Risks 547 - 17 March 2012

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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 23,000 subscribers. 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

TUC warning on work diseases 'timebomb'

Occupational diseases kill at least 100 times the number killed in workplace 'accidents', the TUC has said. The union body warns government claims that Britain's workplaces are among the safest in the world fail to take account of this chronic disease toll, adding there is a systematic failure to address the real problem as a result. According to TUC, 'despite the fact that occupational illnesses and diseases kill more people than injuries, and are responsible for far more sick leave, much less is done to prevent these and the cuts in HSE [Health and Safety Executive] resources and inspection that are being implemented by this government will make things far worse.' In the fourth in a series of briefings ahead of a 28 April national 'Day of Action', TUC notes: 'Using the most conservative estimates at least 20,000 people die prematurely every year because of occupational injury or disease, but the real figure could be nearer twice that.' The government, though, appears uninterested. 'In March last year, the government published their strategy for health and safety called 'Good Health and Safety, Good for Everyone'. This did not have one mention of occupational disease or illness. In fact, since it came into power the current government has pushed through a number of policies that will mean that occupational illnesses will increase.' TUC wants the 28 April national Day of Action to highlight the harm caused by a government policy that has seen dramatic cuts in the Health and Safety Executive's budget and in its enforcement activity.

The numbers behind Workers' Memorial Day

Workers' Memorial Day is held on 28 April every year. All over the world workers and unions organise demonstrations, vigils and other events to mark the day. The day serves as a rallying cry to 'Remember the dead, but fight like hell for the living'. TUC has made an 'infographic' to explain why workplace safety is still a 'huge' issue in the UK, and why we still need the focus of Workers' Memorial Day. Inviting you to 'do the maths on health and safety', it notes that even official figures indicate at least 20,000 people in the UK go to their graves each year as a result of hazards encountered at work. It adds the 50 per cent drop in workplace inspections over the last decade has been matched by a 50 per cent fall in prosecutions for criminal workplace health and safety offences. Unions deliver a more positive 50 per cent downturn - 'the reduction in serious injuries that can be obtained by having union health and safety representatives and safety committees.' The infographic notes that the Workers' Memorial Day message of remember the dead and fight for the living has never been more important than now. It concludes the 28 April campaign focus should ensure there are 'clear commitments and action from those who should be protecting us. Join in with Workers' Memorial Day events in your area on that day and demonstrate that we will not give up our right to a safe workplace.'

Union no to offshore flying in extreme weather

The union representing offshore oil industry pilots has said its members could refuse to fly in extreme weather. The warning from BALPA came this week on the 20th anniversary of the Cormorant Alpha helicopter crash when 11 people died. BALPA said pilots had concerns over a new safety device, a net system for retrieving casualties from the water. It is designed to be used when fast rescue craft cannot be deployed but the union said all flying should be suspended if conditions are so severe. A statement on the pilots' union website noted flights should be stopped 'where the weather, sea-state or combination of both, would expose those on-board to unacceptable risks for example where the planned flight is predicated on the use of the 'Dacon Scoop' as the only method of rescue from the sea following an accident at sea.' The Dacon Scoop system involves a net attached to a hydraulic arm which would scoop casualties out of the water on to ships. Fast rescue craft cannot be deployed in extreme seas and the scoops would be used as a last resort. However BALPA warns: 'The Dacon Scoop is a recovery device designed for the recovery of large items or of small vessels from the sea; it was not designed to safely recover individuals from the sea.' It added: 'This is an extremely hazardous manoeuvre under the most challenging of circumstances and weather - it is not the basis on which to safely plan to operate a flight. If the conditions are so rough as to prohibit any rescue other than by Dacon Scoop, then we do not believe operators should expect pilots to fly.' Industry body Oil and Gas UK told the BBC the device was in line with Health and Safety Executive policy.

Women still treated unfairly on site

Half of women working on building sites believe they are treated unfairly at work because of their gender, a survey by the construction union UCATT has found. However, safety was one area where conditions for women construction workers appeared to be improving, the survey found. More than 7 in 10 respondents (71 per cent) reported that sufficient attention is given to health safety and welfare facilities. These respondents said that there was access to women-only toilets and the correct fitting Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) was being supplied. They did however highlight a lack of access to changing facilities. The top three problems, all of which were reported by over half of the respondents, were a lack of promotion opportunities, lower pay than male colleagues for the same work and isolation by male colleagues. Forty two per cent of respondents also reported a problem with bullying and harassment by managers. However, 42 per cent said they had noticed an improvement in the workplace as attitudes to gender had changed. Steve Murphy, general secretary of UCATT, said: 'It is encouraging that there does appear to have been some improvements in the workplace for women construction workers but this progress is moving too slowly. Women working in construction have an absolute right to be treated equally to their male colleagues and both unions and employers need to work far harder to ensure that occurs.'

Women worried about work journey

One in seven women has safety concerns about the journey to and from work, a survey by the retail union Usdaw has found. 'What's happening on your journey to work?', the report of Usdaw's survey, says the union found women members are also twice as likely as men to feel unsafe on their journeys to and from work. Over half of all women feel anxious about their personal safety when walking in the dark. Usdaw said many of its members have shift patterns which mean they need to travel to and from work in the early morning or late at night and as a result are often travelling in the dark and when public transport is quieter or even non-existent. The union has now launched a campaign to provide its members and reps with advice and support on how they can make journeys to and from work safer, advice that includes how to raise concerns and negotiate with employers on the issue. Usdaw general secretary John Hannett said 'it is of great concern to Usdaw and it should be for employers and policymakers that such a significant number of workers, whether they are women or men, can feel unsafe on their way to and from work.' He added: 'As the relentless drive to a 24/7 society continues unabated, this issue is going to have to be addressed more seriously by employers, policymakers and politicians, particularly as evidence is beginning to emerge that the impact of government spending cuts is actually making the situation worse.'

CWU welcomes Royal Mail dog attacks inquiry

The communications workers' union CWU has welcomed an announcement by Royal Mail that it is to conduct an independent inquiry into attacks by dogs on postal workers. Led by high court judge Sir Gordon Langley, the inquiry is expected to report later this year and will examine why so many employees suffer dog attacks when delivering mail, the consequences of these attacks and the adequacy of existing laws and enforcement. The inquiry will then make recommendations aimed at securing a reduction in attacks. In its statement announcing the inquiry, Royal Mail paid tribute to the CWU Bite Back campaign, saying: 'Despite significant organisational effort to control employee exposure, and an outstanding and ongoing campaign - Bite Back, led by the CWU - the number of attacks remains unacceptably high. The Inquiry will look more widely than just at primary legislation and therefore will look beyond current proposed amendments to the Dangerous Dogs Act.' Donald Brydon, chair of Royal Mail Group, said: 'It is an offence to decency that good people should suffer these attacks when carrying out their daily jobs and serving the public.' CWU national safety officer Dave Joyce said the inquiry was a 'very positive and welcome development.' CWU is campaigning for an extension of the law to cover attacks on private land, where 70 per cent of attacks on postal workers occur but where owners are immune from prosecution. It also wants increased police and dog warden powers, compulsory microchipping of dogs, introduction of dog control notices, better enforcement and stiffer court penalties.

Unions slam plan for a cut price rail system

Unions have criticised government plans to slash billions from public investment in the railways and have said they will campaign to defend the service. Commenting on plans announced last week by transport secretary Justine Greening, TUC deputy general secretary Frances O'Grady said: 'Closing ticket offices and cutting station staff and train crews is not what passengers want and will make conditions worse for both commuters and rail staff. Surveys by Passenger Focus consistently show that station and train staff are valued by passengers for their help with ticket sales, journey advice, safety and security, general assistance and reassurance.' She added: 'There are real fears about safety as jobs are cut in signalling and maintenance, and Network Rail becomes increasingly aligned with the interests of private train operators.' Rail union RMT said it would be holding a Budget 'Day of Action' on 21 March over government plans it said would give the train operating companies 'gold plated' franchises at the expense of safety. RMT general secretary Bob Crow said: 'If the train operators get their way they will seize control of infrastructure and drag us back to the lethal days of Railtrack that led us to Hatfield and Potters Bar. They will also throw the guards off the trains, close ticket offices and de-staff stations turning the whole railway system into a criminals' paradise where yobbos, vandals and muggers have a free run.' TSSA, the union for white collar rail workers, said it was launching a 'Better Rail' campaign to fight the closure of ticket offices. TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes said: 'An unstaffed station is a less safe station, particularly for the elderly and young women travelling alone at night.'

UK unions can help banana workers

For you, the banana is the ultimate convenience food. It's full of natural goodness, available year round and comes in its own easy-to-remove entirely natural wrapper. But it is not so good for the workers around the world that tend the banana plants on the plantations or that wash and process the crop in packhouses. In some regions, particularly in Central and Latin America, murders of members of banana trades unions are not uncommon (Risks 545). UK-based Banana Link has witnessed first hand 'persistent and increasing violations of labour rights' along the international banana supply chain - and has set out to do something about it. Working with eight Latin American union partners, the group's Union-to-Union project has played an active role in developing union power and securing safer, healthier, fairer jobs. And the demand exists elsewhere, with work now developing in Ghana and the Ivory Coast. This work is illustrating in a new photofile featuring banana workers in Cameroon, another African country where Union-to-Union is providing safety training for union reps and helping create safety committees. The initiative is dependent on support from unions in the UK, from the local level to head office. Union-to-Union is seeking additional assistance to continue the project through 2012 and beyond and is calling for union donations and support.

Other news

Report finds hidden docks deaths

Docks union Unite has condemned a 'ludicrous' government strategy that labels docks a 'low risk workplace' and that will seek to scrap dock safety regulations. The union was speaking out after a 'Safety in the dock' report in the new issue of Hazards magazine revealed that far from being low risk - and so not subject to preventive Health and Safety (HSE) inspections - the dock industry has a fatality rate at least five times and possibly over 20 times the national average. HSE told the magazine there had only been one dockworker fatality in the UK in the 11 months from 1 April 2011. The health and safety journal, however, identified five dock deaths in workplace incidents under HSE's enforcement umbrella in the three months from 23 October 2011 alone. According to Hazards: 'Unbeknown to HSE, at least three other deaths on the docks do appear in its 2011/2012 fatalities list, which as of 27 February 2012 only included deaths up to the end of 2011. But one is classified as a 'service' sector death and the other two are classified as deaths in 'manufacturing'.' Unite's national officer for docks, Julia Long, commented: 'There have been a number of tragic incidents in UK docks which goes to show that the government needs to have an urgent rethink on its position as it sets the ports as a 'low risk' industry. This government is unceasing in its attacks on health and safety in our ports, which is now set to go further with plans to scrap Docks Regulations, the last remaining laws that are specific to protecting dockworkers' health and safety. Its so called red tape challenge aiming to reduce burdens on business has just shifted the burden onto bereaved families who have lost loved ones.' She added: 'The government is promoting self-regulation within the docks by promoting the unaccountable employers, who serve their own interests first and put safety second. The government must urgently recognise that docks are high risk workplaces and scrap its plans to revoke Docks Regulations.' According to Hazards magazine, just nine per cent of fatal and major injuries on the docks are now even investigated by HSE, half the level of five years ago.

Deadly docks anger of bereaved mum

A grieving mum whose young son was killed in a horrific dockwork incident has said she is 'appalled' at the government's 'low risk' designation for the industry and plans to remove docks-specific safety laws. Anne Jones said her agency worker son, Simon, was 24 when he was killed in 'an entirely predictable and preventable incident' at Shoreham dock in April 1998. His death spurred the high profile Simon Jones Memorial Campaign, which pressed for better safety laws, enforcement and director accountability. 'I was told at the time that of course working docks were high risk and so I find it even more baffling that the government has decided that docks are now classified as low risk and not in need of proactive inspections by our safety police,' she said. She added that in the light of new evidence revealing high death rates on the docks, 'my son's death has clearly not been in the government's thoughts when they made their reckless plans to call dock work 'low risk' just so they could reduce safety protections.' Angry at the move to downgrade docks safety further, she said the government was 'risking the lives of workers for the sake of removing responsibility for safety from employers and leaving the burden to be carried by the workers and their grieving families.' Agency worker Tim Elton, who died aged 28 at Immingham Dock on 27 January 2012 and who is one of the deaths listed in research by Hazards magazine that uncovered five dock work deaths since 23 October 2011, will be commemorated in 28 April Workers' Memorial Day events in Immingham, Grimsby and Cleethorpes.

Anger over Battersea crane deaths verdict

The families of two men killed in a London crane collapse could seek a judicial review of the coroner's court ruling after a narrative verdict was returned. Although the verdict was highly critical of the crane operator, Falcon Cranes, the families of Michael Alexa and Jonathan Cloake had hoped for an unlawful killing verdict. Westminster coroner Dr Shirley Radcliffe, however, gave the jury the choice of returning a narrative verdict or one of accidental death after a week-long inquest. The inquest heard that the wrong manual was used to erect the crane which led to incorrect counterweights being used, weighing 12.2 tonnes rather than the recommended 8 tonnes. Operators failed to act on warning signs that the crane was in a dangerously overloaded condition, a problem that led to critical bolts failing. Crane driver Jonathan Cloke, 37, was operating the 50 metre machine at a Barratt Homes site in Battersea, south-west London, when it collapsed on 26 September 2006. He died from severe head injuries. The falling machinery also claimed the life of local man Michael Alexa, a bus driver, who was working on his car close to the site. The narrative verdict said the men died as a result of the collapse caused by the failing of the inner slew ring bolts, a failure in turn caused by the wrong counterweights overloading the crane. Mr Alexa's mother said she was angry the jurors were prevented from returning a verdict of unlawful killing. Speaking outside the court, Lilliana Alexa said it was now unlikely anybody would ever be held responsible for the deaths. She added: 'We have been let down for six years and feel exactly the same now. We have to speak to our solicitors to find out what to do next.' Louise Christian, solicitor for the family, said they were now considering whether to seek a judicial review of the decision. She added: 'The decision of the coroner not to allow the jury to consider a verdict of unlawful killing was baffling in the extreme.'

Food giant Nestle fined after machine death horror

A Halifax man was killed at a Nestle factory in the town because the company failed to implement basic safety measures, Bradford Crown Court has been told. Father of three Nazar Hussain died at food giant Nestle's Albion Mill plant in December 2008 after a colleague re-started a conveyor-type machine, known as a depalletiser, unaware that Mr Hussain was inside. During the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecution, the court heard Mr Hussain, 55, may have gone into the depalletiser to remove a blockage as earlier in the day some large sweet tins had jammed the machine, causing the alarm to sound. Later that day, the machine's alarm sounded again and Mr Hussain's co-worker, who had been covering his break, went to investigate. As it was a large machine, he walked around it to check no-one was inside. Seeing no-one, he re-started the depalletiser but immediately it shuddered, stopped and the alarm re-sounded. Mr Hussain's crouched body was discovered inside the machine. He was pronounced dead at the scene. The HSE investigation found that a safety key device to halt the machine was available but Nestle failed to ensure its employees were aware of its purpose and how to use it correctly. HSE said the company's safety breaches were compounded by the fact Nestle had received written advice about improving guarding on a palletiser back in 2002 but had not applied that advice to the machine operated by Mr Hussain. The firm was fined £180,000 and ordered to pay £41,826.33 in costs. Mr Hussain's daughter, Sameena, spoke of her family's loss in a victim impact statement to court. She said: 'My father was well thought of in the community and helped his family and friends. Not only did he provide for the immediate family, but also his mother and family in Pakistan. Our lives have undergone a complete change, and for that we blame Nestle for not having the proper fail-safes in place to stop something like this occurring.'

Countryside firm sentenced over death strimmer

A countryside management firm has been sentenced over the death of a father-of-four in Barrow-in-Furness, who was struck by a piece of metal that flew off a strimmer at high speed. Tony Robinson, 37, died after a link from a chain, spinning at around 300 miles an hour on a petrol strimmer, became detached and struck him on the back of the neck, causing fatal injuries at Ramsden Dock in Barrow on 8 February 2010. ThreeShires Ltd was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after an investigation into Mr Robinson's death found the work had not been planned or carried out safely. Barrow Crown Court heard Mr Robinson, a self-employed contractor, had been hired to help clear undergrowth at the site during the construction of a business park. He was using a chainsaw to cut back the overgrown vegetation, with another worker using the strimmer on a nearby bank. The chain attachment had been added to the strimmer so it could be used for more heavy-duty work. But the HSE investigation found ThreeShires had not properly considered the risks of using the attachment, and had allowed Mr Robinson to work close to where the strimmer was being used. Tony Robinson's widow, Jenna, said: 'Even though I am no engineer, when I was shown the piece of equipment, commonsense told me that it was an accident waiting to happen, with links that could easily fly off. It is obvious that insufficient care was taken to protect anyone in the vicinity.' She added: 'I cannot comprehend that a company, supposedly experienced in this type of groundwork, didn't use commonsense to realise the equipment was dangerous. This oversight has shattered and ruined my life and that of our children. The only small comfort is that the equipment has now been banned so hopefully another family will be spared the anguish we have had to go through and continue to experience with every birthday, Christmas or family occasion.' ThreeShires Ltd pleaded guilty to a criminal safety offence and was fined £15,000 and ordered to pay £10,000 in prosecution costs on 12 March 2012. Speaking after the hearing, Allen Shute, the investigating inspector at HSE, said: 'The chain attachment has since been banned across Europe, and I would urge anyone who still has one to dispose of it immediately.'

Lords vote down 'cruel' legal aid move

Dying victims of occupational cancers should not be penalised as a consequence as a government's drive to trim £350m of the legal aid bill by 2015, peers have said. An amendment to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill blocking government plans to force asbestos victims to use some of their damages to pay legal bills succeeded this week in the House of Lords. People who become ill after being exposed to asbestos because of their work are not entitled to legal aid if they want to sue for damages and must use conditional fee agreements to pay for their cases. At the moment they do not have to pay for legal costs out of their compensation, but the government had argued that successful claimants should hand over 25 per cent of any payout to cover lawyers' bills. Lib Dem peer Lord Alton told peers that asbestos victims 'need help not hindrance', and the government's argument that making claimants pay costs would persuade them to search for the law firm offering the best deal was 'simply fallacious.' He added: 'Dying asbestos victims have already invested enough and given their pitiable condition it is risible to suggest they will shop around.' Labour's Lord Bach called the government plan concerning industrial disease sufferers 'very unnecessary and rather cruel.' In total, the Lords have so far inflicted nine defeats on the bill.

Fire service privatisation an 'unmitigated disaster'

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has warned that the safety of Londoners is being jeopardised. The warning came after the publication of an official report exposing serious failures arising from the privatisation of some services in the capital. AssetCo owns and maintains the capital's fleet of fire appliances and fifty thousand items of equipment. However a report drafted by senior brigade officers has concluded the recent financial crisis afflicting the firm has caused a sharp deterioration in its operational performance, leading to reduced availability of critical appliances. FBU says the report is a 'damning indictment' of the decision to privatise a core part of the service, and has called on the brigade to scrap its plans to sell off other key functions of the organisation, including its Control centre and training arm. FBU regional secretary for London, Paul Embery, said: 'For months, brigade bosses have been dismissing our concerns about the performance of AssetCo. Now they have been forced to admit what we knew all along: that this experiment in privatisation is fast turning into an unmitigated disaster.' He added: 'The safety of Londoners is being put at risk because of these failings. London's fire engines should never have been sold off. We argued at the time that it was a madcap idea to hand over the capital's entire fleet of appliances to an outfit whose performance was contingent on fluctuations in the stock market. And so it has proved.' He said London mayor Boris Johnson should halt plans for further privatisation in the London Fire Brigade and bring London's fire engines back into public ownership immediately. 'That is the only way that the provision of the fleet, and thereby Londoners' safety, can be properly guaranteed,' he said.

International News

Australia: Workers bear the cost of hazardous work

It is workers, not employers, who overwhelmingly bear the costs of workplace injuries and diseases, an official Australian report has shown. The report by Safe Work Australia revealed three quarters of the costs of workplace injuries and diseases is borne by the injured workers themselves, including loss of current and future income and non-compensated medical expenses. Ged Kearney, president of the national union federation ACTU, said the cost of Aus$60.6 billion (£40bn) for workplace injuries and diseases in the 2008/9 financial year was far too high. 'We think we are a clever country but it isn't so smart to forgo almost 5 per cent of our nation's GDP on the cost of preventable workplace injury and illness,' Ms Kearney said. Safe Work Australia estimated that the cost of workplace injury and disease to workers, their employers and the community for the 2008/9 financial year. It found injured workers themselves bear 74 per cent of this cost, including loss of current and future income and non-compensated medical expenses. Twenty-one per cent of the cost is borne by the community and just 5 per cent is borne by employers. Employers, though, had a considerable amount to gain by ensuring their workplaces are safe and healthy. 'Employers could get a Aus$3 billion (£2bn) boost to productivity by preventing workplace accidents and incidents,' Ms Kearney said. She encouraged workers to become involved in making their workplace safer by electing health and safety representatives, joining their workplace health and safety committee, and by seeking advice from their union.

China: Call for law to stop overwork deaths

A law to prevent a growing number of deaths related to overwork has been proposed at China's National's People's Congress (NPC). Hu Xiaoyan, China's first migrant worker elected as a representative of the NPC, made the call during the law-making body's annual session. And Pang Xiaoli, a member of the National Committee of Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, said people did not have control over their working time. 'Some companies extend people's working time to reduce costs and employment,' she said, adding 'workers have to accept excessive workloads to get recognised and promoted by their bosses, harming their health and even lives.' Press reports refer to an April 2011 case where a young woman's death sparked intense debate over the impact of long working hours on the health of employees. Pan Jie's micro blog was full of complaints about working overtime, heavy workloads and her deteriorating health before she died. The 25-year-old postgraduate-educated auditor died from acute meningitis after working six months in the Shanghai office of PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), one of the world's leading accounting firms. Death from overwork has been most widely reported in Japan, where 'Karoshi' is a government compensated work-related condition. But it has also entered the language in China, where it is known as guolaosi.

Turkey: Union condemns site safety after deadly fire

At least 11 workers died after fire swept through a tent at a building site in the Turkish city of Istanbul. The blaze on the evening of Sunday 11 March occurred in the district of Esenyurt at a shopping centre construction site. TV footage showed fire crews, working under floodlights in the snow, recovering the bodies of the workers from the ruins of the tent. Esenyurt Mayor Necmi Kadioglu said the suspected cause of the fire was an electrical heater. 'Between 11 and 14 workers are believed to have died in the fire,' Mr Kadioglu told state-run TRT television from the scene. 'This is the site of a shopping mall. It appears the fire has something to do with the heating problem as it is freezing here,' he added. The Turkish Union of Road, Construction and Building Workers (YOL-??) blamed subcontracting and the anti-union climate in the Turkish construction industry as the main reasons behind the tragedy. A statement from the union condemned the conditions faced by thousands of building workers. It added: 'Who will say STOP to this murder of workers which is a result of employment under irregular, precarious, uncontrolled and non-union conditions? When landslides happen, workers die! When dam shutters blow, workers die! When fires break out, workers die!' It said hundreds of workers were housed in dormitory tents in Esenyurt in freezing conditions. 'Heaters are used in these tents and fires are happening,' the statement said. 'The preventable deaths of workers on construction sites are portrayed as accidents, because the key facts are always swept under the carpet. Most construction work is subcontracted, and bosses prevent workers from being organised in trade unions. This means there is no Labour Inspection, health and safety measures fall on deaf ears and employment and workplace rules are not complied with.'

USA: Union-won law saves thousands of lives

A US union-won law to protect health workers from needlesticks injuries and related bloodborne diseases has led to a dramatic reduction in injuries and related deaths. Health union SEIU ran a lengthy needlesticks campaign, which culminated with the introduction of the Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act (NSPA) in 2001. The law required the use of safer needles to limit the risk of workers contracting bloodborne infections. Researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital used injury surveillance data from 85 hospitals in 10 US states to examine the impact of the law. In a paper published in the New England Journal of Medicine, they note 'there as a trend towards increasing rates of injuries before the legislation was enacted, which was followed by a drop of 38 per cent in 2001 when the NSPA took effect. Subsequent injury rates, through 2005, remained well below pre-NSPA rates.' The paper concludes: 'Our findings provide evidence that the NSPA contributed to the decline in percutaneous injuries among US hospital workers. They also support the concept that well-crafted legislation bolstered by effective enforcement can be a motivating factor in the transition to injury-control practices and technologies, resulting in a safer work environment and workforce.' SEIU director of health and safety Bill Borwegen commented: 'As we experience the current anti-regulatory, anti-worker climate, here is yet another powerful example that contradicts the mythology... the wildly successful federal Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act of 2000 has preventing millions of accidental needlesticks among healthcare workers and has saved thousands of healthcare worker lives.'

  • Elayne K Phillips, Mark R Conaway and Janine C Jagger. Percutaneous injuries before and after the Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act, New England Journal of Medicine, volume 366, number 7, February 2012 [pdf]. SEIU YouTube clip on the role the union played getting the law passed.


Women journalists in danger zones

The challenges faced by women journalists working in conflict and danger zones around the world have been highlighted in a new book. The International News Safety Institute's (INSI) 'No Woman's Land: On the Frontlines with Female Reporters' contains contributions from over 40 female journalists worldwide. At the book's launch event last week, journalists paid a silent tribute to 75 female colleagues who have died covering the news since 2003, the year INSI was founded. CBS correspondent Lara Logan, whose shocking assault in Cairo's Tahrir Square last year inspired the book, wrote the foreword to 'No Woman's Land', a collection of stories describing the risks, challenges and the emotional and physical impact of danger on newswomen around the globe. At the launch, a panel of prominent journalists moderated by BBC special correspondent Lyse Doucet, debated critical issues raised in the book. The book contains safety advice and guidance for all journalists.

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