Risks 770 - 01 October 2016

Share this page

TUC Risks E-Bulletins
 

Number 770 - 01 October 2016

Risks is the TUC's weekly online bulletin for safety reps and others. Sign up to receive this bulletin every week. Past issues are available. Disclaimer and Privacy Editor: Rory O'Neill of Hazards magazine. Comments to the TUC at [email protected]
 

UNION NEWS

Union group probes rare brain cancer cluster

Fatigue concessions by easyJet after pilots vote for action

Crossrail builders face two-mile trek to the toilet

Watford derailment highlights safety role of train guards

Worker suffers hernia as employer drops the ball

Prospect member is TUC safety rep of the year

OTHER NEWS

North Sea helicopter companies challenged over safety

Manufacturing firm prosecuted after roof fall death

Scaffolders get suspended jail terms after fall death

Halliburton fined £10,000 after driver crushed

BBC featured scrap firm convicted after work injury

RESOURCES

Is your occupational health provider accredited?

INTERNATIONAL NEWS Bangladesh: Unions up the pressure after latest tragedy

China: ‘Illegal’ coal mining caused deadly explosion

Global: Supply chains are still full of sweatshops

Global: ITF condemns Thai pursuit of rights researcher

TUC COURSES FOR SAFETY REPS

Courses for 2016

 

UNION NEWS

Union group probes rare brain cancer cluster

The families of five chemical plant workmates who all died of a rare type of brain cancer have said they want answers. The cluster of glioma cases, affecting men who all worked at Staveley Chemicals in Derbyshire, was unearthed by the Chesterfield-based Trade Union Safety Team (TRUST). The ongoing investigation by the trades council-linked TRUST, working with experts from Stirling University’s Occupational and Environmental Health Research Group, is exploring links with chemicals handled at the site. TRUST’s John Knight, who with colleague Joanne Gordon is leading the research, said: “Having done some initial research we have found that in the normal population, eight in every 100,000 people would be expected to die from this rare condition, here we have at least four in a localised vicinity. This together with the fact that the men died within a few years of each other makes it very unusual.” He added: “As part of our in-depth research we will also look into possible causes of this rare brain cancer, including any exposure to hazardous substances such as known carcinogens like benzene and mercury.” Audrey Musson, the widow of Staveley glioma victim Neville Musson, said she hopes a new investigation into any links between the deaths and the chemical plant may give them, and potentially others, some answers. She added: “They all died of these brain tumours, so alarm bells started ringing. The researchers now are trying to find a link with the chemicals. It’s so upsetting, but we’ll see what comes out of this. If there’s anybody else out there whose husbands had brain tumours, we’d like anybody to come forward.” In a statement, the last owners of Staveley, French firm Rhodia, said it was sympathetic to the concerns of the families and would respond if reliable data or new findings became available.

Work Cancer Hazards blog. BBC Inside Out. BBC News Online. Derbyshire Times.

Contact TRUST on 01246 380 415 if you can assist its research into the Staveley Chemicals plant.

Fatigue concessions by easyJet after pilots vote for action

An overwhelming vote by easyJet pilots in favour of industrial action on fatigue risks has led to concessions from the company. The budget airline and pilots’ union BALPA this week discussed a set of proposals to mitigate pilot fatigue. The proposals will be put to pilots in a consultative ballot. The talks came on the heels of a strong vote in favour of industrial action amongst pilots, with 96 per cent in favour of some form of action in an 88 per cent ballot turnout. BALPA said it had suspended serving strike notice in response to the company’s new proposals. Brian Strutton, BALPA general secretary, said both parties had been working hard “to find a solution to this dispute about pilot fatigue. easyJet management have put a proposal on the table that the BALPA team feel has closed the gap between us considerably on a range of issues. We therefore feel it is right and proper to consult with our members at this stage and so we are suspending serving notice of industrial action on the company.” He added: “This does not mean the dispute is over, but it does mean that we have made sufficient progress to take an offer to pilots in easyJet for their consideration. We take the issue of pilot fatigue extremely seriously, and hope that today’s proposals will form the basis of a strong agreement between easyJet and its pilots.” A July 2016 TUC guide for union safety reps warned fatigue at work could be particularly deadly in sectors like air, sea and road transport (Risks 759). And ‘Tired Out!’, a September 2016 guide from Hazards magazine, noted that a series of workplace disasters had fatigue as a key causative factor.

BALPA news release. Fatigue - a guide for health and safety representatives, TUC, July 2016 [pdf]. Tired out! Don’t take fatigue risks lying down, Hazards, number 135, September 2016.

Crossrail builders face two-mile trek to the toilet

Crossrail workers have criticised site welfare conditions after having to walk two miles to use a toilet. One worker speaking to trade publication Construction Enquirer said: “It’s an absolute joke down there – how can you run a major project like this making people walk for two miles to use the loo? We haven’t had a mobile toilet in the tunnel down here for weeks now. We have to walk all the way to Tottenham Court Road which is two miles away.” Workers are also unhappy about a lack of canteens and a site access system described as “chaotic”. Another source told Construction Enquirer: “There’s only one turnstile to get on site in some places so the queues are chaotic. You have to leave early to try and beat the rush and lose out pay wise.” Union members protested outside the Crossrail site this week over a range of concerns, including ‘appalling’ welfare facilities and a misfiring fingerprint recognition system. A statement from the construction union UCATT said: “The protest is part of a deeper industrial dispute concerning the treatment of the 1,000 strong workforce on the site. Worker report that severe failures of the fingerprint recognition system is frequently resulting in them not being paid correctly with pay for entire shifts not being processed.” It added: “The welfare facilities on this flagship 21st century project are also appalling. Workers have to walk up to two miles to use a toilet and there is also a severe lack of canteen space. Further problems are also emerging on the project. UCATT have been attempting to resolve the issues with the contractors ATC but have been barred from accessing the site.”

UCATT news release. Construction Enquirer. Morning Star.

Watford derailment highlights safety role of train guards

Rail union RMT has welcomed a decision by a rail safety watchdog to investigate staffing lessons from a train derailment. The union said the Rail Accident Investigation Board (RAIB) had confirmed that its investigation into the collision and derailment at Watford on the 16 September following a landslip will look at staffing issues. RMT said the incident “reinforced the safety-critical role played by the guards,” with both the train’s guard and driver involved in the emergency response. RAIB’s interim statement confirmed the driver of the derailed train was trapped in his cab after his train was “struck a glancing blow” by a passenger train. The driver was able to make an emergency call from his cab to alert other trains to the danger, but was then unable to offer further assistance. RMT said this left the guard solely in charge of passenger welfare. She looked after the two injured passengers and then escorted the paramedics when they arrived. The union indicated that had the driver been incapacitated or unable to make the emergency call, “then this could well have been a multi fatality incident.” RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “It is becoming clearer and clearer that the role of the guard after the landslip at Watford, and the subsequent collision and derailment, was absolutely central to the safe de-training and evacuation of the train as the driver was effectively trapped in the cab.” He added: “The union is pleased that the terms of reference into the investigation will include staffing and there must be no room for ducking the fundamental issue of the role that was played by the guards on board these trains.”

RMT news release. RAIB news release.

Worker suffers hernia as employer drops the ball

A maintenance engineer has received more than £6,000 in damages after suffering a hernia in his groin doing what should have been a two-person job. Unite member Paul Hodgson, 65, was employed by an unidentified coach manufacturer in Yorkshire. He was disassembling pipework on top of a 10-metre high spray booth, which was used to cover coaches under construction with varnish. The pipework had not been completely drained of all of its contents before dismantling and, as a result, the weight of it was unbalanced when the maintenance engineer tried to move it. He fell backwards and became trapped under an eight-metre long section of pipe. Colleagues came to his aid and used a cherry picker to pull the heavy pipe off him. The impact of the fall caused Paul to suffer an inguinal hernia. He needed surgery to repair it and seven weeks off work to recover. It was later found that Paul should have had assistance doing the task but he had instead been told by his employer to work alone. Paul said: “My injury has caused me lots of discomfort, but I count myself lucky that a colleague was nearby to free me, otherwise who knows how long I could have been trapped.” He added: “Thankfully, the operation was successful and my groin is back to normal, but it’s frustrating that I’ve had to go through months of discomfort and disruption to my life to find out I should never have been put in a position where I doing the work singlehandedly in the first place.” Unite regional secretary Karen Reay said: “A simple risk assessment by this employer would have highlighted that its staff were at risk of injury by deconstructing the booths alone.” She added: “He was expected to drain and remove extensive pipework by himself 10 metres off the ground. Losing balance in this situation could have resulted in a life-changing injury for our member, thankfully for him, though painful and disruptive, the consequences were less severe.”

Thompsons Solicitors news release.

Prospect member is TUC safety rep of the year

A member of the union Prospect has been named TUC health and safety rep of the year. Helen Edwards works at Sellafield Ltd in Cumbria and is the operations division lead union safety rep and the Prospect branch health and safety officer. Commenting after receiving her award, she said she is most proud of a standards and expectations booklet she produced for union reps on the the “massive site” with 10,000 employees. She said the resource for Sellafield safety reps is designed for “mentoring them, guiding them, giving them encouragement to fulfil their functions as a safety rep.” The 2016 TUC health and safety rep of the year said: “I believe a healthy, safe workforce is a productive workforce, and that is how I look at everything.” She added: “Being in a trade union is people with a common goal coming together to enable things to happen.”

TUC news release and video.

OTHER NEWS
North Sea helicopter companies challenged over safety

North Sea helicopter operators have been urged to do more to introduce safety measures for crashes at sea. The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said improvements could boost the survival chances of passengers and crew. The CAA made a series of safety recommendations in February 2014 following five accidents involving offshore helicopters (Risks 654). In a progress report, it said there was currently no specific activity on implementing the recommendations. It said oil and gas firms should consider making them a contractual requirement. The 2014 recommendations included a ban on helicopters being allowed to fly offshore in severe sea conditions. The CAA also called for passengers to be seated next to emergency exits, and a size limit for those on board. That measure was aimed at making it easier for those on board to get out of a helicopter in an emergency. The restriction would apply unless helicopters were fitted with extra flotation devices or if passengers were provided with better emergency breathing systems.

BBC News Online.

Manufacturing firm prosecuted after roof fall death

A manufacturing company has been fined after the death of a worker who fell through a factory roof skylight. Taunton Crown Court heard Samuel Wright Maxwell, 46, was employed by Cooper B-Line (CBL) at its factory in Highbridge, Somerset. The maintenance worker had permission to go onto the factory’s roof as part of his work and did so regularly. On 17 May 2013, he was on the roof working when colleagues below heard a crash, discovering Mr Maxwell had fallen through a skylight onto the concrete floor of the rack assembly area seven metres below. He died shortly after the fall. A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found that CBL management failed to appreciate the risks to their maintenance workers when working on the property’s extensive roofs. They had carried out an inadequate generic risk assessment, which failed to identify the risks and control measures necessary when its employees were working at height. Mr Maxwell’s partner, Gwenaelle Ansquer, said: “Losing Sam in this way casts a huge black cloud over my life and the life of our daughter. Even now over three years later, I still feel like it happened yesterday. I have been waiting all that time for CBL to accept the responsibility for something that should never have happened. I wish that they had done that from the beginning. I cannot believe they ever tried to deny it”. Cooper B-Line Limited pleaded guilty to a criminal safety offence and was fined £210,000 and ordered to pay costs of £36,493.52.

HSE news release and roof safety guide. Daily Mail.

Scaffolders get suspended jail terms after fall death

Two scaffolders from Cornwall have received suspended prison sentences following the death of a worker in a seven metre fall. Roger Stoddern, 47, was dismantling scaffolding on 24 June 2013, when he fell from a flat roof of a property in St Mawes. He was taken to Derriford Hospital but died three weeks later due to the severity of his injuries. Truro Crown Court heard how he was stacking 3-metre roofing sheets on the flat roof of the property without any edge protection. The safety railing had been removed to allow access to the flat roof so the sheets could be stacked. The court also heard how one of the defendants replaced the safety rail following the incident to cover up the cause of the incident. A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation, alongside Devon and Cornwall Police, found that Colin Marshall Scaffolding was not qualified to erect the scaffolding and there was evidence no personal protective equipment, such as harnesses, was used. The condition of the scaffolding also failed to meet current safety standards. Business founder Colin Marshall pleaded guilty to criminal safety breaches and was given a four-month prison sentence suspended for two years. James Marshall, Colin’s son and business partner, was handed an eight-month sentence suspended for two years. They were ordered to pay costs of £25,661. An HSE spokesperson said: “Colin Marshall and James Marshall are responsible for the death of Roger Stoddern. It was entirely preventable and should not have happened. The risks of working at height are known.”

HSE news release. Construction Enquirer. West Briton.

Halliburton fined £10,000 after driver crushed

Oil giant Halliburton has been fined £10,000 after a truck driver was crushed and seriously injured at a Scottish yard. The company accepted liability for an ‘inherently dangerous’ unloading operation which left the man with a catalogue of injuries. Alexander Masson suffered multiple fractures to his ribs, legs and eye socket as well as bleeding on the brain after a forklift truck dislodged a pipe from the back of his trailer, pinning him down. The 64-year-old contractor had been delivering the heavy load to Haliburton's Clyde facility just outside Aberdeen when it slipped from the forks and fell onto his chest on 17 March 2014. The ARR Craib employee was forced to retire on the grounds of ill-health in April 2016, having been unable to return to work. An investigation found that over a 13-month period, the firm, which had a net profit of more than £11m in 2015, failed to ensure delivery drivers to the workshop depot remained at a safe distance from unloading operations. The court heard concerns were first raised about unstable loads near drivers following a similar incident that took place more than a year before Mr Masson's injury. The company had failed to provide ‘safe havens’ for truckers despite an internal investigation. A Health and Safety Executive investigation into the latest incident found the forklift's pipe clamp failed to close during the lifting operation due to the proximity of a metal crate, which was due to be delivered by Mr Masson to another company later that day. As the pipe was lifted by the forklift, Mr Masson climbed on to the flat-bed to check the position of the forks for the forklift driver, when the pipe shifted and pinned Mr Masson down. Sheriff Alison Stirling described the unloading operations as ‘inherently dangerous’ and said such an incident was ‘clearly foreseeable’. She reduced the fine from £15,000 to £10,000 due to the early plea of guilty.

STV News.

BBC featured scrap firm convicted after work injury

A Bolton-based scrapyard that featured in a recent BBC documentary series has been convicted of a safety crime after an employee suffered serious facial injuries at work. Vehicle breaker The Scrappers Ltd and Terry Walker, a consultant for the company, appeared at Minshull Street Crown Court, Manchester where they denied breaches of health and safety law. Terry Walker was acquitted by jury after trial while The Scrappers Ltd was convicted. The court heard that employee Aaron Sparrow was working as a ‘spanner man’ which involved taking batteries, wheels, petrol and catalytic convertors (cats) out of the cars in order to be sold on by the company. On 10 September 2014, employees were instructed to start taking the ‘cats’ and batteries off cars. Giving evidence in the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecution, Mr Sparrow told the court he and his colleague raised cars off the ground slightly using a forklift truck so they could remove the wheels and the battery. The forks were then raised above head height so they could place fuel retrieval equipment under the car to take the fuel out. They would then cut the ‘cat’ off the exhaust using a petrol saw with a metal cutting blade. While Aaron Sparrow was taking a catalytic convertor off a car exhaust with the petrol saw above his head, the saw flicked back off the exhaust and spun 180 degrees in his hands before the saw hit him in the face. He was taken by ambulance to hospital and received over 40 stitches and underwent plastic surgery on his brow and eye lid. He was later told that the saw blade missed his brain by 3mm. The HSE investigation found there was no record of formal training, and a tool specifically designed for the job was not generally used. The Scrappers Ltd was found guilty of a criminal safety offence and fined £30,000 and ordered to pay costs of £26,687,88.

HSE news release.

RESOURCES

Is your occupational health provider accredited?

The TUC is advising safety reps to ensure occupational health services used by their employer are up to scratch. ‘Is your occupational health provider accredited?’, a new guide from the union body, notes: “If your employer uses an occupational health provider for any purpose, it is important that you and your members know that they are up to the job.” It adds: “The only accreditation scheme that is recognised by the government, occupational doctors, employers’ organisations and the TUC is called SEQOHS. This stands for Safe, Effective, Quality, Occupational Health Service and is a set of standards and a voluntary accreditation scheme for occupational health services and occupational health physiotherapist practices. SEQOHS accreditation is formal recognition that an occupational health service provider has demonstrated that it has the competence to deliver against the measures in the SEQOHS standards, one of which is the relationship with workers.” The guide, which includes links to other relevant resources and official documents, advises safety reps: “There are several hundred accredited providers and the TUC recommends that all employers should ensure that they only use an accredited provider. If your employer is using a provider on the list, then you should ask them why not. Employers do not always use an occupational health provider for a full range of services and some occupational health providers are only accredited for certain parts of the standard so you should always check the certificate to check what they are accredited to do, not just whether they are on the list.”

Is my occupational health provider accredited? TUC guide for union safety reps, September 2016.

INTERNATIONAL NEWS
Bangladesh: Unions up the pressure after latest tragedy

As the death toll in Bangladesh’s latest factory tragedy rose to 34, unions applied additional pressure for government action and union involvement to keep workers in the country safe. Global union confederation ITUC said the 10 September fire at the Tampoco Foil factory showed the ‘callous disregard’ of the Bangladesh government for workers’ safety and a disregard by multinationals of the dangers in their supply chains (Risks 768). This week the UK TUC wrote to the Bangladesh government demanding urgent action to protect trade unions and to enforce workers’ rights. It says that despite having a workforce in excess of 300, there was no union presence at the factory; nor was there a worker-elected safety committee which Bangladeshi law states should be present in workplaces with more than 50 workers. The letter from TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady states: “We believe that the major gap in bringing factories up to standards in your country is not technical expertise but poor governance. Labour inspections can only be independent and credible with transparency and the participation and monitoring by worker representatives from independent trade unions and, importantly, there must be zero tolerance for bribery and impunity.” On 21 September, the Bangladesh Agricultural Farm Labour Federation (BAFLF) organised a mass rally and human chain in Gazipur to demand the arrest of the owner of the Tampaco Foils factory and proper compensation to the families of those who perished in the explosion and fire.

TUC Stronger Unions blog and letter to the Bangladesh government. IUF news release.

China: ‘Illegal’ coal mining caused deadly explosion

Chinese authorities have blamed illegal mining activities for a gas explosion at a coal mine that killed 19 people and left one other miner missing. The explosion on the morning of 27 September occurred at a small coal mine when 20 miners were working underground in the city of Shizuishan, in the northwestern region of Ningxia, China’s official press agency Xinhua reported. It said an initial investigation found the blast was caused by illegal mining, but did not provide details. State broadcaster CCTV said the blast had killed 19 people. Local officials said at a press conference that representatives of the company that owned the mine, the Linli Coal Mining, were in police custody. At the briefing, Wu Yuguo, the city’s deputy mayor, said an excessive concentration of gas and the destruction of the mine shaft had hindered rescue efforts. China’s mines have long been the world’s deadliest, but safety improvements have reduced deaths in recent years.

South China Morning Post.

Global: Supply chains are still full of sweatshops

In the early 1990s, sports apparel giant Nike became the ‘poster child’ for sweatshops in its global supply chain – child labour, forced labour, wage theft, confiscation of migrant workers’ passports, sexual harassment of women workers and unsafe and unhealthy working conditions. Health and safety rights campaigner Garrett Brown says Nike is not alone. The US-based global safety campaigner says a quarter of century on, we see “vast global supply chains with multiple tiers of international ‘brands,’ contracted supplier factories, and numerous sub-contractors are now the norm for consumer goods sectors such as electronics, toys, apparel, home furnishings, food like fish and chocolate, sports shoes and equipment.” And they have followed Nike’s response to vocal anti-sweatshop campaigns, and gone down the corporate social responsibility (CSR) and ethical audits route. The only problem, warns Brown, is it hasn’t worked. “So does this mean that sweatshops are now a thing of the past? Unfortunately, no. Every global supply chain is still full of sweatshops – defined as a workplace with multiple violations of labour and environmental laws, including regulations on wages and hours, workers’ compensation, harassment and discrimination, workplace health and safety, and environmental protection. There have been some improvements over the last 25 years, but scratch the bright, shiny surface of the corporate CSR programmes and glossy reports in any supply chain, and you will find they are still full of sweatshops.” He notes that while the phrase “worker empowerment” is common language in corporate CSR programmes, “genuine worker participation remains the key and missing element for making real progress in ending sweatshops in global supply chains.” Brown concludes that “relentless pressure from workers, consumers, stakeholders and governments is required to improve working conditions that are illegal, immoral and just plain unacceptable. Part of this process is staying abreast of the river of continuing reports and articles on supply chain factory conditions, and to draw lessons on what’s needed to bring an end to global sweatshops.”

The Pump Handle blog.

Global: ITF condemns Thai pursuit of rights researcher

The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) has condemned the sentencing of labour rights researcher Andy Hall to three years’ imprisonment, suspended for two years, by the Bangkok Criminal Court on 20 September. The British national was sued by the Thai Company Natural Fruit on charges of defamation and computer crimes, over his claims about the company in a 2013 report by Finnwatch, a Helsinki-based civil society organisation. ‘Cheap has a High Price’ included allegations that migrant workers were being paid wages below the legal minimum, working long hours at factories and had had their passports illegally confiscated. ITF president Paddy Crumlin said: “This is a blatant case of blaming the messenger. Rather than victimising Andy, who has also exposed abuses in fisheries, the priority should be to investigate the serious allegations made against the Thai Natural Fruit Company.” The global union leader added that the case is one of 10 targeting human rights activists this year alone. “The laws under which he was convicted are questionable laws, being questionably used. The ITF is also concerned by the recent announcements of possible new prosecutions against Mr Hall and the Migrant Workers Rights Network (MWRN).” The ITF is to sign a protest letter to the Thai government from the Thai Seafood Working Group, a network of labour rights organisations. The ITF also cited Mr Hall’s case in its complaint to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) against the Thai government, in which it expressed concern about the widespread use of criminal defamation laws to silence dissent in the country.

ITF news release.

TUC COURSES FOR SAFETY REPS

Courses for 2016

Course dates now appearing at www.tuceducation.org.uk/findacourse

Asbestos - the hidden killer Hazards magazine Hazards at Work
The person responsible for the Risks e-bulletin is:
Hugh Robertson
E: [email protected]
Facebook Twitter Linkedin Google plus
Other update
Printer-friendly versionSend by email

Share this Page