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: 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