TUC - Risks 744 - 02 April 2016

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TUC Risks E-Bulletins
 
Number 744 - 02 April 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

Nudge theory isn’t evidence-based or the best option

Hey, safety reps, what’s it like out there?

EU has been good for you at work

Government imposes profits before safety rule

UCATT to meet minister over ‘failure’ HSE

RMT calls for Night Tube safety assurances

Ashley called to account for Sports Direct abuses

Stiffer sentences for attack dog owners

Head blow led to hearing damage

OTHER NEWS

On silica, US does what HSE says can’t be done

Funds for new asbestos diseases research centre

New scandal hits site safety tests

Syngenta fined £200,000 for toxic pesticide release

Firm fined 10 years after deadly crane collapse

EVENTS

International Workers Memorial Day, 28 April

INTERNATIONAL NEWS

Canada: Union says 2016 is ‘the year of safety’

Europe: From outrage to action on work cancers

Europe: Time to ban glyphosate, says IUF

TUC COURSES FOR SAFETY REPS

Courses for 2016

 

UNION NEWS

Nudge theory isn’t evidence-based or the best option

The ‘nudge’ theory embraced by the government in a bid to change the population’s behaviour by stealth isn’t evidence-based and isn’t a satisfactory alternative to proper rights and properly enforced legislation, the TUC has warned. The union body was responding to a leader in New Scientist magazine that noted: “Nudge is an example of what is possible when you apply science to policymaking,” but cautioned “the well-intentioned politicians who want to use them should always remember: never let nudge turn to shove.” In a response published in the magazine, TUC head of safety Hugh Robertson said the leader didn’t recognise the inherent shortcomings of an approach championed by the government via its once in-house and now arms-length but ‘in partnership with the Cabinet Office’ Behavioural Insights Team. He noted the positive spin “perpetuates the idea that the work of the UK Behavioural Insights Team uses a solely ‘evidence-based’ approach. As you rightly point out, nudges are seen as a replacement for legislation. It would therefore be appropriate to compare the outcome of a ‘nudge’ with the likely outcome of regulation.”  Robertson said, however, that is not what the trials do. “The biggest nudge in the UK was the Responsibility Deal which attempted a voluntary approach to health issues around food, alcohol and the workplace by getting pledges from manufacturers, retailers and employers. These were viewed by most public health experts as totally ineffective. Instead, there have been calls for the government to introduce regulation such as compulsory labelling and minimum alcohol pricing. The deals have all now been abandoned by the government and a sugar tax has been announced.” The union safety expert concluded: “Nudge theory has its place, but to state that it is evidence-based is a stretch when, in the UK, its application is underpinned by an ideological assumption that regulation is inherently negative. The evidence is that regulation can be far more effective than behavioural interventions, as shown by a range of public safety and health laws, from seat-belt use to workplace smoking.”

New Scientist leader, 12 March 2016 and Hugh Robertson’s response, New Scientist, 2 April 2016. Behavioural Insights Team.

Hey, safety reps, what’s it like out there?

The TUC wants to hear from union health and safety reps about the hazards, safety organisation and related issues in their workplaces. The union body says its latest - eleventh - TUC survey of health and safety reps “is designed to provide the TUC and individual unions with information about who health and safety reps are, and what their experiences and needs are. We need this information so that the TUC and unions can do more to help health and safety reps, and so that their views and experiences are better reflected in public policy debates and the work of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).” The TUC say it will publish the results, and use them to campaign for better safety standards at work, including more and improved rights for health and safety reps. The union body notes: “Your response is crucial to ensuring that this survey provides the information we seek. Please answer as many questions as you can - but if they seem irrelevant to your experiences, ignore them.” It adds it wants “to know about any successes you have had in improving health and safety standards.”

TUC news alert. Take the TUC Safety Reps’ Survey 2016 now! The closing date for responses is 1 July 2016.

EU has been good for you at work

European Union regulations work and have made a “substantial” contribution to the health and safety of the UK workforce, a TUC briefing has concluded. Arguing the UK should be part of a revitalised “European process”, the briefing notes it is ‘certainly likely’ the protection this has delivered could be undermined if the UK was to leave the EU. ‘Health and safety: What Brexit would mean’ points out the pronounced downward trend in workplace fatalities and occupational diseases in the UK since the core EU-derived safety measures were introduced. This only ‘plateaued’ in 2010, coinciding with “the period during which there has been a reduction in the level of regulatory activity from the European Commission, although it also corresponds with a decline in inspection activity in the UK.” The briefing notes that an EC review last year found Europe-originated safety laws were operating effectively and were of benefit to business. “It is unclear what the situation will be if the UK votes to leave the EU. The UK has however indicated that it wants to reduce existing EU protection including repealing a number of directives or parts of directives and removing the requirement for employers to provide eyesight tests for display screen equipment users, and the need for small, low risk businesses to make a written risk assessment,” the briefing notes. “The government’s current deregulatory proposals were written in the context of remaining within the EU. If Britain were to leave, depending on any agreement with the EU, then further reductions are certainly likely.” It concludes: “It is clear that EU membership continues to deliver wide-ranging protections to UK workers, and the UK government should not only continue to be part of the European process, but should more actively engage and support an improved and revitalised package of measures aimed at tackling the huge burden of occupational illnesses that are being experienced both in Britain and across the EU.”

TUC report and pdf version, Health and safety: What Brexit would mean. TUC briefing on issues around the EU referendum.

Government imposes profits before safety rule

The government is instructing its safety regulator to put company profits before safety, the construction union UCATT has charged. UCATT says the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) “is being told by the Tory government to prioritise company profits over the health and safety of construction workers.” The union points to an “immoral and venal” revised Enforcement Policy Statement (EPS) presenting to the March 2016 meeting of HSE’s board and which UCATT complains requires HSE to give greater consideration to “supporting businesses.” UCATT argues these “life-threatening” policy changes have been imposed on HSE’s board as part of the government’s Regulators’ Code. According to UCATT: “Couched in bureaucratic language the message is clear – if the cost of some health and safety measures are too high - don’t worry about a few construction worker deaths. The union highlights a clause in the new EPS that says HSE will “adopt a proportionate approach…”, with the safety regulator “recognising the importance of supporting businesses to comply and grow.” The statement goes on to emphasise the need for “a sensible and proportionate approach to managing health and safety, focussing on significant risks.” UCATT acting general secretary, Brian Rye, said: “The message is clear. Profit before people. Effectively they’re saying a few worker deaths are ok, as long as the bosses are still making money.” He added: “The Health and Safety Executive is supposed to be the guardian of the people, not the lapdog of the rich. These new guidelines are immoral and venal. There is no ‘proportionate’ approach to health and safety – you are either safe or you’re not. And under this Tory government no one is safe.”

UCATT news release. HSE paper on the EPS changes and the revised EPS.

UCATT to meet minister over ‘failure’ HSE

Construction union UCATT has secured a meeting with the government safety minister after raising concerns about a “malaise” at the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE), whose performance is “just not good enough.” The commitment from the minister came after the Labour MP for Jarrow, Stephen Hepburn, secured a 23 March parliamentary debate on “the alarmingly low number of prosecutions” following a construction fatality. He told the House of Commons: “Put simply, if the HSE is failing to prosecute following construction deaths, and if there are not enough high-profile stories about the fines and penalties imposed on companies that cut corners to boost profits at the expense of a worker’s life, an ever greater number of companies will flout safety laws, safe in the knowledge that if a tragedy should occur, they are unlikely to be punished.” Responding, safety minister Justin Tomlinson said: “The honourable gentleman made a powerful speech. He rightly wished to hold to account duty holders who fail to manage serious risks to their workers in the construction industry. I would be happy to meet him to discuss the matter further, along with representatives of the Union of Construction, Allied Trades and Technicians. I thank him for raising this important issue this evening.” UCATT acting general secretary, Brian Rye, said: “The current performance of the HSE is just not good enough. So we welcome the opportunity to talk directly to the minister about the HSE and the state of health and safety in the UK. It’s one of our members’ primary concerns.” He added: “We thank Stephen Hepburn for working so closely with us, to bring the malaise at the HSE to the attention of government. Let’s hope we get the desired response from the minister and the HSE. We all have to be vigilant in the face of cost-cutting constructors. No one in 21st century Britain should be killed at work.”

UCATT news release. Hansard, 23 March 2016.

RMT calls for Night Tube safety assurances

London Underground union RMT called for reassurances on the Night Tube safety case, as a summer start date for the ‎project was announced. The union said it ‎has yet to see a full safety case, despite plans for services to come into operation from July or August. RMT general secretary Mick Cash said it was “simply not true” that all outstanding concerns had been addressed, adding: “There are still significant concerns over staff rosters and those basic operational issues would be fundamental to hitting a start date this summer. There is very clearly some distance to go in terms of getting all of the components in place.” He said: “The whole project is being constructed against a backdrop of TFL [Transport for London] cuts and only a fool would pretend that those cuts ‎do not have an impact on the operational model.” He also raised reported police concerns about the potential for increased crime during all-night weekend services. The union leader concluded: “RMT remains fully engaged in delivering the Night Tube and fully committed to making sure that all of our members, including Tube Lines, are properly respected and rewarded.”

RMT news release. London Evening Standard. TFL Night Tube webpages

Ashley called to account for Sports Direct abuses

A showdown is brewing between billionaire Sports Direct founder Mike Ashley, and MPs investigating mistreatment of workers in his sportswear empire. The House of Commons business (BIS) select committee has been trying to arrange a date for Ashley to give evidence on allegations of widespread abuses at the firm. But, reports Unite regional officer Luke Primarolo, Ashley hasn’t been co-operative, so the committee has taken the unusual step of formally summonsing him to appear on 7 June. Writing in the TUC’s Stronger Unions blog, Primarolo notes that MPs are keen to hear how Ashley’s internal review of working conditions for agency workers at Sports Direct is going, after a series of revelations about serious employment rights and health and safety problems in the firm’s Shirebrook warehouse and stores (Risks 724). This highlighted exploitation of agency workers by the firm, with ambulances called to the Shirebrook site over 70 times in a two-year period, around half of the calls dealing with ‘life-threatening’ incidents (Risks 723). Ashley responded initially by saying he would personally lead a review into workers’ terms and conditions. But he has since changed his tone, and said the select committee is concerned “about the business of politics, while I actually care about the people at Sports Direct”. Primarolo said practices within Sports direct tell a different story. “He cares so much about what they’re doing every minute of the day that Sports Direct track their every move – how fast they’re working, how long they spend in the loo – and shames them over a tannoy if they’re going too slow.” The Unite official said Sports Direct is highly profitable and doesn’t need to subject workers to “shameful practices”, with its most recent returns showing a gross profit in excess of £1 billion. “Unite, and our members working in Sports Direct want to see Mike Ashley appearing in London on the 7 June, and we want to see the government taking stronger action against Sports Direct. It’s time for Ashley’s cowboy approach to running Sports Direct to stop.”

TUC Stronger Unions blog. Unite Sports Direct campaign.

Stiffer sentences for attack dog owners

Pet owners convicted of dangerous dogs offences will face harsher punishment under new sentencing guidelines in England and Wales. The guidelines, which will come into force from July and were introduced after a high profile campaign by the union CWU, reflect 2014 changes to the law that increased maximum sentences. The Sentencing Council said under the revised guidelines, sentences were “likely to be higher than in the past” but must be “proportionate”. District Judge Richard Williams, a member of the Sentencing Council, said the guidelines “allow for a broad range of sentences to be given, depending on the seriousness of each offence.” He added those in charge of a dangerous dog, where a victim died, would be deemed to have “high culpability”, with sentences ranging from six to 14 years. Other factors where an offender is deemed to have “high culpability” include the dog being used as a weapon, being trained to be aggressive or where someone has a banned breed. CWU national safety officer Dave Joyce, who spearheaded the union's ‘Bite-Back’ campaign, said: “Part of our ‘Bite-Back’ campaign's objectives was to get tougher sentences and we have achieved that,” adding: “The new guidance enables the courts to use the new powers effectively.” He said around 4,000 CWU member were victims of dog attacks every year. “The main problem is not bad dogs it's bad owners and we hope that the new powers will be an effective deterrent and most of all that, ultimately, there will be a reduction in the number of dangerous dog attacks on our members and the public at large – children in particular.”

Sentencing Council guideline. CWU news release and Bite-Back campaign. BBC News Online.

Head blow led to hearing damage

A factory worker who suffered a bang on the head a work developed a permanent and debilitating hearing condition as a result. Paul Kelly, 54, was working on a factory production line when the incident occurred. While working in an area of the factory that had height restrictions, he hit his head on a steel conveyor belt that was just five feet from the ground. The Unite member was not wearing a hard hat, despite a requirement that all production line staff should be provided them. Nor had he received safety training. The head blow led to tinnitus, with Paul experiencing constant ringing in both of his ears. He also suffered from severe migraines. Paul had to take four months off work, and even after he returned his symptoms were so bad that on one occasion he was rushed to hospital as the pain prevented him from swallowing. Commenting after the unidentified firm agreed an undisclosed payout in a union-backed compensation claim, he said: “Years after the accident I am still suffering. I have been in and out of hospital and couldn’t return to work for months, which meant I was really struggling to get by financially. I find it difficult to sleep at night and at its worst my condition can only be described as debilitating.” He added: “People would often bang their heads on the conveyor belt but nothing was ever done about it. I’m confident that if I had been wearing a hard hat at the time of my accident I would not be suffering like I am today.” Unite regional officer Kevin Hepworth said: “Unfortunately, Paul’s tinnitus is unlikely to ever truly subside and so we made sure that his employer paid the compensation owed to him so that he is not at a loss financially to date and into the future.”

Thompsons Solicitors news release.

OTHER NEWS

On silica, US does what HSE says can’t be done

The US government has gone where the UK had refused to go, introducing new rules to sharply reduce workplace exposures to silica. The potentially deadly mineral is encountered in a wide range of jobs from construction, to mining, ceramics, stone masonry, quarrying, brickmaking and fracking. The 24 March 2016 move by the US Labor Department means the US will halve the occupational exposure standard from the level it currently shares with the UK, 0.1mg/m3, to 0.05mg/m3. The change will be phased in from June this year, with construction given one year’s grace to meet the requirements and other industries longer. US officials estimate that the new silica standard, when fully in effect, will save hundreds of lives a year. Exposure to silica is linked to lung cancer, the often fatal lung-scarring condition silicosis and other respiratory, kidney and auto-immune diseases. US labor secretary Thomas E Perez said he thought that many companies would easily adapt to the new standard because inexpensive equipment is available to control and trap the release of silica dust. US regulators have also argued that a tighter standard will drive improvements in monitoring and control technologies. “This is no different than the story of asbestos,” the labor secretary said, commenting on decades of delays in introducing the standard. “After 40 years, the political will has finally caught up with the science.” David Michaels, head of the US government safety regulator OSHA, said: “Every year, many exposed workers not only lose their ability to work, but also to breathe. Today, we are taking action to bring worker protections into the 21st century in ways that are feasible and economical for employers to implement.” Unions and workplace health campaigners in the UK have pressed the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to match the US standard, which was finalised pending official ratification in August 2013 (Risks 733). HSE has argued the lower level now being introduced in the US is neither achievable nor practically measurable (Risks 664), issues raised in extensive US government hearings on the draft standard and dismissed comprehensively over two years ago.

Department of Labor news release and US final silica rule website. Finalised rule on the Federal Register. National COSH statement. APHA statement. NELP statement. Public Citizen news release. New York Times. National Public Radio.

Funds for new asbestos diseases research centre

A new £5 million centre is to spearhead research on the deadly asbestos cancer mesothelioma. The initiative was included in Chancellor George Osborne’s March budget. The full budget document notes that banking fines would be used to provide funds “to support military charities and other good causes”, including: “National Mesothelioma Centre £5 million – to establish a centre of research in the fight against mesothelioma, which is directly affecting Service Veterans.” Chris Knighton, 69, who has dedicated her life to campaigning to help those affected by the deadly condition since her husband Mick died from the asbestos-related cancer in 2001, welcomed the move. Chris, who set up the Mick Knighton Mesothelioma Research Fund, said: “I’m delighted the government has allocated £5m to establish a Mesothelioma Centre for Research. Mesothelioma has been underfunded for decades and its fantastic the government has now recognised it’s one of the most challenging of cancers; as it’s only through high calibre research can we ever improve diagnosis, treatment and care for those affected by this devastating disease.” Dave Anderson, the Labour MP for Blaydon, said: “This is welcome although I am only giving it two cheers because the funding is one-off and should be annual so that mesothelioma research is put on a par with other comparable cancers. But from acorns come oaks and pressure will continue to do the right thing.” Initial reports say the national centre is set to be based at Imperial College, London, although asbestos victims’ groups and mesothelioma researchers have called for a more extensive discussion of how the funds are allocated.

Budget 2016. IBAS news report. The Chronicle.

New scandal hits site safety tests

A new scandal has hit a safety competence scheme in the construction sector. The Construction Plant Competence Scheme (CPCS) is relied on by contractors to prove that operators are qualified to drive machines including excavators and dumper trucks. But trade magazine Construction Enquirer has discovered candidates can now simply buy the answers to the key CPCS theory test online for less than £10. The revelation about the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB)-owned scheme comes on the heels of the revocation of 4,615 Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) cards (Risks 736) after the discovery of fraudulent activity at centres where candidates were taking the tests accredited by both CITB and the British Safety Council (BSC). In the latest blow to the credibility of safety schemes in the industry, the Construction Enquirer discovered that a Romania-based website is encouraging candidates to cheat on their tests. The website offers answers to nearly 20 different test categories at £9.99 a time. “If you want to pass your CPCS test then all you need to do is purchase and study our answers and you are guaranteed to pass without any problems,” the website notes. “We provide the official CPCS answers not ‘study notes’ and this is exactly what the tester will want to hear from you. Don’t get tricked by others and buy ‘study notes’ or old answers just because they are a few quid cheaper. Stop worrying about your CPCS theory test, buy our answers and pass first time!” The CPCS scheme is owned by CITB, which says it is aware of the problem. Ian Sidney, fraud investigator at CITB, said: “We are now in the process of obtaining ownership of the domain name in order to shut it down. It’s a lengthy process because it is run from outside the UK but it is necessary to prevent these conmen from continuing to undermine the safety and competency of the construction industry.”

Construction Enquirer.

Syngenta fined £200,000 for toxic pesticide release

Chemical giant Syngenta has been fined £200,000 after tonnes of a potentially deadly weedkiller was released at its Huddersfield plant. Leeds Crown Court heard at least 3.5 tonnes of highly toxic paraquat escaped from an isotanker while it was being filled on 12 December 2014. Coupling apparatus linking to the tank was faulty. Kevin Slack, prosecuting, said when a worker moved a handle because of the defective coupling that valve partially opened and he was immediately sprayed with paraquat dichloride (PDC) on his face and upper body. Fortunately he was wearing safety glasses and did not swallow any of the substance. He was only feet away from an emergency drench shower where he went immediately to wash off the solution and suffered no injury. Mr Slack told the court ingesting one or two teaspoons of paraquat dichloride could be fatal. A colleague of the sprayed worker was standing on a nearby gantry and was able to phone the site safety fire services. A minimum of 3.5 tonnes of the chemical was estimated to have escaped during the half hour leak. Dominic Adamson representing the company expressed “sincere regret” for the incident that gave rise to this prosecution. He added: Syngenta takes responsibility for health and safety very seriously and the loss of its unblemished track record is a heavy blow.” He said the company accepted there was an omission in their maintenance regime regarding the couplings which had now been rectified. Syngenta Ltd pleaded guilty to criminal breaches of the Control of Major Accident Hazards Regulations 1999 and the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 and was fined £200,000 with £13, 041 costs. Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspector Angus Robbins commented: “This incident could have been prevented if Syngenta had properly assessed the real risk of the valve being opened while the tank was under pressure”

HSE news release. The Examiner.

Firm fined 10 years after deadly crane collapse

Falcon Crane Hire has been fined £750,000 following a south London crane collapse that killed the driver and a member of the public nearly 10 years ago. Southwark Crown Court heard crane operator Jonathan Cloke, 37, fell to his death from inside the cab of the crane when it collapsed at a Barratt Homes site in Battersea in September 2006. A section of the crane then struck and killed Michael Alexa, 23, as he cleaned his car in a neighbouring street outside the development. The court heard how sections of the tower crane separated when 24 bolts failed due to metal fatigue. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation into the incident found Falcon Crane Hire failed to investigate a similar incident that happened nine weeks before, when the bolts failed on the same crane and had to be replaced. HSE found the company had an inadequate system to manage the inspection and maintenance of their fleet of cranes. Mike Wilcock, HSE head of operations, said: “Jonathan and Michael’s deaths were tragic, needless and entirely avoidable. These two men need not have died had Falcon Crane Hire taken the right, decisive action when the bolts failed the first time. The company fell far short of its health and safety obligation.” In addition to the £750,000 fine, Falcon Crane Hire, which had earlier admitted criminal safety breaches, was also ordered to pay costs of £100,000. Lilliana Alexa, Michael’s mother, said: “We heard the crash and felt the ground shake. I found Michael and it’s an image that haunts my nightmares. If only we had stopped to chat or parked the car somewhere else he would still be alive. We know we are not to blame but it does not stop us all feeling guilt.” She added: “The whole crane industry must learn from our tragedy and the devastation it has caused. We do not want another family to endure the same pain of losing their child.” Charges against 71-year-old Douglas Genge, managing director of Falcon Crane Hire Limited, were dropped in February.

HSE news release. Construction Enquirer. London Evening Standard.

EVENTS

International Workers Memorial Day, 28 April

International Workers Memorial Day is held on 28 April every year. It is the day union members and campaigners remember those killed, maimed, injured and made ill by work and the day they renew a pledge to fight for the living, by raising safety concerns in the workplace and raising public awareness of the importance of health and safety. It is 30 years since the event was first commemorated by unions in Canada, spreading quickly to the US and, in 1992, to the UK. Since then it has grown into the biggest health and safety event in the world, with workplace activities, training sessions, extra workplace inspections and media coverage marking the day across Europe, North and South America, Asia, Australasia and Africa. Health and safety should be a priority every day, in every workplace. But on 28 April unions and safety campaigners ensure the wider public, regulators and policy makers hear clearly that ‘Strong laws, strong enforcement and strong unions’ are the key to keeping workplaces safe and healthy year round, every year.

TUC news release. TUC 2016 Workers’ Memorial Day activities listing. Add your 28 April event to the TUC . For tweeters, use the #iwmd16  
ITUC/Hazards global events listing and resources. For Workers’ Memorial Day resources including ribbons and car stickers, contact the Greater Manchester Hazards Centre by email or phone 0161 636 7557.

INTERNATIONAL NEWS

Canada: Union says 2016 is ‘the year of safety’

Canada’s public sector union CUPE has designated 2016 the ‘Year of Health and Safety’. Launching the initiative, CUPE national president Mark Hancock said: “CUPE is renewing our commitment to achieving safer workplaces – for our members and for all workers, in Canada and around the globe.” The union leader told CUPE delegates at an Alberta conference about the death of four workers on Christmas Eve 2009 who fell off a scaffolding outside a Toronto apartment building because they were not properly secured. The project manager was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in jail (Risks 735). It was a Canadian first, and only possible because of the Westray Bill passed in 2004 after a lengthy union campaign. This law included a provision to jail workplace safety criminals. “It took 11 years, but with this sentence there is finally a clear message to the bosses,” said Hancock. “You kill a worker, you will be held responsible. You will go to jail. Full stop.”

CUPE news release and Year of Health and Safety webpages.

Europe: From outrage to action on work cancers

Few realise it, but Europe faces over 100,000 occupational cancer deaths a year, the equivalent of a passenger jet crash every day. According to researcher Laurent Vogel: “We can sum up in four words why 100,000 work-related cancer deaths are not a political priority; inequality, visibility, power and freedom.” Vogel, a top health and safety expert at the European Trade Union Confederation’s research arm, ETUI, said air crashes tend to claim the lives of the likes of shareholders, senior managers and politicians, because “the privileged classes fly much more than the rest of the population… For the 100,000 deaths from occupational cancer, the opposite is true.” Occupational cancers don’t make headlines, he says, because doctors are quick to ask about a patient’s lifestyle but rarely ask about risk factors at work. Vogel adds “combating occupational cancer requires measures that come into conflict with corporate profits. It is sometimes suggested that the war on cancer could be won by discovering new treatments or perfecting means of early detection. This naive and technocratic vision masks the struggle over public and social control of production choices.” He says while airline companies have a vested interest in assuring passengers their planes are safe, “by contrast, the organisation of work and the choice of processes and substances are imposed on workers by the company’s management.” He notes: “There are plenty of reasons to be outraged. But if we want to convert this outrage into action, objectives need to be set.” Vogel outlines three complementary routes to stopping occupational cancer: Strong legislation; strong inspection; and strong trade union action. He concludes that whether or not the European Commission backs tighter rules on workplace cancer risks “will depend on our capacity to convert cancer into a political priority. With over 100,000 deaths a year, there is an urgent need to mobilise.”

ETUI occupational cancers webpages. The editorial will appear in the forthcoming issue of ETUI’s health and safety magazine, Hesamag.

Europe: Time to ban glyphosate, says IUF

A move to approve the continued use of the toxic herbicide glyphosate in Europe has become the topic of a high profile tussle involving member states, citizens groups, environmental campaigners and unions. On 8 March, the European Union’s Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed postponed a decision on renewal of the herbicide’s approval when Italy joined France, the Netherlands and Sweden in opposing the move. The case against glyphosate, linked to cancer and other health effects, got a further boost on 22 March, when the European Parliament’s Committee on Environment, Food Safety and Public Health (ENVI) formally objected to the herbicide’s re-authorisation by the European Commission. The postposed vote of the EU standing committee will now take place in May. Global food and farming union federation IUF is calling for ban on glyphosate. It said “additional pressure is needed to ensure that the European Commission does not cut a deal with the corporate agrochemical giants which would keep Europe locked into the deadly spiral of increasing pesticide applications for another fifteen years.” In March 2015, the World Health Organisation's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans.” It cited evidence in Canada, Sweden and the USA linking workers’ occupational exposure to glyphosate to increased risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma and other health effects. IUF said the alternative to glyphosate isn’t other toxic pesticides like paraquat. It wants resources “made available to promote transition to non-chemical food production which sustains and enriches, rather than destroys, the food system on which we all depend.”

IUF briefing. ENVI news release.

TUC COURSES FOR SAFETY REPS

Courses for 2016

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

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