TUC Risks 675 - 11 October 2014

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TUC Risks E-Bulletins

Number 675 - 11 October 2014​

Risks is the TUC's weekly online bulletin for safety reps and others. To receive this bulletin every week, click here. Past issues are available. Disclaimer and Privacy Editor: Rory O'Neill of Hazards magazine. Comments to the TUC at healthandsafety@tuc.org.uk.

Contents

UNION NEWS

OTHER NEWS

INTERNATIONAL NEWS

UNION NEWS

Union health and safety campaign delivers

The power of union organisation to swiftly sort our health and safety problems at work has been demonstrated by a UNISON health service branch. Workers at Royal Hospital in Belfast faced problems ranging from a lack of maintenance work, to leaking roofs and beautifully polished floors that were a huge slip hazard. UNISON says their employer, Eastern Health and Social Services Board Royal Group Hospitals - now the Belfast Trust - had little knowledge of health and safety law, but enjoyed crown immunity that protected it from being prosecuted. The local UNISON branch was intent on getting the problems sorted, and told management it wanted a joint health and safety committee. Local activists worked with other trade unions and in just three weeks the employer agreed to establish the committee. After the first meeting, roofs and floors were quickly sorted. UNISON safety reps then began to map the workplace and to instigate workplace safety inspections. They found back injuries were a ‘huge problem’ leading to many ill-health retirements. Union-led interventions subsequently reduced the toll to by 95 per cent. Concerns about poor disposal methods for sharps, which had resulted in needlestick injuries, led to policy changes and the introduction of safer systems. New safety gloves for members of the waste team also resulted in fewer workers suffering injuries. Closer liaison with union members helped inform improvements, and the number of staff covered by a risk assessment increased from 3 per cent to 98 per cent. UNISON reports that since the start of the organising campaign, outstanding compensation claims have been reduced by 70 per cent, “but more important is the reduction in accidents and ill-health retirement due to work related conditions.” The union notes safety reps from the branch have won awards for their role three times in the last seven years. The employer has also received health and safety awards.

UNISON news release.
 

Union concern as fatality probe is ruled out

A fatal accident inquiry (FAI) will not be held in to the deaths of three crewmen when the Flying Phantom tug boat sank on the River Clyde almost seven years ago. The decision came as the seafarers’ union Nautilus warned that the ‘light touch’ regulation of ports was leaving crews at deadly risk. The Crown Office said the decision not to call an FAI had been reached after full consultation with the families of those who died. However only last week lawyers for the families called for an inquiry (Risks 674). Scotland's top law officer, Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland, made the decision not to proceed, following the conclusion of separate criminal prosecutions against tug operator Svitzer Marine Ltd (Risks 631) and Clydeport Operations Limited. The Crown Office said the Lord Advocate was satisfied that the reasons for the tragedy have already been established through “a public examination of the full facts and circumstances of this case during the course of the criminal process.” The steps that could have prevented it have also been identified, officials added. Gary Aitken, head of the health and safety division of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, said: "Criminal proceedings are now at an end and the Lord Advocate has decided that a fatal accident inquiry is not required.” He added: “The convictions mark, in a very public way, the wrongdoing perpetrated by the companies over an extended period of time.” Allan Graveson, national officer of the seafarers’ union Nautilus, said: “After seven years, prosecution has resulted in the company Svitzer being fined £1.7 million and Clydeport £650,000.” But he warned weak official oversight allowed ports to “select the level of safety that suits their attitude to risk. This very human tragedy demonstrates the consequence of ‘light touch’ regulation by the authorities. When the regulator fails, seafarers pay with their lives and companies on their balance sheets.”

Crown Office decision. The Herald.

Government must heed the lessons of rail tragedy

Fifteen years after 31 lives were lost in the Ladbroke Grove rail disaster, rail union RMT has warned that government policy is dragging the railways closer to “the same poisonous cocktail of conditions” that lead to that tragedy on the morning of 5 October 1999. Hundreds were also injured when two trains collided. RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “Privatisation, fragmentation and a complete absence of corporate responsibility were at the heart of the Ladbroke Grove tragedy and now, in 2014, the government, through their McNulty Rail Review, are dragging us right back to that same toxic mix.” He added: “The proliferation of private agencies and contractors, often employing casual staff on zero hours contracts, and the opening of the way to privatise infrastructure in association with the greedy train companies is rapidly dragging us back to the edge.” The union leader warned: “If the government think that RMT will stand back while they ignore the lessons from the recent history on our railways then they should think again. RMT will use every tool at our disposal to both fight the current cuts and to demand the total renationalisation of our railways.” Marking the anniversary, Mick Whelan, general secretary of the train drivers’ union ASLEF, said “our thoughts are with the families of those who lost loved ones in at Ladbroke Grove and the railway and emergency services workers whose lives were affected.”

RMT news release. ASLEF news release.

Painful twist leads to injury compensation

A poorly planned job led to a Gloucester factory worker suffering a painful wrist injury. Unite member Terry Behan and a colleague were tasked with replacing old pipework on an oil tank. But after removing the old material, the Oil Tank Supplies Limited employees realised they had been given the wrong metal rings to connect the new pieces of pipe. This meant they couldn’t complete the job and had to reconnect the old pipework. As Terry picked up the end of the pipe, one of the metal rings twisted and fell, causing him to drop the pipe, which was too heavy for even two people to handle. The 53-year-old suffered a traumatic twisting injury to his left wrist, which exacerbated pre-existing problems with the ligaments and tendons in his joint. Lawyers brought in by the union found Oil Tank Supplies Limited had failed to carry out a risk assessment of the site, and hadn’t taken into account that the two factory operatives had to carry out the work in the rain, which meant that there was a greater risk of injury. The wrist injury sustained by Terry was so serious it required surgery and resulted in six weeks off work. After being awarded a £12,000 compensation payout in a union-backed case, Terry said: “The team sent to fix a pipe eight metres long, which was extremely heavy, was not sufficient. We were expected to work in treacherous weather conditions and didn't have the right equipment to fix the pipe in the first place!” Unite’s Laurence Faircloth said: “Workplace safety regulations are put in place to protect individuals from harm… Terry and his colleague should not have been sent to complete work that quite obviously required more than two people.”

Thompsons Solicitors news release. Gloucester Citizen.

OTHER NEWS

Court rules asbestos payout cut is illegal

Government plans to deduct legal fees from the damages paid to people dying from an asbestos cancer are unlawful, the High Court has ruled. The Asbestos Victims’ Support Groups Forum UK (AVSGF) brought the action against justice secretary Chris Grayling. The group challenged his decision to allow 25 per cent of damages awarded to mesothelioma sufferers to be used to pay legal insurance premiums and costs. The case came after the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) tried to use the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders (Laspo) Act 2012 to make claimants diagnosed with the asbestos-related condition mesothelioma contribute to costs. Mesothelioma, an inevitably fatal asbestos cancer, had an exemption for the provision, which a section of the Act said could not be overturned without a formal government consultation. At the High Court this week, Mr Justice William Davis declared that a consultation exercise carried out by the MoJ last year was inadequate. He said: “The issue is whether [the justice secretary, Chris Grayling] conducted a proper review of the likely effect of the Laspo reforms on mesothelioma claims. I conclude that he did not.” The Association of British Insurers (ABI) intervened in the court action in support of the government. AVSGF had earlier this year accused ABI and ministers of conspiring to agree the transfer of costs from insurers to victims (Risks 659). This costs shift to cancer victims was criticised in a July report from the Commons justice committee (Risks 666). The successful judicial review challenge was brought by AVSGF chair Tony Whitston. After the court victory, he called on the government to “see this judgment as an opportunity to take a new approach based on justice for victims of big financial institutions. The old plans were rooted in a culture of secret deals with insurers and flawed consultations which excluded the victims of asbestos. Now is the time for a change.” The MoJ said it was considering the ruling.

AVSGF news release. Leigh Day and Co news release. IBAS news report. Law Gazette. The Guardian. BBC News Online.

Push for killer bosses to face life in jail

Top company bosses responsible for workplace deaths could face being jailed for life under proposals to reform Scotland’s law on culpable homicide. Richard Baker, the Labour MSP for north-east Scotland, will this month put forward a bill to make deadly employers more accountable. He said: “It is long-established that Scots law is not adequately equipped to prosecute employers and managers whose negligence in the workplace results in people losing their lives.” The MSP is reviving an attempt for a tougher law on corporate culpable homicide first put forward by Karen Gillon, a former Labour MSP for Clydesdale (Risks 270). She shelved her union-supported bill in the expectation Westminster was to introduce legislation. But the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 made companies, not directors, liable for fatalities caused by negligence. Pat Rafferty, the Scottish secretary of the union Unite, is supporting the new measure. He said: “We are repeatedly seeing the failings of a toothless, protracted and non-transparent justice system.” Patrick McGuire, a partner at Thompsons Solicitors, said: “A new corporate homicide Bill enacted by Holyrood will give the Crown Office a very powerful measure to deal with big businesses which put profit before the safety of their employees.” Neil Carberry of the employers’ organisation CBI said he was opposed to the plan “as directors may shy away from a shared responsibility for health and safety performance, in favour of one designated director who would face all the risk.”

The Herald.

Deadly BP cost cutter to head UK Civil Service

A former oil executive criticised for his role in a deadly BP refinery explosion, and whose last oil company was fined over 50 health and safety violations connected with fracking, has been appointed the first chief executive of the Civil Service. Earlier this year John Manzoni was appointed to lead the government's Major Projects Authority (MPA), following his former BP boss Lord Browne into the Cabinet Office (Risks 641). He is due to start his new role as civil service chief on 13 October, with a salary of £190,000 a year. The government said: “John Manzoni was chosen following an external competition which highlighted his proven track record in running large, complex, commercial organisations and his reputation for creative strategic thinking and a focus on results.” Announcing the appointment, David Cameron said Manzoni’s private sector experience put him in the “perfect position to accelerate the pace” of civil service reform, including further cost-cutting in Whitehall. While at BP, an internal company report published in 2007 found Manzoni should be held accountable for the Texas City refinery blast that killed 15 people and injured 170 (Risks 330). He resigned from the company shortly after publication of the report, which criticised Manzoni’s focus on results and the company’s related cost-cutting measures. He then took up a role as chief executive at Talisman Energy, a company heavily engaged in fracking in the US. In July 2012 Talisman agreed penalties of more than $60,000 for alleged violations in reporting hazardous chemicals at 52 sites in Pennsylvania. Manzoni left his Talisman post shortly after. Another BP old boy hand-picked by the prime minister is at the heart of the UK’s safety regulatory system. Former BP Alaska and North Sea chief John Morgan was appointed by David Cameron last year to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) board. Like former BP colleagues Lord Brown and John Manzoni, Morgan has been criticised in reports and the courts for corner-cutting on safety.

Prime Minister’s Office news release. The Independent.

New chopper rules for 'larger' offshore workers

New rules are to be introduced on the size of oil workers travelling to and from offshore installations by helicopter. Passengers with a shoulder width of 22 inches or more will be classed as "extra broad" and will have to sit next to a similarly large helicopter window. It follows a Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) review of helicopter safety. The changes come after a study revealed the average oil worker had risen in weight by close to 20 per cent over the past 30 years. There were concerns that size had become a risk factor in helicopter incidents, with larger workers finding it harder to leave helicopters during emergencies due to the size of the exits. Now those classed as "extra broad" will have to sit next to a window with a diagonal width of at least 22 inches. The offshore safety body Step Change in Safety said at least 25 per cent of helicopter windows meet the new criteria. It said there would be ongoing discussion about how, when and where passengers would be measured. Les Linklater, team leader for Step Change in Safety, said: “The safety of the offshore workforce is our absolute priority and we believe this measurement criteria and strategy is the safest and simplest route to take.” The move follows other changes to the helicopter safety regime - including strict new clothing rules for passengers introduced last week. Critics have argued that it wasn’t the size of workers that caused helicopters to crash, it was mechanical problems and adverse weather conditions. They say more emphasis should have been placed on the choice and maintenance of helicopters and on the conditions in which flights take place. Offshore union Unite, which is running a Back Home Safe campaign, has called for a public inquiry into offshore helicopter safety (Risks 651).

Step Change in Safety news release. BBC News Online.

Network Rail chief slams ‘unacceptable’ safety levels

The workforce safety standard on the railways “is simply unacceptable”, according to Network Rail head Mark Carne. The chief executive, who took up his post in April, told trade paper Railnews: “Over the last five years, 10 of our employees or contractors have lost their lives in work-related accidents. In 2013-14 there were three fatalities and 122 major injuries, an increase of 17 per cent on the previous year.” He added: “These accident rates have been remarkably stubborn over the past few years, which is why we need a fresh approach that puts safety back at the heart of what we do and the mindset we have.” He told Railnews that compared with other ‘safety critical’ industries like oil and gas, Network Rail’s current level of workforce safety “is simply unacceptable”. The chief executive’s comments came after the Office of Rail Regulation reported in July that incidents involving track maintenance workers were at their highest level for seven years, with three deaths, 79 major injuries and 1,641 reported minor injuries (Risks 664). Commenting at the time, Mick Cash, general secretary of the rail union RMT, said the statistics were “shocking and shameful” and said those responsible should be “hanging their heads in shame as they have blood on their hands.” He warned “the catalogue of death and injuries on our railways, among both staff and passengers, will continue to increase” unless the government’s cuts programme is reversed.

Railnews.

Workers are taking fewer sick days

Employers say the number of days taken as sick leave have fallen from an average of 7.6 days last year to 6.6 days this year. The survey report, from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), found that more of those days off were being used to care for other people, such as elderly relatives. But the CIPD also suggested that the fall in days off taken as sick did not mean workers were fitter now. It points to an increase in presenteeism, with more people attending work while sick. A third of employers said employees had struggled in to work before fully recovering from illness. Stress and mental health problems in the workplace also remain high, with over 40 per cent of employers citing an increase, despite signs of economic recovery. The CIPD survey also found 70 per cent of employers believed absence levels can be reduced further, signalling a need for an overhaul of well-being policies. Absence levels remain higher overall in the public sector, with 7.9 days per year taken as sick leave, compared with 5.5 in the private sector. One reason put forward by the CIPD to explain the difference is the high numbers of public sector workers such as teachers, nurses and social workers, who are face-to-face with large numbers of people. Such jobs increase exposure to contagious diseases.

CIPD news release, related blog posting and CIPD/Simplyhealth Absence Management survey. BBC News Online. The Guardian.

Stressed social workers on the brink of quitting

The stress of “sharing people's misery”, increasing workloads and a lack of resources mean many social workers want to quit the profession, a survey has found. Nearly one in 10 UK social workers had considering leaving the job, with over a fifth of these blaming stress or unmanageable caseloads. Community Care magazine and recruitment firm TMP surveyed 2,100 social workers and carried out 20 in-depth interviews. It found 8 per cent were looking to leave the profession. Of those looking to leave social work, 23 per cent said the job was too stressful or affecting their health while 20 cent cited high caseloads. Others talked of too much paperwork (17 per cent), not spending enough time with clients (14 per cent) and the impact of budget cuts (12 per cent). Even those not intending to leave social work said the stress of the job is taking its toll, with 94 per cent saying there is more day to day pressure on social workers than ever before. The survey highlights the combined toll of high workloads and “emotional labour”, long recognised by experts as a major contributor to stress in caring occupations.

Community Care. BBC News Online.

Unguarded drill cost worker his fingertip

A West Midlands fabrications company has been fined after an employee lost the tip of his finger in an unguarded drill. Black Country Magistrates’ Court heard the 32-year-old man, from Dudley, was drilling holes into metal components at H&H Alloy Sales Ltd when the incident happened on 18 December 2013. As he pushed a piece of metal which was not moving properly, his hand shot across it and his middle finger became caught on the drill bit. His glove became entangled so he was unable to pull it out. He had to have the tip of his middle finger amputated and was off work for three months. However, when he returned in March this year, he suffered considerable discomfort and surgeons decided to amputate the finger further, to the first joint. He only returned to work in September. A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found the company had a documented safe system of work for the drill which included use of the guard. However, at some point the guard had been removed. H&H Alloy Sales Ltd was fined £13,000 and ordered to pay costs of £1,391 after pleading guilty to a criminal safety offence. HSE inspector Judith Lloyd said: “It was reasonably practicable to guard the drill and it had in fact been guarded in the past. Wearing gloves without an appropriate guard significantly increased the risk of entanglement, something the company had been provided with advice on during a previous inspection.” She added: “Following the incident the job was completed on a programmable automatic drilling machine which begs the question, why didn’t the company use this method from the start? If it had, a man would have been spared a painful injury.”

HSE news release and work equipment webpages. Birmingham Mail.

Another drill, another glove, another injury

A Macclesfield manufacturer has been fined for criminal safety failings after a worker’s hand became entangled around a factory drill. Stormguard Ltd, which produces drainage products, was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after an investigation found it had ignored warnings by its own health and safety officer about how the machine was being used. Macclesfield Magistrates’ Court heard the 36-year-old worker, who has asked not to be named, had only been working at the factory for a couple of weeks when the incident happened on 16 October 2012. He was using the drill to produce metal sills when the glove on his right hand became caught, pulling his hand around the rotating drill bit. The third finger on his right hand was dislocated and fractured, and his little finger was also fractured. The HSE investigation found that the guard on the drill was inadequate and that it had become common practice for workers to wear gloves while using the drill, despite the risk of gloves becoming entangled being well known in the manufacturing industry. The court was told that Stormguard’s own health and safety officer had identified inadequate guarding on the drill in a written report over a year before the incident. He also raised the issue of workers wearing gloves while using drills. However, no action was taken to tackle these issues. Stormguard Ltd was fined £2,000 and ordered to pay £4,377 in prosecution costs after pleading guilty to a criminal health and safety offence. HSE inspector Deborah Walker said: “There’s absolutely no point in manufacturers hiring health and safety officers if they’re not going to listen to their advice. Risk assessments should be acted on – not put on a shelf to gather dust.”

HSE news release and manufacturing webpages.

Agency worker loses arm at recycling firm

A waste recycling firm in Scotland has been fined for serious safety failings after an agency worker severed his left arm at the shoulder while clearing a conveyor belt blockage. Steven Dawson, then aged 28, was working as a line supervisor for Lowmac Alloys Ltd at its premises in Irvine, when the incident happened on 8 February 2011. Kilmarnock Sheriff Court heard that Mr Dawson was separating plastic and paper by hand on the conveyor belt when he was alerted to a problem with the conveyor belt and noticed a metal container had caught on the edge of the conveyor belt’s pulley. He opened an unsecured hinged guard to access the blockage, but when he attempted to remove the container his left hand and arm came into contact with the moving belt and the bottom of the pulley – resulting in his arm being severed at the shoulder. On hearing his screams, one of his colleagues pulled the ‘stop cord’ that was fitted along the conveyor to switch off the machinery. Doctors were unable to reattach his arm. Over the following weeks he underwent two operations and has been told he needs further surgery to repair the nerves in his shoulder. The young agency worker still suffers from considerable pain and has been unable to return to work. Lowmac Alloys Ltd was fined £118,000 after pleading guilty to two criminal safety offences. HSE inspector Mark Carroll said: “This incident was entirely preventable. Lowmac Alloys Ltd had identified there was a high risk of crushing and trapping in the machinery, however, the company failed to provide interlocking guarding to the gate over the conveyor which would have cut power to the machinery when it was opened.” The firm was fined £80,000 in 2011 after a worker was crushed between two skips and seriously injured (Risks 519).

HSE news release. STV News.

Tree surgeon seriously injured in 18 metre fall

A tree surgeon dislocated his hip after falling more than 18 metres to the ground when the limb of a diseased tree gave way. Daniel Hunt, 40, also suffered cuts and bruising in the incident in Cheltenham on 18 April 2013. He was helping to cut down a damaged chestnut tree that had shed another limb a few days earlier. Richard Cole, who contracted self-employed Mr Hunt to do the work, was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after an investigation found the work was poorly planned. Stroud Magistrates’ Court heard that Mr Cole, trading as Richard Cole Contracting, had been contracted by Gloucestershire County Council to remove the tree as a matter of urgency. Mr Hunt worked in the tree while five direct employees of Mr Cole carried out ground work. Richard Cole provided an elevated work platform, chainsaws and equipment to lower parts of the tree to the ground, while Mr Hunt used his own climbing equipment. The self-employed tree surgeon used the platform to access the tree before attaching himself with a rope and steel strap that was also attached to the platform via another rope. However, while he was cutting away the section above his anchor points the whole limb collapsed and fell away from the trunk of the tree. Mr Hunt fell with the tree limb and the rope attaching him to the platform snapped. Richard Cole, trading as Richard Cole Contracting, pleaded guilty to a criminal breach of the Work at Height Regulations and was fined £2,000 and ordered to pay £780 in costs. HSE inspector Paul Newton said: “This needless incident could have been avoided if Richard Cole had provided an appropriate sized work platform for Mr Hunt to work on. This would have been identified if an adequate risk assessment and plan had been provided.”

HSE news release and falls webpages.

INTERNATIONAL NEWS

Australia: Welder gets landmark cancer payout

A landmark court decision to award compensation to a man whose lung cancer was linked to inhaling toxic welding fumes establishes a series of crucial precedents, Australian manufacturing union AMWU has said. AMWU health and safety experts said the Victorian County Court decision was an Australian first and recognised that Anh Tran’s risk of contracting lung cancer had been raised by working in a small welding shop in south-east Melbourne. Victoria’s health and safety and compensation agency WorkCover had refused workers compensation on the basis that Mr Tran had been a regular smoker. But the court accepted the evidence of medical experts who said former welders were 44 per cent more likely to get lung cancer than the general population. AMWU said the decision has big implications for other people seeking workers’ compensation for cancers they claim are work-related. Mr Tran, who was not a union member, worked six days a week welding galvanized fences for pools and railways using stainless steel wire. “This decision is significant in recognising the link between welding fumes and the potential for lung cancer. It shows the need for a strong union presence in an industry which is potentially highly hazardous, where proper health and safety practices must be strictly adhered to,” said AMWU national safety coordinator Deborah Vallance. Epidemiologist Tim Driscoll said 16 case-controlled studies involving nearly 570 welders with lung cancer showed “strong evidence that exposure to welding fumes increases the risk.” Oncologist Roger Woodruff said in evidence that the risk was higher for stainless steel welders as this emitted larger amounts of carcinogenic chromium and nickel. This would be more significant than the “minor role” that smoking an average of five cigarettes a day would have had in causing the cancer which led to Mr Tran having half a lung removed. He is still receiving treatment.

AMWU news release.
Global: Leaked text reveals ‘toxic’ trade partnership

A leaked draft of a trans-Atlantic trade deal reveals how the negotiations continue to favour business interests over the protection of health and of the environment, campaign groups have warned. The European Commission’s restricted access text for the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) shows that the European Union’s proposals for a ‘chemicals annex’ shadow those of the chemical industry. An analysis of the leaked text by the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), ClientEarth and Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) concludes this approach would hinder the development of stronger controls for toxic chemicals on both sides of the Atlantic. ClientEarth’s Vito Buonsante said: “TTIP could erase all progress which has been made in the EU to ensure precautionary decision making on chemicals.” The report says the draft chemicals annex provides for extensive consultations, creating multiple, additional and unnecessary opportunities for the chemical industry to delay draft rules and laws. The process of ‘paralysis by analysis’ has been used by the US chemical industry to stall stricter workplace controls on hazardous substances like beryllium and silica for a decade and more. “It is clear that the chemical industry’s agenda is to delay or derail public efforts to establish protections from toxic chemicals to the greatest extent possible on both sides of the Atlantic,” said Daniel Rosenberg, a senior attorney with NRDC. He said “EU officials should be strenuously opposing the industry’s agenda, not eagerly abetting it.”

CIEL news release, the leaked text and full report: Toxic partnership: A critique of the ACC-Cefic proposal for trans-Atlantic Regulatory Cooperation on Chemicals.

Global: Precarious workers face higher risks

Three out of four workers killed last month at a mine in Indonesia part-owned by Rio Tinto were precarious workers, the global union IndustriALL has said. It says cases like this highlight the importance of its ‘Stop precarious work’ campaign. The union body is demanded Rio Tinto respects workers’ rights and health and safety and stops undermining real jobs through the use of precarious work. According to IndustriALL, the tragedy in Indonesia “shows once again that precarious workers at Rio Tinto are no exception to the rule that they are more likely to be victim of a health and safety accident than permanent workers.” It adds that unions at some Rio Tinto worksites indicated that outsourced workers are treated differently than permanent workers when it comes to health and safety. On one site, an affiliated union reported that unlike permanent workers, temporary staff were provided with ‘antiquated protective equipment.’ Unions at Rio Tinto have already fought back to limit the use of precarious workers. In 2012, in Canada, after a six-month lockout at Rio Tinto in Alma, the United Steel Workers (USW) succeeded in negotiating a collective agreement limiting the use of outsourced workers to 10 per cent of all hours worked. Studies have linked precarious work to higher injury and sickness rates and poorer health overall. There is also evidence of a greater risk of suicide, together with higher rates of depression and mental health problems and other of chronic health conditions (Risks 573).

IndustriALL news release. Wall Street Journal. More on the hazards of insecure work.

Global: WHO warns of Ebola healthcare risks

A prominent World Health Organisation (WHO) adviser has warned that more Ebola cases can be expected among medical staff - even in developed countries with modern health care systems. Professor Peter Piot was commenting after Spanish nurse Teresa Romero contracted the disease. She is the first person known to have contracted the deadly virus outside West Africa. The 40-year-old treated two Spanish missionaries, Manuel Garcia Viejo and Miguel Pajares, who died of Ebola in Madrid. Officials say she had twice gone into Mr Garcia Viejo's hospital room, first to treat him and later to disinfect the room after his death. Professor Piot, a world specialist in Ebola brought in by the WHO as a scientific adviser, warned that even the simplest movement, like rubbing your eyes, is a risk. He said he was not surprised by the case of the nurse in Madrid and expected more cases in Europe and the US, although he did not expect to see the illness spread as rapidly as it has in Africa. Already over 200 healthcare workers have died in the current outbreak. The European Commission has asked Spain to explain how Ms Romero could have become infected. Although medical staff did have two sets of overalls, gloves and goggles as part of the hospital's safety guidelines, some reports said that the protective clothing used did not have level-four biological security, which requires fully waterproof clothing and independent breathing apparatus.

BBC News Online. What we know about transmission of the Ebola virus among humans, WHO update, 6 October 2014. British Medical Association recommendations. Ebola (Ebola Virus Disease): Information for healthcare workers, US CDC, updated 6 October 2014.

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Hugh Robertson
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