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Minister sides with rogue gangmasters
Construction union UCATT has condemned a government minister for resorting to the use of 'myths and factual inaccuracies' to justify a refusal to extend gangmaster regulation to the notoriously hazardous construction industry. Junior minister Ed Davey was responding to David Hamilton's 3 December Private Member's Bill to extend the Gangmasters (Licensing) Act to the construction industry. Mr Davey, who UCATT says supported the extension of the law to construction before he became a minister, claimed that 'licensing' was expensive. UCATT refuted this claim, saying initial registration costs were low and subsequent renewal fees were lower still. The union's general secretary, Alan Ritchie, said: 'The claim that licensing is expensive is completely untrue. Reputable agencies and gangmasters will realise that the tiny cost of licensing is a small price to pay to ensure that rogue gangmasters, who undercut rates, are excluded from the sector. That is why reputable trade associations such as the Association of Labour Providers support extending the Gangmasters Act to construction.' Government minister Ed Davey also claimed that there was no need to extend the Gangmasters Licensing Authority to construction because the Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate (EASI) adequately covered the sector. However, UCATT said EASI has no preventive role and managed to achieve just one conviction against unlawful employment agencies in both 2008/9 and 2009/10 - and neither of these agencies operated in construction.
- UCATT news release. Hansard, 3 December 2010.
- Gangmasters Licensing (Extension to Construction Industry) Bill 2010-11.
Injured snapper gets payout from the Met
A press photographer has received £30,000 damages from the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police after being injured in an unprovoked attack by a police inspector. NUJ member David Hoffman was covering the London G20 protests on 1 April 2009. He was carrying professional equipment throughout the event and had his press card clearly visible around his neck. NUJ reports that despite being out of the way and not interfering with any police operation, the inspector in full riot gear ran towards the photographer and hit him in the face with a shield, fracturing his teeth. As well as paying compensation and the cost of extensive dental work, the Met police commissioner also apologised and confirmed the force's recognition that journalists have a right to report freely. David Hoffman said: 'I'm really grateful for the support of the NUJ and the skill and tenacity of Chez Cotton, my solicitor at Bindmans. But without the good luck of the amateur video that showed the attack, the police behind it would have got away unchallenged - as is generally the case. The size of the award indicates just how strongly the Met were determined to avoid having the facts examined publicly in a court of law.' NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear said: 'No journalist should be singled out by the police and the police service has no legal powers or moral responsibility to prevent or restrict photographer's work. Journalists have a duty to record and report on public protests as well as the behaviour of the police.' The union leader added: 'David's case is a shocking example of police brutality and totally unacceptable. We believe that attacks on working journalists are attacks on democracy and on society's ability to make informed decisions.'
- NUJ news release. Video of the incident. Bindmans LLP news release. The Guardian. The Mirror. Editorial Photographer.
Southeastern train staff in strike ballot
Rail union RMT is to ballot staff on Southeastern trains for industrial action over plans to cut jobs and reduce the role of team leaders at London's Charing Cross and Victoria stations. Commenting on moves it believes will 'compromise safety', the union said under the plans the number of team leaders posts will be cut and those remaining will be taken away from dispatching trains to cover other duties. RMT says this will lead to 'more occasions where there will not be enough staff to dispatch trains safely and on time.' It will be balloting gateline, train dispatch and helpdesk members for strike action and action short of a strike. The ballot opens on 14 December and closes on 4 January 2011. RMT general secretary Bob Crow said: 'Just days after their services collapsed into total chaos in the cold snap, Southeastern have been caught out yet again cutting staffing and operational costs to maximise profits in a move that will not only cause chaos on the platforms at Victoria and Charing Cross but which would also compromise safety.' He said the union would be campaigning for a 'massive yes vote', and added: 'We are sending out the clearest message to Southeastern that RMT will not sit idly by while corners are cut to fill the pockets of the shareholders.'
Shopworkers voice festive work fears
Thousands of shopworkers could face holiday misery as a record number of stores open on Boxing Day, retail union Usdaw has warned. The union says it fears staff are being bullied into working and says many will only get Christmas Day off. It wants a 26 December shutdown to give retail workers a two-day seasonal break. But the union says a 'huge number' of stores will open. Asda, which used to shut on Boxing Day, will be open at 105 locations. Tesco, which only had 10 stores open three years ago, will open 410. Sainsbury's opened 95 stores last year but this year 236 will be open on Boxing Day. Of the major chains, only Morrison's is giving its hard-working staff the day off. Usdaw general secretary John Hannett said: 'We would much prefer shops didn't trade on Boxing Day. More and more are opening each year, increasing pressure on working hours and making it very difficult for shop workers to enjoy the festive season with their families.' He added: 'If shops do open, then we strongly believe work on Boxing Day should be voluntary and premium rates of pay should apply.' Usdaw has set up a workers' holiday rights guide on its website.
Unite demands end to 'vicious' BA bullying
British Airways (BA) has been urged to end a 'vicious war' against cabin crew and instead enter constructive negotiations with their union. Unite, which represents 11,000 BA cabin crew, confirmed this week that a fresh ballot for industrial action at the airline is soon to get underway. Tony Woodley, joint general secretary of Unite, said: 'BA told us it was a business in crisis. It demanded structural change. These changes have been made and this business is now in profit with senior management filling their wallets with the spoils. Yet BA is determined to continue with this vicious war against its workforce.' He added: 'It is time for BA to put its passengers first - and the best way to achieve this is to resolve the issues between us, which would not cost BA a single penny and yet would bring priceless stability and peace to the company. However, BA's continued hounding of union members leaves us no other option but to conduct a new industrial action ballot.' The union leader said the airline 'has conducted a year-long assault on cabin crew collectively and on many of them as individuals. We will not stand by while this airline bullies our members out of their jobs, and if it takes strike action to bring BA management to its senses, then that is the road we must, regretfully, travel. Our door is open to negotiations with BA, but it must understand the depth of feeling among our members. Nothing short of the fairness and decent treatment they deserve will be acceptable.' The union wants the company to reverse punitive measures, including removal of travel concessions, pushed through during the current dispute. It says disciplinary cases arising from the dispute should be referred to Acas for binding arbitration, a 'proper discussion' on trade union facilities time and says workers who were off sick on strike dates should have their pay restored.
Head injury cost worker his job
A reception assistant at Rampton Secure Hospital was forced to quit work after he was left with blurred vision, severe anxiety and personality changes from being hit in the head with an iron bar. UNISON member David Prince, who has received a six figure compensation payout, was inspecting an EH Lee Ltd delivery wagon when he suffered the head injury. He had asked the driver to open the side curtains of the vehicle. When the driver let go of the curtain, the iron bar attached struck the 58-year-old Rampton worker on the left side of his head. He was taken to hospital and discharged to return to work. He subsequently had to cut his hours back sharply as he continued to suffer from chronic headaches, an inability to concentrate and out of character behaviour. Over the next two years, Mr Prince was shifted around departments and tried a variety of tasks, but was unable to cope with the work and his employer eventually agreed to retire him on the grounds of ill health. He still suffers from severe headaches, anxiety symptoms, poor sleep, poor appetite, lack of concentration, mood swings and quick loss of temper. He finds it impossible to socialise, leave the house, or answer the phone without the assistance of his wife, and is reliant on anti-depressants. Faced with a union backed compensation claim, EH Lee Ltd admitted liability in 2009. A trial was scheduled for August this year, but the company agreed to a £210,000 compensation settlement before the case went to court. David Prince said: 'The process was very difficult, but if it hadn't been for UNISON I really don't know where I'd be, as I have not been in a good state since the accident.' His wife, Deborah, who is also a UNISON member and works as a nursing assistant at Rampton, said: 'Everything changed overnight after the accident and it has been a real struggle.'
Nursery worker crushed by metal door
A children's nursery worker who was crushed under a falling metal door has been awarded a 'substantial sum' in compensation by Sheffield City Council's First Start Children's Centre. UNISON member Beverley Hampshire, 47, was fetching play equipment from an outdoor shed when the heavy metal door fell off its hinges, collapsing on her and trapping her against a fence. She raised her arms to protect her head, suffering injuries to her wrist, forearm, shoulder and neck. She was subsequently diagnosed with frozen shoulder and chronic regional pain syndrome, which severely limits her day to day activities. The swelling in her hands remains so bad that she can no longer wear her wedding ring. 'It really hurts me to put any stress on my hand,' said Mrs Hampshire. 'After the accident I found I could no longer do basic things like shopping, cooking dinner, gardening or the housework. Even after a year's training I still can't drive a car for more than half an hour without feeling pain. This has all put a lot of strain on my husband. My elbow, shoulder and neck are also very sore for most of the day and this gives me frequent headaches, while at night the pain wakes me up from my sleep.' UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis commented: 'Beverley is suffering from a very painful injury which no amount of compensation can make up for. Because of the nature of Beverley's workplace this incident could have easily involved children too. This could have been avoided if the shed door had been properly maintained.'
Wales TUC safety rep of the year
An NHS physiotherapist has been named the Wales TUC safety rep of the year. The 2010 award went to CSP's Julie Knight, who serves as both a regional and departmental health and safety rep - her physio department covers five counties. As well as securing run-of-the-mill safety improvements like the installation of non-slip ramps, she is also running an awareness campaign on musculoskeletal disorders. The award-winner commented: 'I have increased my knowledge on several aspects of the role including how to negotiate with management and problem solving. Our department certainly feels comfortable knowing that having a union health and safety rep helps reduce injuries. Having a health and safety rep ensures that members safety and well being are considered which makes the workplace a safer place.'
Two die at Sonae board factory
Two workers have been killed in an horrific industrial incident at a Merseyside wood processing factory. Maintenance workers Thomas Elmer, 27, and James Bibby, 25, both from Rossendale, Lancashire, were working for sub-contractor Metso at the Sonae wood processing factory in Kirkby. They were dragged by a conveyor belt into a huge silo machine, staff at the plant said. Sonae manufactures wood-based panels for the construction and furniture industries. Knowsley Labour MP George Howarth raised the tragedy with David Cameron at Prime Minister's Questions on 8 December, demanding to know if 'the necessary action' would be taken. One employee told the Liverpool Echo: 'For a long time, staff have been warning about concerns over safety at the plant. It's such a tragedy.' In 2007, lawyers acting on behalf of Sonae sent a letter to the internet company hosting the website of local magazine Nerve. The letter threatened legal action for 'a damaging effect on reputation' after the magazine published a detailed criticism of the company's safety record, authored by two respected health and safety academics. The magazine responded that 'Sonae's reputation is damaged not by what is written about it, but by its actions - it is a serial offender.' The plant has faced four previous health and safety inquiries in the past decade, amassing £132,000 in fines (Risks 365). In 2006, the firm faced a fines a court costs bill of nearly £150,000 after a worker was seriously injured in a 2002 explosion. The authors of the Nerve report, sociologists Professor Steve Tombs from John Moores University and Dr David Whyte from Liverpool University, spoke out after the two deaths. 'In the last three years, Sonae claimed to have cleaned up its act - and there have been no prosecutions of the company since 2007,' they told the Liverpool Echo. 'But fires, local evacuations and plant shutdowns have continued.'
- Liverpool Echo, follow up letter and related article. Liverpool Daily Post. Nerve website and related back issues of Nerve from 2007 and 2004. BBC News Online. Parliamentary question reported in They work for you.
Scottish retailers back anti-violence law
Shopworkers' union Usdaw has welcomed the decision by The Co-operative Group, Scotmid Co-operative Society and the Scottish Grocers' Federation to support the Protection of Workers (Scotland) Bill. The Bill, which is being steered through the Scottish parliament by Labour MSP Hugh Henry, will give shopworkers and other public facing staff the same level of protection given to emergency workers who are assaulted while doing their jobs. If passed, the law would make it clear that it is an offence to assault a shopworker while at work or as a result of them doing their job. MSPs are first due to vote on the Bill within the next few weeks. John Drummond, chief executive of the Scottish Grocers' Federation said: 'The measures in the Protection of Workers (Scotland) Bill would send out a strong message to those that fail to respect shopworkers and the valuable service they provide that unacceptable behaviour will be punished.' Scotmid Co-operative Society spokesperson Malcolm Brown said the Scottish government must 'make sure the law protects and supports our frontline colleagues.' And Steve Hogarth, regional manager at The Co-operative Group, said his organisation was urging MSPs to support the Bill, adding: 'The Co-operative takes violence and abuse against its staff extremely seriously and we hope all MSPs will do likewise.' John Hannett, Usdaw general secretary, commented: 'The parliament must not turn its back on the 80 per cent of Scottish workers who face the daily threat of violence by just doing their job. MSPs have a unique opportunity to declare Scotland intolerant of violence against all workers and I hope they will at least give this important issue further consideration.'
- Usdaw news release and Freedom from fear Campaign. Morning Star.
- Protection of Workers (Scotland) Bill.
Upturn in firms lacking injury insurance
Severely injured workers are missing out on the rehabilitation and care they need because of the rising number of businesses with inadequate or no insurance, a top personal injury lawyer has said. David Urpeth, who heads the workplace injury team at national law firm Irwin Mitchell, said in the last year their practice had dealt with 10 cases where firms responsible for serious injuries to workers lacked the necessary insurance. He said until two years ago the firm 'had not seen a single case in the proceeding 20 years.' The personal injury expert added: 'People deserve to assume that they will go to work, and return safely home to their family. But when something does go wrong and they are injured through no fault of their own they also deserve to know that they will have access to the care and rehabilitation they need to put their lives back on track. Sadly, we are seeing an increasing number of people who approach us with life devastating injuries, but as there is no adequate insurance, their care will ultimately be paid for by the taxpayer via the NHS and in some cases this just isn't enough.' He urged employers to consider the policies they have in place to ensure staff are protected. 'Everyone is affected by this. The victims who unwittingly worked for an uninsured employer; the other members of staff who may potentially lose their jobs if the company goes under; the taxpayer who funds the rehabilitation and care needed by the victims; the families of the victims who, in some cases, not only lose an income but a loved one and the HSE [Health and Safety Executive] which is put under additional pressure to carry out more inspections and more convictions.' The government should create an insurance safety net for those injured workers who find themselves victims of uninsured employers, he added.
McDonalds fined for partial blinding
Fast food giant McDonalds has paid out more than £20,000 after an employee at a London drive-thru was partially blinded by an acid-based cleaner. The burger chain was taken to court by Wandsworth Council after the worker suffered burns to his face and eyes that has left him with only around 55 per cent vision in his left eye. The injuries were caused when the man, who was working as a maintenance operative, used the acid-based drain cleaner to unblock a waste pipe. The employee had purchased the corrosive drain cleaner from a nearby DIY store. The first attempt at using the sulphuric acid-based cleaner did not work and so the employee was given money by a manager to buy a second bottle. When this bottle was poured into the pipe, its contents blew back into the employee's face and both his eyes. He was given first aid at the scene before being taken to hospital by ambulance. Following treatment he recovered almost all the vision in his right eye but much less in his left eye. The council's environment spokesperson, councillor Sarah McDermott, said: 'Their member of staff was given money by his managers to buy a very hazardous product. No risk assessment was carried out to ensure this product was safe to use, he was not properly supervised while using it, he was not given any training to reduce the risk of an accident, nor was he provided with protective clothing. This was a serious lapse in the company's internal procedures.'
Schlumberger fined over North Sea radiation
An offshore industry firm has been fined £300,000 after workers on a North Sea installation were placed at risk of exposure to radiation. Schlumberger Oilfield UK admitted breaching health and safety laws on a rig during a drill programme in 2008. Radioactive material was left lying on the drill floor for about four hours, during which time 14 workers were placed at risk of exposure. The company was fined at Aberdeen Sheriff Court. The incident happened in the North Sea, about 210 miles east of Dundee in April 2008. Schlumberger had been contracted to undertake work as part of a Maersk drilling programme for the Cawdor well. Elaine Taylor, head of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service's health and safety division, said: 'This wholly avoidable incident could have had devastating consequences for the workers involved in the operation. Workers who were in close proximity to the source were placed in danger as a result of failings on a range of issues including risk assessment, the system of work, training and instruction.' HSE inspector Gillian Rodaks said: 'Loss of control of any radioactive source is extremely serious, particularly of the size involved in this incident, and it was only by good fortune that the source was recovered in a relatively short period of time. Had someone held it, even just for a few minutes, they would have received a significant radiation dose which may have resulted in injuries to their hands and increased their risk of developing cancer in later life.'
Flooring firm fined for finger injuries
A laminate flooring firm has admitted criminal safety offences after a worker's hand was maimed at its Merseyside factory. Christopher Sillitoe now has difficulty dressing himself, and using a knife and fork, after his hand came into contact with a large circular saw at Universal Mouldings Ltd's site in Aintree on 20 August 2009. The company was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) following the incident, which resulted in Mr Sillitoe losing sections of three fingers and breaking his thumb. The 22-year-old from Everton, needed a six-hour operation to reattach his fingers and is unlikely to ever regain full movement in his left hand. Universal Mouldings, which employs 25 people, was fined £5,000 and ordered to pay £7,500 costs after admitting two health and safety offences at Liverpool Magistrates' Court on 2 December. The court heard that workers at the factory had been instructed to reach under the guard on the machine to remove the laminate material while the 0.65-metre-wide blade was still rotating. The HSE investigation found that workers were expected to remove the cut laminate from the blade to stop it being damaged, and that there had been several near-misses in the past. Mr Sillitoe, who joined the company at the age of 16, has not had a job since the incident and will be unable to return to joinery work. Jane Carroll, the investigating inspector at HSE, said: 'The machine was simply the wrong one for the job. The only way of ensuring the laminate material wasn't damaged when the blade retracted was for workers to reach under the guard to remove it.'
Half of car repair firms are law breakers
Almost half (49 per cent) of motor vehicle repair premises visited across Kent have been issued legally binding Health and Safety Executive (HSE) enforcement notices after inspectors found criminal safety breaches. Inspectors from HSE, Kent Fire and Rescue Service and local authorities have been looking at areas such as asbestos management, electrical safety, chemical use and equipment maintenance as part of the 'Common Approach to Vehicle Enterprise' (CAVE) initiative. Since the campaign began at the beginning of November, 172 premises have been inspected across the county and, so far, 84 notices have been issued for things such as unsafe electrics and vehicle lifts, and dangerous welding equipment. In the final phase of the countywide safety campaign, inspectors have targeted premises in Dartford, Gravesham, Medway and Swale. Mike Walters, HSE's principal inspector in Kent, said: 'Many incidents or deaths could be avoided in the motor vehicle repair trade, however, the statistics speak for themselves, which is why we have targeted these premises. Unfortunately, some sites had such poor health and safety standards that formal enforcement action had to be taken.' He added: 'We hope that through this campaign, everyone we visited has become aware of the risks involved in the workplace. We would much prefer to be offering them advice but if workers are being put at significant risk of injury or ill health, we will not hesitate to take action.' HSE says there have been over 8,000 injuries and 24 deaths in the motor vehicle repair (MVR) industry over the last 5 years.
Global: Screw tightens on Canada's asbestos pushers
Canada has been hit with a global barrage of criticism this week for its support for asbestos exports worldwide. Protesters targeted headquarters of the Canadian federal and Quebec provincial governments in London, Japan, the Philippines, Korea, Indonesia, India and elsewhere highlighting Canada's commitment to continued asbestos exports and current plans to expand production in the country. Last year, Canada shipped 150,000 tonnes to countries including India, Indonesia and the Philippines, where few laws exist to protect people from asbestos. A delegation of Asian activists, union representatives and asbestos victims travelled to Quebec to call on the authorities to abandon plans to support a massive new asbestos mine in the province. The events, together with a highly critical article in leading medical journal the Lancet, attracted global coverage. 'Canada should not be exporting asbestos to developing nations where there are few or no workplace regulations,' said Richard Horton, editor of the Lancet, in a statement. He called for an end to 'this immoral export of asbestos-related death and disease to some of the most vulnerable people in the world.' Kathleen Ruff, a senior human rights adviser to the Rideau Institute, an independent research and advocacy organisation in Ottawa, said that in exporting asbestos and refusing to alert poor countries to its dangers, Canada is intentionally doing harm. 'Canada has blood on its hands,' Ruff said. 'What we are doing is unconscionable. The whole world should condemn us.' The London protests were co-organised by Laurie Kazan-Allen, coordinator of the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat (IBAS). 'For over a decade, we have been engaged in a David and Goliath battle with asbestos lobbyists, stakeholder governments and commercial interests. They maintain that asbestos can be used safely under controlled conditions, but we know this is wrong,' she said. 'A new asbestos mine in Quebec would be an abomination.'
- IBAS press pack on the Asian delegation to Quebec [pdf]. BWI statement and briefing [pdf]. Asbestos Forum news release [pdf]. Salon. The Olympian. Ottawa Citizen. ABC News. Globe and Mail. CBC News. Washington Post. Morning Star.
- Canada accused of hypocrisy over asbestos exports.Original TextTony Kirby, The Lancet, Volume 376, Issue 9757, pages 1973-1974, 11 December 2010.
Europe: A quarter of workers hurt by their jobs
Work is adversely affecting the health of 25 per cent of European workers, a new survey has found. The first results of the fifth European Working Conditions Survey, previewed last month by the Dublin-based European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (Eurofound), are based on responses from 43,816 workers in 34 European countries. The study found 84 per cent of workers in the 27 European Union member states report that they are satisfied or even very satisfied with their working conditions - an increase of 2 per cent over 2000 and 2005. However, one quarter of European workers still feel that work is having an adverse effect on their health. The proportion of workers required to make repetitive hand or arm movements continues to increase. In 2010, the share of workers exposed to this risk stood at 63.5 per cent, an increase of 7.4 per cent in ten years. Exposure to chemical products and substances is also on the rise. Currently, 15.3 per cent of EU workers are exposed to chemicals, compared to 14.5 per cent in 2005. Among skilled manual workers, almost one worker in three is exposed.
- HESA news report and related blog article. Preliminary results of the fifth European Working Conditions Survey [pdf].
Sweden: Firms call for safer toxics laws
Regulations and incentives are needed to encourage a shift away from toxic chemicals, a group of Swedish business leaders, academics and environmental organisations have said. The call, in a co-signed article in Dagens Industri, the country's largest financial newspaper, says it is a misconception that a lack of technically sound alternatives are the barrier to the transition towards a toxic free world. The article urges the Swedish government to introduce regulations making it profitable to replace hazardous chemicals with alternative solutions. According to the authors, it is the established traditional firms, which have invested huge amounts to 'old solutions' and have a vested interest in their preservation, that sets the rules of the market game. This acts as a block to best available technology and makes it difficult for new, more progressive businesses to enter the market, which legislators then incorrectly interpret as an absence of alternatives. They say in Sweden a carbon dioxide tax is used to reach climate targets and emissions limits, but no equivalent tax tool is used in the case of hazardous chemicals.
USA: IKEA charged with labour rights abuses
A major IKEA factory in the US stands accused of serious workers' rights, discrimination and health and safety abuses. This week trade union leaders from more than 25 countries protested in front of a new IKEA store in Geneva, Switzerland, 'to send a message that they were united against workers' rights abuses' at the wholly IKEA-owned Swedwood plant in Danville, Virginia, USA. Global building and woodworkers' union federation BWI said the action was part of its international campaign to get the Swedish multinational to address serious safety, racial discrimination and other labour rights violations at the plant. In October, the Virginia Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Division levied fines against the Danville factory after confirming the findings of a highly critical July safety report by the Machinists' union (IAM). Virginia OSHA found the accident rate at the plant was double that originally reported by the firm. 'Instead of working with us to solve these problems, Swedwood hired an expensive anti-union law firm and is spending substantial amounts of money to maintain an unsafe workplace,' said IAM woodworkers' department director William Street. 'Everyone knows that productivity goes up and costs go down in a safe workplace. Additionally, Swedwood continues to deny us access to educate the Swedwood workers as to their rights to form and join a union.' Ambet Yuson, general secretary of BWI, said: 'We refuse to accept that IKEA's attitude that paved the way for the international expansion of this furniture giant, founded on loyal and sound labour relations, cannot after more than three years be extended to the other side of the Atlantic.' The union organisations are urging consumers and union members to sign up to an online seasonal appeal to IKEA chief executive officer and president, Mikael Ohlsson, calling on the company to address the safety and labour rights violations.
- BWI news release and IKEA Swedwood campaign webpage and Facebook group. Machinists news release.
- Sign up to the BWI xmas message to IKEA chief executive officer and president, Mikael Ohlsson.
USA: Oil industry regulation still inadequate
The US government's overhaul of the federal agency that regulates offshore drilling doesn't go far enough to prevent conflicts of interest and enhance safety, according to leaders of the presidential panel studying the causes of the Gulf oil spill. President Obama's overhaul involved replacing top leadership, giving the agency a new name, and separating the offices overseeing safety from the offices collecting royalties, reports the public interest news agency ProPublica. A draft recommendation from the spill panel suggests creation of a new agency to focus on safety issues and environmental analysis, a move that would require legislative action by Congress. Under the current inspection programme, inspectors are sent armed with little more than checklists and pencils into the Gulf to ensure the safety of more than 3,500 oil platforms and drilling rigs. The panel's focus wasn't just on regulators. BP, Halliburton, and Transocean had made decisions regarding the well that 'turned out to add risk to the operation,' and the industry as a whole had a culture of complacency, it said. These statements came as the Obama administration this week announced a plan to suspend offshore drilling for the next seven years in the eastern Gulf of Mexico and off the coast of the Atlantic and Pacific?a reversal of its plan in March to open up these areas for drilling.
TUC advice on what to do when it snows
TUC is urging employers to adopt a flexible attitude to staff attendance during particularly inclement weather. With arctic conditions liable to return across the UK, the TUC has said when transport is treacherous the sensible option in many instances is to allow employees with internet, email and phones to work from home. It adds communication between employers and their staff, and between workers and their managers, is key when the weather takes a turn for the worse. Good employers will already have 'bad weather' policies in place and will have told their workforce what is expected of them when snow and ice close the workplace or make the usual commute difficult or hazardous, the union body adds. Any 'snow' policy should also cover what parents should do if their local schools close and they have no alternative means of childcare. WorkSMART, the TUC's world of work website, provides detailed advice to individuals living in snow-bound parts of the country.
Events and Courses
TUC courses for safety reps
COURSES FOR SEPTEMBER 2010 to DECEMBER 2010
- Visit the TUC www.tuc.org.uk/h_and_s website pages on health and safety. See what's on offer from TUC Publications and What's On in health and safety.
- Subscribe to Hazards magazine, supported by the TUC as a key source of information for union safety reps.
- What's new in the HSC/E and the European Agency.
- HSE Books, PO Box 1999, Sudbury, Suffolk CO10 2WA. Tel: 01787 881165; fax: 01787 313995
Issued: 10 December, 2010