Level thinking What should you do at work when an occupational hygienist calls? Hazards cautions that safety reps should make sure anyone used to assess workplace risks and exposure levels has the right skills, the right brief and the right oversight. Hazards 136, October-December 2016
Well, then? Employers who create healthy workplaces can benefit from reduced employee absence and increased productivity, according to a TUC well-being guide. But Hazards editor Rory O'Neill says the new union blueprint differs from that of lifestyle evangelists, advising that the best way to improve well-being is to make the whole job healthier. Hazards 121, January-March 2013
Fit for purpose? For many employers there are two categories of employee - 'workers' and, for those who happen to be sick, 'shirkers'. But under a new 'fit note' system your doctor has different options, and can say you are either unfit or sorta-kinda-fit for work, as long as the employer takes certain action. Hazards examines the possibilities and pitfalls. Hazards 110, April-June 2010
Credit crunch Welfare reforms are demanding the sick and unemployed get into work, but the jobs don’t exist. And a new workplace safety strategy promises improvements, but the funds to deliver aren’t there. As the recession bites, Hazards editor Rory O’Neill argues that workers could get less of the credit and feel more of the crunch. Hazards 105, January-March 2009
You big fat liars Oh, they say it’s because they care. They’ll weigh us, keep tabs on our bad habits and ask questions when we are sick. And when we fall short of perfection, they label us shirkers, sickos and slobs. Hazards editor Rory O’Neill questions whether all this attention from employers is really for our own good. Hazards 104, October-December 2008
Spin cycle When research shows a chemical could be killing you, industry-backed scientists
will quickly dispute the findings. David Michaels, author of Doubt is
their product, exposes industry’s dangerous tactics. Hazards 103, July-September 2008
Food flavour wrecks lungs When dozens of US popcorn workers had their lungs destroyed by a flavouring
chemical, it caused a national scandal. But it was seen as a US problem.
It wasn’t, as Yorkshire factory worker Martin Muir can now testify. Hazards 101, January-March 2008
Dame blast The government’s ‘work is good for you’ push to make
the sick work is overlooking one inconvenient truth. Hazards warns a combination of long hours, job insecurity, punitive sick leave
policies, a failure to recognise the extent of the work-related health
crisis and a lack of safety enforcement means for many work is bad and
getting worse. Hazards 100, November 2007
OHS SOS A decent occupational health service (OHS) should is a real asset. It
can troubleshoot health problems and it can help rehabilitate the sick
or injured and accommodate those with disabilities. But OHS are rare and
good ones rarer still. Simon Pickvance and Rory O’Neill spell out how to get the service you deserve. Hazards 99, August 2007
Futile Exercise? Workplaces make people sick. They kill tens of thousands each year. A
new government workplace health strategy could make a difference. But Hazards discovered the government plan gives far greater emphasis
to changing your lifestyle than changing your workplace. Hazards 93, February 2006
A job to
die for? Whether it is cancer or heart disease,
strain injuries or neurological disorders, work is claiming a massive,
deadly and largely ignored workplace toll. And if you don’t count
the bodies, the bodies don’t count. Hazards 92, November 2005
Burying the evidence Work cancers are killing unprecedented numbers in the UK. So why does
the government’s Health and Safety Executive stick with a 25-year-old
gross under-estimate of the problem, ensuring prevention doesn’t
get the resources it deserves? Hazards 92, November 2005
sickness pages Hazards finds that instead of hounding the sick back to work, it would be more
productive all round if employers introduced supportive sickness absence
Hazards rehabilitation pages Firms must stop shirking on rehabilitation and prevention.
NASUWT Work health webpages
Britain: British Airways fined for shaky practices
British Airways plc has been fined £6,500 for failing to protect its workers from exposure to vibration. Paisley Sheriff Court heard how employees working within the composite workshop at the firm’s Glasgow base were exposed them to the risk of hand arm vibration syndrome (HAVS), a condition that can cause potentially permanent symptoms such as tingling, pins and needles, numbness and pain in the hands.
HSE news release. Risks 782. 7 January 2016
Britain: Unite signs up to voluntary silica dust action pact
Unite has joined industry representatives, academics and safety and health professionals signing up to a voluntary 12-month plan of action to tackle the risks from inhaling silica dust at work. Respirable crystalline silica (RCS) is encountered in a wide range of jobs from construction, to mining, ceramics, stone masonry, quarrying, brickmaking and fracking – however the voluntary IOSH-backed pact falls short of a key union demand for a tighter silica exposure standard, backed up by rigorous enforcement.
IOSH news release, Tackling respirable crystalline silica together: a cross industry commitment and No time to lose campaign. ITUC/Hazards Work Cancer Hazards blog. Risks 782. 7 January 2016
Britain: Resources questionmark over health and work strategy
A new ‘health and work’ strategy launched by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) addresses some of the glaring omissions in previous strategy initiatives, the union Prospect has indicated, but raises questions about what can be achieved as the safety regulator struggles with a severe funding squeeze.
Prospect news release. HSE news release, health and work strategy webpages and document. HSE business plan 2016/17 and Helping Great Britain work well strategy. Risks 782. 7 January 2016
Britain: New kitchen fashion is a killer
“Stone” worktops in kitchens are becoming very fashionable in Britain, yet how many people know that they are killing the workers who make or install them? TUC head of safety Hugh Robertson said he was made aware of the problem when he met with a lung consultant, who “mentioned that half of all lung transplants in Israel are due to work with engineered stone.”
TUC Stronger Unions blog. More on the UK’s inadequate exposure standard for silica. Risks 781. 17 December 2016
Britain: Ejector seat firm harmed its workers’ lungs
An Uxbridge manufacturer of ejector seats has been fined £800,000 after three workers developed debilitating lung conditions. The skilled CNC machine operators at Martin Baker Aircraft Company Limited developed extrinsic allergic alveolitis (EAA) after many years of exposure to metalworking fluid, used as a coolant and lubricant when machining metal.
HSE news release and metalworking webpages. Risks 779. 3 December 2016
Britain: Council fined £250,000 for work health blunders
A council has been fined after a worker was left with permanent health damage after being diagnosed with hard arm vibration syndrome (HAVS). Thanet District Council pleaded guilty to criminal breaches of the Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005 and was fined £250,000 plus £18,325.84 in costs.
HSE news release and HAVS webpages. Risks 778. 26 November 2016
Britain: Compensation changes to hurt work disease victims
Government plans to reform personal injury claims in England and Wales would take the compensation system back to the dark ages and would mean many occupational disease victims would lose out, lawyers have said. One proposal - raising the limit for cases in the small claims court for all personal injury claims from £1,000 to £5,000 – would mean most workers suffering an occupational disease would have neither the resources nor the legal support to pursue a genuine claim.
MoJ news release. APIL news release. Thompsons Solicitors news release. UNISON news release. UCATT news release. Unite news release. BBC News Online. Risks 778. 26 November 2016
Britain: Make sure work exposure standards measure up
A new guide to occupational hygiene for union health and safety representatives has been published jointly by the TUC and the British Occupational Hygiene Society (BOHS). The report points out that 99 per cent of work-related deaths each year are the result of occupational diseases, with injuries contributing just 1 per cent to the occupational death toll.
TUC publication notice. BOHS news release. Occupational hygiene explained: A guide for union health and safety representatives, TUC/BOHS, November 2016. Risks 778. 26 November 2016
Britain: Heavy price to pay as work-related harm goes up
The number of workers in Great Britain suffering harm caused by their jobs has risen sharply, latest Health and Safety Executive (HSE) statistics have confirmed. HSE also reports that the ‘total costs’ bill for work-related injuries and work-related ill-health has not fallen in five years, with its costs breakdown showing that nearly 57 per cent of the cost of workplace injuries and new cases of work-related ill-health is borne by the individuals affected, compared to less than 20 per cent falling on employers, who also pay significantly less than the public purse.
HSE statistics webpages and summary statistics 2015/2016, latest cost estimates and work-related ill-health estimates. Risks 777. 19 November 2016
USA: Top hospital faces black lung class action
One of America’s most renowned medical centres - The Johns Hopkins Hospital - intentionally defrauded hundreds of sick coal miners out of compensation and health benefits while pocketing large sums from coal companies, according to a class action lawsuit filed by the families of two coal miners who died of black lung disease. The lawsuit, which also targets a long-time doctor at the Baltimore hospital, centres around a unit of radiologists who for decades provided coal companies x-ray readings that almost always said the miner didn't have black lung, helping the companies avoid paying benefits under a programme administered by the federal government.
Centre for Public Integrity. Class action lawsuit against Johns Hopkins. Risks 776. 12 November 2016.
Britain: Many cancer patients face work discrimination
Almost one-fifth of people (18 per cent) diagnosed with cancer face discrimination from employers or colleagues on return to work, research by the charity Macmillan suggests. The survey of 1,009 patients, all in work when diagnosed, indicated that 15 per cent returned to work before feeling ready.
Macmillan news release. BBC News Online.
Cancer in the workplace: A workbook for union representatives, second edition, TUC, 2015. TUC guidance on occupational cancer prevention: Occupational Cancer - A Workplace Guide. Risks 776. 12 November 2016.
Britain: Fit note system and sick pay to be reviewed
The system of sick pay and GP “fit notes” is to be reviewed by the government. A draft consultation document published by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will also examine changes to the controversial work capability assessments (WCA), with its scope including measures “encouraging employers to work with their employees with long-term health conditions to stop them from falling out of work.”
DWP news release and related webpages. The Guardian. Morning Star.
Work, health and disability: consultation. Closes 17 February 2017. Risks 775. 5 November 2016
Britain: Workplace stress drives cardiovascular disease
Economic globalisation may create stressful employment conditions in high-income countries, contributing to the worldwide epidemic of cardiovascular disease (CVD), a study has found. Peter Schnall and Marnie Dobson from the University of California, Irvine (UCI) and Paul Landsbergis from the State University of New York (SUNY) say their study pulls together a robust body of evidence documenting the effect of the work environment, including psychosocial job stressors.
SUNY Downstate Medical Center news release. Peter Schnall, Marnie Dobson and Paul Landsbergis. Globalization, work and cardiovascular disease, International Journal of Health Services, volume 46, number 4, pages 656-692, October 2016. Risks 773. 22 October 2016
Britain: MPs warn of ‘perfect storm’ facing occupational medicine
Occupational medicine in the UK is facing a ‘crisis’ caused by a ‘massive fall’ in the number doctors being trained in the specialism combined with a drop in the provision of workplace occupational health services, MPs have warned. A new report from the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Occupational Safety and Health notes only 1 in 8 UK workers can access a specialist occupational physician, with the numbers of being trained in the specialism is now at “an all-time low”.
Occupational medical workforce crisis: The need for action to keep the UK workforce healthy, All-Party Parliamentary Group on Occupational Safety and Health, 18 October 2016. Ian Lavery MP news release. Risks 773. 22 October 2016.
Canada: Powder given to miners linked to brain disease
Thousands of Canadian miners deliberately exposed to aluminium dust that was supposed to protect their lungs may have developed brain and respiratory disease as a result. As many as 20,000 miners were exposed to a dust called McIntyre powder – the gold and uranium miners were told the powder would coat their lungs and prevent them from contracting deadly silicosis.
Sudbury Star. McIntyre Powder Project. Risks 771. 8 October 2016
Britain: Who’s protecting your occupational health?
TUC head of safety Hugh Robertson warns that occupational health provision in the UK is “appalling”, with Greece the only EU member state providing less cover. “So, unless you already know, why not ask your employer what level of occupational health they are providing, who they use, and why regular reports are not given to the joint safety committee?”
TUC Stronger Unions blog. Is my occupational health provider accredited? TUC guide for union safety reps, September 2016. Risks 771. 8 October 2016
Britain: Is your occupational health provider accredited?
The TUC is advising safety reps to ensure occupational health services used by their employer are up to scratch. ‘Is your occupational health provider accredited?’, a new guide from the union body, notes: “If your employer uses an occupational health provider for any purpose, it is important that you and your members know that they are up to the job.”
Is my occupational health provider accredited? TUC guide for union safety reps, September 2016. Risks 770. 1 October 2016.
Britain: Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit - a TUC guide
The TUC has published a short guide to the government’s Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit scheme, which covers both injuries and certain occupational diseases caused by work, including occupational asthma, deafness and vibration disease, and some dust diseases, strain injuries and occupational cancers. The guide is an important resource for affected workers or for safety reps advising members on compensation claims and work-related benefits – which can be clawed back if a compensation claim against the employer is successful.
TUC publication notice and Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit - a TUC guide. Risks 679. 24 September 2016.
Britain: Campaigners show docs how to spot asbestos diseaseDoctors in Scotland are to be given new guidance on how to diagnose asbestos-related disease in the hope of improving care for sufferers. Campaigners from Clydeside Action on Asbestos (CAA), which helps people with asbestos cancers, has developed a new initiative designed to help GPs spot the signs of related diseases including mesothelioma quicker.
Evening Times. Clydeside Action on Asbestos. Risks 679. 24 September 2016.
Britain: Artificial enzymes are ‘potent allergens’ at work
Genetically modified enzymes used to create flavourings and aromas and boost the power of cleaning products and medicines, are “potent allergens” that can immediately sensitise those occupationally exposed to them, researchers have found. A paper published online in the journal Occupational & Environmental Medicine warns as yet there are no commercially available diagnostic tests to monitor the potential health risk posed by these new enzymes.
Lygia T Budnik and others. Sensitising effects of genetically modified enzymes used in flavour, fragrance, detergence and pharmaceutical production: cross-sectional study, Occupational & Environmental Medicine, online first 22 September 2016. Risks 679. 24 September 2016.
Britain: Health and work in numbers
Public Health England has published what the TUC describes as a ‘really useful set of health and work infographics’, in collaboration with The Work Foundation. The focus of the PHE infographics is primarily on the impact of health on work, with far less emphasis given to the impact of work on health, with no mention of big work-related killers like occupational cancer and occupational lung disease.
PHE publications announcement and PHE health and work infographics. Risks 768. 17 September 2016.
USA: Work is a pain in the neck – official
Work factors are a major pain in the neck, a study has found, but has highlighted the prevention measures that could put the problem behind us. Working with academics, investigators at the US government’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) confirmed the link between neck pain and specific psychosocial and organisational risks in the workplace.
NIOSH Research Rounds, volume 2, issue 2, August 2016.
Haiou Yang and others. Workplace psychosocial and organizational factors for neck pain in workers in the United States, American Journal of Industrial Medicine, volume 59, issue 7, pages 549-560, July 2016.
NIOSH resources: Persistent pain in the neck! What resources help you prevent MSDs in the workplace? Risks 765. 27 August 2016.
Britain: Hotel union challenges backbreaking work
Nine out of every ten hotel housekeeping workers in London suffers from back pain caused by their job, a union survey has found. Over threequarters of the chefs surveyed by Unite reported having witnessed an injury or a near miss caused by fatigue, with the union saying its report, ‘Unethical London’, exposes the low pay and exploitative work practices that have been allowed to flourish unchecked in the multi-billion hotel industry, which employs 100,000 people in London.
Unite news release and Unethical London report. Risks 765. 27 August 2016.
Britain: Study finds sedentary work is deadly
Desk-bound workers who do low amounts of exercise face a greatly elevated risk of an early death, a new study has found. A team of international experts found sitting for at least eight hours a day could increase the risk of premature death by up to 60 per cent.
Ulf Ekelund and others. Does physical activity attenuate, or even eliminate, the detrimental association of sitting time with mortality? A harmonised meta-analysis of data from more than 1 million men and women, The Lancet, published online 27 July, 2016. The Lancet physical activity series.
The Guardian and accompanying article. Sydney Morning Herald.
Workplace well-being programmes: A guide for safety reps, TUC, December 2015.
Hard to swallow: TUC warns that firms and government have an unhealthy preoccupation with your lifestyle, Hazards, number 133, December 2015. Risks 762. 6 August 2016
USA: Illnesses blamed on toxic coal ash exposures
Dozens of lawsuits are pending in the US as a result of a December 2008 dam collapse in Tennessee which saw workers exposed to clouds of toxic coal ash. An army of clean-up workers were drafted in after a dyke failure unleashed a billion gallons of ash from a Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) power plant 36 miles south-west of Knoxville.
Center for Public Integrity investigative report. Risks 761. 30 July 2016
Britain: Musicians to find out the score on health risks
The Musicians’ Union is backing an initiative to provide performers with advice on work-related health problems. The union says a programme of ‘Musicians’ Insights’ will raise awareness of key health issues for musicians and workshops will give self-help tips and expert guidance.
Musicians’ Union news release. Help Musicians UK. British Association for Performing Arts Medicine (BAPAM). Risks 760. 23 July 2016
Britain: Aquarium worker ‘scarred for life’ by fish disease
A Sheffield man was left permanently scarred by a rare illness described by experts as ‘TB for fish’. The fish technician, who wishes to remain anonymous, was diagnosed with ‘fish tank granuloma’ around a year into his work cleaning tanks and looking after fish for Dronfield-based JMC Aquatics.
Irwin Mitchell Solicitors news release. Derbyshire Times. Risks 758. 9 June 2016
Canada: Unions win work cancer evidence breakthrough
The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled 7-1 that workers made ill by hazardous substances at work don’t need to prove their case with scientific certainty in order to collect workers’ compensation. In its judgment in the case brought by three health union members, the Supreme Court ruled: “While the record on which that decision was based did not include confirmatory expert evidence, the Tribunal nonetheless relied upon other evidence which, viewed reasonably, was capable of supporting its finding of a causal link between the workers’ breast cancers and workplace conditions.”
HSA news release. Supreme Court of Canada judgment, 24 June 2016 [pdf]. I-Politics. Risks 757. 2 July 2016
Australia: Tougher controls needed 'to prevent black lung'
Tougher coal dust monitoring standards in Australian mines are urgently needed to prevent miners from developing black lung, medical experts have warned. A clinical focus on the condition, published in the latest edition of Medical Journal of Australia and written by experts in chronic lung disease, warned Australian coal dust exposure limits are not meeting international standards and should be more stringent to eradicate black lung, or coal workers’ pneumoconiosis (CWP).
Graeme R Zosky and others. Coal workers’ pneumoconiosis: an Australian perspective, Medical Journal of Australia, volume 204, number 11, pages 414-418, June 2016. Channel 9 News. Risks 756. 25 June 2016
Britain: Firm and safety consultant fined over dermatitis case
A Hereford rubber sealant manufacturer and its safety adviser have been fined after a worker contracted allergic contact dermatitis. Hereford Magistrates’ Court heard how the TRP Polymer Solutions Limited employee contracted the skin disease after being exposed to sensitising ingredients in rubber compounds.
HSE news release and chemical safety webpages. Risks 756. 25 June 2016
Britain: HMRC under fire over compensation cases backlog
Tax officials are breaching the human rights of bereaved spouses and the terminally ill by making them wait more than a year for essential employment records in work-related disease compensation claims. Lawyers say an average time of 383 days to retrieve historic work histories by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) is denying claimants the right to pursue firms over sometimes terminal occupational diseases.
Irwin Mitchell Solicitors news release. Daily Mail. Risks 756. 25 June 2016
Global: Long working hours hurt women most
Women who put in long hours for the bulk of their careers are at greater risk of life-threatening illnesses, including heart disease and cancer. Work weeks that averaged 60 hours or more over three decades may triple the risk of diabetes, cancer, heart trouble and arthritis for women, a 30-year study by researchers from Ohio State University has found.
Allard E Dembe and Xiaoxi Yao. Chronic disease risks from exposure to long-hour work schedules over a 32-year period, Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, online ahead of print, June 2016.
OSU news release. TUC Touchstone blog. Science Daily. New York Daily News. Risks 756. 25 June 2016
USA: Stroke severity could be worse for shiftworkers
Shiftwork may increase stroke severity by interfering with the body's internal clock, with men faring worst, new research suggests. Study co-author David Earnest, of the Department of Neuroscience and Experimental Therapeutics at Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine, said: “A person on a shiftwork schedule, especially on rotating shifts, challenges or confuses their internal body clocks by having irregular sleep-wake patterns or meal times.”
David Earnest and others. Sex differences in the impact of shift work schedules on pathological outcomes in an animal model of ischemic stroke, Endocrinology, published online ahead of print, 2 June 2016. Medical News Today. Risks 754. 11 June 2016.
India: Quartz workers breathe the dust of death
For impoverished migrant workers in Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh, the quartz crushing industry of Godhra provides an escape from debt. It also generates clouds of white dust, crystalline silica, the cause of the incurable occupational lung disease, silicosis.
Indian Express. Risks 752. 28 May 2016
Britain: Six figure vibration fine for pipe maker
A pipe manufacturing company based in Newport has been fined for criminal safety failings after seven reported cases of vibration-related hand arm vibration syndrome (HAVS) or carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) occurred at the firm between April 2014 and July 2015. Newport Crown Court heard that employees of Asset International Limited used vibrating tools without proper training or practical controls to reduce vibration risk.
HSE news release and vibration disease webpages. Construction Enquirer. Risks 752. 28 May 2016
USA: Unions essential to public health
Any decline in union power is a threat to public health, according to a paper in the latest edition of the American Journal of Public Health. Mike Wright, director of health and safety with the steelworkers’ union USW, notes that as well is improving workplace health and safety, unions negotiate better working conditions and access to health care, improve pay rates and benefits, protect workers from discrimination and unfair treatment and press for measures to reduce the environmental impact of production. Michael J Wright. The decline of American unions is a threat to public health, American Journal of Public Health, volume 106, number 6, pages 968-969, June 2016. Risks 751. 21 May 2016
Britain: Sickness absence and disability discrimination guide
‘Sickness absence and disability discrimination’, a TUC guide for union reps, seeks to increase understanding of the law and its limitations. The guide has been updated to take account of recent legal precedents.
TUC publication notice and guide, Sickness absence and disability discrimination, 2016. 21 May 2016
Britain: Is this man really fit for work?
A partially paralysed man with part of his head missing has been told he is fit for work by the government. As a result of the Work Capability Assessment for DWP by a private contractor, Kenny Bailey has lost £156 per fortnight, and will now have to survive on £470 every four weeks, his Personal Independence Payment.
The Mirror. Risks 751. 21 May 2016
Global: Too much dust disease, too little action
The contribution of exposures to dust and fumes at work to a major lung disease killer is higher than previously estimated, top occupational health researchers have warned. They add that the idea that some exposures at work are ‘nuisance dust’ suggests widespread complacency about the occupational risks of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), the bronchitis and emphysema linked to thousands of work-related deaths in the UK alone each year.
Paul D Blanc and Kjell Torén, Editorial. COPD and occupation: resetting the agenda, Occupational and Environmental Medicine, volume 73, pages 357-358, June 2016 [abstract].
Resources: TUC dust in the workplace guide [pdf]. Dust up! If you want to breathe easy at work, be a nuisance on dust, Hazards magazine. Risks 751. 21 May 2016
Global: Unfairness at work can be bad for your health
Employees’ experiences of fairness at work can impact on their health, according to a new study involving the University of East Anglia (UEA). The researchers investigated whether perceptions of what they call ‘procedural justice’, and found that when perceptions of fairness changed, the self-rated health of employees also changed, with those who experienced more fairness on average over the period studied reported better health.
UEA news release. Constanze Leineweber, Constanze Eib, Paraskevi Peristera, and Claudia Bernhard-Oettel. The influence of procedural justice and change in procedural justice on self-rated health trajectories: Results from the Swedish Longitudinal Occupational Survey of Health, Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment and Health, published online first, May 2016. Risks 750. 14 May 2016
Britain: Low wages are an occupational health hazard
Low wages should be recognised as a genuine occupational health threat, US researchers have concluded. “Workers earning low wages may be at greater risk for disease and injury than workers earning high wages,” note J Paul Leigh and Roberto De Vogli of the University of California Davis School of Medicine in an editorial in the May edition of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, adding that low wages should be considered among the psychosocial factors - such as long work hours and high job strain - identified as occupational risks to health.
J Paul Leigh and Roberto De Vogli. Editorial: Low wages as occupational health hazards, Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, volume 58, issue 5, pages 444–447, May 2016. Science Daily. Low blow: Low paid work comes with high work risks, Hazards, October-December 2014. Risks 750. 14 May 2016
Britain: NHS workers are being fed rubbish
Health service workers are begin compelled to eat unhealthy, poor quality food, with night shift workers particularly badly served, a survey from UNISON and the Campaign for Better Hospital Food (CBHF) has found. It discovered nurses and other health employees are being forced to survive on fast food – or on poor quality vending machine snacks - because hospitals are failing to provide proper facilities.
UNISON news release. Workplace well-being programmes: A guide for safety reps, TUC, December 2015. Other workers’ health resources. Risks 749. 7 May 2016
Britain: Two firms fined over two occupational diseases
Two Derbyshire-based construction firms have been fined for criminal safety offences as a result of separate investigations into reported cases of occupational diseases. Derby Crown Court heard how employees at Sandvik Mining and Construction Limited and Sandvik Construction Mobile Crushers and Screeners Limited were regularly exposed to hand arm vibration that led to separate reported cases of carpal tunnel syndrome and hand-arm vibration syndrome.
HSE news release. Risks 748. 30 April 2016.
Britain: Better pay can fix mental health problems
A new study has found that low-paid workers who received the national minimum wage in April 1999 reported a decline in symptoms of depression for at least 22 months afterwards. The researchers discovered that receiving the national minimum wage was equivalent to the effect of taking antidepressants.
University of Oxford news release. Aaron Reeves, Martin McKee, Johan Mackenbach, Margaret Whitehead and David Stuckler. Introduction of a national minimum wage reduced depressive symptoms in low-wage workers: a quasi-natural experiment in the UK, Health Economics, published online ahead of print, April 2016. Risks 747. 23 April 2016
Britain: Court of Appeal backs unions on sick absence
Civil service unions have recorded a major victory on sickness absence. A Court of Appeal ruling released on 15 April has confirmed that the Department for Transport (DfT) is unable to change contractual sickness absence rules without the agreement of unions.
Prospect news release. PCS news release. The appeal court judgment in full. Risks 747. 23 April 2016
Britain: Nudge theory isn’t evidence-based or the best option
The ‘nudge’ theory embraced by the government in a bid to change the population’s behaviour by stealth isn’t evidence-based and isn’t a satisfactory alternative to proper rights and properly enforced legislation, the TUC has warned. The union body was responding to a leader in New Scientist magazine that noted: “Nudge is an example of what is possible when you apply science to policymaking,” but cautioned “the well-intentioned politicians who want to use them should always remember: never let nudge turn to shove.”
New Scientist leader, 12 March 2016 and Hugh Robertson’s response, New Scientist, 2 April 2016. Behavioural Insights Team. Risks 744. 2 April 2016
Global: Industry funded studies deliver dangerously biased results
Occupational and environmental health studies with industry funding are more than four times as likely to report negative results, an analysis of hundreds of scientific papers has found. Researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health also identified a ‘dose-response’ effect, meaning the greater the industry backing the greater the likelihood the study would find nothing to worry about.
Lee Friedman and Michael Friedman. Financial Conflicts of Interest and Study Results in Environmental and Occupational Health Research, Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, volume 58, issue 3, pages 238–247, March 2016 [abstract]. Risks 743. 19 March 2016
Britain: FBU wants a supportive firefighter fitness system
Firefighters’ union FBU is looking to train fire service employees as personal fitness trainers in an effort to support firefighters to remain fit enough to do their physically demanding job. The move to provide FBU ‘personal training apprenticeships’ has attracted interest from more than threequarters of fire and rescue services in England, the union said.
FBU news release. National Joint Council for Local Authority Fire and Rescue Services guidance, March 2016. Risks 743. 19 March 2016
USA: Health workers crumbling under the weight
In the United States, where two-thirds of adults are classified as overweight or obese, larger patients are increasingly the norm, and the healthcare industry has evolved in many ways to accommodate them, from developing sturdier medical equipment to building heavier-duty hospital beds. The sector has been much slower, however, to tackle other, subtler ways obesity weighs on the healthcare system, such as the toll of physically handling larger patients, despite the vast medical and financial benefits of doing so, nurses and other medical experts say.
International Business Times. Risks 742. 12 March 2016
South Africa: Gold miners win landmark silicosis scheme
Former South African gold miners and relatives of deceased ex-miners have reached a landmark settlement in their long-running legal battle against Anglo American South Africa Ltd and AngloGold Ashanti Ltd. The 4,365 claimants sued the mining companies for the dust-related lung diseases, silicosis and silico-tuberculosis, which they claim resulted from working in unsafe, dusty conditions in the mines.
Leigh Day Solicitors. Risks 742. 12 March 2016
Britain: NHS staff need time to get healthy
A move by NHS England to improve the health of its 1.3 million staff by offering more support has received a qualified welcome from unions. They were responding after Simon Stevens, the chief executive of NHS England, said from April hospitals and other providers of NHS care will for the first time be able to earn a share of a national incentive fund worth £600m improve the support they offer to frontline health staff to stay healthy.
UNISON news release. CSP news release. NHS England news release. Risks 742. 12 March 2016
Britain: Don’t treat women like skivers, period
The decision by a Bristol company to implement a ‘period policy’, including the option for women to take time off has been met with a note of caution from the TUC. TUC women’s equality officer Scarlet Harris said: “Instead of menstrual leave policies, how about employers and government stop perpetuating the myth that workers on sick leave are workshy skivers?”
TUC Touchstone blog. The Guardian. The Independent. Risks 742. 12 March 2016
Australia: Union wins black lung public inquiry
An Australian union campaign to ‘Make Black Lung History’ has taken a big step forward with the announcement of a public inquiry into the devastating occupational lung disease. Tony Maher, president of the union CFMEU’s mining and energy division, said he was now confident there would soon be a solution to the growing health crisis.
CFMEU news release and Dust to dust: Make black lung history campaign. Risks 740. 27 February 2016
Britain: Mental health plan at risk from service ‘salami slicing’ A record of ‘short-termism’ and ‘salami slicing’ by government ministers could undermine a new blueprint to get more people suffering mental health problems back to work, Unite has said. The union was speaking out after the prime minister launched ‘The Five Year Forward View for Mental Health’, a report by the independent taskforce on mental health.
Prime Minister’s Office news release. Unite news release. BBC News Online. Risks 739. 20 February 2016.
Britain: Report slams ‘well-being vacuum’ at work
Despite increased business awareness of the importance of actively supporting health and well-being in the workplace, there remains a stubborn ‘implementation gap’ in UK workplaces, human resources body CIPD has said. Its new report, ‘Growing the health and well-being agenda: From first steps to full potential’, states that fewer than one in ten (8 per cent) of UK organisations currently have a standalone well-being strategy that supports the wider organisational strategy.
CIPD news release and report, Growing the health and well-being agenda: From first steps to full potential. Workplace well-being programmes: A guide for safety reps, TUC, December 2015. Hard to swallow, Hazards magazine, Number 132, December 2015. Risks 737. 6 February 2016
Britain: Incidents highlight risks of ‘aerotoxic’ syndrome
The revelation that two flights in two days were forced to turn back to the UK last week following an outbreak of sickness among the cabin crew has added further weight to calls for a public inquiry into ‘aerotoxic syndrome’, the union Unite has said. The union said the abandoned flights, one to South Africa and one to the US, provided further evidence that leaks from aircraft engines are finding their way into the cabins causing the crew to feel sick but may also be further impairing the crew’s health.
Unite news release and Keep cabin crew safe campaign. Evening Standard. Risks 737. 6 February 2016
USA: Wellness programmes now come with threats
Dale Arnold, who worked for plastics maker Flambeau in Wisconsin, USA, chose not to take his work-sponsored health assessment and biometric screening. The company responded by pulling his health insurance coverage. Bloomberg News. Workplace well-being programmes: A guide for safety reps, TUC, December 2015. Hard to swallow, Hazards magazine, Number 132, December 2015. Risks 735. 23 January 2016
Global: Textile dust linked to rheumatoid arthritis
Occupational exposure to textile dust is associated with almost three times the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis, according to new research published online in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases. The research, which led the authors to call for better control of dust in the textiles industry, also linked exposure to genetic changes that hasten progression of the disease.
BMJ news release. Chun Lai Too and others. Occupational exposure to textile dust increases the risk of rheumatoid arthritis: results from a Malaysian population-based case-control study, Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases, 14 January 2016. doi 10.1136/annrheumdis-2015-208278 Risks 735. 23 January 2016
Britain: Woman finished for chemotherapy time off
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has been accused of sacking an employee just days before Christmas after telling her she had taken too much time off work while undergoing chemotherapy. Pauline Fisher, 65, who has been diagnosed with incurable kidney cancer, had worked at a DWP-run disability centre in Blackpool for 10 years before being signed off sick for six months last June.
ITV News. The Independent. The Mirror. Risks 735. 23 January 2016
Britain: Privatised back to work tests a failure
The government's privatised system of assessing sick and disabled social security claimants is still failing claimants and taxpayers, civil service union PCS has said. The union was commenting after a National Audit Office (NAO) report concluded the Department for Work and Pensions has not achieved value for money in its management of health and disability assessments for employment and support allowance (ESA) and personal independence payments (PIP).
PCS news release. NAO report and news release. Statement from Commons public accounts committee chair Meg Hillier. Morning Star. Risks 734. 16 January 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: Bad exposures not bad luck causes cancers
Workplace, environmental and other ‘extrinsic’ exposures cause of up to 90 per cent of cancers, researchers have concluded. The study by a team at Stony Brook University in the US was prompted by a heavily criticised paper in the journal Science which in January 2015 claimed ‘bad luck’ was behind most cancers.
Stony Brook University news release. Scientific American. BBC News Online.
Song Wo, Scott Powers, Wei Zhu and Yusuf A Hannun. Substantial contribution of extrinsic risk factors to cancer development, Nature, published online 16 December 2015. Risks 733. 9 January 2016
Britain: Unhealthy workplace trend confirmed by reports
Two new reports have confirmed an upward trend in work-related ill-health under the Conservatives. Since the Conservatives defeated Labour in 2010/11, self-reported work-related illness has increased by 7 per cent, up from 1.16m cases to 1.24m in 2014/15.
Doctor? No: HSE defends its impotence in the losing battle against work’s diseases, Hazards, number 133, December 2015. IHE news release and preliminary Marmot indicators.
Hard to swallow: TUC warns that firms and government have an unhealthy preoccupation with your lifestyle, Hazards, number 133, December 2015. Workplace well-being programmes: A guide for safety reps, TUC, December 2015. Risks 733. 9 January 2016
Britain: ‘Box ticking exercise’ makes dismissal unfair
A Prospect member fired by BT under a performance management system following a serious operation has won an unfair dismissal claim. Trevor Edwards, who was a programme manager with almost 40 years’ service with BT, was dismissed in 2014, with an employment tribunal ruling concluded BT had “seemingly carried out a box ticking exercise with no regard to the practical realities of what they were doing.”
Prospect news release. Risks 732. 12 December 2015
Britain: Improving well-being at work – the union way
Unions need to know how to respond effectively to health and ‘well-being’ issues in the workplace, the TUC has said. Introducing new TUC guidance, ‘Workplace well-being programmes: A guide for safety reps’, TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Too many workers are still becoming ill through work and simply introducing ‘well-being programmes’ is not a substitute for stopping workers becoming ill, by addressing issues such as long hours, stress, unsafe conditions and a lack of respect at work.”
TUC news release. Workplace well-being programmes: A guide for safety reps, TUC, December 2015. Other workers’ health resources. Risks 732. 12 December 2015
USA: Construction causes chronic lung disease
Many cases of a debilitating lung disease in construction workers that is commonly attributed to smoking could be caused by their jobs, a study had found. The union backed US Center for Construction Research and Training (CPWR) and researchers from Duke University found workplace exposures to an unhealthy combination of vapours, gases, dusts and fumes (VGDF) accounted for nearly one in five chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) cases.
CPWR news report and research summary. Risks 731. 5 December 2015
Australia: Union anger as black lung returns
Four Australian coal miners have been diagnosed with pneumoconiosis or ‘black lung’ - a potentially fatal disease thought to have been eradicated in Australia more than 60 years ago. The mining union CFMEU said it fears the cases, all the state of Queensland, could be ‘just the tip of the iceberg’, with hundreds, possibly thousands of workers potentially at risk.
CFMEU news release. ABC News and related story. Yahoo7 News. Risks 731. 5 December 2015
Britain: Cement burns left site worker in hospital
A Salford construction firm has been fined after a 54-year-old employee suffered severe cement burns to his knees while laying concrete flooring. Sefton Magistrates’ Court heard that on the 26 November 2014, an employee of DLP Services (Northern) Limited, knelt in wet concrete and suffered cement burns to both his knees resulted in 12 days hospitalisation and ongoing treatment.
HSE news release and cement hazards webpage. Construction Enquirer. Risks 731. 5 December 2015
Japan: Firms must check mental health of staff
Businesses in Japan will be obliged from December to offer their employees an annual test to check their level of mental stress amid an increase in workers suffering from mental disorders, the health ministry has said. Under the Industrial Health and Safety Law’s revision last year, the test, in the form of a questionnaire, will target more than 20 million employees at around 16,000 businesses nationwide, according to the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry.
Japan Today. Risks 730. 28 November 2015
Britain: Construction guide to ‘end’ deadly site diseases
New guidance to encourage better management of occupational health risks has been prepared by the Health and Safety Executive’s construction committee (CONIAC). HSE said it is now “urging the industry to put an end to the hundreds of construction workers that die of occupational diseases every month.”
HSE news release and guide on the HSE and IOSH websites. Risks 730. 28 November 2015
Britain: Stone masonry boss ignored health advice
The owner of a stone masonry company has been fined after exposing his workforce to serious health risks from silica and vibration. Despite receiving previous advice from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) on the control of health risks posed by silica and vibration, Thomas Bushby failed to act, the regulator said.
HSE news release and stone masonry webpages. Construction Enquirer. Risks 730. 28 November 2015
Britain: Fit-for-work tests are bad for mental health
Tougher ‘fit for work’ tests introduced to assess eligibility for disability benefit have caused relapses in patients with serious mental health conditions, according to a consultant with the Royal College of Psychiatrists. Dr Jed Boardman, a consultant psychiatrist at the South London and Maudsley NHS trust, said the work capability assessment (WCA) discriminates against those with mental health issues and called for an overhaul of the process.
The Guardian. Risks 730. 28 November 2015
Korea: Angry Samsung victims throw a ‘Sam Ba’ party
Korean campaigners rallied at Samsung’s corporate headquarters in south Seoul to call on the company to re-establish an arbitration process with occupational disease victims. Campaign group SHARPS and individuals who say they were harmed working in Samsung’s electronics factories held the 13 November ‘Sam Ba’ party outside the company HQ
SHARPS news report. Risks 729. 21 November 2015
Britain: Suicides linked to fit-for-work test areas
Nearly 600 suicides in England could be associated with the government's "fit-for-work" tests, researchers have found. A team from Oxford and Liverpool universities looked at 2010-13 data and also that each additional 10,000 people subjected to a WCA was associated with an additional six suicides, 2,700 cases of reported mental health problems, and the prescribing of an additional 7,020 anti-depressants.
B Barr, D Taylor-Robinson, D Stuckler, R Loopstra, A Reeves, M Whitehead. ‘First, do no harm’: are disability assessments associated with adverse trends in mental health? A longitudinal ecological study, Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, Online First, 16 November 2015. doi:10.1136/jech-2015-206209
The Guardian. BBC News Online. Morning Star. Risks 729. 21 November 2015
Britain: Unhealthy class bias in workplace health initiatives
Studies show low paying, lower status jobs tend to come with much higher safety and health risks. So, it might come as a surprise to many that workplace health interventions are twice as likely to target those on the higher rungs of the workplace ladder, TUC head of safety Hugh Robertson has said.
TUC health and safety facebook page. D Montano, H Hoven, J Siegrist. A meta-analysis of health effects of randomized controlled worksite interventions: Does social stratification matter?, Scandinavian Journal of Work Environment and Health, volume 40, number 3, pages 230-234, 2014. Risks 729. 21 November 2015
Britain: Lawbreaker HSE fails to protect workers’ health
Workers in Great Britain are not being protected from occupational diseases and deaths, and the official health and safety regulator shares the blame, according to an editorial in the British Medical Journal (BMJ). Occupational physician Anne Raynal, a former HSE chief medical inspector, predicted that “occupational medicine is unlikely to survive as a specialty because of a lack of enforcement of the employers' duty not to harm the health of their workers by the Health and Safety Executive.”
BMJ news release. Anne Raynal. Editorial: Occupational medicine is in demise, British Medical Journal, volume 351:h5905, published online 11 November 2015. BMJ rapid responses to the paper. Risks 729. 21 November 2015
Britain: Working wounded face multiple pressures
High job demands, stress and job insecurity are among the main reasons why people go to work when they are ill, according to a new study by researchers from the University of East Anglia (UEA) and Concordia University in Canada. The study found one of the most significant causes of presenteeism is the severity of organisational policies used to monitor or reduce staff absence, such as strict trigger points for disciplinary action, job insecurity, limited paid sick leave, or few absence days allowed without a medical certificate. und to be key reasons why people might not take a day off.
UEA news release. Mariella Miraglia and Gary Johns. 'Going to work ill: a meta-analysis of the correlates of presenteeism and a dual-path model', Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, published online first, 9 November 2015. Risks 728. 14 November 2015
Britain: Traffic wardens win proper sick pay
Traffic wardens in Hackney, in east London, have secured the London living wage and a proper company sick pay policy after last ditch talks to avert strike action. The 30 Unite members at APCOA Parking, their private sector employer, won a sick pay scheme allowing 15 days paid sick leave over a rolling year, the London living wage backdated to November 2014, and a 1.5 per cent pay increase.”
Unite news release. Risks 728. 14 November 2015
Europe: Nothing doing on worker health
Workplace health initiatives including planned Europe-wide rules to reduce the toll of occupational cancer are to stay shelved, latest documentation from the European Commission has confirmed. The TUC berated the Commission’s decision only to “review” the occupational health and safety situation.
TUC Stronger Unions blog. No time for business as usual, Commission work programme 2016, October 2015. Risks 727. 7 November 2015
USA: Bad jobs cut your life short
New research from the US is indicating your life expectancy is closely linked to the job you do. Research published in the journal Health Affairs examined the effect of workplace exposures on racial and educational disparities in life expectancy and found that between 10 and 38 per cent of the difference in life expectancy across demographic groups could be explained by different job conditions.
Joel Goh, Jeffrey Pfeffer and Stefanos Zenios. Exposure to harmful workplace practices could account for inequality in life spans across different demographic groups, Health Affairs, volume 34, number 10, pages 1761-1768, October 2015. Pump Handle blog. Risks 724. 17 October 2015
Britain: Working while sick is on the increase
New research has found long hours and a focus on operational demands over employee wellbeing is fuelling an increase in in the numbers working while sick. Nearly a third of employers reported an increase in people coming to work while they are ill, according to the annual CIPD/Simplyhealth Absence Management Survey.
CIPD news release. Morning Star. Risks 724. 17 October 2015.
Britain: Hackney traffic wardens strike for sick pay
Traffic wardens in Hackney, east London, have been driven to industrial action in a bid to get a fairer sick pay policy. The five day walk out was by 30 employees of APCOA Parking, the private firm that has the contract from Hackney council to run the service.
Unite news release. Risks 724. 17 October 2015.
Britain: Mental health problems widespread in shopworkers
Nearly one in four shopworkers has taken time off work because of worry, anxiety or depression, a survey by Usdaw has found. The retail union also discovered over half of those affected said that they didn’t feel able to be honest about the reason for their absence.
Usdaw news release. Risks 724. 17 October 2015.
Britain: TUC guidance for supporting staff with cancer
To coincide with Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which runs through October, the TUC has issued a second edition of its guidance for union representatives, employees, line managers and employers for how best to support colleagues with cancer at work. TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “There is enormous scope for union reps to ensure employers support their staff effectively, and everyone should be in a trade union to get their voice heard and their interests represented at work.”
Publication alert and full report: Cancer in the workplace: A workbook for union representatives. TUC guidance on occupational cancer prevention: Occupational Cancer - A Workplace Guide. Risks 722. 3 October 2015
Britain: Lorry driver got farmers’ lung
A former HGV driver who developed the occupational disease ‘farmers’ lung’ hopes his case will lead to better protection for other workers. Ian Gear, a 53-year-old from Stafford, was diagnosed with the condition, also known as extrinsic allergic alveolitis, in September 2012 after working as an animal feed delivery driver for Ed Weetman Limited.
Irwin Mitchell news release. Risks 722. 3 October 2015
Global: Metalworking fluids linked to irreversible lung disease
Occupational exposure to a fluid commonly used in metal machining operations may be related to a rare, irreversible and disabling lung disease, according to research presented this week at the European Respiratory Society’s (ERS) international congress in Amsterdam. Although metalworking fluid is known to be associated with the lung diseases asthma and hypersensitivity pneumonitis -an allergic type of pneumonia – the study authors say their research appears to be the first to establish that exposure to metalworking fluid is associated with lymphocytic bronchiolitis.
ELF news release. Risks 722. 3 October 2015
Britain: Fit for work ruling ‘caused suicide’
A man with severe depression hanged himself as a direct cause of being deemed “fit for work” by a medically unqualified government assessor, a coroner has ruled. The Disability News Service (DNS) unearthed the coroner’s report on the suicide of Michael O’Sullivan, 60, saying that it appeared to be the first case in which a coroner explicitly linked Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) sanctions to a death.
Disability News Service report. The Independent. Morning Star. Risks 721. 26 September 2015
Britain: Fit for work could mean bullied back to work
UNISON has warned that government changes to the role of the fit for work service could increase bullying of sick staff. The public service union says prior to the change only GPs could refer to the Fit for Work Service, but now employers can refer employees “who have been off sick from work, or are likely to be off sick from work, for 4 weeks or more”.
UNISON news report. Fit for Work guidance for employees, DWP, updated 8 September 2015. Risks 721. 26 September 2015
Britain: Inequality in the UK costs 550 lives every day
Hundreds of people in the UK are dying prematurely each day because of social inequalities, a top academic has warned. Sir Michael Marmot, who has undertaken extensive research on the marked impact of socioeconomic factors in UK workplaces, warned that research revealed a stark “social gradient” emerging in Britain.
Michael Marmot. The Health Gap: The challenge of an unequal world, Bloomsbury, September 2015. ISBN: 9781408857991. The Guardian. Risks 720. 19 September 2015
Britain: Law project wins 95 per cent of 'fit for work' appeals
Almost all of the 200 “fit for work“ test appeals undertaken by a student volunteer project have been won, providing more evidence of the unreliability of the government’s controversial work capability assessment (WCA). The programme was created by Avon and Bristol Law centre, two years ago using a handpicked team of law students to fill the gap created by legal aid cuts in 2013.
The Guardian. The Mirror. Lawyer 2B. Risks 719. 12 September 2015
Britain: Study looks at the impact of work on health
A major ongoing research project is turning its attention to the effects of work on health. TUC head of safety Hugh Robertson described the new evaluation by the UK Biobank study as a ‘fantastic opportunity’ to learn more about how certain workplace hazards are resulting in illness or death.
UK Biobank news release and website. TUC health and safety facebook page. Risks 719. 12 September 2015
Britain: Low pay is a workplace ‘well-being’ issue
In an increasing number of workplaces, workforce ‘well-being’ has become a favourite management preoccupation – often as a more palatable alternative to dealing with health and safety concerns, according to the TUC. But a new official report suggests employers may be ignoring the key driver of poor well-being – low pay.
TUC Touchstone blog. Relationship between Wealth, Income and Personal Well-being, July 2011 to June 2012, ONS, September 2015. Low blow: Low paid work comes with high work risks, Hazards, October-December 2014. Risks 719. 12 September 2015
Britain: Work capability assessments not ‘fit for purpose’
The Department for Work and Pensions’ (DWP) Work Capability Assessments are not fit for purpose and should be scrapped in their current form, Unite has said. The union was speaking after the release of figures showing more than 4,000 people died within six weeks of being found ‘fit for work’.
Unite news release. Risks 718. 5 September 2015
Britain: Healthy workplaces ‘a must do’ says NHS chief
The NHS “must put its own house in order” and create healthy workplaces for its 1.3 million staff, NHS England's chief executive has announced. Simon Stevens was outlining his £5m solution for cutting the NHS bill for staff sickness, which currently stands at £2.4bn a year.
NHS England news release. BBC News Online. The Mirror. Risks 718. 5 September 2015
Britain: Aston Martin gave engineer skin disease
Luxury car manufacturer Aston Martin has been brought to book after a workshop engineer employed at its site in Banbury contracted occupational dermatitis from working with toxic glue. The engineer’s main duties were repairing car batteries, pneumatic tools and hydraulic car parts.
Thompsons Solicitors news release. Risks 717. 29 August 2015
Global: Working longer hours increases stroke risk
Long working hours greatly increases your risk of suffering a stroke, a major study had found, with the risk increasing the more hours you work. The research, carried out in three continents and led by scientists at University College London, found that those who work more than 55 hours a week have a 33 per cent increased risk of stroke compared with those who work a 35- to 40-hour week; they also have a 13 per cent increased risk of coronary heart disease.
Mika Kivimäki and others. Long working hours and risk of coronary heart disease and stroke: A systematic review and meta-analysis of published and unpublished data for 603,838 individuals, The Lancet, published online 20 August 2015. Science Daily. The Guardian. Risks 717. 29 August 2015
Britain: Enquiry call on ‘disturbing’ back-to-work death figures
The TUC has called for an urgent enquiry after government figures revealed over 1,000 people a year are dying shortly after being told during benefit checks they are fit for work. Department of Work and Pensions figures show that between December 2011 and February 2014, 2,380 people died shortly after losing their claim for Employment Support Allowance (ESA) and being declared 'fit for work'.
TUC news release. PCS news release. Mortality statistics: Employment and Support Allowance, Incapacity Benefit or Severe Disablement Allowance, DWP, August 2015. The Mirror. Huffington Post. Risks 717. 29 August 2015
Britain: Cobalt caused grinder’s job-ending allergies
A factory worker lost his job after contracting a debilitating sensitisation to cobalt at work. The Unite member has now received £40,000 in compensation from Federal Mogul after he developed occupational asthma and dermatitis following workplace dust exposures while working on a grinding machine.
Thompsons Solicitors news release. Risks 713. 1 August 2015
Britain: Don’t stall action on shift work risks
As evidence mounts linking shift work to breast cancer, heart disease, diabetes, obesity and a range of other health problems, the TUC is warning that preventive advice isn’t keeping pace with the evidence of harm.
TUC Stronger Unions blog. Are you on the receiving end of good or bad agreements on shift work? Tell the TUC safety department. Risks 713. 1 August 2015.
Britain: Manufacturing firms say fit notes are failing
The government’s flagship ‘fit note’ scheme for getting people back to work has failed to deliver five years on from implementation, manufacturers’ organisation EEF has said. According to EEF, 43 per cent of companies say the ‘fit note’ is not helping employees return to work, up from 35 per cent in 2010.
Jelf news release. Risks 712. 25 July 2015.
Britain: Call to take aerotoxic syndrome seriously
A lawyer representing former pilots who believe they have suffered serious harm through prolonged exposure to toxins circulating inside aircraft has said the industry must start to take the issue seriously. Harminder Bains of law firm Leigh Day was highlighting the risks of ‘Aerotoxic Syndrome’ after a preliminary inquest heard Unite member Matthew Bass, 35, who had a 15-year career as an air steward with EasyJet and British Airways, may have died from exposure to toxic cabin air.
Leigh Day and Co news release. The Mirror. Risks 712. 25 July 2015.
Britain: Cameron ‘open’ to pay your own sick pay scheme
David Cameron is considering options for making workers pay into flexible saving accounts to fund their own sick pay or unemployment benefits, Downing Street has confirmed. The idea was first floated by Iain Duncan Smith, the work and pensions secretary, who said he was “very keen” to have a debate about encouraging people to use personal accounts to save for unemployment or illness, even though it is not official government policy.
Summer Budget 2015. The Guardian. Sunday Telegraph. Risks 711. 18 July 2015
Britain: Traffic wardens hit with sick pay blow
Traffic wardens in Hackney, east London, are being balloted for strike action in a bid to get proper sick pay provided by their private sector employer. Unite, which represents the ‘civil enforcement officers’ in the borough, says that while the workers get more than their share of physical and verbal abuse, they don’t get sick pay from their employer, APCOA Parking.
Unite news release and public services campaign. Risks 710. 11 July 2015
USA: ‘Slow-motion’ tragedy for American workers
The power of industry to stall or stop lifesaving workplace rules in the US has been exposed in a Center for Public Integrity (CPI) investigation. CPI’s 18-month investigation “found that the epidemic of occupational disease in America isn’t merely the product of neglect or misconduct by employers,” explaining: “It’s the predictable result of a bifurcated system of hazard regulation - one for the general public and another, far weaker, for workers.”
Slow-motion tragedy for American workers, Center for Public Integrity report, 29 June 2015. Cancerhazards.org. Risks 709. 4 July 2015
Britain: NICE guidelines won’t change the working world
The National Institute for Clinical Governance (NICE) has produced guidance on “workplace policy and management practices to improve the health and wellbeing of employees”. TUC head of safety Hugh Robertson said overall the guidelines lack the necessary detail to be useful.
NICE news release and guidelines, Workplace policy and management practices to improve the health and wellbeing of employees. TUC health and safety facebook page. BBC News Online. Risks 709. 4 July 2015
Britain: Coach builder had a ‘reckless disregard’ for health
National bus and coach builder Alexander Dennis Ltd has been fined after it ignored multiple warnings about dangers to its workers’ health from overuse of hand-held power tools. For several years, the Edinburgh-based company failed persistently to heed expert advice, specialist reports and complaints from workers of pain, discomfort, numbness and whiteness in their fingers.
HSE news release. Risks 708. 27 June 2015
Britain: He can’t walk or talk but DWP says work
The Department for Work and Pensions has been accused of “humiliating” a man who cannot walk, talk or feed himself by repeatedly asking him to attend a jobcentre interview or face his benefits being stopped. Nick Gaskin, from Quorn in Leicestershire, was diagnosed with primary progressive multiple sclerosis (MS) 16 years ago.
Leicester Mercury. The Guardian. Morning Star. Risks 708. 27 June 2015
Britain: Scottish inquiry into the quality of work
The social and health impact of work is to be investigated by a key committee of Scotland’s parliament. The “major inquiry” by the Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee will investigate how employment and job quality has changed since the 2008 recession.
Scottish parliament Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee news release and call for evidence. BBC News Online. Risks 708. 27 June 2015
Warning! Sedentary work can kill you
Office workers should spend a minimum of two hours on their feet at work – building up to an ideal four hours – in order to avoid the ill effects of a sedentary lifestyle, according to a study co-commissioned by Public Health England. TUC head of safety Hugh Robertson responded: “It is true that sitting down to long can be bad for your health, but so is prolonged standing,” adding: “The ideal solution is to give workers control over how much they need to sit or stand.”
John Buckley and others. Consensus statement: The sedentary office: a growing case for change towards better health and productivity. Expert statement commissioned by Public Health England and the Active Working Community Interest Company, British Journal of Sports Medicine, published online 1 June 2015. doi:10.1136/bjsports-2015-094618
London Evening Standard. The Guardian. Risks 706. 13 June 2015
Britain: Concern about the impact of working longer
Trades unions need to campaign for proper research into the impact of working longer according to physiotherapist Fiona Hall, with particular attention paid to the effect on women and people with disabilities. Addressing the TUC’s disabled workers conference in London, she said the increased state pension age means that employees will be obliged to work into their late 60s or even longer before they can afford to retire.
CSP news report. Risks 704. 30 May 2015
Britain: Dying to Work campaign for the Midlands
Workers with terminal illnesses need employment protection and support, unions in the Midlands have said. A new Dying to Work campaign in the region was launched after unions highlighted a loophole in the law that allows firms to dispense with dying workers because of their illness.
TUC news release. Risks 704. 30 May 2015
Britain: Opiate maker caused job ending dermatitis
Edinburgh pharmaceutical firm Macfarlan Smith Limited failed to protect an employee from hazardous substances, which led to him developing allergic dermatitis and losing his job. The manufacturer of opiates and other controlled drugs, and which is part of the giant Johnson Matthey group, appeared at Edinburgh Sheriff Court and was fined £27,000 after pleading guilty to a criminal safety offence.
HSE news release and dermatitis webpages. Risks 702. 16 May 2015.
Global: Gold mining causes deadly diseases
The deadly risks posed by silica exposures in gold mines are particularly pronounced in small-scale operations, a new study has found. Research published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health, which looked at conditions in Tanzania, revealed that exposures to silica are more than two hundred times greater in small-scale artisanal mines than in larger mines.
Perry Gottesfeld, Damian Andrew and Jeffrey Dalhoff. Silica exposures in
artisanal small-scale gold mining in Tanzania and implications for Tuberculosis prevention, Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene, published online April 2015. DOI: 10.1080/15459624.2015.1029617. Occupational Knowledge International. Risks 701. 9 May 2015
Britain: Action needed to improve workforce health
The next government should review how it is using local organisations to encourage improvements in workforce health and wellbeing, a new report from The Work Foundation has recommended. ‘Healthy, Working Economies’, published by Lancaster University’s Work Foundation, recommends that a more standardised set of measures be included in the Joint-Strategic Needs Assessments that local Health and Wellbeing Boards are required to undertake, including measures of employment outcomes for individuals with health conditions.
The Work Foundation news release and Healthy, Working Economies report. Risks 700. 2 May 2015
Britain: Unite calls for an inquiry on cabin air safety
Airline cabin staff union Unite is calling for a public inquiry into the health effects of ‘fume events’ on airliners, amid warnings that there is insufficient monitoring and research into ‘aerotoxic syndrome’. Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said that more needed to be done to understand illnesses caused by exposure to contaminated cabin air on jet aircraft, adding that airlines should be required to monitor air quality during all flights.
Unite news release. ITV News. Risks 699. 25 April 2015
Britain: TUC guide to epilepsy at work
New guidance to help trade union representatives support members with epilepsy has been published by the TUC. ‘Epilepsy in the workplace – a TUC guide’ was written for the TUC by Epilepsy Action and is based on the social model of disability, which means epilepsy is not seen as a barrier to work - but it points out there may be external barriers to accessing work in the form of ignorance, prejudice and failure by employers to make workplace adaptations
TUC news release and Epilepsy in the workplace – a TUC guide. Risks 699. 25 April 2015
Britain: Amazon ‘cover up’ on long term health risks
‘Impossible’ targets are imposing unbearable stresses and strains on Amazon workers who are then being invited to leave, the union GMB has claimed. Amazon has denied it is pushing through redundancies, instead saying it wants “an engaged, positive workforce” so is providing “employees who are ready for a new career with an opportunity to smooth their transition.”
GMB news release • Risks 697 • 11 April 2015
Canada: Public workers demand healthy workplaces
Canadians must be provided better public services delivered by public sector workers in healthy workplaces, unions in the sector have said. Robyn Benson, national president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), said the ‘Together for healthy workplaces’ nationwide campaign launched at a 19 March day of action, was the start of a union drive “to negotiate measures for healthier workplaces.”
PSAC news release. Risks 696. 28 March 2015
Britain: Sluggish roll-out for fit for work assessments
The government has published new guidance for workers, employers and GPs on the Fit For Work assessment service. Announcing the new guides, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) indicated the date for the already behind schedule roll-out has slipped further for England and Wales, with the government now advising the assessment service will not be fully available until autumn 2015, rather than in spring as previously indicated.
DWP Fit for Work webpages and guides for employers, employees and GPs. EEF briefing.
Fit For Work referrals- a TUC guide for union representatives, TUC, January 2015. Risks 694. 14 March 2015.
Britain: The menopause is a workplace health issue
The menopause is an overlooked workplace health and safety issue, teaching union NUT has said. ‘Working through the menopause’ notes it is “important to recognise that the menopause is an occupational health issue for women teachers, as well as being an equality issue.”
NUT news release and Working through the menopause: Guidance for members in England and Wales.
Supporting women through the menopause: A TUC guide for union representatives. Risks 694. 14 March 2015.
Britain: Cornwall health trust fined for dermatitis failings
The Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust has been fined after failing to report, prevent or monitor at least 23 cases of dermatitis among staff between 2007 and 2012. The Trust pleaded guilty to a criminal breach of health and safety legislation when it appeared before Torquay Magistrates.
HSE news release and dermatitis webpages. Risks 693. 7 March 2015
Britain: Housing group caused carpal tunnel
A Bradford man developed debilitating carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) in both arms as a result of excessive and poorly managed use of vibrating tools. The Unite member, whose name has not been released, was employed by Incommunities Group plc worked on housing refurbishment schemes and used tools including drills, stihl saws, jigsaws and kango hammers.
Thompsons Solicitors news release. Risks 693. 7 March 2015
Britain: Alarm sounds over outsourcing of aviation medicals
Passenger safety could be put at risk by a Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) decision to proceed with outsourcing of its medical services, unions have warned. Unions PCS and Prospect, which represent staff at the aviation regulator, were speaking out after CAA announced it will look to outsource the Aeromedical Centre (AeMC) that provides medical services to pilots and air traffic controllers, as well as expert advice to airlines.
Prospect news release. CAA news release and consultation response. Risks 693. 7 March 2015
Central America: Sugar cane worker disease is occupational
The strenuous working conditions endured by sugar cane workers in Central America is response for an outbreak of deadly kidney failure, a study has found. The Boston University study, which was part-financed by the industry, found a clear connection between the kidney destroying disease and the work these men are doing.
Boston University news release. NPR blog. IJOEH abstract. Risks 690. 14 February 2015
Britain: HSE needs resources to tackle work diseases
The fall in fatalities at work in the Health and Safety Executive’s first 40 years is a testament to the value of a dedicated regulator, GMB has said. But the union warns funding cuts have left the watchdog ‘unprepared’ to tackle the much bigger toll of work-related diseases.
GMB news release. Risks 687. 24 January 2015
Britain: Mental health the top work-related health problem
New research shows that throughout the British Isles, mental health disorders are the most common work-related ill health problem. A team from Manchester University found mental health problems linked to work account for over half of all cases reported by occupational physicians.
SOM news release. A Money and others. Work-related ill-health: Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, Great Britain 2005-2012, Occupational Medicine, volume 65, pages 15-21, 13 January 2015.
Promoting good practice in workplace mental health: A seminar for union officers, workplace representatives and activists, Congress House, Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3LS. 5 February 2015, 9.00-13.00. Register for the TUC mental health good practice seminar. Risks 686. 17 January 2015
Britain: Fit for work scheme starts to dribble into action
The government’s delayed nationwide ‘Fit for work’ system is easing into action, with an advisory service now up and running and a referral system in 20 GP practices in Sheffield starting work this week. The referral system is expected to be rolled out nationwide throughout the year.
Fit For Work referrals- a TUC guide for union representatives, TUC, January 2015. DWP Fit for Work guidance. Risks 686. 17 January 2015
Canada: Lead at work causes ALS
Individuals with chronic exposure to lead at work are 80 per cent more likely to develop Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), Canadian researchers have concluded. Publishing the findings of the analysis of 13 studies of individuals with ‘Lou Gehrig’s disease’ in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, the authors found people with a history of work-related lead exposure were 1.81 times more likely to develop ALS.
Ming-Dong Wang and others. A Meta-Analysis of Observational Studies of the Association Between Chronic Occupational Exposure to Lead and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, volume 56, number 12, pages 1235-1242, December 2014. The Pump Handle. Risks 685. 10 January 2015
Britain: Workers had massive blood lead levels
A Surrey-based civil engineering firm and a Hampshire fabrication company have been fined for exposing workers to lead during refurbishment work on the iconic Nab Tower in the Solent. Russell Leggett and Robert Peach required hospital treatment after inhaling dust and fumes when steel coated in lead paint was cut into and removed from the structure in July 2013.
HSE news release. More on the hazards of occupational exposure to lead. Risks 685. 10 January 2015
Britain: Watchdog and firms doing ‘sod all’ of use on stress
Workplace stress causes heart and other chronic diseases, higher rates of sickness absence and suicides. So why, asks TUC’s Hugh Robertson, are the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and employers doing ‘sod all’ of any use to tackle the bad management practices at the root of the problem?
Distressing failure: Who says work has to be like this?, Hazards magazine special report, December 2014. TUC Safety Reps Guide to the HSE Stress Management Standards. Risks 685. 10 January 2015
Britain: Does your asthma get worse at work?
Twenty years ago the TUC warned that one in five cases of adult asthma were related to work, a figure disputed at the time by both safety and medical authorities. Now the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) wants to evaluate the numbers adversely affected by exposures at work and the extent of those effects.
To take part in the study, email Jade Sumner at HSL. Telephone: 01298 218 803 • Risks 683 • 6 December 2014
Britain: Fat chance of avoiding night shift weight gain
Working night shifts can increase the risk of developing obesity as sleeping during the day burns fewer calories than at night, according to new research. The study found that night shift patterns disrupt the metabolism of employees, causing them to use less energy than they normally would over the course of a day.
Andrew W McHilla, Edward L Melanson, Janine Higgins, Elizabeth Connicke, Thomas M Moehlmana, Ellen R Stotharda, and Kenneth P Wright, Jr. Impact of circadian misalignment on energy metabolism during simulated nightshift work, PNAS, Published online before print 17 November 2014, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1412021111
The Guardian • BBC News Online • Risks 682 • 29 November 2014
Britain: Vector Aerospace workers get vibration disease
An international aerospace company based in Hampshire has been prosecuted after 13 employees were found to be suffering a debilitating nerve condition. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuted Vector Aerospace International Limited, of Gosport, after investigating reports that workers were being diagnosed with Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS).
HSE news release and vibration webpages • http://www.tuc.org.uk/workplace-issues/health-and-safety/risks-newsletter/risks-2014/tuc-risks-680-15-november-2014• 15 November 2014
Britain: Maximus gets fit for work benefits assessments
The company selected by the government to run its new Fit for Work national occupational health service will also undertake all fit for work benefit assessments for the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP). US multinational Maximus takes over from Atos in March next year as the agency undertaking the controversial Work Capability Assessments (WCA) for DWP.
PCS news release • DWP news release • Written Ministerial Statement • PR Watch on Maximus and outsourced contracts in the US. SourceWatch on Maximus • Risks 679 • 8 November 2014
Britain: Maximus gets fit for work benefits assessments
The company selected by the government to run its new Fit for Work national occupational health service will also undertake all fit for work benefit assessments for the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP). US multinational Maximus takes over from Atos in March next year as the agency undertaking the controversial Work Capability Assessments (WCA) for DWP.
PCS news release • DWP news release • Written Ministerial Statement • PR Watch on Maximus and outsourced contracts in the US. SourceWatch on Maximus • Risks 679 • 8 November 2014
Britain: Physios calls for a new focus on health
A sharp rise in work-related ill-health should spur a 'renewed focus' on employee health, physios’ union CSP has said. CSP director of practice Natalie Beswetherick said employers need to recognise measures that cut sickness absence are good for individuals, employers and the economy.
CSP news release • Risks 679 • 8 November 2014
Britain: Union reps say stress is the UK’s top concern
Stress tops the workplace concerns of union health and safety reps, the TUC’s 11th biennial TUC survey has found. TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “It’s shocking that so many employers are breaking the law and putting their staff at risk of illness and accidents by their sheer negligence.”
TUC news release and full report, Focus on health and safety: Trade union trends survey, October 2014 • Risks 678 • 1 November 2014
Britain: Cuts are making civil servants sick
Cuts to jobs and increasing workloads are leading to more stress and ill-health in the civil service, according to new surveys for PCS. Two surveys carried out for the union by employment analysts and academics have revealed high levels of stress, longer working hours, and fewer opportunities to achieve a work-life balance.
PCS news release • Morning Star • Risks 678 • 1 November 2014
Britain: Selling or ditching airline medicals is too risky
Airline safety could be put at risk by proposals put forward by the industry regulator to either scrap or sell off its medical services, the union PCS has warned. The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has launched a consultation on it plans; all UK pilots are required to obtain a medical licence from the CAA.
PCS news release • CAA news relase • Risks 677 • 25 October 2014
Britain: Tomatoes on the line fertilised by human waste
Human excrement dumped from trains straight onto the rail tracks has caused tomatoes to sprout on a key route into London. RMT general secretary Mick Cash, whose members have to work on the track, said: “It shames Britain's railways that tons of human excrement is being dumped straight on the tracks while the private train companies make huge profits and the government does nothing.”
RMT news release • The Mirror • The Standard • London 24 • Risks 677 • 25 October 2014
Britain: New name for the work and health service
The government’s Work and Health Service has been rebranded as ‘Fit for Work’ ahead of its launch later this year. Disability and welfare reform minister Lord Freud – criticised after suggesting some disabled workers were “not worth the full [minimum] wage” - said: “Fit for Work will help employers and their staff to manage sickness absence and aid the return-to-work process and GPs will play a vital role in referring patients they think will benefit from it.”
DWP news release • TUC news release • Hazards magazine • BBC News Online • Risks 676 • 18 October 2014
Britain: Long hours at low pay linked to diabetes
Working long hours in ‘low status’ jobs can increase your risk for diabetes, a new study suggests. Researchers found that people who worked more than 55 hours a week at manual labour or other types of ‘low socioeconomic status jobs’ were 30 per cent more likely to develop diabetes than those who worked 35 to 40 hours a week.
Mika Kivimäki and others. Long working hours, socioeconomic status, and the risk of incident type 2 diabetes: a meta-analysis of published and unpublished data from 222,120 individuals, The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, Early Online Publication, 25 September 2014 • Orfeu M Buxton and Cassandra A Okechukwu. Long working hours can be toxic, The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, Early Online Publication, 25 September 2014 • CBS News • The Pump Handle • Risks 674 • 4 October 2014
Britain: More effort needed to keep workers fit for work
The government and employers must do more to help workers with long-term musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) stay in work, a new report has concluded. The authors of 'Self-management of chronic musculoskeletal disorders and employment', a report from the Fit for Work UK Coalition and The Work Foundation, note: “Our findings show that individuals’ health conditions and quality of life will continue to be damaged by work, with some leaving the labour market prematurely.”
CSP news release • Fit for Work UK news release and full report • Risks 671 • 13 September 2014
Britain: Mental health is a big issue at work
The cost of living crisis means workers are increasingly at risk of mental health problems, the union Usdaw has said. Paddy Lillis, the union’s deputy general secretary, told the TUC’s annual conference in Liverpool that trade union and workplace reps have a big role to play in supporting members coping with mental health issues.
Usdaw news release • The Guardian • BBC News Online • Annual Report of the Chief Medical Officer • Risks 671 • 13 September 2014
Britain: Prospect’s new manifesto for ‘good work’
Civil service union Prospect is calling on politicians to take notice of its new stress-busting ‘Manifesto for Good Work’ in the run-up to the general election. The union has been consulting members on what they think makes work ‘good’.
Prospect news release and Good Work campaign resources and manifesto • TUC Touchstone blog • Risks 670 • 7 September 2014
Britain: Footballers back new head injury rules
New rules on the management of concussion and head injuries in football, produced with the support of the players’ union PFA, will take effect in the Premier League this season. The PFA said it will be offering an education programme to help raise awareness amongst players of the potential dangers, in conjunction with the Premier League, Football League and League Manager’s Association (LMA).
PFA news release and background briefing • BBC News Online • Risks 667 • 16 August 2014
Britain: Health and Work Service supplier announced
The government’s new Health and Work Service in England and Wales will be delivered by Health Management Limited, the government has announced. The company, which describes itself as “the UK’s leading occupational healthcare provider”, is part of the US multinational MAXIMUS.
DWP news release • Health Management Ltd news release • FOM/SOM news release • Risks 665 • 2 August 2014
Britain: Health ‘timebomb’ uncovered by site inspections
A series of intensive official construction site inspections has revealed a health ‘timebomb’ facing workers, UCATT has said. The site union was commenting after the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) visited 560 sites over two weeks, focussing on significant long-term health risks for workers including respiratory risks from dusts containing silica, exposure to other hazardous substances such as cement and lead paint, manual handling, noise and vibration.
UCATT news release • HSE news release • Construction Enquirer • Hazards ‘Dust to Dust’ report • Risks 665 • 2 August 2014
Britain: Aerospace firm lands workers with nerve damage
A Nottinghamshire aerospace engineering company has been ordered to pay more than £190,000 in fines and costs for failing to protect its employees from the effects of vibration. It total, 24 workers at SPS Aerostructures Ltd were diagnosed with debilitating nerve conditions.
HSE news release and vibration webpages • Risks 664 • 26 July 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
China: Court rejects shipyard diseases lawsuit
A Guangzhou court has dismissed a lawsuit brought by 34 shipyard workers who claimed their employer, CSSC Guangzhou Longxue Shipbuilding Co. Ltd, had colluded with its affiliated hospital to conceal the results of health checks which should have revealed the early stages of the deadly dust disease pneumoconiosis. The case originated in November 2012, when one worker left the company and independent tests showed he had the occupational dust disease, despite having been given the all clear by the factory hospital a week earlier.
China Labour Bulletin • Risks 663 • 19 July 2014
Turkey: The no occupational diseases illusion
Factory doctor Ahmet Tellioglu has seen how workplace exposures cause serious occupational diseases. But the Turkish medic says the official statistics don’t recognise the problem, with the authorities instead burying the evidence, noting: “According to official data, the incidence of occupational diseases in Turkey is 30 times lower than in the EU,” and “only 59 cases of death have been recorded to be an outcome of occupational disease in Turkey from 2004 to 2012.”
Global Labour Column • Risks 663 • 19 July 2014
Britain: Call to protect footballers from concussion risk
Decisions on whether a footballer can return to the pitch after a head injury should be taken by an independent doctor, and not the player or coach, a top medical journal has concluded. An editorial in The Lancet Neurology says these decisions should not be made “by those with a vested interest.”
Tackling the sports-related concussion crisis, The Lancet Neurology, Volume 13, Issue 8, Page 747, August 2014 • BBC News Online • The Guardian • Metro • Risks 663 • 19 July 2014
Britain: Performance pay is bad for your health
Performance-related pay is bad for your health, a new study has found. After analysing survey results of more than 2,500 people from across Britain. Aberdeen University researchers concluded “being in jobs with a performance pay element increases the likelihood of health deterioration.”
Keith A. Bender and Ioannis Theodossiou. The unintended consequences of the rat race: the detrimental effects of performance pay on health, Oxford Economic Papers, volume 66, Number 3, pages 824-847, 2014. Herald Scotland. More on the issue from Hazards and Karoshi.jp • Risks 661 • 5 July 2014
South Africa: Alarming level of TB among miners
For every worker who dies each year as a result of an accident in a South African mine, nine more die of tuberculosis, the country’s health minister Aaron Motsoaledi has said. “There are 41,810 cases of active TB in South African mines every year. It is 8 per cent of the national total, and 1 per cent of the population, very unfortunately,” he told parliament.
Cape Times • Fin24 • Risks 660 • 28 June 2014
Britain: Two week HSE focus on site health issues
The poor working conditions likely to lead to ill health on building sites is being targeted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in a two week inspection drive. During the unannounced visits, HSE inspectors will be targeting respiratory risks from dusts including respirable silica, exposure to other hazardous substances such as cement and lead paint and manual handling, noise and vibration.
HSE news release and construction webpages • Risks 660 • 28 June 2014
USA: Government action on black lung scandal
The US Department of Labor has ordered officials who determine if coal miners are eligible for black lung benefits to no longer rely on the medical opinion of the Johns Hopkins Medicine doctor an investigation found systematically denied affected miners were significantly affected by the debilitating condition. From 2000, Dr Paul S Wheeler, who was head of the Johns Hopkins black lung programme, examined 1,573 miners' black lung x-rays and not once diagnosed the severe form of black lung that automatically qualifies for compensation.
AFL-CIO Now blog • ABC Eyewitness News • Risks 658 • 14 June 2014
Britain: Has CBI finally got the message?
A CBI report recognising the ‘real business benefits’ of keeping staff healthy could be a sign the consistently regulation averse business lobby group is on the verge of a change of heart, the union UNISON has said. Neil Carberry, director for employment and skills at the CBI, launching ‘Getting better: Workplace health as a business issue’ earlier this year, said: “Investing in the wellbeing of employees is not only the right thing to do, it has real business benefits.”
UNISON news release • CBI news release and report, Getting better: Workplace health as a business issue • International Business Times • Risks 658 • 14 June 2014
Thailand: Nappy-wearing bus conductors fight for rights
Stuck for hours each day in snarling traffic, bus conductors in Thailand’s sprawling capital have found a radical solution to a lack of toilet breaks - adult nappies. A recent survey found that 28 per cent of female bus conductors in Bangkok had worn nappies on a job that requires them to work up to 16 hours a day.
Gulf News • Risks 657 • 7 June 2014
Britain: Staff say ‘filthy’ BBC HQ is making them sick
BBC newsreaders have complained the corporation’s flagship £1 billion building is unclean and dangerous with a “trend of filth and human waste products”. The London Evening Standard reports that staff have called on management to intervene over the basement studio which they say is so unhygienic staff regularly become sick.
London Evening Standard • Risks 657 • 7 June 2014
Britain: Not that good work health scheme due
The Work and Health Scheme expected to make a delayed appearance towards the end of this year could end up as an inadequate and confusing mess, the TUC and doctors have warned. Under the new system, which it is anticipated will be rolled out to cover every general practice in England, Scotland and Wales by mid-2015, everyone who is absent from work more than four weeks because of illness will be given an assessment which will indicate if there is anything that might help their early return to work, with non-binding recommendations passed on to the employer.
TUC Stronger Unions blog • Risks 657 • 7 June 2014
Britain: Dangerous practices at naval base caused nerve damage
A company responsible for maintaining the grounds of a naval base in Cornwall has been fined after three workers were diagnosed with a debilitating condition that left them with permanent nerve damage. The three men, who do not wish to be named, were employed by Babcock Flagship Ltd to maintain the extensive grounds at HMS Raleigh in Torpoint, where they were exposed to high levels of hand arm vibration (HAV) caused by using tools such as hedge cutters and strimmers for long periods.
HSE news release and vibration webpages • Western Morning News • Risks 654 • 17 May 2014
South Africa: Mines ‘stalling’ on deadly silicosis payouts
Mining multinationals in South Africa have been accused of saving themselves millions by dragging out silicosis litigation and delaying payment of compensation to victims. As sufferers of the occupational dust disease die – and many have - the “pain and suffering” component of any payout is docked from the settlement made to their dependants.
Business Day • The Guardian • Mining Weekly • Risks 653 • 10 May 2014
Britain: Call for health checks for construction apprentices
Tackling work-related ill health among construction apprentices could save the Scottish economy more than £30m over the next decade, new figures suggest. Constructing Better Health Scotland (CBH Scotland) is calling for baseline health checks for all apprentices entering the industry.
STV News • The Courier • The Scotsman • BBC News Online • Morning Star • Risks 653 • 10 May 2014
Britain: Factory workers exposed to high lead levels
Workers at a ceramic tile factory in North Wales had levels of lead in their blood that could leave them at risk of kidney and heart disease, brain damage, cancer and other serious disorders. The employees of specialist firm Craig Bragdy Design, of Denbigh, were tested after the issue came to light in February 2012 during a routine visit by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
HSE news release and lead webpages • More on the risks posed by lead • Risks 651 • 26 April 2014
India: When will the ‘world’s worst job’ finally end?
Clearing human excrement by hand – dubbed the world’s worst job - is continuing in India, despite laws outlawing it. There are still hundreds of thousands of ‘night soil workers’ in India – those who physically remove human excrement from ‘dry’ toilets, and there are millions more who perform the task of clearing human waste and general refuse by hand.
Equal Times • Risks 649 • 5 April 2014
Britain: Radiation testing worker gets massive x-ray dose
A Hartlepool firm that tests machine components using x-ray and gamma radiation has been fined after one of its workers suffered ionising radiation burns while carrying out tests on safety equipment. The Redcar man, who has asked not to be named, suffered severe tissue damage to the middle, ring and little fingers of his right hand in the incident at Mistras ETS Ltd on 19 September 2012, and received more than the maximum legal yearly radiation dose in a few seconds.
HSE news release and radiation webpages • The Northern Echo • ITV News • The Gazette • Risks 649 • 5 April 2014
Britain: Atos failure shows work tests should be in-house
As private firm Atos nears the end of its highly controversial stint assessing benefits claimants on their fitness for work, civil service union PCS says the work should be brought in-house. PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “Doctors, MPs and disabled people all believe the tests should be scrapped so, instead of replacing the failed Atos with another profit-hungry provider, the government should bring the work in-house and invest in it properly.”
PCS news release • Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland news release • Risks 649 • 5 April 2014
Britain: Atos quits government fit for work tests
Private company Atos is to quit its contract to assess whether benefits claimants are fit to work, the government and the company have announced. In a statement, Atos indicated problems related to the tests were the result of government welfare policy, not the company’s behaviour, citing a National Audit Office (NAO) report in support of the claim.
Atos news release • BBC News Online • Daily Mirror • Risks 648 • 29 March 2014
Australia: Power union presses defibrillator case
An Australian power company is being urged to roll out lifesaving defibrillators immediately, bringing safety standards for their predominantly rural and regional workforce in line with urban power companies. The Electrical Trades Union (ETU) in New South Wales commissioned independent research that found portable defibrillators provide an effective, affordable, reliable method to prevent accidental deaths among the thousands of workers who carry out dangerous maintenance and repair work on the state’s electricity poles and wires.
ETU news release • Risks 646 • 15 March 2014
Britain: UNISON attacks government’s sick ‘obsession’
Public sector union UNISON has attacked the government's ‘obsession’ with sickness rates, after figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed that days lost due to sickness absence fell from 178 million in 1993 to 131 million in 2013. The union's head of health and safety Tracey Harding said: “These figures show the folly of this government's obsession with absence rates, rather than focusing on the underlying work-related health and safety issues.”
UNISON news release and guide, Making us better: Organising for health & safety: Sickness absence agreement: a guide for branches and safety representatives • Risks 645 • 8 March 2014
Britain: Sickness decline disproves ‘sickie culture’ claims
A dramatic decline in the number of days lost to sickness absence explodes the lie that Britain has a ‘sickie culture’, the TUC said. The union body was speaking out after figures released this week by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), showed that the average number of days lost to sickness absence has fallen by almost 40 per cent since 1993.
TUC news release • ONS statistics on sickness absence • The Guardian • Risks 644 • 1 March 2014
Britain: Cold storage firm done for multiple failings
A Nottinghamshire cold storage firm, Dawson Rental Portable Cold Storage Ltd, has been fined for criminal safety failings after one worker was injured by falling equipment and several others developed a disabling condition of the nerves and joints.
HSE news release and vibration webpages • Risks 643 • 22 February 2014
Britain: PCS calls for end to ‘demeaning work tests’
The government’s ‘demeaning’ fitness for worker tests should be scrapped and Atos, the private contractor conducting them, should be sacked, Jobcentre union PCS has said. Commenting ahead of a 19 February national day of action against Atos called by disability groups, PCS said support to help sick and disabled people find work if they can should be brought back in-house.
PCS news release • Unite news release • DPAC news release • Risks 643 • 22 February 2014
Britain: Sick slant is first mistake for the work health service
A new body which aims to get the long-term sick back to work more quickly in England, Wales and Scotland must have its focus on improving health not reducing sickness costs, the TUC has said. The union body was speaking out after the government announced its Health and Work Service, which from April will accept GP referrals of workers absent for over four weeks.
TUC Stronger Unions blog • DWP news release • BBC News Online • Risks 642 • 15 February 2014
Britain: Is the return-to-work service a healthy move?
More detail is needed on the planned role of the government’s new return-to-work service with worrying questions remaining about how it will treat sick workers, the union UNISON has indicated. The union is urging its members to take advice from their safety reps and stewards if they are likely to be off sick for lengthy periods of time and don't know when they will be fit to return to work.
UNISON news release and guide to managing sickness absence • Risks 642 • 15 February 2014
Britain: UK ‘worst’ on workforce mental health support
The UK is the worst performing OECD country when it comes to supporting workforce mental health, a new report has found. ‘Mental health and work: The United Kingdom’, published this week by the OECD, says better policies and practices by employers and the health system are needed to help people deal with mental health issues and get back to work.
The Work Foundation news release • OECD new release and report, Mental Health and Work: The United Kingdom • Risks 642 • 15 February 2014
Britain: Knee injury exposed metalworking asthma
A former tool maker has been awarded £33,000 in compensation after he developed occupational asthma from almost two decades of exposure to metalwork fluid mist at a Ford plant in Dagenham. Unite member Ronald Hymans, 60, suffered a knee injury requiring three months off work, during which time his doctor recorded that his breathing improved by a third leading to a diagnosis of occupational asthma.
Thompsons Solicitors news release • Risks 641 • 8 February 2014
Britain: Cuts fears prompt BMA occupational health action
The British Medical Association (BMA) is seeking assurances over the future of occupational health services for GPs and their staff amid reports they are about to be cut. Doctors leaders have written to the Department of Health requesting confirmation of the continuing provision of support for GPs and NHS staff suffering from stress and burnout.
BMA news release • Risks 638 • 18 January 2013
Britain: Government has inflated the fit for work figures
The government inflated estimates of people on a disability benefit subsequently found to be ‘fit for work’, a Labour MP has said. Work and pensions select committee member Sheila Gilmore MP said the admission she obtained from employment minister Esther McVey suggests “that rather than trying to fix the test to reduce the number of incorrect decisions, ministers’ priority is to fix the figures to downplay the extent of the problem.” Sheila Gilmore MP news release and letter to the minister • Response from employment minister Esther McVey • Risks 631 • 16 November 2013
USA: Scandal leads to shutdown of lung disease ‘denial’ clinic
Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore, a top US occupational medicine unit, has suspended its black lung programme after a media investigation found it was systematically denying sick coal miners were suffering the debilitating occupational lung disease. The Center for Public Integrity and ABC News investigation revealed how medical opinions from doctors at the prestigious hospital have helped coal companies thwart efforts by ailing mine workers to receive disability benefits.
CPI news release • Johns Hopkins Medicine statement • AFL-CIO Now • Risks 630 • 9 November 2013
Britain: Poorly controlled tools cost young dad his job
A young father of four who developed a painful and debilitating nerve condition through prolonged, unrestricted use of vibrating power tools is now unable to work as a result. Andrew Wood, 35, from Heathfield, East Sussex is likely to suffer chronic pain in both hands for the rest of his life as a result of his work for CJ Gowing and Son Ltd between July 2010 and March 2012.
HSE news release • Risks 628 • 26 October 2013
USA: Lawmaker attacks wellness programmes
A federal lawmaker is asking the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to investigate employer wellness programmes that demand intimate health information from employees, and to issue guidelines preventing employers from using these programmes to discriminate against workers. The request, by Louise M Slaughter, a Democratic congresswoman from New York, came after Pennsylvania State University suspended cash penalties linked to its new employee wellness programme that had drawn objections from staff. New York Times • Risks 625 • 5 October 2013
Britain: Site workers make healthy choices
Assumptions by scientists and health professionals that ill-health in construction workers is the result of their poor lifestyle have been blown out of the water by a new study. This suggests researchers may have consistency under-estimated the impact of work factors on diseases suffered by construction workers, instead wrongly attributing them to personal habits.
Construction Enquirer • Risks 625 • 5 October 2013
Britain: National Grid ‘ignored vibration risk’
A GMB member will suffer health problems for life after excessive exposure to vibrating work tools while employed by the National Grid. The man from Lincoln, whose name has not been release, had been employed as a craftsman by National Grid for 32 years, where his work regularly involved using tools such as jack hammers, whackers, rock drills and vibration rollers.
Thompsons Solicitors new release • Risks 624 • 28 September 2013
Britain: Lung disease toll exposed
A comprehensive study of mortality rates across the Europe, carried out by the European Respiratory Society (ERS), has concluded that respiratory diseases across the continent cost nearly a million lives and 400 billion euros every year. The society’s European Lung White Book notes: “Overall, occupational agents are responsible for about 15 per cent (in men) and 5 per cent (in women) of all respiratory cancers, 17 per cent of all adult asthma cases, 15–20 per cent of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) cases and 10 per cent of interstitial lung disease cases.”
European Lung White Book and Occupational lung diseases and occupational risk factors sections • The Independent • TUC news release • Risks 622 • 14 September 2013
Britain: New emphasis on preventing workplace diseases
Greatly improved measures to reduce the deaths and suffering caused by workplace diseases are needed, unions have said. The motion passed at the TUC Congress also criticised the government for watering down legislation intended to help victims of the asbestos cancer mesothelioma.
UCATT news release • NASUWT news release • TUC news release • Risks 622 • 14 September 2013
Global: Taking care of workers is good business
When organisations search for ways to improve their financial performance, they should not overlook the importance of investing in the health and well-being of their employees. Emile Tompa, a Canadian health and labour economist, reports that several international studies have demonstrated the positive effects of preventive programmes, including workplace ergonomics interventions, on a company’s bottom line.
FIOH news release • Risks 621 • 7 September 2013
Finland: Making jobs better keeps you well
Cutting the mental and social strain caused by work can make workers healthier in the short and long term, new research has found. A Finnish study discovered the risk of an employee claiming a work disability pension due to musculoskeletal diseases can be decreased by up to 35 per cent by reducing the workplace strains.
FIOH news release and key papers and conference programme • Risks 620 • 31 August 2013
Britain: Textile worker dismissed after getting lung disease
A Suffolk textile firm that stopped health surveillance of workers using highly dangerous reactive dyes then dismissed a worker who developed lung disease as a result. The worker, who does not wish to be named, was employed at Gainsborough Silk Weaving Company Ltd in Sudbury as the dye house manager from 1993 to his dismissal by the company in 2012.
HSE news release and reactive dyes guide • Risks 619 • 24 August 2013
Britain: Limo firm fined after seven get hand disease
A Bolton limousine and hearse manufacturer has been fined after seven employees developed a debilitating hand condition over a six and a half year period. Woodall Nicholson Ltd was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after the workers were diagnosed with Hand Arm Vibration syndrome (HAVS) as a result of almost daily use of hand-held equipment, such as grinders, saws and pneumatic tools, all of which constantly vibrate.
HSE news release and HAVS webpage • Manchester Evening News • Risks 619 • 24 August 2013
Britain: Rolls Royce fined for vibration-related wrist injury
British engineering giant Rolls Royce has been fined after an employee was diagnosed with a debilitating condition in both arms that has left him with permanent nerve damage. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuted the company after Allan Thornewill, 55, from Derby, developed bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome after being exposed to high levels of vibration at the company's premises in Wilmore Road, Derby. HSE news release • Risks 619 • 24 August 2013
Britain: Factory noise led to tinnitus
A machine operator was left with serious hearing difficulties after his employers failed to provide him with appropriate hearing protection. Joseph Shaw now requires a hearing aid due to the damage caused by the noisy machinery at engineering firms Warrington Wheel and Titan Distribution and Thames Board Mills.
Irwin Mitchell Solicitors news release • Risks 617 • 10 August 2013
Britain: Office mould caused occupational asthma
An office worker has developed occupational asthma after being exposed to fungal spores at his place of work. UNISON member David Livingstone, 62, was working as a substance misuse specialist for Addiction Dependency Solutions Ltd when a fungus developed on the building’s damp exterior wall less than 2ft away from his desk. Thompsons Solicitors news release • Risks 617 • 10 August 2013
Britain: Payout for a life wrecked by solvents
A paint shop supervisor whose life was wrecked by exposure to solvents at work has received a ‘substantial’ payout. Adam Coventon, who was employed by Prior Scientific Instruments Ltd, developed myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) after being exposed to the industrial solvent and known neurotoxin trichloroethylene, because his employer failed to properly install a new piece of machinery.
Thompsons Solicitors news release • Risks 616 • 3 August 2013
Britain: Hundreds of former coke oven workers seek justice
More than 300 former coke oven workers are taking legal action against British Steel and British Coal in a battle for justice for cancers and respiratory diseases they are now suffering because of exposure to harmful dust and fumes decades ago. Last week law firms Hugh James and Irwin Mitchell confirmed they had jointly issued a letter of claim against British Coal and British Steel on behalf of 300 former coke oven workers who became ill after working at coking plants and steel works across the country.
Hugh James Solicitors news release • Irwin Mitchell Solicitors news release • Risks 616 • 3 August 2013
Britain: Poor protection hurt worker
A factory worker fractured his wrist at work after a global manufacturing company failed to provide him with correct personal protection equipment (PPE). David Morrell, from Neath, South Wales, had worked for the Morganite Electrical Carbon Ltd as a maintenance fitter for 34 years.
Thompsons Solicitors news release • Risks 616 • 3 August 2013
Britain: Supermarket shunt led to back injury
An Asda employee who injured his back after a vehicle collision at work has been awarded compensation. The 52-year-old GMB member from Burbage, Leicestershire, was getting out of the picker truck he had been driving when a colleague in a reach truck turned a corner without looking and collided into the side of his vehicle.
Thompsons Solicitors news release • Risks 616 • 3 August 2013
Britain: BOHS wants work disease reporting widened
The list of work diseases covered by official reporting requirements must be widened, the Chartered Society for Worker Health Protection (BOHS) has announced. The professional body indicated it was pleased the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) had backtracked on plans to exclude almost all occupational diseases from the RIDDOR reporting regulations “but is still concerned about the lack of data being collected on long latency diseases such as silicosis.”
BOHS news release • Risks 615 • 27 July 2013
Britain: Fit for work assessments fail
More than four out of every 10 fit for work tests were of the lowest standard, the government has admitted. The government’s Work Capability Assessments, conducted by the private firm Atos Healthcare, have been criticised consistently since their introduction, with unions and disability organisations saying they are frequently wrong, unfair and distressing for those being tested.
DWP news release • Scope news release • BBC News Online • Morning Star • Risks 615 • 27 July 2013
China: Denim workers pay a deadly price
Governments and companies must take urgent action to stamp out the continued use of sandblasting and other unsafe finishing processes in the manufacture of denim jeans, campaigners have said. The call comes in a new report into conditions in six denim factories in the Chinese province of Guangdong, a region responsible for half of the world’s entire production of denim jeans.
Clean Clothes Campaign news release and report, Breathless for Blue Jeans: Health hazards in China’s denim factories • Huffington Post • Risks 613 • 13 July 2013
USA: Waistline policing is bad for you
Company health initiatives targeting staff are increasingly being accompanied by threats and punishments for those who don’t measure up, recent US evidence suggests. And it is about to get worse - the Departments of Labor, Treasury and Health and Human Services have just ruled that from next year companies can charge workers up to 30 per cent of their insurance premiums for failing to meet certain health goals.
Truthout • Risks 612 • 6 July 2013
Britain: Home Office ignored job switch advice
A Home Office worker put in a job for which he was poorly suited and who occupational health advisers said should be transferred to another post has won an unfair dismissal claim. Prospect member Vaithilingam Mohanarajan, who worked as a senior scientific officer in the government department, was dismissed for poor performance, despite an occupational health report stating he had been moved to the wrong job a couple of years earlier and was “a fish out of water.”
Prospect news release • Risks 612 • 6 July 2013
Britain: Vibration risk red light came too late
A union member from Gateshead has been awarded “substantial” compensation for vibration white finger (VWF) in a GMB-backed court case against his employer. The joiner, whose name has not been released, began experiencing the typical symptoms of VWF – including numbness and tingling in his fingers and hands – whilst at work. Thompsons Solicitors news release • Risks 611 • 29 June 2013
Britain: Mad dash for seats is bad for workers
Forcing workers into a Ryanair style dash for a seat in the office lowers morale and hits workers' health, according to the union UNISON. This “dehumanises workers”, the union says, adding rules forcing workers to clear their space each evening and hot desk every morning make them the human equivalent of “battery hens”.
UNISON news release • Risks 611 • 29 June 2013
Britain: Vibration risk red light came too late
A union member from Gateshead has been awarded “substantial” compensation for vibration white finger (VWF) in a GMB-backed court case against his employer. The joiner, whose name has not been released, began experiencing the typical symptoms of VWF – including numbness and tingling in his fingers and hands – whilst at work. Thompsons Solicitors news release • Risks 611 • 29 June 2013
Turkey: Firms must provide work health experts
Turkey has extended a law requiring firms to provide occupational health experts to include most workplaces. The original law, targeting firms employing more than 50 workers, took effect at the start of the year. But from 30 June the requirement to provide workers with access to occupational health expertise is to be extended to smaller workplaces including shops and hair salons.
Today’s Zaman • Risks 610 • 22 June 2013
Britain: Firms say ‘fit notes’ don’t work
The ‘fit note’ system introduced by the government in a bid to reduce sickness absence isn’t working, the manufacturing sector lobby group EEF has said. It says its survey found employers have lost faith that the programme is getting people back to work.
EEF news release • Risks 610 • 22 June 2013
Britain: Bromley must not penalise sick employees
The London Borough of Bromley must drop its “extreme, dangerous and vindictive” proposal to withhold cost of living pay rises from genuinely sick employees, GMB has said. The union has been in consultation with the council for a number of weeks regarding a proposal to move to local pay bargaining; one change would mean any employee could have their pay rise withheld for unsatisfactory “performance” – and that includes sickness, according to the council.
GMB news release • Risks 609 • 15 June 2013
Britain: Doctors protest at 'cruel' disability tribunals
Doctors in Scotland have hit out at a system of fitness-to-work benefits assessments which they say is failing the sick and placing the most vulnerable patients at risk of suicide. A campaign, backed by leading medics, charities and unions, now intends to encourage GPs to use little-known regulations to challenge cases where declaring patients fit to work would place them in danger of physical or mental harm.
Black Triangle Campaign and letter • Sunday Herald • BBC News Online • Risks 604 • 11 May 2013
Britain: More care for NHS staff is better for patients
A report from King’s College London (KCL) has concluded that improving the health, safety and wellbeing of NHS staff is essential if the government wants to improve patient care. The study found that staff in many settings experienced high job demand and low control over their work, leading to emotional exhaustion, stress and for some burnout.
Does NHS staff wellbeing affect patient experience of care?, Policy+, Issue 39, King’s College London, May 2013. UNISON news release and Making us better sickness guide for safety reps • Risks 605 • 18 May 2013
Britain: Little interest in NHS lifestyle promotion at work
An NHS ‘Champions for Health’ pilot health promotion scheme attracted little interest from staff – and this interest quickly waned for the tiny minority who did give it a try. Just 1,300 out of NHS Wales’ 72,000 staff signed up last year for the high profile initiative, and two-thirds of these had dropped out before the end.
NHS Wales news release and Champions for Health webpages • Work and well-being, TUC guide, February 2013. Hazards magazine 'Well, then?' guide • Risks 601 • 20 April 2013
USA: Get well soon - or you’ll be sorry
Employers are using incentives and increasingly penalties to persuade workers to make better lifestyle choices, even though there is no compelling evidence these programmes actually work. Programmes that seek to impose consequences on workers, for example making them to pay a surcharge for failing to take steps to lose weight or quit smoking, have come in for criticism by those who have argued that the policies are invasive and can punish people for health problems that not are always easy to fix.
New York Times • The Nation • Work and well-being, TUC guide, February 2013. Hazards magazine ‘Well, then?’ guide • Risks 599 • 30 March 2013
Britain: Long term failings led to long term damage
GKN Aerospace has been fined for failing to heed safety regulations for at least six years, leaving a group of employees with permanent nerve damage. Portsmouth Magistrates were told that five workers based at GKN on the Isle of Wight had been left with long-term damage to their circulation and nervous system after contracting hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS).
HSE news release and vibration webpages • Risks 599 • 30 March 2013
Britain: HSE backtracks on disease reporting
A highly unpopular Health and Safety Executive (HSE) proposal to remove the duty on employers to report most work-related diseases has been dropped by the watchdog. The proposal to end disease reporting was opposed by unions, occupational doctors and the safety professionals’ body IOSH.
Minutes of the January 2013 HSE board meeting • BOHS news release • Risks 599 • 30 March 2013
Britain: TUC workplace health resources
Following up publication of the new edition of its best-selling and seriously large ‘Hazards at work’ guide for safety reps, the TUC has issued a tranche of straightforward short guides on issues free ranging from chicken pox at work to skin problems, vibration and noise. These guides are written for employees, and give straightforward advice on diseases, risks and employers’ duties.
Hazards at work: Organising for safe and healthy workplaces • New TUC guides on workplace substances and skin problems, working with asbestos, noise at work, hand-arm vibration syndrome, chicken pox in the workplace and mental health conditions • Risks 598 • 23 March 2013
Britain: Health surveillance needs worker involvement
New health surveillance guidance has been launched by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). The online guide is clear that involving the workforce is critical, noting: “Employees should be encouraged to get involved in developing and using health surveillance because it is only effective with their co-operation.”
HSE news release and health surveillance webpages and information on employee involvement • Risks 598 • 23 March 2013
Britain: Tax breaks for workplace health interventions
Employers will be able to access tax relief for health-related interventions recommended by the forthcoming health and work assessment and advisory service, the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced in this week’s Budget. George Osborne said the move, flagged up in the government’s January 2013 response to the sickness absence review commissioned from workplace health czar Dame Carol Black and former business lobbyists David Frost, will “recycle funding into creating the health and work assessment and advisory service for those in danger of long-term sickness absence.”
HM Treasury: Budget 2013 • BBC News Online and Budget summary • Risks 598 • 23 March 2013
Britain: Insiders criticise ‘dire’ occupational health system
Former Health and Safety Executive (HSE) occupational physician Morris Greenberg has said the UK’s occupational health provision is in a dire state. “The acceptance of the gross decline in the UK's occupational health practice firmly indicates the disrespect with which it is held,” he wrote in the British Medical Journal, adding: “Nothing short of a ministerial inquiry will remedy the dire state of health and safety at work, whether in office, shop, factory or hospital.”
After Mid Staffs: the NHS must do more to care for the health of its staff, BMJ, volume 346, published 7 March 2013 and response from Morris Greenberg, 11 March 2013 • Risks 597 • 16 March 2013
Britain; Revised ‘fit note’ guidance launched
Staff on sick leave will have better support to get back into work through new fit note guidance, the government has said. It says the guidance advises doctors on how they can give the most useful advice about what patients can do at work and how they can return to the workplace as soon as possible.
DWP news release and fit note webpages • CSP news release and Allied Health Professions (AHP) Advisory Fitness for Work Report • Risks 597 • 16 March 2013
Japan: Fukushima firm criticised over radiation exposures
Tokyo Electric Power Co (Tepco) failed to submit radiation dose data to an industry database, government officials have said, compromising the health of 21,000 people who worked at the Fukushima No.1 nuclear plant after the March 2011 meltdown. The official criticism reinforces concerns about inadequate production for radiation exposed workers.
Asahi Shimbun • Greenpeace news release • BBC News Online • WHO news release • Risks 596 • 9 March 2013
Britain: Police fitness test 'unfair to women'
Scotland’s new national police service has been urged to scrap a make-or-break fitness test for new recruits, after claims it “disproportionately disadvantages women”. The call, from the Scottish Women's Development Forum (SWDF), a gender equality working group of the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), came as the new Police Service of Scotland (PSoS) considers how to test officers for fitness.
The Herald • Risks 596 • 9 March 2013
Britain: Jobs cause hypertension
Low job control is associated with an increased risk of hypertension among men, a study has found. The research by Canada’s Institute for Work & Health (IWH) and the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES), found the proportion of cases of hypertension among men that could be attributed to low job control was 12 per cent, which is higher than the proportion of cases that could be attributed to poor health behaviours such as smoking, drinking, not getting enough exercise, and not eating enough fruits and vegetables.
IWH news release • Work and well-being, TUC guide, February 2013 • Hazards work and health webpages • Risks 596 • 9 March 2013
Britain: Pensions move will hurt firefighters
The majority of firefighters could face the sack as the get older, as a result of government plans to extend their working lives but only retain those who meet an unrealistic fitness standard.
FBU news release and model letter to MPs • Risks 596 • 9 March 2013
Britain: The role of the occupational physician
A handy new guide to the role of occupational physicians has been published by the British Medical Association (BMA). Although BMA says the intended audience for ‘The Occupational Physician’ is occupational physicians, employers and organisations offering occupational health services, it is also an extremely useful resource for union safety reps, providing clear guidance on the rules covering referrals to occupational physicians, related ethical issues, good practice and a useful summary on the regulations on access to medical records and issues including sickness absence and ill-health retirement.
The Occupational Physician: Guidance for specialists and others practising occupational health, BMA, 2013 [full guide] • Risks 594 • 23 February 2013
Britain: Joiner developed life-threatening wood allergy
A joiner developed a wood allergy which could have killed him after working without adequate protection from Iroko hardwood dust. Brian Ogden, 57, was first exposed to the toxic dust at Classic Joinery Manufacturers in Oldham over 20 years ago.
Manchester Evening News • Risks 594 • 23 February 2013
Britain: Survey raises work heart attack concerns
More than half of British businesses do not have a defibrillator, a new poll has found, despite the impact the device has on cardiac arrest survival rates. Safety professionals’ organisation the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) commissioned the survey of 1,000 business decision makers across the UK and found that 513 did not have the lifesaving equipment at work.
IOSH news release and YouTube film on defibrillators at work. Morning Star • Risks 594 • 23 February 2013
Britain: PCS calls for an end to privatised 'fitness tests'
Controversial assessments run for the Department for Work and Pensions by private contractor Atos should be scrapped and the work brought back in-house, civil service union PCS has said. The union, which represents almost 80,000 of the DWP's 100,000 staff, was commenting after MPs on the public accounts committee criticised the government for its treatment of sick and disabled people forced to undertake a work capability assessment.
PCS news release • Public accounts committee report, 8 February 2013 • The Guardian • Risks 593 • 16 February 2013
Britain: Healthier workplaces deliver healthier workers
Employers who create healthy workplaces can reduce employee absence and boost productivity, according to a new TUC guide. ‘Work and well-being’ aims to promote healthier working and help union safety reps identify what in their workplaces is making staff ill.
TUC news release • Work and well-being, TUC guide, February 2013 • Risks 593 • 16 February 2013
Britain: Workplace blighted by vibration disease
A Sheffield steel firm has been forced to pay out hundreds of thousands of pounds in compensation after 19 workers developed a debilitating condition caused by work with vibrating tools. In one of the highest awards ever paid out by the courts, the Community members at Sheffield based metals company, Firth Rixon, have, in total, been awarded over £812,000 in compensation after suffering from vibration white finger (VWF).
Community news release • Risks 590 • 26 January 2013
Britain: Government action on sickness ‘burden’
The government has announced a series of measures to address what it describes as the ‘burden’ of sickness absence on businesses, taxpayers and people who “get trapped on benefits”. The response to a sickness absence review authored by former top business lobbyist David Frost and government workplace health czar Dame Carol Black gives top billing to the creation of a new independent assessment and advisory service.
DWP news release, review webpage and full response: Fitness for work: the Government response to 'Health at work - an independent review of sickness absence' • The Work Foundation news release • IOSH news release • FOM/SOM news release • CIPD news release • Risks 590 • 26 January 2013
Britain: Sickness strategy is prevention free
The government’s sickness absence review would have worked better if the focus had been less on getting the sick back to work and more on preventing ill-health in the first place, workplace safety campaigners have said. Responding to government initiatives on sickness absence announced last week, the Hazards Campaign said two major conceptual flaws undermine the strategy: That Britain has a ‘sicknote culture’ and that any work is good for you.
Hazards Campaign news release • UNISON news release • Risks 590 • 26 January 2013
Britain: Cleaning jobs linked to asthma
There is strong evidence cleaning jobs increase the risk of developing asthma, a new UK study has concluded. Researchers at Imperial College London tracked the occurrence of asthma in a group of 9,488 people born in Britain in 1958. The study, published in the journal Thorax, found risks in the workplace were responsible for one in six cases of adult onset asthma - more than the one in nine cases attributed to smoking.
Imperial College news release and report, RE Ghosh and others • Asthma and occupation in the 1958 birth cohort. Thorax, 22 January 2013 • Asthma UK news release • BBC News Online • Risks 590 • 26 January 2013
Britain: Parkies suffer debilitating hand injuries
A council has been sentenced after 29 employees were diagnosed with a debilitating condition that has left them with ongoing problems with their hands. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuted Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council after workers in the Parks and Leisure Department were affected by hand arm vibration syndrome (HAVS).
HSE news release and HAVS webpages • Risks 589 • 19 January 2013
USA: Warning on ‘coercive’ wellness programmes
Employer-created wellness programmes are cropping up everywhere in the US, and it is frequently bad news for the workers being ‘helped’. US publication Labor Notes points to a 2012 survey that found in firms with more than 200 workers, 94 per cent had these life-style targeted programmes and more coercive programmes are on the rise.
Labor Notes, January 2013 • Risks 588 • 12 January 2013
Britain: Firms getting cooler on fit notes
The government’s attempt to reduce the numbers signed off work sick by GPs is leaving firms increasingly unimpressed. A survey by human resources consultancy XpertHR found the proportion of employers that believe the fit note regime has been a significant step forward in sickness absence management had fallen from 48 per cent in 2011 to just 38 per cent in 2012.
Personnel Today and Fit notes still fail to impress: 2012 XpertHR survey • Risks 588 • 12 January 2013
Britain: Legal challenge to unfit fit for work tests
A man who was incorrectly found fit for work under the government's disability benefit assessment is launching a legal action against the government and Atos, the private company performing the tests. Patrick Lynch, a former social care worker who was forced to stop work because of a condition affecting his brain, is seeking a judicial review of the controversial “work capability assessment”.
The Guardian • Public Interest Lawyers • Morning Star • Risks 587 • 22 December 2012
Britain: Birth defects linked to solvent exposures
Exposure to organic solvents during pregnancy increases the risk of certain types of birth defects, a new study indicates. Researchers found mothers with greater exposure were 4 to 12 times more likely to have babies with oral clefts than mothers with less exposure.
Cordier, S, R Garlantézec, L Labat, F Rouget, C Monfort, N Bonvallot, B Roig, J Pulkkinen, C Chevrier and L Multigner. Exposure during pregnancy to glycol ethers and chlorinated solvents and the risk of congenital malformations. Epidemiology, volume 23, number 6 pages 806-12, 2012 [abstract] • Environmental Health News • Risks 587 • 22 December 2012
Britain: Starbucks sink to new lows
The ‘immoral’ US coffee company, Starbucks, which is already under pressure for its tax affairs has now cut the rights to sick pay for its 7,000 UK workers. Martin Smith, national organiser of the GMB union, which represents some Starbucks workers, said the company was sewing “confusion and fear”, adding: “On the removal of sick pay, do we really want our coffee to be made by someone struggling to work with a cold, because that is what will happen. It is not a good look for a top flight coffee maker.”
TUC blog • Risks 585 • 8 December 2012
Australia: Bosses are telling docs how to treat workers
Australian employers are interfering in their employees’ visits to the doctors, going so far as to dictate the treatments worker are allowed. National union federation ACTU organised a seminar last week to discuss how to tackle this “growing trend.”
ACTU news release • The Age • Risks 583 • 24 November 2012
Britain: Well-being study shows all isn’t well
Financial issues and psychological distress are commonplace in the UK, an official study has found. The Office for National Statistics’ new web-based tool, the ‘National Well-being wheel’, found around 1 in 8 people were finding it quite or very difficult to manage financially and about 1 in 5 reported some kind of psychological distress.
ONS news release and well-being website and health and safety section, full report, and interactive National Well-being wheel of measures • ONS mortality figures for England and Wales • Risks 583 • 24 November 2012
Britain: Job loss increases heart attack risk
Job loss can raise your heart attack risk as much as smoking, with those who have lost a succession of jobs at higher risk still. A study of 13,451 people in the US found heart attacks increased by over a quarter (27 per cent) among people who were recently unemployed, regardless of occupation.
Matthew E Dupre, Linda K George and others. The cumulative dffect of unemployment on risks for acute myocardial infarction, Achives of Internal Medicine, Online First, November 2012. doi:10.1001/2013.jamainternmed.447. BBC News Online •
VJC Mc Carthy, IJ Perry and BA Greiner. Age, job characteristics and coronary health, Occupational Medicine, volume 62, number 8, pages 613-619, 2012. Irish Independent • Risks 583 • 24 November 2012
Britain: Fitness-to-work tests are not fair
Fitness-to-work tests used by the government to determine benefits entitlements must be made fairer and more humane, the TUC has said. The union body was responding to a report by Professor Malcolm Harrington on the government's incapacity tests which said the system “needs to be made fairer and more effective by improving both the process and the technical descriptors used to assess eligibility.”
TUC news release. DWP news release and related papers, 'An independent review of the Work Capability Assessment – year three' and the government response • Risks 583 • 24 November 2012
USA: Bad jobs make you fat
It’s not our bad habits but our bad jobs that make us fat, a new study has concluded. ‘Obesity/overweight and the role of working conditions’ found that hotel housekeepers, janitors and other blue collar workers who rarely sit during the day have neither the time nor the energy to benefit from traditional healthy lifestyle recommendations.
MassCOSH news release and full report, Obesity/overweight and the role of working conditions • UMass Lowell news release • Boston Workers’ Alliance • Risks 582 • 17 November 2012
Britain: Tightfisted firm caused painful hands
An engineering worker developed a debilitating skin condition after his employer refused to provide new gloves because they were too expensive. The 49-year-old Unite member from Birmingham, whose name has not been released, developed dermatitis after he was exposed to mineral oil in his role as a press setter for LTI Ltd in Coventry. Thompsons Solicitors news release • Risks 581 • 10 November 2012
Britain: Occ docs oppose ending work disease reporting
Britain’s occupational doctors have said they ‘strongly counsel’ the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to drop a proposal to end a duty on employers to report occupational diseases. In a submission to an HSE consultation, the Faculty of Occupational Medicine (FOM) says the move would be damaging, noting it would “signal to employers that the occupational health of employees is no longer seen as important.”
FOM news report and full response • Risks 581 • 10 November 2012
Britain: Court says smokeless fuel plant did cause cancer
Workers at a now closed smokeless fuel plant in Wales did develop potentially deadly illnesses caused by their work, the High Court has ruled. The men said making the fuel briquettes at the Phurnacite plant at Abercwmboi, Rhondda Cynon Taf, left them with cancer and respiratory diseases.
Hugh James Solicitors news release • Irwin Mitchell Solicitors news release • Wales Online • ITV News • BBC News Online • Global unions cancer prevention campaign • Risks 579 • 27 October 2012
Britain: We’re still sick, we’re just sick at work now
A fall in absence levels could be masking deeper problems in the workplace, as workers fearing for their job take their sickness to work, a new report suggests. The average level of employee absence fell by almost a day compared with last year, from 7.7 days to 6.8 per employee per year, according to this year’s Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD)/Simplyhealth Absence Management survey.
CIPD news release and CIPD/Simplyhealth Absence Management survey • Personnel Today • Risks 577 • 13 October 2012
Britain: Family docs miss most work-related wheezes
Family doctors are missing the link between work and asthma in threequarters of patients visiting them suffering from the serious breathing disorder caused by their job, a new study has found.
GI Walters, EE McGrath and JG Ayres. Audit of the recording of occupational asthma in primary care, Occupational Medicine, volume 62, issue 7, pages 570-573, 2012. SOM news release and Royal College of Physicians’ guidance for GPs, Diagnosis, management and prevention of occupational asthma • Risks 576 • 6 October 2012
Britain: Row over HSE diminishing workplace health role
A dispute over the Health and Safety Executive’s perceived inability to oversee effectively workplace health issues looks set to escalate. A 2 October article in the Daily Mirror, headlined ‘Will work be the death of you?’ was refuted by HSE chief executive Geoffrey Podger, whose rebuttal was then refuted by the Hazards campaign which said it “did not stand up to scrutiny.”
Daily Mirror • HSE rebuttal • Hazards Campaign rebuttal • Risks 576 • 6 October 2012
Britain: Assessor 'forced to judge disabled fit for work'
A former nurse who was employed by the Department for Work and Pensions’ outsourced capability assessor Atos has claimed she was forced to manipulate tests so that disabled people were deemed fit for work. Glasgow’s Daily Record reports that Joyce Drummond alleged candidates were considered more able to work if they arrived for their interview with brushed hair, had a toddler with them, or wore make-up.
Daily Record • Huffington Post • The Independent • Risks 575 • 29 September 2012
Britain: Government backtracks on cancer benefits
The government has caved in to pressure from cancer campaigners fighting a policy that has required cancer patients to seek work if they wanted to keep their benefits. The fit for work policy meant those getting oral forms of chemotherapy and radiotherapy could be placed in a “work-related activity group”, a category that required them to make efforts to return to work or lose their Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).
DWP news release • Macmillan news release • Morning Star • Risks 574 • 22 September 2012
Britain: Insurer drags its feet on sore skin payout
A factory worker who developed painful dermatitis after he was exposed to harmful materials at work has received compensation in spite of an insurer’s delaying tactics. Paul Eames, 47, was exposed to epoxy resin at Hepworth Building Products in Swandlicote, a part of Wavin UK Holdings.
Thompsons Solicitors news release • Burton Mail • Risks 573 • 15 September 2012
Britain: Nine out of 10 workplace health inspections to go
An estimated 90 per cent of the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) occupational health inspections will cease as a result of a planned change to the law, the union Prospect has warned. It says the proposals to amend RIDDOR - the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995 – will mean the safety watchdog will ditch all occupational health-related inspections unless they relate to a biological agent at the workplace.
Prospect news release and 40&40 case histories • Morning Star • Risks 573 • 15 September 2012
Britain: Sick to face big fines for breaching work plan
The government has drawn up plans to withdraw £71 a week from sick and disabled benefit claimants if they fail to take steps to get back into the workplace, according to the Guardian. The paper says a leaked draft of a Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) template letter warns sick and disabled claimants they will lose 70 per cent of their weekly employment support allowance (ESA) if they refuse to take part in work-related activities, more than doubling the current penalty.
The Guardian • Risks 572 • 8 September 2012
Britain: Too young to retire, too ill to work
Disability and poor health are preventing nearly half a million people approaching retirement from working, according to a TUC analysis of official labour market data. TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: “While more people are working past their state pension age, often as the only way to get a decent retirement income, a far greater number of older people are unable to work due to ill-health or because they are trapped in long-term unemployment.”
TUC news release and Touchstone blog • Risks 572 • 8 September 2012
Australia: Keeping quiet about work-related ill-health
Australian workers are keeping quiet about their doctor-diagnosed work-related health problems, and this is leading to a massive under-estimate of the extent of work-related ill-health in the country. Researchers at the Institute for Safety, Compensation and Recovery Research (ISCRR) found over 22 per cent of workers didn't make compensation claims even though their GP had determined that the illness was work-related, with the figure rising to 45 per cent for work-related psychological problems.
ISCRR news release • WA Today • Safety at Work blog • Risks 571 • 1 September 2012
Britain: Blacksmith gets union-enhanced asthma payout
A council blacksmith who developed asthma when he was exposed to dangerous fumes from metalworking fluids has been awarded a payout six times the original offer from his employer, thanks to help from his union. GMB member Simon Litherland, 47, was eventually awarded £104,000 in damages when the union-backed case went to court.
Thompsons Solicitors news release • Risks 571 • 1 September 2012
Britain: PCS backs fit-for-work protests
The union representing staff in benefits offices and job centres has backed a national protest against Atos, the private firm undertaking the controversial government fit-for-work tests. Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) organised the five days of action against Atos, which ran from 27-31 August.
PCS news release • DPAC news release • The Independent • Risks 571 • 1 September 2012
Global: More concerns over health effects of popcorn flavouring
Concern has been expressed that a chemical used as a substitute for a food flavouring that causes lung disease is comparably toxic. Researchers claim the ingredient 2,3-pentanedione, used to impart the flavour and aroma of butter in microwave popcorn, is a respiratory hazard that can also alter gene expression in the brains of rats. Many companies switched to using pentanedione when the butter flavouring, diacetyl, was found to cause the serious and non-reversible lung disease bronchiolitis obliterans, also called 'popcorn lung'.
UPI.com • Hazards diacetyl webpages • Risks 570 • 25 August 2012
Britain: Work cause missed on death certificates
Doctors are failing to give an accurate cause of death for one in four patients, according to the results of a pilot scheme that double-checks death certificates - and work-related deaths may be significantly under-estimated as a result. Alan Fletcher, who is leading the Sheffield medical examiner pilot scheme, told Hazards there “are definitely a significant number” of cases where “industrial causes” are overlooked.
The Guardian • Hazards magazine • Risks 569 • 18 August 2012
Britain: HSE wants to take diseases out of RIDDOR
A dramatic revision of the legal system for reporting workplace injuries, dangerous occurrences and diseases is being proposed by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). The HSE’s consultation document would mean an end to the current duty under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR) 1995 to report conditions including certain strain injuries, poisonings, vibration diseases, dermatitis and occupational cancers, dust diseases and asthma.
HSE news release and consultation document 243 [pdf] • Risks 568 • 11 August 2012
Global: Shiftwork linked to heart disease risk
Shiftworkers are at increased risk of heart attacks and strokes, according to a new study. The authors, whose findings are published online in the British Medical Journal, say their research is the largest analysis of shiftwork and vascular risk to date and “has implications for public policy and occupational medicine.”
Shift work and vascular events: systematic review and meta-analysis, BMJ 2012;345:e4800, published 26 July 2012 • Newsroom America • BBC News Online • The Observer • Risks 567 • 4 August 2012
Global: Work can be damaging in late pregnancy
Working after eight months of pregnancy could be bad for your baby, according to a new study. Women who worked after they were eight months pregnant had babies on average around 230g (0.5lb) lighter than those who stopped work between six and eight months according to the study, published in the July edition of the Journal of Labor Economics.
Emilia Del Bono, John Ermisch, and Marco Francesconi. Intrafamily resource allocations: A dynamic structural model of birth weight, Vol. 30, No. 3, pages 657-706, July 2012 • Medical Daily • CBC News • The Guardian • Scottish Daily Record • Marie Claire • Risks 567 • 4 August 2012
Britain: Hospital hand rub caused sore skin
A hospital worker developed painful dermatitis after being made to use a strong alcohol-based hand rub up to 40 times a shift. GMB member Georgina Thornton, 62, was eventually forced to leave her job as a lead healthcare assistant for Derriford Hospital in Plymouth because the skin on her hands became so sensitive to the alcohol rub she developed painful reoccurring sores.
Thompsons Solicitors news release • Plymouth Herald • Risks 567 • 4 August 2012
Britain: Sedentary lifestyles could mean a shorter lifespan
If you top off a day slumped in front of a computer with an evening on the couch, you could be lopping a year or more off your life, new research suggests. A US study concluded limiting the time we spend sitting to just three hours a day could add an extra two years to our life expectancy.
Peter T Katzmarzyk and I-Min Lee. Sedentary behaviour and life expectancy in the USA: a cause-deleted life table analysis, BMJ Open, volume 2, issue 4, 9 July 2012. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2012-000828. BBC News Online • Risks 564 • 14 July 2012
Europe: Firms could benefit from better sick leave rights
Workers who fall sick during their annual leave are entitled to take corresponding paid leave at a later date, the European Union’s top court has ruled. And the ruling could be good news for businesses too, with a forthcoming US study linking paid sick leave to a dramatic reduction in workplace injuries and related costs.
European Court of Justice news release [pdf] and full ruling • BBC News Online •
Abay Asfaw, Regina Pana-Cryan and Roger Rosa. Paid sick leave and nonfatal occupational injuries, American Journal of Public Health, 2012, e-view ahead of print.
doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2011.300482 • Risks 562 • 30 June 2012
Britain: Vibration failures cost worker his job
National Grid has been made to twice pay compensation to a worker who was forced to take medical retirement, aged just 48. Keith Rydings, now 49, developed painful carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) and hand arm vibration syndrome (HAVS) after working with vibrating tools for employer National Grid Gas, but six years later, new management made him use vibrating tools again.
Thompsons Solicitors news release • Risks 562 • 30 June 2012
Europe: Unions demand action on strains
Union bodies have called on the European Commission to “assume political responsibility” and produce “without delay” a draft European Union-wide law to protect workers from musculoskeletal injuries. The demand for action on workplace strains comes in a statement from the European Trade Union Confederation and four other Europe-wide trade union bodies.
ETUC news release and Joint ETUC-ETUI-EPSU-UNI-EFBWW statement [pdf] • Risks 561 • 23 June 2012
Britain: Safety lobby gives heart attack advice
Employers should do more to help workers with heart problems, the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) has said. Unions and campaigners have warned that 20 per cent of all heart disease deaths could be work-related, with occupational stress, unfair treatment, noise, shiftwork, long hours, infections, passive smoking, chemical and dust exposures all implicated.
IOSH news release and Occupational Health Toolkit • Risks 560 • 16 June 2012
Britain: What’s your experience of ‘well-being’ at work?
The TUC wants to hear of instances where unions have been involved in “well-being” initiatives at work, aiming to promote good health in the workforce. This differs from traditional health and safety approaches, which focus on the avoidance of injury and illness.
Email your examples to the TUC health and safety department • Risks 560 • 16 June 2012
Britain: Fit-for-work checks should be scrapped, say GPs
Family doctors have called for an end to the work capability assessment introduced by the government in a bid to get more people off benefits and back to work. The British Medical Association’s conference last week called for the fit-for-work checks to be scrapped because of the harm they do to vulnerable patients.
BMA news release • Risks 558 • 2 June 2012
Britain: HSE health expertise ‘destroyed by stealth’
The retirement in May 2012 of the chief medical adviser for the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has left its Employment Medical Advisory Service (EMAS) close to collapse, a top HSE trade union rep has warned. Simon Hester, a frontline HSE field inspector and chair of the union Prospect’s HSE branch, said 20 years ago it employed 60 occupational health doctors and 62 nurses but is now down to 2.2 doctors, only one of whom is full-time.
The Guardian • Risks 558 • 2 June 2012
Britain: Cut price coins could cause allergies
Fears are being raised that high nickel 5p and 10p coins being introduced into circulation could cause skin problems. Dermatologists have warned “consideration must be given to the potential costs to health from skin disease related to nickel exposure (allergic contact dermatitis and hand dermatitis); financial implications to the NHS for clinical management of affected people; and other taxpayer costs (inability to work because of hand dermatitis related to nickel allergy).”
Danielle T Greenblatt, David J Gawkrodger and Ian R White. Allergy risk from Royal Mint’s new nickel plated steel coins should be publicly assessed, British Medical Journal, volume 344:e2730, 2012, published online 19 April 2012. BBC News Online • Risks 553 • 28 April 2012
Britain: Mass lead poisoning at recycling firm
A London recycling company has been fined after large numbers of its employees were found to have “significantly high” levels of lead in their blood, with two exhibited symptoms of poisoning so serious they required drastic chelation therapy. Metal and Waste Recycling Ltd in Edmonton had bought and was stripping some lead-sheathed copper cabling from British Telecom (BT) after the network began to be changed from copper to fibre optic cable.
HSE news release and 9 November 2009 HSE statement on lead exposure • Hazards magazine ‘Dangerous lead’ report • HSE lead webpages • Risks 553 • 28 April 2012
USA: Shiftworkers face diabetes and obesity risk
Shiftworkers getting too little sleep at the wrong time of day may be increasing their risk of diabetes and obesity, according to a new study. The researchers are calling for more measures to reduce the impact of shiftworking.
OM Buxton and others. Adverse metabolic consequences in humans of prolonged sleep restriction combined with circadian disruption, Science Translational Medicine, volume 4, number 129, 11 April 2012 [abstract and related news release] • BBC News Online • The Huffington Post • Risks 551 • 14 April 2012
Britain: Signal box fumes caused disabling chronic fatigue
A railway worker who was exposed to chemical fumes at work went onto to develop Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). It is not known if the 44-year-old, from Liskeard in Cornwall, will ever recover from the debilitating condition which has already seen him lose his job as a signalman for Network Rail.
Thompsons Solicitors news release • Risks 551 • 14 April 2012
USA: Bad work is more costly than you think
A study that revealed the annual “economic burden” of occupational injury and illness in the US is at least $250 billion underestimates the true costs, government workplace health researchers have revealed. The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) experts, writing on the agency’s blog, note “the national investment in addressing occupational illness and injuries is far less than for many other diseases with lower economic burden even though occupational illnesses and injuries are eminently preventable.”
NIOSH blog • JP Leigh. Economic burden of occupational injury and illness in the United States, Milbank Quarterly, volume 89, number 4, pages 728-772, December 2011 [pdf] • Hazards ‘We didn’t vote to die at work’ webpages • Risks 550 • 7 April 2012
Britain: Health screening firm left workers at risk
A health screening company has been fined after using unqualified staff to assess the health of workers from dozens of firms across the UK. Audio Medical Services Ltd (AMS) carried out tests for 59 companies over a period of at least four years - but failed to provide employers with information to prevent workers' health deteriorating and did not refer employees to occupational health professionals when required.
HSE news release and vibration webpages • Risks 550 • 7 April 2012
Britain: Mental health chief quits welfare panel
The head of a mental health charity has left a government panel implementing changes to the welfare system, describing the system as “deeply flawed.” Chief executive of Mind Paul Farmer said he quit the government’s review panel for the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) because ministers refused to listen to his criticism of the fitness-to-work test.
Mind blog • BBC News Online • Risks 550 • 7 April 2012
Asthma: Docs warned on high work asthma rates
Doctors are being advised to explore the potential job-related causes of asthma when diagnosing patients. The Royal College of Physicians (RCP) says an estimated one in six cases of asthma in people of working age is either caused or aggravated by work-related factors.
RCP news release and report, Concise guidance: diagnosis, management and prevention of occupational asthma • Risks 550 • 7 April 2012
Britain: Heart disease risk for asbestos workers
Workers exposed to asbestos as part of their job are at a significantly greater risk of heart disease and stroke than the general population, with women more likely to be affected than men, according to new research. The study was conducted by researchers at the Health and Safety Executive’s research arm, HSL, and was published online in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine.
Anne-Helen Harding and others. Cardiovascular disease mortality among British asbestos workers (1971–2005), Occupational and Environmental Medicine, published online 2 April 2012. doi:10.1136/oemed-2011-100313
Daily Mail • Scotsman • Nursing in Practice • Risks 550 • 7 April 2012
Britain: Dust and heart disease link not new
Hazards magazine warned last year that cardiovascular disease is a common but frequently overlooked consequence of exposure to dust at work. The magazine mentioned this effect specifically once again in a graphic on effects of dust.
Hazards magazine ‘Dust up’ campaign and How does dust hurt you? graphic • 7 April 2012
Britain: The shocking reality of sickness absence
Nearly half of public sector workers in Scotland believe sickness absence policies encourage staff to turn up ill or injured at work, a UNISON Scotland survey has found. A quarter of workers (25 per cent) said they had worked in the previous month when too ill to do so, while almost two thirds (60 per cent) said they had worked when ill during the past year.
UNISON Scotland • Risks 550 • 7 April 2012
The Netherlands: We won’t make it to retirement age
A survey by the Dutch health care union Abvakabo FNV found six out of ten workers in the health care sector are afraid they won’t be able to work until retirement age as are result of the increasing pressure of their jobs.
Radio Netherlands Worldwide • 7 April 2012
Britain: Benefit tests are not fit for the job
Government figures showing over a third of incapacity benefit claimants are fit to work are ‘hardly surprising’, the TUC has said, charging that the government tests have been designed specifically to get people off the benefit. There was a 56 per cent rise during 2010/11 in the number of people appealing rulings that they are fit for work and the tribunals system has become overloaded.
DWP news release. TUC news release. The Guardian on concerns about the fit for work system and the rise in appeals • Risks 548 • 24 March 2012
Britain: TUC warning on work diseases ‘timebomb’
Occupational diseases kill at least 100 times the number killed in workplace ‘accidents’, the TUC has said. The union body warns government claims that Britain’s workplaces are among the safest in the world fail to take account of this chronic disease toll, adding there is a systematic failure to address the real problem as a result.
Defend health and safety: Day of Action, 28 April 2012, bulletin 4, TUC and TUC Workers’ Memorial Day webpages • Risks 547 • 17 March 2012
USA: Diesel exhaust a serious cancer risk in miners
Miners exposed to high levels of diesel exhaust face a dramatically increased lung cancer risk, a long delayed official US study has found. “This landmark study has informed on the lung cancer risks for underground mine workers, but the findings suggest that the risks may extend to other workers exposed to diesel exhaust in the United States and abroad, and to people living in urban areas where diesel exhaust levels are elevated,” said Joseph F Fraumeni Jr, director of the National Cancer Institute’s Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics.
NCI news release and Q&A on the diesel exhaust and miners study • iWatch News • The Pump Handle • Hazards magazine.
Silverman DT, Samaniac CM, Lubin JH and others. The diesel exhaust in miners study: a nested case-control study of lung cancer and diesel exhaust, Journal of the National Cancer Institute, 2 March 2012. doi:10.1093/jnci/djs034 [pdf].
Attfield MD, Schlieff PL, Lubin JH and others. The diesel exhaust in miners study: a cohort mortality study with emphasis on lung cancer. Journal of the National Cancer Institute, 2 March 2012. doi:10.1093/jnci/djs035 [pdf].
Rushton L. The problem with diesel, Journal of the National Cancer Institute, 2 March 2012. doi: 10.1093/jnci/djs137 [pdf]
Risks 546 • 10 March 2012
Central America: Work link in killer kidney disease outbreak
An outbreak of kidney disease that has killed thousands of workers in Central America has been linked by experts to workplace hazards. Chronic dehydration and arduous work appears to a possible trigger for the chronic kidney disease, which is normally caused by diabetes and high blood pressure, maladies absent in most of the patients in Central America.
Seattle PI • Daily Mail • Risks 543 • 18 February 2012
Britain: Stonemason gets belated payout for diseased lung
A stonemason who developed a life-limiting occupational lung disease after he was exposed to silica dust at work has received compensation more than 13 years after he was diagnosed, and despite one set of solicitors turning his case down.
Thompsons Solicitors news release • Risks 542 • 11 February 2012
Britain: Prison workers face smoking dangers
While other workers benefit from lower cancer and heart disease risks resulting from the workplace smoking ban, workers in prisons do not, their union has said. POA has presented evidence to the Ministry of Justice showing prison staff are “exposed to considerable quantities of secondhand smoke during their work time.”
POA news release • Risks 542 • 11 February 2012
Britain: Work cancer kills two an hour round the clock
Cancers caused by the jobs we do kill one person in the UK every 30 minutes around the clock, a TUC report has revealed. ‘Occupational cancer – a workplace guide’ says the prevention of workplace cancer has a much lower profile in the workplace than preventing injuries, “despite the fact that only 220 to 250 workers die each year as a result of an immediate injury as opposed to the 15,000 to 18,000 that die from cancer.” Occupational cancer – a workplace guide, TUC, February 2012 [pdf].
Occupational cancer – the figures: briefing for activists, February 2012 • Risks 542 • 11 February 2012
Turkey: Denim sandblasting takes another life
The deadly legacy of Turkey’s denim sandblasting trade has accounted for another life. Press reports from the country say 28-year-old İdris Oral died after suffering from silicosis caused by his work at a denim sandblasting workshop.
Bianet • Clean Clothes Campaign appeal • Risks 541 • 4 February 2012
Britain: Workplace dust contributed to miner’s heart death
A former coal miner died as a result of an industrial disease, an inquest has ruled. Although Thomas Gill died on 24 September last year as a result of a heart condition, the inquest heard a lung condition, caused by more than 30 years of dusty work on the coalface, was a “major factor” in his death.
News and Star. TUC ‘Dust in the workplace’ report [pdf] • Hazards ‘Dust up!’ campaign and report • Risks 539 • 21 January 2012
Britain: Occupational health is a victim of the NHS cuts
The coalition government’s pledge to protect the NHS has been questioned after four out of five doctors said they had seen patient care suffer as a result of health service cuts during 2011 – and occupational health is one of the key casualties.
The Guardian • Risks 537 • 7 January 2012
Britain: Print fumes caused occupational asthma
A printer who developed asthma when he was exposed to dangerous fumes at work has received compensation. Unite member Jason MaCann, 35, was diagnosed with the condition after he was exposed to isocyanates used in laminating machines at FFP Packaging in Northampton.
Thompsons Solicitors news release • Risks 537 • 7 January 2012
Britain: Disability is a health and safety issue
Health and safety can play a “strong role” in ensuring fair treatment of workers with disabilities, according to the union UNISON. A new guide from the public sector union says seven million people of working age – almost 20 per cent of the working age population - have a limiting long term illness, impairment or disability.
UNISON health and safety guide to disability [pdf] • Usdaw ‘Talking about mental health’ briefing and poster • TUC disability and health and safety webpages • Risks 537 • 7 January 2012
Britain: Sickness review ups pressure on ill workers
A government commissioned report that recommends taking responsibility for signing off sick workers out of the hands of GPs and handing it to a new Independent Assessment Service (IAS) could lead to damaging pressure on sick workers, the TUC has said.
DWP news release • review webpage and full report, Health at work – an independent review of sickness absence, DWP, 21 November 2011 • TUC news release • Personnel Today • BBC News Online • Risks 533 • 26 November 2011
Britain: Sickness plans are not about healthy workers
Workplace health campaigners have said a report for the government aimed at reducing the cost to business of sickness absence should have instead looked at preventing workers becoming sick in the first place. The findings of the government-backed review conducted by Professor Carol Black and former British Chambers of Commerce head David Frost, which include a recommendation that people should be signed off for long-term sickness by an independent assessment service and not by GPs, have been welcomed by government.
Morning Star • The Independent and related letters • The Guardian • Risks 533 • 26 November 2011
Britain: Workers can’t afford to be sick
Workers cannot afford to be off sick and rush back to work because of financial fears, new research has found. Insurance giant Aviva found over half (52 per cent) of UK workers could survive financially for only three months on statutory sick pay.
Aviva news release • Risks 533 • 26 November 2011
Britain: Knee-kicker damaged carpet fitter’s knee
A carpet fitter who has had to give up his job after suffering an occupational knee injury has received compensation. He required surgery for pre-patellar tendonitis in his right knee as a result of using a ‘knee-kicker’, a standard piece of equipment used to stretch and fit carpets.
Simpson Millar Solicitors news release • Risks 529 • 29 October 2011
Britain: Firm failed to protect workers from asthma risk
A South Tyneside company has been prosecuted for putting workers' health at risk by exposing them to a potent cause of occupational asthma. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) launched an investigation at Variable Message Signs Limited after an inspector visited the company's premises in Hebburn and identified serious failings in the way the company was controlling the risk of employees developing occupational asthma during soldering work.
HSE news release • Risks 529 • 29 October 2011
Britain: TV stonemason is done for dust
A stonemasonry business has been fined for exposing workers to potentially deadly stone dust after a viewer spotted its dangerous practices on a BBC television programme. Atelier 109 Limited featured in March 2010 in the BBC2 series Mastercrafts, presented by Monty Don.
HSE news release • Peterborough Today • Risks 529 • 29 October 2011
Britain: Phurnacite workers start legal fight
Around 300 former workers at a smokeless fuel plant in south Wales have started a joint compensation claim for the ill-health they say was caused by their job. They claim making the fuel at the Phurnacite plant at Abercwmboi near Mountain Ash left them with cancer and respiratory disease.
Hugh James Solicitors news release • BBC News Online • Wales Online • OH-World blog • Risks 528 • 22 October 2011
Britain: Rail union calls for reinstatement of sick worker
The transport union RMT has called for the reinstatement of a tube driver who was sacked after being sent back to driving duties against medical advice. The dismissal happened after James Masango returned to work after a period of sick leave.
RMT press release • Risks 527 • 15 October 2011
China: Watchdog threatens to close dusty gold mines
China’s top work safety watchdog has threatened to close down dangerously dusty gold mines after discovering that 95 per cent of mines surveyed violated national safety standards. The State Administration of Work Safety (SAWS) has ordered state-owned gold mines to take concrete measures to improve safety and curb emissions by August 2012 or face closure.
China Labour Bulletin • Risks 525 • 1 October 2011
Britain: DWP jumps the gun in move to rob the dying
Thousands of terminally-ill people have begun receiving letters warning them their benefits could be cut in next year even though parliament has yet to approve the changes. Under Welfare Reform Bill proposals being scrutinised in the Lords, Contributory Employment Support Allowance (CESA) will be time-limited to 12 months from April 2012.
Disability Alliance news release • BBC News Online • Risks 524 • 24 September 2011
Sweden: Paid exercise time works for firms
Businesses are increasingly concerning themselves with the health and well-being of their staff, with a preponderance of lifestyle initiatives urging workers to exercise and eat healthily. But if firms really want to see the benefits of a fitter workforce, they should give them paid time at work to take the exercise, the experience in Sweden suggests. Local Sweden • Risks 523 • 17 September 2011
Britain: Unite says ‘no’ to workplace dust
The official limit for workplace dust must be lowered to protect workers from one of the work’s biggest killers, the union Unite has said. Bud Hudspith, Unite national health and safety adviser, commented: “The current dust standards are not good enough and there is strong scientific evidence to prove it.”
Unite news release and TUC dust guide [pdf] • Risks 522 • 10 September 2011
China: Firms must keep work health records
Authorities in China have told employers they must retain health records of all employees who are exposed to health hazards. The records, which should show the results of health checks at the beginning of, during, and at the completion of employee contracts, could be used by workers as evidence in occupational disease compensation claims.
China Daily • China Labour Bulletin • The Hard Road: Seeking justice for victims of pneumoconiosis in China, CLB report, 2010 • Risks 520 • 27 August 2011
USA: Bad jobs and brain disease in the slaughterhouse
Immigrant workers on poverty wages have been recruited for the dirtiest, most dangerous jobs in the industrial production of Spam – and some developed a deadly work-related brain disease as a result. ‘The Spam Factory's Dirty Secret,’ a feature in the US magazine Mother Jones, relates the recent troubled history of the Hormel Foods plant in Austin, Minnesota.
Mother Jones • In These Times • Risks 518 • 13 August 2011
Britain: Quarry job caused disabling lung disease
A former stone mason who contracted a debilitating occupational lung disease caused by breathing stone dust has received a payout from the Bradford quarry where he worked for a decade. The 61-year-old suffers severe breathing difficulties and struggles to walk or climb stairs after contracting silicosis, caused by inhaling silica dust made airborne when working the sandstone quarried by Fagley Quarries Ltd.
Irwin Mitchell Solicitors news release • Telegraph & Argus • Risks 518 • 13 August 2011
Britain: Government inciting ‘hatred’ of disabled
Over 50 charities have condemned the government for "contributing to hatred towards disabled people" by portraying them as work-shy scroungers. The Disability Benefits Consortium said the government is using “dangerously misleading” statistics to fuel claims that high numbers of benefits claimants are faking.
Disability Benefits Consortium statement • TUC Touchstone blog • Morning Star • Daily Mail • The Sun • Daily Express • Risks 517 • 6 August 2011
Britain: Diabetic stands up to AA ‘intimidation’
A diabetic AA patrolman was singled out for daily performance reviews and pushed to quit in an act of deliberate discrimination, an employment tribunal has ruled. Roadside recovery worker Paul Bailey won his case against the Automobile Association, after alleging that management subjected him to “direct disability discrimination, discrimination arising from disability, harassment and failure to make reasonable adjustments” in the course of his work.
GMB news release • Morning Star • Risks 517 • 6 August 2011
Cambodia: Union calls for probe into fainting episodes
The head of one of Cambodia’s biggest independent union’s has called for a government investigation into the fainting spells that have affected thousands of factory workers this year. Chea Mony, president of the Free Trade Union, sent letters to the ministries of Health, Environment and Labour, requesting they look into conditions at factories that are harming the health of workers.
VOA Khmer • Phnom Penh Post • Risks 516 • 30 July 2011
Global: Under fire Versace caves and bans sandblasting
Italian fashion giant Versace has become the latest brand to back a drive to end a deadly sandblasting process that gives denim a fashionable worn look. A succession of major global retailers had already banned the process, after a high profile campaign by workers’ rights groups.
Clean Clothes Campaign news release • Vogue Magazine • Financial Times • The Independent
Sign the Clean Clothes Campaign petition urging Dolce and Gabbana to stop sandblasting • Risks 516 • 30 July 2011
Britain: Flame cutter died of work-related lung disease
The widow of a Birmingham worker, who died aged 50 from occupational lung disease, has launched a search for former colleagues who may be able to help in their battle for justice. Flame cutter Timothy Alfred Dawes died on 16 July 2009 after suffering from the chronic lung disease bronchiolitis obliterans.
Irwin Mitchell Solicitors news release. If anyone has any information which may help with Mr Dawes’ case, they can contact Ronan Hynes on 0121 214 5483 • Risks 516 • 30 July 2011
Britain: Call to axe damaging telecoms equipment
Communications companies are being urged to withdraw dangerous equipment which is leaving engineers deafened or with hearing damage. It is thought thousands of engineers have been deafened after using British Telecom’s (BT) ‘green set’ and ‘yellow set’ oscillators, which are widely used in the sector.
Irwin Mitchell Solicitors news release • Risks 516 • 30 July 2011
India: New occupational lung disease identified
A new deadly occupational lung disease caused by inhaling plastic dust may have been discovered. Health experts in India have identified four workers at a single Corel Pharma Chem’s factory developed a serious respiratory disease within a year of starting work.
Indian Express • Risks 512 • 2 July 2011
Britain: Managing presenteeism pays off
Employers can save money and improve the health of their staff if they manage presenteeism alongside sickness absence, according to a discussion paper produced by Business in the Community (BITC) and Centre for Mental Health. ‘Managing Presenteeism’ examines how employers can deal with reduced productivity among people who come to work and are not fully engaged or perform at lower levels as a result of ill-health.
Centre for Mental Health news release, presenteeism resources page, and Managing Presenteeism discussion paper • Risks 512 • 2 July 2011
Britain: Ford forced to up rotting flesh payout
A Ford worker who was offered just £2,000 after developing occupational dermatitis which left his flesh ‘rotting’ has received £24,000 with the help of union lawyers. The 41-year-old Unite member, whose name has been withheld, developed the painful skin condition after he was exposed to a rubber lubricant used while building engines at the Ford plant in Dagenham.
Thompsons Solicitors news release • Risks 512 • 2 July 2011
Britain: Sick former sportsman was unfairly sacking
A former sportsman has been awarded compensation totalling nearly £195,000 under disability discrimination legislation after he was sacked from his job, which meant he was denied access to his company's private health insurance scheme. The tribunal awarded compensation of just under £195,000 to reflect his loss of health and medical insurance benefits, loss of pension entitlements and injury to feelings.
Bridge McFarland news release • Gainsborough Target • Risks 511 • 25 June 2011
Britain: MS ‘needlessly’ cuts careers short
Providing support for workers with multiple sclerosis (MS) would significantly reduce the annual welfare bill and prevent people from missing out on an average of 18 years of their working lives, according to a new report from The Work Foundation. ‘Ready to work: Meeting the employment and career aspirations of people with multiple sclerosis’ concludes that with greater employer awareness and more co-ordinated action, the majority of people with MS who are willing and able to work could be supported to do so.
The Work Foundation news release and report, Ready to work? Meeting the employment and career aspirations of people with Multiple Sclerosis [pdf] • MS Foundation news release • Risks 511 • 25 June 2011
Germany: Presenteeism costs twice as sickness leave
Presenteeism, where the working wounded labour on despite being ill, costs twice as much as sickness related absence from work, a German study has found. Researchers from the Felix Burda Foundation also estimated the annual cost to the German economy of worker sickness at 225 billion Euro – 9 per cent of the country’s GDP.
EU-OSHA news report • Risks 510 • 18 June 2011
Britain: Poor wood dust control caused cancer
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is to investigate the occupational risks facing those in the furniture and woodworking industries, more than 10 years after the last checks found the official standard was routinely ignored. The news coincides with a £375,000 compensation payment to the widow of a cabinet maker who died of nasal cancer in 2005.
The Guardian • HSE wood dust survey 2000 [pdf] • HSE news release on the Millbrook prosecution • Risks 510 • 18 June 2011
USA: Six figure payout for popcorn lung
A US factory worker has been awarded $814,500 (£496,000) by a court after his lawyers argued successfully he contracted potentially lethal ‘popcorn lung’ from breathing a chemical used to make food taste buttery. A jury had awarded Maryland-resident Brian Hallock $5.4 million (£3.3m) from Polarome International Inc, a New Jersey-based chemical manufacturer and distributor.
Baltimore Sun • More on diacetyl hazards and popcorn lung • Risks 515 • 11 June 2011
France: One in six asthma cases work-related
Occupational allergies account for 15 per cent of adult asthma cases, experts in France have concluded. A meeting of lung allergy specialists in Paris heard panellists report the longer work-related allergens are inhaled, the worse the asthma gets, often continuing after occupational exposure has ended.
HESA news report • Risks 507 • 28 May 2011
Finland: Unions track asbestos exposure risks
Unions in Finland are keeping track of workplace asbestos exposures, using a purpose designed “follow-up” card. The say the initiative, which was launched last month by the Breathing Association, the union confederations SAK and STTK, and the trade unions representing metal, electrical, paper and construction workers, will record information on individual worker’s exposures and on possible occupational diseases that could be related to those exposures.
Trade Union News from Finland • Risks 506 • 21 May 2011
Britain: Top docs back union dust plan
The Institute of Occupational Medicine has backed a union push for a dramatic reduction in the amount of dust allowed in workplace air. Unions have for over two years been pressing an intransigent Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to reduce the occupational exposure limit for general workplace dust to a quarter the current level and to run a campaign to raise awareness of dust dangers.
The IOM’s position on occupational exposure limits for dust, May 2011 [pdf] • Delivering for health: HSE action on occupational respiratory disease [pdf], paper to the HSE board meeting, December 2010 [minutes, pdf] • Risks 506 • 21 May 2011
Britain: Mental illness and strains top disability list
Mental health problems have overtaken musculoskeletal disorders such as back pain as the main reason people claim benefits because they are unable to work, a study has found. Researchers, writing in the journal Occupational Medicine, looked at new incapacity benefit awards for both kinds of conditions in Britain from 1997 to 2007.
SOM news release • BBC News Online • Risks 505 • 14 May 2011
Britain: Benefit tests find sick fit to work
People with serious illnesses are being found “fit to work” under new sickness benefits tests, disability charities have warned. The MS Society, Parkinson's UK, National Aids Trust, Arthritis Care, the Forward-ME group and Crohn's and Colitis UK are calling for changes to make the test “fairer” for people with illnesses where symptoms vary over time.
MS Society news release and related report [pdf] • BBC News Online and related story • Morning Star • Risks 505 • 14 May 2011
CBI finds sickness absence stays low
Sickness absence in 2010 remained close to the previous year’s record low, employers’ organisation CBI has found. The CBI/Pfizer Absence and Workplace Health Survey reports there were 190 million working days to sickness absence last year, with each employee taking an average of 6.5 days off sick.
CBI news release • Risks 505 • 14 May 2011
Britain: Most claimants denied sickness benefit
Threequarters of sickness benefit claimants are found fit to work or abandon their claims before completing their medical assessment, latest figures published by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) have revealed. However, initial assessments of people's fitness to return to the workplace have been overturned in almost four in 10 cases in which individuals appealed.
DWP news release • The Guardian • Risks 504 • 7 May 2011
Britain: Land Rover fined for vibration crimes
Vehicle manufacturer Land Rover has been prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) for failing to take into account the risks facing workers using vibrating hand tools. Ten workers at its Solihull plant are believed to have developed a vibration related occupational disease as a result.
HSE news release • Risks 504 • 7 May 2011
USA: Top earners get the sick leave
Workers at the top of the wage scale in the US are more than four times as likely to have paid sick days than workers toiling near the bottom wage scale, according to a new Economic Policy Institute (EPI) report. The Economic Snapshot found just 19 per cent of low wage workers have paid sick days in the US, compared with 86 per cent of high-wage workers.
AFL-CIO Now blog • Economic Policy Institute Economic Snapshot • Risks 502 • 16 April 2011
Britain: Duncan Smith should apologise for sick ‘spin’
Work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith should apologise for his ‘outrageous spin’ after it was revealed some jobcentre staff had been being forced to stop people’s benefits to meet targets, civil service union PCS has said. The union’s general secretary, Mark Serwotka, said: “When this story broke Mr Duncan Smith described it as ‘claptrap’ and a ‘conspiracy’, but faced with the overwhelming evidence that these targets are still in place, his department has been forced to backtrack.”
PCS news release • The Guardian • Risks 502 • 16 April 2011
Britain: Prospect gets mapping
The scientists, engineers and specialists union Prospect has produced a short, very handy guide to health and safety mapping in the workplace. The union’s ‘factguard’ includes how-to pointers, good graphics and case histories of bodymapping and workplace mapping in practice.
Body and workplace mapping factcard • Hazards mapping webpages • Risks 500 • 2 April 2010
Britain: Sick must get up and train, says Grayling
Workers who were on incapacity benefits prior to controversial new health assessments are being told they must attend training course or lose their payments, the government has said. The new rules, which also apply to job seekers, were announced by employment minister Chris Grayling.
DWP news release and skills conditionality consultation • Risks 500 • 2 April 2010
Britain: Severe injury payout funds essential rehab
A £340,000 compensation payout to a roofer severely injured in a workplace fall will fund an intensive rehabilitation and physiotherapy programme. Timothy Kirk, 42, fell 45 feet through a skylight while at work. He was knocked unconscious and left in a coma for 11 days after the incident in October 2000, suffering a fractured pelvis, fractured femur and numerous head and facial injuries and having to undergo a tracheotomy to aid his breathing, as well as three operations on his stomach to reduce internal injuries.
Irwin Mitchell news release • Risks 500 • 2 April 2010
South Africa: Top court backs mine dust victims
South African miners have won a landmark dust disease case in the nation’s highest court. The legal precedent is expected to allow thousands of miners stricken with life-threatening respiratory and other diseases to sue companies under common law in South Africa, even if they have already received a payout from a state-run scheme.
ICEM news report • Risks 498 • 19 March 2011
Britain: No job is better for you than a bad job
As the government presses ahead with plans to force the sick back to work and job seekers into ‘Mandatory Work Activity placements’, new research has blown a hole in its “work is good for you” mantra. A study published this week warns while good quality jobs deliver health benefits, bad jobs can leave you in a worse state of health than remaining unemployed.
DWP news release. P Butterworth, LS Leach, L Strazdins, SC Olesen, B Rodgers and DH Broom. The psychosocial quality of work determines whether employment has benefits for mental health: results from a longitudinal national household panel survey, Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Online First, 14 March 2011, doi10.1136/oem.2010.059030 [abstract] • Risks 498 • 19 March 2011
Britain: 'Raw deal' for sick British staff
British workers are among the worst protected in terms of benefits if they are off work sick, according to a new report. A study of 12 countries by Demos put Britain in eighth place in the level of protection in case of ill-health, below countries including France, Germany, the United States and Canada.
Of mutual benefit, Demo, March 2011 [pdf] • ITN News • Yahoo News • Risks 498 • 19 March 2011
Britain: Tool maker disabled by work asthma
A Hereford tool maker whose occupational asthma forced him to quit the job he loved has won a court battle for justice. Philip Gundy, 59, contracted occupational asthma as a result of the chemicals he was exposed to at work, operating grinding machines using metalworking fluids as coolants, and he was left with no choice but to give up his job.
Irwin Mitchell Solicitors news release • Risks 497 • 12 March 2011
Britain: New disability test 'is a complete mess'
One of the architects of the government’s new sickness benefit system has warned it would be a mistake to start introducing the “badly malfunctioning” system nationwide from the end of this month because of serious ongoing problems with the medical test designed to assess whether claimants are genuinely sick or disabled.
The Guardian • Risks 496 • 5 March 2011
Britain: Port worker wins disability adjustments case
An RMT member from Morecambe whose damaged back was aggravated after his employer refused to make adjustments to his work environment has won his case for disability discrimination. Manchester Employment Tribunal found Andrew Russell, 38, was discriminated against when his employer Heysham Port Ltd refused to allocate new equipment to him.
Thompsons Solicitors news release • Risks 494 • 19 February 2011
Britain: Government must create jobs, not blame
The government’s continued use of a flawed fitness for work disability assessment system is expending resources on victimising the sick when it should be concentrating its efforts on creating more jobs, the TUC has said. The union body was commenting on findings from the government's incapacity benefit reassessment programme published by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).
DWP news releases on the initial reassessments and the fitness for work assessment changes • TUC news release • Risks 494 • 19 February 2011
Britain: Concern as headsets deafen workers
Over 1,500 workers who believe their hearing has been damaged by the use of high pitched noise fed through workplace headsets are taking action against their employers. CWU is assisting over 1,500 members with claims arising from the use of these oscillators or amplifiers in their work, many of whom are suffering with tinnitus.
Irwin Mitchell Solicitors news release • Tinnitus Awareness Week, 4-11 February 2011 • Risks 493 • 12 February 2011
Britain: Government ignores fitness test promises
A government claim that the “vast majority” of Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) claimants should not be receiving the benefit, contradicts the evidence and its own admissions just two months ago, the TUC has charged. The government said its figures, based on an assessment system that was found to be seriously flawed two months ago by the government-commissioned Harrington review, showed 39 per cent of claimants were “fit for work” and a further 39 per cent did not complete their claims.
DWP news release and ESA Work Capability Assessments statistics • Risks 491 • 29 January 2011
Global: Call to drop worn jeans
Unions this week told major garment companies and retailers they should stop selling sandblasted jeans. The process, which is used to give denim a fashionable worn and faded look, causes an often fatal lung disease in exposed garment workers.
ITGLWF news release • Risks 490 • 22 January 2011
Britain: Injured workers want rehabilitation
Injured workers value rehabilitation and say it allows them to get on with their lives and their jobs quicker, a survey had found. Personal injury law firm Thompsons questioned clients who had received rehabilitation in the last year, and found all respondents who had received rehabilitation while off sick said that the treatment had helped them return to work earlier than they would otherwise have done.
Thompsons Solicitors news release • Risks 489 • 15 January 2011
Britain: Drug workers get a dose of dermatitis
A Swindon pharmaceutical company has been fined after a number of its employees were exposed to a potent sensitiser and developed allergic contact dermatitis. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuted Catalent UK Swindon Zydis Limited, trading as Catalent Pharma Solutions, after at least ten employees developed the skin condition when working with Olanzapine.
HSE news release • Risks 489 • 15 January 2011
Britain: Payouts agreed for autoworker lung disease
A group of 79 ex-MG Rover workers have received compensation after what experts believe was the largest outbreak of occupational lung disease in the world. Metalworking fluids used by Powertrain Ltd, the engine building division of MG Rover, caused asthma and extrinsic allergic alveolitis (EAA) in exposed workers. breathing problems for the Unite members at the Longbridge plant in Birmingham.
Thompsons Solicitors news release • Birmingham Post • BBC News Online •
Hazards magazine on HSE’s failure to prosecute • Risks 488 • 8 January 2011
Britain: Bed firm ignored the doctor’s orders
A failure to act on the advice of a doctor has cost a major bed company £9,500 in damages to a former employee. The settlement was offered by Sealy Sleep Products (UK) Ltd to Norman Kirkbride, 41, whose GP had written to the company suggesting that Mr Kirkbride’s back condition would worsen if he continued lifting heavy objects.
Thompsons Solicitors news release • Risks 488 • 8 January 2011
Britain: HSE cuts will hurt workers
Unions and MPs have warned drastic cutbacks to the Health and Safety Executive will lead to more work-related ill-health and injuries. A report last month from the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Occupational Safety and Health warned the cuts in HSE’s budget were a “false economy” and will lead to increased costs from sickness absence, compensation and benefit payments.
PCS news release • Shields Gazette • SHP Online • We didn't vote to die at work: Campaign briefings, posters and resources • Risks 488 • 8 January 2011
Britain: Firms ‘cheat’ workers out of sick pay
Public sector employers have been urged to ensure all those working for them have a right to sick pay after a union study found multinationals providing contracted out cleaning and catering staff were denying this ‘basic right’. Major firms the UNISON survey found had denied sick pay to staff employed on public sector contracts included Compass, Sodexo, Medirest and ISS.
UNISON news release • The Mirror • BBC News Online • Risks 488 • 8 January 2011
USA: Official action on popcorn lung risks
Employers should used stringent safety controls to prevent ‘popcorn lung’, new guidance from US government safety watchdog OSHA has warned. The OSHA move came days after similar but more wide-ranging recommendations, including exposure limits, were introduced unilaterally in California.
OSHA news release • OSHA Safety and Health Information Bulletin and Worker Alert • Cal/OSHA news release • HSE guidance • Risks 487 • 18 December 2010
Europe: A quarter of workers hurt by their jobs
Work is adversely affecting the health of 25 per cent of European workers, a new survey has found. The first results of the fifth European Working Conditions Survey, previewed last month by the Dublin-based European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (Eurofound), are based on responses from 43,816 workers in 34 European countries.
HESA news report and related blog article • Preliminary results of the fifth European Working Conditions Survey [pdf] • Risks 486 • 11 December 2010
Thailand: Weaving their way to victory
Thailand’s Supreme Court has upheld a lower court decision to award compensation to a group of 38 textile workers suffering from cotton lung. The ruling brought an end to a 15-year legal battle led by Somboon Sikhamdokkae on behalf of staff of Bangkok Weaving Factory.
Bangkok Post • The Nation on Sunday • Risks 485 • 4 December 2010
Global: Appeal for deadly jeans sandblasting to end
Unions, safety and labour rights campaigners are demanding that clothing giants stop selling sandblasted jeans, a process linked to deadly occupational lung diseases. At a press conference in Istanbul last week, the Solidarity Committee of Denim Sandblasting Labourers of Turkey and the Clean Clothes Campaign, supported by dozens of trade unions and labour rights organisations, also called on governments to consider a ban on sandblasted products.
Solidarity Committee of Denim Sandblasting Labourers of Turkey website and the Clean Clothes Campaign appeal • Risks 485 • 4 December 2010
Britain: Workers firing fear over being ill
Sick workers are increasingly reluctant to take time off for fear of being sacked or made redundant, a survey has found. The poll of union reps and safety reps carried out by the Labour Research Department (LRD) in October 2010 found recent changes in workplace sickness absence and sick pay procedures introduced by many employers had been “designed to make sickness procedures tighter and in some instances, potentially harsher in operation.”
LRD news release • Risks 485 • 4 December 2010
Britain: Medical rehabilitation services ‘patchy’
Government plans to see more sick or injured people backing in work could be undermined by a ‘patchy’ provision of medical rehabilitation services, a report from medical experts suggests. The report from the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) and the British Society of Rehabilitation Medicine (BSRM) is critical of current practices which are “often too focused on clearing beds at the expense of supporting a fully staffed acute rehabilitation service as part of the early continuum of care.”
RCP news release • Risks 485 • 4 December 2010
Britain: TUC welcomes work capability changes
A government commitment to remedy flaws in its work capability assessments (WCA) has been welcomed by the TUC. Problems identified by unions and disability rights advocates in the operation of the system, which has seen people with debilitating and chronic illnesses wrongly told they are fit for work, were confirmed by the government commissioned Harrington Review of WCA.
DWP news release • TUC news release • The Harrington Review and the government’s response • Risks 485 • 4 December 2010
Britain: Rolls Royce coolant caused rash
Rolls Royce has agreed to pay £5,500 compensation to an employee who developed painful dermatitis after he was exposed to a corrosive coolant at work. The 42-year-old Unite member, identified by his lawyers as Mr Pattison, was exposed to the coolant while working as a turner on aircraft turbines.
Thompsons Solicitors news release • Risks 485 • 4 December 2010
India: Fight goes on for silicosis victims
Jodhpur mine workers, supported by the Rajasthan State Mine Labour Union, have given a district magistrate 10 days to agree a claim for the compensation before they embark on a programme of action. In January the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) directed the state government to look into the issue and provide silicosis victims a suitable compensation.
Times of India • Risks 484 • 27 November 2010
Britain: Happiness index ridiculed by unions
Trade unions have rounded on government plans for a 'happiness' index. TUC general secretary Brendan Barber commented: “In reality this is little more than a gimmick,” adding: “Instead, under the current government, working people face growing job insecurity, rising prices, less protection in the workplace and far greater uncertainty.”
Unite release • Risks 484 • 27 November 2010
China: Dust diseases blight coal mines
Lung diseases caused by coal dust in China’s notoriously hazardous mines are killing far more miners than accidents. More than 6,000 coal miners die each year as a result of ‘black lung’, a lung scarring caused by dust inhalation, with almost 10 times this number diagnosed with the disease each year.
People’s Daily • Risks 483 • 20 November 2010
]USA: Who cares about black lung deaths?
Three coal miners in the US die daily - and needlessly - from black lung disease; over 1,000 coal miners perish every year. And a University of California in Santa Barbara found the industry is not picking up the tab, with the multibillion dollar cost of a government black lung compensation scheme not showing up on the utility bill, but paid for by consumers nonetheless.
Common Dreams • Charleston Gazette • Risks 483 • 20 November 2010
Global: Work chemicals linked to male breast cancer
Common workplace chemicals have been linked to an increased risk of male breast cancer. The research, published in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine, found male breast cancer incidence was particularly increased in motor vehicle mechanics, who were twice as likely to develop the disease.
Sara Villeneuve, Diane Cyr, Elsebeth Lynge and others. Occupation and occupational exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals in male breast cancer: a case–control study in Europe, Occupational and Environmental Medicine, volume 67, pages 837-844, 2010 [abstract] • Green jobs, safe jobs blog • Risks 483 • 20 November 2010
Britain: Unions welcome Sellafield body parts report
The government has apologised to the families of dead nuclear workers whose body parts were taken for testing without their knowledge. The Redfern Inquiry was ordered when it emerged in 2007 that organs were taken from 65 workers at Sellafield in Cumbria between 1962 and 1992.
The Redfern Inquiry • Prospect news release • GMB news release • BBC News Online • The Independent • Risks 483 • 20 November 2010
Britain: Fit notes are not working
The system of GP-issued “fit notes” introduced on 6 April is not working, a survey had found. The fourth annual ‘Health of the workplace’ report from Aviva, which surveyed GPs, employers and workers, found almost two-thirds (65 per cent) of the 200 GPs questioned felt “ill-equipped” to provide fit notes, up 1 per cent on last year’s survey figure, prior to the introduction of fit notes.
Aviva news release and fit note findings • Pulse• Preparing for the new fit note: guidance for union representatives, TUC, February 2010 [pdf] • TUC sickness absence webpages • Hazards ‘Fit for purpose’ guide • Risks 482 • 13 November 2010
Britain: Teacher gets record voice loss payout
An adult education teacher has received a six figure payout for occupational voice loss, after management tried to dismiss her concerns as ‘an occupational hazard for all teachers’. Joyce Walters, 50, said she was speaking out because she doesn’t want others to go through the same “devastating” experiences.
Voice lessons, Hazards special report, November 2010. Hazards voice loss webpages. Irwin Mitchell Solicitors news release • Risks 481 • 6 November 2010
Britain: Most found fit in benefits clampdown
Over threequarters of people applying for the new Employment and Support Allowance programme (ESA) are being found fit for work after undergoing the Work Capability Assessment, or stop their claim before they complete their medical assessment, according to new official statistics. However TUC warned last week that the government was forcing many disabled and sick people on to jobseekers' allowance (JSA) despite evidence they are unfit to work.
DWP news release and Employment and Support Allowance: Work Capability Assessments statistics • Risks 480 • 30 October 2010
Britain: Sick being forced to job hunt
The government is cutting costs by forcing many disabled and sick people on to jobseekers' allowance (JSA) despite evidence that they are unfit to work, the TUC has warned.
TUC news release. Morning Star • Risks 479 • 23 October 2010
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
Britain: Fit to work benefit checks rolled out
Incapacity benefit claimants in north-east Scotland and Burnley are to be the first to be reassessed systematically ahead of UK-wide welfare reform. Those deemed fit enough to work, using a points-based “work capability assessment” system, will be moved to the jobseeker's allowance.
DWP news release • TUC news release • BBC News Online • Morning Star • Risks 478 • 16 October 2010
USA: Sick leave off the menu for serving staff
Restaurant staff in the US are being forced to work when sick and are under so much pressure they regularly put their own health and that of customers at risk, a study has found. Almost two-thirds of restaurant employees have cooked or served food while sick, largely because 87.8 per cent of those workers have no paid sick days, according to ‘Serving while sick’.
Serving while sick, ROC United, September 2010 [pdf] • Restaurant Opportunities Center United • Working In These Times • Los Angeles Times • Risks 477 • 9 October 2010
USA: Noisy work doubles heart disease risk
A persistently noisy workplace more than doubles an employee’s risk of serious heart disease, a new study has found. Workers in persistently noisy workplaces were between two to three times as likely to have serious heart problems as their peers in quiet workplaces; workers under 50 were between three and four times as likely to have angina or coronary artery disease or to have had a heart attack.
Wen Qi Gan, Hugh W Davies and Paul A Demers. Exposure to occupational noise and cardiovascular disease in the United States: the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 1999-2004, Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Online First 5 October 2010; doi 10.1136/oem.055269 [abstract] • Risks 477 • 9 October 2010
Britain: Cancer sufferer gets unfair dismissal payout
A Welsh breast cancer patient has been awarded more than £100,000 compensation after she was unfairly dismissed when her performance dipped. Sally-Ann Burke, 54, was treated unfairly because of her disability from the illness which left her “tired and forgetful”, an Abergele Employment Tribunal found.
Daily Post • Risks 477 • 9 October 2010
Britain: Chancellor hits injury and disease victims
A ‘benefits cap’ announced by the Chancellor will target workers suffering work-related ill-health and injuries. The benefits limit will include consideration of Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit (IIDB) payment, a Treasury news release confirmed this week, despite the benefit being created as a non-means tested payment intended to compensate workers for industrial diseases and injuries.
TUC Touchstone blog and related posting • Treasury news release • BBC News Online • Risks 477 • 9 October 2010
Benefit assessments ‘too rushed’ say medics
Sick workers are falling foul of rushed medicals to determine eligibility for benefits, the union Prospect has warned. It says the medical personnel responsible for assessing benefit claimants’ capability to work, on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions, are not allocated sufficient time to assess complex cases such as those coping with multiple sclerosis or Parkinson’s disease.
Prospect news release • Risks 477 • 9 October 2010
India: Hunger striking silicosis widows fight on
A hunger strike by silicosis widows has forced a district official to make a compensation gesture of 100,000 rupees (£1,400) for each victim. The move came after the women, who are backed by a mining union and the Mine Labour Peoples' Campaign (MLPC), protested for three days last week.
Times of India and earlier story • Risks 476 • 2 October 2010
Global: Denim workers fear silica ban won’t work
This month’s decision by Levi Strauss and H&M to ban the use of a deadly process using silica to sandblast jeans, will not end the practice because many manufacturers will continue the practice in poorer nations. Professor Zeki Kılıçaslan, a chest physician at Istanbul University, said: “These denim workers, unaware of the risks, sandblast between 2,000 and 3,000 items of clothing a day over 12 hours,” noting that some workers were continually exposed to the danger as a result of sleeping in their workshops.
Hürriyet Daily News • Treehugger • Risks 475 • 25 September 2010
Australia: Migrant victims of cut-price industry
Myung Yeol Hwang, a tiler from South Korea, died on 27 August, the day after he walked into the Sydney office of the country's biggest construction union, destitute and in dire need of medical help. CFMEWU hurriedly arranged an Immigration Department meeting to try to get the sick man a bridging visa and some medical treatment the next morning, but the 51-year-old died before he could make it to those meetings.
Sydney Morning Herald • ABC News • Brisbane Times • Risks 475 • 25 September 2010
Britain: Hospital staff penalised for going sick
Staff at Manchester hospitals who take more than an agreed number of days off sick are to lose out on annual pay rises. In a move against which UNISON says it will make a legal challenge, Central Manchester University Hospitals Trust will refuse rises to workers who have taken more than 18 days off sick or had four separate sick absences.
UNISON news release • BBC news release • Risks 475 • 25 September 2010
Ferry boss flounders over 'fat' jibe
Unions have criticised ‘slanderous’ comments made by the boss of ferry giant Stena Line after he said British workers were “fat” and not fit for the job. Stena Line North Sea director Pim de Lange’s comments appeared in a Dutch newspaper, where he was quoted as saying it was hard to find seafarers in the UK “unless you want types with fat bellies and covered with tattoos’.
Nautilus news release • BBC News Online • Daily Mirror • Sky News • Risks 475 • 25 September 2010
Britain: Pensions move will hurt manual workers
Manual workers will suffer serious disadvantage as a result of an upward shift in the retirement age, UCATT has warned. The construction union was commenting after new figures from the Office for National Statistics revealed manual workers were more than twice as likely as professional workers to die before they reach 65 years of age.
UCATT news release • Office for National Statistics • Risks 472 • 4 September 2010
Britain: Asthma risk in motor repair
Car bodyshop workers are still at risk of occupational asthma from spray paints, according to a new Health and Safety Executive (HSE) report. A probe into the use of two-pack paints containing isocyanates in the trade identified there are still a number of areas of concern, with HSE estimates that vehicle spray painters are 80 times more likely to develop occupational asthma than the average worker in the UK.
HSE news release and vehicle repair asthma webpages • Determining current health and safety practices, awareness of HSE initiatives and economic trends in relation to isocyanate paint use in the motor vehicle repair sector, Research Report 802, HSE [pdf] • Risks 471 • 28 August 2010
USA: Record payout for popcorn lung
A jury in Chicago has awarded a $30.4 million payout to a Flavorchem Corp worker disabled by exposure to diacetyl, a chemical used in butter flavouring found in products from popcorn to cakes, sweets and butter substitutes. The verdict awarded to Gerardo Solis, 45, and against BASF Corp, a supplier of diacetyl and the world’s largest chemical company, is the highest to date in popcorn and butter-flavouring worker lawsuits in the US.
Joplin Globe • Business Insurance • Popcorn lung in the UK • Risks 470 • 21 August 2010
Britain: Security concerns at bio-terror move
The proposed relocation of a key government bio-terror research centre could increase security risks, a union has warned. A Unite survey of Health Protection Agency (HPA) staff at the Centre for Emergency Preparedness and Response (CEPR) at Porton Down found staff have “serious concerns” and believe a transfer could lessen security at the centre.
Unite news release • Risks 470 • 21 August 2010
Britain: Pre-employment medicals ruled out
The use of pre-employment medicals to weed out applicants on health grounds is to become illegal. Changes introduced under the Equality Act 2010 and that take effect from October 2010 mean prospective employers cannot ask health questions of applicants “until the applicant has been able to successfully pass an interview, or some other assessment, to show that they meet some of the non-health requirements of the job,” says a TUC briefing.
Equality Act 2010: A TUC briefing for affiliates [pdf] • Risks 470 • 21 August 2010
Britain: Benefits change forces most back to work
A controversial new system for assessing whether the sick and disabled are capable of working has seen more than threequarters of benefit claimants either told to get a job or abandoning their claim, Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) figures show.
DWP news release • The Independent • Risks 467 • 31 July 2010
Britain: Controversy over fitness to work tests
Iain Duncan Smith has denied reports that ministers are considering trebling ‘fitness to work’ tests on people claiming incapacity benefit. The work and pensions secretary said the government has at the moment “absolutely no intention” of changing the 10,000 a week rate begun under Labour.
The Guardian • BBC News Online • Personnel Today • Risks 463 • 3 June 2010
Britain: Enforcement bad on safety, terrible on health
Enforcement action by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has plummeted on almost all major indicators, the watchdog’s board has been told. The report to the HSE board suggests prosecutions on health issues are especially rare – an HSE guesstimate indicates they are outnumbered 7-to-1 by safety prosecutions - despite work-related diseases outnumbering officially reported workplace injuries by five to one.
Review of enforcement by FOD, paper to the HSE board, 30 June 2010 [pdf] • Risks 463 • 3 June 2010
Britain: Son of Workplace Health Connect flops
An attempt to tweak a failed official initiative to provide health and safety advice to smaller, non-union firms has also been an expensive flop. “The government should accept roving union safety reps are the answer to improved safety in smaller firms, rather than unworkable, unwanted advisory services,” commented Hazards magazine’s Jawad Qasrawi.
Healthy workplaces Milton Keynes pilot: Evaluation findings, HSE research report RR809, June 2010 [pdf] • Risks 463 • 3 June 2010
USA: Roofers face work-related early retirement
A combination of poor health and musculoskeletal disorders is forcing roofers into early retirement, a new study has found. The study of 979 roofers between the ages of 40 and 59 found that 10 per cent left the roofing trade within a year, and of those leaving, 60 per cent left their job due to chronic pain, work-related musculoskeletal disorders and poor health.
CPWR news release [pdf] • Risks 463 • 3 June 2010
Britain: Workers creaking under the strain
British workers are suffering physical pain as well as stress from working long hours, not taking lunch breaks and going to work when they are sick, research carried out for the physios’ union CSP has found. A survey commissioned by CSP found a quarter of people regularly work all day without taking a break, and more than half said they often go to work when they are stressed or physically unwell.
CSP news release • BBC News Online • Risks 461 • 19 June 2010
Britain: Wide social inequalities in work cancers
The occupational cancer burden in the UK has been consistently under-estimated and is concentrated almost entirely in certain social classes, a new study shows.
SOM meeting. Lesley Rushton and others. Occupational and cancer in Britain, British Journal of Cancer, volume 102, pages 1428–1437, 2010 [abstract]. Related HSE report: The burden of occupational cancer in Great Britain, research report 800, HSE, 2010 [pdf] • Risks 460 • 12 June 2010
Britain: Vibration disease costs stonemason his job
A stonemason has been forced to give up his specialist trade after his hands were left permanently damaged by using vibrating tools at work. The 46-year-old from Tadcaster, whose name has not been released, has received £56,000 in compensation after being left with the debilitating condition Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS), caused by using vibrating tools on a daily basis in his job as a stonemason for a Yorkshire company.
Thompsons Solicitors news release • Risks 459 • 5 June 2010
Britain: Warning on ‘heavy-handed’ welfare plans
More support and not more penalties is what are needed to get the workless into work, unions, safety professionals and poverty campaigners have told the government. TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: “Unions will support measures to help unemployed and disabled people into work but there is no excuse for such a heavy handed, punitive approach.”
DWP news release • Iain Duncan Smith’s speech • The State of the Nation: Poverty, worklessness and welfare dependency in the in the UK • TUC news release • PCS news release • IOSH news release • CPAG news release • Risks 459 • 5 June 2010
Britain: Not quite the right fit note
A new healthy work guide to assist GPs in fitness for work assessments skirts the issue of curing the unhealthy jobs that make many workers sick in the first place. The Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) is behind Healthy Working UK, a website it says will provide GPs and other healthcare professionals with information, training and decision aids concerning the relationship between work and health.
RCGP news release • RCGP Healthy Working UK website • Fit for purpose, Hazards, Number 110, 2010 • Risks 459 • 5 June 2010
Britain: RAF painter disabled by solvents
A services painter who was left with a devastating degenerative neurological condition after he was exposed to dangerous toxins while working in ‘Victorian conditions’ has won his 17-year battle for compensation. Shaun Wood, 52, was diagnosed with Multiple System Atrophy-P (MSAP), a Parkinson’s type condition which affects the nervous system, after exposure to a cocktail of solvents as a painter and finisher at RAF sites across the world.
Thompsons Solicitors news release • Risks 457 • 22 May 2010
USA: Blood lead levels tied to nerve disease
A study has strenghtened evidence linking long-term lead exposure to the risk of developing the fatal neurological condition amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig's disease. The study found a doubling of blood lead levels led to a near doubling of the chances of developing ALS.
F Fang and others. Association between blood lead and the risk of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, American Journal of Epidemiology, volume 171, Number 10, pages 1126-33, 2010 • Risks 457 • 22 May 2010
Britain: The sick are more likely to be in work
Workers are more likely to trail into work when sick than to take the day off, new research has shown. The study by The Work Foundation examined why employees attend work when unwell, with the think tank saying it also addresses a gap in UK data on sickness presence.
The Work Foundation News release • Why do employees come to work when ill? An investigation into sickness presence in the workplace, The Work Foundation, April 2010 • Risks 453 • 24 April 2010
Britain: Disability and health and safety
The Health and Safety Executive is urging employers, unions and union reps to make better use of its guidance on disability and health and safety. The guide, which is available online, “promotes good practice in disability equality at work and health and safety risk assessment.”
Health and safety for disabled people and their employers, HSE [pdf] • Risks 453 • 24 April 2010
Britain: Factory oils caused worker’s asthma
A factory worker has received £32,000 compensation after he developed asthma as a result of exposure to dangerous fumes for over three years. The 49-year-old Unite member from Bolton, who name has not been released, was diagnosed with occupational asthma after he was exposed to a mix of hydraulic oil and coolant mist at Edbro Plc in Lancashire.
Thompsons Solicitors news release • Risks 453 • 24 April 2010
USA: Judge rejects Ground Zero dust deal
A US judge says a proposed $657m (£437m) compensation deal for people who developed health problems after working at New York's Ground Zero following the 9/11 terror attacks is too small. Some 10,000 rescue workers and police officers are suing New York City, saying they suffered health problems working in the dust and debris.
NY Daily News • National Law Journal • BBC News Online • The Guardian • Risks 449 • 27 March 2010
Britain: Irritable bowel syndrome caused by bad shifts
Bad shift patterns can cause classic symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a study of nurses has found. Researchers from the University of Michigan Medical School
conclude that “practising gastroenterologists should be aware of this association and educate patients with IBS on the possible impact of their work schedule on their symptoms.”
University of Michigan news release. Borko Nojkov, Joel H Rubenstein, William D Chey, Willemijntje A Hoogerwerf. The impact of rotating shift work on the prevalence of Irritable Bowel Syndrome in nurses, American Journal of Gastroenterology, 2010; DOI: 10.1038/ajg.2010.48 [abstract] • Emaxhealth.com • Risks 449 • 27 March 2010
Britain: Sick and dying are told they are fit for work
The revised system for assessing whether or not the sick and disabled are capable of working is flawed and is wrongly finding seriously ill people fit for work, according to Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) research.
CAB news release and full report, Not working - CAB evidence on the ESA Work Capability Assessment • The Guardian • Personnel Today • Risks 449 • 27 March 2010
USA: Dust disease settlement for 9/11 workers
New York City officials have agreed to pay up to US$657.5m (£437m) to thousands of rescue and clean-up workers after 9/11. The settlement would compensate more than 10,000 plaintiffs who say they were made sick by dust at the Ground Zero site of the attacks.
Representative Marilyn B Maloney news release • NYC Mayor Bloomberg news release • New York Times • BBC News Online • NYCOSH news release and 9/11 advice webpages • Risks 448 • 20 March 2010
Britain: Changing the job is best for backs
Action to change the workplace is necessary to secure an early return to work for people with chronic low back pain. A study published online this week in the British Medical Journal concludes those receiving a programme of integrated care, directed at both the patient and the workplace, return to work on average four months earlier than those receiving usual care.
Ludeke C Lambeek and others. Randomised controlled trial of integrated care to reduce disability from chronic low back pain in working and private life, British Medical Journal, volume 340:c1035, published online 17 March 2010. doi:10.1136/bmj.c1035 [abstract] • Risks 448 • 20 March 2010
Britain: Business told to make it quieter
An initiative has been launched to encourage manufacturers to make quieter machinery and businesses to use it, in a bid to reduce noise-related ill health in the workplace. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) says its 'Buy Quiet' campaign is about getting everyone with an interest - manufacturers, suppliers, employers, unions, insurers and consultants - looking at what they can do to reduce the risk.
HSE news release and noise webpages • Risks 447 • 13 March 2010
Britain: TUC lays down ‘good work’ challenge
The TUC is challenging the government and employers to ensure that workplaces don’t just prevent staff from becoming ill, but actively promote good health and well-being through ‘good work’. ‘In sickness and in health?’, argues that around one-third of our waking hours are spent at work, and that our working lives help to define who we are, where and how well we live, and even how long we live.
TUC news release • In sickness or in health?, TUC, March 2010 [pdf] • TUC Touchstone pamphlets • Risks 446 • 6 March 2010
USA: The true cost of a valentine's gift
The US National Labor Committee launched a campaign for St Valentine's Day to protest about the death of over 2,000 India workers, including children who have contracted silicosis while grinding gemstones-heart shaped agate pendants and ornaments, earrings, bracelets for export to countries like the United States.
Youtube video • Risks 444 • 20 February 2010
Britain: TUC issues fit note guide to union reps
At the same time as the government launched its guidance for employers on the new 'fit note' arrangements, the TUC published advice to unions and workplace representatives on how to prepare for the changes. The guide says the key to ensuring that workers are not forced back to work early, or on reduced pay, is for them to have proper union representation and access to grievance procedures.
TUC guidance • Risks 444 • 20 February 2010
Britain: TUC issues warning on new fit notes
The TUC has warned employers against using the introduction of a new medical statement or 'fit note' to try to force workers back to work before they are ready. TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said “if employers see the changes as a green light to force workers back to work before they are well enough to return, in the long run, it will only lead to increased sickness absence and unnecessary conflict.”
TUC press notice • DWP guidance • Risks 444 • 20 February 2010
Britain: Stonemasons suffer long-term lung damage
A York-based company of stonemasons William Anelay Limited, of York, was fined £30,000 and ordered to pay £6,000 by York Crown Court after pleading guilty of breaches of the Health and Safety at Work Act. The court heard that two employees, who had been working for the company as stonemasons for many years, fell ill after being exposed to uncontrolled levels of respirable crystalline silica, which is caused primarily by dry stone carving without extraction ventilation or use of protective equipment.
Risks 443 • 13 February 2010
Britain: Company fined for poisoning its workers
A recycling company and its director have been fined a total of £145,000 for exposing workers to toxic mercury fumes at a site in Huddersfield. Electrical Waste Recycling Group Ltd recycles electrical equipment, including fluorescent light tubes containing mercury and TV sets and monitors containing lead at a plant in School Lane, Kirkheaton.
Green jobs, safe jobs blog • 13 February 2010
Britain: Doctors won’t decide on fitness to work
The new fit note will not give doctors the option to deem a patient “fit for work”, only whether they may be fit for some work, the government has indicated. The final decision will instead be a matter for the employee and the employer under the new system, due to come into force on 6 April.
Reforming the Medical Statement: Government response to the consultation on draft regulations: The Social Security (Medical Evidence) and the Statutory Sick Pay (Medical Evidence) (Amendment) Regulations 2010, DWP, January 2010 [pdf]. Personnel Today • Risks 442 • 6 February 2010
Britain: Campaigners point to true work toll
Union-backed workplace justice and safety groups have said the government’s formal recognition of Workers’ Memorial Day should be backed up with a new system of official statistics to recognise that tens of thousands, not hundreds, are killed by work every year. Families Against Corporate Killers (FACK) and the Hazards Campaign say the real toll demonstrates why there needs to be a renewed government emphasis on health and safety enforcement.
FACK news release • Hazards Campaign news release • Risks 442 • 6 February 2010
China: Work diseases emerge from the shadows
The Southern People Weekly magazine this month listed Zhang Haichao, a 28-year-old rural resident of Henan Province, as a mover and shaker in Chinese society. Zhang became famous after receiving an open-chest operation in July 2009. This attracted intense public attention not because the procedure treated an exotic disease, but because it put the fate of victims of occupational diseases in the spotlight.
Beijing Review • Risks 441 • 30 January 2010
India: Agate workers get silicosis, not compo
Thousands of agate polishers in Gujarat are getting a deadly occupational disease – but missing out on compensation because they work in their own homes. The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has asked the state government to speed up the compensation process for silicosis victims in what is typically a cottage industry.
Indian Express • Risks 441 • 30 January 2010
New Zealand: Unions welcome poisonings probe
The Maritime Union of New Zealand has welcomed new research on nerve disease and the toxic fumigant methyl bromide. Concerns were raised after port workers exposed to the gas developed Motor Neurone disease, with one port town having a rate of the disease 25 times the national average.
Maritime Union news release • TVNZ • Risks 441 • 30 January 2010
Britain: Lords seek pre-employment health check ban
The use of pre-employment health checks could be made illegal if a Lords amendment to the Equality Bill becomes law. This week, the House of Lords introduced the ground-breaking clause into the Equality Bill that would, for the first time, prevent employers asking candidates questions about their health that are unrelated to the job role.
House of Lords debate, Hansard, 19 January 2009 • Personnel Today • Risks 441 • 30 January 2010
Britain: Workers 'robbed of life and compensation'
Victims of industrial diseases are being denied their full payments, as benefits are clawed back, according to an article in the Independent. Campaigners have told the paper that victims of industrial diseases such as the asbestos cancer mesothelioma are being “robbed” of government compensation because of an “unjust and indefensible” loophole in the Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit (IIDB) scheme.
The Independent • Risks 439 • 16 January 2010
Britain: Is your OHS OK?
You might feel lucky to be covered by an occupational health service when you go to work, but is the system really up to scratch? Well, now you can check as the UK has introduced the first ever OHS performance standards.
FOM news release • Standards for Accreditation for Occupational Health Services [pdf] • Hazards guide to getting the most out of your occupational health services • Risks 439 • 16 January 2010
Egypt: TB-infected workers are abandoned
Workers in Egypt with tuberculosis (TB) are being left to fend for themselves, campaigners have warned. Mohamed al-Asmaie, head of Friends of the Environment, a local NGO campaigning on behalf of TB patients, said when many Egyptian workers become sick with TB, instead of receiving treatment in hospitals, they are laid off and have to fend for themselves.
IRIN News • Risks 438 • 9 January 2009
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: Waste and recycling is a sick industry
Workers in the UK waste and recycling industry have much higher sickness rates than other local authority workers, research by a Health and Safety Executive (HSE) agency has found. A report from The Health and Safety Laboratory (HSL) found the sector recorded more days off work than other departments within local government but also found record keeping was inconsistent and inadequate, so data “failed to accurately capture the reasons for absence”.
Review of sickness absence data in the waste and recycling industry, HSE research report 750 [pdf] • Green jobs, safe jobs blog • Risks 438 • 9 January 2009
China: Sick migrants demand surgical proof
Thirteen migrant workers from Yunnan in China have applied to have open-chest surgery to prove their lungs have been damaged by dust. The workers are following the lead of Zhang Haichao, who famously underwent open-chest surgery to prove he was suffering from pneumoconiosis, China Labour Bulletin reports.
China Labour Bulletin • Risks 437 • 19 December 2009
Britain: Small businesses get mental health advice
The government is providing a network of specialist coordinators and dedicated advice lines for small businesses as part of an overhaul of support for people with mental health problems. The new support includes mental health coordinators in every Jobcentre Plus district and nine occupational health advice line pilots.
DWP news release • NASUWT news release • Risks 436 • 12 December 2009
Britain: TUC guide to medical confidentiality
The TUC has published an online guide to confidentiality and medical reports. TUC says it “is important that employees know their rights to access to the information contained in any report” and provides guidance on good practice and on dealing effectively with any concerns raised.
TUC briefing document • Risk 435 • 5 December 2009
Britain: Prevention the cure for NHS staff
The government has accepted in full recommendations from an independent report into the health and well-being of NHS staff. It says implementing the measures called for by the Boorman report will help the NHS save up to £555 million a year and save up to 3.4 million working days – the equivalent to 14,900 extra staff.
DH news release • Risks 434 • 28 November 2009
Global: Unfair workplaces can kill you
Male workers are two to five times more likely to suffer a heart attack or die from heart disease if they suppress their frustration about unfairness at work, a Swedish study has found. The research found that those who expressed their frustration quickly were much healthier than those who suffered in silence.
Constanze Leineweber and others. Covert coping with unfair treatment at work and risk of incident myocardial infarction and cardiac death among men: Prospective cohort study, Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, Published online first 24 November 2009. doi:10.1136/jech.2009.088880 [abstract] • The Independent. BBC News Online • ABC News • Risks 434 • 28 November 2009
Britain: Employers keen but clueless on ‘good jobs’
Employers accept the benefits of ‘good jobs’ but don’t have much idea about how to create them, a new report from The Work Foundation suggests. Stephen Bevan, managing director of The Work Foundation, said: “Employers grasp the link between staff well-being and how it can affect productivity, “adding: “What is missing is how to deliver this.”
The Work Foundation news release • Personnel Today • Risks 434 • 28 November 2009
Britain: Tool use caused hand injuries
A retired power station worker has received a £15,000 payout after his hands were left permanently damaged by using vibrating tools at work. Unite member David Hopps, 65, from Doncaster was left with the debilitating condition Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS), also known as vibration white finger, after using vibrating tools in his job at Drax Power Station.
Thompsons Solicitors news release • Risks 434 • 28 November 2009
Britain: College lecturer deafened by work
A college lecturer has been left with permanent damage to his hearing after being exposed to excessive noise at work. UCU member Malcolm Hipkin, 65, received undisclosed damages after he was diagnosed with noise-induced deafness and tinnitus.
UCU news release • Thompsons Solicitors news release • Risks 433 • 21 November 2009
Factory worker gets asthma payout
A factory worker has received £20,000 compensation after she developed asthma within weeks of being exposed to dangerous fumes. The 42-year-old, whose name has not been released, was diagnosed with occupational asthma after she was exposed to soldering fumes at Turbo Power Systems Limited, Gateshead.
Thompsons Solicitors news release • Risks 432 • 14 November 2009
Britain: Machine noise caused deafness
A 52 year old engineering worker who is suffering two debilitating health conditions caused by noise exposures at work has received a “substantial” compensation award. Unite member Paul Harvey, 52, has to wear a hearing aid and suffers from tinnitus following exposure to excessive noise while working for Avon Vibration Management Systems in Chippenham.
Thompsons Solicitors news release • Risks 432 • 14 November 2009
Britain: Docs say fit notes plan is ‘unrealistic’
Government plans to introduce GP ‘fit notes’ instead of sick notes may be unrealistic, say researchers. A survey of 440 GPs in Nottinghamshire found few currently took any responsibility for managing the work issues of patients with back problems.
Carol Coole, Paul J Watson, and Avril Drummond. Work problems due to low back pain: what do GPs do? A questionnaire survey, Family Practice Advance Access, published on 26 October 2009, doi:10.1093/fampra/cmp074 [Abstract] • BBC News Online • Risks 431 • 7 November 2009
USA: Giant quilt pictures work’s pain
Hotel housekeepers undertook a seven-city tour in October with a gigantic “hope quilt” providing a craft-y depiction of injuries caused by their work. They say the Hope for Housekeepers tour is also a symbol of their determination to rally union and non-union hotel housekeepers against harsh working conditions and workplace injuries.
Labor Notes • UniteHere ‘Hope’ campaign • Risks 430 • 31 October 2009
Teachers use voice-saving headsets
Thousands of teachers are using pop star-style headsets in lessons to help protect their voices. The equipment, linked to speakers around the classroom, not only prevents hoarseness but is said to help pupils to hear better and learn more.
Daily Mail • Voice Care Network UK • Hazards voice loss webpages • Risks 430 • 31 October 2009
Britain: Made deaf by work in middle-age
A welder who was exposed to dangerous levels of noise is suffering occupational deafness aged just 46. GMB member John Walton, 46, worked for British Steel Corporation, now known as Corus, from 1978 to 1983, Darchem Projects Limited from 1985 to 1987 and Turbros Engineering from 1987 to 2007.
Thompsons Solicitors news release • Risks 430 • 31 October 2009
USA: Good jobs are good for you
Good jobs are good for workers and good for firms, a study has concluded. The New York-based Families and Work Institute found nearly 40 per cent of employees in a highly “effective’’ workplace - where people are trusted and supported - report being in excellent health, double the number of those who say they’re in the best health at less effective companies.
Families and Work Institute news release • Boston Globe • Risks 429 • 24 October 2009
Europe: Health and safety of cleaning workers
‘The occupational health and safety of cleaning workers’, a literature review from the Bilbao-based European Agency (EU-OSHA), “provides an overview of the most important issues related to occupational safety and health (OSH) for cleaning workers in terms of working conditions, risks and prevalence of exposures and health outcomes, and identifies information gaps and challenges.”
EU-OSHA publication notice • The occupational health and safety of cleaning workers, EU-OSHA, October 2009 • Risks 429 • 24 October 2009
Britain: Railway worker suffers vibration injury
A member of the rail union RMT has received £10,000 in compensation after his hands were permanently damaged by prolonged use of vibrating tools. The 50-year-old track worker from Sheffield, whose name has not been released, was left with the debilitating condition Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS) as a result of his work for Jarvis Rail and other companies since 1978.
Thompsons Solicitors news release • Risks 429 • 24 October 2009
Cambodia: Hundreds sickened in garment factory
More than 500 workers at a Phnom Penh garment factory collapsed on 12 October after they were exposed to a chemical spray. Chea Mony, president of the Free Trade Union of the Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia, said staff at the Willbes Cambodia Ltd factory in Dagkor province were overcome because the air was filled with “an unbearable chemical smell.”
Phnom Penh Post • Risks 428 • 17 October 2009
USA: Dangerous speed up in meatpacking
Four years after a government report found slaughterhouse workers in the US faced more than double the injury rate of manufacturing as a whole, a new survey suggests conditions have deteriorated still further. Almost threequarters (73 per cent) of the Nebraska meatpacking workers surveyed stated that the speed of the line had increased in the past year and more than six out of 10 (62 per cent) said they had been injured in the past year.
Working In These Times • ‘The Speed Kills You’: The voice of Nebraska’s meatpacking workers’, Nebraska Appleseed, October 2009 [pdf] • Risks 428 • 17 October 2009
Britain: Firm exposed workers to asthma risk
A Gateshead company has been fined after exposing its workers to hazardous soldering fumes. Turbo Power Systems Ltd was fined £3,000 last week at Gateshead Magistrates’ Court and ordered to pay £3,000 costs after it pleaded guilty to three breaches of health and safety legislation.
HSE news release • Risks 428 • 17 October 2009
Britain: GPs don’t want ‘fit notes’ role
Less than 10 per cent of London GPs feel confident that they could operate the new style ‘fit notes’ system the government proposes to introduce in the spring of 2010. Londonwide LMCs, the organisation representing over 6,000 family doctors in the capital, says a “staggering” 96 per cent of GPs have received no training regarding the new ‘fit note’ system and nearly threequarters do not think that the new system will be manageable in terms of both time and resources.
Londonwide LMCs news release • Evening Standard • Risks 428 • 17 October 2009
USA: Biotech health risks cause concern
The mother of a worker who believes his health was ruined as a result of working in California’s cutting edge biotech industry has expressed her anger at the refusal by the firm’s health insurers to pay his medical bills. Sandi Trend's son, David Bell, was sickened at the Davis based company AgraQuest.
Blip TV - labor Video Project • Biotechnology Awareness webpages on David Bell • PEN news item • Risks 427 • 10 October 2009
Finland: You are making my brain hurt
Companies are showing a baffling disregard for the impact of work on their employees’ minds, a top brain researcher has said. Professor Kiti Müller, the director of the Brain and Work Research Centre at the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, said the problem is compounded by the absence of any way to measure objectively and reliably the overall “brain load” level.
Trade Union News from Finland • The Brain and Work Research Centre and How much load can the brain take? presentation [pdf] • Risks 427 • 10 October 2009
Britain: Arthritis should not stop work
Employer support is a key factor in helping workers with arthritis to keep their jobs, new research has found. A survey by UK charity Arthritis Care found where bosses fail to offer supports like flexible working and an accessible environment, employees with arthritis are more likely to end up leaving their jobs.
Arthritis Care news release and employer pledge • Risks 427 • 10 October 2009
Britain: Presenteeism harms employee health
UK workers are so terrified of losing their jobs in this recession they are working while sick, a new study has found. According to those surveyed as part of Simplyhealth's Bothered Britain Report, 43 per cent of people living in Britain haven't taken any days off in the last 12 months, up from 36 per cent in 2008.
Simplyhealth news release and Bothered Britain report • Personnel Today • Risks 426 • 4 October 2009
Britain: Take notice of dermatitis risks or pay
An NHS Trust has been fined for ignoring official notices calling requiring it to sort out dermatitis risks in a hospital. The Princess Alexandra Hospital NHS Trust was fined £6,500 and ordered to pay £4,500 in court costs after pleading guilty to two health and safety charges at Harlow Magistrates’ Court for failing to remedy risks posed by latex exposure and for not reporting a case of latex dermatitis.
HSE news release • Harlow Herald • Risks 426 • 4 October 2009
Europe: More than 1 in 11 are damaged by work
More than 1 in every 11 workers in the European Union has suffered a work-related health problem in the last year, according to official research. The extent of the problem was revealed after the 2007 European Union (EU) Labour Force Survey included a module on work accidents and work-related health problems.
HESA news report • Eurostat Statistics in focus, 63/2009 [pdf] • Risks 423 • 12 September 2009
Global: Deadly lung disease in denim factories
Migrant workers formerly employed in Turkey’s textile and garment industry may have contracted silicosis from sandblasting denim in factories that lacked basic protective measures. The warning comes from ITGLWF, the global union for the textile and clothing industry.
ITGLWF news release • Risks 423 • 12 September 2009
India: Tea workers dying for safe water
On 4 September, Sukesh Munda of Joy Birpara Tea Estate died from a gut infection. This brought the number of deaths from the enteric disease, related to the provision of unsafe drinking water at work, to four in a one-week period, with hundreds now affected.
IUF news release and YouTube video report • Risks 423 • 12 September 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
Malawi: Tobacco plantations poison child workers
Almost 100,000 children who toil on Malawian tobacco estates for up to 12 hours a day are exposed to “extremely high levels of nicotine poisoning,” according to a report released by a children's rights group. London-based Plan International's ‘Hard work, little pay and long hours’ study found that labourers as young as five suffer severe symptoms from absorbing “up to 54 milligrams a day of dissolved nicotine through their skin,” the equivalent of 50 cigarettes a day.
Plan International news release • Hard work, little pay and long hours’ report [pdf] • Morning Star • The Guardian • Risks 421 • 29 August 2009
Britain: Farmer dies after being stung by wasps
A farmer died last week after being repeatedly stung by a swarm of wasps while working on his farm. Mark Evison, 47, had been clearing a dyke on farmland in Ellerker, near South Cave, East Yorkshire, when he disturbed a wasps' nest.
The Independent • BBC News Online • Risks 421 • 29 August 2009
Global: Deaths raise concerns over nano safety
Seven cases of occupational disease, two of them fatal, have been linked to nanomaterial exposures at work. A study published last week in the European Respiratory Journal reports the seven women employees at a Chinese factory suffered shortness of breath, fluid in the lungs and around the heart, non-specific inflammation of lung tissue, and fibrosis in the lungs.
Y Song, X Li, X Du. Exposure to nanoparticles is related to pleural effusion, pulmonary fibrosis and granuloma, European Respiratory Journal, published online 20 August 2009 [abstract] • IOM news release • 2020 Science blog • SAFENANO commentary • The Pump Handle • Jennifer Sass’ NRDC blog • Nature • Risks 421 • 29 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: 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
USA: Most nuke worker disease claims refused
A US federal programme created to help sick nuclear weapons workers is improperly rejecting thousands of claims, a former top medic on the scheme has said.
Eugene Schwartz, who recently resigned, said many of the complaints that workers, advocates and lawmakers have levelled at the controversial programme are valid.
ProPublica • Risks 419 • 15 August 2009
Germany: Rail firm snooped on health records
The German rail operator Deutsche Bahn has admitted it secretly and illegally monitored the health records of some of its employees. Last week the company released a statement saying: “The Deutsche Bahn management has received indications that the group's security division collected employees’ illness-related information and circulated it within the group.”
Deutsche Welle • Risks 419 • 15 August 2009
Britain: Employers express fit note concerns
The majority of employers say well-being at remains a priority, according to new snapshot research, but they have outstanding concerns about the new fit note. Research undertaken with 50 employers found over half of those surveyed said that well-being was more important to them in the current financial climate, but that there was too little information on next year’s replacement for the sick note.
IES news release. C Tyers and R Martin. Is well-being still important at work? Employers’ views on recession, the new fit note and priorities for the year ahead, Opinion Paper OP17, Institute for Employment Studies, August 2009 • Risks 419 • 15 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
China: Dust disease victims demand justice
In early July 2009, Zhang Haichao underwent voluntarily an operation to open up his chest in order to prove he was suffering from the fatal lung disease pneumoconiosis. And at the end of July, more than 100 workers from Daozi in Hunan, China, all suffering from pneumoconiosis, staged a mass sit-in outside the Shenzhen municipal government demanding occupational illness compensation after years of dust exposures in construction and related jobs.
China Labour Bulletin • Risks 418 • 8 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
Britain: Break cut led to deadly blood clot
A government worker who developed a life-threatening blood clot after sitting at her desk for hours without a break has received more than £10,000 in compensation. PCS member Angela Lamberton, 53, nearly died after the work schedule at her office was restructured to reduce the time employees spent away from their desks.
Thompsons Solicitors news release • Leicester Mercury • Telegraph • Risks 416 • 25 July 2009
Britain: Firm fined for deadly disease outbreak
A meat processing firm has been fined £25,000 for an outbreak of a potentially deadly disease which left two workers in hospital. Two Polish employees contracted Legionnaires' disease while working at Kepak UK Ltd’s plant near Preston, in September 2006.
HSE news release • Lancashire Evening Post • Fleetwood Today • Risks 417 • 1 August 2009
Canada: Involve workers in return-to-work
Workers off sick with low back pain who are involved in identifying potential barriers to their return to work get back on the job quicker. Researchers in Canada found this was particularly true for older workers and those who have previously been off sick.
IWH news release and return to work programme • Ivan Steenstra and others. What works best for whom?: An exploratory, subgroup analysis in a randomized, controlled trial on the effectiveness of a workplace intervention in low back pain patients on return to work, Spine, volume 34, issue 12, pages 1243-1249, 2009 [abstract] • Risks 415 • 18 July 2009
Britain: Union warning on transport swine flu risk
Transport union RMT has warned of severe pressure on staffing levels and serious safety risks across the transport system if the number of cases of swine flu increases dramatically. The union alert came as experts advised that up to 40 per cent of the population could become ill with the condition over the coming weeks.
RMT news release • Personnel Today • The Observer • TUC pandemic flu guidance • Risks 415 • 18 July 2009
Britain: Body lead load linked to dementia
Older adults with higher amounts of lead in their bones exhibit greater memory impairment than adults with low lead levels, researchers have found. In a study of men and women aged 55 to 67 years, higher lead levels were associated with poorer performance on tasks used to assess memory deficits.
Environmental Health News • E van Wijngaarden, JR Campbell and DA Cory-Slechta. Bone lead levels are associated with measures of memory impairment in older adults. Neurotoxicology, published online 2009. doi:10.1016/j.neuro.2009.05.007 • Risks 412 • 4 July 2009
Britain: Lords widen work disability definition
More employees with disabilities will now receive protection from discrimination following a landmark ruling by the House of Lords involving a woman with a work-related health problem. The Lords found that people with a physical or mental condition which varied in its severity over time should still be termed disabled under the Disability Discrimination Act if it was likely their condition would become substantial again in the future.
EHRC news release, including background on the ruling • Personnel Today • HR magazine • Risks 412 • 4 July 2009
Britain: Work stops you exercising
The health of two out of three adults could be at risk as a result of too little exercise, with many claiming they are too busy at work to stay fit, according to a union report. A study by the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP) found the most common reason for not taking regular exercise was work commitments.
CSP survey report and Move for health webpage • Daily Express • Western Mail • Nursing in Practice • Hazards magazine’s new work and health pages • Risks 412 • 4 July 2009
Korea: Most teachers suffer from occupational illnesses
Two-thirds of Korean teachers have had or are currently suffering an occupational disease, a union survey has found. The Korean Federation of Teachers' Associations (KFTA) found 67.2 per cent of teachers said they have or have experienced occupational diseases, with the most common symptom was vocal nodules, experienced by over one-in-three teachers (34.4 per cent), and linked to occupational voice loss.
Education International news report • Risks 412 • 27 June 2009
France: Work pesticide use causes Parkinson's
A new study confirms the link between on-the-job pesticide exposure and Parkinson's disease, and suggests that certain insecticides may be particularly risky. In the study, published online in the Annals of Neurology, French researchers found that among nearly 800 adults with and without Parkinson's, agricultural workers exposed to pesticides - including insecticides, weed killers and fungicides - were at greater risk of the disease, with the risk climbing in tandem with the amount of time a worker was exposed.
Alexis Elbaz and others. Professional exposure to pesticides and Parkinson's disease, Annal of Neurology, published online [abstract] • Fox News • ETUI-HESA news report • Risks 412 • 27 June 2009
Britain: Wind firm blows thousands on dermatitis
A wind turbine firm has been fined £10,000 after workers developed occupational dermatitis. Thirteen workers at the Newport plant of blademaker Vestas Blades UK Ltd developed the condition caused by exposure to epoxy resins.
Isle of Wight County Press • SHP Online • Risks 412 • 27 June 2009
Britain: Paying the price of a vibration injury
A GMB member has received a £10,000 compensation payout after his hands were left permanently damaged by using vibrating tools at work. Keith Rowley, 55, a fitter from Stourbridge, was has the debilitating condition Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS), also known as vibration white finger.
Thompsons Solicitors news release • Stourbridge News • Risks 411 • 20 June 2009
Australia: Deadly grounds for a sit down protest
Prolonged sitting is killing Australian workers – both blue and white collar – and even 30 minutes' exercise a day may be insufficient protection from this growing occupational health and safety hazard. New Australian research shows hours of sedentary activity, like typing emails or sitting at a quality control station, are associated with higher cardio-metabolic health risks that are independent of time spent in moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity.
Queensland Safety Conference news release • Risks 410 • 13 June 2009
Britain: Ballerinas face work hazards
Professional ballerinas, like highly driven young female athletes, face quadruple work-related health threats - disordered eating, menstrual dysfunction, the bone-thinning disease osteoporosis, and early signs of cardiovascular disease.
Fox News • Risks 410 • 13 June 2009
Europe: Union victory on safer needles
A long running trade union campaign to introduce safer needles and prevent sharps injuries to health workers reached a successful conclusion this week, with the agreement of strict European Union-wide guidelines. The framework agreement signed this week between the European Federation of Public Service Unions (EPSU) and HOSPEEM - the European hospital and healthcare employers' association - aims to prevent the incidence of injuries with contaminated sharps, protect the workers at risk and establish appropriate response and follow up policies in cases where injuries occur.
UNISON news release • EPSU news release • Nursing Times • Risks 410 • 13 June 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: Pleural plaques linked to lung cancer
One in eight patients with lung cancer also had pleural plaques, a study has found. The Japanese study comes at a time the insurance industry is challenging moves to compensate pleural plaques in Scotland and across Britain.
The Yomiuri Shimbun • Risks 409 • 6 June 2009
Britain: TUC’s cautious note on fit notes
The TUC has sounded a note of caution about government proposals announced last week concerning the reform of the sick note. Workplace health campaigners have raised concerns about the ability of GPs to make judgments about what work a patient may be able to undertake when the medics have no knowledge of a workplace or a job and little training in occupational health.
DWP news release • TUC news release • EEF news release • Personnel Today • Risks 409 • 6 June 2009
Britain: Work’s a lot worse than you think
Workers massively under-estimate the risk of suffering a serious workplace injury, new research has found. Survey results released by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to coincide with the launch of its new strategy reveal almost half of Britain’s workers know someone who has been injured at work but, on average, employees think that just 3,000 people were killed or seriously injured at work last year – 45 times lower than the number reported each year to HSE.
HSE news release and Be Part of the Solution strategy and pledge • Risks 409 • 6 June 2009
Britain: GMB warning on airport fumes
Passengers and staff are being exposed to high levels of potentially toxic aircraft fumes at a London airport, the union GMB has said. GMB says London City Airport’s extremely unusual parking system causes jet engine exhaust to be propelled straight towards the arrivals lounge in the airport building.
GMB news release • Risks 409 • 6 June 2009
Canada: Iron ore workers map out ill-health
Former workers of a Canadian iron ore plant have got together to investigate how their jobs have damaged their health. A union-organised occupational disease clinic this month targeted former employees of the Inco Ltd sintering plant, their widows or other survivors.
The Sault Star • Risks 408 • 30 May 2009
Britain: Paint spraying job killed man
A car paint sprayer died of pneumonia after long-term exposure to paint fumes, an inquest has ruled. Car paint sprayers are exposed to chemicals including diisocyanates, a potent cause of COAD, the condition that killed David Mathis, aged 66.
Hastings Observer • A job to die for, Hazards magazine, 2005 • Risks 408 • 30 May 2009
Britain: Sellafield workers exposed to radiation
Nuclear company Sellafield Limited is to be prosecuted for alleged breaches of health and safety law after two site workers were exposed to airborne radioactive contamination. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) said two employees of a site contractor had been exposed to the radiation during the decontamination of an area of concrete floor in July 2007.
HSE news release • Construction News • Risks 408 • 30 May 2009
Britain: Knitting workers win noise appeal
Noisy knitwear factories could face a big compensation bill after the Court of Appeal ruled they should have been taking measures to protect workers’ hearing for over 30 years. Up to 700 workers employed in the knitting industry are seeking damages for what they say is work-induced deafness.
Nottingham Evening Post • Risks 408 • 30 May 2009
Britain: Rehab industry issues voluntary code
A voluntariy guidelines have been produced with the aim of cleaning up the private rehabilitation industry. TUC said proper regulation of the industry would be more effective than voluntary guidelines.
UK Rehabilitation Council standards • BBC News Online • Risks 408 • 30 May 2009
Australia: Dire prognosis for health check scheme
A state-wide system of health checks in Victoria, Australia, has been found to be in a very bad way. The state-government funded WorkHealth programme had been opposed by unions because the initial design omitted any consideration of health problems caused or exacerbated by work itself - and now employers’ groups have abandoned the scheme, which could end up a fraction of its intended size.
The Age • Risks 407 • 23 May 2009
Australia: Muscle soreness is linked to workload
Back and neck soreness in office workers is more likely to be caused by high workloads and tight deadlines than by posture or other physical factors, a new study has found. Unmanageable workloads and unrealistic deadlines were amongst the stronger predictors of reported neck and back pain, said Karin Griffiths, a member of the research team.
CPSU news release • Risks 405 • 9 May 2009
Britain: ‘Green’ lightbulbs poison workers
Workers in China could pay a high price for the production of “green” lightbulbs in cost-cutting factories. Large numbers of Chinese workers have been poisoned by mercury, which forms part of the compact fluorescent lightbulbs.
Sunday Times • Risks 405 • 9 May 2009
Turkey: Jeans sandblasting banned after deaths
The Turkish government has banned the manual sandblasting of jeans and other clothing to prevent the development of incurable silicosis. The practice had been linked to 40 deaths, and can lead to rapid onset of the disease, with some teenagers known to be affected.
Zaman • Risks 402 • 18 April 2009
Britain: Miners’ knee now an official work disease
Miner’s knee has received recognition as an official occupational disease in the UK. This ‘prescription’ under industrial disease benefits rules means that miners who pass a disability threshold, will be eligible for government payouts.
DWP news release • Osteoarthritis of the knee in coal miners, IIAC, August 2008 [pdf] • NUM news release • Daily Mirror • Risks 402 • 18 April 2009
USA: Popcorn peril spreads to sweets
A recently identified outbreak of severe cases of popcorn lung among former sweet factory workers may prove what government and civilian occupational health experts have long feared - the sometimes-fatal disease can afflict those exposed to diacetyl butter flavouring regardless of where they work.
Andrew Schneider Investigates • More from Hazards on diacetyl risks • Risks 401 • 11 April 2009
Britain: Workplace illness ‘to get worse’
An ageing workforce and higher rates of illness and disease among employees will pose a serious threat to British business by 2030, a report has warned. Private healthcare company Bupa estimates the number of workers with chronic conditions will rise by at least 7 per cent to more than four million.
Bupa news release • The Work Foundation publication note and full report: Healthy Work: Challenges and Opportunities to 2030 [pdf] • BBC News Online • Risks 401 • 11 April 2009
Britain: Injured firefighters win pensions fight
Firefighters’ union FBU has welcomed a landmark legal win in its fight over pensions and jobs for injured and sick firefighters. A judicial review at the Court of Appeal this week upheld a legal challenge by three London firefighters who had their ill-health and injury pensions removed under changes to the service's pension scheme.
FBU news release • Morning Star • BBC News Online • Risks 401 • 11 April 2009
Europe: Increasing risks from hazardous substances
Contact with hazardous substances at work is endangering the health of workers across Europe and nanotechnology is one of the risks causing most concern, an expert report has concluded. ‘Expert forecast on emerging chemical risks’, published by the Bilbao-based European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA), identifies the main groups of substances which could pose new and increasing risks to workers, contributing to diseases which range from allergies, asthma and infertility to cancers.
European Agency news release • Risks 400 • 4 April 2009
Europe: Action call on high concern chemicals
Unions are calling for hundreds of the most hazardous workplace chemicals to be subject to tight control under the European Union’s chemicals law, REACH. The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) this week presented to the European Parliament its list of 306 priority chemicals for authorisation under REACH.
ETUC news release and Trade Union Priority List for REACH authorisation and related documentation • ChemSec news report • TUC chemicals webpage • HSE REACH webpages • Risks 400 • 4 April 2009
USA: Movement at last on popcorn lung
The US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), reversing years of foot dragging while the agency was controlled by the Bush administration, is moving quickly to protect workers from a serious lung disease caused by diacetyl, the artificial butter flavouring added to popcorn and other food products.
OSHA news release • Lynn Woolsey statement • AFL-CIO Now • The Pump Handle • Andrew Schneider Investigates • Risks 398 • 21 March 2009
USA: Workers failed by old lead standard
Americans who work with lead and their families are still at risk of developing serious chronic health conditions, according to a new report. ‘Indecent exposure’, published this week by health researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, notes: “As scientific evidence has shown more serious health effects associated with lower lead levels than previously anticipated, the number of persons who must be considered at risk increases dramatically.”
Indecent exposure: Lead puts workers and families at risk, Perspectives, volume 4, number 1, March 2009 [pdf] • The Pump Handle • Risks 398 • 21 March 2009
Britain: Bullying boss blamed for breakdown
An NHS hospital trust has been found liable for the nervous breakdown suffered by a hospital admin worker. UNISON member Nanette Bowen, 55, who has been unable to return to work after being bullied and harassed over a three-year-period, can now expect a six-figure settlement from Carmarthenshire NHS Trust.
UNISON news release • Morning Star • South Wales Evening Post • Risks 396 • 7 March 2009
Britain: Print work caused kidney disease
A printer who was exposed to a dangerous chemical in the workplace developed a debilitating kidney disease as a result. Unite member David Owenson, from Scarborough, was diagnosed with membranous neuropathy, a form of glomerulonephritis, following years of exposure to the common workplace solvent toluene.
Thompsons Solicitors news release • Did your job cause your illness... check out the Hazards detective • Risks 396 • 7 March 2009
Britain: Fit-for-work moves not enough
Government-funding pilot schemes will aim to help people on sick leave back into work, ministers say. The TUC however has warned the limited ‘Fit for work’ measures are “nowhere near what is needed,” adding: “The solution is instead, access to comprehensive occupational health support, far more resources invested in prevention, and greater support for union safety and other representatives.”
Department of Health news release • Fit for Work webpage • Risks 395 • 28 February 2009
New Zealand: Bridge workers poisoned by lead
Dozens of workers on the Auckland Harbour Bridge were poisoned after inhaling lead-based paint dust during maintenance work last year. Tests on the men, who took off their full-face dust masks because they were uncomfortable to work in, showed up to half had marked increases in their blood lead levels.
Sunday Star Times • Risks 394 • 21 February 2009
Britain: Clampdown call on deafening noise
Public sector union UNISON is calling on employers to take noise risks seriously after a highway worker was deafened on the job. The 52-year-old UNISON member, whose name has not been released, was awarded a “substantial” amount in damages for hearing loss sustained as a result of working with noisy tools, including jackhammers and compressors.
Thompsons Solicitors news release • Risks 394 • 21 February 2009
Britain: STUC says make work fit for workers
The Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) is calling for action to make sure workers’ health is not another victim of the recession. It says its policy paper, ‘Occupational Health in Scotland,’ makes the case for “a massive expansion in publicly provided occupational health services to end the unacceptable level of workers falling into economic inactivity following periods of ill-health and to increase the number of workers being rehabilitated back into the workplace.”
STUC news release • Occupational health in Scotland report [pdf] • Risks 394 • 21 February 2009
Britain: What does the work doc know?
So, you’ve been ill, you’re injured, you’re starting a new job, your job’s made you sick – all reasons your employer might want a doctor to give you the once over. But is the doctor really qualified to make an assessment?
Medical referrals in employment - Is the doctor appropriately qualified? A short guide for employees and their representatives • GMC specialist register • Risks 394 • 21 February 2009
USA: Toxic firm wants to be left alone
A top journalist has attacked a major US flavouring firm for attempting to prevent federal health investigators from protecting workers. Seattle Post Intelligencer reporter Andrew Schneider, writing in his ‘Secret ingredients’ blog, was commenting on a year-long court battle between an Indianapolis flavour manufacturer and the government's top occupational health investigators regarding diacetyl, a flavouring know to cause potentially fatal lung disease.
Secret ingredients • Hazards website: www.hazards.org/diacetyl • Risks 393 • 14 February 2009
Britain: Safety reps’ guide to noise at work
The TUC has published a safety reps’ guide to noise at work. It provides information on the law and on what can be done to ensure employers do not put the hearing of their workers at risk.
Noise at work – a guide for health and safety representatives [pdf] • Risks 393 • 14 February 2009
Britain: Depression follows illness to work
Individuals returning to work following absence due to a physical condition such as back pain, cancer or heart disease are at risk of mild to moderate depression, researchers have found. But they say those who do become depressed worry about telling their employers.
Returning to work, the role of depression – webpage, full report and executive summary • BBC News Online • Risks 393 • 14 February 2009
Britain: Old diseases stalk new workplaces
It doesn’t matter whether you work in a new service sector job or an old manufacturing industry, diseases that should be firmly a thing of the past continue to cause harm. A Unite member who worked as a customer service adviser for Barclaycard in Northampton received a £25,000 payout after she developed a work-related upper limb disorder and another, a plater with the hydraulic components manufacturer Parker Hannifin plc, received a “substantial” payout after he developed occupational dermatitis caused by chromates which forced him to give up his job.
Rowley Ashworth Solicitors news releases on the RSI and dermatitis compensation settlements • Risks 393 • 14 February 2009
Britain: STUC calls for ‘massive’ work health move
There must be a ‘massive’ expansion in publicly-provided occupational health services, the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) has said. The call comes in the first in a series of STUC policy papers aimed at addressing the challenges of the current recession.
STUC news release and full report, Occupational health in Scotland [pdf] • Risks 393 • 14 February 2009
USA: Work disease system favours business
A US man who believes workplace solvent exposure left him struggling with Parkinson’s Disease is fighting a second battle, this time for compensation. Ed Abney worked at a former Dresser Industries plant in Kentucky for over 20 years, often elbow deep in the solvent trichloroethylene, used to clean metal piping.
WKYT 27 News First • New York Times • Workers’ Comp Insider •
Don M Gash and others. Trichloroethylene: Parkinsonism and complex 1 mitochondrial neurotoxicity, Annals of Neurology, volume 63, issue 2, pages 184-192, February 2008 [abstract] • Risks 391 • 31 January 2009
Britain: Unions slam ‘wrong’ welfare bill
Trade unions have said the government’s Welfare Reform Bill is the wrong law at the wrong time and have said they will resist attempts to privatise Jobcentre Plus services. The bill includes provisions which would compel the long-term unemployed to work for their benefits and require lone parents to undertake job-related training.
DWP news release • TUC news release • PCS news release and updated news release • ippr news release • Nice work if you can get it, ippr, January 2009 • Risks 390 • 24 January 2009
Union dismay at fat firefighter firing
Colleagues of a Scottish firefighter fired for being overweight are considering industrial action in a bid to get him reinstated. Kevin Ogilvie, a 22-year veteran with the fire service, was dismissed for a second time after failing to meet strict weight loss targets set by his employer.
Daily Record • Press and Journal • The Herald • BBC News Online • The Telegraph • Daily Mail • Hazards feature • Risks 390 • 24 January 2009
Britain: Injured firefighters fight sacking rule
Firefighters have taken to the Court of Appeal their challenge to government pension rules that threaten to leave badly injured and disabled firefighters sacked and without a pension. The legal moves started after three disabled London firefighters had their pensions removed by the London Fire Brigade.
FBU news release and FBUtube video report • Risks 390 • 24 January 2009
USA: Deadly return of black lung disease
After years of decline, the rate of deadly ‘black lung disease’ in US coal miners had doubled and is appearing in younger and younger miners, official research has found.
AFL-CIO Now • The Pump Handle • Risks 389 • 17 January 2009
Europe: Euro MPs back pesticide controls
The European Parliament has voted to tighten rules on pesticide use and ban at least 22 chemicals deemed harmful to human health. The rules, which can only become law after they are approved by the 27 member states' governments, are opposed by the UK government.
European Parliament news release • Group of Socialist MEPs (PES) news release • BBC News Online • Risks 389 • 17 January 2009
USA: Lead at work affects the brain in old age
People exposed to lead at work are more likely to exhibit damaged brain function as they get older, a new study has found. For older people, a buildup of lead from earlier exposure may be enough to result in greater cognitive problems after age 55, the authors say.
APA news release • NailaKhalil and others. Association of cumulative lead and neurocognitive function in an occupational cohort, Neuropsychology, volume 23, issue 1, pages 10-19, 2009 [abstract] • Times of India • EHS Today • Risks 389 • 17 January 2009
Britain: Do you want an apple from the boss?
Durham County Council is giving its staff two free pieces of fruit a day to see if it makes the workforce fitter. One union health specialist said “why not go the whole hog and make it five a day? Or just give the workers the money so they can make adult dietary decisions themselves?”
Newcastle University news release • ISAFRUIT project • Risks 389 • 17 January 2009
Britain: Lafarge recalls cancer risk cement
Construction materials multinational Lafarge has recalled 280,000 bags of cement after discovering a batch contained high levels of cancer-causing chromium VI. In total, about 2,500 tonnes of the Blue Circle cement have been recalled.
Wiltshire Times • Contract Journal • Risks 388 • 10 January 2009
Britain: Employers ignorant of deadly silica risks
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has vowed to step up its ‘Clear the Air!’ campaign warning workers against the dangers of silica exposure after it concluded that smaller companies still know very little about the potentially fatal health risks. However, late last year a succession of industry contributors to an HSE online forum on silica risks complained a failure of HSE inspection and oversight was leading to widespread abuse of safe practices and substantial exposures to the cancer causing dust.
HSE news release • Contract Journal • Building • Risks 388 • 10 January 2009
Hazards work and health news archive