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
Scandal of workers forced to pay for protection
More than one in five workers is being forced to pay for lifesaving personal protective equipment (PPE), despite laws that say employers must provide it free of charge. TUC survey findings released this week report more than one in every 10 (11.6 per cent) respondents said that although they were required to wear safety equipment of some kind, their employer failed to provide or pay for it. A further 8.9 per cent were made to pay for any replacement equipment if their original PPE was damaged. In total more than one in five (20 per cent) respondents to the survey said they had to pay for providing or replacing all or some of the equipment they needed for their work. PPE includes protective clothing, helmets and goggles designed to protect workers from injury, electrical hazards, heat, chemicals, and infection. Women workers were even less likely than men to have this safety equipment provided free, with more than 15 per cent having to provide all or some of their own attire - usually foot protection or overalls - compared to 10.5 per cent of men. Of the workers whose equipment needed cleaning, 60 per cent claimed that their employer made no arrangements for providing, or paying the cost of, cleaning. TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: 'The fact that so many employers are flaunting the law is an absolute scandal,' adding: 'Safety equipment is needed to ensure that workers are protected from injury or disease, yet there appears to be very little enforcement of the law. As a result many workers - often those in low-paid service jobs like catering and cleaning - are having to fork out from their own pocket, or go without. This must stop. With the government's cutback of proactive inspections in the workplace this abuse can only grow.'
Warning on influx of Fake Protective Equipment
An influx of substandard and fake personal protective equipment (PPE) to the UK is putting lives at risk, the TUC has warned. The union body says the problem sometimes arises when firms purchase PPE made for use outside Europe, where standards are lower. But it says some workers are also being put at risk as a result of counterfeiting, with cut-price products available online attracting employers looking to reduce costs. TUC's new guide for union safety reps warns: 'Counterfeit PPE is on the increase, with well-established product brands or designs being the primary target. In some sectors over half the products tested were counterfeit. Although the biggest problems are in construction and transport, any industry can be affected.' The guide notes that safety reps 'can help prevent problems with PPE by ensuring that their employer consults with them over the type of PPE they buy. They can also check that any PPE that is provided is legal.' A checklist advises reps to ensure PPE is purchased from a reputable supplier and displays the logo of the Registered Safety Supplier (RSS) scheme. It also provides other pointers on correct labelling and safety marks. According to the TUC: 'The implications of fake PPE can be devastating, as if it fails, the worker may be killed or injured. In addition unsuitable hand, ear and breathing protection can have long term health effects.'
- TUC briefing and full document: Checking your Personal Protective Equipment: Guidance for safety representatives, TUC, July 2012 [pdf].
Olympic brand protected, so safety is not
Trading standards officers are being required to spend thousands of hours protecting the Olympic brand and corporate sponsors, instead of protecting the public, UNISON has warned. The union believes the switch of resources away from key safety work is 'hard to justify in the light of swingeing cuts to Trading Standard budgets'. The union adds the move could put the public at risk by preventing officers from carrying out their usual duties. A national survey of Trading Standards staff carried out by UNISON uncovered these concerns, with 40 per cent of respondents saying the London 2012 Olympics, which started this week, would have a 'major impact' on the workload of their local Trading Standards services. UNISON national officer Helga Pile commented: 'With fewer officers left in the service, those that remain are going the extra mile to deal with the upsurge in counterfeit goods, ticket touting and illegal street trading that the Olympics will inevitably bring. But diverting so much resource to protecting the Olympic brand - and the financial interests of huge corporations such as McDonalds and Coca-Cola - is hard to justify when budgets have been squeezed so hard.' Thirty local authorities are directly involved with protecting the Olympic brand. UNISON says the staff contribution amounts to the equivalent of 342 enforcement days. The union adds that other local authorities have also had to divert resources into the Olympic brand protection work.
Stories from safety's frontline
Health and Safety Executive (HSE) union Prospect is celebrating the 40th anniversary of a 'ground-breaking' report that transformed the UK's health and safety landscape. Members of the union's HSE branch have shared 40 'stories from safety's frontline' to mark the anniversary of the 1972 Robens report, which laid the foundations for the Health and Safety at Work Act and the creation of the HSE. [email protected] is a fascinating collection of contemporary personal insights from people who rarely make their voices public, yet make an enormous difference to the health, safety and dignity of working people and their families,' said Prospect health and safety officer Sarah Page. She said the safety law had helped save the lives of 'countless' UK workers, as well as members of the public. 'Contrary to its portrayal by an ill-informed minority, the Health and Safety at Work Act has enabled companies to carry out their business successfully by building consensus into standards. Working together, industry, workforce and regulatory representatives have adopted intelligent, practical solutions to workplace dangers. This is underpinned by a common desire to ensure people return home from work as safe and well as when they left.' The report can be read online. A different story is being tweeted by the union every day until the end of August.
Stabbed social worker wins right to sue
A social worker stabbed by a psychiatric patient has won a Court of Appeal case giving her the right to sue two health authorities responsible for her attacker's care. UNISON member Claire Selwood worked for Durham County Council and was responsible for the care of the patient's child. She was stabbed six times by Graham Burton after he confronted her during a professional conference at his child's school. Just two days earlier he had told medical staff at Cherry Knowle Hospital, Sunderland that he would kill her on the spot if he saw her. This was the last of a number of threats that were not acted upon. The attacker left the 42-year-old mother of three for dead. She suffered life-threatening injuries and was profoundly traumatised by her ordeal. Gill Hale, UNISON Northern regional secretary, said: 'Organisations such as local authorities and NHS Trusts must protect vulnerable workers in the workplace. There must be procedures when threats are made against staff that work for or with them.' She added: 'Organisations working in partnership with social workers and other vulnerable workers must be required to do a 'Selwood Check' to make sure that any threats made to employee's lives are taken seriously and acted on. We will continue to support Claire in her fight for justice and demand that measures be put in place to avoid this type of preventable, disturbing attack happening again.' The case against the two NHS Trusts was initially dismissed by Newcastle County Court on the grounds they did not owe Ms Selwood a duty of care, but she was given leave to appeal. This week the Court of Appeal accepted it was arguable the two NHS Trusts did owe her a duty of care based on their responsibilities under an agreed protocol. Ms Selwood can now continue the claim against her employer and the NHS Trusts. Graham Burton was jailed indefinitely in June 2007 for the attempted murder of Ms Selwood. An independent inquiry found a 'complete failure' by medical staff to warn her of any danger.
College safety rep targeted for redundancy
Further education union UCU is calling for support after an effective trade union safety rep was targeted for redundancy. Mike Whatmore, a horticulture lecturer at Newcastle College, has been told earlier this month his job will go at the end of July. UCU's branch at the college smelled a rat. 'Giving such short notice is a cynical move and means that almost all educational establishments will have filled any vacancies for September,' it noted in a web posting. 'To make matters worse, managers are claiming that his is a distinct job so Mike is not in a redundancy pool - this is not a case of having to apply for your own job, which is all too common in further education and would be bad enough, this is a case of 'Your job is redundant. End of story'.' According to the union branch: 'Mike is an effective UCU rep, who robustly defends members and has been proactive in highlighting health and safety issues at the college. The branch believes that this is the reason he is being faced with the sack at such short notice.' UCU is asking for support in its efforts to prevent Mike's sacking, and wants signatures for an online petition and emails and tweets backing the union safety rep.
- Newcastle College UCU branch news release and UCU petition to save Mike Whatmore. Email a message of support on send your message on Twitter @NclCollUCU using the hashtag #SaveMike
Bakers turn up the heat on work temperature
As the rain stops and Britain's sizzling summer puts in a late appearance, bakers' union BFAWU is urging sweltering bakery workers to spell out just why a legal workplace temperature ceiling could save them from cooking at work. An online survey will allow members to detail their experiences of high workplace temperatures. The initiative is part of the union's 'Cool it!' campaign, in conjunction with the BFAWU Parliamentary Group, to get legal protection from one of the most widespread but unregulated problems bakery workers encounter. According to BFAWU, which is urging all its members 'working in relevant conditions' to take part: 'The survey has been designed to build up a dossier of evidence that will help demonstrate how widespread a problem excessive temperatures in the workplace are.'
Forklift crushed worker's leg
A factory worker whose leg was crushed when he was run over by a forklift truck has received compensation after help from his trade union. The 61-year-old Unite member from Rugby was left with crush injuries to his left leg after it became trapped under the 2.5 tonne truck when he was knocked over at Cov Press in Coventry, where he works as a print operator. The man, whose name has not been released, was walking through the shopfloor when he was hit. Neither he nor the forklift truck driver saw each other because he was behind a blind corner and the passageway for vehicles was not clearly designated. He was knocked to the ground and the truck had to be driven back over his leg before he could be freed. His leg was severely cut and he needed to take three weeks off work. When he returned he was on light duties for several months. A union-backed compensation claim was settled out of court for an undisclosed sum. Unite's Adrian Ross commented: 'This is a well-established engineering company which should have known better than to allow forklift trucks to be used in areas where employees travelled on foot. We hope lessons have been learnt and that safer systems have now been implemented in this workplace.' John Mullen from Thompsons Solicitors, the law firm brought in by the union to act in the case, said: 'Factories can be dangerous places where forklift trucks and other vehicles are often using the same pathways as employees. Employers must risk assess the workplace and make sure that traffic routes are well marked to avoid this type of accident from happening.'
New asbestos fund must be extended say unions
A new government fund to compensate some asbestos disease victims is much too limited, the TUC has said. The union body said the fund announced this week is limited to people who have the cancer mesothelioma but who until now have been unable to claim because their employer no longer exists and the responsible insurer cannot be traced. TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: 'This new system will at least help provide some financial security to mesothelioma victims and the families of those who develop this devastating disease, but it falls well short of the scheme proposed by ministers a few years ago. Compensation should be available to all those who cannot get justice because, through no fault of their own, their insurer cannot be traced. While this scheme will come as a relief to those with mesothelioma, it will provide no help to workers who develop other cancers or life-threatening diseases, and who find themselves with no means of claiming compensation.' He added: 'We hope that the legislation to introduce this scheme can be passed as soon as possible and that, even at this late stage, ministers will consider widening its scope to make it fairer for all workers whose jobs have made them dangerously ill.' Steve Murphy, general secretary of construction union UCATT, said: 'The government has dressed up a watered down, inferior scheme as good news. The long delay in announcing this scheme means that hundreds of asbestos victims have died without receiving compensation.' He added: 'Yet again the government is assisting their friends in the insurance industry rather than acting in the best interests of asbestos victims. All asbestos victims have a right to compensation.' Mesothelioma kills over 2,300 people every year, but over 10 per cent of them currently receive no civil compensation because their employer's insurer cannot be traced. Other occupational cancers, which greatly outnumber mesotheliomas, are not covered by the scheme. Nor are the other life-shortening occupational diseases that affect thousands more each year.
New scheme excludes half of asbestos victims
A new tariff scheme designed to plug a loophole that denies many asbestos victims compensation will not cover half of those affected, a campaign group has warned. The new fund, announced this week by DWP minister Lord Freud to provide payouts to asbestos disease victims where an employers' liability insurer cannot be traced, is limited to new claimants suffering from mesothelioma. The minister said: 'We have worked tirelessly together with the insurance industry to agree this package of measures on behalf of those who face this terrible disease.' But the Asbestos Victims Support Groups' Forum says the scheme is flawed, excluding those suffering from asbestosis, pleural thickening and asbestos-related lung cancer. It says these make up 50 per cent of all asbestos diseases. Forum chair Tony Whitston said: 'We must welcome this first movement on untraced insurance which provides compensation for mesothelioma sufferers, but we are disappointed at the reduced amounts payable, and we are bitterly disappointed at the exclusion of so many people who suffer from diseases such as asbestosis or lung cancer caused by exposure to asbestos.' He added: 'The cost of including all asbestos victims is not prohibitively expensive: it would cost less than 20 per cent more to provide cover for all asbestos victims. There is no financial justification for excluding so many people and there is certainly no fairness and justice in doing so.' He said the forum is 'urging Lord Freud to make the scheme available to all asbestos victims.'
Government 'turns its back on asbestos victims'
The union Unite has slammed the government for turning its back on many victims of asbestos exposure who cannot trace employers' liability insurance. It believes the scheme announced this week by the government falls short because it excludes asbestos disease victims other than those with one cancer, mesothelioma, and says even those who receive payouts will get far less than a court would have awarded where an insurer could be traced. Howard Becket, Unite director of legal services said: 'It is simply wrong of the government to turn its back on victims of asbestos exposure who cannot trace the employers' liability insurance. These men and women were exposed to a deathly substance as a result of their employer's negligence. Exposure to asbestos can cause a long and painful death for the victims and is heartbreaking for their families.' He added: 'There is no financial or moral justification for excluding these people simply on grounds of costs. Instead of regarding this yet again as a 'burden on business' the government must think again and open the scheme to all sufferers of asbestos exposure. It is the victims, their families and society which bears the burden, not business.'
ASLEF concern at upturn in high risk incidents
A marked upturn in potentially high risk train accidents must be tackled, train drivers' union ASLEF has said. The union was commenting after this week's publication of the annual safety report from the Office for Rail Regulation (ORR). ASLEF said the report showed the number of more serious incidents had increased from last year's record low of 18 to 34 in the new 2011/2012 breakdown, 'putting ASLEF members at an unacceptable risk.' An ASLEF spokesperson told Hazards magazine that while the number of 'potentially higher-risk train accidents' remains low, 'it is almost a doubling on the previous year of some of the most serious incidents to occur on the railways.' He added 'any one of those incidents could have had the potential for disaster and the upward jump this year must not be allowed to turn into a trend over the coming years.' The report also showed 'workforce safety on the mainline railway deteriorated slightly, with increased levels of harm to train drivers and on-board crew,' noted ASLEF. 'Taking into account the number of workforce hours, the rate of harm increased by 4 per cent over the past year.' The union said cuts planned in the government's McNulty review would lead to further deterioration in safety standards and 'should be sending warning tremors throughout the industry to the government about the increased potential for a disaster on the railways in future if they carry out McNulty's dangerous blueprint.' The union wants ORR to 'take action whenever and wherever it can to minimise these risks to train drivers.'
- ORR news release and ORR annual health and safety report 2011/2012.
- ASLEF news release.
- Hazards magazine.
Six figure fine for corporate manslaughter
A company has been fined nearly £500,000 over the death of a maintenance worker who fell more than 40ft (12m) from a factory roof in Greater Manchester. Lion Steel Equipment Ltd admitted corporate manslaughter over the death of Steven Berry, 45, at its factory in Hyde on 29 May 2008. The firm was fined £480,000, to be paid over four years with £84,000 costs. It was only the second prosecution since the introduction of the Corporate Manslaughter Act in 2008. Three directors of the company, Kevin Palliser, 59, Richard Vaughan Williams, 42, and Graham Coupe, 59, who were charged with manslaughter by gross negligence, were found not guilty earlier in the case (Risks 563). Greater Manchester Police, which carried out a joint investigation with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), said Mr Berry fell through a fragile perspex sheet in a roof he was trying to fix and landed on a stone floor. The investigation found there had been no risk assessment and Lion Steel had never offered health and safety training to Mr Berry. His widow Hilary said: 'Lion Steel's complete and utter disregard for the laws that were there to keep my husband safe means that my daughters no longer have a father and I now face life without the person who was by my side for over 20 years.' Det Insp Dave Loughlin said: 'Throughout the investigation we found signs of considerable neglect and apathy with respect to health and safety.'
- R -v- Lion Steel Equipment Ltd - Judiciary, full Lion Steel manslaughter judgment [pdf].
- BBC News Online.
- Morning Star.
Deadly roof support warning not sent to UK mines
A dodgy UK-made roof support that had been the subject of a manufacturer's safety warning in Australia failed and claimed the life of a Yorkshire miner, a court has heard. UK Coal and global machinery supplier Joy Mining Ltd were sentenced at Leeds Crown Court last week for serious criminal safety failings that led to the death in October 2009 of Kellingley Colliery worker Ian Cameron (Risks 430). UK Coal, which has previously been prosecuted for a number of fatalities (Risks 525), admitted failing to take steps to ensure the safety of workers using powered roof supports and was fined £200,000 with £218,000 in costs. Joy Mining admitted failing to send out its bulletin warning of a dangerous defect in their powered roof supports and was fined £50,000 with £100,000 in costs. The court was told that Mr Cameron, 46, died as a result of his injuries when a powered roof support (PRS) lowered spontaneously, crushing him against large amounts of debris that had accumulated within the walkway of the support. The PRS was one of several hundred supplied to UK Coal by Joy Mining, each weighing some 15 tonnes and designed to support 510 tonnes. The court heard a solenoid valve within the PRS had become worn and defective. A similar solenoid malfunction on a PRS made by Joy had happened in Australia the previous year, 2008. The company issued a warning bulletin but failed to circulate it within the UK or provide it to UK Coal; nor did Joy notify the firm of the incident until after Mr Cameron's death. After the court hearing, HSE principal inspector of mines Paul Bradley said: 'UK Coal disregarded the numerous warnings and frequent failures of the PRS's and failed to take effective measures to ensure the debris was removed and the walking track kept clear.' He added: 'Joy Mining Machinery Ltd is a global supplier of underground machinery and had supplied hundreds of powered roof supports to UK Coal Ltd for use in their mines. That it failed to distribute within this country the Safety Bulletin warning of the solenoid risks or notify one of its major customers is an error of quite staggering proportion and a serious failing in its duty of care.' Carol Cameron, Ian's widow, thanked HSE for bringing the case to court, and added: 'I also want to thank the National Union of Mineworkers for their support and guidance during what has been a very harrowing time for me and my family.'
UK Coal pays damages to injured fitter
A UK Coal worker who was badly injured in a car crash at work and went on to develop a chronic career-ending condition has received more than £419,000 in compensation. The 36-year-old Unite member from Newthorpe is in constant pain in his right shoulder and arm since the incident in 2007 when a colleague crashed the UK Coal van they were travelling in into a tree. The mechanical engineer, whose name has not been released, needed three operations on his shoulder and a further three operations to fit a spinal cord simulator in an effort to control his pain. This has helped reduce pain in his arm, but he still must take a cocktail of painkillers every day to control the pain in the shoulder. He has been diagnosed with Chronic Pain Syndrome. He had to take six months off work and eventually returned on light duties for a month before being made redundant. In a Unite-backed compensation case, UK Coal admitted liability and settled the claim out of court. Unite's Gerard Coyne commented: 'His chronic condition means he faces an uncertain future in terms of employment and we are pleased we have been able to support him in his claim for damages. This compensation will allow him some financial breathing space which will no doubt be of great relief.' The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) estimates a third of car accidents involve someone who is at work at the time. These lead to several hundred work-related deaths a year, although these are not included in the official HSE workplace fatality figures.
One Legionnaires' outbreak ends, another begins
The Edinburgh Legionnaires' disease outbreak has been declared over by officials. The Incident Management Team (IMT), which is chaired by NHS Lothian and includes representatives from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), City of Edinburgh Council and Health Protection Scotland, made the announcement last week. To date, there are a total of 101 confirmed and suspected cases in an outbreak which has claimed the lives of three men. Lothian and Borders Police and HSE are jointly investigating the circumstances of the deaths under the direction of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) Health and Safety Division. Law firm Irwin Mitchell is acting for 31 people who suffered serious health problems as a result of the outbreak, and is concerned victims are being left in the dark. Solicitor David Bell said: 'The consequences of the outbreak continue to be felt by so many people and it is vital that the health and safety authorities provide full and proper timescales in terms of when the outcome of investigations will be known, as well as updates on how such inquiries have progressed so far.' He added: 'Throughout this terrible ordeal we have heard from clients how they feel incredibly worried about the lack of information which has been released. It is vital that this is addressed as soon as possible.' This week a new outbreak of Legionnaires' disease was confirmed in Stoke-on-Trent, with seven confirmed cases. The Health Protection Agency (HPA) is working with HSE, the local NHS and the city council to try to identify and control any possible sources of the disease. Professor Harsh Duggal, Director of the Health Protection Unit in Stafford, said: 'We are taking detailed histories of the movements of the patients to see if there are similar patterns which would indicate a local source of infection.' He added: 'As a precaution we are working with the Health and Safety Executive and Stoke-on-Trent City Council Environmental Health Services to identify and control any possible sources of the disease.'
- NHS Lothian news release.
- Stoke-on-Trent NHS Primary Care Trust news release.
- Health Protection Agency news release.
- Irwin Mitchell Solicitors news release.
- BBC News Online on the Lothian and Stoke-on-Trent outbreaks.
Global: First blood to gold miners in Anglo fight
Anglo American South Africa Ltd (AASA) has been ordered by a High Court judge in the UK to disclose an array of documents to ex-gold miners who are suing the company after developing the debilitating occupational lung disease silicosis. London law firm Leigh Day & Co is representing more than 1,500 claimants who worked in Anglo's mines in South Africa up to 1998. The law firm argues the case should be heard in London, the head office of AASA parent company Anglo American plc. AASA argues its central administration is in Johannesburg where its board meets and takes decisions regarding the running of AASA's business, and wants the case heard there. Giving judgment last week, Mr Justice Silber concluded that there were 'a number of factors, which cumulatively satisfy me that the claimants have at the very least an arguable case' that AASA's central administration was in London. In ordering disclosure, the judge concluded that without disclosure of documents there was a 'very great risk that the claimants will be contesting jurisdiction at an unfair disadvantage.' The claimants' lawyer, Richard Meeran, said: 'We believe bringing this case in the UK is in our clients' interests as English courts have well-developed case management procedures for dealing with mass legal actions and the claimants will be entitled to damages at UK levels.' The claimants allege that their excessive exposure to dust was caused by the negligence of AASA in its control over and advice given to its gold mines.
Japan: Officials probe bogus radiation readings
Subcontracted workers at Japan's earthquake wrecked Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power station may have been forced to submit bogus reports on their radiation exposures so they could remain on the job longer. An official investigation began last week after media reports of a cover-up at the plant, which suffered multiple meltdowns following the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami disasters. The reports say a subcontractor of plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) acknowledged having nine workers cover their dosimeters with lead plates late last year so the instrument would indicate a lower level of radiation exposure. Labor officials made onsite inspections at the Fukushima plant to examine dosimeter readings of the workers and other records, said Yasuhiro Kishi, an official at the Fukushima Labor Bureau. Takashi Wada, president of Fukushima-based subcontractor Build-Up, acknowledged that dosimeter falsification had taken place. He said a supervisor of the group of nine workers came up with the idea when his dosimeter alarm went off during his short preview visit to the area where the workers were assigned. 'We should have never done that,' Wada said in an interview with TBS network broadcast on 21 July.
USA: Agency work can kill
Lax regulations, loose enforcement and employer resistance to union health and safety committees inflict a ghastly toll of illness, injury and death on the job, the global foodworkers' union federation has warned. IUF was commenting after the grisly death of a contract worker at a US Nestlé plant, a tragedy it says provides further evidence that agency workers face even greater risks due to their precarious employment status. The contract worker at the Tribe Mediterranean Foods factory in Taunton, Massachusetts was crushed to death in December last year when he was pulled into the machine he was cleaning and sterilising. The worker had received no training in shutting off the machine and its power supply before performing the work. Other contract workers performing the cleaning job had likewise received no training. Tribe Foods is a subsidiary of the Israel-based Osem Group, majority-owned by Nestlé, with operations in Israel, Europe and the US. The worker, Daniel Collazo Torres, was employed by a temp agency, Monroe Staffing. Commenting after official safety agency OSHA proposed a $702,300 fine on Tribe, Marcy Goldstein-Gelb, executive director of health and safety advocacy group MassCOSH, said that while Tribe deserves punishment for failing to meet workplace safety standards, the temporary worker agency also needs to be held accountable. 'So many temporary employees fall through cracks in terms of labour violations,' Goldstein-Gelb said. 'The temp agency industry is just not regulated in our state. What happens is some companies utilise temporary agencies as intermediaries rather than employing workers directly. Too often there are an awful lot of labour violations that take place when temporary agencies are involved, and companies are pointing fingers instead of taking responsibility.'
USA: Oil industry ignored lessons of tragedy
Safety lessons from a deadly 2005 BP oil refinery explosion that could have helped prevent the 2010 Deepwater Horizon tragedy were not learned by either oil firms or the regulators, an official investigation has concluded. Preliminary findings released this week by US Chemical Safety Board (CSB) investigators examining the Deepwater Horizon explosion in the Gulf of Mexico indicate companies like Transocean and BP, trade associations, and US regulators largely judged the safety of offshore facilities by focusing on personal injury and fatality data (such as dropped objects and slips, trips, and falls), while overlooking indicators more focused on managing the potential for catastrophic accidents. Expanded the use of these process safety indicators was first recommended by the CSB in its 2007 report on the March 2005 BP Texas City refinery disaster, in which 15 contract workers died. 'In the offshore arena, potential indicators - such as timely checks on safety critical equipment and response to well control events - would provide an assessment of the health of their safety management systems,' said CSB in a news release. 'These type of indicators may be precursors to the kind of tragedy that took eleven lives on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig following the Macondo well blowout on April 20, 2010.' Noting the lack of sustained focus on process safety, CSB Investigator Cheryl MacKenzie described an 'eerie resemblance' between the 2005 explosion at the BP Texas City refinery and the explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon. 'The emphasis on personal injury and lost work-time data obscures the bigger picture: that companies need to develop indicators that give them realistic information about their potential for catastrophic accidents,' she said. 'How safety is measured and managed is at the very core of accident prevention. If companies are not measuring safety performance effectively and using those data to continuously improve, they will likely be left in the dark about their safety risks.' Earlier this month, BP received further fines for its ongoing failure to address process safety management problems at the Texas City refinery (Risks 565).
Events and Courses
TUC courses for safety reps
COURSES FOR SEPTEMBER TO DECEMBER 2012
- 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: 27 July, 2012