Risks 584 - 1 December 2012

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Editor: Rory O'Neill of Hazards magazine. Comments to the TUC at healthandsafety@tuc.org.uk

Union News

Call for an inquiry and action on blacklisting

Unions and safety campaigners are demanding an inquiry and justice after a convicted blacklister undermined construction industry attempts to distance itself from the systematic victimisation of grassroots union and safety reps. The calls came after Ian Kerr, who headed the covert industry-financed blacklisting organisation The Consulting Association (CTA), gave evidence to the House of Commons Scottish Affairs Select Committee on 27 November. Construction firms working on landmark projects including the London Olympics, Wembley Stadium and the Millennium Dome were among those who used a CTA's services, Kerr told MPs. The organisation, which was shut down by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) in 2009, was set up with support from construction giant Sir Robert McAlpine. The firm also paid Kerr's fine and legal costs after he was convicted of data protection offences in a prosecution brought by ICO, and covered staff redundancy and other costs. Kerr told MPs: 'The fine came through Sir Robert McAlpine on the basis that I put myself at the front, took the flak so they wouldn't be drawn into all of this.' Sir Robert McAlpine and Balfour Beatty had both used the vetting services for contracts they had for work on Olympic projects, he said. Construction union UCATT said there must now be a public inquiry into the scandal. UCATT general secretary Steve Murphy said: 'There is an urgent need for a public inquiry into the blacklisting scandal, Kerr has cast some light about how information from the police and security forces was obtained and used for blacklisting, but we need the full information, so that blacklisted workers can receive justice.' Steve Acheson, a founder member of the Blacklist Support Group (BSG), was one of about a dozen blacklisted workers attending the hearing as Kerr gave his evidence. The Manchester electrician, about whom CTA compiled a 22 page file, was targeted for raising safety issues including the risk of deadly Weil's disease from exposure to rat urine on site. 'The secret files The Consulting Association kept on me were used to unfairly dismiss me on job after job for more than raising genuine safety issues,' he said.

Government's 'shame' as crime victims are hurt

Compensation payments to people injured in violent crimes have been slashed or withdrawn completely after the government railroaded through changes to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme (Risks 582). The changes took effect on 27 November, scrapping five payment levels. Shopworkers' union Usdaw said many retail staff injured in armed robberies and assaults would lose out and postal workers union CWU said workers savaged by dogs while doing their job would now receive nothing, however serious their injuries. Ministers said the reforms will shave £50m off the annual £200m bill. Usdaw general secretary John Hannett said the cuts were a 'disgraceful indictment' of a government 'happy to see seriously injured but innocent victims of crime lose out on payments from the scheme. These payments helped the victims replace lost wages and were a token acknowledgement from government that victims deserve help after traumatic incidents.' CWU general secretary Billy Hayes said: 'The government says they are tough on crime, but really they are tough on the victims of crime.' He added: 'The government has wasted no time in fast-tracking these latest cuts into force. It now means that the victims of violent crime - such as muggings and dog attacks - who are unable to secure compensation through the courts or insurance companies will be left with nowhere to turn for help. Many others will only qualify for vastly reduced sums. Cutting CICS is one of the cruellest acts of this coalition government yet, taking compensation from the victims of crime who have nowhere else to turn when they are at their most vulnerable. A piece of society has died and the UK is a poorer place today as a result of these cuts.'

CWU welcomes report's lead on dangerous dogs

Postal workers' union CWU has welcomed a new report that concludes the law in England and Wales offers 'inadequate' protection to postal workers who are attacked by dogs. The report recommends a change in law to help deal with the owners of dogs who attack. The union says the independent Langley Report, which was commissioned by Royal Mail, is 'the catalyst needed to bring action and change' and has repeated its call for the UK's 'failing' dogs laws to be overhauled. In his report, former High Court judge Sir Gordon Langley says current laws limited the legal protection available to postmen and women. He calls on the government to change the law so that action can be taken against dog owners wherever an attack takes place. Currently attacks on private property are exempted. CWU general secretary Billy Hayes said: 'We congratulate Sir Gordon Langley on his excellent inquiry and report which strongly calls on government to change the UK's failing dogs laws. It is the catalyst needed to bring action and change within Royal Mail where up to 5,000 postal workers suffer dog attacks each year.' He added: 'Sir Gordon's recommendations take on board our own long-standing campaign objectives of securing new UK-wide laws which apply on private property, moving away from breed-specific legislation, introducing microchipping and getting serious when it comes to prosecution and punishment.' Royal Mail said it would act immediately to change its policy towards owners of dogs who attack, to make it more 'robust'. It will look at suspending deliveries to addresses where attacks take place.


Healthcare assistants face routine violence

More than 70 per cent of healthcare assistants have been the victim of aggression and violence at work, research by the health service union UNISON has revealed. The survey of nearly 1,200 healthcare assistants and assistant practitioners revealed that 13 per cent of those who had been the victim of violence at work had been threatened with a weapon, while nearly a fifth had been the victim of an assault that required medical assistance or first aid. More than 40 per cent of respondents said they had considered leaving their profession either fairly or very seriously over the last year and more than 85 per cent said they felt staffing levels had become insufficient over the period. Christina McAnea, UNISON head of health, said: 'This survey illustrates the sometimes grim reality for healthcare assistants and assistant practitioners, whose already challenging job is made harder by inadequate staffing and the threat of aggression and violence.' She added: 'This survey is demonstrating the real impact of government cuts - demoralised staff who are trying to deliver the best possible care they can in ever more difficult circumstances. It is time for the government to think again about the damage that its demand for £20bn in so called 'efficiency savings' is having on the NHS. Cuts aren't working, and if these vital professionals are depleted even more, the impact on patient care will be enormous.'

Bullying and harassment rife in universities

Harassment, friction and bullying are often the hallmarks of working relationships in Britain's universities, union research has confirmed. A survey of 14,000 higher education staff, carried out by the union UCU, found that every one of the 92 UK universities covered had a higher average stress level than that for the British working population as a whole. Using a standard Health and Safety Executive (HSE) questionnaire, the survey asked respondents to rate four statements about their relationships at work. Those responses were translated into a numerical score, ranging from 1 for high stress to 5 for low stress. The average stress level relating to relationships at work for UCU members in universities was a stress-inducing 3.53, compared to a less stressful 4.20 for the British working population. At a third of the institutions represented in the survey, more than 10 per cent of respondents said they were 'always' or 'often' subject to bullying at work. In light of the results, UCU has called on universities to work with it nationally and locally to tackle the causes of stress and bullying. UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: 'In the past there has been too much focus on individual employees who have suffered from occupational stress and bullying, as though these problems were the fault of the individual. The focus needs to be on employers taking seriously their responsibility to look after the well-being of their staff.' She added: 'Employers have a duty of care for the well-being of those they employ. The way forward is for UCU and other unions to work with employers nationally and locally to tackle the causes of stress and bullying.'

Second payout after deadly work disease progressed

The family a chemical worker who died after years suffering from a debilitating asbestos-related disease has received a second compensation payout. The 75-year-old from Cheshire, whose name has not been released, died from a heart attack in May 2012. The Unite member was first diagnosed in 2006 with 10 per cent disability caused by the lung-scarring disorder asbestosis. Work with asbestos and developing asbestosis are both associated with a heightened risk of heart attack (Risks 550) and lung cancer (Risks 357). After the original diagnosis, a union-backed compensation case was settled on a provisional basis which allowed the client to re-open the claim if his condition worsened due to asbestos disease. In November 2011 the asbestosis was found to have worsened to a 30 per cent disability. A second claim was settled after he had died. His son said: 'My dad always knew that there was a risk of his condition becoming worse over time and he was wise to take a provisional settlement in his original case. Unfortunately his fears came true when his condition became worse. The family knew how important it was for him to claim compensation so we were determined to continue the claim on his behalf.' Unite's Paul Finegan commented: 'Asbestosis is a debilitating disease. This case clearly shows how our member's condition declined and that it is important he and his family were able to claim further compensation.'

Two injuries led to no job

A medical assistant who was injured twice moving heavy trays of equipment while working for the NHS was forced to give up her job. The 47-year-old Unite member from Staines, whose name has not been released, was left with chronic pain syndrome in her neck, shoulder and wrist after the incidents at Ashford and St Peter's NHS Trust's central sterilising department. Her job involved cleaning and sterilising medical equipment for use in surgery. It was common for trays holding instruments to weigh up to 20 kilos. In the first incident in March 2009, she was pushing a trolley laden with three heavy trays out of the sterilising machine when she felt something go in her neck. She suffered a strain to her neck and left arm and couldn't move her neck for more than a week. Then in April 2010 she experienced wrist pain as she loaded trays of instruments into a dishwasher. The repetitive nature of the job meant she was lifting a number of heavy trays by herself over a long period of time and she suffered ligament damage. The new injury aggravated her previous neck and shoulder problems and she needed intensive physiotherapy. After a month she tried to return to work but she was unable to cope with the job and was dismissed on medical grounds in June 2010. She still suffers from constant pain and has been told by medical professionals she can no longer work in a full-time role. She has taken a part time job in a coffee shop which she says causes her pain. Following the second injury, she sought Unite support for a compensation claim. Ashford and St Peter's NHS Trust settled the claim for £18,000.

Hospital pays after ignoring injury warnings

A hospital worker who injured her shoulders and neck jerking a defective curtain around a patient's bed has been awarded £50,000 in compensation. Linda Mitchell, 59, sustained the injuries at Belford Hospital, Fort William, Scotland. They meant she has unable to return to work for the last four years. The nursing auxiliary said that the injury could have been avoided if managers had acted on previous complaints made by her colleagues. The health board denied liability, claiming an inspection found there were no defects in the curtains. They initially offered Ms Mitchell compensation of £25,000, which was rejected. The sum was doubled after a civil action taken with the support of her union, UNISON. She said: 'If previous complaints about the faulty curtains hadn't been ignored my accident could have been avoided.' Patrick McGuire, a partner with trade union lawyers Thompsons brought in by UNISON to act in the case, said: 'This was a straightforward case of an individual being injured at work due to an employer not taking the correct care and precaution to protect staff from injury.'

Other news

Call for action on work-related breast cancers

A dramatic policy switch is required towards elimination of workplace exposures to a slew of chemicals now believed to cause breast cancer, a campaign group has said. The Alliance for Cancer Prevention says action to limit exposures to these endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) is necessary 'in order to address the shocking levels of breast cancer caused by work.' The call came after a Canadian study published last week reported higher breast cancer rates in agriculture, plastics, food packaging, metal manufacture and the bar and gambling industries (Risks 583). Helen Lynn, facilitator for the Cancer Prevention Alliance, whose members include unions, safety, women's and environmental groups, said: 'The situation is no different in Canada than it is in the UK.' She added: 'Consigning women to face an increasing breast risk by working in environments where they are exposed daily to a cocktail of carcinogenic, mutagenic and endocrine disrupting chemicals to manufacture products for consumption is just not acceptable.' She said the European Union, which is current reviewing its approach to EDCs, must act on the now established cancer link. Jeanne Rizzo, president of the US-based Breast Cancer Fund said the link between breast cancer and workplace exposures was now 'undeniable' and criticised governments and industry for doing nothing other than demand more evidence. Writing in the Huffington Post, she added 'women should not have to face a cancer diagnosis because of the work they do. And none of us should have to face this devastating disease because industry and government failed to protect us.'


Work-related road injuries must be counted

Work-related road traffic accidents should be reported by employers to help cut the number of people killed or injured while driving for work, a health and safety professionals' body has said. With hundreds of people dying on UK roads each year while at work, the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) said it wants the government to include work-related road traffic accidents (RTAs) in the national accident reporting system, the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995. This mirrors a long-time demand of unions and the grassroots Hazards Campaign. Richard Jones, head of policy and public affairs at IOSH, said: 'In our latest response to the RIDDOR consultation, we have again called for the government to make serious injuries and deaths from work-related road traffic accidents reportable under RIDDOR.' He added: 'Employers who do not ensure employees can drive safely for work are as much at fault as those who don't ensure employees can use workplace machinery safely.' In 2010 the government estimated that 24 per cent of serious injuries and 30 per cent of deaths on the road were work-related (Risks 447). Road traffic accidents are the largest single cause of work-related fatalities, but are not included in HSE's annual workplace deaths count.

Builder ignored stop work warning

A Lancashire builder has ended up in court after he ignored a formal warning to stop working at the top of a dangerous scaffolding tower. Jack Sanderson and another builder were spotted carrying out work to the roof of a two-storey building in Bacup by a passing inspector from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) on 26 January last year. The inspector could see there were no handrails or toe boards around the platform at the top of the tower to protect the workers from falling some seven metres to the ground, or stopping materials dropping onto shoppers below. He immediately issued a prohibition notice ordering the men to come down from the unsafe scaffolding. However, just three hours later, the inspector returned and found both men back at the top of the tower but still with no safety precautions in place. At Accrington Magistrates' Court Jack Sanderson pleaded guilty to three criminal safety offences. Mr Sanderson, who is currently in prison for another unrelated offence, was fined £2,000 with no costs. Failing to comply with an HSE enforcement notice can attract a custodial sentence. Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector David Myrtle said: 'Mr Sanderson was given a chance to put things right when he received a prohibition notice but he chose to ignore it. He found himself in court as a result. Several lives were put at risk because the scaffolding wasn't safe to use, including the lives of another worker and members of the public doing their shopping on the street below.'

Companies sentenced after worker's fatal fall

A major construction company and a concrete structures firm have been sentenced after a worker died following a fall from height at a Swansea building site. Carillion Construction Ltd and with Febrey Ltd were jointly prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) following the incident at the Meridian Quay apartment development in Swansea on 22 January 2008. Self-employed father of two Russell Samuel was contracted by Febrey Ltd to work as a scaffolder at the Swansea site. Swansea Crown Court heard he was dismantling a scaffold ladder access platform ready for the installation of the roof and staircase on the fourth floor, when he fell approximately 19 metres to the ground below. He narrowly missed carpenter Raymond Haines, who was working directly below. Mr Samuel, 40, suffered multiple injuries during his fall, including a fractured skull. He was taken to Morriston Hospital but died two days later on 24 January 2008. The failings of Febrey Ltd director Michael Febrey was found to have had a direct bearing on the events that led to the death of Mr Samuel. He pleaded guilty to a criminal safety offence and will be sentenced at a later date. Principal contractor Carillion Construction Ltd pleaded guilty to two criminal safety breaches and was fined £130,000 plus £52,500 in costs. Febrey Ltd, which has since gone into liquidation, was fined £85 after admitting two criminal safety offences, although the judge said he would have fined the firm £250,000 before it became insolvent. The website of Febrey Structures Ltd, a company based at the same address and using the telephone number and web url previously used by Febrey Ltd, notes: 'Although Febrey structures is a more recently developed organisation having become a separate entity, within the company are many of the key operational elements and resources that provided the framework to the concrete structures activities of Febrey Ltd.' GMB members protested outside the hearing. The union alleges Carillion was involved in blacklisting 224 construction workers, including union health and safety reps (Risks 579).

Pub chain fined after cleaner's death

Major pub chain Mitchells and Butler has been fined £235,000 plus £65,000 costs for the criminal health and safety failings that contributed to the death of a cleaner. Richard Pratley, 65, died from a fractured skull after falling from a ladder as he tried to clean the roof of the "boathouse" inside the Snuff Mill Harvester in Bristol. Bristol Crown Court heard the restaurant's only stepladder was 'unfit for service' and was too short for the job, damaged, dirty, greasy and rusty. Mr Pratley raised concerns with the manager about the job, but still went in early on 19 January 2009 to do it. As he couldn't reach the top of the roof from the ladder, he attached his brush to a mop handle. CCTV showed he stood with one foot on the top rung of the ladder shortly before losing his balance, falling and hitting his head. Bristol council safety inspector Heather Clarke found as well as work at height breaches, other safety problems included slip and trip hazards and an unlocked electrical cupboard with 83 defects, including live exposed wires. Prosecutor Alan Fuller said the Harvester's risk assessments were 'inadequate'. Mitchells and Butler, which owns 1,600 pubs and restaurants, admitted three criminal safety breaches. Judge Michael Roach said Mr Pratley's fatal fall was 'foreseeable' and that his employers had failed him.

Firm fined for worker's forklift injuries

A cardboard factory employee suffered leg injuries when a reversing forklift truck struck him. Michael Jones, of Abercarn, was inspecting production in an area of the factory when the incident happened on 11 April 2011. Although the forklift was travelling at a slow speed when it struck him, he suffered a broken ankle and fractured heel and subsequently developed deep vein thrombosis. His employer, Smurfit Kappa Corrugated UK Ltd, pleaded guilty to a criminal safety offence and was fined £8,000 and ordered to pay £14,100 in fines by Caerphilly Magistrates. The prosecution followed an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) that revealed the forklift was fitted with reversing alarms, but these were not audible over the noise in the production area. No other safety measures were used, such as mirrors or flashing lights, on the vehicles. HSE inspector Dean Baker said: 'Mr Jones has suffered great pain and developed longer term health problems as a result of this avoidable incident.' He added: 'Every year there are over 60 deaths from work-related transport accidents and over 2,000 major injuries. Employers must ensure that they assess the movement of vehicles and where possible segregate pedestrians to eliminate the risk. If this is not possible, measures such as audible reversing alarms, mirrors, flashing lights and clearly marked pedestrian zones should be considered to prevent future injuries and fatalities.'

Injury after plastics firm failed to add guards

An employee at a Burnley plastics firm narrowly avoided severing his fingers when his hand came into contact with a rotating blade, a court has heard. The 43-year-old from Bury, who has asked not to be named, suffered damage to the index finger on his right hand in the incident at Industrial Anti Corrosives Ltd in Dunnockshaw, which trades as IAC Plastics, on 2 April last year. Reedley Magistrates' Court in Burnley was told that the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has investigated several similar incidents at other factories where workers have lost fingers or suffered permanent damage to their hands. The court heard the company had carried out a risk assessment in 2007 where it identified the need to fit guards on several machines, including the one used by the injured worker. However, it failed to act on this. The machines were also left unguarded for two months after the incident, until HSE inspectors served the company with three prohibition notices requiring guards to be fitted. Industrial Anti-Corrosives Ltd pleaded guilty to a criminal breach of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 and was fined £5,000 plus £3,991 in prosecution costs. HSE inspector David Myrtle said: 'We investigate several incidents every year where workers lose fingers in machinery. It's only by chance that the worker wasn't more seriously injured in this case.' Plastics factories have been designated 'low risk' by HSE and so are no longer subject to routine preventive HSE safety inspections.

Laundry fined after worker is ironed

A commercial laundry in Southend has been fined after an employee crushed and burned his arm when it was pulled into an industrial ironing machine. Badrul Islam, 23, lost two fingers on his right hand as a result of the incident at Exclusive Cleaners UK Ltd on 25 August last year. Southend Magistrates' Court heard he was cleaning a heated steel roller on the machine with a cloth when his arm was pulled inside and was pinned against the roller, causing him serious crush and burn injuries. His injuries were so severe that two fingers later required amputation. Mr Islam spent more than two months in hospital and underwent numerous skin graft operations. He is still unable to work. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuted Exclusive Cleaners after it was made aware of the incident through a civil compensation claim. Magistrates were told that a company director was supervising Mr Islam at the time, and that the incident was entirely preventable. An HSE investigation found that a fixed guard had been removed from the ironing machine, which was fully operational with the roller heating to around 80 degrees Celsius. Warning labels were in place advising that the machine must be switched off before any servicing, including cleaning, took place, and that it should not be operated without guards. However, this guidance was ignored. The 'major injury' incident was never reported to HSE, despite this being a legal requirement. Exclusive Cleaners UK Ltd pleaded guilty to two criminal safety offences and was fined £5,000 and ordered to pay costs of £5,000.

International News

Australia: Action urged on workplace bullying

An Australian parliamentary inquiry into workplace bullying has urged the government to set up a national service to provide practical advice on bullying and how to deal with it. The service would include a hotline where both employees and employers could receive help to prevent and resolve cases of bullying. The inquiry by a standing committee of the House of Representatives received more than 300 written submissions, mainly from workers who had experienced the problem first-hand. Other recommendations of the committee's report, 'Workplace bullying: We just want it to stop', include providing online training packages for employers and on-site help for workplaces where bullying is known to be rife. Workplace relations minister Bill Shorten, who established the inquiry, said bullying is a serious workplace safety issue and he will consider the recommendations quickly. 'One thing I do know, is that workplace bullying is a real issue,' Mr Shorten said. 'Repeated unreasonable conduct which leaves people feeling disempowered and unhappy is absolutely not to be accepted. There needs to be zero tolerance for workplace bullying, so I think that this parliamentary committee is getting a positive issue up on the national stage.' The committee's chair, Amanda Rishworth, said: 'We discovered throughout the inquiry that prevention and early intervention is critical. A chief concern of witnesses was the lack of clarity about what to do and where to go for help.' The committee singled out 'psychologically abusive group behaviour' in which workers banded together to try to drive a worker from their workplace as of particular concern. The phenomenon, known as 'mobbing', was most prolific in teaching and nursing, it said.

Bangladesh: Managers arrested after deadly factory fire

Three managers at a Bangladeshi clothing factory have been arrested and accused of locking a main gate of the facility hampering people trying to flee a 24 November inferno that killed more than 100 workers and left at least 200 injured. The arrest of the mid-level managers at Tazreen Fashions , situated in the industrial zone of Asulia, about 30 kilometres north of Dhaka, did not stop the continued protests of thousands in the capital city on 28 November, as many mourned and called for a full investigation into what happened. Local media have claimed 124 workers died. Walmart, the world's largest retailer, attempted to distance itself from the clothing factory, saying it was no longer authorised to produce merchandise for the company. 'A supplier subcontracted work to this factory without authorisation and in direct violation of our policies. Today, we have terminated the relationship with that supplier,' a company statement said. Questions, however, are still being asked about Walmart's oversight of its supply chain. Al Jazeera reported that Tazreen was given a 'high risk' safety rating after a May 2011 audit conducted by an 'ethical sourcing' assessor for Walmart. Walmart spokesperson Kevin Gardner said that the company should have conducted another inspection by August 2012 and that it is not clear 'if that inspection had been conducted or whether the factory was still making products for Walmart.' Tazreen Fashions Ltd is a subsidiary of the Tuba Group, a major Bangladeshi garment exporter whose clients also include multinationals Carrefour and IKEA. Monika Kemperle, assistant general secretary of IndustriALL, the global union federation covering the garment sector, said only strong unions 'will be able to stop the ruinous competition at the cost of fire and building safety and therefore at the cost of workers and their families. Together trade unions will have more power at multiple levels to put pressure on governments, employers and international brand owners.'



New Zealand: Union safety reps need more power

Union health and safety representatives must be given increased powers if New Zealand's poor workplace safety record is to improve, unions have said. The Council of Trades Unions (CTU) is urging an Independent Taskforce on Workplace Health and Safety to act on the recommendations of a Royal Commission which called for an expanded safety role for union reps (Risks 581). The commission followed the November 2010 Pike River mine explosion in which 29 workers died. The union body's submission to the new taskforce also backs recommendations for a new Crown body to oversee workplace safety, more robust health and safety legislation and a 'legislative framework with worker participation at the centre.' CTU also renewed its call for stronger penalties, including corporate manslaughter. CTU president Helen Kelly said: 'Pike River has been a tragic exhibition of the failure of a deregulated health and safety legislative framework. We need a more clearly prescribed law and we need to change the cost element of requirements around 'all practicable steps'. Costs should not outweigh health and safety unless they are grossly disproportionate to the improvements in health and safety that can be achieved.' She added: 'We need to put workers at the centre of our approach to health and safety; health and safety workplace reps need to have the power to issue improvement notices and we need health and safety advisers in our workplaces... A worker voice needs to be at the heart of health and safety in New Zealand.'

USA: Unsafe construction sites squander billions

Occupational injuries and fatalities in the construction industry cost California residents $2.9 billion (£1.8bn) between 2008 and 2010, according to a new report. 'The price of inaction: A comprehensive look at the costs of injuries and fatalities in California's construction industry', quantifies the estimated costs of deaths and injuries in the state's construction industry by considering an array of factors. The study, by Public Citizen, found that from 2008 to 2010, 168 construction workers were killed in Californian workplaces. Additionally, the state recorded 50,700 construction industry injuries and illnesses that required days away from work or a job transfer. Drawing on a comprehensive 2004 journal article that analysed the cost of occupational injuries, and combining the paper's findings with updated fatality and injury data, Public Citizen determined that such incidents cost the state's economy $2.9 billion during the three-year period. 'The economic picture is quite staggering,' said Keith Wrightson, worker safety and health advocate for Public Citizen's Congress Watch division. 'We now know that construction accidents impose huge economic costs in addition to tremendous pain for individual victims.' The report proposes that California pass a law requiring companies to demonstrate adherence to safety standards in order to be eligible to bid for state contracts. Firms should be required to demonstrate they provide safety training to workers and site supervisors, and that they have not had serious safety violations. 'Implementing a stricter prequalification process for public construction projects would not address all of the industry's safety problems,' Wrightson said. 'However, such a step would help further protect workers while also yielding significant gains to the economy for minimal costs.'

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