Risks 515 - 23 July 2011

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Asbestos - the hidden killer
Hazards magazine
Hazards at Work

Risks is the TUC's weekly online bulletin for safety reps and others, read each week by over 18,000 subscribers and 1,500 on the TUC website. To receive this bulletin every week, click here. Past issues are available. This edition contains Useful links TUC courses for safety reps Disclaimer and Privacy

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

Union News

Safety concerns remain over new coastguard plans

Watered-down government plans to slash the number of Britain's coastguard centres will still risk lives, unions have warned. Originally it was proposed that the number of centres be cut from 19 to eight, with only three remaining open 24 hours a day. But Transport secretary Philip Hammond announced in the Commons last week that 11 centres would remain and that they would all operate round-the-clock. The union PCS welcomed the climb-down from the government's original proposals, but said it will still oppose any new plans that would result in safety being compromised. It added the announcement was 'a partial victory for the communities who campaigned to save what is an essential public service that they hold dear. But it will be a bitter blow for those still under threat.' PCS expressed concern the government had made no commitment to prevent compulsory redundancies, and insisted the new plans must be subject to 'full and meaningful consultation involving staff, unions, the public and other interested parties.' PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: 'We pay tribute to our coastguard members and people in their communities who have fought so hard to defend what is a vital public service.' He added, however: 'This fight is not over. We are committed to ensuring we retain the local knowledge of our coastlines that is essential to saving lives, as we are determined to defend all public services and our communities from the government's cuts.' Bob Crow, general secretary of the transport union RMT, said: 'While the government have clearly been forced by public and union pressure to make significant changes to their original proposals we still remain concerned that the revised plans may leave gaps in the service and we will be seeking further assurances that there will be no impact on the safety of our members out on the high seas.'

Government must replace 'useless' dogs laws

The government should stop stalling and introduce improved dangerous dogs legislation in England and Wales to replace 'a mish-mash of useless laws', communications union CWU has said. CWU national health, safety and environment officer Dave Joyce followed up this month's parliamentary debate on the issue with a strongly worded letter to government minister James Paice calling for urgent action. The letter reminds the Defra minister, who has responsibility for the dangerous dogs issue, of the 'powerful cross-party message' that emerged from the Commons debate and urges him to replace the current 'ineffective mish-mash of useless laws with a consolidated, modernised, updated law which is effective, easy to understand and enforce.' CWU says a loophole in UK law effectively prevents prosecutions in cases where dog attacks take place on private property. Thousands of postal workers, telecoms engineers and many other public service workers are injured in such circumstances every year and the CWU - along with a range of other public and voluntary organisations - has been campaigning for several years for this loophole to be closed. CWU adds the union's campaign has succeeded in winning this key legal reform in both Scotland and Northern Ireland. The letter reminds Mr Paice of the pre-election pledge made by the then leader of the opposition David Cameron in April 2010 when, in a letter to Dave Joyce, Mr Cameron stated: 'We support extending the Dangerous Dogs Act to cover all places including private property.'

Legal changes will hurt victims

A government shake-up of the legal system will be bad news for many of the hundreds of thousands of people harmed by their work each year. TUC's Hugh Robertson was commenting as the government confirmed it will press ahead with the reforms to civil compensation, including personal injury claims (Risks 511). These proposals, contained in the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill, 'will seriously damage access to justice for many working people,' writes the TUC head of safety in the union body's Touchstone blog. 'While attention has focused on those sections of the bill dealing with legal aid and sentencing, other parts could also prove to be disastrous for those people seeking compensation because of an injury at work caused by the employers' negligence.' He adds: 'Union members will be among the millions who are deprived of the ability to claim compensation, or who will lose damages. As many as 25 per cent of injury claims will not be brought. Those that proceed might lose up to 25 per cent of damages for the success fee and further substantial reductions for required legal expense insurance.' He says many people will no longer be able to obtain legal representation, particularly for low value or complex cases. 'However, although a claim of £3,000 or £4,000 may be considered to be low value by the government, it is not low value to a cleaner who earns £6 an hour and represents four months wages.' He warns workplace safety will be another victim. 'By reducing the threat of litigation in workplace accidents and diseases, health and safety at work will be undermined. The money taken from claimants and their representatives won't benefit the Treasury, but the big insurers will gain a windfall.'

Asbestos killed power station electrician

The family of a South Wales electrician who died from cancer caused by exposure to asbestos at a power station has been awarded 'substantial compensation' following a lengthy legal battle. Unite member John Vaughan was 71 when he died from mesothelioma. He was exposed to asbestos while working at Aberthaw Power Station, which at the time was run by the Central Electricity Generating Board (CEGB). Mr Vaughan had worked at the power station for 32 years when he retired in 1992. He was exposed to the dust as he worked alongside laggers who were handling asbestos insulating materials. He was diagnosed with mesothelioma in December 2008 and told he had just six months to live. Mr Vaughan pursued a union-backed claim for compensation, but died before it was finalised. His wife, Glenys, carried on his claim and has now been awarded an unspecified amount in an out-of-court settlement. She said: 'He was determined to pursue compensation because he wanted to make sure that his family were provided for. We'd much rather have him here beside us but we know that he'd feel vindicated that his employers have admitted responsibility for his death.' Andy Richards, regional secretary at Unite, said: 'The sad reality is those retirement dreams which mesothelioma sufferers have worked so hard to achieve are often never realised all because their employers failed to protect them from the known dangers of asbestos when they were younger.' RWE npower, which runs the now privatised power firm, agreed the payout.

Pothole caused forklift to topple

A forklift truck driver was left with an eight inch scar on his arm, bruised ribs and injuries to his leg and chest after the forklift he was driving went over a sunken manhole cover and toppled. In the incident in his employer's yard, the truck spilled its load, a 300 kilo pallet containing 12 metal plates, which struck him as it fell. The 49-year-old GMB member, whose name has not been released but who has worked for the firm for 26 years, was put on light duties for a fortnight and had to take strong painkillers for a month to help manage the pain in his bruised ribs. In a union backed compensation claim, the employer, whose identity hasn't been disclosed, admitted liability and settled the claim out of court for £5,350. Tim Roache from the GMB said: 'The use of forklifts in this yard was well known and employers need to make sure maintenance includes yards where potholes can cause a serious hazard. Thankfully though unpleasant for our member this accident wasn't much more serious - he was extremely fortunate.' Nikki Sharpe from Thompsons Solicitors, which represented the GMB member in the case, added: 'A simple risk assessment could have avoided this accident from happening in the first place and avoided our client being left with a prominent scar.'

Nurse compensated after fall in reception

A nurse who needs risky surgery on her spine after she slipped on a wet floor as she arrived at work has received £17,500 in compensation. The Unite member, a specialist nurse working for an NHS Trust in London, has been told she will need the operation on her back after she fell heavily. She had just entered the building when she slipped on a wet floor in the reception area. She suffered injuries to her ankle and lower back and initially needed to take two weeks off work. However, six weeks later she began to suffer pins and needles in her left leg, which became difficult to move. She needed to take a further three weeks off work. The nurse was subsequently diagnosed with a displaced disc that is pressing on the nerve. The injury means she can no longer sit or stand for long periods of time and she cannot drive long distances. Doctors have said that she needs surgery but there is a 50 per cent chance of serious complications arising from it. In a union backed compensation case, the NHS Trust admitted liability and settled the claim out of court. Peter Kavanagh, acting regional secretary at Unite, said: 'Our member has been left in a great deal of discomfort as a result of this accident which was foreseeable and avoidable. The most common cause of falls at work is spillages but they can easily be avoided with the correct health and safety strategy in place.'

Other news

Network Rail still getting it wrong, says regulator

Network Rail has been singled out for stinging criticism in a new report from the rail regulator, labelling its systems 'ineffective' and its performance 'disappointing'. The Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) summarises the rail giant's performance as: 'A disappointing year with clear evidence of a poor safety culture, patchy implementation of procedures and slow progress on some key risks, often requiring formal enforcement.' The conclusion comes in the regulator's annual health and safety report 2010/11. This notes: 'We found increasing evidence that Network Rail's internal assurance processes to assess health and safety compliance are not effective. Too often, our inspection activity revealed significant issues that came as a surprise to the company. An effective assurance regime would have found these beforehand and led to corrective action. The company cannot rely on ORR to do that which should be at the core of effective safety management. We have been disappointed that stated commitments to improve health and safety are not reliably translated into action - especially when enforcement action had already covered the issue.' The rail operator was prosecuted on two occasions in the year covered by the report, costing it nearly £174,000 in fines and costs. It also received 12 improvement notices and two prohibition notices. The ORR report suggests measures to address systematic under-reporting of injuries by the company and its contractors and driven by performance targets (Risks 491), had revealed an unacceptably high injury rate. 'The fatality and weighted injuries (FWI) is also higher than the target, and this is of more concern because this measure reflects numbers of major injury accidents, which were not under-reported and which remain unacceptably high,' the report adds. ORR was also critical of Network Rail's handling of contractors, noting it 'repeatedly missed opportunities to specify health and safety standards as part of the contractual arrangements when acting as a client, or sponsor.'

Boston fire's Lithuanian victims identified

Five men killed in an explosion at an industrial unit in Lincolnshire have been identified by police. The five victims of the blast in Boston on 13 July were all Lithuanian nationals living in Peterborough. It is thought Vaidas Krupenkinas, 39, Laimutis Simkus, 32, Ovidijus Mejeris, 26, Ricardas Gecas, 24, and Erlandas Duzinskas, 18, died instantly in the intense fire at the unit on the Broadfield Industrial Estate in Boston. Lincolnshire Police said their relatives had been informed with the help of the Lithuanian Embassy. A sixth man survived after suffering 75 per cent burns and is said to be in a critical condition in hospital. Police said they have discovered evidence that suggested the unit was being used as an illegal distillery when the explosion took place. In response to questions from Hazards magazine, the Health and Safety Executive indicated they were not involved in the investigation and were not treating the incident, involved an industrial process in industrial premises, as an industrial accident because it was a criminal activity. As yet the status of the deceased - whether they were involved knowingly in criminal activity, or just employed formally or casually to undertake the production work - has not been determined. HSE indicated the deaths would not be recorded as work-related fatalities. A later statement to Hazards said HSE and its lab wing HSL were providing specialist assistance to the police, but were not investigating the deaths.

Offshore improvements need to be faster

The offshore industry needs to 'pick up the pace' if it is going to meet its target to reduce potentially catastrophic oil and gas leaks, the offshore regulator has said. The warning came this week, as the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) released figures showing the number of offshore oil and gas leaks that could potentially lead to a major incident fell in 2010/11. There were 73 major or significant hydrocarbon releases associated with offshore installations in 2010/11, compared with 85 the previous year. This compares to the 61 recorded in 2008/09 - the lowest since HSE began regulating the industry. For the fourth year running, no workers were killed during offshore activities regulated by HSE - although a worker did die in a fall from a rig in June 2011, outside of the reporting year. There were 42 reported major injuries compared with 50 the previous year, which HSE said brought the total in line with the average of the previous five years. The combined fatal and major injury rate fell to 151.8 per 100,000 workers in 2010/11, compared with 192 in 2009/10. There was also a continued fall in the number of reported minor injuries that led to three or more days off work, with 106 - down from last year's 110 - which represents a new low in the over three-day injury rate. Steve Walker HSE's head of offshore safety, said the figures were 'a step in the right direction.' But he warned the industry was falling short of its own Step Change target of halving the number of hydrocarbon releases over three years. He said 'although there has been a reduction in oil and gas leaks, the industry needs to pick up the pace of improvement if it is to meet its own target. I expect all operators to be drawing up and implementing plans to achieve that goal. The Gulf of Mexico disaster should continue to be a stark reminder of what can go wrong offshore.'

M&S convicted of safety crimes

Marks and Spencer plc and two of its contractors have been convicted for putting members of the public, staff and construction workers at risk of exposure to asbestos-containing materials during the refurbishment of two stores. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuted the retail giant, Willmott Dixon Construction Ltd and PA Realisations Ltd (formerly Pectel Ltd). The work was carried out between 2006 and 2007 on shops in Reading and Bournemouth. Winchester Crown Court heard construction workers at the two stores removed asbestos-containing materials that were present in the ceiling tiles and elsewhere. The court heard that the client, Marks and Spencer plc, did not allocate sufficient time and space for the removal of the asbestos-containing materials at the Reading store. The contractors had to work overnight in enclosures on the shopfloor, with the aim of completing small areas of asbestos removal before the shop opened to the public each day. HSE alleged that Marks and Spencer plc failed to ensure that work at Reading complied with the appropriate minimum standards set out in legislation and approved codes of practice. The principal contractor at the Bournemouth store, Wilmott Dixon Construction Ltd, failed to plan, manage and monitor removal of asbestos-containing materials. It did not prevent the possibility of asbestos being disturbed by its workers in areas that had not been surveyed extensively. After the hearing, HSE principal inspector Charles Gilby said: 'This prosecution exposed serious failures by Marks and Spencer and its contractors that we hope others will learn from. This verdict is a wake-up call for the retail industry. Client accountability and responsibility is at the heart of this case, because asbestos can and does kill.' The companies will be sentenced on 26 September 2011.

Workers survive electrical fireball

A global packaging firm has been fined £90,000 and £26,790 costs after two workers suffered life-threatening injuries when they were engulfed by a fireball at a factory in Cumbria. Gordon Metcalf, 62, and apprentice electrician Raymond Crumpler, were about to clean debris from a damaged fuse box when a ball of fire shot out, setting their clothes alight. Innovia Films Ltd was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) following an investigation into the cause of the fire at the plant in Wigton on 13 September 2006. Carlisle Crown Court heard how bosses at Innovia Films Ltd, which has production sites in the UK, USA, Belgium and Australia, had chosen not to turn off the power to the damaged fuse box because this would have necessitated a 36-hour shutdown of the whole plant. So when works electrician Gordon Metcalf started cleaning out the debris next morning he was working so close to a live electric cable that he caused a huge explosion that nearly killed him and the apprentice helping him. The court heard both Mr Metcalf, who had worked at the factory for 19 years, and Mr Crumpler might have died but for 'advances in medical science in the treatment of burns injury patients'. Mr Metcalf who suffered burns to 47 per cent of his body, is still undergoing treatment for his burns, nearly five years on, and will never be able to return to work. He was in a coma for four weeks, intensive care for six weeks and in hospital for five months. His colleague's injuries were less severe and he has now been able to find employment. Mr Metcalf, who is married with two children and two grandchildren, said: 'I still cry at the drop of a hat. If someone asks what's happened to me, that's the hardest bit. I wake up in the middle of the night and just can't get back to sleep once I start thinking about it.' He added: 'I just wish Innovia had cut the electricity supply before asking us to do the work.'

Industrial 'corkscrew' removes arm

A Leicestershire manufacturing firm has been fined after an employee's arm was torn off by a giant industrial 'corkscrew' as he was carrying out repairs. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuted London Concrete Ltd after a manager accidentally turned on an auger - a large corkscrew-like machine which moves dry materials from one level to another - while it was being repaired at a factory in Gerrards Cross. Aylesbury Crown Court heard that a 50-year-old employee, who does not wish to be named, was working on the machine on 28 and 29 May 2008. On both days he attempted a repair to the auger. On neither occasion was the auger properly isolated from the power, nor was the required permit to work completed. During the second attempted repair, a supervisor accidentally activated the machine and it tore the man's arm off above the elbow. The experienced fitter had worked in the industry for 23 years before joining London Concrete Ltd 10 months before the incident. The HSE investigation found that although London Concrete trained its workforce on safety and could isolate power to machines and prevent them from being used during repairs, it failed to provide the injured man with initial training or any additional information about the equipment he was working on or company procedures. Inspectors also discovered that the plant manager did not supervise work correctly, which meant company permits to work were frequently not completed. At Aylesbury Crown Court, London Concrete Ltd was fined £16,000 and ordered to pay costs of £9,397 after pleading guilty at an earlier hearing to a criminal breach of safety law.

Worker injured by falling truck

A Nottingham cleaning products manufacturer has been found guilty of criminal safety offences after an employee was seriously injured when a powered industrial truck toppled and fell on him. The worker, who has asked not to be named, suffered a fractured cheekbone, multiple skull injuries and long term impaired vision after the incident, which happened when he was helping load a lorry using a semi-electric stacker truck. The truck was pulled over a kerb and fell onto the employee. His employer, Revelholme Marketing Ltd, trading as Unic International, was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after an investigation. The company, which makes solvent degreasers and cleaning products, was found guilty of breaching the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations at a three day trial. It was fined £5,000 and ordered to pay costs of £18,000. Nottingham Magistrates' Court heard that after the incident on 23 January 2009, the employee was hospitalised for 10 days and was off work for almost three months. Although he has returned to work, the man still suffers from the after-effects of his injuries. Commenting after the trial, HSE inspector Stuart Pilkington said: 'The stacker truck was mainly used in the factory and car park but on occasion employees used the truck to load lorries in the road. A slope between the two surfaces and the lip of the dropped kerb made the terrain unsuitable for this type of equipment to be used.' He added: 'Companies need to ensure that the work equipment they use, such as stacker trucks, is suitable for the task, and for the conditions in which it is used.'

Skin cancer warning for construction workers

Britain's 2.4 million construction workers need protection from potentially deadly over-exposure to the sun, the Society of Occupational Medicine (SOM) has warned. The alert came as new research published this week in SOM's journal, Occupational Medicine, suggested skin cancer in construction workers could be as common as asbestos-related disease. Researchers from the University of Manchester found that some construction workers were up to nine times more likely to get skin cancer than other workers from a similar social group and background. They have a higher risk due to long periods working outside in direct sunlight and ultraviolet rays reflected from nearby surfaces such as concrete, the research concluded. The study also reveals that labourers in building and construction trades have significantly increased incidence of other health conditions because of their work compared with other workers. Dr Raymond Agius, who led the research team, said: 'Construction workers are an important focus of our research. Many are unaware that their work can put their health at risk of a whole range of conditions including asbestos induced tumours, serious skin conditions and skin cancer.' SOM said that by prioritising and targeting employees who work in the construction sector with preventive measures, lives can be saved. 'Workers in the construction industry suffer from a lack of occupational health provision and this also needs to be addressed and improved,' said SOM president Dr Henry Goodall.

Reports highlight growing cancer risk

Two reports have highlighted a growing risk of getting cancer in the UK, as global cancer experts call for urgent measures to address neglected occupational and environmental causes of cancer. A report last week from Macmillan Cancer Support said rising cancer rates mean more than four out of every 10 people in the UK get the disease at some point in their lives. It said a decade ago about a third of people, or 33 per cent, developed cancer at some point in their lives. The charity says that figure has risen to 42 per cent. A report this week from Cancer Research UK (CRUK) said cancer diagnoses in middle-aged men and women have soared by 20 per cent in a generation, linking this to improved screening and lifestyle factors. CRUK has been criticised by both workplace and environmental health organisations for routinely dismissing non-lifestyle contributors to cancer. These are, however, getting increasing recognition elsewhere. A paper this month in the online journal Environmental Health Perspectives, co-authored by two experts from the World Health Organisation (WHO), notes 'credible estimates from the World Health Organisation and the International Agency for Research on Cancer suggest that the fraction of global cancer currently attributable to toxic environmental exposures is between 7 per cent and 19 per cent.' It adds: 'Primary prevention?environmental interventions that halt the exposures that cause cancer - is the single most effective strategy. Primary prevention reduces cancer incidence, and it saves lives and billions of dollars' [more in International News, below].

International News

Global: WHO backs work-related cancer action call

Urgent action is needed to tackle the occupational and environmental exposures 'responsible for a substantial percentage of all cancers,' a new report says. The paper published this month in the online journal Environmental Health Perspectives, says 'credible estimates' suggest these exposures could account for up to 1 in every 5 cancers. The authors, Philip J Landrigan of New York's Mount Sinai School of Medicine and Carolina Espina and Maria Neira of the World Health Organisation (WHO) write: 'Despite their proven feasibility and cost-effectiveness, efforts to prevent environmental cancers have lagged. In contrast to vigorous and well-coordinated global efforts to prevent cancers caused by tobacco, much more needs to be done in environmental cancer control and to further develop strategies for prevention of environmental causes of cancer.' The paper summarises the 'Asturias Declaration' agreed at a March 2011 WHO-convened conference, saying the 'recommendations will also prevent recurrence of such tragedies as the global asbestos epidemic'. The declaration, which is posted on the websites of both WHO and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), includes a call on WHO to 'develop a global framework for control of environmental and occupational carcinogens that concentrates on the exposures identified by IARC as proven or probable causes of human cancer'. Corporations should comply with all rules and regulations for prevention of environmental and occupational cancers and adhere to the same standards in all countries - developed and developing - in which they and their subsidiaries operate, it adds. To be successful, these prevention efforts 'will require partnerships among countries and collaborations of public health authorities with ministries of environment, labour, finance, and trade,' it concludes.

Germany: Unions call for healthy lunchtime siestas

German unions have called for a return to official siestas as part of the working day, referring to studies proving its health benefits. The DGB trades union confederation argues that a short, lunchtime power nap makes sense for health and performance reasons. 'Even though the siesta is something that isn't a given anymore in the southern European countries, it is still a good idea for health reasons,' said Annelie Buntenbach, a DGB executive board member. 'A short afternoon nap reduces the risk of, for example, a heart attack, and provides an energy boost,' she told Tageszeitung in an interview. Studies bear this out. Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health and the University of Athens Medical School in Greece found that Greek workers who took regular siestas had 37 per cent lower mortality rates from coronary illnesses than their napless counterparts. The idea has caught on in Germany, where big German companies such as BASF, Opel, Hornsbach and Lufthansa provide special rooms for their workers, and employers say they benefit from the increased productivity of well-rested employees.

New Zealand: Seafarer abuse an 'embarrassment'

The New Zealand government has announced an inquiry into the abuse of crews on foreign fishing charter vessels in the country's waters. Unions said the move was 'long overdue', adding ongoing problems with the abuse and underpayment of overseas crews on joint venture vessels in New Zealand waters have become 'an international embarrassment.' The inquiry follows allegations foreign fishermen worked in poor safety and working conditions. Maritime Union of New Zealand (MUNZ) general secretary Joe Fleetwood said the Maritime Union and International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) had found it necessary to intervene in numerous cases in the past few years. He said the current regulation of the New Zealand fishing industry and joint venture operators using international crews was being shown up as a failure. 'It is time to lance this boil. There needs to be a thorough investigation of the industry and immediate concrete steps, not just talk, to clamp down on the abuse and exploitation of overseas crews in New Zealand waters.' Mr Fleetwood said MUNZ will be demanding that the ministerial inquiry is not just a 'smother job' that sits on the bookshelf gathering dust. 'This must not be a box ticking exercise. We know what the problems are, what we need now is action, proper regulation, proper enforcement, to clean up a mess that has been allowed to grow for years under successive governments.' Indonesian crew members who worked on fishing boats on New Zealand waters say they faced months of abuse and were called names like "monkey" and "pigs". The issue came to a head when three Indonesian crew members were killed after the Korean-registered fishing ship Oyang 70 capsized and sank 800km southeast of Dunedin last year.

USA: Court tells firm to ditch BS

A labour rights court in the US has ruled that a manufacturing company that tried to impose a behavioural safety system broke the law and should have negotiated with the union USW. After the ruling, USW commented: 'This win by our union is timely in that some paper companies are trying to go to health and safety programmes that focus on worker behaviour. In this case a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) administrative law judge ruled a tool maker must bargain with its union over a new safety programme.' The union said the company programme 'resulted in workers getting disciplined for safety violations and injuries.' USW Local 5518 filed NLRB charges nearly a year ago, when Kennametal Inc failed to bargain over implementation of its Management Based Safety (MBS) programme at its Lydonville, Vermont plant. The company's unilateral implementation of a new discipline policy for safety violations was also an integral part of the NLRB case. The company had rejected a union request to negotiate, claiming it was not a mandatory subject of bargaining. It also asserted that its discipline policy for safety violations - called 'Procedure for Corrective Actions for Safety Violations and Work Instructions for Corrective Actions' - had no relationship to MBS. The change in discipline policy meant that a first-time serious safety violation resulted in a three-day suspension and a second serious violation would result in the worker being fired. NLRB Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Arthur J Amchan rejected the company's contention that its disciplinary policies had nothing to do with MBS. He noted that MBS eliminated the union's participation in accident investigation, contrary to the provisions of the collective bargaining agreement. By changing the investigation process, Kennametal diminished the possibility that factors such as production quotas would be considered in assessing the cause of an accident, he ruled. The judge wrote that MBS, in making it more likely an injured worker would be found at fault for an accident, had a 'clear relationship to disciplinary measures taken as the result of an accident.' The company was told to 'cease and desist' from imposing the MBS programme.


TUC guide to using safety statistics

The TUC has published a short union safety reps' guide to finding and using safety statistics. It says a safety rep's first stop should be with the employer. 'They have to give health and safety representatives information on injuries and sickness if you request it and also let you inspect any documents that relate to health and safety.' With some exceptions regarding confidentiality of personal information, reps can obtain anything from RIDDOR reports and accident book entries, to sickness absence records and reports. The guide provides links to other sources of statistics, including official agencies. It explains some of the language used by the number crunchers and how to make effective use of the stats you unearth.

Tell TUC what you think of WCA

The Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and the accompanying Work Capability Assessment (WCA) - fitness for work tests - were introduced in 2008 as a replacement for Incapacity Benefit (IB). The tests, which have been criticised by unions, welfare and disability organisations, have seen many people with serious health problems and little chance of finding work thrown off of disability benefits. The government department responsible for the system, DWP, is currently calling for evidence on the system - and TUC wants to make sure its submission puts the strongest case for a fairer approach. If you have comments or evidence you think TUC will find useful, it would like to hear them.

Events and Courses

TUC courses for safety reps


Useful Links

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  • 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
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