The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is telling businesses to do more to protect workers and members of the public from Legionnaires’ disease, but at the same time is doing less and less itself.
Hazards 119, July-September 2012
Britain: Workers at risk from superbug-infected pigs
Pigs infected with the superbug MRSA can be freely imported into the UK due to regulatory loopholes, putting workers and consumers at risk, an investigation has found. And global food and farming trade union federation IUF told Hazards magazine: “Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) leading to the spread of MRSA and other ‘superbugs’ is a major and growing threat to the health of agricultural workers and meat processing workers.”
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism. Investigative Reporting Denmark. Risks 772. 15 October 2016
Britain: Security firm G4S fined £1.8m for Legionella risk
G4S Cash Solutions (UK) Limited has been fined £1.8 million for failing to protect workers from the risk of Legionnaires’ disease. Harlow Council environmental health officers inspected G4S's Harlow site in October 2013 after receiving a report that a Harlow resident had contracted Legionellosis, a pneumonia-type condition, and found a serious lack of compliance with the legally required level of water system maintenance.
Harlow Council news release. Harlow Star. HSE Legionnaires’ Disease webpages. Risks 768. 17 September 2016.
Britain: Shiftworkers are at higher risk of infections
People are more susceptible to infection at certain times of the day as our body clock affects the ability of viruses to replicate and spread between cells, suggests new research from the University of Cambridge. The findings, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), may help explain why shiftworkers, whose body clocks are routinely disrupted, are more prone to health problems, including infections and chronic diseases like diabetes.
Cambridge University news release. Rachel S Edgar and others. Cell autonomous regulation of herpes and influenza virus infection by the circadian clock, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, e-pub 15 August 2016. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1601895113. BBC News Online. The Guardian. Risks 764. 20 August 2016
Global: Union provides HIV well-being app for seafarers
Seafarers can now access up-to-date information and guidance about HIV/AIDS on their mobile devices, thanks to a new well-being app launched by the global transport workers’ union federation ITF. ITF says it plan to add other well-being topics to the app.
ITF news release and free ITF wellbeing app. Risks 761. 30 July 2016
Britain: HSE discovers widespread NHS needlesticks risk
Most healthcare establishments visited in a Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspection blitz were in breach of the law on needlesticks safety, with nearly half the subject of formal enforcement action. HSE found health and safety breaches in 90 per cent of organisations visited, with 83 per cent of organisations failing to fully comply with the sharps regulations
Summary report, Prevention and management of sharps injuries: Inspection of NHS organisations, HSE Sharps Inspection Initiative 2015/16 and sharps injuries webpages. UNISON news release. Safer Needles Network. Risks 752. 28 May 2016
Global: Seafarers get Zika virus guidance
The global transport unions’ federation ITF has issued a new guide “to help seafarers around the world to protect themselves from the Zika virus.” ITF maritime coordinator Jacqueline Smith said: “The reality for seafarers is that if they’re going to be able to take any precautions against contracting the virus – things like sleeping under mosquito nets, using repellent, wearing light covering clothing, covering water containers – they need to prepare in advance, before they are at sea for a number or weeks or even months.”
ITF news release and Zika virus guidelines. Risks 741. 5 March 2016
Britain: Port health authorities in the dark over Zika
Most port health officers have not been told what they should do if they suspect air crew and travellers coming into the country have the Zika virus, the Association of Port Health Authorities has warned. Lynnette Crossley, a senior port health officer and APHA committee member, said Public Health England (PHE) had not yet circulated any guidance to ports other than those receiving direct passenger flights from the affected areas.
Environmental Health News.
INSI advisory on Zika and related guidance from the National Travel Health Network and Centre, US Centers for Disease Control and World Health Organisation Zika factsheet. Public Health England guidance for pregnant women. Risks 739. 20 February 2016.
Global: Does your work pose a Zika risk?
The Zika virus began ringing public health alarm bells in May 2015 in Brazil and is now spreading rapidly – and may pose a risk to those working in or visiting affected countries. An advisory from the London-based International News Safety Institute (INSI) says so far there are confirmed cases in at least 23 countries – almost all of them in tropical South America, extending into Central America and the Caribbean.
INSI advisory on Zika and related guidance from the National Travel Health Network and Centre, US Centers for Disease Control and World Health Organisation Zika factsheet. Public Health England guidance for pregnant women. Risks 738. 13 February 2016.
Britain: College student dies from Weil's disease
A student has died of Weil's disease after helping at an animal charity, Public Health England has confirmed. Following the death, a court order was granted which restricts public access to Northamptonshire Animals in Need of Nurturing and Adoption at Irthlingborough.
Northamptonshire Telelgraph. Northampton Chronicle. BBC News Online. Risks 733. 9 January 2016
Britain: Firefighters laid low by water-borne bug
Thousands of pounds of compensation has been paid out to firefighters from across the UK who fell ill after taking part in training at the National Watersports Centre. The training was carried out at the centre, at Holme Pierrepont in Nottinghamshire, between 2009 and 2012 and led to 66 firefighters falling ill with sickness and diarrhoea. Each firefighter received between £1,000 and £10,000, with Nottinghamshire County Council paying out a total of £88,312.50 in compensation after settling 54 claims without accepting liability. Water at the centre flowed from the River Trent, which was found to contain harmful bacteria. Due to the physically demanding nature of the training, it led to almost all of those attending the courses ingesting the water and falling ill. The Fire Brigade Union (FBU) South West branch instructed Thompsons Solicitors to carry out investigations into cause of the sickness. Despite evidence establishing contaminated water was responsible for the ill-health, the centre was still advertised to fire brigades as a safe place to carry out the ‘Swift Water Rescue Training’. Tam McFarlane, executive council member for South West FBU, said: “Rather than accepting their mistakes, bosses have fought every claim in full, wasting vast sums of taxpayers' money on legal defence fees that should be spent protecting the public.” Kevin Digby, from Thompsons Solicitors, said: “Sixth-six FBU members have been laid low by this failure and there are many others who have been affected.” He added: “Listening to your staff, listening to experts, and basic health and safety isn't rocket science.”
Thompsons Solicitors news release. Nottingham Post. Buxton Advertiser. Risks 733. 9 January 2016
Britain: Tackling HIV discrimination at work
There are more than 100,000 people living with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) in the UK, mostly of working age, of whom a quarter are unaware of their status. Most of those who live with HIV in the UK have normal life expectancy and lead fulfilling working lives. ‘Tackling HIV discrimination at work’, a new TUC guide, provides basic facts to help trade unionists deal with issues that might arise.
TUC publication alert and guide, Tackling HIV discrimination at work. Risks 721. 26 September 2015
Britain: Coatings firm in court for legionella failings
An international firm that refurbishes turbine blades has been fined for failing to manage the risk to the public and employees from exposure to potentially deadly legionella bacteria. Chromalloy UK Limited, which has sites in Eastwood in Nottinghamshire and Somercotes in Derbyshire, failed to properly manage the risk of bacteria growing in their cooling towers for over a year, from May 2011.
HSE news release and legionella management guide. Risks 718. 5 September 2015
Britain: Steel coating firm ignored Legionella risk
A steel coating company has been fined for failing to manage the risks from legionella bacteria at two cooling towers over a period of five years. Newport Crown Court heard how in February 2014, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) visited Coilcolor limited in Newport, Gwent and found it had since 2009 been operating two cooling towers on site without taking necessary measures to control proliferation of the bacteria.
HSE news release and Legionnaires’ disease webpage. Risks 718. 5 September 2015
Britain: Union victory on rail sewage dumping
An RMT campaign to stop train companies dumping sewage on rail tracks has scored a major victory. A meeting between RMT reps and Scottish parliament transport minister Derek MacKay, ScotRail management and Transport Scotland officials ended in an agreement to bring forward the date for the elimination of the dumping of sewage by ScotRail trains, as well as vaccinations to reduce the risk to staff from untreated human excrement.
RMT news release. STV News. Morning Star. BBC News Online. Risks 709. 4 July 2015
Korea: Union to sue FedEx over anthrax deliveries
A union in South Korea has accused global logistics firm FedEx of putting workers at risk of deadly anthrax infection. The Korean Public Service and Transport Workers' Union is considering legal action against FedEx Korea for the company's alleged failure to take safety measures in its delivery of live anthrax samples to a military lab in Korea from the United States.
Korea Times. Washington Post. BBC News Online. Risks 708. 27 June 2015
Liberia: Unions key to stopping Ebola spread
In Liberia, no new cases of Ebola were reported in the first week in April and the overall death toll, while horrific at nearly 4,200, is far less than some health experts predicted last year - a result based in part on the coordinated efforts of the Liberian trade union movement.
Solidarity Center news report. Risks 698. 18 April 2015
Global: WHO calls for use of ‘smart’ syringes
Smart syringes that break after one use should be used for injections by 2020, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has said. Reusing syringes lead to more than two million people being infected with diseases including HIV and hepatitis each year.
WHO news release. BBC News Online. Risks 692. 28 February 2015
Britain: Government does nothing on rail sewage dumping
Rail union RMT has stepped up demands for urgent government action to end the “shocking practice” of train companies dumping human sewage on the railway tracks. The union was speaking out as a BBC ‘Inside Out’ programme broadcast on 12 January revealed one in ten trains are still dumping human waste on the tracks and that exposure to this excrement has serious health implications for rail workers.
RMT news release. BBC News Online. Risks 686. 17 January 2015
Britain: Catalogue of failings at deadly disease labs
High security labs that handle the most dangerous viruses and bacteria have reported more than 100 accidents or near-misses to safety regulators in the past five years, official reports reveal. Reports obtained by the Guardian from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) reveal that more than 70 incidents at UK government, university and hospital labs were serious enough to investigate; many led to enforcement letters, or crown prohibition notices (CPN), ordering labs to shut until improvements were made.
The Guardian • Risks 684 • 13 December 2014
Global: Ebola’s 325 health worker victims remembered
A video message honouring the 325 health workers killed so far in the current Ebola outbreak has been issued by the global public service union federation PSI. Rosa Pavanelli, PSI’s general secretary, names the doctors, nurses, midwives, cleaners, ambulance drivers, pharmacists, community health workers and others who have lost their lives after toiling on the frontline against Ebola.
PSI news release and video • Risks 683 • 6 December 2014
Britain: Stop dumping sewage on rail tracks
Rail union RMT is stepping up the pressure on Transport Scotland and Network Rail to end quickly the ‘filthy and disgusting’ practice of dumping raw sewage on rail tracks. In a meeting with the transport agencies, RMT officials urged both organisations to put pressure on Scotrail’s new operators, Abellio, to bring forward the proposed date for the fitting of retention tanks across the fleet from December 2017 to April 2016 “to eradicate this scandal.”
RMT news release • Risks 682 • 29 November 2014
Africa: Unions call for urgent Ebola support
African nations hit by the largest ever Ebola outbreak need international help urgently to combat the epidemic, a top union leader has said. A solidarity appeal from ITUC-Africa general secretary Kwasi Adu-Amankwah notes: “We are therefore appealing to you, your organisation and community to join us in our effort to mobilise material and financial donations to assist our brothers and sisters in these affected communities.”
ITUC-Africa appeal • Donations can be sent to CSI-Afrique, Centre Fopadesc , Agoe, Lome, BP: 4401- Togo. Bank Account: 7080161408998902 with Ecobank. Swift code: ECOCTGTG. When sending please indicate “Ebola Crisis Fund” • Risks 681 • 22 November 2014
USA: Nurses strike for Ebola protection
Tens of thousands of registered nurses staged strikes, rallies and marches across the US on 12 November to demand tougher Ebola safety precautions in the nation’s hospitals. National Nurses United (NNU) executive director Rose Ann DeMoro said: “Nurses, who have been willing to stand by the patients whether it's the flu, whether it's Ebola, whether it's cancer, are now being asked to put themselves in harm's way unprotected, unguarded.”
NNU news release and Ebola optimal standards petition • AFL-CIO Now blog • Time magazine • Risks 681 • 22 November 2014
Global: New guides on Ebola protection
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has conducted a formal review of personal protective equipment (PPE) guidelines for healthcare workers and has updating its guidelines as a result. Edward Kelley, WHO director for service delivery and safety, said: “Paramount to the guidelines’ effectiveness is the inclusion of mandatory training on the putting on, taking off and decontaminating of PPE, followed by mentoring for all users before engaging in any clinical care.”
WHO update on PPE • Risks 679 • 8 November 2014
USA: Unions call for presidntial action on Ebola
To protect the USA’s health care workers and the public from exposure to the Ebola virus, President Barack Obama should use his executive authority to put in place mandatory protections and other workplace standards for hospitals and other health care facilities, national union federation AFL-CIO has said. In letters to the president and congressional leaders, AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka said: “Existing protocols, standards and guidelines, and adherence to them, are deficient.”
AFL-CIO Now blog and letters to president Obama to Obama and the Senate and the House • Mother Jones • Fortune. Wall Street Journal blog • Risks 678 • 1 November 2014
Global: Workers press for Ebola protection
According to the World Health Organisation, in its Ebola Response Roadmap Situation Report for 8 October, some 401 health workers had contracted Ebola, with 232 confirmed or suspected deaths. Ebola cases in healthcare workers exposed treating patients in US and Spanish hospitals show the risk isn’t confined to West Africa.
IRIN news report • Ebola Response Roadmap Situation Report, WHO, 8 October 2014. SEIU news report • Washington Post • Working In These Times • The Independent •
NYCOSH New York airports health and safety report, October 2014 • Risks 676 • 18 October 2014
Britain: Ebola screening begins at Heathrow airport
Passengers arriving at Heathrow airport from Ebola-affected countries are now being screened by health officials. The government said “a few passengers” had their temperatures checked and filled in a health questionnaire at Terminal 1 when the policy took effect on 14 October.
BBC News Online and related story • Risks 676 • 18 October 2014
Britain: Health staff still at risk of ‘sharps’ injuries
NHS staff are being placed at risk of deadly diseases by foot-dragging employers who are failing to introduce readily available safer ‘sharps’, including needles, syringes and lancets, UNISON has warned. UNISON’s freedom of information request to the NHS Business Service Authority found that while some community trusts reported that 83 per cent of devices they purchased were safety devices, in other areas the figure was as low as 16 per cent.
UNISON news release • Risks 676 • 18 October 2014
Global: WHO warns of Ebola healthcare risks
A prominent World Health Organisation (WHO) adviser has warned that more Ebola cases can be expected among medical staff - even in developed countries with modern health care systems. Professor Peter Piot was commenting after Spanish nurse Teresa Romero contracted the disease treating two missionaries in a Madrid hospital.
BBC News Online • What we know about transmission of the Ebola virus among humans, WHO update, 6 October 2014 • British Medical Association recommendations. Ebola (Ebola Virus Disease): Information for healthcare workers, US CDC, updated 6 October 2014 • Risks 675 • 11 October 2014
Africa: Ebola has killed over 200 health workers
The number of health workers killed by West Africa’s Ebola outbreak has reached 211, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has reported. Its 26 September situation update says 375 workers are known to have been infected, and the overall death toll has passed 3,000.
WHO Ebola situation report update, 26 September 2014 • IndustriALL news release • BBC News Online • Risks 674 • 4 October 2014
USA: New lab blunders fuel deadly infection fears
A runaway mouse, escapee ferrets and the accidental mailing of dangerous bacteria by a bioterrorism lab are among incidents in labs researching deadly infections that have heightened concern in the US Congress and wider population about controls on research work with deadly pathogens. House Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee member Diana DeGette said: “It appears none of these breaches have led to any kind of infection,” adding: “But it's only a matter of time.”
USA Today • Risks 673 • 27 September 2014
Liberia: Ebola burial teams face terrible pressures
As the Ebola death toll mounts in Liberia, burial teams are having to contend with physical risk and trauma as they take charge of safely burying the dead, often in the face of local anger. Government and International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) burial teams initially took charge of burying the dead but had to recruit and train local teams to cope with the volume of corpses.
IRIN News • Risks 672 • 20 September 2014
Global: Ebola outbreak kills over 120 health workers
The Ebola outbreak in West Africa has taken an “unprecedented” toll on health care workers, infecting more than 240 and killing more than 120, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has said. “In many cases, medical staff are at risk because no protective equipment is available – not even gloves and face masks,” the agency reported in a 26 August update on the outbreak in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone.
WHO news release • USA Today • Digital Journal • The Mirror • ABC News •
Ebola Virus Disease: Occupational Safety and Health - joint WHO/ILO briefing note for workers and employers, 26 August 2014 • Risks 670 • 7 September 2014
India: Workers forced to clean up human excrement
The Indian government should end “manual scavenging” – the cleaning of human waste by communities considered low-caste – by ensuring that local officials enforce the laws prohibiting this discriminatory practice, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has said. In a 96-page report, HRW says the government should implement existing legislation aimed at assisting manual scavengers find alternative, sustainable livelihoods.
HRW news release and full report, Cleaning Human Waste: ‘Manual scavenging,’ caste, and discrimination in India [pdf] • Risks 669 • 30 August 2014
Global: British Ebola patient flown home
A volunteer nurse is being treated at a hospital in London after contracting Ebola in Sierra Leone. William Pooley, 29, had been caring for victims of the Ebola outbreak in Africa, which has killed almost 1,500 people; his is the first confirmed case of a Briton contracting Ebola in the current outbreak.
Department of Health news release • BBC News Online and update • Risks 669 • 30 August 2014
Africa: Agencies fighting Ebola at ‘breaking point’
A shortage of trained health workers in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea who can treat Ebola victims and prevent further spread of the deadly disease is hampering response efforts, health ministries and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have warned. Stéphane Doyone, West Africa coordinator of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), which is shouldering the bulk of the case management burden in the three countries, said: “It’s a huge programme but human resources are very challenging: staff must be highly trained and they have to be turned over every 4-6 weeks due to stress and fatigue.”
IRIN news report • WHO Ebola factsheet • UK government Ebola response • ITF news release • BALPA statement • The Independent • Risks 666 • 9 August 2014
Africa: Health workers killed in worst Ebola outbreak
Health care workers in Africa have died in the ‘worst ever’ Ebola outbreak because they did not have the necessary tools and equipment, Public Services International has revealed. The global trade union federation, condemning the “criminal neglect” that led to the preventable deaths of dozens of healthcare workers in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, warned the Ebola outbreak is “the worst ever and the first to spill widely across several countries.”
PSI news coverage and statement • Interview with Paul Tilame of the PSI-affiliated National Private Sector Health Workers Union of Liberia (NPSHWU). IRIN News • Risks 663 • 19 July 2014
Britain: Fine for foot-and-mouth lab failings
A world-renowned animal disease research facility has been fined after it was found experiments with cattle infected with the foot-and-mouth disease virus (FMDV) did not observe the necessary safety measures. The incidents at Pirbright Institute in November 2012 and January 2013 occurred in a contained facility housing infected animals.
Pirbright Institute statement • HSE news release • Risks 653 • 10 May 2014
Britain: RMT forces government admission on sewage
The rail union RMT has stepped up its demands for urgent government action to end the dumping human sewage on the railway tracks, saying it has the extent of the practice by train companies was unknown by ministers. Questions tabled by members of the union’s parliamentary group revealed a quarter of trains with toilets on board do have retention tanks and are discharging raw sewage.
RMT news release • Risks 646 • 15 March 2014
Britain: Rail union criticises official line on sewage dumping
The government is continuing to play down the risks posed by raw sewage dumped by trains onto rail tracks. RMT general secretary Bob Crow said: “There is no point in the government politely requesting that the private train companies desist, they are the one’s profiting out of this scandal by allowing it to continue in the full knowledge that it is both dangerous and disgusting.”
Written answer from the transport secretary, 7 January 2014 • RMT news release. Express and Echo • BBC News Online • Risks 637 • 11 January 2014
Britain: Bus cleaner nearly killed by flesh eating disease
A worker was “four hours from death” after being infected by a flesh eating disease caused by a piece of metal left on the floor at work, with the injury leading to the amputation of her left leg. Izzy Lloyd, 49, was working at an Arriva Southern Counties Limited bus depot in Maidstone on 6 April 2010 when she was injured as she alighted from the bus she had been cleaning in the engineering bay.
Unite news release • Kent Online • Risks 608 • 8 June 2013
Britain: Head of government agency hauled before HSE
The head of a government agency whose workers were put at serious risk from bovine TB has been forced to appear at a Health and Safety Executive (HSE) office to receive an official reprimand. Chris Hadkiss, chief executive of the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA) - an executive agency of DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) - was handed a Crown censure at HSE’s Basingstoke office after an investigation into the handling of samples containing Mycobacterium bovis (M. bovis) - the causative agent of bovine tuberculosis (TB).
HSE news release • Risks 604 • 11 May 2013
Britain: Union welcome for new sharps injury law
New regulations to control the risks posed by needles and other 'sharps' in healthcare have been welcomed by the union UNISON. Commenting on the new law, which came into effect on 11 May, UNISON safety officer Robert Baughan, said: “This is a great day for the protection of healthcare workers from sharps injuries and the potential of contracting a deadly bloodborne virus such as HIV or Hepatitis C, and the culmination of UNISON's campaign for safer needles.”
HSE news release, needlesticks webpage and guidance • UNISON news release. European BioSafety Network guidance • Risks 605 • 18 May 2013
Congo: Union recruitment and retractable syringes
A union project to encourage the use of safer retractable syringes in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s health system has delivered benefits for patients, health care workers and their union. Global union federation PSI said during the project, membership of the health care union SOLISCO, a PSI affiliate, rose by 30 per cent in three years.
PSI news release • Map: IMPACT/PSI project collaboration between 2008 and 2013 • Risks 599 • 30 March 2013
Britain: Cutting hospital cleaners will increase infections
Health workers have warned that patients at five hospitals in north-west England face more infections if a hospital trust requires porters to carry out specialist cleaning duties. GMB says University Hospital of Morecambe Bay Foundation Trust is proposing to change porters' job descriptions to include “terminal cleans” - deep cleaning operations of specific areas - including ones where there have been particular problems, such as highly infectious and potentially deadly MRSA.
GMB news release • Morning Star • Risks 596 • 9 March 2013
Britain: Spot inspections linked to superbug decline
Surprise visits by health inspectors are helping hospitals win the war against superbugs, according to Scotland's NHS bug-buster. Healthcare Environment Inspectorate (HEI) chief inspector Susan Brimelow said the unannounced spot checks were ‘paying dividends’ as the latest annual report showed wards and equipment are generally cleaner and superbug infections are falling.
HEI chief inspector annual report 2011/12 and HEI webpages • The Herald • Risks 592 • 9 February 2012
Britain: Basildon Hospital guilty after Legionnaires’ deaths
Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals NHS Trust statement has admitted failing to protect the public from deadly Legionnaires’ disease. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuted the Trust following a series of cases of the disease, two fatal - James Compton, 74, was the first to die, just after cost-cutting reductions in a water treatment programme came into effect.
Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals NHS Trust statement • The Telegraph • BBC News Online • Essex Enquirer • Risks 591 • 2 February 2013
Britain: Hospital employees exposed to ‘deadly’ TB strain
Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS Foundation Trust (RBHT) has been fined after employees were exposed to a potentially deadly strain of multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (TB) bacteria when a test vial smashed in a specialist laboratory. HSE had issued an enforcement notice for the same laboratory facility in 2002 for failing to ensure it was sealable for disinfection.
HSE news release • Risks 590 • 26 January 2013
Britain: HSE rethink on legionella inspections
Businesses and organisations with cooling towers in the west of Scotland are facing checks to ensure they are managing legionella risks, in a pilot that is expected to be rolled out across Britain. After a dramatic decline in legionella inspections in recent years and two major deadly Legionnaires’ disease outbreaks in 2012, HSE is now liaising with councils on plans to visit all cooling towers and evaporative condensers in Britain over the next 18 months.
HSE news release • EHN • Risks 586 • 15 December 2012
Britain: Leaked report warns of ‘catastrophic’ legionella risk
Poor management of cooling towers and evaporative condensers could lead to a ‘catastrophic’ legionella outbreak in London, according to an unpublished Health and Safety Executive (HSE) report. “The headline to arise from this project is the poor level of compliance,” it states, warning an outbreak in London would be far worse than the legionella outbreak in Edinburgh in June, where over 100 people were infected and three people died.
EHN Online • The Guardian • Risks 582 • 17 November 2012
Britain: Minister defends scaled back Legionella inspections
New health and safety minister Mark Hoban has defending the scaled back legionella inspection levels criticised after two major and deadly Legionnaires’ disease outbreaks. Critics say in the absence of preventive inspections it is impossible for enforcement agencies to identify which businesses present the highest risk.
EHN Online • Public Health Wales news release • BBC News Online • Risks 577 • 13 October 2012
Britain: HSE action not enough on deadly Legionella risk
Health and Safety Executive (HSE) safety notices urging employers to do more to prevent Legionnaires’ disease risks have been dismissed as “too little, too late”. Specialist lawyers representing 48 survivors and the families of four victims who died in two major outbreaks in Stoke-on-Trent in July and Edinburgh in May have repeated a call for a public inquiry into the problems.
Irwin Mitchell Solicitors news release. Stirling University case history on HSE enforcement and Legionnaires’ disease, September 2012 • EHN survey of HSE Legionella inspections, EHN, 8 August 2012 • Risks 575 • 29 September 2012
Britain: Concerns raised about hands-off Legionella strategy
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is urging firms to do more to prevent Legionnaires’ disease, as concerns heighten about the government-driven removal of official scrutiny by the safety regulators. New research found nearly half of English local authorities responsible for cooling towers have not carried out any proactive legionella risk inspections within the past five years.
EHN News • Legionella, Hansard report 10 September 2012 • HSE news release, Legionella safety notice and guidance • Risks 574 • 22 September 2012
Britain: Lawyers call for Legionnaires Inquiry
Law firm Irwin Mitchell is calling for a Public Inquiry following the recent outbreaks which have caused five deaths and left more than 120 other members of the public ill. The outbreaks were in Edinburgh and Stoke-on-Trent. They claim that plans outlined six years ago following a review of an outbreak in Barrow-in-Furness that affected 180 people and led to seven deaths have failed. Clive Garner, an illness expert at Irwin Mitchell said: 'Ten years ago the Barrow Legionnaires' disease outbreak was so severe that two public meetings were held and eventually the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) published a special report with a view to avoiding this kind of tragedy from happening again. To put it simply, these plans to prevent further outbreaks of the illness have failed.” The call for a Public Inquiry comes as figures show the number of inspections by the HSE for legionella bacteria in cooling Towers in the UK has fallen, from 237 in 2010 to 134 last year despite them being a well-known potential source of infection. Irwin Mitchell news release • Hazards infections webpages • Risks 570 • 25 August 2012
Britain: UNION campaign forces progress on sharps
The UK safety authorities have been jolted into action by a high profile Europe-wide UNISON campaign for the introduction of a law to protect workers from sharps injuries. On 8 August the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) started a three month consultation on the implementation of an EU directive which requires member states to introduce regulations to protect health care workers from potentially life-threatening sharps-related infections.
CD244 - Consultation on proposed regulations to implement Council Directive 2010/32/EU on preventing sharps injuries in the hospital and healthcare sector. The consultation began on 8 August 2012 and ends on 8 November 2012 • Risks 569 • 18 August 2012
Britain: Second Legionnaires' disease death in Stoke-on-Trent
A second person has died following an outbreak of Legionnaires' disease in Stoke-on-Trent, health officials have said. Businesses were told last week by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to do more to protect workers and members of the public from Legionnaires' disease.
HPA news release • BBC News Online • Risks 568 • 11 August 2012
Britain: HSE tells firms to tackle Legionnaires’ risks
Businesses are being told to do more to protect workers and members of the public from Legionnaires’ disease. The safety notice from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which warns of the dangers of reducing planned maintenance and cleaning schedules, came as Britain’s second outbreak in three months claimed its first life.
HSE news release, guidance and safety notice, Management of the risks from legionella in cooling towers and evaporative condensers • Health Protection Agency news release • BBC News Online and update on the Staffordshire death • Risks 567 • 4 August 2012
Britain: Refuse workers spiked by needles in black bag
UNISON has repeated its call for an end to government stalling on needlestick hazards, after two refuse collectors from West Sussex were pricked by hypodermic needles. The two workers, who were employed by waste giant Biffa on a contract to collect household waste for Arun District Council, are facing the possibility of infection and two years of blood tests after being pricked by the needles, which had been left in black plastic waste bags by a resident.
UNISON news release and needlestick injuries guide for local government safety reps. BBC News Online • Risks 567 • 4 August 2012
Britain: One Legionnaires’ outbreak ends, another begins
The Edinburgh Legionnaires’ disease outbreak that affected over 100 and which killed three has been declared over by officials. But this week a new outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease was confirmed in Stoke-on-Trent, with 11 confirmed cases.
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 • Risks 566 • 28 July 2012
Britain: HSE admits Legionnaires’ concerns
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has admitted concerns about the possible extent of Legionnaires’ disease risk after inspections at six firms in Edinburgh found two were falling criminally short of the legally required safe practices. So far two deaths have been linked to the Edinburgh outbreak, with three patients in intensive care and the number thought to have been affected by the outbreak had risen to 95, with 48 confirmed cases and 47 suspected cases.
Daily Herald • BBC News Online • Risks 562 • 30 June 2012
Britain: Over 80 cases suspected in Legionnaires' outbreak
The total number of cases of Legionnaires' disease confirmed in the Edinburgh outbreak had risen to 41 on 13 June, with a further 47 suspected cases. One person, 56-year-old building worker Robert Air, has so far died of the disease.
BBC News Online • HSE news releases on the Macfarlan Smith Ltd and improvement notices and Legionnaires’ disease advice • The Guardian • Risks 560 • 16 June 2012
Britain: Deadly delays on sharps injuries law
The government must end the ‘horror’ caused to NHS nurses, midwives, healthcare assistants and other health workers at risk of bloodborne diseases from sharps injuries, health service union UNISON has said. UNISON head of health Christina McAnea accused the UK government of “dragging its heels” and said: “An EU Directive in 2009 set May 2013 as the deadline for the introduction of safer needles across the European Union,” adding: “But why wait till then to stop the misery of needlestick injuries?”
UNISON news release • Risks 559 • 9 June 2012
Britain: Health staff urged to get the seasonal flu jab
Health staff should take the opportunity to get the flu jab at work, health service union UNISON has said – and it says health service employers should ensure staff are allowed the time to get vaccinated. The union is supporting a new NHS staff vaccination campaign to be launched across England.
UNISON news release • National NHS Staff Seasonal Flu Vaccination Campaign and NHS flu fighter Facebook page • BBC News Online • Risks 522 • 10 September 2011
Britain: Union safety demands kill infections
Rates of hospital infections have been reduced dramatically where the union line on prevention has been followed, figures from the UK and USA indicate.
UNISON news release • HPA webpage on healthcare associate infections • Risks 519 • 20 August 2011
USA: Would you like diarrhoea with that?
A study of restaurant food handling in the US has uncovered something diners might find hard to swallow - about 12 per cent of the restaurant employees interviewed said they had worked while sick with vomiting and diarrhoea. Restaurants with the heaviest workloads, serving more than 300 meals on their busiest days, were the most likely to have sick employees on duty.
Steven Sumner and others. Factors associated with food workers working while experiencing vomiting or diarrhoea, Journal of Food Protection, volume 74, number 2, pages 215-220, February 2011 [abstract] • Food Safety News • Fairwarning • Risks 493 • 12 February 2011
Britain: Hospital guilty for worker’s Hepatitis C
A healthcare worker at a Worcestershire hospital contracted the Hepatitis C virus after injuring herself on a needle used to take blood from an infected patient. During the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecution of Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust over the February 2007 incident, City Magistrates heard the worker, who had been training at the Trust for three weeks, was instructed to take blood from a patient she had not been told was infected with the virus.
HSE news release and the relevant COSHH regulation • Risks 478 • 16 October 2010
Global: Q fever outbreaks on two continents
Outbreaks on two continents of the occupational disease Q fever have highlighted a common but underestimated risk of animal handling. Two cases have occurred in Australian laboratory workers and the Dutch government last month ordered a cull of tens of thousands of goats in a bid to stop an outbreak of the disease, which has killed 10 workers since 2007.
BBC News Online • Herald Sun • Sydney Morning Herald • Risks 438 • , 9 January 2009
Britain: Unions back social care swine flu jab
Social care organisations must ensure that all eligible staff are given access to swine flu vaccination during working hours to protect themselves, their families and those they care for, unions have said.
UNISON news release • GMB news release • TUC pandemic flu guide • Risks 438 • 9 January 2009
Britain: Health workers urged to have swine flu jab
UNISON is urging health workers to get the swine flu vaccination and says it will give full support to the government’s swine flu vaccination programme.
UNISON news release • TUC flu pandemic guide • Risks 426 • 4 October 2009
Britain: Workers not using swine flu excuse
The TUC has said a business study has disproved claims that workers are taking swine flu sickies. The union body was commenting after research by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) found most companies in Britain have not been affected by swine flu.
The Guardian • TUC pandemic flu guide • 5 September 2009
Britain: Swine flu and schools (and everywhere else)
Teaching union NUT has produced commonsense advice on swine flu and schools. And TUC head of safety Hugh Robertson, commenting on the implications of swine flu for workers and employers across the board, has warned “too many employers simply were not being flexible enough and were insisting on certificates after seven days.”
NUT swine flu health and safety bulletin • Updated TUC pandemic flu guide • Risks 420 • 22 August 2009
Britain: Government reveals swine flu priorities
The priority groups who will be first in line for vaccination against swine flu will include pregnant women, frontline health and social care workers, and everyone in at-risk groups aged over six months, health secretary Andy Burnham has said.
DH news release • CSP news release • CSP’s information paper Prevention and Control of Healthcare Associated Infections includes a section on swine flu • Updated TUC pandemic flu guide • HSE updated swine flu guidance • Risks 420 • 22 August 2009
Britain: Teachers a priority for flu jab
Teaching unions are calling for classroom staff to be a priority for the swine flu vaccine this autumn, because working with children puts them at risk. The National Union of Teachers (NUT) has written to children’s secretary Ed Balls calling for school staff and pupils to be offered the jab as early as possible.
The Guardian • Risks 419 • 15 August 2009
Britain/Global: Pandemic flu latest
The TUC guidance on pandemic flu has been updated again. Among the latest additions are advice on pregnant women, those with underlying health conditions and employers who try to get those who have been in contact with the virus to take leave.
TUC pandemic flu guide • Risks 416 • 25 July 2009
South Africa: Health workers face TB risk
Health care workers in South Africa may be at much higher risk of drug-resistant tuberculosis (TB) than the general public, according to new research. A study of 3,639 patients referred between 2003 and 2007 to KwaZulu-Natal province’s King George V Hospital specialist treatment centre confirmed that poor TB infection control measures in many of South Africa's health facilities are putting health care workers at risk.
IRIN news • Risks 409 • 6 June 2009
Global: Urgent action call on swine flu
The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) is calling for government action to reduce the risk at work from “swine flu”.
ITUC news release • PSI health blog • US union guidance on ‘pandemic flu’ • TUC guide • Risks 408 • 30 May 2009
Global: Unions crucial to swine flu control
The current swine flu scare has one largely ignored group of victims – those workers in the pig industry who face both health risks and job loss. However well-informed, unionised workers in the sector are crucial to swine flu control, global farmworkers’ union federation IUF has said.
IUF news release • WHO/FAO/OIE/WTO statement and swine flu webpages • TUC flu guide • Risks 405 • 9 May 2009
Britain: Get ready for pandemic flu
The TUC has reminded unions that they should ensure that their employers have an action plan for dealing with any possible outbreak of pandemic flu. TUC has asked all safety representatives to ensure that their employer has an agreed action plan to deal with a possible outbreak.
HPA website • TUC guidance • Risks 404 • 2 May 2009
USA: Laundry work infection risk probed
The US government’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is investigating several cases of laundry and housekeeping workers suspected of having become infected with HIV as a result of needlestick injuries at work. Between 1981 and 2006, the CDC documented two cases of laundry and housekeeping employees who were infected with HIV as a result of occupational exposure to blood and identified 13 more possible cases.
American Laundry News • Risks 349 • 29 March 2008
Britain: 'Shabby' lab blamed for disease
An independent review of last year's foot-and-mouth outbreak has criticised the laboratory at the source of the disease as “shabby and dilapidated”. The report's author, Dr Iain Anderson, said the foot-and-mouth leak should never have escaped the government-run Pirbright complex in Surrey.
Defra news release • BBC News Online • Risks 347 • 15 March 2008
Britain: Tragedy leads to safer needles call
Health service union UNISON is calling on NHS Employers to banish needlestick injuries (NSIs) for good, by making safer needles compulsory across the health service. The call comes in the wake of the tragic death of gifted nurse, Juliet Young, who contracted HIV from a needlestick injury while working at the Maudsley Mental Health Hospital in London.
UNISON news release • Risks 344 • 23 February 2008
Bangladesh: Bird flu outbreak spreading
Bangladesh’s poultry industry is facing a crisis as bird flu spreads throughout the country. As of 5 February, H5N1 avian influenza outbreaks had been reported in 37 of the country’s 64 districts. Health experts at Bangladesh’s Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research said so far no cases of human infection had been found.
IRIN news report • Risks 342 • 9 February 2008
Global: New biological threats at work
Workers in every type of work could be at risk from biological agents, a new report has warned. The European Risk Observatory (ERO) report, backed up by a practical factsheet, says despite existing laws covering the issue, knowledge is still limited and in many workplaces biological risks are poorly assessed and prevented.
European Agency news release and factsheet on emerging biological risks [pdf] • Expert forecast on emerging biological risks related to occupational safety and health [pdf] • Read more • 1 December 2007
Britain: Dirty ambulances spread deadly infections
Dirty ambulances could help the spread of MRSA and other superbugs, health service UNISON has warned. Ambulance crews report they don't get time to check the vehicles, let alone clean them, said UNISON, adding the vehicles are never deep cleaned.
UNISON news release • BBC News Online • 1 December 2007
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