plight of dust exposed workers in China. This year his condition worsened markedly and on 28 June he underwent a life-saving double lung transplant. 'I don't know when I can be discharged exactly. The hospital has been taking great care of me, asking me to only check out when I'm better,' said Zhang, who like many other developed disabling lung scarring from his job at Zhendong Abrasive Materials Co Ltd. After paying for the operation, he is left with just 300,000 yuan (£32,000) of the secretly negotiated 1.2 million yuan (£128,000) compensation payment he received. 'My medical expenses, plus the school fees for my daughter Qiqi, will amount to around 100,000 yuan a year,' he said. Zhang said that the reason he decided to come clean about the actual level of compensation was because 'hopefully this this can now become the national standard for pneumoconiosis compensation, and that every worker with pneumoconiosis will get a second chance at life, and give their families a little more security.' He vowed to continue helping other workers with pneumoconiosis the best he can. 'They are miserable and I cannot turn my back on them,' he said.

Global: So much for 'safe' asbestos use

More than 800 tons of asbestos from Russia were 'dumped' eight months ago at the Mexican Gulf coast port of Veracruz, after an importer failed to pay storage fees. Russia, which now fronts the global asbestos lobby, claims asbestos exports should continue because the carcinogenic fibre is used safely in its destination countries (Risks 605). Top markets for asbestos are in Asia and Latin America. In its front-page story, the Reforma newspaper said the abandoned material was imported by the Mexalit company, which makes construction materials. The product was put in storage in Veracruz in October 2012, when Mexalit asked a transport company to keep it at the port because its warehouses were full. But the transport company filed a complaint this year with the Veracruz state Attorney General's Office, citing Mexalit's failure to pay the storage, the paper reports. The asbestos was subsequently unloaded in the port's Supply Centre loading zone. Reforma said the material is now being handled with little protection by the Supply Centre's workers and remains outdoors, with its packing deteriorating and with no measures to stop fibres drifting into the air and into local communities in the densely populated area. In May the Russian government, backed by six other producer nations, vetoed the addition of chrysotile asbestos to the UN Rotterdam Convention's list of hazardous substances that require exporters to obtain 'prior informed consent', alerting importers to the serious health risks linked to the product.

USA: Walmart - where the poor work until they die

Walmart, the world's biggest retailer, is facing public humiliation after its workers took to the web to expose its employment practices. The firm responded by using its internal Walmart One employee website to urge 'associates' to 'set the record straight' and publicise 'what makes you proud to be working at Walmart.' The retail giant's plea came in response to the blog Gawker, which has been running a critical series about Walmart. The Walmart attempt at face-saving triggered another deluge of postings to Gawker, from Walmart staff not so happy to work for the company. One said workers dare not criticise the company publicly 'because we're all afraid to get fired.' Others described having their working hours slashed, and as a result having to go days without food, failing to make their rent or having their homes repossessed. Another pleads for customers to understand the reality of a working life at Walmart. 'It would be easy to realise that we are human beings, working one of the most stressful jobs with absolutely no support, and have some compassion,' she told Gawker. 'We don't want to be where we are, and we all start out happy and cheerful and helpful; and then Walmart kills our souls, and breaks our spirit, and grinds us down. Walmart is where the poor go to work until they die.'

Resources

TUC 'Time for change' temperature bulletin

The latest in a series of bulletins to back up TUC's 'Time for change' health and safety manifesto deals with temperature at work. The factsheet looks at what the law says about temperature in the workplace and the recommended temperatures for different types of working environment.

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COURSES FOR SEPTEMBER TO DECEMBER 2013

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