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Features

All over?
The UK government wants you back in your workplace and personal protective equipment to again be the preserve of those in dirty, dangerous jobs. But with workplace clusters rising and the Delta variant rampant, Hazards warns this is no time for business as usual.
Hazards 154, April-June 2021

Sickening
It’s a simple choice – your money or your life. In a perverse twist, millions of the workers at highest risk of Covid-19 because of their jobs have been left with access to little and sometimes no sick pay.
Hazards 154, April-June 2021

Rubbed out
Why did the Health and Safety Executive, faced with thousands of workplace outbreaks, back off, outsource investigations and go on an enforcement holiday?
Hazards 153, January-March 2021Executive summary

Complete failure
Carolyn Jones and Sarah Glenister of the Institute of Employment Rights (IER) reveal how the pandemic exposed fatal flaws in the workplace safety system.
Hazards 153, January-March 2021

Cannon fodder
Professor Sarah Waters looks at why better employment protection meant essential workers in France were treated better than their UK counterparts.
Hazards 153, January-March 2021

No! No! No!
No prosecutions. No leadership. No clue. Hazards looks at the impact of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) keeping a safe distance from enforcement activity as Covid-19 raged in the workplace.
Hazards 152, December 2020

Venting
Hands, face, space. We all know the mantra. But you can’t stop breathing and if the workplace air is going nowhere and is chock-full of coronavirus, you’ll still be at risk. Hilda Palmer of the Hazards Campaign explains the critical importance of ventilation and why it is necessary to clear the air.
Hazards 152, December 2020

Laid bare
Most workplaces never saw an inspector. Workers struggled to get PPE. Whistleblowers were silenced. That was before Covid-19. Hazards editor Rory O’Neill reveals how the pandemic didn’t cause a crisis in workplace health. It exposed it.
Hazards 151, November 2020

Biohazard
Long before Covid-19, unions made repeat warnings about the need to prepare for ‘emerging threats’. Hazards editor Rory O’Neill exposes the decades of inaction that paved the way for the pandemic and left us without a workplace biohazards law.
Hazards 151, November 2020

WHO knew?
Who’d have thought we’d have to put a health warning on the World Health Organisation? Hazards editor Rory O’Neill discovered WHO’s ‘incredibly harmful’ advice on workplace Covid-19 risks is leaving workers in mortal danger.
Hazards special report, July 2020

Pieces of meat
In March 2020, Boris Johnson vowed to ‘beat the enemy’ as Covid-19 raced through the country. Then on 23 June, with the infection rate still worryingly high and hundreds of typically low paid 'essential' workers already dead, the prime minister announced a dramatic relaxation of the rules. Hazards editor Rory O’Neill explains how, for the sake of the economy, the prime minister decided more would have to die.
Hazards special report, July 2020

Out of touch
In most normal social or workplace circumstances, 1 metre physical distancing is tantamount to no physical distancing at all. In a Covid-19 pandemic, it might increase the risk of infection 10-fold, government advisers have warned. But Boris Johnson ignored the science, finds Hazards editor Rory O’Neill, and moved to a new 1 metre rule regardless.
Hazards special report, July 2020

Abdication
It is hard to see what the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has done during the pandemic, MPs found, noting it had only required one business to close. Wrong. Hazards editor Rory O’Neill discovered not a single workplace had been shut by the absentee regulator, which appears to have little idea what is going on.
Hazards special report, July 2020

Exposed
Workers need health, pay and job protection from all workplace risks
It wasn’t a microscopic virus that caused the shutdown of entire countries. The new coronavirus pandemic could persist because public health is not a high enough priority and most workers do not have the sick pay and employment protection necessary to survive.
Hazards special report, 20 March 2020.

Outbreak
Union guide to workplace protection
The coronavirus pandemic has shown how workers are crucial to preventing public health disasters, a TUC guide notes, but it says they need to be protected too.
Hazards special report, 20 March 2020.

Bugs in the system
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is telling businesses to do more to protect workers and members of the public from Legionnaires’ disease, but at the same time is doing less and less itself.
Hazards 119, July-September 2012

Resources

Hazards resources Avian Influenza (bird flu)SARSAnthraxSmallpoxTuberculosisFlu pandemicNew biological threats at workCoronavirus

Union resources on swine flu UNISON guideUsdaw guideTUC guide


News

Britain: UK government to blame for the ‘pingdemic’ mistakes
Ministers have launched schemes from their desks in Westminster that profoundly impact health, safety and lives without ever asking the views of workers and their unions, TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady has said. In a 27 July opinion piece in the Guardian, she said the UK government’s response to the ‘pingdemic’ – the massive increase in people asked by the test-and-trace scheme to self-isolate - was another unfortunate example.
The Guardian. Risks 1007, 29 July 2021

Britain: Policy on isolation exemptions ‘a dangerous mess’
The UK government’s “knee-jerk” policy on worker exemptions from Covid-19 self-isolation must be recalibrated with safety to the fore, unions have demanded. As ministers announced the expansion of workplace testing, promising hundreds of new testing sites for emergency and other “critical” workers as an alternative to self-isolation, unions demanded a rethink and called for ministers talk to them.
GMB news release. RMT news release. Unite news release. Morning Star. BBC News Online and related story. Risks 1007, 29 July 2021

Britain: Food isolation exemption uncertainty causing ‘chaos’
Food firms have been joined by the union Usdaw in criticising the UK government’s announcement of an exemption for some food workers from the Covid self-isolation rules while not saying exactly what the plans entail. Usdaw general secretary Paddy Lillis wrote to the prime minister on 26 July, seeking urgent clarification on the government’s scheme, noting ‘deeply disappointed’ that the government announced the plan to the media, but had not published full details of the scheme.
Defra/DHSC news release. Usdaw news release and exemptions letter to the PM. BBC News Online and related story. Risks 1007, 29 July 2021

Britain: Scottish self-isolation exemption could cause spike
Scotland could face a spike in Covid-19 cases a result of new key worker exemptions from self-isolation rules, Unite Scotland has warned. The union was commenting after Nicola Sturgeon announced workers in critical roles in Scotland will be able to avoid self-isolation when notified by the NHS Covid app if they are fully vaccinated and are tested daily.
Unite Scotland news release. The Guardian. Risks 1007, 29 July 2021

Britain: Protest calls for better protection for health care staff
Flawed guidance and a failure to offer proper protection against airborne coronavirus transmission has left health and care workers at potentially deadly risk, Unite has said. The warning came as Doctors in Unite (DiU) staged a 27 July demonstration outside the London HQ of the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC).
Unite news release. Risks 1007, 29 July 2021

Britain: HSE failed workers on Covid airborne spread
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) must address dangerous failings in its advice and ‘mandate’ the provision of high quality respiratory protective equipment for all NHS and social care staff, the Hazards Campaign has said. Commenting ahead of a 27 July socially distanced protest at the HSE’s Bootle HQ, the union-backed grassroots campaign slammed HSE’s failure to recommend the more protective FFP3 respirators rather than general purpose surgical masks.
Hazards Campaign news release.
Evaluating the protection afforded by surgical masks against influenza bioaerosols: Gross protection of surgical masks compared to filtering facepiece respirators, Research Report RR619, 2008. Risks 1007, 29 July 2021

Global: WHO accused of hushing up airborne Covid risk
A former senior adviser on the Canadian SARS outbreak has accused the World Health Organisation (WHO) of concealing evidence on the airborne transmission of Covid-19 since the earliest days of the global pandemic. Mario Possamai – who from 2003 to 2007 served as a senior adviser to Canada’s SARS Commission, established to investigate the 2003 outbreak on this coronavirus in Ontario, Canada – described his shock and frustration at the WHO’s failure to address the airborne nature of Covid-19 and how this, in turn, set up governments around the world to fail in their pandemic response strategies.
Byline Times. Risks 1007, 29 July 2021

USA: Firms five times as likely to fight Covid fines
US employers are five times more likely to fight Covid-19 related citations compared to other workplace safety offences, an investigation has found. By April 2021, inspectors with California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health, better known as Cal-OSHA, had ordered roughly $4.6 million in fines for wrongdoing related to the Covid-19 in some 200 workplaces - but their lawyers have filed an onslaught of appeals, delayed paying their fines and sought deals to pay next to nothing.
Cal-OSHA Covid-19 related citations. Sacramento Bee. North Bay Business Journal. Bloomberg Law. CalMatters. Risks 1007, 29 July 2021

Britain: It’s up to us on Covid, TUC webinar, 28 July
Join a TUC crowdcast on 28 July to explore how to keep work safe now restrictions have been lifted. The online hour-long event, kicking off at 2pm, will look at how unions can ensure employers do not do away with Covid safety measures and with any changes made in consultation with unions.
The lifting of final Covid-19 restrictions: what impact for workplaces and unions?, online TUC crowdcast, 2pm-3pm, 28 July 2021. Register online. Risks 1006. 22 July 2021

Britain: Inadequate sick pay puts us all at risk, says STUC
The refusal by Boris Johnson’s administration to raise sick pay levels risks the health of us all, Scottish union federation STUC has said. The union body was commenting on the UK government official response to a consultation on proposals to reduce ill-health related job loss.
STUC news release. Risks 1006. 22 July 2021

Britain: Government creates ‘recipe for chaos and infections’
New back-to-work safety guidelines for England will cause widespread confusion and lead to more infections, the TUC has said. Commenting after the business department updated its ‘working safety during coronavirus’ guidance on 14 July, TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said “these new back-to-work safety guidelines are a recipe for chaos and rising infections.”
TUC news release and blog. Working safely during coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance from Step 4, BEIS, updated 14 July 2021. UNISON blog. Sky News. The Guardian and related story. Morning Star and related story. The Independent.
The lifting of final Covid19 restrictions: what impact for workplaces and unions?, online TUC crowdcast, 2-3pm, 28 July 2021. Register online. Risks 1006. 22 July 2021

Britain: Ending free work Covid tests is ‘barmy’
The UK government’s decision to no longer supply free lateral flow tests to employers has been labelled as ‘barmy’ by Unite. The union warned the decision will lead to an increase in exposure to Covid-19 in the workplace.
Unite news release. Risks 1006. 22 July 2021

Britain: Masks 'expected' to be worn in shops
The government has said it “expects and recommends” shoppers wear face masks in England, but this is no longer required by law. Social distancing will also not be a requirement and people working from home can start to return to work, ministers said.
Usdaw news release and related release. The Observer. Morning Star. BBC News Online and related story. Risks 1006. 22 July 2021

Britain: Transport action by mayors welcomed by Unite
Unite has welcomed efforts by the mayors of London and West Yorkshire to try and maintain protection of workers and passengers on public transport. The union warned, however, that the patchwork protection of compulsory mask wearing that is emerging in the UK is ‘creating chaos and confusion’ for workers and passengers alike.
Unite news releases on the London and West Yorkshire mayoral decisions.  ASLEF news release. TSSA news release. Risks 1006. 22 July 2021

Britain: RMT warns of threat of violence to staff
The UK government’s botched and confused approach to face coverings on public transport in England will place transport workers at risk of violence, RMT has warned.  General secretary Mick Lynch said “we now have the ludicrous position where a passenger travelling through London will have different rules on the Tube and the main line services.”
RMT news release. Risks 1006. 22 July 2021

Britain: Anger and incredulity as maskless MPs put staff at risk
Members of parliament (MPs) must be made to wear masks to protect parliamentary staff, unions have told Commons speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle. New guidelines that came into force on 19 July require mask wearing by parliamentary staff, but they are only ‘encouraged’ for MPs.
GMB news release. Prospect news release. Risks 1006. 22 July 2021

Britain: Dismay at critical worker isolation exemption
The union GMB has said it is ‘appalled’ at a UK government said health and social care workers in close contact with someone who has tested positive for Covid-19 and advised to self-isolate by the NHS Covid app “will be permitted to attend work in exceptional circumstancesThe UK government has said exceptions for other “critical workers” will be “considered on a case-by-case basis.”
GMB news release. DHSC news release. BBC News Online, update and article on critical worker exemptions. Risks 1006. 22 July 2021

Britain: Isolation changes could have ‘dreadful’ consequences
The UK government’s decision to allow ‘critical workers’ to continuing working after being ‘pinged’ by the NHS Covid app should not be used to bully staff back to work, UNISON has said. UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea said: “Rather than a hell-for-leather rush, changes to restrictions should have been managed sensibly in stages.”
UNISON news release. Risks 1006. 22 July 2021

Britain: England may have to reimpose Covid rules in weeks
Face masks, working from home and other Covid restrictions could be reintroduced in England in early August if hospital admissions rise above anticipated levels, scientists advising the UK government have warned. Members of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) have reportedly said Boris Johnson should be ready to take action in the first week of August to avoid the NHS being overwhelmed.
The i. The Guardian. Risks 1006. 22 July 2021

Britain: Expert warning on ‘misguided’ compulsory care jabs
Legal and medical experts have warned that mandatory vaccination of care home staff is “unnecessary, disproportionate, and misguided.” Writing in the BMJ, Lydia Hayes, professor of Law at Kent University and Allyson Pollock, professor of public health at Newcastle University, say the government decision to remove the right of care home staff in England to choose whether or not to be vaccinated against Covid-19 is a profound departure from public health norms.
Lydia Hayes and Allyson M Pollock. Editorial: Mandatory covid-19 vaccination for care workers, BMJ, 2021;374:n1684. Published 8 July 2021.
Experts criticise Australia's aged care failings over COVID-19, the Lancet, volume 396, issue 10259, Pages 1,322-1,323, 24 October 2020. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(20)32206-6 Risks 1006. 22 July 2021

Britain: Concern over missing fire service virus case numbers
The firefighters’ union FBU has said it fears there has been underreporting of Covid infections in the fire service as both the UK government and the workplace safety regulator declined to make the figures public. The union said the UK government did not hand over statistics on Covid-19 cases and deaths in the fire service in a response from fire minister Kit Malthouse to a parliamentary question.  
FBU news release. Risks 1006. 22 July 2021

Britain: Police will retain staff Covid protections
UNISON has welcomed a decision by the National Police Chiefs Council for England and Wales to keep all existing Covid-19 protections in place for the police workforce. The move came after police staff unions and staff associations met with senior police leaders prior to the ending of lockdown restrictions in England.
UNISON news release. Risks 1006. 22 July 2021

Britain: Support staff strike at business department
PCS members working for the outsourced contractor ISS at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) in London took strike action this week over low pay and Covid safety. Cleaners, security guards and other support staff employed by ISS had voted 97.3 per cent in favour of strike action on an 82 per cent turnout.
PCS news release and update. Risks 1006. 22 July 2021

Britain: Welsh workers at risk from Covid, warn unions
Welsh workers are being “put at risk” because of a lack of capacity to enforce Covid risk assessments, according to the country’s lead trade union body. Businesses will still be expected to assess the risk of catching coronavirus in their workplaces after most rules in Wales are scrapped on 7 August.
Wales TUC news release. First minister’s statement and Welsh government coronavirus legislation webpages. BBC News Online. Risks 1006. 22 July 2021

Britain: UK government reneges on sick pay reforms
The TUC has accused the UK government of abandoning low-paid workers after it reneged on plans to reform statutory sick pay – including removing the ‘lower earnings limit’ to ensure all workers can access sick pay. The union body said the government’s failure to include sick pay reform in its 20 July response to the 'Health is everyone's business' consultation is “yet another example of penny pinching and grossly irresponsible.”
TUC news release. Health is everyone’s business: proposals to reduce ill health-related job loss, UK government consultation response, 20 July 2021. Risks 1006. 22 July 2021

Britain: Inadequate sick pay puts us all at risk, says STUC
The refusal by Boris Johnson’s administration to raise sick pay levels risks the health of us all, Scottish union federation STUC has said. The union body was commenting on the UK government official response to a consultation on proposals to reduce ill-health related job loss.
STUC news release. Risks 1006. 22 July 2021

Britain: PM confirms lockdown rules will end on 19 July
England will move to the final stage of easing Covid restrictions on 19 July, ministers have confirmed. It means almost all legal restrictions on social contact, the masks requirement and the work from home instruction will be removed, in a policy shift that has been met with dismay by unions and medical experts. Despite lifting almost all the Covid-19 rules, the prime minister told a 12 July Downing St press conference it was vital to proceed with “caution”, warning “this pandemic is not over.”
10 Downing St news release, prime minister’s statement and general government guidance. BBC News Online and related story. Evening Standard. Risks 1005. 14 July 2021

Britain: Government ‘refusing to consult’ on back-to-work plans
The TUC has written to ministers to raise urgent concerns about the UK government’s back-to-work safety plans. The union body said the government is refusing to consult with unions and employers on the latest guidance that will “affect millions of working people”.
TUC news release. The Guardian. Risks 1005. 14 July 2021

Britain: Usdaw tells government to keep shop safety rules
Retail trade union Usdaw has written to the business secretary calling on the government to reverse its plans to end compulsory face coverings and social distancing in shops on 19 July. Usdaw general secretary Paddy Lillis said: “The government should not be weakening safety measures in shops at the same time as opening up other venues.”
Usdaw news release, updated news release and letter to business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng. TUC news release. Risks 1005. 14 July 2021

Britain: Government failing to act as schools clusters rise
Teaching union NEU has said rising infection rates are presenting a health risk to staff and pupils and are disrupting education and has criticised the UK government for its continued failure to act. Commenting on latest Public Health England (PHE) figures showing a rise in the number of coronavirus clusters in schools in England, NEU joint general secretary Dr Mary Bousted said: “Gavin Williamson’s failure to act to reduce the spread of coronavirus in schools is shocking.”
NEU news release and letter to the education secretary. Weekly Influenza and COVID-19 Surveillance graphs: Confirmed COVID-19 cases in England, Week 26 (28 June-4 July 2021). Risks 1005. 14 July 2021

Britain: Scientists slam ‘dangerous and unethical experiment’
The UK government’s plan for lifting Covid-19 restrictions in England has been met with consternation by experts in infection control. A 7 July 2021 letter published in The Lancet and signed by more than 100 scientists and doctors from around the world accused ministers of conducting a “dangerous and unethical experiment.”
Deepti Gurdasani, John Drury, Trisha Greenhalgh and others. Correspondence. Mass infection is not an option: we must do more to protect our young, The Lancet, Online First 7 July 2021. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(21)01589-0. Letter signatories. Morning Star. The Guardian. Risks 1005. 14 July 2021

Britain: NHS leaders call for mask requirement to stay
Healthcare leaders are urging the government to be clear with the public about where and when to wear a face masks and to ensure that it continues to be a requirement in hospitals, GP practices, ambulances and other health and care settings. The NHS Confederation said its poll found 9 in 10 healthcare leaders in England say it should continue to be a legal requirement for people to wear masks in all healthcare settings.
NHS Confederation news release. Risks 1005. 14 July 2021

Britain: Mask wearing in the NHS must be mandatory
Mask wearing in hospitals, clinics and other NHS buildings should remain compulsory when Covid restrictions are eased, Unite had said. Unite national officer for health Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe said: “All bets have been placed on the vaccination programme holding the line, but there is no guarantee that this will be a completely successful strategy.”
Unite news release. Risks 1005. 14 July 2021

Britain: Bus drivers briefed on safety as masks mandate goes
Unite has written to its members working on buses setting out their legal rights, after the government confirmed that passengers in England will no longer have to wear face coverings when travelling on public transport. Health secretary Sajid Javid said masks would still be “recommended” on public transport, but people without a face covering would no longer be fined.
Unite news release. BBC News Online. Risks 1005. 14 July 2021

Britain: RMT slams ‘reckless and irresponsible gamble’
Transport union RMT has warned the government’s reopening plan for England is a “mass health experiment” that puts lives at risk. RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: “This is a reckless and irresponsible gamble with the health of millions.”
RMT news release. Risks 1005. 14 July 2021

Britain: Vaccine minister says mask wearing is ‘expected’
Masks will still be “expected” in crowded places such as public transport when most remaining Covid restrictions are lifted later this month, the government’s vaccine minister has said, in a toughening up of rhetoric amid concerns over soaring infection rates.
Sky News. BBC News Online. The Observer. The Mirror. Risks 1005. 14 July 2021

Britain: ‘Freedom Day’ must mean workers are free to stay safe
The UK government’s decision to go ahead with what it has dubbed ‘Freedom Day’ on 19 July must mean workers are free to stay safe, the GMB has said. Gary Smith, GMB general secretary, said: “It's very easy for the prime minister to say we should take 'personal responsibility' when his government has prioritised politics over science throughout this pandemic.”
GMB news release. Risks 1005. 14 July 2021

Britain: PCS sets out Covid safety demands as rules go
The union PCS has said Boris Johnson’s decision to end Covid restrictions in England on 19 July is wrong and has made a series of demands to the Cabinet Office intended to ensure civil service staff and workplaces are safe. The union said given the vaccination programme is incomplete, it is premature to end restrictions.
PCS news release. Risks 1005. 14 July 2021

Britain: Reducing isolation requirements creates confusion
The government’s decision to reduce self-isolation requirements from mid-August will create more confusion and means mending the country’s broken sick pay scheme is even more urgent, the public sector union UNISON has said. The health secretary said from 16 August 2021 double jabbed close contacts of people who have tested positive would no longer need to self-isolate and added that under-18s would also be exempted from the self-isolation rules.
UNISON news release. Department of Health and Safety Care news release. Risks 1005. 14 July 2021

Britain: Care firm faces legal 'landslide’ over forced jabs
Care company HC-One faces a ‘landslide of legal action’ if it goes ahead with plans to force all staff to get a Covid jab if they want to keep their jobs. The union has written to the company asking why staff had been told the changes would come into effect from 13 September - before any consultation with GMB.
GMB news release. Risks 1005. 14 July 2021

Britain: Oil workers airlifted after outbreak on North Sea rig
Energy giant Shell has flown 85 workers to shore following a Covid outbreak at the Shearwater oil and gas field in the North Sea. The move came after 15 positive cases were identified in ten days on the floating accommodation which is connected to the main platform by bridge.
Evening Standard. Risks 1005. 14 July 2021

Britain: Covid protections in England to be axed
Boris Johnson has confirmed he plans to scrap from 19 July most of the Covid laws in England, including enforcing masks and social distancing. “It will no longer be necessary for government to instruct people to work from home, so employers will be able to start planning a safe return to the workplace,” he added at a 5 July Downing Street press conference.
10 Downing Street news release and prime minister Boris Johnson’s 5 July 2021 statement. Labour Party news release. BBC News Online and related story. Risks 1004. 7 July 2021

Britain: Government plan risks ‘widespread confusion’ at work
The wholesale removal of Covid safety rules in England will leave workers at risk, unless the government agrees effective guidance with unions, the TUC has said. TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “The government has to take the lead – not wash its hands of its responsibility to keep workers and the public safe.”
TUC news release. Risks 1004. 7 July 2021

Britain: Government must ‘not wash its hands’ of Covid
The UK government must provide clear guidance to employers and workers on Covid-19 prevention at work, the TUC has said. The union body said it was not acceptable for ministers to ‘outsource’ its health and safety responsibilities, adding bosses who put staff at risk should face sanctions.
TUC news release. BBC News Online. Risks 1004. 7 July 2021

Britain: Flexible work needed as people urged to return
The TUC has called for right to work flexibly to be extended as people are urged to return to the office. Responding to the 5 July announcement by the prime minister that the work from home guidance will be withdrawn from 19 July, TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “As the work from home guidance ends, employers must acknowledge that one size does not fit all.”
TUC news release. Risks 1004. 7 July 2021

Britain: Living with Covid plan is ‘utterly irresponsible'
The UK government's insistence that the country must `live with Covid', while refusing to provide the furlough and sick pay support needed to protect workers' jobs and health, is ‘utterly irresponsible, Unite has said. Steve Turner, Unite's assistant general for manufacturing, expressed consternation at the government's lifting of Covid controls while the R-rate in England runs at 1.3 and case rates are back at January levels.
Unite news release. Community statement. Risks 1004. 7 July 2021

Britain: Not the time to throw caution to the wind
Scrapping the rules requiring face coverings in enclosed public spaces is a dangerous folly, UNISON has indicated. “Now isn’t the time to throw caution to the wind, especially with infections on the rise,” warned UNISON assistant general secretary Jon Richards.
UNISON news release and update. Risks 1004. 7 July 2021

Britain: TSSA condemns 'gung ho gambling' on Covid risks
Rail union TSSA has accused Boris Johnson of 'gambling with lives' over the lifting of Covid restrictions in England. TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes said the prime minister was sticking to a 'gung ho' strategy even while admitting that the pandemic was far from over.
TSSA news release. Risks 1004. 7 July 2021

Britain: 'Freedom’ plans must leave workers free to stay safe
Rather than “pander to pandemic hawks, the prime minister should ensure the safety of workers” and the public is a top priority, the GMB general secretary had said. Gary Smith said Boris Johnson’s “decision to throw Covid caution to the wind is a political decision” that came at a time “the UK has the unenviable status as one of Europe’s Covid hotspots - with eight of Europe’s 10 highest infection rates in England and Scotland.”
GMB news release. Risks 1004. 7 July 2021

Britain: Prospect warning on ‘chaotic free for all’
Changes in work practices following the end of the work-from-home guidance on 19 July must be planned carefully in consultation with unions, Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspectors’ union Prospect has said. It added HSE, the workplace safety regulator, must have clarity on its role and be provided the resources to do the job properly.
Prospect news release. BECTU news release. Risks 1004. 7 July 2021

Britain: Usdaw slams weakening of store safety measures
Retail trade union Usdaw has expressed consternation at the UK government’s plan to lift safety measures in stores in England when it axes most Covid restrictions on 19 July. Paddy Lillis, the Usdaw general secretary said: “There is no reason why requirements to wear face coverings and maintain social distancing in busy public areas like shops cannot continue.”
Usdaw news release and update. Risks 1004. 7 July 2021

Britain: Masks must stay compulsory on public transport
The government must reverse proposals to end the requirement for masks to be worn on buses and trains, transport union Unite has said. The union issued its warning as ministers indicated that from 19 July the wearing of face masks will no longer be compulsory, but a matter of ‘personal responsibility’.
Unite news release and news release on London Underground masks call. Risks 1004. 7 July 2021

Britain: RMT warns of dangerous Covid confusion
Rail union RMT has warned the latest relaxation of lockdown measures by the UK government could lead to confusion and go against ‘common sense and medical advice’. Commenting ahead of the UK government’s announcement on the plan to take effect in England from 19 July, RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: “Yet again there's a real danger of the government making up policy on the hoof on critical issues.”
RMT news release. Risks 1004. 7 July 2021

Britain: Anger at ‘reckless disregard’ for education safety
The government is wrong to scrap Covid health and safety measures in colleges and universities and needs to get the vast majority of students vaccinated, the university and college union UCU has said. The union was responding to the 6 July announcement from the education secretary Gavin Williamson on the lifting of restrictions in education.
DfE news release. UCU news release. Risks 1004. 7 July 2021

Britain: ‘Alarming’ approach abandons children to Covid
The government’s ‘alarming’ approach to lifting Covid-19 rules in education abandons children to a highly transmissible virus and could pave the way for new variants to emerge, UNISON has warned. Responding to the 6 July announcement from the education secretary that school bubbles and self-isolation are to be scrapped from 19 July, UNISON assistant general secretary Jon Richards said: “With around one in ten pupils reporting symptoms of long Covid weeks after infection, this is a dangerous gamble from the government.”
DfE news release. UNISON news release. Risks 1004. 7 July 2021

Britain: ‘Unbearable’ pressures face exhausted NHS staff
Health and social care secretary Sajid Javid’s forecast that Covid cases could top 100,000 daily this summer as restrictions ease, will leave already exhausted NHS staff buckling under the ‘unbearable’ pressure, Unite has warned. The union said that there were serious questions to be asked over what it described as the ‘gung-ho’ easing of restrictions from 19 July unveiled by the prime minister on 5 July.
Unite news release. Risks 1004. 7 July 2021

Britain: ASLEF stops Covid disciplinary plan
ASLEF reps have successfully fought off a policy that could have seen London Underground drivers disciplined for following safety rules on Covid-19. At a scheduled meeting with trade unions on 1 July, London Underground management had announced plans to include Covid-related absence from work under its Attendance at Work procedure
ASLEF news release. Risks 1004. 7 July 2021

Britain: PM ‘ill-informed’ as DVLA infection continue to rise
Boris Johnson showed he is ill-informed about the ongoing Covid safety risk at the DVLA offices in Swansea when the PCS dispute was raised during prime minister’s questions (PMQ), the union PCS has said. Labour MP Christina Rees used PMQ to question the prime minister about the decision of the Department for Transport (DfT) and DVLA management to increase the number of staff attending the office at the DVLA HQ in Swansea, with the prime minister wrongly responding that Covid rates at the office were falling.
PCS news release. Risks 1004. 7 July 2021

Britain: GMB action threat after Serco shielding sackings
GMB members working for Serco Sandwell waste collection services are balloting for strike action after disabled workers were sacked for shielding. The union says the ballot follows months of management intimidation, including threatening workers who spoke out about safety issues and the sacking of disabled workers who shielded during the pandemic, one of whom was awaiting a kidney transplant.
GMB news release. Union News. Risks 1004. 7 July 2021

Belgium: Ventilation rules at work as Covid surges
Hospitality sites in Belgium, including restaurants, gyms and entertainment venues, are being fitted with carbon dioxide sensors that indicate how effectively the ventilation is operating. The move is an attempt to combat further surges of Covid-19 into the autumn and winter.
Irish Times. Risks 1004. 7 July 2021

Britain: Key workers missing out on statutory sick pay
One in 12 key workers (788,000 people) do not qualify for statutory sick pay (SSP) – despite many of them being at greater risk from Covid-19 due to the frontline nature of their job, a TUC analysis has found. The TUC research reveals those excluded from SSP include more than a quarter of cleaners (27 per cent) and retail workers (26 per cent); nearly one in 10 teaching assistants (9 per cent); and over one in 20 care workers (6 per cent).
TUC news release. Statutory Sick Pay: Options for reform, Fabian Society, 2021. 
Sign the TUC petition demanding #SickPayForAll. Risks 1003. 30 June 2021

Britain: ‘Scarily fleeting’ contact with variant may infect
The transmission advantage of the Delta variant is a sign that the race between vaccination and the virus could tip in favour of the latter unless countries ramp up their immunisation campaigns and practise caution, scientists have warned. Research conducted in the UK, where the variant accounts for 99 per cent of new Covid cases, suggests it is about 60 per cent more transmissible than the Alpha variant, which previously dominated.
Variants: distribution of case data, 18 June 2021, PHE, updated 25 June 2021. ACTU news release. BMJ News. The Guardian, related story and follow up. BBC News Online. New Daily. Risks 1003. 30 June 2021

Britain: Occupational health action call on long Covid
Poor access to occupational health services in Britain’s workplaces is exacerbating problems faced by workers with long Covid, according to the Society of Occupational Medicine (SOM). The organisation for occupational doctors says at least two million people in the UK have experienced ongoing debilitating symptoms following Covid-19 infection, but only half the UK workforce can access occupational health support to enable their return to work.
SOM news release.
Long Covid and the workplace, TUC webinar, Wednesday 30 June, 7:30pm – 8:30pm. Register on Zoom. Risks 1003. 30 June 2021

Britain: Union dismay at schools testing plan
A Department for Education (DfE) email outlining possible arrangements for testing of pupils in September and speculating on the future of bubbles and self-isolating shows government plans “scarcely qualify as a plan at all”, teaching union NEU has said. The union comments came as it emerged there has been a marked rise throughout June in pupils sent home from school in England because of Covid.
NEU news release. Risks 1003. 30 June 2021

Britain: Sharp rise in staff and pupil Covid absences
There has been a sharp rise in pupils sent home from school in England and in staff absences because of Covid, according to the latest official figures. Department for Education (DfE) figures reveal that more than 375,000 pupils - about one in 20 - were out of school for Covid-related reasons, up by more than 130,000 in a week.
Attendance in education and early years settings during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak – 23 March 2020 to 24 June 2021, DfE, 29 June 2021. BBC News Online and related story. Risks 1003. 30 June 2021

Britain: Government ‘to blame’ for university suffering
Staff and students have ‘suffered enormously’ through the pandemic and the government is squarely to blame, lecturers’ union UCU has said. Responding to a highly critical report from the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI), which warned of ‘worrying findings’ on student mental health, UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: “The fault lies squarely with government ministers and university vice-chancellors who pushed ahead with a reckless reopening of campuses for in-person teaching and ‘blended learning’ at the start of the academic year, ignoring warnings from university staff and the government's own scientific advisers.”
UCU news release. Student Academic Experience Survey 2021, HEPI, 24 June 2021. Risks 1003. 30 June 2021

Britain: Masks upgrade can eliminate infection risk
The quality of respiratory healthcare workers wear makes a huge difference to their risk of coronavirus infection, Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust research has found. Providing staff high grade FFP3 respirators, a long-time demand of unions, can result in up to 100 per cent protection.
Mark Ferris, Rebecca Ferris, Chris Workman and others. FFP3 respirators protect healthcare workers against infection with SARS-CoV-2, Authorea. 24 June 2021 [pre-print]. DOI: 10.22541/au.162454911.17263721/v1. BBC News Online. Risks 1003. 30 June 2021

Global: Governments back ‘urgent’ workplace safety action
A resolution on ‘a human-centred recovery from the Covid-19 crisis’ adopted unanimously by governments at the International Labour Conference (ILC) this month includes wide-ranging calls for action to improve occupational health and safety. The ILC resolution is supportive of efforts to improve ratification of and adherence to relevant international instruments, including existing International Labour Organisation (ILO) fundamental rights at work, which cover child labour, forced labour, freedom from discrimination, and the right to organise and to collective bargaining.
Resolution concerning a global call to action for a human-centred recovery from the COVID-19 crisis that is inclusive, sustainable and resilient, Record of proceedings, Record No. 5A, International Labour Conference –109th Session, 16 June 2021 [see 11B, page 5]. ILO news release.  ITUC news release. ITUC deputy general secretary Owen Tudor on twitter. ITUC/Hazards Fundamental safety factfile. Risks 1002. 23 June 2021

USA: Smithfield Foods is sued over ‘false’ safety claims
Smithfield Foods was one of the first companies to warn that the US was in danger of running out of meat as coronavirus infections ripped through processing plants in April 2020 and health officials pressured the industry to halt some production to protect workers. The lawsuit filed by Food and Water Watch, a consumer advocacy group, notes: “Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, Smithfield has misled and continues to mislead consumers in the District of Columbia about the state of the national meat supply chain and the company’s workplace safety practices.”
Public Justice Food Project news release. Food and Water Watch versus Smithfield Food, Inc., Superior Court of the District of Columbia, 16 June 2021. New York Times. Risks 1002. 23 June 2021

Britain: TUC action call on long Covid  
Long Covid must be recognised as a disability and Covid-19 as an occupational disease to give workers access to legal protections and compensation, the TUC has said. The call came as the union body published an in-depth report on workers’ experiences of long Covid during the pandemic.
TUC news release and report, Workers’ experiences of long Covid: A TUC report, June 2021 and summary. NUJ news release. NASUWT news release. Morning Star.
Long Covid and the workplace, TUC webinar, Wednesday 30 June, 7:30pm – 8:30pm. Register on Zoom. Risks 1002. 23 June 2021

Britain: Outrage at HSE defence of not ‘serious’ Covid ranking
The Labour Party has condemned the “outrageous decision” not to re-classify Covid-19 as a “serious workplace risk” following a review by Health and Safety Executive (HSE) bosses. After top management at HSE reconsidered the classification in April, the government work safety regulator announced on 16 June that it would not change, despite reports that giving this coronavirus a “significant risk” consequence descriptor — less severe than “serious” — meant HSE inspectors did not have the power to halt dangerous working.
Review of enforcement during the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, HSE, 16 June 2021. Labour Party news release. Morning Star. Risks 1002. 23 June 2021

HSE ‘concocted’ complacent Covid ranking
An evidence review by Hazards magazine is strongly critical of HSE’s defence of its ‘significant’ consequence descriptor for work-related Covid-19. It concludes: “There are genuine grounds for concern that HSE concocted arguments of convenience to define a pandemic in the workplace as something less than ‘serious’, to fit a narrative decided elsewhere by government,” adding “in doing so workers were sacrificed.”
Rubbed out, Hazards magazine, number 153, 2021. An evidence review into the deadly failures of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) throughout the pandemic, Hazards magazine, 10 April 2021. Risks 1002. 23 June 2021

Britain: TUC slams ‘failing’ self-isolation scheme
The majority of applications to the UK government’s self-isolation payments scheme are still being turned down, despite increased government funding for the scheme, new research for the TUC has found. The union body warns the combination of new variants, reopened indoor hospitality and increasing numbers returning to their workplaces could once again “brutally expose the failing self-isolation payments scheme and measly statutory sick pay.”
TUC news release. Statutory Sick Pay: Options for reform, The Fabian Society, June 2021. The Guardian. Risks 1002. 23 June 2021

Britain: Ventilation and masks needed to protect workers
Ministers have been urged to scrap perspex screens between desks over fears they actually increase Covid transmission by restricting airflow. Experts from SAGE, the UK government’s science advisory group, have advised the government to roll out major changes in the workplace for those returning to the office, including mandatory ventilation systems and face mask requirements.
Social distancing review, SAGE advice. i-News. Risks 1002. 23 June 2021

Britain: Government must learn pandemic lessons
The government must bring forward the start of the Covid public inquiry, ditch plans to compel care workers to be jabbed and invest in the public services that have kept the UK running during the pandemic, UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea has said. “Lessons must be learned from this crisis, so we’re better prepared for the next one,” she said.
UNISON news release and full text of Christina McAnea’s speech. Risks 1002. 23 June 2021

Britain: Staff at 49 prisons strike in Covid safety dispute
Around 600 staff at 49 prisons across England have taken strike action in a long running health and safety dispute with employer Novus. The 23 June strike is the fourth time the staff members, represented by UCU, have walked out in the past two months.
UCU news release. Risks 1002. 23 June 2021

Britain: Wales ‘must lead fight’ against law-breaking bosses
Wales TUC is calling for urgent action by the Welsh government to address widespread workplace Covid safety breaches and other employment abuses. The union body urged the administration to take on a co-ordinating role in enforcing workers’ rights and to begin work on meeting its manifesto commitment by campaigning for control of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to be devolved to Wales.
Wales TUC news release. Risks 1002. 23 June 2021

Britain: Schools in Wales must learn safety lessons
The Welsh government must take swift action to improve health and safety for teachers in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, the NASUWT Cymru conference has heard. The teaching union has said it will lobby the administration to strengthen health and safety operational guidance in schools and to ensure that enforcement agencies are appropriately deployed.
NASUWT news release. Risks 1002. 23 June 2021

Britain: Government’s ‘reckless’ sick pay shocker killed workers
Evidence the UK government deliberately suppressed information on how workers could be temporarily furloughed on 80 per cent of their wages when forced to self-isolate due to Covid-19 has exposed a “reckless” approach that has “cost lives”, Unite has said. The union was commenting after emails obtained by the Politico website revealed that in January and February this year — when the second wave was surging —  the Treasury instructed senior government officials to conceal from the public how a little-known part of the furlough scheme could be used to access isolation sick pay, as the cost of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme soared.
Unite new release. Politico. Risks 1001. 16 June 2021

Britain: One worker in ten ‘forced back into workplace’
Bosses are blatantly ignoring official Covid guidance by forcing staff back into workplaces, a TUC poll has revealed. The TUC comments came as the government put back the planned 21 June easing of restrictions in England for another four weeks until 19 July, reiterating its work from home if you can guidance.
TUC news release. Prime minister’s office news release. NHS Confederation news release. BBC News Online. Morning Star. Risks 1001. 16 June 2021

Britain: Bus safety rules must be extended, says Unite
The government must ensure the current rules on mask wearing and reduced capacity on public transport are properly enforced and that the measures continue beyond 19 July when the UK’s remaining restrictions are set to end. Unite is calling on the government to ensure current rules are enforced and that mask wearing and reduced capacity rules continue after other restrictions are relaxed on 19 July.
Unite news release. Risks 1001. 16 June 2021

Britain: Ministers must extend furlough, says TUC
The UK government must extend the furlough scheme in line with the continuation of restrictions, the TUC has said. The union body comments followed Office for National Statistics employment figures showing employee jobs are still down by 550,000.
TUC news release. ONS statistics. BBC News Online. Risks 1001. 16 June 2021

Yorkshire: Joint safety campaign as hospitality reopens
Regional tourism body Welcome to Yorkshire has joined with the TUC in an awareness campaign that asks customers to respect the safety of staff by keeping windows and doors in hospitality venues open. Jointly branded posters have been designed for display in hospitality and culture venues, highlighting the importance of fresh air and ventilation in reducing Covid transmission.
TUC news release and campaign posters. Risks 1001. 16 June 2021

Britain: Unite welcomes closure of Covid hit restaurant
Unite has welcomed the decision by a top Edinburgh restaurant to close temporarily following a Covid outbreak among staff. It is understood 26 members of staff at The Ivy on the Square have tested positive. Initially, restaurant workers from the chain’s Glasgow restaurant were reportedly drafted in to cover the absences - however, following pressure from Unite, which represents many of the restaurant workers, management decided to close the Edinburgh restaurant for a deep clean and to protect staff.
Unite news release. Risks 1001. 16 June 2021

Care employers failing to pay Covid-hit staff
A third of care staff get less than £100 a week — and more than one in 10 no pay at all — if forced to stay at home by coronavirus, their union has revealed. A survey of thousands of care staff carried out by UNISON found that many are put under pressure by bosses to go to work, even if displaying Covid-19 symptoms or needing to self-isolate.
UNISON news release. Morning Star. Risks 1001. 16 June 2021

Britain: Unite no to forced vaccination of care home staff
‘Encouragement, not compulsion’ for health and social care staff when it comes to vaccination against Covid-19 is the best approach, Unite has said. The union was commenting on media reports on 16 June that the government is to announce in the coming days that care staff in England will be given 16 weeks to have the jab or risk losing their jobs.
Unite news release. The Guardian. BBC News Online and update. Risks 1001. 16 June 2021

Britain: GMB slams ‘ill thought through’ vaccine plan
More than a third of its members in care “would consider packing their jobs in” if vaccines were mandated, the union GMB has said. The union warned the widely trailed government plans for care workers in England are ‘ill thought through’ and could lead to a staff exodus.
GMB news release. Morning Star. Risks 1001. 16 June 2021

Britain: Compulsory jabs risk driving staff out, says UNISON
Undervalued and underpaid care home workers could walk away if they are told they must have the Covid vaccine, UNISON has said. Responding to reports that the government is set to announce that Covid-19 vaccinations are to be made compulsory for care home staff in England, UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea: “The NHS has been successfully vaccinating the public and its own staff for more than six months,” adding: “There’s no reason to change this successful approach.”
UNISON news release Risks 1001. 16 June 2021

Britain: Hancock clueless or lying on PPE shortages
Matt Hancock either lied to MPs or had “no idea” what was going on when he claimed there was no personal protective equipment (PPE) shortage during the pandemic, the union GMB has said. It was commenting after the health secretary told a joint hearing of the Commons science and health committees on 10 July “there was never a point at which NHS providers couldn’t get access to PPE.”
GMB news release. Joint meeting of the Commons science and health committees - Inquiry: Coronavirus: lessons learnt10 June evidence from health secretary Matt Hancock. BBC News Online. The Guardian. Risks 1001. 16 June 2021

Britain: Shapps should resign over DVLA ‘debacle’
Workers striking for Covid safety at the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA) in Swansea have demanded the resignation of transport secretary Grant Shapps after hearing that he was the prime suspect for scuppering a deal that could have ended the dispute. The conference of civil service union PCS heard more than 600 Covid cases have been reported at the DVLA, where months of stoppages have followed management’s failure to introduce adequate safety measures.
Morning Star. Risks 1001. 16 June 2021

USA: Healthcare rules come in after thousands die
US labour department officials have announced an emergency temporary standard (ETS) to protect healthcare workers, saying they face “grave danger” in the workplace from the coronavirus pandemic. The measure to protect 10.3 million healthcare workers nationwide has been welcomed by unions and senior political figures, but they have also expressed serious concerns the new rules do not cover all at risk occupations.
OSHA news release and Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) on Covid workplace safety. AFL-CIO news release. UFCW news release. The Guardian. Risks 1001. 16 June 2021

Britain: Call to reintroduce face coverings in schools
Four education unions representing teachers and support staff are calling on the UK government to reinstate face coverings in schools to limit coronavirus spread. With infections on the rise once more, UNISON, GMB, Unite and NEU issued the joint statement demanding a range of safety measures to keep education on track and reduce the risk of further closures.
GMB news release. NEU news release. UNISON news release. Unite news release. Risks 1000. 10 June 2021

Britain: Bosses keep tabs on pickets on DVLA safety strike
Strike action at the DVLA vehicle licensing HQ in Swansea over Covid safety have continued after PCS accused government ministers of “scuppering” a deal that could have led to agreement. The union action is in response to hundreds of Covid-19 infections hitting the Swansea offices.
PCS news release, update and e-action calling on secretary of state Grant Shapps to settle the dispute. Morning Star. Risks 1000. 10 June 2021

Britain: 'Urgent' call to shut quarantine hotel after outbreak
A council has called on the government to shut a quarantine hotel in Reading after a serious Covid-19 outbreak affecting staff and guests. Reading Borough Council said Penta Hotel needed to “urgently close” after it was linked to a “significant” number of positive cases, adding the majority of the positive cases had been identified as the Delta variant, first identified in India.
Reading Chronicle. BBC News Online. Risks 1000. 10 June 2021

Britain: Tory squabbles highlight need for public inquiry
There should be an ‘immediate public inquiry’ over the government's handling of Covid-19, the union GMB has said. It was speaking out after a revealing seven-hour testimony on 26 May by the prime minister’s former senior adviser Dominic Cummings that raised questions over the UK government’s response to the pandemic and the role played by the prime minister and health secretary.
GMB news release. BBC News Online and related article on Dominic Cummings’ claims.
Health and Social Care Committee and Science and Technology Committee are holding a joint inquiry and 26 May evidence session featuring Dominic Cummings. Risks 999. 2 June 2021

Britain: Release data on schools Covid variant cases
Eight trade unions, collectively representing the majority of school and college staff, have written to the secretary of state for education to call for immediate publication of the data held by the government and Public Health England (PHE) on the total number of variant cases linked to schools and colleges.
UNISON news release. GMB news release. Unite news release. Environmental Health News. BBC News Online. Risks 999. 2 June 2021

Britain: Union call for jobcentre closures in variant-hit areas
Civil service union PCS has called for jobcentre closures in eight areas affected by the ‘Indian variant’ of Covid. PCS representatives have called for all jobcentres in those areas to be closed and that claimants are instead serviced remotely and online, as they were when Covid-19 first hit the country.
PCS news release. Risks 999. 2 June 2021

Britain: ‘Disappointment’ at poor UK Covid infection guide
A new UK guide to prevention of Covid-19 infections in health care settings has been criticised as ‘outdated’, ‘inaccurate’, ‘confusing’ and ‘ambiguous’ by airborne hazard experts. The US and UK authors of the criticism express “disappointment” with the joint guidance from the UK-based British Infection Association (BIA), Healthcare Infection Society (HIS), Infection Prevention Society (IPS) and Royal College of Pathologists (RCPath).
Aggie Bak, Moira A Mugglestone, Natasha V Ratnaraja and others. Guidelines. SARS-CoV-2 routes of transmission and recommendations for preventing acquisition: joint British Infection Association (BIA), Healthcare Infection Society (HIS), Infection Prevention Society (IPS) and Royal College of Pathologists (RCPath) guidance, The Journal of Hospital Infection, Published: April 30, 2021 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jhin.2021.04.027
Julian W Tang, Linsey C Marr and Donald K Milton. Letter to the Editor: Aerosols should not be defined by distance travelled, Lancet, Published: May 25, 2021 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jhin.2021.05.007
Sophie Cousins Volume 396, Experts criticise Australia's aged care failings over COVID-19, Lancet, ISSUE 10259, P1322-1323, October 24, 2020. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(20)32206-6
Matthew D McHugh, Linda H Aiken, Douglas M Sloane,  Carol Windsor, Clint Douglas, Patsy Yates. Effects of nurse-to-patient ratio legislation on nurse staffing and patient mortality, readmissions, and length of stay: a prospective study in a panel of hospitals, Lancet, Volume 397, ISSUE 10288, P1905-1913, May 22, 2021. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(21)00768-6
Adam Dean, Atheendar Venkataramani, and Simeon Kimmel. COVID-19 Are Lower In Unionized Nursing Homes, Health Affairs, volume 39, number 11, pages 1993-2001, September 2020. Risks 999. 2 June 2021

Britain: Covid firm fined after worker seriously injured
Kepak Group Limited (formally 2 Sisters Red Meat Limited), a food firm hit by large scale Covid-19 outbreaks, has been fined £600,000 for criminal safety breaches after a worker was seriously injured. A company’s safety record should be taken into account when deciding on enforcement action over Covid breaches, including prosecution, under HSE’s Enforcement Management Model, however neither firm faced prosecution or sanction following major outbreaks.
HSE news release. Risks 999. 2 June 2021

Japan: IOC must review Olympic Covid-19 protocols
The global union confederation ITUC is calling for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to fix the ‘deeply flawed’ Covid-19 protocols it has published for the Tokyo Olympics, through engagement with sports players’ unions and pandemic experts. An article published on 25 May in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine reveals major deficits in the IOC plans, which would expose athletes, workers, volunteers and potentially people in athletes’ home countries to avoidable risk of infection.
ITUC news release. Asahi Shimbun. Japan Today.
Annie K Sparrow, Lisa M Brosseau, Robert J Harrison and Michael T Osterholm. Protecting Olympic Participants from Covid-19 — The Urgent Need for a Risk-Management Approach, New England Journal of Medicine, 25 May 2021. DOI: 10.1056/NEJMp2108567 Risks 999. 2 June 2021

USA: Survey exposes health care worker safety concerns
A George Washington University survey of frontline health care workers during the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic has found many reported unsafe working conditions and faced retaliation for voicing their concerns to employers. About 1,200 health care workers from all 50 states and the District of Columbia took part in the survey, and expressed frustration with unsafe working conditions, especially the unavailability of adequate personal protective equipment.
GWU news release and study, COVID-19 National Health Worker Survey, May 2021. Risks 999. 2 June 2021

Britain: Employers ‘massively under-reporting’ Covid deaths
The number of people who have died of work-related Covid-19 is being “massively under-reported” by employers, according to a new TUC report. ‘RIDDOR, Covid and under-reporting’ highlights a huge discrepancy between Covid work-related deaths reported by employers and data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and Public Health England.
TUC news release. RIDDOR, Covid and under-reporting , TUC, 23 May 2021. The Observer. Morning Star.
Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013. Risks 998. 26 May 2021

Britain: Care staff are more likely to decline jab if threatened
Care staff are nearly twice as likely to turn down a Covid jab if they’ve been threatened or not given vaccination advice by their employer, according to a UNISON survey. The union says the findings – based on responses from over 4,000 workers across the UK, including those in care homes and in the community – suggest forcing care employees to get the jab is likely to backfire.
UNISON news release and full submission to the DHSC. Risks 998. 26 May 2021

Britain: UK government must support seafarer vaccination
The UK government must follow the recommendations of the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) Special Tripartite Committee (STC) on vaccinations for seafarers, organisations representing workers and the shipping industry have said. Seafarers’ union Nautilus International and the UK Chamber of Shipping (UKCS) have written a joint letter to maritime minister Robert Courts urging action.
Nautilus news release. Coronavirus Roadmap for Vaccination of International Seafarers, ICS, May 2021. Risks 998. 26 May 2021

Britain: ‘Vital’ data on Covid in schools must be released
Teaching union NASUWT is calling on Public Health England (PHE) to publish all data it has on the growth and spread of the B.1.617.2 coronavirus ‘Indian’ variant in schools, amid accusations it is withholding crucial information from the public. Dr Patrick Roach, NASUWT general secretary, said: “Teachers, schools leaders and parents will want to know why Public Health England is withholding crucial information on the spread of the Coronavirus ‘Indian variant’, known as B.1.617.2 in schools.”
NASUWT news release. Amended government advice for ‘areas where the new Covid-19 variant is spreading’. BBC News Online. Risks 998. 26 May 2021

Britain: GMB win on Heathrow ‘red list’ risks
Workers at Heathrow are to be better protected after the union GMB raised serious infection concerns and won safer procedures. GMB praised Heathrow Airport for ‘doing the right thing’ and provided a dedicated terminal for arrivals from ‘red list’ countries.
GMB news release and earlier news release. Risks 998. 26 May 2021

Britain: Targeted strike action at DVLA over Covid safety
PCS has served notice of further strike action at the vehicle licensing office DVLA, whose Swansea offices have been hit with hundreds of Covid-19 infections. The targeted action which will involve contact centre workers has been called to press DVLA management into an agreement and to end the dispute over health and safety.
PCS news release. Risks 998. 26 May 2021

Britain: Post Covid push for civil service flexible working
Civil service union PCS has said flexible working should be the norm after the Covid-19 pandemic concludes. The union’s call followed the announcement that the 63,500 tax office workers employed by HMRC will be able to work from home two days a week, under a new flexible working policy due come into operation from 1 June.
PCS news release and five tests for safe working. ITV News. Risks 998. 26 May 2021

Canada: Union workers get Covid protection
Essential workers report feeling unsafe, stressed and overworked and some also believe their employers are using the pandemic to justify negative changes to working conditions. But the Covid Economic and Social Effects Study (CESES) study by McMaster University has established the experience of unionised workers in Ontario is substantially better than their non-union counterparts, concluding unions helped blunt the negative impacts by providing critical information, advocating for safer working conditions, and helping to avoid job loss.
Assessing the Impact of COVID-19 on Ontario Workers, Workplaces and Families, A research project by Mohammad Ferdosi, Peter Graefe, Wayne Lewchuk and Stephanie Ross, co-investigators in the COVID Economic and Social Effects Study (CESES) at McMaster University, May 2021. McMaster University news report. NUPGE news release. The Conversation. Risks 998. 26 May 2021

Global: Union role in combatting vaccine hesitancy
As Covid-19 rages through India, ravages Turkey and continues to kill thousands in Brazil, it has become clearer than ever that none of us is safe until all of us are safe, the global union ITUC has said. Writing in the online publication Equal Times, ITUC deputy general secretary Owen Tudor said unions “have a key role in combatting what some call vaccine hesitancy, especially among those communities most likely to be worried about whether to get the vaccine.”
Equal Times.
Sadie Bell, Richard M Clarke, Sharif A Ismail, Oyinkansola Ojo-Aromokudu, Habib Naqvi, Yvonne Coghill, Helen Donovan, Louise Letley, Pauline Paterson, Sandra Mounier-Jack. COVID-19 vaccination beliefs, attitudes, and behaviours among health and social care workers in the UK: a mixed-methods study, MedRxiv pre-print, 2021. Risks 998. 26 May 2021

India: Tata Steel will pay salaries to Covid victims' families
Tata Steel has said it will compensate the families of its workers in India that die of Covid-19. The firm said it will pay deceased employees’ salaries, housing and medical benefits until what would have been their retirement at the age of 60. It also pledged to cover the education costs of the children of dead frontline workers until they graduate.
BBC News Online. Risks 998. 26 May 2021

Britain: Workers’ safety must come first on reopening - TUC
As millions of people were given the official green light for indoor pints and meals, hugs with loved ones and foreign holidays under separate easing of restrictions across England, Wales and Scotland, the TUC has warned that the safety of workers must be a priority. Commenting on the reopening of indoor hospitality on 17 May, TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “As indoor hospitality reopens, workers’ safety must come first.”
TUC news release. Risks 997. 19 May 2021

Britain: ‘Covid complacency’ warning as hospitality opens up
The public must keep up their guard when eating and drinking inside restaurants, pubs and fast food outlets, Unite has said. Commenting ahead of lockdown restrictions easing on 17 May, the union said its survey had revealed hospitality staff are worried about social distancing.
Unite news release. BBC News Online. Risks 997. 19 May 2021

Britain: Government must increase self-isolation support
The UK government must increase self-isolation support to ensure the success of the vaccine rollout, the Nuffield Trust and the Resolution Foundation have said. The thinktanks warned that boosting compliance with self-isolation rules is critical to resist the threats posed by new variants of coronavirus and rising cases as restrictions continue to ease.
Nuffield Trust news release. Tackling Covid-19: A case for better financial support to self-isolate, Sarah Reed, William Palmer, Mike Brewer and Maja Gustafsson, Nuffield Trust/Resolution Foundation, May 2021. Morning Star. Risks 997. 19 May 2021

Britain: Long Covid compensation decision could take a year
A decision about whether key workers with long Covid should get compensation could take more than a year, government advisers have told the BBC. However, despite the advisers claiming the evidence is not yet available, many other national and regional jurisdictions already provide this compensation coverage for Covid-19 and long Covid.
BBC News Online. File on 4: The Cost of Long Covid, 18 May 2021. Risks 997. 19 May 2021

Britain: Most workers worldwide missing out on Covid support
Just two per cent of the world’s workers are getting the sick pay, wage replacement and social benefits they need to withstand the impacts of Covid-19, a new study from the global union UNI and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) has found. The UK did not make Europe’s top 10 in the UNI/ITUC ranking.
ITUC news release. UNI news release. UNI/ITUC report, COVID-19: An Occupational Disease - Where frontline workers are best protected, 18 May 2021. Risks 997. 19 May 2021

Britain: RMT calls for zero tolerance of Covid safety breaches
As lockdown measures eased from 17 May and with passenger numbers set to rise, transport union RMT has warned transport staff safety must not be compromised. RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: “The government and transport authorities must be clear to the travelling public about the importance of observing public transport Covid regulations - passengers need to be told they must comply with measures such as face masks to protect passengers and workers and to prevent the virus spreading.”
RMT news release. Risks 997. 19 May 2021

Britain: Imposed jobcentre return ‘irresponsible’ says PCS
An increase in face to face activity at jobcentres imposed by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) from 17 May has been described as ‘irresponsible’ by PCS. The civil service union said it had received reports that work coaches have been told they must carry out up to nine face to face interviews each day.
PCS news release, update and e-action asking the Secretary of State for DWP to support safe working in jobcentres. Risks 997. 19 May 2021

Britain: DVLA must address PCS safety fears - MPs
DVLA must strike a deal to address the health and safety fears of staff at its Covid-19 hit Swansea offices, six local MPs have said. The support from local MPs came in a letter to DVLA chief executive Julie Lennard. The MPs - Tonia Antoniazzi (Gower), Geraint Davies (Swansea West), Nia Griffith (Llanelli), Christina Rees (Neath), Carolyn Harris (Swansea East) and Stephen Kinnock (Aberavon) – wrote: “It is vital that staff safety is prioritised which will only be achieved by continued home working arrangements to ensure staff numbers on site remain at reduced capacity.”
PCS news release. Risks 997. 19 May 2021

Britain: ‘Significant concessions’ won in dispute over court safety
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has made ‘significant concessions’ on court safety in England and Wales. PCS said the new measures it secured in negotiations with CPS to address Covid-19 risks now brings the dispute to an end.
PCS news release. Risks 997. 19 May 2021

Britain: Covid inquiry next year welcome but way too late
Unions have welcomed the UK government’s announcement there will be an independent public inquiry into its response to the Covid-19 pandemic, but have questioned why it is being delayed to next year and its scope. A 19 May National Audit Office (NAO) report is strongly critical of the government response to the pandemic which it said led to PPE shortages.
GMB news release. NASUWT news release. UNISON news release. The Guardian and related story. BBC News Online and related story.
NAO news release. Initial learning from the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, NAO, 19 May 2021. Risks 997. 19 May 2021

Global: ITUC welcomes independent panel Covid report
The ‘far-reaching and essential’ recommendations of the Independent Panel on Pandemic Preparedness and Response (IPPPR) have been welcomed by the global union confederation ITUC. The union body said it backs the panel’s vital and urgent call for sharing wealth, productive capacity and intellectual property, which also called for a raft of reforms to the World Health Organisation (WHO) and for WHO to rely more on the International Labour Organisation (ILO), another UN agency, to ensure that jobs and workers are protected from future pandemics.
ITUC news release.  COVID-19: Make it the Last Pandemic, Independent Panel on Pandemic Preparedness and Response (IPPPR), 12 May 2021. Report website and summary. The Guardian. Risks 997. 19 May 2021

USA: Union role in Covid prevention confirmed again
Union-negotiated improvements led to a significant reduction in Covid-19 infection rates in grocery workers, a study has found. The authors conclude: “This report supports the importance of union-negotiated safety and health measures during the pandemic and suggests the importance of labour–management cooperation,” adding: “Stores that responded positively to worker complaints also had better outcomes.”
Nancy A Crowell, Alan Hanson, Louisa Boudreau, Robyn Robbins, and Rosemary K Sokas. Union Efforts to Reduce Covid-19 Infections Among Grocery Store Workers, New Solutions, published online 8 May 2021. doi: 10.1177/10482911211015676
Adam Dean, Atheendar Venkataramani, and Simeon Kimmel. Mortality Rates From COVID-19 Are Lower In Unionized Nursing Homes, Health Affairs, volume 39, number 11, pages 1993-2001, September 2020. Risks 997. 19 May 2021

USA: Official acceptance that coronavirus is an airborne threat
US federal health authorities have updated public guidance about how the coronavirus spreads, emphasising that transmission occurs by inhaling very fine respiratory droplets and aerosols, as well as through contact with sprayed droplets or touching contaminated hands to one’s mouth, nose or eyes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now states explicitly – in large, bold lettering – that airborne virus can be inhaled even when more than six feet away from an infected individual.
Scientific Brief: SARS-CoV-2 Transmission, CDC update, 7 May 2021.
World Health Organisation’s Q&A on Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): How is it transmitted?, updated 30 April 2021. Risks 996. 13 May 2021

Britain: Under 1-in-200 workplaces inspected during pandemic
Just 1-in-218 workplaces have been inspected by a workplace safety regulator during the pandemic, a TUC analysis has revealed The TUC’s research, covering the period from March 2020 to April 2021, was released ahead of indoor hospitality reopening on 17 May.
TUC news releases. The TUC Action Plan to reform the labour market enforcement system, May 2021. Risks 996. 13 May 2021

Britain: Renewed call to keep masks in secondary schools
Education unions and scientists have urged the government to rethink its decision to remove the requirement for face masks to be worn in secondary schools. The change, among other measures to ease Covid restrictions set to come into effect from 17 May, was confirmed by the government on 10 May.
DfE news release. UNISON news release and blog. Morning Star. The Telegraph. The Guardian and related story. BBC News Online. Risks 996. 13 May 2021

Britain: Government ignores is own experts on school masks
The government has ignored advice from its own experts, who have concluded face masks in the classroom should be retained. A 21 April consensus statement from scientists on the government’s Sage committee told ministers that pupils should continue to wear face masks into the summer.
NEU news release. NASUWT news release.
SPI-M-O: Consensus Statement on COVID-19, 21 April 2021. Risks 996. 13 May 2021

Britain: School shuts after more than 100 test positive
A secondary school shut last week after more than 100 pupils and staff tested positive for coronavirus. Wilsthorpe School, in Long Eaton, Derbyshire, did not reopen following the bank holiday after infections were confirmed. A phased reopening started on 11 May at the school, which has about 950 pupils.
Derbyshire County Council statement. BBC News Online and update. Risks 996. 13 May 2021

Britain: UCU criticises university re-opening exercise
Lecturers’ union UCU has criticised the government's decision to resume in-person teaching at universities from 17 May, saying it makes little sense for staff and students as most lessons will have already finished. Commenting after the 10 May announcement, the union said it would be better to wait until next term for a wider reopening of campuses as more people will have been vaccinated.
DfE news release. UCU news release. Risks 996. 13 May 2021

Britain: Compulsory vaccinations for care staff won’t work
Health and social care workers who felt under greater pressure from their employers to receive Covid-19 vaccination were more likely to decline it, according to preliminary new research highlighting factors influencing uptake. Sandra Mounier-Jack, an associate professor in health policy at LSHTM and a study author, said: “Our work shows a move towards mandating Covid-19 vaccination is likely to harden stances and negatively affect trust in the vaccination, provider, and policymakers.”
UNISON news release. LSHTM news release.
Sadie Bell, Richard M Clarke, Sharif A Ismail, Oyinkansola Ojo-Aromokudu, Habib Naqvi, Yvonne Coghill, Helen Donovan, Louise Letley, Pauline Paterson, Sandra Mounier-Jack. COVID-19 vaccination beliefs, attitudes, and behaviours among health and social care workers in the UK: a mixed-methods study. MedRxiv pre-print. Risks 996. 13 May 2021

Britain: Inquest into Covid death of Belly Mujinga welcomed
An inquest is to be held into the death of rail worker Belly Mujinga, more than a year after she died of Covid-19. North London Coroner Andrew Walker, in a ruling welcomed by Belly’s union TSSA, said there was reason to suspect that Ms Mujinga’s death was “unnatural.”
TSSA news release. Morning Star. Risks 996. 13 May 2021

Britain: Key workers were ‘anxious’ through the pandemic
Almost threequarters (74.2 per cent) of key workers felt anxious about going into work last year, an Usdaw survey has found. By far the biggest factor contributing to members’ anxiety is a fear of contracting the virus, the union said, with seven out of ten respondents identifying this as the cause.
Usdaw news release. Risks 996. 13 May 2021

Europe: Huge fall in labour inspections raises Covid risk
The number of labour inspections has collapsed across Europe over the last decade, leaving workplaces less prepared for the Covid-19 pandemic. New research from the Europe-wide trade union confederation ETUC reveals that safety inspections have been cut by a fifth since 2010, falling from 2.2 million annual visits to 1.7 million.
ETUC news release. Risks 995. 6 May 2021

Philippines: Worker pressure forced Covid-19 recognition
More than one year into the pandemic, a concerted campaign by unions and labour rights campaigners has seen the government in the Philippines recognise Covid-19 as an occupational disease. The global union Building and Woodworkers International (BWI) and the Nagkaisa Labour Coalition had earlier lobbied the ECC to declare Covid-19 a compensable occupational disease.
BWI news release. IOHSAD news release. Risks 995. 6 May 2021

Britain: TUC wants to know about your Long Covid
The TUC has launched an online survey for workers who are experiencing or have experienced Long Covid. The union body says it wants to better understand their experiences at work and what additional workplace support they need.
TUC Long Covid Survey. Help share the questionnaire on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Risks 995. 6 May 2021

Global: WHO finally admits aerosol transmission risk for Covid-19
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has admitted for the first time in a public document that there is a risk of airborne transmission of the coronavirus responsible for Covid-19. In the 30 April 2021 update to its online Q&A on Covid-19 transmission, the UN agency acknowledges the “virus can also spread in poorly ventilated and/or crowded indoor settings, where people tend to spend longer periods of time,” adding: “This is because aerosols remain suspended in the air or travel farther than 1 metre (long-range).”
World Health Organisation’s Q&A on Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): How is it transmitted?, updated 30 April 2021. IUF news release.
WHO Q&A: Tips for health and safety at the workplace in the context of COVID-19, June 2020.
WHO Knew. How the World Health Organization (WHO) Became a Dangerous Interloper on Workplace Health and Safety and COVID-19, New Solutions: A Journal of Environmental and Occupational Health Policy, Volume: 30 issue: 3, pages 237-248, November 2020. First Published October 8, 2020. https://doi.org/10.1177/1048291120961337 Risks 995. 6 May 2021

Britain: Prime minister admits PPE failures
Britain's failure ensure adequate supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) were available to workers when the Covid pandemic struck was a "tragedy", Boris Johnson has admitted. In a virtual fundraiser with Tory activists, the prime minister said the nation “couldn’t produce enough gloves, enough gowns, enough masks.”
The Mirror. Morning Star. Risks 995. 6 May 2021

Britain: Official figures hide thousands of work Covid deaths
Official worker fatality figures are hiding thousands of work-related Covid deaths, the union GMB has said. Just 111 people died at work during the year to 31 March, according to HSE figures, but GMB said according to the government’s own statistics, at least 8,000 working age deaths have been linked to Covid in England and Wales in 2020.
GMB news release. Risks 995. 6 May 2021

Britain: Masks in school still needed ‘to keep millions safe’
A coalition of top scientists has joined with education unions including NEU, UNITE, UNISON, GMB and NASUWT and over 400 parents and students to press for crucial safety measures to be retained in schools. The group has written to education secretary Gavin Williamson to express concern at reported government plans to stop requiring children to wear face coverings in secondary school classrooms in England from 17 May.
NEU news release. GMB news release. Morning Star. Risks 995. 6 May 2021

Britain: Experts warn vaccination alone won’t protect workers
Widespread workforce vaccination is not yet a sufficient control to allow for the removal of other Covid safety measures in workplaces, a body representing worker health protection professionals has warned. The British Occupational Hygiene Society, a scientific charity and the chartered society for industrial hygiene specialists, says while vaccination is likely to have a significant impact on workplace transmission, “the Society is warning that simply relying on vaccination, at least in coming months, would be a risky strategy for employers and may contribute to outbreaks, undermine the public health benefits of the vaccine programme, or even land the employer in hot water legally.”
BOHS news release. Risks 995. 6 May 2021

Britain: Mitie failures put staff and patients at risk
Systematic failures by outsourcing giant Mitie have left staff and patients at Dudley hospitals at risk from Covid-19 exposures, Unite has warned. The union was commenting after the company, which holds the facility management contract for the NHS Dudley Hospital Trust, was issued a ‘rare’ Health and Safety Executive (HSE) notice of contravention in relation to Covid safety.
Unite news release. Morning Star. Risks 995. 6 May 2021

Britain: Jobcentre ballot over return to workplaces plan
Jobcentre workers are to be balloted in a move that could lead to industrial action. The move is in response to the Department for Work and Pensions’ (DWP) insistence that staff and customers return to jobcentres to deliver face to face services.
PCS news release. Risks 995. 6 May 2021

Britain: PM must set timetable for Covid-19 public inquiry
The TUC is calling for an immediate public inquiry into the handling of the Covid-19 pandemic. The TUC says that alongside scrutinising the quality of decision-making across the pandemic response in government, the public inquiry must specifically look at infection control and workplace safety, including the failure to provide adequate financial support to self-isolate, PPE availability for health and care staff and other frontline workers throughout the crisis, the effectiveness of test and trace, and the failure to enforce the law on workplace safety.
TUC International Worker’s Memorial Day activities. TUC report calling on the government to introduce tough new measures to ensure that before lockdown restrictions are eased, all employers assess the risks of their staff team returning to work outside the home. TUC Yorkshire and Humber news release. BBC News Online.  
Napo news release. NUJ news release. PCS news release.  POA news release. UCU news release.
Check out what’s going on worldwide on 28 April 2021. Risks 994. 28 April 2021

Britain: PM ‘bodies pile high’ allegation adds to pressure
The prime minister’s alleged comment that he would rather see ‘bodies pile high’ than approve a third lockdown shows why a public inquiry is needed now, the union GMB said. The GMB – which represents hundreds of thousands of frontline key workers – says the PM must come clean on why they were put in harm’s way and why he thinks it’s ok to let them die.
GMB news release. BBC News Online. Morning Star. Risks 994. 28 April 2021

Britain: Unite backs call for Covid public inquiry
Unite general secretary Len McCluskey has backed calls for a for a statutory public inquiry into the government’s mishandling of Covid-19. He said: “Unite offers the bereaved families our full support in securing a permanent home for this incredible wall, and in the continued battle for the full and frank public inquiry the country needs.”
Unite news release. Risks 994. 28 April 2021

Britain: Science advisers admit need for better PPE
A year after campaigners and unions first called for better standard PPE for health care workers potentially exposed to Covid-19, the government’s scientific advisers have finally admitted they were right all along. A technical document released by Sage concludes that healthcare workers may need higher standards of respiratory protective equipment (RPE) and says that where there's “an unacceptable risk of transmission” and other measures have already been applied, “it may be necessary to consider the extended use of appropriate RPE (such as FFP3 masks).”
Masks for healthcare workers to mitigate airborne transmission of SARS-CoV-2, 25 March 2021 (finalised 9 April 2021), 23 April 2021. BBC News Online. Risks 994. 28 April 2021

Britain: Care workers’ mental health has worsened in pandemic
A looming care workers’ health crisis is looming, the union GMB has warned, as new research found that threequarters of care workers have experienced worsening mental health as a result of their work during the pandemic. GMB’s survey of more than 1,200 care workers conducted between December and January found that 75 per cent say that their work during the Covid-19 pandemic has had a serious negative impact on their mental health.
GMB news release. Risks 994. 28 April 2021

Britain: Workers suffering mental health ‘epidemic’
Workers are suffering a mental health ‘epidemic’, a UK and Ireland-wide survey of Unite workplace representatives has revealed. Unite said there is a ‘clear link’ between the increase in stress brought on by the pandemic and called on employers to help prevent the crisis being carried forward as the country opens up.
Unite news release and full survey findings. Risks 994. 28 April 2021

Britain: Covid-19 heightening ‘always on’ work culture
Despite the sharp increase in homeworking and perceived flexibility benefits as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, more than threequarters (77 per cent) of employers have observed ‘presenteeism’ – people working when unwell – in employees who are working from home in the last year. The latest CIPD/Simplyhealth Health and Wellbeing at Work survey also found ’leaveism’ – working outside of contracted hours or using annual leave to work or when ill – is an issue, with seven in ten (70 per cent) employers observing this unhealthy behaviour over the same period.
CIPD news release. 2021 CIPD/Simplyhealth Health and Wellbeing at Work survey report. Risks 994. 28 April 2021

Britain: Scottish bosses warned of £1bn Covid compo bill
Care homes, the Scottish government and employers in Scotland could face £1 billion in Covid compensation claims, a legal expert has warned. Patrick McGuire, head of personal injury specialists Thompsons Solicitors in Scotland, said: “Yes, it is a horrible virus that spread through the world but that doesn’t mean everyone is absolved of all responsibility.”
Daily Record. Scottish Construction Now. Risks 994. 28 April 2021

Britain: ‘Stark’ Covid death rates skewed towards insecure jobs
Covid-19 mortality rates during the pandemic are twice as high in insecure jobs than in other professions, a TUC analysis of official figures has found. The analysis shows the Covid-19 male mortality rate in insecure occupations was 51 per 100,000 people aged 20-64, compared to 24 per 100,000 people in less insecure occupations; the female mortality rate in insecure occupations was 25 per 100,000 people, compared to 13 per 100,000 in less insecure occupations.
TUC news release. Risks 993. 22 April 2021

Britain: Job centre workers 'feel unsafe returning to work'
Many job centre workers currently do not feel safe about returning to the office due to continued concerns about the coronavirus, their union has warned. PCS surveyed 1,299 members and found that three in five workers feel unsafe about going back and found that only 21 per cent of staff surveyed could say for certain that they “felt safe” dealing with face-to-face claimant appointments in job centres across the UK.
PCS news release and survey findings. BBC News Online. Risks 993. 22 April 2021

Britain: Big outbreak at Welsh cake bakery
A Covid-19 outbreak affecting dozens of workers has hit a Welsh cake bakery. An Incident Management Team (IMT) has been set up to control the outbreak at the Cake Crew production facility in Bala, Gwynedd Council said. The bakery, which employs 330 people, is now working with agencies including Gwynedd Council, Public Health Wales and Betsi Cadwaladr health board in attempts to contain the outbreak.
Denbighshire Free Press. BBC News Online. Risks 993. 22 April 2021

Britain: New strike action at DVLA over Covid safety
PCS has told the vehicle licensing agency DVLA of its intention to take a further four days of strike action from 4 to 7 May. The union said the move follows a strike from 6 to 9 April that saw over 1,400 PCS members walkout over health and safety concerns at the DVLA sites.
PCS news release. Risks 993. 22 April 2021

Britain: Forcing care staff to have the jab is wrong
Unions have urged the government to carefully examine potential pitfalls of a proposal to require care home staff in England to be compulsorily vaccinated for Covid-19. The comments from unions came after the government launched a five-week consultation on whether to make care worker vaccinations mandatory.
UNISON news release and related news release. GMB news release. Unite news release. Department of Health and Social Care news release and consultation. RCN statement. The Independent. Nursing Times. Risks 993. 22 April 2021

Britain: TUC safe return report warns of infections ‘rebound’
The UK government and employers have been warned that “infections could rebound” if workplaces aren’t Covid-secure, the TUC has warned. The alert from the union body came ahead of the reopening of hospitality and non-essential shops on 12 April.
TUC news release and Safe Return To Work report, April 2021 [pdf version]. Risks 992. 14 April 2021

Britain: TUC criticises ‘miserly’ increase to statutory sick pay
A 50p rise in statutory sick pay (SSP) from £95.85 to £96.35 a week has been criticised as ‘miserly’ by the TUC. The union body’s general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “No one should be plunged into hardship if they need to self-isolate. But more than a year into this pandemic many workers still don’t have access to decent sick pay.”
BBC News Online. Risks 992. 14 April 2021

Britain: Self-isolation needs end to 'poverty' sick pay
The ‘low’ number of people with Covid symptoms who get a test or self-isolate won’t improve until the government raises significantly Statutory Sick Pay (SSP), the union GMB has said. The union was commenting after a paper published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) suggested just 18 per cent of those with symptoms said they had requested a test, while only 43 per cent with symptoms in the previous seven days adhered to full self-isolation.
GMB news release.
Louise E Smith and others. Adherence to the test, trace, and isolate system in the UK: results from 37 nationally representative surveys. BMJ 2021; 372 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.n608. Published 31 March 2021.
Hao-Yuan Cheng, Ted Cohen and Hsien-Ho Lin. Test, trace, and isolate in the UK, BMJ 2021; 372 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.n822. Published 31 March 2021. Risks 992. 14 April 2021

Self-isolation won’t work without more support - experts
As the UK government announced plans to expand a lateral flow tests rollout to all adults in England, three leading experts from UK universities are warning that testing without support for self-isolation won’t work. Authors Stephen Reicher, John Drury and Susan Michie, all of whom serve on SAGE or its subgroups as well as Independent SAGE, note that for many months, there has been concern at the low levels of adherence among those asked to self-isolate because they have symptoms or a positive test for the coronavirus, or are contacts of a positive case.
Stephen Reicher, John Drury and Susan Michie. Contrasting figures on adherence to self-isolation show that support is even more important than ever, BMJ commentary, 5 April 2021. Risks 992. 14 April 2021

Britain: Sending shielders back to work is ‘deeply irresponsible’
Workers told to shield should not have been forced to choose between their health and their livelihood, the TUC has said. The union body’s safety lead Shelly Asquith was commenting as Boris Johnson’s roadmap out of lockdown ended shielding on 1 April. Asquith said although the government’s guidance to work from home if you can remains in place until at least June, thousands of shielding workers have jobs which can’t be done from home, in open sectors such as public services, manufacturing and construction.
TUC blog. Risks 992. 14 April 2021

Britain: Covid toll shows the need for investment in work safety
The high numbers of Covid-19 deaths linked to exposures to the virus at work reveal “the abject failure of too many to keep workplaces safe,” the union GMB has said. The union points to official figures that show that 31,000 the suspected cases of occupational exposure to coronavirus were reported to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) between 10 April 2020 and 13 March 2021.
GMB news release. Risks 992. 14 April 2021

Britain: NHS reeling as long Covid hits tens of thousands of staff
Intense pressures on the already overstretched NHS are being exacerbated by the tens of thousands of health staff who are sick with long Covid, experts have warned. At least 122,000 NHS personnel have the condition, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) disclosed in a detailed report that showed 1.1 million people in the UK were affected by the condition, ahead of teachers, of whom 114,000 have it.
ONS news release. Ayoubkhani D, Khunti K, Nafilyan V, Maddox T, Humberstone B, Diamond I and others. Post-covid syndrome in individuals admitted to hospital with covid-19: retrospective cohort study, BMJ 2021; 372 :n693 doi:10.1136/bmj.n693.
The Guardian. Morning Star.
Sign the March for Change petition for recognition of Long Covid as an occupational disease. Risks 992. 14 April 2021

Britain: Covid-19 linked to mental and neurological conditions
One in three Covid-19 survivors received a neurological or psychiatric diagnosis within six months of infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus, a study has found. Professor Paul Harrison, lead author of the study, from the University of Oxford, said the findings “confirm the high rates of psychiatric diagnoses after Covid-19, and show that serious disorders affecting the nervous system (such as stroke and dementia) occur too.”
Maxime Taquet, John R Geddes, Masud Husain, Sierra Luciano, Paul J Harrison. 6-month neurological and psychiatric outcomes in 236 379 survivors of COVID-19: a retrospective cohort study using electronic health records, Lancet Psychiatry 2021. Published Online 6 April 2021. https://doi.org/10.1016/S2215-0366(21)00084-5. BBC News Online. Risks 992. 14 April 2021

Britain: Workers walk out in DVLA Covid strike
PCS members have taken four days' strike action following the failure of DVLA to address the lack of Covid safety measures in the workplace. The union said it had to resort to action, with the strike running from 6-9 April, because of the failure of DVLA to address serious concerns at the Swansea site.
PCS news release and update. DVLA PCS members' Facebook page. Donate to the PCS strike fund. Sign and share the PCS e-action to tell Grant Shapps to intervene in the DVLA dispute. BBC News Online. Reel News video. Risks 992. 14 April 2021

Britain: Keeping face coverings is the right move, says UNISON
The government’s decision to require continued use of face coverings in secondary schools in England is the right move, education unions have said. Education secretary Gavin Williamson said face masks would remain as a “precautionary measure”.
UNISON news release. BBC News Online. Risks 992. 14 April 2021

Britain: ‘Right call’ on online learning at universities
Lecturers’ union UCU has said the UK government's decision not to lift restrictions on in-person teaching at English universities as part of the 12 April reopening was the right call. The union said ministers have belatedly listened to the union's demand to keep the majority of learning online, but added they must now be honest with staff and students and admit most courses will stay online until the end of the academic year.
UCU news release. Risks 992. 14 April 2021

Britain: As pubs reopen RMT calls for respect for transport staff
As pubs and outdoor hospitality reopened in England on 12 April, transport union RMT called on the public to ensure that they respect safety measures and staff across the transport sector. RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “We all welcome the fact that we are starting to take the first steps out of the lockdown but it’s important that we maintain the current safety measures on the transport network and that means masks, social distancing and following instructions.”
RMT news release. Risks 992. 14 April 2021

Britain: Usdaw urges shop customers to show respect
As non-essential retail stores opened in England on 12 April, retail union Usdaw has called on people to play their part in keeping shop workers safe and to show respect for shop staff. The UK government published updated safety guidance ahead of reopening which made clear that all customers should continue to follow social distancing rules, shop alone or in small groups, queue or follow one-way signs where necessary, follow hygiene rules, and wear a face covering unless they have an exemption.
Usdaw news release. Risks 992. 14 April 2021

Britain: Unions urge shoppers to ask about ventilation
The TUC in Yorkshire and the Humber is urging shoppers to help keep shop workers safe by asking about ventilation in stores. It says ventilation in workplaces, such as open doors and windows in shops, is a key factor in mitigating infection risk. Citing evidence from the national Hazards Campaign and “a broad consensus of scientists”, the TUC’s regional centre said it is urging shoppers to keep their distance, think about ventilation, and speak up for shop workers if you think something isn't right.
TUC news release. Hazards Campaign ventilation factsheet. Risks 992. 14 April 2021

Britain: Virus fears over Lewisham hospital cleaning cutback
A union is asking for the support of residents in its campaign against a dangerous cut to cleaning within their local hospital, barely a year after a previous jobs cull. Private contractor ISS, which holds the cleaning, portering and catering contract within Lewisham and Greenwich NHS, has revealed it plans to cut 495 hours out of the cleaning contract at Lewisham hospital.
GMB news release. Risks 992. 14 April 2021

Britain: TUC survey reveals widespread Covid-Secure failures
The TUC’s latest biennial survey of workplace safety representatives has found widespread workplace Covid failures. The 2020/21 survey of more than 2,100 workplace safety representatives reveals employer failures on risk assessments, social distancing and PPE during the pandemic.
TUC news release and TUC safety reps survey 2020/21. The Observer.
Research into Covid-19 workplace safety outcomes in the food and drinks sector, March 2021 [full report]. Risks 991. 31 March 2021

Britain: Johnson criticised for ‘back to the office’ call
Boris Johnson has sparked new controversy over when employees should return to their workplaces by suggesting people have had enough “days off” at home during the pandemic, and should try to go back to their offices. The prime minister’s comments – which followed remarks from the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, urging companies to reopen offices when the pandemic eases or risk losing staff – caused alarm among scientists, and were branded by Labour as “irresponsible” and “glaringly inconsistent” with the government’s own route out of lockdown.
BBC News Online and related story. Risks 991. 31 March 2021

Britain: DVLA staff to strike over Covid safety concerns
Hundreds of staff at the Driver and Vehicle Licencing Agency (DVLA) are set to take strike action from Tuesday 6 April to Friday 9 April. Those involved will include all operational staff who haven’t been working from home and have been forced to go into workplaces across the DVLA estate.
PCS news release. Risks 991. 31 March 2021

Britain: Unite welcomes halt to remote sign-on for bus drivers
Unite has strongly welcomed a decision by Mayor of London Sadiq Khan to order a moratorium on bus operators in the capital introducing remote sign-on procedures. The union, which represents over 20,000 bus workers in London, said remote sign-on would force drivers to meet their bus and begin work at an alternative location such as a bus stop.
Unite news release. Risks 991. 31 March 2021

Britain: Pub vaccine passports ‘reckless’ warns union
Hospitality union GMB has warned any plan to demand vaccine certificates to enter pubs would be reckless and a fast track to undo the gains of the present lockdown. The union said this type of scheme could lead to false certificates, potential violence for pub workers and even a black market for vaccine doses.
GMB news release. BBC News Online. Risks 991. 31 March 2021

Britain: Face coverings in schools make staff feel safer
The introduction of face coverings in schools have made school support staff feel safer – and taking them away when infection rates are still high and rising in some areas would be a mistake, UNISON has warned. Seven in ten (71 per cent) teaching, learning and special needs assistants, administrators, lunchtime supervisors and facility staff in England believe face coverings in secondary schools are an important safety measure, the union’s survey found.
UNISON news release. Risks 991. 31 March 2021

Britain: NHS workers need ‘sensitive’ Covid mental health support
Unite has called for “maximum sensitivity” and full consultation with unions to deal with the mental health challenges health workers face as a result of the pandemic. The union, which represents over 100,000 workers in the NHS, made its comments following a report from the NHS Confederation, which represents NHS organisations, calling for ‘local leaders’ to ensure staff have ‘decompression time’ to deal with the effects of the pandemic.
Unite news release. NHS Confederation news release. Risks 991. 31 March 2021

Britain: Third driver dies at Covid-hit bus depot
A third First Bus driver has died after a coronavirus outbreak at a Falkirk based depot, one of a number of workplace outbreaks linked last month to an infections spike in the Scottish town. First Bus confirmed Graham Kemp, 68, died in hospital on 22 March after a long battle with the illness; it is understood he had contracted the virus in January when the outbreak first began and had remained in hospital since.
Daily Record. Risks 991. 31 March 2021

Global: Covid-19 is an occupational disease - video
Global unions BWI, UNI and PSI have produced a campaign video on the need to classify Covid-19 as an occupational disease. They note: “It's time that we declare Covid-19 an occupational disease. Such a classification will provide workers additional protection against the pandemic and make our workplaces safer and healthier. Workers who contract the virus while at work will be justly compensated and workplaces can implement more preventive measures based on the generation of national statistical analyses from the occupational disease situation of different countries.” The UK continues to lag behind many nations on Covid-19 compensation. The Industrial Injuries Advisory Council (IIAC) recommended on 25 March against ‘prescription’ of Covid-19 as an occupational disease, so this situation is likely to remain unchanged for some time.
BWI/UNI/PSI Covid video. COVID-19 and occupation: IIAC position paper 48, 25 March 2021. Risks 991. 31 March 2021

Britain: Is your workplace properly ventilated video
We’re all by now familiar with many of the ways we can help protect ourselves and prevent others from contracting Covid-19 – physical distancing, face masks or coverings, cleaning surfaces, washing hands, getting tested and self-isolating. Launching a new video, safety advocacy group Scottish Hazards said “we now know that an additional and crucial protection is good ventilation: and, by that, we mean taking measures to increase the amount of outside air entering a building.”
Scottish Hazards website and video. Risks 991. 31 March 2021

Global: US to seize PPE over labour and safety abuses
The US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency has ordered the seizure of disposable gloves made by Malaysia's Top Glove company. The order said CBP had sufficient information to believe that Top Glove uses forced labour in the production of disposable gloves; the firm was forced to shut more than half of its 28 factories in November 2020 after almost 2,500 employees tested positive for coronavirus.
BBC News Online. Risks 991. 31 March 2021

Britain: Most not getting paid time off for vaccine
Less than half (45 per cent) of companies surveyed are giving staff paid time-off to get vaccinated, the TUC has found. The union body’s poll of more than 1,000 private sector employers shows that too many are not taking simple practical steps to make sure as many of their staff as possible get vaccinated.
TUC news release. . 23 March 2021

Britain: ‘Damning verdict’ on failure to prevent bus driver deaths
Evidence an earlier lockdown last year would have saved bus drivers’ lives is a “damning verdict on the failure to protect vulnerable key workers,” Unite has said. The union, which represents over 20,000 bus drivers in London, was commenting on a March 2021 report from University College London (UCL), which found that 80 per cent of the bus workers who died of Covid-19 in the first wave had ceased work by 3 April 2020.
Unite news release. UCL news release. Report of the second stage of a study of London bus driver mortality from Covid-19, UCL Institute of Health Equity, 19 March 2021. BBC News Online. Risks 990. 23 March 2021

Britain: ‘Rogue bus service’ probed for serial safety breaches
The ‘rogue bus service’ run by Go North West in the Greater Manchester area is under investigation for serial Covid-19 safety failures and breaches of other vital safety regulations. Go North West, which is part of the multi-billion pound Go Ahead group, launched its ‘rogue bus service’ rather than seek a negotiated settlement to the dispute with Unite, over plans to fire and rehire its bus drivers on vastly inferior terms and conditions.
Unite news release. Risks 990. 23 March 2021

Britain: Covid-secure ‘mockery’ exposed by serial outbreaks
A third coronavirus outbreak at a major chicken processing factory in Scotland has made “a mockery” of the idea of Covid-secure workplaces, a leading expert in occupational health has said. Professor Andrew Watterson was commenting after a third outbreak at the 2 Sisters Food Group’s (2SFG) chicken factory in Coupar Angus, this time affected more than two dozen of its workforce of around 1,000 people.
The National. Risks 990. 23 March 2021

Britain: MPs told the virus put a spotlight HSE funding crisis
The experience of the pandemic has shone a spotlight on the underfunding of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), MPs on the Commons Work and Pensions Committee have been told. Mike Clancy, the general secretary of Prospect, the union representing health and safety inspectors at the HSE, made the comments at a committee session on 17 March.
Prospect news release. Work and Pensions Committee oral evidence, 17 March 2021. Risks 990. 23 March 2021

Britain: Health workers need better protection from Covid
Too many official bodies are failing to stand up and recommend the level of respiratory protective equipment (RPE) needed to a stop health care workers (HCW) developing Covid-19, a paper in the journal Occupational Medicine has warned. Occupational physicians Paul Nicholson and Dil Sen – formerly a senior occupational doctor with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) – state that despite “overwhelming evidence supporting aerosol transmission” of the coronavirus responsible for Covid-19, “this has not translated into appropriate, consistent policies on RPE for HCWs.”
Paul J Nicholson, Dil Sen. Healthcare workers and protection against inhalable SARS-CoV-2 aerosols, Occupational Medicine, kqab033, 18 March 2021. https://doi.org/10.1093/occmed/kqab033. SOM blog. Risks 990. 23 March 2021

Britain: More must be done to protect care homes
More must be done to protect care homes from infection spread by addressing problems including a lack of access to decent sick pay and ‘heavy-handed employers’, UNISON has said. The union was commenting after a study, published as a letter in the New England Journal of Medicine, looked at a sharp rise in positive PCR tests for new Covid-19 variants in care home staff and residents in England between October and December.
UNISON news release. UCL news release.
Maria Krutikov, Andrew Hayward, Laura Shallcross. Spread of a Variant SARS-CoV-2 in Long-Term Care Facilities in England,New England Journal of Medicine, 16 March 2021doi: 10.1056/NEJMc2035906 Risks 990. 23 March 2021

Britain: Covid strike ballot to open at prisons across England
Strike action could be on the cards at prisons across England as a ballot opens for UCU members at the country's largest prison education provider, Novus. The ballot is over Covid health and safety concerns and will close on 9 April.
UCU news release. Risks 990. 23 March 2021

Britain: Workforce decimated after ‘incoherent’ DHL safety move
DHL’s workers and customers have been put at “unnecessary danger” after the company allowed a manager in Manchester with flu-like symptoms to return without taking necessary measures, the union CWU has claimed. Large numbers of workers at DHL Parcel UK’s depot on the Trafford Park industrial estate have now been off work sick with Covid-19, with a third so far infected.
CWU news release. Morning Star. Risks 990. 23 March 2021

Britain: STUC welcomes go slow on reopening workplaces
Scotland’s national union body STUC has welcomed Nicola Sturgeon’s plan for a gradual reopening of the country’s economy. The step-by-step plan aims to see something approaching normality return by early June.
Scottish government news release. STUC news release. BBC News Online. Risks 990. 23 March 2021

Britain: MPs and industry leaders back better workers’ rights
Ahead of the anniversary of the UK’s first lockdown, a poll of MPs and industry leaders on their post-pandemic priorities has found strong support for improving workers’ rights and for better sick pay. Unite, which commissioned the Survation poll, says that the findings should see the government 'seize the initiative' and move to outlaw the horrific practice of fire and rehire.
Unite news release. Survation poll of MPs and business leaders. Risks 990. 23 March 2021

Britain: Wilko workers ready to strike over sick pay
Wilko workers are ready to strike after bosses cut their sick pay entitlement - while management kept theirs. A consultative ballot saw 88 per cent vote for action up to and including a strike following the ‘savage’ cuts. GMB said the discount high street chain remained open throughout the pandemic thanks to the hard work and dedication of their employees.
GMB news release. Risks 990. 23 March 2021

Global: Work, health and Covid-19 literature review
With work a key vector of Covid-19 transmission, a new report from the European Trade Union Confederation’s research union ETUI examines why it is critical that occupational health and safety measures take centre stage in mitigation policies. ETUI notes: “Besides recognising Covid-19 as an occupational disease and providing adequate protection to workers across sectors, it is important for OSH [occupational safety and health] measures to go beyond workplace exposure to the disease and to include the various factors increasing exposure because of work.”
ETUI publication alert and full report, Work, health and Covid-19, A literature review, March 2021. Risks 990. 23 March 2021

Britain: DVLA workers to strike over office Covid fears
Hundreds of workers at the government vehicle licensing office in Swansea have voted for industrial action over Covid health and safety concerns. The DVLA office has seen more than 500 Covid cases since September in what a union described as “the worst Covid workplace outbreak” in the UK.
PCS news release and courts strike vote. BBC News Online. Risks 989. 16 March 2021

Britain: Vaccinated workers are a lower transmission risk
Vaccination of Scotland’s healthcare workers offers some protection against transmission of Covid-19 to their household contacts, a new study has found. The rate of infection with Covid-19 vaccine for people that live with healthcare workers is at least 30 per cent lower when the worker has been vaccinated mostly with a single dose, according to the preliminary new research.
LSHTM news release. Effect of vaccination on transmission of COVID-19: an observational study in healthcare workers and their households, MedRXIV pre-print, 2021. Risks 989. 16 March 2021

Britain: ‘Huge mistake’ by public health left workers at deadly risk
A ‘huge mistake’ by national public health agencies in the US, UK and elsewhere could have greatly increased the death toll among workers, new research suggests. “The upshot is that it’s inhalation” of tiny airborne particles that leads to infection, said Donald Milton, a professor at the University of Maryland School of Public Health who studies how respiratory viruses are spread, “which means loose-fitting surgical masks are not sufficient.”
Kaiser Health News. The Guardian.
Michael Klompas and others. Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 from asymptomatic and presymptomatic individuals in healthcare settings despite medical masks and eye protection, Clinical Infectious Diseases, 2021, ciab218, published 11 March 2021. https://doi.org/10.1093/cid/ciab218 Risks 989. 16 March 2021

Britain: Workers’ court on Covid delivers guilty verdicts
The UK governments, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and employers have been found guilty of a series of charges relating to deadly negligence in addressing the workplace risks posed by Covid-19. The verdicts, returned at a Workers’ Court on the 11 March anniversary of the start of the pandemic, conclude the combined failures led to the preventable deaths of tens of thousands of workers and members of the public.
Hazards Campaign news release. Video record: Court verdict and concluding remarks; jury deliberations; and witness statements. Risks 989. 16 March 2021

Britain: Working poor hardest hit by Covid
The working poor are bearing the greatest burden from Covid-19, a public health study has found. The research by Sheffield council showed people in low paid jobs, with insecure contracts, who couldn't afford to isolate have been hardest hit by the disease in the city - while the rates were generally greater among the less well-off, they were highest of all in the third income group, rather than the poorest or second poorest.
BBC News Online. BBC Newsnight. Risks 989. 16 March 2021

Britain: ‘Big bang’ return a big worry for school support staff
Half of school support staff in England were anxious ahead of the return to classrooms last week, with many fearing measures to keep them safe were inadequate, according to a UNISON survey. More than 8,000 teaching assistants, cleaners, technicians, librarians, receptionists and catering staff took part in the poll between 26 February and 8 March.
UNISON news release. Risks 989. 16 March 2021

Britain: Lift the burdens on working mums, says TUC
The TUC is asking ministers to do more to lift the burdens facing working mums. While the reopening of schools has eased some of the burden mums face, there are ongoing pressures about getting enough childcare to cover hours at work, the union body said.
TUC news release. Risks 989. 16 March 2021

Britain: Rising toll of work stress on NHS staff
The proportion of NHS staff in England who reported feeling unwell as a result of work-related stress increased by nearly 10 per cent last year as the Covid pandemic took its toll, according to the health service’s 2020 survey. The NHS Staff Survey 2020 found that 44 per cent reported feeling unwell as a result of work-related stress in the previous 12 months, compared with 40.3 per cent in 2019.
NHS Staff Survey 2020. The Guardian. Personnel Today. Risks 989. 16 March 2021

Global: Deliveroo called out for pandemic profiteering
Deliveroo’s predatory business model means workers shoulder significant risks, including low pay rates, dangerous working conditions and unfair deactivations, its riders have said. Ahead of a major public share issue (IPO) on the London Stock Exchange, a global network of Deliveroo riders is warning potential investors of growing legal, regulatory, and reputational risks, urging them not to back the company until it improves rider safety, conditions and pay.
ITF news release and 10 gig economy principles. ETUC news release. Rights4Riders. Risks 989. 16 March 2021

USA: Regulator lays out Covid enforcement plan
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the US government’s federal safety regulator, has launched a national emphasis program (NEP) focusing enforcement efforts on companies that put the largest number of workers at serious risk of contracting the coronavirus. The move, in response to President Biden's executive order on protecting worker health and safety, also targets employers that retaliate against workers for complaints about unsafe or unhealthy conditions, or for exercising other rights protected by federal law.
OSHA news release and National Emphasis Program – Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). Department of Labor news release. Risks 989. 16 March 2021

Britain: UK government has downplayed work Covid risks
The risk of Covid-19 transmission in the workplace remains significant but is being dangerously downplayed by the UK government, new research has concluded. A report from the Institute of Employment Rights (IER), written by 11 specialists in occupational health and safety and labour law, calls for measures including more resources for the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and enhanced rights for union safety reps.
IER news release and recommendations. HSE and Covid at work: A case of regulatory failure [preview], IER, March 2021. Purchase details.
SHP Online. Left Foot Forward. Personnel Today. Risks 988. 11 March 2021

Britain: Commons staff not consulted on Westminster return
A trade union representing workers at the House of Commons have expressed “extreme disappointment” at the 4 March publication of a roadmap from the House of Commons Commission aimed at returning staff attendance at Westminster to pre-Covid levels over the coming months, but “which was created without any consultation with the very people who will be required to make it work; the staff.”
Prospect news release. Risks 988. 11 March 2021

Britain: TV probe highlights DVLA Covid failures
Staff at the DVLA offices in Swansea have told an ITV Wales investigation that their concerns about Covid safety have been ignored and they feel forgotten by management. Workers at the vehicle licensing agency featured on the programme, broadcast on 3 March, said it was only following pressure from their union PCS and local MPs that any action on safety was taken by management.
PCS news release. ITV Wales investigation. Risks 988. 11 March 2021

Britain: Union role recognised in Bakkavor breakthrough
Newsnight, the BBC's flagship news programme, has highlighted the union role in exposing unsafe work practices and securing protection for staff. The programme featured GMB’s work at the food giant Bakkavor, where in December 2020 the union secured full pay for staff off work and a rollout of mass testing at the Tilmanstone salads factory.
BBC Newsnight, 4 March 2021. GMB news release. Risks 988. 11 March 2021

Britain: Universities flouting government Covid guidelines
Three universities are breaching government guidelines over a return to in-person teaching, lecturers’ union UCU has warned. UCU said the universities of Oxford, Manchester Metropolitan and Edge Hill are flouting guidelines stating that in-person teaching should only have resumed from 8 March where subjects are practical or practice-based and require specialist equipment and facilities, noting “providers should not ask students to return if their course can reasonably be continued online.”
UCU news release. Risks 988. 11 March 2021

Britain: Hopes raised for 'vital' Belly Mujinga inquest
Rail transport union TSSA has welcomed the consideration of a “vital” coroner's inquest into the death of customer service worker Belly Mujinga, because “a number of important questions remain unanswered”. The union was commenting after North London Coroner Andrew Walker indicated he was considering whether to hold an inquest into the death of the 47-year-old transport worker, a TSSA member.
TSSA news release. BBC News Online. Risks 988. 11 March 2021

Britain: Bus drivers pull the brake on overcrowded buses
London bus drivers have been advised to stop driving if their bus becomes overcrowded, in order to prevent the transmission of Covid-19. Unite said the move by its members is in response to the high number of bus drivers who died of Covid-19 and to prevent transmission among passengers, Transport for London (TfL) rules say a maximum of 30 passengers can ride on a double decker bus and the maximum capacity for a single decker is 11 or 14 depending on its size.
Unite news release. Risks 988. 11 March 2021

Britain: Health union slams idea of forced Covid vaccine
A government plan to force all NHS and care staff in England to get vaccinated against Covid-19 has been criticised as “sinister” and likely to increase the numbers refusing to have the jab. Health unions and hospital bosses urged the health service to continue its efforts to persuade its 1.4 million workforce in England to get immunised rather than resorting to compulsion and “bullying” to try to increase take-up.
UNISON news release. Daily Mail. The Guardian. Risks 988. 11 March 2021

Britain: Unite reps ready to promote vaccine take-up
Unite’s ‘standing army’ of 30,000 workplace reps is being mobilised to play its part in promoting the benefits of the Covid-19 vaccine to workmates across the UK. The union launched the major initiative with its general secretary Len McCluskey saying the UK’s accelerating vaccination programme is “a bridge to a safer world, and the chance to live, work and travel as we did before.”
Unite news release, Stay safe, get a jab webpages and video. Risks 988. 11 March 2021

Britain: West Midlands first responders win full Covid sick pay
Ambulance workers and paramedics in the West Midlands have won full Covid-19 sick pay after a GMB campaign. Official NHS guidance states workers should be paid in full, including average overtime, whilst isolating due to coronavirus - but their union GMB says that until now, workers at West Midlands Ambulance Service had to scrape by on limited sick pay while self-isolating - but will now be receiving an average of their overtime too.
GMB news release and release on the budget. Risks 988. 11 March 2021

Britain: UK infection control guidelines ‘fundamentally flawed’
Official Covid-19 infection control guidelines used across the UK are “flawed and need replacing”, a new expert report has warned.  The report, commissioned by the RCN and written by independent experts, analysed a literature review for the UK government that underpins the current guidance and found the review’s shortcomings included a failure to consider a key way in which Covid-19 is transmitted – airborne infection – about which growing evidence has emerged during the pandemic.
RCN news release. RCN Independent Review of Guidelines for the Prevention and Control of COVID-19 in Health Care Settings in the UK, 7 March 2021. BBC News Online. Morning Star. Risks 988. 11 March 2021

Global: Over 17,000 health workers dead from Covid-19
A new analysis by Amnesty International and the global unions Public Services International (PSI) and UNI has exposed the horrific toll of Covid-19 on frontline health workers. The research found over 17,000 health care workers had died of the infection, with the groups saying their findings demonstrate the need for governments to support a waiver on vaccine patents to ensure a faster rollout.
PSI news release. Risks 988. 11 March 2021

Global: Union push for a nursing home Covid ‘shield’
Urgent changes are needed to help keep nursing home workers and residents safer during the Covid-19 pandemic and beyond, a global union has said. Marking one year since the start of the global pandemic, UNICARE - the care sector section of the global union UNI – says its new ‘Building a shield against Covid-19: Guidelines for unions to respond’ offer principles for change and case studies to guide unions in their work to combat the coronavirus and to make fundamental changes in the industry.
UNI news release and guide, Building A Shield Against COVID-19: Guidelines for unions to respond, UNICARE, March 2021 [Also available in French, Spanish and German]. Risks 988. 11 March 2021

Britain: Confusion over rethink on low HSE Covid risk ranking
Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has disputed claims that bosses have privately agreed to review the classification of Covid-19 as a ‘significant’ workplace risk. However, it is now believed several HSE board members pressed successfully for the review, after voicing concerns that inspectors felt constrained from using their full enforcement powers to keep workplaces safe.
The Mirror. Risks 987. 3 March 2021

USA: Hospital fined for Covid breaches after three nurses die
A Chicago hospital has become the latest US employer fined after failing to follow federal workplace Covid-19 guidelines. Three nurses at the hospital died after contracting the infection.
Chicago Sun-Times. Risks 987. 3 March 2021

Britain: Health and safety is ‘key’ to reopening the economy
The success of economic recovery is dependent on maintaining workplace safety for everyone - but to achieve that we need a Health and Safety Executive (HSE) that is properly resourced, HSE union Prospect has stated. Mike Clancy, the union’s general secretary, said: “For less than half the cost of the failed Eat Out to Help Out scheme, the government could reverse all of the cuts to HSE so that it was fully funded for the rest of the parliament.”
Prospect news release. Risks 987. 3 March 2021

Britain: Furlough scheme extension late but welcome
Unions have welcomed the chancellor’s announcement of an extension to the furlough scheme until the end of September. Ahead of his 3 March budget, Rishi Sunak said the scheme - which pays 80 per cent of employees' wages for the hours they cannot work in the pandemic - would help millions through “the challenging months ahead.”
TUC news release. Unite news release. GMB news release. Usdaw news release. BBC News Online. The Guardian. Risks 987. 3 March 2021

Britain: Education unions issue joint advice for fuller opening
School leaders will need to review the safety procedures to ensure they are updated as necessary ahead of the 8 March reopening of schools in England, education unions have said. Joint advice issued by GMB, NEU, UNISON and Unite notes the unions are “keen to see schools open more widely, but this should only happen when the science says it is safe and in a manner which is safe - when schools’ risk assessments, including individual risk assessments, have been completed and updated and when appropriate safety measures have been introduced.”
NEU alert. Joint union advice for fuller opening of schools and colleges in March 2021. The Guardian. Risks 987. 3 March 2021

Britain: Full pupil return in Scotland risks Covid surge
The announcement by Scotland’s first minister that the return to school for all primary school children on a full-time basis and all secondary pupils on a part-time basis, risks reversing reductions in Covid infection rates. EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan said: “An overhasty return of all pupils to the classroom setting, could put at risk the progress that has been made in reducing rates of Covid infection during the lockdown period.”
EIS news release and Protect Education campaign. Risks 987. 3 March 2021

Britain: Necessary safety measures not in place for full return
The Scottish government has not put in place the safety measures necessary for full return of pupils, a union has warned. Commenting on 2 March, NASUWT general secretary Dr Patrick Roach said: “As the public health situation remains fragile, the government must demonstrate that it is acting on the evidence to limit the spread of the virus in schools and in the wider community.”
NASUWT news releaseRisks 987. 3 March 2021

Global: Prioritising workers for vaccine works best
Approaches that prioritise workers for the Covid-19 vaccine ‘consistently outperform’ those that do not, academics and health researchers from the UK and Canada have found. The researchers from the University of Manchester, Simon Fraser University and Canadian health agencies examined different vaccination strategies in the Canadian province of British Columbia and found “age-based rollouts are both less equitable and less effective than strategies that prioritise essential workers,” adding “strategies that target essential workers earlier consistently outperform those that do not, and that prioritising essential workers provides a significant level of indirect protection for older adults.”
Nicola Mulberry, Paul F Tupper, Christopher MacCabe, Erin Kirwin, Caroline Colijn. Vaccine Rollout Strategies: The Case for Vaccinating Essential Workers Early. medRxiv 2021.02.23.21252309; doi: https://doi.org/10.1101/2021.02.23.21252309 [preview]. JCVI interim statement on phase 2 of the COVID-19 vaccination programme, 26 February 2021. Usdaw news release. The Guardian. London Evening Standard. BBC News Online. Risks 987. 3 March 2021

Britain: Urgent need for Covid safety in the courts
Safety arrangements must be reviewed across courts and tribunals as Covid has made large parts of the justice sector unsafe, organisations in the sector have warned. Civil service unions and other justice sector organisations have signed a joint statement to Kevin Sadler, acting CEO of HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS), reiterating concerns that some courts are unsafe.
PCS news release and joint statement. Risks 987. 3 March 2021

Britain: PPE policy leaves low paid ambulance staff at risk
Low paid ambulance workers are being put at risk by their trust’s two-tier policy towards PPE, the union GMB has warned. It says the North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) is ‘playing fast and loose with Covid safety’ by prioritising higher paid staff and leaving lowest paid frontline ambulance workers with the most basic of masks.
GMB news release.
RA Stern, P Koutrakis, MAG Martins and others. Characterization of hospital airborne SARS-CoV-2. Respiratory Research, volume 22, article number 73, 2021. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12931-021-01637-8 Risks 987. 3 March 2021

Britain: RMT protest at rail station violence surge
An RMT protest outside Lewisham rail station in London on 2 March has highlighted what the union says is the need for urgent action in the wake of a surge of Covid-related assaults on staff. In one incident last month a member of staff at the station was spat at in the face and two others verbally abused and threatened by a man who was vandalising the station, RMT said, adding it was the second time the worker has been spat at and the third time he has been assaulted, leaving him terrified of returning to work.
RMT news release. Risks 987. 3 March 2021

Global: Long-term care work among most dangerous jobs
The Covid-19 pandemic has made nursing homes some of the most hazardous - and even deadly - worksites in the world, the global union UNI has warned. Its report, ‘The most dangerous job: The impact of Covid-19 on Long-Term Care Workers in the US, UK, Canada, Ireland, and Australia’, reveals how similar issues across the long-term care sector in the five countries contributed to Covid-19 contagion and deaths not just for residents but also the vulnerable workers in the industry.
UNI news release and report, The most dangerous job: The impact of Covid-19 on Long-Term Care Workers in the US, UK, Canada, Ireland, and Australia, February 2021. Risks 987. 3 March 2021

Global: Teleperformance profits from unsafe work
The strong profits posted by customer service multinational Teleperformance have come on the back of exploitative and unsafe working conditions for its staff, the global commerce union UNI has charged. Branding the company one of the “pandemic profiteers,” UNI said Teleperformance and its shareholders have “benefited from the massive shift of customer transactions to remote locations such as call centres.
UNI news release. Risks 987. 3 March 2021

New Zealand: Business and unions want Covid action
All workplaces must play their part in ensuring that New Zealand beats the latest Covid outbreak and help minimise the risk of future outbreaks, organisations representing unions and businesses have said. The call came in a joint statement from the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions (CTU) and Business New Zealand (BNZ) and followed a local outbreak where 11 people were found to be infected.
NZCTU news release. The Guardian. Risks 987. 3 March 2021

USA: Safety regulator failed in virus response
The US government’s workplace safety regulator cannot show that its inspection policies and regulations were effective in combating workplace Covid-19 infections under the Trump administration, according to a new report from the US Labor Department’s inspector general. “There is an increased risk that OSHA has not been providing the level of protection that workers need at various job sites,” the Office of Inspector General (DOL-OIG) said in the 2 March report.
DOL-OIG news report, 25 February 2021. Bloomberg Law. Washington Post. Risks 987. 3 March 2021

Britain: HSE union calls for enforcement resources and action
Maintaining workplace health and safety and controlling any spike in Covid-19 case numbers will be vital to economic recovery and protecting jobs in 2021, safety inspectors’ union Prospect has said. A joint statement by the union’s general secretary, Mike Clancy, and Prospect’s branch in the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) calls for the Covid workplace risk ranking to be moved from up from ‘significant’ to ‘serious’, which would “remove the shackles preventing inspectors from using enforcement to bring an activity to an immediate stop where their opinion supports such action.”
Prospect news release. Risks 986. 24 February 2021

Britain: Virus death risk 4x higher in women garment workers
Women working in Britain’s garment factories are four times more likely to die from Covid-19 than the average woman worker, according to a new TUC analysis of official data. The analysis of Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures released last month reveals that women sewing machinists have the highest Covid-19 fatality rate (64.8 deaths per 100,000) of any female occupation.
TUC news release. Coronavirus (COVID-19) related deaths by occupation, England and Wales: deaths registered between 9 March and 28 December 2020, ONS, 25 January 2021. Morning Star. Risks 986. 24 February 2021

Britain: Schools to open, closed workplaces to stay shut
The UK government’s four-step roadmap for easing lockdown restrictions in England will see schools reopened fully from 8 March but will see other business closures continue and the stay at home order remain in place for now. Announcing the roadmap on 22 February, the prime minister said from 29 March “people will no longer be legally required to stay at home but many lockdown restrictions will remain,” adding: “People should continue to work from home where they can and minimise all travel wherever possible.”
10 Downing Street news release and Boris Johnson’s statement and datasets, 22 February 2021. UNISON news release. BMA news release. BBC News Online. Risks 986. 24 February 2021

Britain: The government is still ‘not following the science’
The prime minister has pressed ahead with a ‘gamble’ on the wider opening of schools and colleges but has ignored the evidence of its own advisers and of high infection rates in school staff, the teaching union NEU has said. The union, citing evidence from SAGE advisory committees from February and January, said Boris Johnson has ignored advice recommending a phased return.
NEU news release and related news release.
Coronavirus (COVID-19) Infection Survey: characteristics of people testing positive for COVID-19 in England, 22 February 2021. Risks 986. 24 February 2021

Britain: NASUWT says show us the evidence
Re-opening schools and colleges fully is one thing, but keeping them open and preventing the need for further national restrictions is quite another, the teaching union NASUWT has said. Responding to the announcement by the prime minister that all pupils are to return to schools and colleges from 8 March, NASUWT general secretary Dr Patrick Roach said: “The government’s failure to demonstrate that it has taken full account of the scientific evidence to support its decision on full reopening risks undermining the confidence of the public and those working in schools and colleges.”
NASUWT news release. Morning Star. Risks 986. 24 February 2021

Britain: Schools reopening ‘gamble’ risks Covid spike
The UK government’s decision to fully re-open schools in England on 8 March risks increasing Covid-19 rates and threatens the health of children, all school workers and their families, the union Unite has said. Caren Evans, Unite’s officer with national responsibility for schools, commented: “The scientific advice clearly advised a phased return to schools but the prime minister apparently knows better, adding: “Once again the UK is guilty of failing to learn from the good practice of other nations including Scotland and Wales which are undertaking a phased return.”
Unite news release. Risks 986. 24 February 2021

Britain: ‘Precious little’ preparation for schools safe return
Schools must fully revise and publish risk assessments ahead of a full return of pupils in England, the union GMB has said. Commenting ahead of the prime minister’s 22 February announcement on its lockdown easing plans, the union said the government must fund additional safety measures for the 8 March return of all pupils.
GMB news release. UNISON news release. The Guardian. Morning Star. Risks 986. 24 February 2021

Britain: Reopening ‘cocktail of dangers’ on bus driver safety
Transport union RMT has issued a new warning over bus driver safety after the government confirmed the mass opening of schools in England on 8 March. RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “High infection rates, new variants of Covid-19, combined with a mass return to school and poor enforcement of face mask wearing and social distancing, could represent a cocktail of dangers and greater risks for our drivers.”
RMT news release. Risks 986. 24 February 2021

Britain: Wide concern at reopening of schools in England
Nine education organisations have spelled out their requirements for a wider, safe opening of schools and colleges in England. The statement, issued ahead of the prime minister’s 22 February announcement, comes from the education unions GMB, NASUWT, NEU, UNISON and Unite, as well as the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), National Governance Association (NGA) and the Sixth Form Colleges' Association (SFCA).
Joint education organisations’ statement, 19 February 2021. BBC News Online. Risks 986. 24 February 2021

Britain: Non-essential stores need a safe reopening
Retail trade union Usdaw is calling on customers to follow the rules and respect shopworkers, as non-essential stores in England are set to reopen on 12 April. The union is also urging the UK government, which announced the retail plan as part of its lockdown easing roadmap, to ensure shopworkers are high on the priority list for vaccination.
Usdaw news release. Risks 986. 24 February 2021

Britain: PM should have announced support for workers
Boris Johnson’s announcement on measures to ease the lockdown should have been accompanied by a commitment to provide the ongoing support needed to help workers affected by the pandemic. Responding to the UK prime minister’s 22 February statement in the House of Commons, STUC general secretary Roz Foyer said: There was nothing preventing the prime minister making those announcements today.”
STUC news release. Risks 986. 24 February 2021

Britain: Self-isolation payment scheme is a dangerous flop
The self-isolation payment scheme was meant to solve the problem of workers being unable to self-isolate, but the TUC has warned a combination of strict criteria and low funding means that 7-in-10 applicants to the scheme are rejected. TUC policy officer Alex Collinson said it was clear that the scheme is one of the key failures in the government’s response to the pandemic.
TUC blog. Risks 986. 24 February 2021

Britain: Daventry bin workers forced to isolate without sick pay
A contractor for Daventry District Council is sending workers who test positive for Covid-19 home without company sick pay. This leaves self-isolating Daventry Norse workers on statutory sick pay (SSP) of less than £100 a week, their union GMB has said.
GMB news release. Risks 986. 24 February 2021

Britain: Health workers warn of airborne transmission risk
UK guidance on personal protective equipment is “inadequate” and continues to put healthcare workers’ lives at risk from airborne transmission of Covid-19, health and union organisations have warned. Echoing long-time warnings from unions, the coalition of more than 20 organisations has written to Boris Johnson calling for the rules to be reviewed, noting current infection prevention and control (IPC) guidance, which determines the selection and use of PPE across the UK, “does not accurately depict the airborne risks when sharing health and care settings including working in patients’ homes and public buildings”.
RCN news release. Joint letter, 18 February 2021.  The Guardian. BBC News Online. The Independent. Risks 986. 24 February 2021

Britain: Virus-hit NHS workers face poor mental health
The prime minister must produce an NHS worker recovery plan, the union GMB has said, after its poll revealed the majority of the staff who contract Covid have since experienced poor mental health. The survey of more than 3,000 health workers in roles across the NHS, revealed 60 per cent of those who had contracted the virus said that the experience had either some negative impact or a severe negative impact on their mental health; in total, 30 per cent of those surveyed said they had caught the coronavirus with almost 60 per cent of these saying they passed it to a family member.
GMB news release. Risks 986. 24 February 2021

Britain: MPs call for ‘long Covid’ compensation for key workers
Boris Johnson is facing fresh calls to compensate key workers suffering from ‘long Covid’. A total of 65 MPs and peers have signed a letter to the prime minister, asking for the condition to be recognised formally as an occupational disease. The letter to Mr Johnson, organised by the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Coronavirus says approximately 390,000 people will have long Covid in the UK.
APPG on Coronavirus. March for Change website. BMA news release. BBC News Online and related story. Yorkshire Post.
Sign the March for Change petition for recognition of Long Covid as an occupational disease. Risks 986. 24 February 2021

Britain: Call for suspension of on-train ticketing
The government must suspend immediately all fare collection and ticket inspection, the rail union RMT has said, after a survey of its on-board staff indicated 7 out of 17 train operating companies (TOCs) are putting their staff at risk. The survey findings indicate that while 10 TOC’s operating under national contracts, including those managed by the Welsh and Scottish governments, have suspended on-train revenue protection and ticket inspection during the current lockdown, seven, which are managed by the UK Department for Transport (DfT), are still putting staff at increased risk of coming into contact with Covid-19 by requiring them to undertake on-train revenue protection or ticket inspection duties, even though the union says social distancing cannot be maintained.
RMT news release. Risks 986. 24 February 2021

Australia: Vaccine alone won’t protect workers
The Covid-19 vaccine does not remove the need to maintain other important workplace safety measures, Australia’s national union federation has warned. Welcoming the start of the Covid-19 vaccine rollout, ACTU said this was however: “The vaccine rollout will not happen overnight, and it is essential that all workers - especially those in high-risk industries - continue to be kept safe in their workplaces by the social distancing and other procedures which have saved so many lives over the last year.”
ACTU news release. Safe Work Australia (SWA) interim guidance on the Covid-19 vaccines. Risks 986. 24 February 2021

USA: Amazon sued for failed to protect workers
New York is suing Amazon, with a court filing accusing the world’s largest retailer of a ‘flagrant disregard’ for safety and labour laws at two warehouses in the state as Covid-19 infections surged nationwide. The suit from Letitia James, New York’s attorney general, came days after Amazon pre-emptively sued to block the suit over its coronavirus safety protocols and the firing of one of its employees who objected to working conditions.
NY Attorney General news release and filing. BBC News Online. The Guardian. NBC News. Risks 986. 24 February 2021

USA: Scientists call on CDC to act on airborne virus risks
Nearly a year after scientists showed that the coronavirus could linger in workplace air, more than a dozen top experts have called on the Biden administration to take immediate action to limit airborne transmission of the virus. The 13 experts — including several who advised President Biden during the transition — urged the administration to mandate a combination of respirators and environmental measures, like better ventilation, to blunt the risks in workplaces.
George Washington University news release and 17 February 2021 experts’ letter. AFL-CIO news release. New York Times. NJ.com.
Petition urging CDC to recognise Covid-19 airborne risk. Risks 986. 24 February 2021

Britain: Covid reports hit a record workplace high
The number of Covid reports made to workplace safety regulators hit a record high in January, newly released official statistics have revealed. The figures published by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) show January 2021 had the three highest numbers of weekly workplace Covid reports since the start of the pandemic.
Management information: Coronavirus (COVID-19) disease reports made by employers to HSE and Local Authorities since 10 April 2020, HSE, 15 February 2021 update. Construction Enquirer.
Coronavirus (COVID-19) related deaths by occupation, England and Wales: deaths registered between 9 March and 28 December 2020, ONS, 25 January 2021. Risks 985. 17 February 2021

Britain: HSE refuses to close Covid-risk workplaces
The government’s health and safety watchdog has failed to shut down any workplaces that put employees at risk of coronavirus even though there have been over 3,500 outbreaks at work since the start of the pandemic. An analysis of the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) enforcement database reveals there have been no Covid-related prohibition notices, which allow inspectors to immediately halt activity in workplaces deemed injurious or damaging to health, since last March.
The Observer. Morning Star.
HSE Enforcement Management Model (EMM) Operational version 3.2. Risks 985. 17 February 2021

Britain: Covid rule-breakers face jail - except employers
The UK government has this year threatened 10-year prison terms for people who lie about their travel history, imposed £800 fines for people who go to house parties and paid for adverts that warn a takeaway coffee or chat on a park bench could “cost lives”. At the same time, writes Financial Times columnist Sarah O’Connor, “the Health and Safety Executive, the UK regulator responsible for workplace safety, has not brought a single prosecution against an employer for breaking Covid-19 rules.”
Financial Times. Risks 985. 17 February 2021

Britain: Campaign raises ‘extreme concern’ over HSE role
The national Hazards Campaign has said it “is extremely concerned about the HSE’s response to the Covid pandemic in the workplace generally, and more specifically about recent published revelations that the HSE designated Covid-19 not as a ‘serious’ workplace risk but rather as a ‘significant’ risk.” The campaign, in a 16 February open letter to HSE chair Sarah Newton and chief executive Sarah Albon, said it could not understand “how a disease that is ‘highly contagious’, the consequences of becoming infected are, in the words of the prime minister, ‘deadly’, which can leave infected workers with long-term life-changing and life-shortening ill health, leads to thousands of deaths, thousands of sick days and disabilities, can be classified as ‘not serious’ just a ‘significant workplace risk’.”
Hazards Campaign open letter. ASLEF news release. Risks 985. 17 February 2021

Britain: Covid work death serial law breaker not prosecuted
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has blasted Perth and Kinross Council over a series of criminal safety breaches at a waste recycling depot following a deadly Covid-19 outbreak - but has opted not to prosecute. Binman Scott Hunter, 52, died in hospital last month after an 18-day battle with coronavirus; his family said he tried to protect himself on his rounds using hundreds of pounds worth of cleaning equipment bought by his wife, Fiona.
The Courier and related story. Daily Record. Risks 985. 17 February 2021

Britain: Health board blames work outbreaks for Covid spike
A Scottish health board has pointed to outbreaks in large workplaces as a major contributory factor to the high Covid-19 figures in Falkirk. The Public Health Scotland statistics showed Falkirk at the very top of the weekly positive coronavirus tests list for Scottish local authority areas.
NHS Forth Valley news release. Falkirk Herald and related story on the bus depot outbreak and the Falkirk council outbreak. Risks 985. 17 February 2021

Britain: Welsh firms ignore Covid rules, HSE ignores safety reps
Most employers in Wales have not been fully following the Welsh government’s Covid Workplace Guidance and the safety regulator is routinely bypassing union safety reps, Wales TUC/YouGov monthly polling of workers has found. Commenting on the poll findings, Wales TUC policy office Joe Allen said long-term funding cuts to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) made it “more important than ever that workers’ voices are captured in the enforcement process – so that, despite the limited resources, inspectors can get as full a picture as possible.”
TUC blog. Risks 985. 17 February 2021

Britain: UCU anger at death of Burnley College teacher
Education union UCU has expressed its concern at the ‘appalling’ loss of a Burnley College teacher to Covid-19. Donna Coleman, a longstanding UCU member who worked with vulnerable students at Burnley College, died aged 42 on 6 January 2021.
UCU news release. BBC News Online. Lancashire Telegraph. Risks 985. 17 February 2021

Britain: Reopening schools could push the R number over 1
Fully reopening schools could push the reproduction number (the ‘R’ number) of the coronavirus in England above 1.0, potentially putting an end to the decline in new cases, suggests a new study. The pre-print modelling study, not yet peer-reviewed, was conducted by researchers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM).
LSHTM news release. James D Munday and others. Estimating the impact of reopening schools on the reproduction number of SARS-CoV-2 in England, using weekly contact survey data [pre-print]. Risks 985. 17 February 2021

Britain: Union concern over Scottish school reopening
Teaching unions have warned ‘significant’ safety concerns remain about the planned return to school in Scotland of nursery children and early years pupils and some senior phase secondary pupils. Responded to first minister Nicola Sturgeon’s confirmation that a phased return will go ahead from 22 February, EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan called on the Scottish government to urgently reconsider its policy, noting “the test positivity rate in Scotland remains above the level that the World Health Organisation recommends as indicative of the virus being under control.”
EIS news release and audio clip. NASUWT news release. Risks 985. 17 February 2021

Britain: Quarantine hotels policy will not protect workers
The health of hotel staff and the wider public will be put in jeopardy as a result of ‘inferior’ safety rules in the UK’s quarantine hotels, unions have warned. The unions were speaking out in response to reports the government’s quarantine hotel policy is far less stringent than Australia’s, which had itself sometimes been found wanting.
Unite news release. GMB news release. Government guidance on red list travel ban countries, updated 11 February. BBC News Online. Morning Star. The Guardian and related story. The Independent. Risks 985. 17 February 2021

Britain: Concern over quarantine impact on key workers
Seafarers and offshore workers’ union RMT has raised major concerns over the application of Covid-19 testing and quarantine measures on seafarers, divers and offshore workers. Ahead of the introduction of the quarantine rules on 15 February, RMT said unions had only been consulted “at the eleventh hour.”
RMT news release. Risks 985. 17 February 2021

Britain: Women feeling the pressure at work and home
Women in key worker positions are losing sleep, feeling stressed out and not finding time to take breaks, a UNISON survey has found. The findings are based on responses from nearly 47,000 women including teaching assistants, nurses, council workers and police staff.
UNISON news release and full report, Women Working Through the Pandemic. Risks 985. 17 February 2021

Britain: Call centre workers putting their lives on the line
Covid-19 still presents a major threat to contact centre workers and action needs to be taken to protect them, the Scottish union federation STUC has said. The warning from the union body comes in a letter to the Scottish government.
STUC news release. Call Centre Collective petition. Call Centre Collective. Risks 985. 17 February 2021

Britain: One in five going into workplaces unnecessarily
Employers are putting workers at risk and increasing Covid infection rates in communities, unions have said, as research found that as many as one in five people have been going into their workplace unnecessarily. Polling conducted by the Trades Union Congress (TUC) found that many people were coming under undue pressure from their employer to work from offices when they could work from home.
The Guardian. Risks 985. 17 February 2021

Britain: Furlough new shielders who can’t work from home
Employers must furlough new shielders who can’t work from home to keep them and their jobs safe, the TUC has said. Responding to the 16 February announcement by the UK government that an extra 1.7 million people are being asked to shield in England, in addition to the 2.3 million already on the shielding list, TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “These new shielders who can’t work from home must not lose their jobs and livelihoods overnight.”
Department of Health and Social Care news release. TUC news release. BBC News Online. Risks 985. 17 February 2021

Britain: NHS staff think the pandemic has not been handled well
Less than 5 per cent of NHS staff think the UK government has handled the pandemic well, a GMB poll has found. In the survey of almost 3,500 health workers, only 4.9 per cent answered that the government was doing a good job during the Covid crisis; almost half (47 per cent) said they thought the government had handled the pandemic badly and had made the situation worse.
GMB news release. Risks 985. 17 February 2021

Britain: Time for transport workers to move up vaccine list
After it emerged the initial phase of the Covid vaccination programme has hit its targets, the union RMT has called “for an escalation in priority for transport staff and other essential workers to ensure that those groups risking the highest levels of occupational exposure, and who are also pivotal to the route map out of the current lockdown, are properly protected.”
RMT news release. Risks 985. 17 February 2021

USA: Covid compensation claims routinely rejected
Employees who allege they contracted Covid-19 on the job can face a high bar to prove their cases, workers’ advocates in the US have warned. Workers filed hundreds of thousands of virus-related claims in 2020, but those cases, according to state and industry data, were more than offset by a steep drop in non-Covid-19 claims as layoffs, shutdowns and remote work reduced the number of workplace accidents and injuries.
Wall Street Journal. Risks 985. 17 February 2021

Britain: Union safety reps are saving lives in the pandemic
We always knew unionised jobs were safer, the TUC says - statistically, workplaces with a recognised trade union have half as many injuries. But the union body says the Covid crisis has placed in sharp relief this protective effect.
TUC blog. Risks 984. 11 February 2021

Britain: Disbelief as HSE says Covid not a ‘serious’ work risk
The UK safety regulator HSE’s assessment that Covid-19 in not a “serious” workplace risk has been described as “beyond belief”. Labour’s Andy McDonald said: “Given that almost 113,000 people have died from Covid-19 and as many as one in five people are suffering from the effects of ‘long Covid,’ it is beyond belief that the government does not consider the virus to be a serious risk to working people.”
Labour Party news release. Parliamentary question and answer.  HSE Enforcement Management Model (EMM) Operational version 3.2. Morning Star. Risks 984. 11 February 2021

Britain: Government PPE failings cost care worker lives
Care home staff went without personal protective equipment (PPE) early in the pandemic because the government prioritised the NHS, MPs have said. The Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) said care homes received only a fraction of the PPE needed compared with the health service.
Commons Public Accounts Committee news release and report, COVID-19: Government procurement and supply of Personal Protective Equipment. UNISON news release. BBC News Online. Risks 984. 11 February 2021

Britain: Almost a third of workers have contracted Covid
Almost a third of all NHS staff have had the coronavirus, GMB has found. GMB’s survey over 3,506 workers across the NHS workforce found 30 per cent reported they had caught the coronavirus, with almost 60 per cent saying they passed it to a family member.
GMB news release. Risks 984. 11 February 2021

Britain: Vaccine ‘strong-arm tactics’ used against care staff
The UK government must take action against care home employers refusing to employ staff hesitant about having the Covid vaccine, or intimidating others into having the injection by linking it to pay and employment, the union UNISON has said. If the vaccine programme is to work properly and maximum take-up across the social care secured, individuals should be encouraged, not intimidated, into receiving a jab, the union said.
UNISON news release. Risks 984. 11 February 2021

Britain: Women facing ‘impossible’ pandemic burden
The TUC has said women have been put in an impossible position and left stressed out during the pandemic and have been left to combine work and childcare. The comments from the union body came in response to a report by the Commons Woman and Equalities Committee that found government policies in the pandemic have “repeatedly skewed towards men.”
Women and Equality Committee news release and report, Coronavirus and the gendered economic impact, 9 February 2021. TUC news release. TUC self-report survey January 2021. BBC News Online. Morning Star.
Sick pay that works, TUC, 3 February 2021. Risks 984. 11 February 2021

Britain: DVLA strike ballot over Covid safety ‘scandal’
Thousands of staff working at the vehicle licensing authority DVLA will be balloted for strike action over continuing Covid health and safety concerns, civil service union PCS has said. The ballot will open on 18 February and close 11 March and could see Spring walkouts.
PCS news release. Risks 984. 11 February 2021

Britain: Court workers in strike vote over safety concerns
Civil service union PCS is balloting members in HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTRS) over management’s failure to act to address serious and significant health and safety concerns. Key issues of contention include remote working and the need for increased safety measures, “including a trade union side-agreed risk assessment.”
PCS news release. Risks 984. 11 February 2021

Britain: Warning on ‘extremely dangerous’ school bubble changes
The school support staff union GMB has called for an urgent meeting with the education secretary after it emerged that guidance for schools in England had been changed to allow mixing between ‘bubbles’.  The newly updated guidelines state: “All teachers and other staff can operate across different groups.”
GMB news release. Restricting attendance during the national lockdown: Schools. Guidance for all schools in England, DfE, February 2021. Risks 984. 11 February 2021

Britain: Safety first call on schools reopening in Wales
Enhanced safety mitigations must be in place ahead of the planned wider school reopening of schools in Wales, teaching union NASUWT has said. Commenting on the first minister’s confirmation that schools in Wales will start to open more widely for pupils in some year groups from 22 February, NASUWT general secretary Dr Patrick Roach said: “While we welcome the announcement of more funding to support Covid safety in schools, along with the introduction of routine testing for the education workforce, current measures do not go far enough.”
NASUWT news release. Risks 984. 11 February 2021

Britain: Bus drivers face fire and rehire and Covid threats
As the pandemic rages, a fire and rehire company campaign at Go North West buses has seen managers hand-delivering dismissal threats in an apparent breach of lockdown rules, Unite has indicated. The union has accused management at the bus firm of attempting to intimidate workers into signing vastly inferior contracts.
Unite news release. Risks 984. 11 February 2021

Britain: Bus firm slammed for pandemic attack
A French-owned bus firm is using the pandemic as an excuse to attack the working conditions of its employees, Unite has warned. The union said London bus passengers should brace themselves for serious disruption if it is forced to go ahead with planned industrial action.
Unite news release. Risks 984. 11 February 2021

Britain: Needless danger from non-essential housing repairs
Thousands of council and social housing tenants in Kent, as well as the housing maintenance workers who maintain their homes, are being put at unnecessary risk of Covid-19 exposure, the union Unite has warned. The union issued its warning after a series of outsourced housing maintenance companies in the county refused to suspend non-essential housing maintenance work during the current lockdown.
Unite news release. Risks 984. 11 February 2021

Britain: Unite reservations over social distancing helmets
Hi tech hard hats being introduced on the massive HS2 project that sound a warning when workers come within two metres of each other should not be used as a disciplinary tool but as an educational device, Unite has said. The construction union was speaking out after it was announced that the joint venture company Eiffage Kier Ferrovial Bam, who are responsible for the central section of phase one of the HS2 development, had purchased 1,500 of the helmets.
Unite news release. Risks 984. 11 February 2021

Britain: Tile factory boss 'drove car at workers'
The boss of tile firm that has faced complaints over Covid safety drove his car at workers during a Christmas strike, the union GMB has said. The same manager at Marley Tiles, in Beenham, near Reading, then instructed a lorry driver to head straight for the picket line, GMB members have charged.
GMB news release. Risks 984. 11 February 2021

USA: Time off call for workers with vaccine side effects
Workers with temporary, unpleasant side effects from Covid-19 vaccines deserve appropriate time off without having to use up their regular sick leave or paid time off, US academics have said. Dorit Rubinstein Reiss from the University of California and Arthur L Caplan of New York University note: “Employees deserve to have the few days they need to recover from temporary, but unpleasant, Covid-19 vaccine side effects.”
Dorit Rubinstein Reiss and Arthur L Caplan. Workers With COVID-19 Vaccine Side Effects Deserve Time Off To Recover, Health Affairs Blog, 5 February 2021. DOI: 10.1377/hblog20210204.959004
Hawkins D, Davis L, Kriebel D. COVID‐19 deaths by occupation, Massachusetts, March 1–July 31, 2020, AJIM, 1 February 2021. https://doi.org/10.1002/ajim.23227 Risks 984. 11 February 2021

Britain: ‘Dire consequences’ if workers aren’t protected better
Workplace exposure control experts have warned of ‘dire consequences’ if better protection of workers from Covid-19 is not put in place. The British Occupational Hygiene Society (BOHS) president Kelvin Williams said: “People are dying unnecessarily, because there is still insufficient understanding of occupational hygiene measures that can prevent the spread of this disease.”
BOHS news release and report, BOHS – COVID-19: Occupation Risk Rating and Control Options According to Exposure Rank. CNN News. Risks 983. 3 February 2021

Britain: Give us respirators now!
The British Occupational Hygiene Society (BOHS) president call for the more effective respirators – as opposed to the far less protective surgical or medical masks - to protect workers from Covid-19 has also been a repeated demand of unions and occupational medicine experts. They are concerned the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) continues to ignore the findings of its own research.
Raymond M Agius. Covid-19 and Health at Work. Occupational Medicine, volume 70, number 5, pages 349-351, April 2020.
Raymond M Agius, Denise Kendrick, Herb F Sewell, Marcia Stewart, John FR Robertson. Reaffirming health and safety precautionary principles for COVID-19 in the UK, The Lancet, volume 397, issue 10271, page 274, 23 January 2021.
Health and Safety Executive. Evaluating the protection afforded by surgical masks against influenza bioaerosols: Gross protection of surgical masks compared to filtering facepiece respirators, Research Report RR619, 2008. Risks 983. 3 February 2021

Offices are prime sites for Covid outbreaks
More than 60 suspected Covid outbreaks in offices were recorded in the first two weeks of the current lockdown in England, a BBC investigation has found. Under England's lockdown rules, in force since 6 January, people should work from home if they can. TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said “Boris Johnson and his ministers have failed to get a grip on Covid safety in workplaces.” 
Labour Party news release. BBC News Online. Morning Star. Risks 983. 3 February 2021

Britain: Covid safety concerns cause court dispute
PCS has said it is now in dispute with the Crown Prosecution Service following its failure to heed the civil service union’s calls to stop staff attending courts and tribunals until there are ‘suitable and sufficient’ safety measures. “We made this call as a result of growing concern for the health, safety and welfare of our members deployed to court,” a union statement said.
PCS news release. Risks 983. 3 February 2021

Britain: Quarantine hotels must be Covid-secure
Government’s plans to introduce quarantine hotels must not risk the health of the workers in these facilities, Unite has said. The union issued its warning after Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures released last week revealed that several groups of hospitality workers have been at a greatly elevated risk of dying from Covid-19
Unite news release and Make My Workplace Safe website. Risks 983. 3 February 2021

Britain: Use school closures to make them safer
The government must not squander the time between now and early March to improve the safety of schools for pupils and staff, UNISON has said. The union for school support staff said everyone wants schools to reopen fully as soon as possible, but this must be done safely.
UNISON news release. Labour Party news release. Morning Star. Risks 983. 3 February 2021

Britain: Virus levels must fall before Scots schools reopen
Virus levels in the community must fall substantially before a return to schooling is confirming in Scotland, teaching union EIS has said. The union was commenting after first minister Nicola Sturgeon said Scotland's youngest pupils are likely to return to the classroom full time from 22 February, as schools start a phased reopening.
EIS news release. BBC News Online. Risks 983. 3 February 2021

Britain: On yer bikes push for site workers is ‘dangerous’
Forcing construction workers in London on to bikes in a bid to ease pressure on public transport is dangerous, Unite has warned. The construction union was commenting after the publication of a new Transport for London (TfL) advice notice aimed at the major construction contractors. Unite said it is ‘very concerned’ about a clause recommending: “Allocating those shifts starting and finishing around busy travel times (06:00 to 08:00 and 16:00 to 17:30) to workers who can walk or cycle to and from work.”
Unite news release. Construction Enquirer. Risks 983. 3 February 2021

Britain: Covid pressures on NHS staff bad for mental health
Health staff are suffering severe mental health problems such as panic attacks and sleepless nights because of the pandemic, according to a UNISON survey. The findings reveal almost half (48 per cent) of health employees including nurses, porters, paramedics, healthcare assistants and A&E staff across the UK have struggled to cope.
UNISON news release and report, Worry in Mind. Risks 983. 3 February 2021

Britain: Bus worker survey exposes ‘wild west approach’
Days after Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures showed that male bus workers are at an increased risk of dying from Covid-19, a new RMT survey of bus workers has revealed a “wild west approach” to enforcing Covid-19 safety regulations and measures in the bus industry. The survey, answered by 891 bus workers, found a ‘shocking’ lack of enforcement of Covid-19 safety measures across the industry, which the union said is putting bus workers at risk.
RMT news release. Risks 983. 3 February 2021

Britain: Sort work transport risks before easing lockdown
Ministers must hold a forum with transport operators and unions before any lockdown restrictions are eased to ensure the safety of workers, Labour has said, after latest figures revealed high numbers of Covid deaths in the sector. Shadow transport secretary Jim McMahon has written to Grant Shapps asking for a virtual roundtable after Office for National Statistics (ONS) data revealed taxi drivers (101 deaths per 100,000 males) and bus and coach drivers (83 deaths per 100,000 males) had recorded some of the highest death rates of any occupation.
Labour Party news release. RMT news release. Risks 983. 3 February 2021

Britain: Bradford bus strikes off after concerns addressed
Strike action at First West Yorkshire buses in Bradford has been called off after drivers struck an agreement with the company to resolve scheduling issues, Unite has said. The union said the agreement had been reached ‘amicably’.
Unite news release. Risks 983. 3 February 2021

Britain: Post office bosses get the message
Postal union CWU has reached a new agreement that will revise post office opening hours in order to reduce the risk of Covid-19 exposure. The union says the new arrangements for Crown post offices recognise the ‘fantastic efforts’ of the whole workforce.
CWU news release. Risks 983. 3 February 2021

Britain: Covid-19 concerns after cases at army college
UNISON members based at the Army Foundation College in Harrogate have expressed their fears of contracting Covid-19 on the site. UNISON said it understands that there are now 100 confirmed cases; there are 23 UNISON members working for Compass at the college, in a variety of roles – catering, cleaning, admin, running the shop and looking after the electronic shooting range.
UNISON news release. Risks 983. 3 February 2021

Britain: Outrage at treatment of Novus prison educators
Prison educators are being but at risk of Covid-19 by a private provider, the union UCU has warned. The union has written to the Ministry of Justice to raise ongoing concerns about the treatment of prison education staff working for Novus, England and Wales' biggest prison education provider.
UCU news release. Risks 983. 3 February 2021

Britain: Portsmouth council challenged over Covid repairs risk
Portsmouth council has been accused of needlessly exposing its council housing tenants and outsourced repair workers to potential exposure to Covid-19. Unite said it has become increasingly alarmed that workers at Comserve, Portsmouth council’s outsourced building maintenance division, are being forced to continue to undertake routine maintenance work in homes.
Unite news release. Risks 983. 3 February 2021

Britain: TUC policy proposal for ‘sick pay that works’
A new TUC policy proposal spells out how to deliver ‘Sick pay that works’. The union body argues the rapid introduction of a comprehensive scheme could help tackle coronavirus and save many workers from hardship.
Sick pay that works: TUC report on the urgent need for reform, TUC, February 2021. Risks 983. 3 February 2021

Canada: Flight attendant wins Covid compo fight
An Air Canada flight attendant who says she contracted Covid-19 during a series of long-haul flights last March has won a battle with the airline for workers’ compensation. An official from WorkSafeBC, the safety and compensation agency in the province of British Columbia (BC), sided with the flight attendant, rejecting the airline’s argument that the risk of getting Covid-19 on flights was “relatively low.”
CBC News. Risks 983. 3 February 2021

Global: Meat plant infection risks identified by tweets
Analysing social media posts is a useful method to identifying the factors responsible for higher workplace Covid-19 risks, a study has found. Researchers from UK and Canadian public health research bodies, in a 25 January paper in the Annals of Work Exposures and Health, note: “Our combined methodology of Social Media analysis with a rapid review allowed us to provide contemporaneous insight with regard to the following question: what explains the high rate of SARS-CoV-2 transmission in meat and poultry facilities?”
Quentin Durand-Moreau, Graham Mackenzie, Anil Adisesh, Sebastian Straube, Xin Hui S Chan, Nathan Zelyas, Trisha Greenhalgh. Twitter Analytics to Inform Provisional Guidance for COVID-19 Challenges in the Meatpacking Industry, Annals of Work Exposures and Health, wxaa123, 2021. Risks 983. 3 February 2021

USA: Swift progress on Covid safety at work
Just eight full days into his administration, US president Joe Biden has added new Covid-19 guidance to last week’s executive order on protection of workers from the infection. The US Department of Labor announced on 29 January that its workplace safety regulator, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), has issued stronger worker safety guidance to help employers and workers implement a coronavirus prevention programme and better identify risks which could lead to exposure and infection.
Department of Labor news release. Protecting Workers: Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace. Risks 983. 3 February 2021

Britain: Covid deaths expose need for tougher work safety rules
“Huge inequalities” in the labour market and large excesses of Covid-19 in workers in low paid and insecure work have been exposed in latest official statistics, the TUC has said. The union body was commenting on a new Office for National Statistics (ONS) analysis of Covid-19 deaths by occupation shows there had been 7,961 deaths involving the coronavirus (Covid-19) registered in the working age population (those aged 20 to 64 years) of England and Wales between 9 March and 28 December 2020.
TUC news release. Coronavirus (COVID-19) related deaths by occupation, England and Wales: deaths registered between 9 March and 28 December 2020, ONS, 25 January 2021. Morning Star. The Guardian. Risks 982. 28 January 2021

Britain: GMB demands action on ‘devastating’ figures
‘Devastating’ official figures linking nearly 8,000 working age deaths to Covid-19 in England and Wales in 2020 require an ‘immediate’ government response, the union GMB has said. Occupations with the highest number of Covid-19 linked deaths were care workers and home carers (347 deaths), taxi and cab drivers (213 deaths), sales and retail assistants (180 deaths), nurses (157 deaths), and cleaners and domestic workers (153 deaths).
GMB news release. National Tradesmen. The Guardian. Risks 982. 28 January 2021

Britain: Counting the horrible toll of Covid on the workforce
The Office for National Statistics’ breakdown of Covid-19 deaths in working people revealed some shocking truths. Low paid ‘essential’ jobs and caring roles are associated with a greatly elevated risk of death from the infection.
Coronavirus (COVID-19) related deaths by occupation, England and Wales: deaths registered between 9 March and 28 December 2020, ONS, 25 January 2021. Risks 982. 28 January 2021

Britain: Government implicated in high security sector deaths
Government policy and a lack of sick pay is to blame for high numbers of Covid-related deaths in security workers, the union GMB has indicated. The union said it believes that since the start of the pandemic there have been at least four G4S security guard deaths on the government’s Jobcentre contract.
GMB news release. Risks 982. 28 January 2021

Britain: Call for key worker priority for vaccines and testing
Retail trade union Usdaw has renewed its call for key workers to be prioritised for vaccination, testing and risk assessment, after the Office for National Statistics (ONS) statistics on Covid death rates by occupation revealed many key workers are at a higher risk. Usdaw general secretary Paddy Lillis said: “It is clear that close proximity to the public and other workers, as well as an indoor working environment are factors.”
Usdaw news release. Risks 982. 28 January 2021

Britain: Support for self isolation must be a top priority, say experts
Helping people to self isolate after testing positive for Covid-19 must be a top priority for the UK government, experts have said, noting low pay is the primary reason people fail to follow guidelines. Dr Muge Cevik at the University of St Andrews and colleagues say the focus should be on those working in high exposure occupations, living in overcrowded housing, or without a home, and should include free and safe accommodation alongside adequate income support, job protection, and help with caring responsibilities.
Muge Cevik, Stefan D Baral, Alex Crozier, Jackie A Cassel. Editorial: Support for self-isolation is critical in Covid-19 response, BMJ 2021; 372: n224 http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.n224 Risks 982. 28 January 2021

Britain: HSE criticised for ‘astounding’ oversight failures
Construction’s largest safety crisis in living memory has been met with a shockingly inadequate response from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), an investigation by Construction News has found. In December, two private debt-collection companies – Engage Services (part of Marston Holdings) and CDER Group – were awarded contracts by HSE worth a combined £7m to carry out spot checks on behalf of the regulator.
Construction News. Engage news release. CDER Group news release. CIR magazine. Risks 982. 28 January 2021

Britain: Covid outbreaks at all-time high, enforcement at new low
The week to 21 January saw the highest number of reported Covid outbreaks since the pandemic began, prompting the TUC to repeat its call for stricter rules and greater enforcement of the rules. TUC safety lead Shelly Asquith expressed dismay that in 2020, despite the pandemic, there had been significantly fewer Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspections compared to previous years, with just 0.1 per cent of cases investigated by HSE resulted in any official enforcement notices being served.
TUC blog and TUC guide to the protective union effect on workplace safety. Risks 982. 28 January 2021

Britain: Experts tell HSE to step up and do its job
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) should be ‘restored the wherewithal’ to fulfil its mandate and should get on and do its job, occupational medicine experts have said. In correspondence published in the Lancet on 23 January, the academics from De Montfort, Manchester and Nottingham universities note: “The HSE needs to step up in this pandemic, independently of political influence, and to firmly enforce occupational hygiene measures for source control, including regular staff testing, segregation, and ventilation.”
Raymond M Agius, Denise Kendrick, Herb F Sewell, Marcia Stewart, John FR Robertson. Reaffirming health and safety precautionary principles for COVID-19 in the UK, The Lancet, volume 397, issue 10271, page 274, 23 January 2021. doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(21)00088-X Risks 982. 28 January 2021

Britain: Ministers faces fury over massive outbreak at DVLA
Ministers are at the centre of a row over their failure to protect workers from Covid-19 after it was revealed the largest workplace outbreak of the virus has taken place at a top government organisation. More than 500 cases have been recorded at the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency’s offices in Swansea, where employees claim people with symptoms were encouraged to return to work while vulnerable workers have had requests to work from home turned down.
The Observer. BBC News Online and update. Risks 982. 28 January 2021

Britain: Bus Covid safety plea after Unite driver rep dies
Unite has paid to tribute to ‘well-loved and respected’ Brighton bus driver Christopher Turnham following his death from Covid-19. The 58-year-old, a longstanding Unite workplace representative, died on 20 January shortly after falling ill with Covid-19.
Unite news release. Risks 982. 28 January 2021

Britain: Covid concern as outbreak spreads at bus station
Unite Scotland has voiced growing concerns for the health and wellbeing of the Bannockburn First Bus depot workforce. Unite has been informed that as of 24 January a total of 28 positive cases of Covid-19 had been confirmed at the depot - over half the workforce.
Unite news release. Risks 982. 28 January 2021

Britain: Transport staff face ‘complacent and callous’ approach
A ‘complacent and callous’ approach to the increased threat from Covid-19 is leading to a surge in deaths and illness affecting transport workers, RMT has said. The transport union says feedback it has received reveal the number of deaths and illnesses due to coronavirus amongst rail workers have at least doubled since November.
RMT news release. Risks 982. 28 January 2021

Britain: Large outbreak at Scotland’s biggest pig processor
The number of positive coronavirus cases at an Angus pig plant has risen to 34, with the outbreak also linked to a cluster at a local nursery. Quality Pork Processors (QPP) factory in Brechin a the decision to close the factory was taken due to “high absenteeism” among staff as a result of the outbreak.
The Courier. Pig World. Planet Radio. FarmingUK. BBC News Online. Risks 982. 28 January 2021

Britain: Dairy worker dies and 95 staff are self-isolating
One worker at a major dairy has died after contracting coronavirus and 95 other workers are self-isolating. Muller Milk & Ingredients confirmed that 47 workers have tested positive for the virus in the outbreak at its dairy near Bridgwater, Somerset.
BBC News Online. Bridgewater Mercury. Risks 982. 28 January 2021

Britain: Call for immediate courts safety review
There must be an immediate review of safety arrangements across HM courts and tribunals service (HMCTS) amid increasing concerns that courts are unsafe in the face of the number of Covid-19 cases rising sharply, unions have said. A 22 January joint statement sent to HMCTS by unions PCS, Napo, POA and FDA and the Criminal Bar Association accuses the service of failing to take ‘timely and appropriate action’ to improve safety arrangements as levels of Covid-19 transmission in courts and tribunals buildings escalated.
PCS news release. Risks 982. 28 January 2021

Britain: Union notice urges EA to beef up safety measures
In the face of the increased transmission rates of the new Covid-19 variant, unions including UNISON, Prospect, GMB and Unite have issued a Union Improvement Notice calling on the Environment Agency to review its risk assessments. The notice calls for the Environment Agency to review measures, and calls for the introduction of compulsory face coverings in communal areas and consideration of flexible start and finish times to reduce social contact with colleagues.
UNISON news release. BBC News Online. Risks 982. 28 January 2021

Britain: Unpaid healthcare students need life assurance
Thousands of healthcare students carrying out unpaid placements should be covered by the £60,000 lump sum life assurance payouts if they succumb to Covid-19, Unite has said. The union has written to the health and social care secretary Matt Hancock asking him to close a loophole in the NHS and Social Care Coronavirus Life Assurance Scheme 2020 as a matter of urgency.
Unite news release. Risks 982. 28 January 2021

Britain: Covid concern as routine house repairs continue
Clarion Housing Group, one of the UK’s largest social housing landlords, is demanding routine repairs continue at its properties, despite some residents being Covid-19 positive, Unite has said. Latest government figures show the Covid-19 working age death rate for ‘elementary construction occupations’ is 2.5 times the expected rate.
Unite news release. Risks 982. 28 January 2021

Britain: Stats show school staff need Covid protection
The government must take urgent action to protect school staff from Covid-19, unions have said. UNISON and GMB, who represent school support staff, were commenting after official figures revealed education staff face being infected at about twice the expected rate.
UNISON news release. GMB news release. Risks 982. 28 January 2021

Global: Call to end ‘humanitarian crisis’ at sea
A broad group of unions, companies and other organisations is calling for all countries to designate seafarers as key workers and implement crew change protocols to address a ‘humanitarian crisis’ at sea. The Neptune Declaration signed by over 300 maritime industry and human rights leaders is intended to pressure the industry to use its leverage to end the deepening crew change crisis.
ITF news release. Neptune Declaration and full list of signatories. Risks 982. 28 January 2021

USA: Low paid workers face greatest Covid risk
Essential workers, especially in food and transportation industries, bear the greatest risk of death among Californians of working age, a study has found. “While we pay a lot of lip service to essential workers, when you see the actual occupations that rise to the top of the list as being at much more risk and associated with death, it screams out to you who’s really at risk,” said Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, a UCSF epidemiology and biostatistics professor who worked on the study.
Yea-Hung Chen, Maria Glymour, Alicia Riley, John Balmes, Kate Duchowny, Robert Harrison, Ellicott Matthay, Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo. Excess mortality associated with the COVID-19 pandemic among Californians 18–65 years of age, by occupational sector and occupation: March through October 2020, medRxiv 2021.01.21.21250266; doi: https://doi.org/10.1101/2021.01.21.21250266  San Francisco Chronicle. Risks 982. 28 January 2021

USA: Biden acts immediately to address work Covid risks
On his first full day as US president, Joe Biden ordered immediate action to address workplace Covid-19 risks. A 21 January executive order requiring “swift action” to address workplace risks notes: “Ensuring the health and safety of workers is a national priority and a moral imperative.”
AFL-CIO statement. Executive Order on Protecting Worker Health and Safety, President Joseph R Biden Jr, 21 January 2021.
National strategy for the Covid-19 response and pandemic preparedness, President Joseph R Biden Jr, 21 January 2021. Risks 982. 28 January 2021

Britain: Low-paid shun Covid tests because of income fears
Families on low incomes are avoiding the Covid-19 testing system because they cannot afford to isolate if they get sick, while red tape is hampering access to the government’s £500 compensation payments. According to research by the CIPD, the association of human resources professionals, when people on low incomes do self-isolate, they find it difficult to access the NHS Test and Trace support payment scheme.
CIPD news release. The Guardian. HR magazine.
Sick pay and debt, TUC, 9 September 2020. Risks 981. 20 January 2021

Infected staff 'pressured to go back to work'
Thousands of workers feel pressured to return to their jobs when they still risk spreading coronavirus, and employers who breach Covid guidelines are avoiding serious punishment, according to evidence of major weaknesses in England’s lockdown measures. One in 10 of those doing insecure work, such as zero hours contracts and agency or gig economy jobs, said they had been to work within 10 days of a positive Covid test.
RSA news release. The Observer. BBC News Online. Daily Record.
Weekly national Influenza and COVID-19 surveillance report.  Week 2 report (up to week 1 data), 14 January 2021. Risks 981. 20 January 2021

Britain: Official figures reveal high Covid rates in school staff
Office figures on the impact of coronavirus on the school workforce have revealed education staff face being infected at about twice the expected rate. The Department for Education (DfE) dataset released on 19 January includes the number of teachers and school leaders, teaching assistants and other staff absent with a confirmed case of coronavirus.
NEU news release and vaccinations news release. Attendance in education and early years settings during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, DfE, 19 January 2021. Risks 981. 20 January 2021

Britain: Warning on lack of transparency over meat plants
A public health expert has claimed the lack of transparency around the continued operation of meat factories during lockdown is damaging public trust. Professor Andrew Watterson, of the Occupational and Environmental Health Research Group at Stirling University, said he believes outbreaks demonstrate workplaces are not Covid-safe and questioned why detailed information was not being made public by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
The Courier. Risks 981. 20 January 2021

Britain: Self-isolation pay call as Covid strikes 2 Sisters again
Unite Scotland has called for the 2 Sisters food group to provide full pay for any workers having to self-isolate in the wake a new Covid outbreak. The union is also calling for the use of the fast-result lateral flow tests, to identify workers who are infectious.
Unite news release. Risks 981. 20 January 2021

Britain: PCS pressure wins stronger work from home message
Civil service union PCS has won a stronger direction from the Cabinet Office on the necessity to work from home, but says courts, jobcentres and DVLA Swansea should still be closed temporarily because of rapidly rising Covid infection rates. Following PCS pressure, the Cabinet Office has strengthened its messaging to staff and contractors to instruct them to work from home unless they are providing essential services and it is not possible for that work to be done from home.
PCS news release and video report. Risks 981. 20 January 2021

Britain: Prisoner transfers and jury trials put workers at risk
The union GMB is calling for a temporary partial shutdown of the courts service to protect workers in the sector and stop the spread of coronavirus. The union, which represents outsourced prisoner transport staff, was commenting after four criminal justice watchdogs warned about a ‘delay to justice’ - while the Law Society has called for “a pause of all Crown court and magistrates’ court non-custody work for two weeks, and asked for a move to video hearings ‘by default’ in all Crown courts and magistrates’ courts.”
GMB news release. Law Society news release. Labour Party news release. BBC News Online.
House of Commons Justice Committee hearings, 19 January 2021. Risks 981. 20 January 2021

Britain: Anger as fire bosses pull out of Covid-19 agreement
Unions have expressed anger and dismay after fire and rescue service employers unilaterally scrapped a groundbreaking agreement with firefighters’ union FBU which had enabled firefighters to assist the NHS and care sector response to Covid-19. Negotiations over health and safety measures for firefighters on high risk Covid-19 duties were ongoing when the National Employers issued a communication ending the agreement on 13 January.
FBU news release. Tribune. Risks 981. 20 January 2021

Britain: UPS accused of recklessly endangering drivers
Workers at the parcel and courier company UPS have been advised by their union to refuse to accept cash on delivery (CoD) in order to protect their safety. Unite said it gave the instruction to its members after UPS failed to respond to the union’s longstanding concerns that drivers were being placed at risk when they are required to demand CoD when delivering goods to customers.
Unite news release. Risks 981. 20 January 2021

Britain: Rail union kicks off national fight for Covid safety
Rail union RMT has said it is kicking off a new fight for Covid-safe working practices on Britain's railways in the face of industry proposals it says will place lives on the line. Commenting on the Rail Industry Coronavirus Forum’s (RICF) proposals, the union said it does not accept the rail industry employers’ assertion that their workplaces are “Covid-secure”.
RMT news release. Risks 981. 20 January 2021

Britain: Usdaw says essential workers should get vaccine
Retail trade union Usdaw has renewed its call for key workers to be prioritised for vaccination, after the government indicated it was looking at its priorities for the second phase and the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) accepted that occupation is a factor to be considered. The union has made similar calls on the Scottish and Welsh governments, along with the Northern Ireland executive.
Usdaw news release. Personnel Today. Sky News. Risks 981. 20 January 2021

Britain: Union calls for face coverings to be mandatory in banks
Unite has called for urgent action to make face coverings mandatory in all bank branches. The union says that despite staff working tirelessly since the start of the pandemic to keep bank branches open, the workforce continues to find themselves unprotected on the frontline.
Unite news release. Risks 981. 20 January 2021

Britain: Union wins ‘unsung hero’ award for Covid fight
A foodworkers’ union has won an ‘unsung hero’ award for its lifesaving work at a food factory where around 300 workers tested positive for the coronavirus. The union BFAWU, which represents workers at Greencore’s Northampton factory, was recognised by Northamptonshire County Council for its response to a major outbreak at the Moulton Park site that saw the town put on the health secretary’s watchlist.
Northampton Chronicle. Risks 981. 20 January 2021

Britain: Welsh government praised for work safety action
Unions have welcomed new legal duties under which businesses in Wales will have to carry out a specific coronavirus risk assessment. Announcing the new legal requirements, first minister Mark Drakeford said: “Risk assessments must be reviewed and updated regularly, whenever circumstances change and I want to make clear in law this includes whenever the coronavirus Alert levels change in Wales.”
Wales TUC news release. Welsh government news release. Usdaw news release. The Guardian. Risks 981. 20 January 2021

Britain: Ventilation is a Covid safety issue, TUC webinar, 27 January
Covid-19 can be transmitted through the air, so good ventilation is an important part of an employer’s overall strategy to reduce its spread in the workplace. Join a TUC webinar on Wednesday 27 January, where top safety campaigner Hilda Palmer from the Hazards Campaign will explain how effective ventilation can play a crucial role in mitigating the risk of spreading Covid.
Register now for the TUC ‘Managing ventilation as a Covid safety measure’ webinar, Wednesday 27 January 2021, 14:00-14:45. Register now. Risks 981. 20 January 2021

Global: WHO calls for ‘adequate staffing’ in nursing homes
New guidance from the World Health Organisation (WHO) echoes calls from the global union UNI for sufficient staffing in nursing homes, saying it is ‘critical’ to ensuring infection control and quality care during the Covid-19 pandemic. In the January 2021 interim paper, WHO recommends that long-term care facilities should “ensure adequate staffing levels and staff organisation, appropriate working hours and protection of health workers from occupational risks”.
UNI news release. Infection prevention and control guidance for long-term care facilities in the context of COVID-19, WHO interim guidance, 8 January 2021.
Adam Dean, Atheendar Venkataramani, and Simeon Kimmel. Mortality Rates From COVID-19 Are Lower In Unionized Nursing Homes, Health Affairs, volume 39, number 11, pages 1993-2001, September 2020. Risks 981. 20 January 2021

Britain: Outdated safety rules leave essential workers at risk
The government must urgently update workplace safety rules to protect essential workers and those who can’t work from home from Covid-19, the TUC has said. The union body says that since the rules were published in March 2020, the scientific understanding of how the virus spreads has changed and the UK is now battling a strain that is far more easily transmitted, including aerosol transmission - yet the rules have not been fully updated – and the TUC says that this is putting workers at risk.
TUC news release. Prime minister’s 4 January announcement of a new national lockdown for England. Personnel Today. Risks 980. 13 January 2020

Britain: Call for new variant risk assessment reviews
UNISON is urging employers to review their workplace risk assessments and safety measures in light of the increase in the more infectious variant of Covid-19. The union has written to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to underline the increased risks to staff, urging the regulator to update its advice.
UNISON news release. Risks 980. 13 January 2020

Britain: Doctors call for action as Covid hits NHS workforce
The number of doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers who are falling ill with Covid-19 has reached crisis levels and is seriously hampering the fight against the rapidly escalating pandemic, the British Medical Association (BMA) has warned. The problem of staff absence, because of illness or the need to self-isolate when family members test positive, is also beginning to hamper the vaccination programme – just as the government throws maximum resources into efforts to vaccinate 15 million high priority people by the middle of February.
BMA news release. NASUWT news release. Usdaw news release. Unite news release. TSSA news release. The Guardian. Morning Star. Risks 980. 13 January 2020

Britain: Labour calls for paid leave for
Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner has called on employers to give staff paid time off to get the vaccine. She wrote this week to the “big five” business groups to request that they ease the process of workers getting the jab. The letter was sent to the Confederation of Business Industry, the British Chamber of Commerce, Federation of Small Businesses, the Institute of Directors and MakeUK.
Labour Party news release. Risks 980. 13 January 2020

Britain: Health and social care workers must have full PPE
The union GMB has written to the UK health secretary to demand all NHS and social care workers are given access to full PPE ‘to prevent more unnecessary deaths.’ In the letter to Matt Hancock, the union says in order to save lives, workers must be provided with full coverage of skin, hair and clothing, including head covers, goggles, the more protective FFP3 respirators, coveralls or long-sleeved gowns, shoe coverings, and medical grade gloves.
GMB news release. Risks 980. 13 January 2020

Britain: Occ docs call for official review of health worker protection
The Society of Occupational Medicine (SOM) is calling for Public Health England (PHE), the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and devolved administrations to review risk assessments for all health and social care workers where occupational exposure is possible. It says this risk assessment should consider the current PPE guidelines in conjunction with adequate ventilation and other occupational health controls to test if they need to be further strengthened.
SOM news release. Open letter signed by over 1,000 clinicians, 10 January 2020.
Venting - Coronavirus risks are mostly up in the air, safety reps’ factsheet, Hazards, number 152, December 2020. Risks 980. 13 January 2020

Britain: Trade unionists ‘can help with the country’s vaccine effort’
A 'Let’s vaccinate Britain' campaign to sign up thousands of volunteers has been launched by the Labour Party and the TUC, as NHS England seeks to identify 50,000 stewards to help roll out the vaccine. The organisations are urging union members to sign up locally to NHS volunteer campaigns and to speak to friends, neighbours and relatives about the importance of getting the vaccine.
TUC news release. Labour Party news release. NHS England news release. Labourlist Sign up to be a NHS volunteer. Risks 980. 13 January 2020

Britain: Symptom-free workers to get Covid tests
Workers who cannot work from home and who are without coronavirus symptoms are to be targeted with regular rapid testing for the virus. The government is expanding its community testing scheme across the whole country, adding local authorities “will be encouraged to target testing to people who cannot work from home during lockdown.”
Department for Health and Social Care news release. CBI news release. Construction Enquirer. The Observer.
Related: Foreign Policy article on the advantages of rapid antigen testing. Risks 980. 13 January 2020

Britain: Teacher Covid rates up to 333 per cent above expected
Covid rates among school staff in some areas are as much as four times the corresponding local authority average, union research had discovered. Figures for three councils obtained by the NASUWT teachers' union show that the staff coronavirus infections are far outstripping local rates, casting doubt on the government's repeated assertion that teachers are at no greater risk than other workers.
TES. Risks 980. 13 January 2020

Britain: Big rise in pupil infections confirms unions were right
The Covid-19 infection rate among secondary school age children increased massively over the autumn term, according to data released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). The ONS estimates put the infection rate among Years 7 to 11 on 2 January at 2,950 per 100,000 — 74 times the rate on 1 September and the biggest increase in any age bracket.
NEU news release. ONS Coronavirus Infection Survey. Morning Star. The Guardian. Risks 980. 13 January 2020

Britain: Unions vindicated as schools shut once more
Teaching union NEU, speaking after Boris Johnson’s school reopening in England lasted just one day, has said the evidence clearly pointed to the necessity for school closures to happen weeks ago. Commenting on the 4 January announcement of new national restrictions which included the closure of schools and colleges except to the children of key workers and vulnerable children, NEU joint general secretary Dr Mary Bousted said: “Government must take responsibility for neglecting schools and colleges – bringing back pupils and staff into crowded buildings, with no social distancing, poor ventilation and no PPE – which has resulted in primary and secondary pupils being the two most infected age groups.”
NEU news release. NEU’s Education Recovery Plan, 10 June 2020. Risks 980. 13 January 2020

Britain: Union concerns at numbers of pupils in school
Education unions NEU and UNISON have written to education secretary Gavin Williamson raising concerns about the effect a significant extension to the number of pupils allowed back into school will have on coronavirus transmission rates. The unions say they have been continually left in the dark about scientific evidence driving the decision-making on school openings, despite the obvious risks to school staff, pupils, their families, and the wider community.
UNISON news release. Risks 980. 13 January 2020

Britain: Unions call for closure of nursery schools
Education unions have criticised a UK government insistence that nursery schools in England are safe and should stay open, with vaccine minister Nadhim Zahawi saying they “present very little risk” and are Covid-safe. UNISON called for nurseries to close to all but vulnerable children and those of key workers and GMB said the government should close nurseries and pre-schools nationwide – rather than leaving it to local authorities to make the call.
UNISON news release. GMB news release. BBC News Online. Risks 980. 13 January 2020

Britain: EIS welcomes Scotland schools closure
Scottish teaching union EIS has expressed its support for the decision to keep schools on a remote learning platform for at least the month of January, as part of the lockdown announced by the Scottish government. EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan said: “Whilst the education system is better prepared to deliver education remotely than during the first lockdown, challenges remain and we need to ensure that all pupils, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, can access learning on an equitable basis.”
EIS news release. Risks 980. 13 January 2020

Britain: UCU hails shift to online learning as a victory
UCU said it was a victory for the union that the government had finally listened to it after months of campaigning and moved learning online in colleges and universities. But the union warned the government's belated decision on 4 January still falls far short of what is required for the duration of this pandemic.
UCU news release. Risks 980. 13 January 2020

Britain: Keeping parliament open puts staff and democracy at risk
The more MPs physically attend parliamentary debates the greater the risk to them and to staff, civil service union Prospect has said. Despite the worsening health situation in London and the rest of the country the UK government is continuing to insist MPs be physically present for Westminster Hall debates and that voting not be done remotely.
Prospect news release. Risks 980. 13 January 2020

Britain: Unions want action to protect transport workers
Transport unions in London have called for action after Transport for London (TfL) revealed at least 57 London transport workers have died during the coronavirus pandemic. The deaths include 42 staff who work on London's buses, eight Tube and rail workers, three staff from the TfL head office, and four from partner organisations.
RMT news release and renewed Covid guidance. TSSA news release and renewed Covid guidance. BBC News Online. Morning Star. Walthamstow Guardian. Risks 980. 13 January 2020

Britain: RMT in new Covid dispute on Cross Country trains
Rail union RMT has declared a dispute on Cross Country trains over what is believes is the failure of the company to revise its procedures and risk assessments in light of the emergence of the new Covid variant. The union said Cross Country’s approach is that little has changed and that ‘revenue duties’ – fare collection - should continue in conjunction with previous risk assessments, which the union says are ‘wholly inadequate’ in the face of the new highly virulent Covid strain that has triggered the current lockdown.
RMT news release. Risks 980. 13 January 2020

Britain: Rail firm slammed for new variant complacency
Rail union RMT has written to management on East Midlands Railway (ERM) demanding that they “stop ignoring the science, start taking the threat to lives posed by the new variant of Covid-19 seriously and take immediate action to review and rewrite risk assessments to reflect the current, dire situation.” The union is also issuing fresh advice to its members to ‘safe stop’ should they be asked to work in conditions they regard as being unsafe.
RMT news release.
Resources: Can I refuse to work because of coronavirus? We explain your rights, TUC briefing. Section 44 and Section 100 of the Employment Rights Act 1996. Risks 980. 13 January 2020

Britain: London bus drivers ‘in eye of coronavirus storm’
London bus drivers are ‘once again in eye of coronavirus storm’ so need vaccine and protection priority, Unite has warned. Commenting on Transport for London (TfL) figures showing 42 bus drivers have died from Covid-19, Unite lead officer for buses in London John Murphy said: “Members of the public have their part to play to keep communities and transport workers safe as well, by wearing masks on buses and trains at all times and keeping journeys down to an absolute minimum.”
Unite news release. Risks 980. 13 January 2020

Britain: Stena Line dispute over pandemic sick pay
Ferries union RMT has confirmed it is in dispute with Stena Line over the company’s failure to address seafarers’ and dockers’ long standing concerns over a failure to provide adequate sick pay. RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “RMT members on Stena Line ferries and ports are among the key workers who will once again be straining every sinew to keep our maritime supply lines running as the resurgent coronavirus threatens our National Health Service, schools and jobs.”
RMT news release. Risks 980. 13 January 2020

Britain: Big supermarkets to ban maskless shoppers
Major supermarket chains have said they will bar customers who refuse to wear face coverings amid rising coronavirus infections. The moves came days after shopworkers’ union Usdaw repeated its call for firms to apply more stringent measures.
Usdaw news release. BBC News Online and update. The Guardian and related story. Risks 980. 13 January 2020

Britain: Two workers die of Covid at Tesco supermarket
A man and woman who worked at a Covid-hit Greenock store in Inverclyde in Scotland have died of the infection within days of each other. The news came days after it was reported that a number of employees at the store and its neighbouring Port Glasgow branch were self-isolating, with Tesco chiefs confirming that staff had been impacted due to the virus.
Daily Record. BBC News Online. Risks 980. 13 January 2020

Britain: Shopworkers call for full lockdown measures in stores
Shopworkers’ trade union Usdaw has made an urgent call on supermarkets and food retailers to immediately revert to the stringent safety measures in stores that applied during the first lockdown. The union has been inundated with complaints from members deeply concerned about their safety as customers blatantly flout the rules.
Usdaw news release. Risks 980. 13 January 2020
Britain: Firms in Wales ignoring risk assessment duties
Just under a quarter of employers in Wales have carried out the legally required Covid risk assessments in consultation with staff, new research by the Wales TUC has revealed. Welsh government guidance states clearly that employers “must carry out an appropriate Covid-19 risk assessment, just as you would for other health and safety related hazards.
Wales TUC news release. Welsh government guidance. Risks 980. 13 January 2020

Britain: Souped-up TUC Covid-19 guidance now online
Need a one-stop source for the essential pointers on how to tackle Covid-19 at work? The TUC’s freshly revised Covid-19 guidance for union reps covers all the top concerns. The updated guidance includes information on issues including risk assessments, ventilation, shielding, the Employment Rights Act section 44 right to refuse, PPE, testing and vaccines… and a whole lot more.
TUC Covid-19 guidance. Share the guidance on Facebook, Twitter or Whatsapp. Risks 980. 13 January 2020

Canada: Mounties to probe massive meat plant outbreak
Ariana Quesada, 16, walked into a Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) detachment in High River, Alberta and filed a formal complaint asking police to investigate potential criminal negligence in the death of her father. Benito Quesada, a 51-year-old immigrant from Mexico supporting a wife and four children, was hospitalised with Covid-19 in mid-April, one of hundreds of workers at the town's Cargill meat plant infected with the coronavirus.
CBC News. Risks 980. 13 January 2020

USA: Nebraska governor’s shame on immigrant vaccinations
Comments by Nebraska governor Pete Ricketts last week went viral for all the wrong reasons, an opinion piece in The Hill has reported. While the US federal government has largely left the distribution of Covid-19 vaccines to the states, the Washington Post notes that Nebraska is so far the only state to have “publicly suggested it will consider legal status in its immunization campaign — a move that even federal officials have warned could be dangerous.”
The Hill. Newscenter1 TV. Risks 980. 13 January 2020

Britain: Government ignored expert advice calling for schools to close
The UK government ignored a recommendation from its own SAGE advisory committee that schools should close to contain coronavirus, teaching union NEU has revealed. SAGE told ministers that they needed to close schools to contain coronavirus, before Christmas.
NEU news release. Minutes of the 22 December 2020 SAGE meeting. BBC News Online. Risks 979. 4 January 2021

Britain: Closing workplaces has ‘high-impact’ on virus spread
Closing non-essential workplaces and extending working from home are the most effective interventions for reducing spread of Covid-19, with school closures also a ‘high-impact’ policy, an international study has concluded. The study published on 29 December 2020 in the journal PLOS One, a peer-reviewed scientific journal published by the Public Library of Science, examines the ‘most effective’ ways to address Covid spread.
Wibbens PD, Koo WW-Y, McGahan AM (2020) Which COVID policies are most effective? A Bayesian analysis of COVID-19 by jurisdiction. PLoS ONE 15(12): e0244177. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0244177 BRG.com. Risks 979. 4 January 2021

Britain: Concerns raised over rushed schools testing plans
The UK government’s end-of-term announcement to require mass testing in English schools from January raises serious concerns, school support staff union UNISON has said. The union’s national schools committee for England, together with representatives of the union’s further education committee, met with Department for Education (DfE) and NHS test and trace officials on 22 December to discuss the government’s plans for mass testing of school staff and pupils in secondary schools and colleges in England in January.
UNISON news release. Risks 979. 4 January 2021

Britain: Furlough working parents affected by school closures
Employers should offer furlough to all parents affected by school closures, the TUC has saidThe TUC says that this series of chaotic statements and a last-minute approach has left working parents in real difficulties, adding the job retention scheme allows bosses to furlough parents who can’t work due to a lack of childcare.
TUC news release. BBC News Online. Risks 979. 4 January 2021

Britain: Covid causing a work-related death a day
The number of officially reported work-related Covid-19 deaths is running at one a day, over three times the rate for all other work-related fatalities, a new report has revealed. The report, which criticises the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), for ‘resignation and inaction’, notes: “As hundreds died and tens of thousands fell ill as a result of workplace exposures, HSE’s preferred response was to have a little word.”
No! No! No! Covid-19 deaths at 3.4 times the rate for all other work fatalities, Hazards, number 152, December 2020 and related ‘Fighting our corner’ safety reps’ poster.
Venting - Coronavirus risks are mostly up in the air, safety reps’ factsheet, Hazards, number 152, December 2020. Risks 979. 4 January 2021

Britain: Praise for union ‘unsung health and safety heroes’
The head of Scotland’s lead trade union body has praised the country’s ‘unsung health and safety heroes’. Roz Foyer, general secretary of the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC), stated: “Facing a deadly virus, with scarce early support from governments, health and safety reps have rose to the occasion in deeply challenging circumstances.”
STUC news release and news release on non-essential workplaces. Morning Star. Risks 979. 4 January 2021

Britain: Lack of trust in bosses exacerbates Covid mental ills
A survey over a thousand Scottish workers has found that Covid-19 has exacerbated a pre-existing lack of trust in employers when it comes to disclosing mental health conditions. The survey by the national union federation STUC found that workers’ mental health has been significantly affected throughout the crisis.
STUC news release. Risks 979. 4 January 2021

Britain: NHS staff working under siege
Hard-pressed NHS staff continuing to battle the Covid-19 crisis are being badly let down by a government which is still failing to ensure that the workforce is getting the protection it needs, the union Unite has said. Unite's national officer for the health sector, Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe, said that the union is now receiving concerning reports of an absence of the correct protective equipment (PPE) for some NHS staff treating the sick.
Unite news release. Risks 979. 4 January 2021

Britain: DVLA contact centre closed due to Covid-19 outbreak
A confirmed Covid-19 outbreak at the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) contact centre in Swansea saw it closed before Christmas, following discussions with the union PCS. The first three weeks of December saw a total of 352 cases of Covid-19 identified among DVLA workers, including 62 confirmed cases at its contact centre in Swansea Vale.
PCS news release. The Guardian. South Wales Argus. Risks 979. 4 January 2021

Britain: Inequality a big factor in self-isolation rates and work risks
Black and minority ethnic (BME) workers have had to self-isolate at a much higher rate than white workers, according to TUC research. The poll for the TUC, carried out by Britain Thinks, shows that more than a third (35 per cent) of BME workers have self-isolated during the pandemic, compared to a quarter (24 per cent) of white workers.
TUC news release. Risks 978. 15 December 2020

Britain: Figures confirm pandemic’s disadvantage ‘triple whammy’
The government must act to address the structural racism in the UK economy that has left Black and minority ethnic (BME) workers at higher risk of ill-health and hardship throughout the pandemic, the TUC has said. Commenting on statistics published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) on 14 December showing the detrimental impact of the coronavirus crisis on different ethnic groups in the UK, TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “BME workers have faced a triple whammy of threats during the pandemic.”
TUC news release. Coronavirus and the social impacts on different ethnic groups in the UK: 2020, ONS, 14 December 2020. Risks 978. 15 December 2020

Britain: TUC’s antiracism taskforce targets ‘hostile’ workplaces
The TUC’s new antiracism taskforce has met for the first time. The organisation, chaired by NASUWT general secretary Dr Patrick Roach, will lead the trade union movement’s renewed campaign against racism at work, the TUC says.
TUC news release. Risks 978. 15 December 2020

Britain: Firefighters ready to drive forward the Covid response
Firefighters are ready to assist the UK’s rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine after an agreement was reached between the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) and fire and rescue service national employers. The agreement allows firefighters to assist other public sector organisations with track, trace, and isolate measures, and to check that potential higher risk premises are Covid-secure.
FBU news release. Risks 978. 15 December 2020

Britain: Bradford bus drivers to strike over 'dangerous' shifts
Bus drivers in Bradford have voted to strike early next year in a dispute over ‘dangerous’ shifts introduced at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. Unite members at First West Yorkshire claim traffic and service levels are now “near normal”, but drivers are still working extended shifts.
Unite news release. BBC News Online. Risks 978. 15 December 2020

Britain: DHL operating a ‘safety when it suits’ system
DHL has been told it ‘must improve’ coronavirus safety procedures for drivers working on its Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) contract in Halewood, Liverpool. Unite, which represents the majority of the 120 DHL drivers at the Halewood site, said staff have raised concerns that vehicles used by drivers who had subsequently tested positive for the virus were not being disinfected.
Unite news release. Risks 978. 15 December 202

Britain: Don’t ignore Covid spread in Welsh schools
Ministers in the Welsh government must not ignore evidence of Covid spread in schools, the teaching union NASUWT has said. Responding to the announcement from education minister Kirsty Williams that secondary schools and colleges would close from 14 December, the union expressed concern that primary schools were not included in the measure.
NASUWT news release. BBC News Online. Risks 978. 15 December 2020

Britain: Spate of ballots on Scottish school safety
An increasing number of its local associations are now moving towards balloting members on disputes with local authorities over school Covid-19 safety, Scottish teaching union EIS has said. At present, six EIS local associations are moving to ballot members but the union says there are at least four others currently considering whether to take this step towards a formal dispute.
EIS news release and #NotAtAllCosts campaign. Risks 978. 15 December 2020

Britain: School closures row hots up
Teaching union NEU has welcomed a call by London Mayor Sadiq Khan to the prime minister Boris Johnson to close schools immediately with a move to online learning. The mayor’s call came as a major row erupted between councils wishing to close schools early in the face of a Covid-19 spike and the Westminster government, which threatened legal action to keep schools open.
Mayor of London news release. NEU news release, news release on schools Covid statistics and analysis of ONS infection rates by age and graph. DfE temporary continuity direction, 14 December 2020. GMB news release. BBC News Online and update. Risks 978. 15 December 2020

Britain: School support staff must get Covid-19 vaccine
The union GMB has called on government ministers to prioritise school support staff for vaccine access on the same basis as teachers. The union says current official advice to the UK government says that teachers could be identified for early rollout of the vaccine, with no reference to school support staff.
GMB news release. Risks 978. 15 December 2020

Britain: Government ignored PPE supply labour abuses
The UK has bought supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) from Malaysian firms accused of modern slavery during the coronavirus pandemic despite warnings from within government. Leaked documents show Whitehall identified companies suspected of forced labour as long ago as November 2019 – with further concerns about suppliers highlighted by a UK diplomat over the summer.
The Telegraph. The Independent. CNN News. Risks 978. 15 December 2020

Britain: BEIS facilities management staff vote for strike action 
Over 90 staff at the Business Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) department’s London HQ have voted overwhelmingly to walk out over concerns about Covid safety. PCS which represents security, cleaning, porterage and postal service workers at the government department accused contractor ISS, which employs the staff at BEIS, of refusing to wind down support services sufficiently to enable members to stay safely at home.
PCS news release. Risks 978. 15 December 2020

Mexico: Electrolux workers dismissed over Covid protests
Workers at an Electrolux factory in Mexico who were fired after raising Covid-19 safety concerns at the start of the pandemic must obtain redress from the firm, unions have said. The workers employed at the Swedish multinational’s factory in Ciudad Juárez tried to start a dialogue when management insisted on keeping operations running despite an emergency decree allowing only essential work, a number of Covid infections among staff and a lack of personal protection equipment.
IndustriALL news release and IndustriALL/Electrolux global framework agreement. Risks 978. 15 December 2020

Britain: Decent sick pay a ‘gaping hole’ in Covid strategy
The lack of decent sick pay has been a “gaping hole” in the government's Covid strategy, the TUC has said. The union body was commenting on a Resolution Foundation report on the government's failure to support workers to self-isolate with decent sick pay.
Resolution Foundation news release and report, Time out, Reforming Statutory Sick Pay to support the Covid-19 recovery phase, 8 December 2020. Sick pay and debt, TUC, 9 September 2020. Risks 977. 9 December 2020

Britain: Bakkavor agrees full absence pay after Covid deaths
Workers at a Bakkavor factory have claimed a massive victory after the major fresh food supplier agreed full pay for staff off work because of a Covid outbreak. The move comes after confirmation of two Covid-related deaths of workers from the Tilmanstone factory in recent days; GMB said cases in an outbreak at the factory had ‘rocketed’ from around 35 in the third week of November to 99 as of 3 December.
GMB news release and news release on the second Bakkavor death and the earlier death. BBC News Online. Risks 977. 9 December 2020

Britain: Ministers must act after damning Covid report
The UK government’s ‘failure’ in handling the pandemic has been highlighted in a new report from the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Coronavirus. The cross-party group found the government had failed to learn from other countries, who unlike the UK had applied lessons learned from the previous coronavirus-related SARS and MERS epidemics.
Interim report of the APPG’s findings based on the first 10 oral hearings from July to October 2020, All-Party Group on Coronavirus, December 2020. GMB news release. Risks 977. 9 December 2020

Britain: Bosses could be liable for college Covid cases
Senior management teams in universities could face prosecution and civil action where their actions or omissions led to a member of staff falling ill or dying as a result of Covid-19 infection. The stark warning comes in specialist legal advice obtained by 10 branches of the lecturers’ union UCU.
Leigh Day news release. UCU news release. Risks 977. 9 December 2020

Britain: Call for extra powers for schools over Covid cases
Teaching union NASUWT is ‘becoming increasingly concerned’ that pupils who are sent home from school due to Covid-19 symptoms are being sent back to school prematurely, potentially putting staff and other pupils at risk. The union is calling for schools to be able to refuse re-admittance to children who went off with Covid-19 symptoms until either the isolation period has passed or proof of a negative test result is provided.
NASUWT news release. Risks 977. 9 December 2020

Britain: Vaccine rollout must not repeat Test and Trace errors
The TUC has warned the government against repeating the mistakes of Test and Trace by outsourcing the Covid-19 vaccine programme. The union body said ministers must learn the lessons from the failures of contact tracking and PPE provision by ensuring the design and delivery of the vaccination programme is led by public health professionals, not private contractors, adding people should be persuaded not compelled to be vaccinated, and workers should be allowed to get the jab in paid work time.
TUC news release and blog. Risks 977. 9 December 2020

Britain: NHS staff drop down Covid vaccine priority list
NHS staff will no longer be among the first people to be vaccinated against Covid-19 after a government rethink about who should be given priority. Hospitals will instead begin by immunising care home staff, and inpatients and outpatients aged over 80. The new policy departs from recommendation from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and policies in the US, France and elsewhere, with France particularly given priority to a wide range of essential workers.
Government news release. JCVI priority groups update, 3 December 2020. The Guardian. Risks 977. 9 December 2020

Britain: Essential jobs linked to high severe Covid-19 risks
Healthcare workers are seven times as likely to have severe Covid-19 as workers in ‘non-essential’ jobs, a new study has found. The risk is twice as high for those with jobs in the ‘social and education’ and transport sectors. The research, published online in the journal Occupational & Environmental Medicine, focuses on the first UK-wide lockdown.
Miriam Mutambudzi, Claire Niedwiedz, Ewan Beaton Macdonald and others. Occupation and risk of severe COVID-19: prospective cohort study of 120 075 UK Biobank participants, Occupational & Environmental Medicine, doi:10.1136/oemed-2020-106731. Risks 977. 9 December 2020

Britain: Let’s not drop our guard, says STUC
Bosses must maintain the highest health and safety standards and find ways other than Christmas parties to thank workers, Scottish union body STUC has said. Responding on 8 December, the first day in the Covid vaccination rollout and the removal of multiple local authorities in Scotland from strict level 4 restrictions, the STUC called on workers not to drop their guard and for employers to stick to health and safety rules.
STUC news release. BBC News Online. Risks 977. 9 December 2020

Britain: Care staff ‘one job’ limit could leave workers in poverty
Banning employees from working in more than one care home without guaranteeing wages will plunge thousands of low-income families into poverty, trigger staff shortages and put residents at risk, UNISON has said. The move came after it emerged the government’s outbreak modelling did not recognise that care workers moved between homes, increasing the risk of transmission of coronavirus.
UNISON news release. Risks 977. 9 December 2020

USA: Don’t give deadly bosses Covid immunity
With political leaders in the US now rallying around a relief package that could include a Republican-backed moratorium on Covid-19 lawsuits against employers, we cannot forget just how brazenly many large corporations continue to disregard the lives of frontline workers, top workers’ safety advocates have warned.
The Hill. CBS News.
Public Citizen petition: Do NOT give in to Mitch McConnell. Demand a vote on — and pass — coronavirus relief legislation WITHOUT legal immunity for corporations. Risks 977. 9 December 2020

Britain: Food factories could be Covid xmas ‘super spreaders’
Food processing factories could become “super spreaders” of Covid-19 in the run up to Christmas, the TUC has warned. The TUC wants stricter controls on ventilation, face coverings, workplace temperatures and physical distancing.
TUC news release. Morning Star. Risks 976. 2 December 2020

Britain: Worker dies in Covid-19 outbreak at food factory
A worker who developed Covid-19 has died amid a coronavirus outbreak at a factory producing salads for Marks & Spencer, the union GMB has said. The union says cases at the Bakkavor/Tilmanstone Salads facility in Kent have ‘rocketed’ from 35 in the third week of November to 79 by the end of the month.
GMB news release. Just Food. BBC News Online. Risks 976. 2 December 2020

Britain: Large outbreaks hit two Kepak food factories
Two food plants operated by Kepak have been hit by large scale Covid-19 outbreaks, with almost 200 workers testing positive. Public health officials confirmed 87 workers at the firm’s Aberdeenshire food plant were infected at work and separately that there had been 106 positive cases at the company’s plant in Bodmin, Cornwall.
Press and Journal. The Scotsman. BBC News Online. Just Food. Risks 976. 2 December 2020

Britain: Cold, hard work and poor pay are a deadly combination
Working environments in slaughterhouses and meat packing plants are conducive to coronavirus transmission because of low temperatures, low air exchange rates, air recirculation and other poor elements of job design, UK experts have concluded. A team from St Johns Institute of Dermatology, Guy’s Hospital, in an editorial in the journal Occupational Medicine, call for action to protect workers, noting: “In addition to standard control measures to prevent the transmission of communicable diseases in the workplace, that include education, early identification and quarantine, employers should implement additional interventions to protect against the cold.”
Louise Cunningham, Paul J Nicholson, Jane O’Connor, John P McFadden. Cold working environments as an occupational risk factor for COVID-19, Occupational Medicine, kqaa195, Published: 28 November 2020. https://doi.org/10.1093/occmed/kqaa195. Risks 976. 2 December 2020

Britain: UK vaccine prioritisation must not fail essential workers
The UK’s plans for Covid-19 vaccine prioritisation ignore most of the essential workers whose jobs have been shown to come with a high risk of infection, a top occupational health expert has warned. Professor Andrew Watterson of Stirling University, in a letter published in the British Medical Journal on 29 November, notes: “Ignoring the occupational health and safety and related public health consequences of some workers being given low vaccination priority will be unwise and perhaps indicative of a general UK neglect of occupational health and safety during and before the pandemic.”
Andrew Watterson, British Medical Journal, 29 November 2020.
WHO SAGE Roadmap for prioritizing uses of Covid-19 vaccines in the context of limited supply, version 1.1, WHO, 13 November 2020.
Green Book. Chapter 14a - COVID-19 - SARS-Cov-2, PHE, 26 November 2020. Risks 976. 2 December 2020

Britain: Intrusive monitoring on the rise during coronavirus
The TUC has launched a new taskforce to look at the “creeping role” of artificial intelligence (AI) in managing people at work. The taskforce launch comes as a new TUC report, ‘Technology managing people: the worker experience’, reveals that many workers have concerns over the use of AI and technology in the workplace.
TUC news release, blog and report, Technology managing people: the worker experience, 30 November 2020. Risks 976. 2 December 2020

Britain: Politics not safety driving Covid school decisions
The UK government’s decisions on Covid in schools and colleges are being based not on the safety of staff and pupils but on politics, NASUWT general secretary Patrick Roach has said. In a 1 December commentary on the union’s website, he said that “despite credible evidence of rising rates of Covid-19 among pupils and education staff, the government has pushed forward with new contingency arrangements for the management of Covid outbreaks in schools and colleges which not only threaten to undermine safety, but which puts politics above the welfare of children and teachers.”
NASUWT commentary. Risks 976. 2 December 2020

Britain: Union demands protection for ‘vulnerable’ school staff
Teaching union NEU has called on the government to ensure clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV) school staff are protected as the lockdown ends. The union, which last week presented evidence to schools minister Nick Gibb of rising Covid-19 infection rates in primary and secondary schools, argued it was not safe for CEV school staff to return to workplaces from 3 December.
NEU news release. Risks 976. 2 December 2020

Britain: Union calls for ‘robust’ enforcement on buses
Transport union RMT has written to all police and crime commissioners across England asking them if they have robust plans to ensure bus passengers are wearing facial coverings on buses. In addition to the letter to the Association of Chief Police Officers, the union is also contacting its parliamentary group about ‘contract buses’ – school buses, for example - having different loading levels to service buses.
RMT news release. Risks 976. 2 December 2020

Britain: Doctors slam ‘consensus’ on workplace Covid risks
A doctors’ union has dismissed as a ‘whitewash’ a 20 November consensus statement by Public Health England (PHE), the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and the Faculty of Occupational Medicine (FOM) on measures necessary to address work-related Covid-19 risks in ethnic minority workers. Doctors in Unite said the recommendations “are nowhere near enough” to mitigate the risks.
Doctors in Unite summary and full report.
Mitigation of risks of COVID-19 in occupational settings with a focus on ethnic minority groups – consensus statement from PHE, HSE and FOM, 20 November 2020. Risks 976. 2 December 2020

Britain: #ZeroCovid Day of Action, 5 December 2020
Campaigners nationwide are calling for a UK day of action on Saturday 5 December in support of a ‘Zero Covid’ strategy. ‘Zero Covid -the campaign to beat the pandemic’ accuses the UK government of driving up workplace infections and deaths. The campaign, which is supported by Independent Sage, health experts, campaigners, union bodies and leaders and prominent individuals including the author Michael Rosen, is urging supporters to demonstrate safely on Saturday 5 December for a Zero Covid strategy by all the governments in the UK.
Zero Covid Campaignjoin the campaign and organise a Saturday 5 December 2020 action. ASLEF news release. Hazards Campaign news release. Risks 976. 2 December 2020

Global: Bad, cold jobs link to virus risk in meat plants
Cold work and other dangerous work practices have a clear link to the high rates of Covid-19 outbreaks in meat processing plants, public health experts have warned. The findings by a team of researchers led by Dr David Nabarro, the co-director of the Institute for Global Health Innovation at Imperial College London, come in a working paper for the global foodworkers’ union IUF.
IUF news release. Full report: COVID in cold environments: risks in meat processing plants in English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish. Risks 976. 2 December 2020

USA: Emergency laws needed to protect food workers
The darkest days of the pandemic are still ahead of us, as we head into the winter with a surge of cases and without a national strategy to address Covid-19, a US health expert has warned. Amy Liebman, the director of occupational health for the Migrant Clinicians Network, warned winter will be especially grim for essential food workers like farmworkers and meat packers who still lack basic protections in the workplace.
Stat News. Risks 976. 2 December 2020

USA: Covid’s work deaths going unreported by firms
Workplace safety regulators in the US have taken a lenient stance toward employers during the pandemic, giving them broad discretion to decide internally whether to report worker deaths. As a result, scores of deaths were not reported to occupational safety officials from the earliest days of the pandemic through to late October, a study by Kaiser Health News (KHN) has found.
Kaiser Health News. The Guardian. Risks 976. 2 December 2020

Britain: Don't go to work when sick, 'peculiar' Brits told
Britons should stop “soldiering on” by going to work when sick and making others ill, the health secretary has said. Apparently oblivious to a mountain of evidence from the TUC, unions and others that poor or entirely absent sick pay and fear of disciplinary action stopped people taking sick leave, Matt Hancock said people in the UK were “peculiarly unusual and outliers” for still going to work when unwell.
Joint committee inquiry. BBC News Online. The Guardian. Sick pay and debt, TUC, 9 September 2020. Risks 975. 28 November 2020

Britain: Guarantee decent sick pay for every worker
The TUC is spearheading a #SickPayForAll campaign. The union body says no one should be faced with both illness and the fear of being plunged into debt.
Sign the #SickPayForAll petition. See the video featuring TUC safety specialist Shelly Asquith. Risks 975. 28 November 2020

Britain: Union safety win sees food workers get organised
Covid fears have spurred hundreds of essential workers at the poultry division of Noble Foods Ltd to get organised, winning a Unite recognition agreement. In March of this year, workers at the Lincolnshire plant became concerned that factory equipment was blowing cold air along a line of production workers, which staff feared had the potential to spread coronavirus - as soon as the issue was raised and the union intervened, the management quickly resolved the problem.
Unite news release. Risks 975. 28 November 2020

Britain: Air conditioning victory for bus drivers
The announcement that London buses have been fitted with an improved, safer air conditioning system has been greeted by Unite as a ‘major victory’. All London buses have had changes made to their air conditioning systems so that the air entering the driver’s sealed cab comes directly from the outside and does not pass through the passenger area of the bus.
Unite news release. Risks 975. 28 November 2020

Britain: Covid outbreaks in 6 out of 10 schools
Almost six in every ten school staff say Covid outbreaks have taken place in their workplace since the start of the pandemic, according to a mass survey by the GMB. More than 57 per cent of the 7,100 school staff who responded to the poll said there had been confirmed cases at their school; two-thirds (67 per cent) said there was no testing available for staff or pupils who were displaying symptoms; and more than 60 per cent said they had been asked to work across bubbles.
GMB news release. Prime minister’s statement on the Winter Plan, 23 November 2020. Risks 975. 28 November 2020

Britain: Government must let schools go online
School support staff union UNISON is urging ministers to let schools move all lessons online from next month to stop rising infections and ‘save Christmas’. The union believes a switch to full online teaching two weeks before Christmas would cut the risk of families being forced to self-isolate over the festive break.
UNISON news release. Risks 975. 28 November 2020

Britain: Scottish teachers don’t feel safe in school
Fewer than one-third of teachers currently feel safe from Covid-19 in Scotland’s schools, a major survey by the teaching union EIS has revealed. The union surveyed teachers across Scotland, and says the results lay bare the depth of the concern held by teachers over potential risk to their and their pupils' health.
EIS news release. Risks 975. 28 November 2020

Britain: Scottish government failing on school safety
An NASUWT survey of over 700 teachers across Scotland has found serious concerns over the adequacy of the health and safety measures in place in schools and the level of protection currently being afforded to pupils and staff. Two-thirds (67 per cent) reported that pupils in their school have displayed symptoms of Covid-19, with just over half (51 per cent) saying that classes or year groups had been sent home because of suspected or confirmed cases of the virus.
NASUWT news release. Risks 975. 28 November 2020

Britain: Educators warn of Covid safety risks in prisons
Nearly half of prison education staff do not feel safe at work, according to responses to a UCU survey. The union study found over a third (37 per cent) of respondents reported no regular cleaning on site, with 15 per cent reporting they had been asked to undertake cleaning themselves; and almost half (45 per cent) said they did not feel safe on site.
UCU news release. Risks 975. 28 November 2020

Britain: Urgent action needed on site Covid risks
The government and construction employers must take urgent action to tackle rising Covid-19 transmission rates in the industry, Unite has said. The union call came after Professor Calum Semple told Sky’s Sophie Ridge programme on 22 November that “construction are actually working inside before buildings are made Covid-safe,” adding “So the construction industry has turned out to be a risk that I was surprised to see.”
Unite news release.
Rory O’Neill WHO Knew. How the World Health Organization (WHO) Became a Dangerous Interloper on Workplace Health and Safety and COVID-19, New Solutions, Volume: 30 issue: 3, pages 237-248  First Published 8 October 2020.  https://doi.org/10.1177/1048291120961337
Pasco RF, Fox SJ, Johnston SC, Pignone M, Meyers LA. Estimated Association of Construction Work With Risks of COVID-19 Infection and Hospitalization in Texas, JAMA Network Open. 2020;3(10):e2026373. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.26373 Risks 975. 28 November 2020

Britain: Ambulance worker absences linked to poor PPE
‘Second-rate’ PPE supplies are to blame for the ‘rocketing’ Covid-19 absences among ambulance workers, the union GMB has said. Figures obtained by the union show as of this week there were 2,077 Covid-related absences across just six trusts, with an average Covid absence rate of 7 per cent.
GMB news release. Risks 975. 28 November 2020

Britain: ‘Unforgivable’ failures left health care staff at risk
Shockingly bad planning that saw ministers react too slowly when buying protective kit left health and care staff at risk from the coronavirus, UNISON has said. Responding to a National Audit Office (NAO) report issued on 25 November into the government’s attempts to source personal protective equipment as the first Covid wave struck, UNISON assistant general secretary Christina McAnea said: “It’s unforgivable that shockingly poor government planning left care and health staff to fight Covid-19 without the safety kit to protect themselves.”
NAO news release and full report, The supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) during the COVID-19 pandemic, 25 November 2020. UNISON news release. BBC News Online. Risks 975. 28 November 2020

Britain: PPE czar urged to break logjam in supply chain
The government’s PPE ‘czar’ needs to break the logjam in the supply of vital personal protective equipment (PPE) to NHS staff, after media reports that the government is paying a £1 million-a-day to store a PPE ‘mountain’, Unite has said. The union said the government’s PPE supremo Lord Deighton, appointed in the spring, urgently needs to intervene to sort out the supply chain problems.
Unite news release. Risks 975. 28 November 2020

Britain: Wage support exclusions led to suicides
At least six people excluded from the government’s coronavirus wage support schemes have taken their own lives this month, a campaign group has said. ExcludedUK represents the three million people in Britain who are not eligible for the Job Retention Scheme (JRS) or the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS).
Morning Star. More on work-related suicide.
ACTION! Use the Hazards e-postcard to tell the HSE to recognise, record and take action to prevent work-related suicides. www.hazards.org/hsesuicide Risks 975. 28 November 2020

Britain: UCU 'long Covid' briefing for workplace reps
Lecturers’ union UCU has published an online briefing for its safety reps and equality reps on 'long Covid'. It says long Covid is a collection of post-viral conditions, lingering effects or health problems in the wake of a coronavirus infection and is not limited to those who have suffered serious cases of Covid-19.
UCU long Covid briefing. Risks 975. 28 November 2020

Global: Union call for rapid antigen testing for workers
The global union confederation ITUC is pressing for urgent and large-scale investment in rapid antigen testing for the virus that causes Covid-19, in order to bring the pandemic under control. Sharan Burrow, ITUC general secretary, said: “Adding these tests to the existing armoury of measures to tackle the pandemic would enable workplaces that have been shut down to reopen safely with a very high degree of confidence.”
ITUC news release, briefing paper and short video explainer. Risks 975. 28 November 2020

USA: Meatpacking linked to 1-in-12 early Covid cases
As many as one in 12 cases of Covid-19 in the early stage of the pandemic in the US can be tied to outbreaks at meatpacking plants and subsequent spread in surrounding communities, according to a study. Its findings show “a strong positive relationship” between meatpacking plants and “local community transmission” in cases through to late July, suggesting the plants act as “transmission vectors” and “accelerate the spread of the virus.”
Bloomsberg News. Bloomberg Government.
Charles A. Taylor, Christopher Boulos, Douglas Almond. Livestock plants and Covid-19 transmission, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, November 2020, 202010115; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2010115117 Risks 975. 28 November 2020

USA: OSHA’s slammed for ‘absurd’ Covid-19 reporting rule
Workplace exposures continue to be a major driver of the coronavirus pandemic, something that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) should be on top of, says David Michaels. But the former head of OSHA, writing in Stat News, warns a reinterpretation of a reporting rule is making that all but impossible.
Stat News. Risks 975. 28 November 2020

USA: ‘Essential workers’ set to get vaccine early
Essential workers in the US are likely to move ahead of adults aged 65 and older and people with high risk medical conditions when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) signs off on Covid-19 vaccine priority lists, coming after health care workers and people living in long-term care facilities, a meeting of an expert advisory panel has made clear. There was no formal vote by the members of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), a group of outside experts that makes recommendations to the CDC on use of vaccines.
Stat News. Risks 975. 28 November 2020

Britain: STUC survey uncovers Covid concerns at work
An STUC survey had exposed widespread Covid-19 related concerns in Scottish workplaces, including a looming mental health crisis. The research by Scotland’s national union body found the pandemic “has exacerbated a pre-existing lack of trust in employers when it comes to disclosing mental health conditions”. 
STUC news release and STUC worker safety website. Risks 974. 19 November 2020.

Britain: UK vaccine allocation plan bypasses most key workers
UK government plans for the distribution of a Covid-19 vaccine bypass many workers in high risk professions, in a stark contrast with the French approach, according to Oxford University researchers. They note that under the French system, some jobs will qualify “as high priority due to their contact with the general public – for instance shop workers, school staff, transport staff and hospitality workers, as well as those working in confined spaces such as abattoir staff, taxi drivers, migrant workers and construction teams.”
The Conversation. Priority groups for coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccination: advice from the JCVI, 25 September 2020. Risks 974. 19 November 2020.

Britain: Black and Asian people at greater risk from Covid
Black people are twice as likely as white people to catch the coronavirus, a study of 18 million people suggests, with higher exposures at work one of the contributory factors needing attention. Researchers at the Universities of Leicester and Nottingham say their findings, based on an analysis of US and UK studies, are of “urgent public health importance” and raise questions about how vaccines will be prioritised within at-risk groups.
Shirley Sze, Daniel Pan, Clareece R Nevill and others. Ethnicity and clinical outcomes in COVID-19: A systematic review and meta-analysis, EClinical Medicine, Open Access. Published: 12 November 2020. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.eclinm.2020.100630 BBC News Online. Risks 974. 19 November 2020.

Britain: Vaccine rollout must not repeat PPE ‘fiasco’
The prime minister must appoint a cabinet minister to bring urgently needed coordination to the production and supply of vaccines in the battle to defeat Covid-19, the manufacturing union Unite has said. The union is also urging the government to issue a second 'call to arms' to UK manufacturing to produce the vaccine.
Unite news release. Risks 974. 19 November 2020.

Britain: Safety regulator had 'political' pressure to approve PPE
Britain's workplace safety watchdog felt leaned on by the government to make factually incorrect statements about lower standard PPE suits bought for NHS staff earlier in the Covid-19 pandemic, the BBC has found. Emails reveal how the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) said protective suits, bought by the government in April, had not been tested to the correct standard and describe “political” pressure to approve them for use.
BBC News Online. Risks 974. 19 November 2020.

Britain: Royal Mail workers now wearing masks indoors
The introduction of mandatory facemask wearing in Royal Mail indoor work situations “is not an end in itself” insists postal workers’ union CWU. The move came after the company and the union agreed the measure, but with what CWU described as the “crucially important caveat” that this must not replace other preventive risk control measures.
CWU news report. Risks 974. 19 November 2020.

Britain: DHL must adopt a sick and self-isolation pay scheme
Parcel courier DHL must adopt a “culture of responsibility” during the pandemic and introduce a genuine sick and self-isolation pay scheme for workers, the union CWU has said. The union’s petition is calling on DHL Parcel UK to introduce a proper pay plan for people who are sick with coronavirus or have been forced to self-isolate.
CWU news release. Risks 974. 19 November 2020.

Britain: Abuse of retail staff far worse during the pandemic
Over threequarters of retail workers say abuse on the job has worsened throughout the pandemic, according to an annual survey by shopworkers’ union Usdaw. Interim results from over 2,000 retail staff show that so far this year, 76 per cent report abuse has been worse than normal during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Usdaw news release and petition. Risks 974. 19 November 2020.

Britain: Covid-19 outbreak at Manchester rail station
Avanti, the train operator running the West Coast Mainline route from Manchester to London, has confirmed an outbreak at Manchester Piccadilly station, which is managed by Network Rail. The Manchester Evening News reported a staff member took a Covid test two weeks ago, a day before arriving for his shift, and receiving a positive test result later during that shift, when he informed his managers – more workers subsequently tested positive.
TSSA news release. Manchester Evening News. Risks 974. 19 November 2020.

Britain: Unite tribute to NHS safety rep Mark Simons
Unite Wales has paid tribute to Mark Simons, an NHS health care assistant and Unite safety representative who died on 10 November after contracting Covid-19. Mark, who worked at Royal Glamorgan Hospital, was a Unite senior health and safety representative, the lead rep within the Unite branch on health and safety, and the vice chair of the staff side health and safety committee.
Unite news release. Risks 974. 19 November 2020.

Britain: McDonald's apologises for stopping couriers using loos
Fast food chain McDonald's has apologised to food delivery drivers after they were denied access to its toilets. “We are sorry to hear that on some occasions this guidance has not been implemented, and we will be reminding our restaurant teams about the policy,” the company said.
BBC News Online. Drivers’ welfare at delivery and collection sites during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, HSE. Joint DfT/HSE open letter on access to hygiene facilities for drivers. Risks 974. 19 November 2020.

Britain: Court victory on access to PPE for gig workers
A “groundbreaking” court victory on workplace safety protection for gig economy workers has been welcomed by unions and safety organisations. In a judgment delivered in the High Court in London on 13 November, Mr Justice Chamberlain ruled that Britain had failed to properly implement an EU directive on personal protective equipment (PPE) in relation to self-employed workers who provide a service as part of a business.
IWGB news release. Old Square Chambers news release. IOSH news release. Morning Star. Risks 974. 19 November 2020.

Britain: Pilots launch new ‘Most Wanted’ safety strategy
UK pilots’ union BALPA has launched at ‘Most Wanted’ safety strategy that highlights the 11 issues pilots believe are most likely to cause a fatal accident. The union says its strategy aims to ensure flight safety and the health of everyone involved in aviation is not overlooked as the industry tries to deal with the coronavirus crisis.
BALPA news release and BALPA Most Wanted campaign. Risks 974. 19 November 2020.

USA: Meat giant fined over Covid crime
A California meatpacking plant owned by the multinational Smithfield company and where hundreds of workers developed Covid-19 has been fined for putting its employees and temporary staff at risk. More than 315 workers out of 1,800 at the Farmer John plant in Vernon have contracted the coronavirus since March.
UFCW news release. Risks 974. 19 November 2020.

Britain: ‘Union Improvement Notice’ served on British Museum
The British Museum must take action to remedy Covid-19 safety breaches – but it is a union and not a safety regulator that is laying down the law. Because of overcrowding and difficulties with social distancing, civil service union PCS said it “has been left with no alternative but to issue a Union Improvement Notice (UIN) on 30 October.”
PCS news release and webpage on Union Improvement Notices. TUC guide to union health and safety inspections and safety reps’ tools including UINs.  UIN form. Risks 973. 14 November 2020

Britain: Prison union slams ‘absurd’ not-a-lockdown
Prison officers’ union POA has criticised as ‘absurd’ the new lockdown for England that leaves large parts of the economy working as usual. The union says it has worked cooperatively with prison management to help keep prisoners and staff safe during the pandemic, but says ‘inconsistencies’ in the new measures will ‘not assist’ these efforts.
POA news release. Risks 973. 14 November 2020

Britain: Tube’s ‘dangerous’ positive virus test rules slammed
London Underground (LUL) union RMT has condemned the transport company’s dangerous policy on Covid-19. LUL is refusing to send staff home after a workmate reports a positive Covid-19 result.
RMT news release. Risks 973. 14 November 2020

Britain: Country at risk until universities move online
The UK government's failure to instruct universities to move to online learning where possible is putting public health at risk, lecturers’ union UCU and the National Union of Students (NUS) have said. A UCU and NUS joint statement calls on the Westminster government to revise its guidance for universities, and issue a clear call for learning to be immediately moved online wherever possible during the lockdown in England.
UCU news release. Risks 973. 14 November 2020

Britain: Support for union push to close schools and colleges
Less than 48 hours after teaching union NEU launched a campaign to include schools in England’s lockdown, over 150,000 teachers and support staff have voiced their support. The union said over 20,000 had also written to their MP and lobbied them on social media.
NEU news release and related release on infection rates.
Deepti Gurdasani and others. The UK needs a sustainable strategy for Covid-19, The Lancet, Online first, 9 November 2020. Risks 973. 14 November 2020

Britain: School virus spread needs ‘robust action’
There must be immediate and robust action from the government to ensure that all school and college employers carry out fresh risk assessments in light of the increased Covid-19 threat, the teaching union NASUWT has said. The union is calling on school employers to publish their risk assessments and to explain to parents and to employees the additional safety measures they are putting into place to prevent the spread of the virus.
NASUWT news release. Risks 973. 14 November 2020

Britain: Whistleblower virus concerns dismissed by employers
More than 4-in-10 Covid-19 concerns raised by employees were ignored by bosses, who instead routinely victimised the workers raising safety issues, a legal charity has said. Research by Protect found 41 per cent of employees raising Covid-19 concerns were ignored by their employers and 20 per cent of whistleblowers were dismissed. 
Protect news release and report, The best warning system: Whistleblowing during Covid-19. Risks 973. 14 November 2020

Britain: Workers need protection in mass testing pilot
As mass testing gets underway in Liverpool, the TUC’s North West region has called on employers in the city to support workers throughout the pilot. The union body is calling for financial security for workers to help them get tested and take action if needed, so that public health measures can be effective and the city can get on top of the pandemic.
TUC news release. Risks 973. 14 November 2020

Britain: Shoppers urged to follow the rules and respect staff
As the second lockdown for England took effect, retail trade union Usdaw urged shoppers to follow the rules and respect shopworkers. The union is highlighting five simple steps to encourage considerate shopping: Shop for essentials only and alone if possible; queue patiently and maintain social distancing; follow instructions inside and outside shops; observe all necessary hygiene measures and pay by card if you can; and be respectful to shop staff and other customers.
Usdaw news release and related news release. Risks 973. 14 November 2020

Britain: Unions calls for transparency on Scottish workplace policy
Scotland’s national union body is seeking reassurance from the Scottish government that public health considerations will be prioritised over short-term economic decisions when deciding the country’s pandemic response. STUC says unions from across Scotland have raised concerns over transparency in the use of data and the decision-making process where workplaces are excepted from closure.
STUC news release. Risks 973. 14 November 2020

Britain: 30,000 NHS staff off in Covid second wave
Around 30,000 NHS staff are self-isolating or off sick from work due to coronavirus as the UK faces a second wave of infections. NHS England head Sir Simon Stevens said the numbers underlined the need to control the spread of Covid-19 in order to protect the care offered by the health service.
Prime minister’s statement, 5 November 2020. Evening Standard and related story. Risks 973. 14 November 2020

Britain: Covid transmission and killer workplaces – new film
A new Hazards Campaign film explains why the coronavirus is so dangerous indoors, where aerosols can build up in the air. The film, produced for the campaign by Reel News, “explains what you can do to keep yourself and your workmates safe – using the latest information about Covid-19, extensive case studies of superspreader events and successful collective struggles by well-organised workplaces.”
Covid transmission and killer workplaces, a Reel News/Hazards Campaign film, November 2020. Risks 973. 14 November 2020

Britain: Face coverings in the workplace
The TUC has produced a new guide explaining why face coverings are used, the difference between face coverings and masks, exemptions from their use and the recommended standards for masks. The guide also spells out what union reps can do to support members.
Face coverings in the workplace, TUC guide. Risks 973. 14 November 2020

Denmark: Lockdowns as mutant mink Covid crosses back
Danish authorities have introduced a lockdown affecting large areas after the discovery a coronavirus mutation found in mink has spread back to humans. Originally transmitted from infected humans to the mink, genetic detective work has now shown that in a small number of cases, in the Netherlands and now Denmark, the virus seems to have passed the other way, from mink to humans, with 12 so far confirmed to be infected with the mutant strain.
WHO statement. BBC News Online and related story. Science blog. Risks 973. 14 November 2020

USA: Covid work safety fines near US$2.5m
Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic through to 29 October 2020, the US government’s workplace safety regulator OSHA has issued citations arising from 179 inspections for violations relating to coronavirus, resulting in proposed penalties totalling $2,496,768 (£1.9m).
OSHA news release and Covid-related citations list. OSHA’s short and long guides to employers on where they are getting it wrong and the laws they are breaking. Risks 973. 14 November 2020

Britain: Too little too late from the government
The UK government’s failure to act sooner on rising infection risks and to offer proper income protection for all workers affected by the pandemic has left families facing a ‘grim winter’, the TUC has said. Responding to the prime ministers’ announcement on 31 October of a new four week lockdown for England to take effect from 5 November, the TUC called for the Treasury to provide additional support to protect jobs and income.
TUC news release. Prime minister’s statement and news release, 31 October 2020. UNISON news release. Usdaw news release. BBC News Online. Risks 972. 7 November 2020

Britain: Factory outbreak takes town’s infection to national high
Coronavirus cases in a small Norfolk town due to an outbreak at a food factory have caused its infection rate to soar to the highest in England. There were 125 new cases in Watton in the seven days to 27 October, taking the infection rate to 1,515.5 cases per 100,000 people; this figure has been heavily impacted by the outbreak at Cranswick Country Foods, which has reported hundreds of confirmed cases.
Norfolk County Council news updates. Eastern Daily Press and related story. BBC News Online. Risks 972. 7 November 2020

Britain: Work contribution to virus spread going ignored
Workplace outbreaks are an increasingly large contributor to coronavirus spread, but are being largely ignored in the UK government’s prevention strategy, a top academic has warned. Stirling University occupational health professor Andrew Watterson said despite varying degrees of lockdown restrictions due to the pandemic, many people in the UK are still going in to work with inevitable consequences - hundreds of coronavirus clusters each week.
The Conversation. Risks 972. 7 November 2020

Britain: More than a third 'fear catching Covid at work'
More than one-in-three (35 per cent) workers have an active concern about the transmission of Covid-19 in their workplace – with low-paid workers most likely to be worried, but least likely to raise concerns or see their complaints resolved. ‘Failed Safe?’, a Resolution Foundation report, draws on an online YouGov survey of 6,061 adults across the UK. It found that nearly half (47 per cent) of workers that spend time in the workplace rate the risk of Covid-19 transmission at work as fairly or very high.
Resolution Foundation news release and Failed Safe? briefing note. BBC News Online. Risks 972. 7 November 2020.

REGISTER A COVID CONCERN:  The online link provided by on the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) website for union reps to register a Covid-19 concern is broken. After an intervention by the TUC, the HSE is now asking union reps to register their Covid-19 concerns directly by email to Union.Covidconcerns@hse.gov.uk until the HSE online glitch is resolved. Risks 972. 7 November 2020

Britain: Work hazards group warns ‘don’t waste this lockdown’
A month-long lockdown in England must be used to sort out test and trace, and enforce health and safety in the workplace, the national Hazards Campaign has said. As Whitehall imposes new restrictions, the campaign has argued that the time must be used to rebuild the failing test and trace system, and to ensure those workplaces remaining open are ‘Covid-safe’.
Hazards Campaign news release. Environmental Health News. Risks 972. 7 November 2020

Britain: NASUWT calls for beefed-up Covid safety enforcement
The government’s lockdown will not work unless there is more effective enforcement of workplace safety standards, teaching union NASUWT has said. Patrick Roach, the union’s general secretary, said: “The government’s plans to extend national restrictions to tackle the coronavirus will be seriously undermined if it fails to ensure that schools and other workplaces are Covid-safe.”
NASUWT news release. Risks 972. 7 November 2020

Britain: NEU calls for school shutdown in lockdown
Teaching union NEU is calling for schools and colleges to be included in the government’s  English lockdown - and for rotas to be introduced at the end of the lockdown period. NEU’s analysis of ONS figures shows that virus levels are now nine times higher amongst primary pupils and an ‘astonishing’ 50 times higher amongst secondary pupils.
NEU news release. Coronavirus (COVID-19) Infection Survey, UK: 30 October 2020, ONS, 30 October 2020. Risks 972. 7 November 2020

Britain: Reduce school opening and support remote learning - UNISON
The government should restrict school and nursery opening in England as in the first lockdown to help bring the national rate of infection down and ensure the safety of pupils, staff and the wider community, UNISON has said. The union has also called on the government to stump up the funding necessary so children from low income families can have access to tablets or laptops.
UNISON news release and National Schools Committee Statement. Risks 972. 7 November 2020

Britain: Lockdown plan will not protect school kids and staff
The “exponentially” rising transmission of the coronavirus has “fatally exposed” the UK government’s failure to respond adequately to the pandemic, according to teaching union NASUWT. Commenting after the government announced a lockdown for England, NASUWT general secretary Patrick Roach said: “The government has recklessly given up on the idea that social distancing can be maintained in schools, despite the evidence that this is the best protection against the spread of the coronavirus.”
NASUWT news release. Union News. Risks 972. 7 November 2020

Britain: Unite warns school support must be fully protected
School support staff and school nurses across the UK must be protected through the lockdown and their ‘safety must not be compromised’, Unite has said. The union says if serious safety concerns are identified and immediate action is not taken to remedy them, “then Unite will instruct staff to exercise their legal right to withdraw their work until safety measures are fully instigated.”
Unite news release. Risks 972. 7 November 2020

Britain: Universities urged to move learning online
Lecturers’ union UCU has written to vice-chancellors of universities in England calling on them to move learning online immediately. UCU’s move follows updated government guidance for England around the four week lockdown that said universities should ‘consider moving to increased levels of online learning where possible and - after repeated calls from UCU and the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) - for a move away from in-person teaching.
UCU news release. Risks 972. 7 November 2020

Britain: STUC slams ‘complacency’ on workplace transmission
Scotland’s national union federation STUC has reiterated its concerns with the Scottish government over a lack of safety restrictions covering schools and non-essential workplaces in areas under the country’s highest ‘Tier 4’ restrictions. Accusing the authorities of ‘complacency’ around workplace transmission, the union body said workers should not be required to cross local authority boundaries to undertake non-essential work.
STUC news release. BBC News Online. Risks 972. 7 November 2020

Britain: Alok Sharma faces office Covid safety questions
Business secretary Alok Sharma is facing questions after a union health and safety inspection identified concerns over social distancing in his private office days before a member of his inner circle tested positive for Covid-19. The Guardian reports that an employee in Sharma’s private office tested positive on 26 October after reporting Covid symptoms a day earlier, with other members of staff in the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Beis) forced to isolate.
The Guardian. Daily Mail. The New European. Risks 972. 7 November 2020

Britain: Parliamentary unions demand return to hybrid parliament
Parliamentary unions have written to the leader of the House of Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg calling for a return to the hybrid operation of parliament, including remote voting. The letter was prompted by the UK government’s announcement of a new lockdown for England, and highlights what the unions see as the success of such arrangements during the previous lockdown.
Prospect news release. Risks 972. 7 November 2020

Britain: Cabinet Office must send clear work from home message
Civil service union PCS has said it is ‘completely unacceptable’ that the Cabinet Office has failed to provide a clear statement that civil servants who can work from home should do so. The union is calling for jobcentres and courts to close and driving tests to be suspended.
PCS news release. Risks 972. 7 November 2020

Britain: GMB hails full sick pay win for carers in Wales
Social care staff in Wales are to be eligible for full sick pay under a new deal. The Welsh government announcement has been welcomed by the government GMB, which said it had been campaigning since the spring for full sick pay for social care workers.
GMB news release. Risks 972. 7 November 2020

Britain: Covid at work - the rich get richer, the poor get sick
In a 12 November Zoom meeting, Hazards Campaign chair Janet Newsham and Open University criminology professor Steve Tombs will discuss the impact of the ongoing Covid-19 crisis on health and safety at work. The free session organised jointly by the University of Manchester’s Work and Equalities Institute and Manchester Industrial Relations Society will examine how the government’s mishandling of the pandemic will further exacerbate pre-crisis economic and social inequalities.
Covid at Work: the rich get richer, the poor get sick, Zoom meeting, 6-7.30pm, Thursday 12 November 2020. Free. Risks 972. 7 November 2020

Australia: Insecure work could lead to virus third wave
As restaurants and pubs around Australia reopen their doors, workers are coming out in force to demand permanent and secure jobs amid concerns casual work could increase coronavirus risks. Tim Kennedy, secretary of the United Workers Union, said insecure work “does a lot of damage to a lot of people” and added a lack of sick leave in the hospitality industry could increase the risk of a third coronavirus wave, because workers won’t ask for time off to get tested if they feel sick.
United Workers Union news release. The New Daily. More on the hazards of insecure work.
Lan F, Suharlim C, Kales SN and others. Association between SARS-CoV-2 infection, exposure risk and mental health among a cohort of essential retail workers in the USA, Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Published Online First, 30 October 2020. doi: 10.1136/oemed-2020-106774 Risks 972. 7 November 2020

Global: Deadly failure to act on airborne virus risks
A precautionary approach to the spread of Covid-19 advocated by global unions has been validated by the emerging scientific consensus on the aerosol spread of the disease, the food and farmworkers international union federation has said. According to IUF assistant general secretary James Ritchie: “By failing to adopt the precautionary principle with regard to the spread of Covid-19, governments and employers have exposed workers to unnecessary harm.”
IUF news release. Laid bare, Hazards magazine report outlining the overwhelming evidence on airborne transmission.
WHO Knew. How the World Health Organization (WHO) Became a Dangerous Interloper on Workplace Health and Safety and COVID-19, New Solutions, first published 8 October 2020. https://doi.org/10.1177/1048291120961337 Risks 972. 7 November 2020

USA: Unions sue over shelved infection standard
US teaching and health care unions started legal proceedings against Donald Trump’s labour secretary Eugene Scalia and the safety regulator OSHA for unlawfully delaying rulemaking on an occupational standard to protect healthcare workers from infectious diseases transmitted by contact, droplets, or air - like influenza, Covid-19, and Ebola. The move comes in response to the Trump administration shelving a ready-to-go Infectious Diseases Standard in 2017.
AFT news release and the 29 October 2020 petition for mandamus (the court filing) and the full appendix.
JAMA news report. Wesley H Self and others. Seroprevalence of SARS-CoV-2 Among Frontline Health Care Personnel in a Multistate Hospital Network — 13 Academic Medical Centers, April–June 2020, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), volume  69, number 35, pages 1221-1226, 4 September 2020. Risks 972. 7 November 2020

Britain: BME women over-represented in insecure, risky jobs
Black and minority ethnic (BME) women are around twice as likely as white workers to be employed in insecure jobs, according to a new TUC study. TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Being trapped in insecure work has exposed BME women to extra risk during this crisis, with many losing their lives.”
TUC news release, blog and briefing paper, Black women and work, 28 October 2020. Risks 971. 31 October 2020

Britain: Bad jobs and circumstances cause Covid race risks
A scientist advising the government on ethnicity and Covid has said the jobs Black and south Asian people do are a major reason they are at greater risk of illness and death. Dr Raghib Ali said: “The problem with focusing on ethnicity as a risk factor is that it misses the very large number of non-ethnic minority groups, so whites basically, who also live in deprived areas and overcrowded housing and with high risk occupations.”
Quarterly report on progress to address COVID-19 health inequalities, Race Disparity Unit, October 2020. Minister for Equalities Kemi Badenoch’s letter to the Prime Minister and Health Secretary on the first COVID-19 disparities report. BBC News Online. Risks 971. 31 October 2020

Britain: Black staff need infection protection at work
Employers must do more to reduce the elevated risk from coronavirus faced by Black workers, public sector union has said. Responding to new government measures to address race disparities in the impact of Covid-19, UNISON head of health Sara Gorton said: “The heightened risks to Black staff are now well-known, even if some causes remain unexplained.”
UNISON news release. Risks 971. 31 October 2020

Britain: Union challenge to ‘unlawful’ reopening of universities
The government is facing a union legal challenge over its “unlawful” decision to reopen universities for face-to-face teaching. Lecturers’ union UCU is seeking a judicial review of the government’s decision to ignore advice from its own Sage committee of experts to move all non-essential university and college teaching online in September, and adds its own analysis shows over 27,000 university staff and students have tested positive for Covid since the start of term.
UCU news release. The Observer. Risks 971. 31 October 2020

Britain: Universities pressuring staff to work on campus
Universities have come under fire for pressuring staff to work on campus. Jo Grady, general secretary of the UCU, said: “Universities are transmission hotspots, so it’s disappointing that Staffordshire and Birmingham universities are risking the health of their employees by pressuring them on to campus when there’s no need for them to be there.”
The Guardian. Risks 971. 31 October 2020

Britain: Rota system call for secondary schools
The government should investigate moving secondary schools to a rota system, to make social distancing more practicable, teaching union NEU has said. Responding to an ‘alarming’ rise in secondary school pupils testing positive for the coronavirus, NEU joint general secretaries Dr Mary Bousted and Kevin Courtney have written to education secretary Gavin Williamson asking him to take decisive action to curb this trend, including the possibility of a rota system for secondary schools and colleges in Tier 2 and Tier 3.
NEU news release. Risks 971. 31 October 2020

Britain: Scotland needs ‘enhanced mitigation’ for schools
The Scottish government must introduce ‘enhanced mitigation’ of Covid-19 risks in schools if it is going to reduce the need for a full lockdown, teaching union NASUWT has said. Commenting on the announcement by first minister Nicola Sturgeon of a five tier alert system of coronavirus restrictions due to come into force across Scotland on 2 November, NASUWT general secretary Patrick Roach said: “It is alarming that at a time of rising threat of coronavirus transmission, the government’s plans do not include any extension to the safety mitigation measures required in schools, particularly in those schools in the highest tier areas.”
NASUWT news release. Daily Record. BBC News Online. Risks 971. 31 October 2020

Britain: STUC concerned by non-essential work in high risk areas
Scotland’s national union body STUC has given a cautious welcome of a five tier (zero to four) alert system of coronavirus restrictions due to come into force across Scotland on 2 November, but has said more workers need greater protection in high risk areas. Commenting on the announcement by first minister Nicola Sturgeon, STUC general secretary Roz Foyer said: “It is difficult to understand that no consideration is being given to a more cautious approach in areas where infection rates rise to such serious levels as to merit tier four status.”
STUC news release. EIS news release. Risks 971. 31 October 2020

Britain: Major workplace role in Covid spread has been buried
Around four in 10 people testing positive for Covid-19 identified ‘a workplace or education event’ as their activity in the days prior to onset of symptoms, ahead of all other causes, an analysis of official figures has revealed. Public Health England data examined by Hazards magazine reveals a sharp rise in Covid-19 outbreaks in workplaces in England tracked ‘an incubation period behind’ the UK government’s back-to-work messages.
Laid bare: The scandal of expendable workers before, during and after Covid, Hazards, Number 151, October 2020. Risks 971. 31 October 2020

Britain: Health workers linked to 1 in 6 hospital Covid-19 cases
Healthcare workers and their families account for a sixth (17 per cent) of hospital admissions for Covid-19 in the working age population (18-65 years), a study from Scotland has found. Although hospital admission with Covid-19 in this age group was very low overall, the risk for healthcare workers and their families was higher compared with other working age adults, especially for those in “front door” patient facing roles such as paramedics and A&E department staff, say the researchers.
Anoop SV Shah and others. Risk of hospital admission with coronavirus disease 2019 in healthcare workers and their households: nationwide linkage cohort study, BMJ, 2020; 371: m3582. Published online 28 October 2020. Risks 971. 31 October 2020

Britain: Scottish study highlight health care worker plight
A study published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) showing health care workers in Scotland are at greater danger from Covid-19 should inform decisions about the organisation of health services, the use of personal protective equipment (PPE), and redeployment, according to a related editorial. The researchers at Skane University Hospital in Sweden note: “Superspreading events, a hallmark of previous coronavirus outbreaks, contribute substantially to community transmission of Covid-19 and to work related clusters.”
Ulf Karlsson and Carl-Johan Fraenkel. Editorial: Covid-19: risks to healthcare workers and their families, BMJ, 2020; 371: m3944. Published online 28 October 2020.Risks 971. 31 October 2020

Britain: Covid-hit jobcentre should close, says PCS
Civil service union PCS has called for the closure of Oldham jobcentre after a tenth case of coronavirus in a little over three weeks.  Staff who have come into close contact with those affected have been self-isolating and deep cleans have been carried out.
PCS news release. Risks 971. 31 October 2020

Canada: Quebec’s virus battle shifts to workplaces
As the second Covid-19 wave gathers force in Quebec, almost half the active outbreaks in the Canadian province have been traced back to workplaces including factories, construction sites, kitchens and hospitals. The provincial public health director, Dr Horacio Arruda, said 46 per cent of all outbreaks involve a workplace, adding “I think maybe we've forgotten them.”
CBC News. Risks 971. 31 October 2020

Global: Decades of work virus warnings went ignored
Long before Covid-19, unions made repeat warnings about the need to prepare for ‘emerging’ infectious diseases but these were never acted on. A new report in the trade union workplace health magazine Hazards says decades of inaction ‘paved the way for the pandemic and left us without a workplace biohazards law,’ either globally or in the UK.
Biohazards. They were warned. They knew what to do. They did nothing, Hazards, number 151, October 2020, and related resources: Biological agent related diseases reportable in the UK under RIDDOR; and A-Z of work-related conditions eligible for UK state benefits and caused by biohazards. Risks 971. 31 October 2020

USA: Virus cases in public transport workers missed
More New York public transport workers were sick with Covid-19 than previously believed, according to a study by New York University (NYU) researchers. About 24 per cent of transport authority (MTA) workers who responded to a survey said they had been infected with Covid-19, according to the pilot study, higher than the 14.2 per cent positivity rate for antibodies found by state officials under a preliminary review in May.
Robyn Gershon. Impact of Covid-19 on NYC Transit workers: Pilot study findings, NYU School of Global Public Health, October 2020. TWU Local 100 news release. The Gothamist. Risks 971. 31 October 2020

USA: Minorities in food jobs hard hit by Covid-19
Racial and ethnic minority workers have been disproportionately affected by Covid-19 in food manufacturing and agriculture workplaces, according to a new study. “Reducing workplace exposures is critical for protecting workers in US food processing, food manufacturing, and agriculture workplaces and might help reduce health disparities among disproportionately affected populations,” the authors note.
CIDRAP report. Coronavirus Disease among Workers in Food Processing, Food Manufacturing, and Agriculture Workplaces, Emerging Infectious Diseases, volume 27, number 1, January 2021, early release 19 October 2020. Risks 971. 31 October 2020

Britain: Union calls for education ‘circuit breaker’
Teaching union NEU is calling for an urgent ‘circuit breaker’ to suppress Covid cases, in the face of rapidly rising infection levels amongst secondary pupils. Lecturers’ union UCU has called for universities to also introduce a two-week circuit breaker.
NEU news release. UCU news release. Coronavirus (COVID-19) Infection Survey pilot: England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, 16 October 2020, ONS, 16 October 2020. Union News. The Mirror. The Guardian. Risks 970. 24 October 2020

Britain: Civil servants in safety call as Covid cases soar
With coronavirus infection rates rapidly increasing, civil service union PCS has called on the Cabinet Office to introduce greater safeguards for staff and the public, including closing jobcentres and suspending driving tests in higher risk areas. In letters to Mervyn Thomas, Cabinet Office executive director for employee and trade union relations, and permanent secretaries Peter Schofield (DWP) and Bernadette Kelly (DfT), PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka called for urgent action to protect staff and the public.
PCS news release. Risks 970. 24 October 2020

Britain: Racial bias in access to PPE, GMB survey finds
More than 1 in 4 Black, Asian and ethnic minority workers has not been given the personal protective equipment their jobs require, a GMB survey has found, with their health and safety concerns around Covid-19 frequently going unaddressed. The union’s ‘shocking’ findings, based on responses from 761 workers, come as updated ONS estimates revealed that black men are up to 3.8 times more likely to die from coronavirus than white men, with their jobs one of the key factors believed responsible.
GMB news release. Risks 970. 24 October 2020

Britain: Higher ethnic death risk linked to jobs
Ethnic minorities’ higher risk of dying from Covid-19 is linked to where they live and the jobs they do, rather than their health, figures for England and Wales suggest. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) analysis concluded: “These findings show that ethnic differences in mortality involving Covid-19 are most strongly associated with demographic and socio-economic factors, such as place of residence and occupational exposures, and cannot be explained by pre-existing health conditions using hospital data or self-reported health status.”
Updating ethnic contrasts in deaths involving the coronavirus (COVID-19), England and Wales: deaths occurring 2 March to 28 July 2020, ONS, 16 October 2020.  BBC News Online. The Guardian. Risks 970. 24 October 2020

Britain: Parliament restaurants breaking test-and-trace rules
MPs and peers are unable to utilise the NHS test-and-trace app at restaurants and cafes in the Palace of Westminster, union officials have said. The civil service union PCS said the parliamentary authorities were putting their members at risk by ignoring government advice to display QR codes around hospitality venues in the House of Commons and the House of Lords.
The Guardian. Risks 970. 24 October 2020

Britain: Parliamentary unions demand return to hybrid sitting
Parliamentary trade unions have written to authorities in the Commons demanding that the UK parliament return to hybrid sitting. The four unions - Prospect, FDA, PCS and GMB -  warn that with London in Tier 2 and MPs being asked to travel to Westminster from all over the country including areas in tier 3, there is a real threat to our ability to function as democracy.
Prospect news release. Risks 970. 24 October 2020

Britain: Public grounded but deadly firms still at large
The government’s new three tier system for England risks penalising the general public while leaving schools, colleges and workplaces packed to the gills without the necessary support and oversight to maintain Covid safety, a campaign group has warned. The national Hazards Campaign said there is a ‘recurring narrative’ by politicians and the media that the transmission of Covid-19 is fuelled by misbehaving families and students shirking their responsibilities to our communities - however, the campaign says this ignores the evidence that workplaces are the major sites of infection and transmission.
Hazards Campaign news release. Risks 970. 24 October 2020

Britain: Pictures expose Covid chaos at Amazon site
Shocking images have emerged showing workers crammed onto buses at an Amazon warehouse in Coventry where ten workers have now tested positive for coronavirus at Amazon’s facility in Coventry. The influx of new temporary workers, thought to be as many as 1,000, to handle orders on Amazon Prime Day – 15 October – is thought to have led to a spectacular breakdown in social distancing.
GMB news release. Sign the petition. TUC blog and news release. Risks 970. 24 October 2020

Britain: ‘Monstrous’ ASOS profits as workers put at risk
‘Monstrous’ profits posted by fast fashion giant ASOS were possible because the firm put workers at risk during the Covid-19 pandemic, the union GMB has said. The union was commenting after the online retailer announced profits had risen a ‘whopping’ 329 per cent, in a ‘bumper’ £141 million payday for its shareholders.
GMB news release. ASOS news release. Risks 970. 24 October 2020

Britain: STUC welcomes workplace face coverings rule
Scottish union body STUC has welcomed a new requirement for mandatory face coverings in communal spaces including workplace canteens and corridors in Scotland. Commenting on the 15 October announcement by first minister Nicola Sturgeon, STUC deputy general secretary Dave Moxham said: “We would be highly concerned if the first minister’s statement that these additional measures are the individual employee’s responsibility were to lead to employers abrogating their responsibility for workplace health and safety and the updating of Covid-19 risk assessments.”
Scottish government news release. STUC news release. Risks 970. 24 October 2020

Britain: Union concern on van sharing sick pay
Postal union CWU is calling on Royal Mail to be “honest” over whether workers sharing vans will receive full sick pay if they are forced to self-isolate. CWU acting assistant secretary Carl Maden has demanded a clarification from management after Royal Mail reinstated van sharing, but has also told managers that enhanced sick pay is “dependent on the absence not being caused by or aggravated by the employee.”
CWU news release. Risks 970. 24 October 2020

Britain: Action call on airborne virus transmission
Following a statement this month from top US scientists that ‘airborne’ transmission is a major cause of Covid-19 spread, the opposing position taken by the World Health Organisation (WHO) has come in for further criticism. A paper published in the journal New Solutions, analysing WHO’s workplace safety guidelines on Covid-19 and comparing it to ITUC’s position, notes: “The WHO’s health and safety guidelines on Covid-19 at work are unacceptably complacent in parts, patently dangerous in others and contain serious gaps.”
Rory O’Neill. WHO Knew. How the World Health Organization (WHO) Became a Dangerous Interloper on Workplace Health and Safety and COVID-19, New Solutions, first published 8 October 2020. https://doi.org/10.1177/1048291120961337 Risks 970. 24 October 2020

Britain: Coronavirus testing lab 'chaotic and dangerous'
A scientist who processed coronavirus swab samples at one of the UK's largest labs has alleged working practices were “chaotic and dangerous,” with problems with overcrowded biosecure workspaces, poor safety protocols and a lack of suitable PPE. HSE visited the Milton Keynes lab and found five material breaches of health and safety legislation, included inadequate health and safety training for staff, and employees working too closely together.
BBC News Online. The Independent. Risks 970. 24 October 2020

Britain: More than 50 isolating after oil rig flights
Fifty-four oil workers have been asked to self-isolate after sharing North Sea rig helicopter flights with colleagues infected with Covid-19. The move last week forms part of oil and gas company TAQA's response to seven people testing positive after working in the Brae field, amd comes after workers been removed from two North Sea oil and gas platforms operated by Shell and BP after colleagues tested positive for Covid-19.
BBC News Online and earlier story. Risks 970. 24 October 2020

Britain: Calls for public inquiry into Belly Mujinga's death
The family and union of a rail worker who died from Covid-19 after being complaining she was spat on at a London station have called for “an immediate public inquiry” into her death. The calls came after it emerged there were critical flaws in evidence gathering around the spitting incident prior to Belly Mujinga’s death.
BBC Panorama. TSSA news release. Morning Star. Risks 970. 24 October 2020

USA: Jobs behind Black, Latino virus exposures
Workplace exposures in frontline workers explain the high rates of Covid-19 in Black and Latino communities in the US, researchers have found. The massive study, encompassing data from 100,000 patients, was conducted by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, part of the National Institutes of Health, indicated Black and Latino workers were more likely to get infected on the job than white workers, and that they typically return home to larger households, magnifying the inequity.
New Orleans Advocate.
Thomas M Selden and Terceira A Berdahl. COVID-19 And Racial/Ethnic Disparities In Health Risk, Employment, And Household Composition, Health Affairs, volume 39, number 9, pages 1624-1632, 2020.
Gold JA, Rossen LM, Ahmad FB and others. Race, Ethnicity, and Age Trends in Persons Who Died from COVID-19 — United States, May–August 2020, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, ePub, 16 October 2020. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm6942e Risks 970. 24 October 2020

USA: Hospital giant cited over airborne Covid
California workplace safety officials have issued a serious citation against a Kaiser Permanente psychiatric facility in Santa Clara, accusing the centre of failing to provide workers with appropriate respirators and other protection against Covid-19. The citation, issued by the state’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health with a proposed fine of $11,200, is the first in an expected wave of citations against Kaiser Permanente facilities statewide for failing to acknowledge that Covid-19 can be transmitted via aerosol particles, according to a source inside the state safety regulator Cal/OSHA.
Cal Matters. Scientific Brief: SARS-CoV-2 and Potential Airborne Transmission, Centers for Disease Control (CDC), updated 5 October 2020. Risks 970. 24 October 2020

Britain: Government must stand up to Amazon
The government must use its purchasing power to stand up to Amazon on workers’ rights, unions have said. The call came joint TUC and GMB union research revealed Amazon was awarded national and local government contracts with a lifetime value of up to £630 million between 2015 and 2020, including contracts related to test and trace valued at £8.3 million.
TUC news release and TUC/GMB Challenging Amazon report. The Guardian. Risks 969. 17 October 2020

Britain: Unite action pledge as second wave kills bus driver
Unite has vowed to escalate its campaign to introduce stricter safety measures for London buses after news that Unite member and bus driver had Kofi Opoku died from Covid-19. The 55-year-old, who worked for Metrobus, had been based at its Croydon garage.
Unite news release. The Mirror. Daily Mail. Risks 969. 17 October 2020

Britain: Union slams ‘reckless’ shared post van plan
Post workers’ union CWU has criticised a “reckless” Royal Mail decision to bring back shared delivery vans, saying that the union’s first priority is to “protect postal workers’ lives”. Speaking to around 20,000 CWU members on a Facebook session, deputy general secretary for the postal sector Terry Pullinger accused Royal Mail management of basing workplace health and safety decisions on economic worries in the build-up to Christmas, saying that the decision had “operational overtones”.
CWU news release. Risks 969. 17 October 2020

Britain: Most with positive tests in England have no symptoms
Over threequarters of people in England testing positive for the coronavirus responsible for Covid-19 – SARS-CoV-2 - had no symptoms on the day of the test, with another 10 per cent having none of the core symptoms, a study has found. The researchers said the findings were important because asymptomatic individuals can be “silent” transmitters.
Petersen I, Phillips A. Threequarters of people with SARS-CoV-2 infection are Asymptomatic: Analysis of English Household Survey Data, Clinical Epidemiology, volume 12, pages 1039-1043, 2020. The Guardian. Risks 969. 17 October 2020

Britain: Airborne virus a ‘major’ transmission risk
There is ‘overwhelming evidence’ that inhalation of the coronavirus represents a major transmission route for Covid-19, scientists have warned. The warning from experts from six US universities contradicts a position promoted by the World Health Organisation (WHO), which has played down airborne risks and said transmission by larger droplets is the predominant mode of transmission.
Kimberly A. Prather, Linsey C Marr, Robert T Schooley and others. Airborne transmission of SARS-CoV-2, Science, 5 October 2020. DOI: 10.1126/science.abf0521
COVID-19: epidemiology, virology and clinical features, PHE guidance, updated 30 September 2020. Risks 969. 17 October 2020

Britain: Virus harms mental health of two-thirds of workers
Two-thirds of workers said their mental health has been harmed by the coronavirus crisis, a new survey by GMB has found. In the poll of 13,500 public and private sector workers – thought to be the biggest of its kind during the pandemic – 66 per cent of respondents said that their work during the outbreak has had a serious negative impact on their mental health.
GMB news release. Risks 969. 17 October 2020

Britain: Covid-19 crisis hurting most retail workers
A major survey by the retail union Usdaw has exposed the damaging impact of the coronavirus crisis on the mental health of shopworkers. Usdaw’s ‘Impact of Coronavirus’ survey of 7,357 members, primarily essential workers, found that 70 per cent are experiencing anxiety and raised concerns with their employer.
Usdaw news release, Impact of Coronavirus report and mental health campaign. Risks 969. 17 October 2020

Britain: Women bear the brunt of Covid work stress
Women are being disproportionately affected by a rise in mental health problems caused by increasing workloads, as people do their jobs from home amid the pandemic. ‘Burnout Britain’, a report by the 4 Day Week campaign and thinktanks Compass and Autonomy, notes that women are 43 per cent more likely to have increased their hours beyond a standard working week than men, and for those with children, this was even more clearly associated with mental health problems.
Burnout Britain: Overwork in an age of unemployment, 4 Day Week Campaign, Compass and Autonomy, October 2020. The Guardian. The Independent. Risks 969. 17 October 2020

Britain: Union concerns on Covid cases in Scottish pupils
Teaching union NASUWT has said it is ‘deeply concerned’ at a significant increase in the percentage of secondary age children testing positive for coronavirus in September. The union was commenting on figures in the Covid-19 Statistical Report released by Public Health Scotland on 7 October.
NASUWT news release. COVID-19 Statistical Report, Public Health Scotland, 7 October 2020. Risks 969. 17 October 2020

Britain: Government ignored advice calling for online uni classes
Ministers ignored a series of measures recommended by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), which included moving all university and college teaching online unless in-person teaching was absolutely essential, it has emerged. Lecturers’ union UCU called for university teaching to be moved online in August.
UCU news release. ITV News. Risks 969. 17 October 2020

Britain: Sheffield University pauses face to face teaching
Unite has welcomed the University of Sheffield’s decision to pause face to face teaching after the union raised concerns about the spread of Covid-19 amongst staff, students and in the wider community. The union said it had warned the university it was opening up too quickly while “responding too slowly when Unite health and safety representatives pointed out potential hazard points.”
Unite news release. UCU news release. Sheffield Star. The Guardian. Risks 969. 17 October 2020

Britain: Northumbria University goes online after action threat
Lecturers’ union UCU has welcomed the decision by Northumbria University to move learning online after its members threatened to ballot for industrial action over Covid health and safety failings. However, the union said the decision should have been taken earlier, and urged other universities to move their work online.
UCU news release. BBC News Online. Risks 969. 17 October 2020

Britain: Rise in homeworking requires negotiation
Employers should reach homeworking agreements with unions to avoid an ‘industrial minefield’ when turning workers' homes into a place of work, Unite has said. It said the explosion in home-working caused by Covid-19, means trade unions will have an increasingly important role to play in minimising the dangers and maximising the advantages of working from home.
Unite news release and framework homeworking agreement. Risks 969. 17 October 2020

Global: XPO accused of safety crimes and causing deaths
Workers employed by the global logistics firm XPO have died of Covid-19 and as a result of other safety violations, a report has found. The report, ‘XPO - Delivering Injusticel’ by the global transport union federation ITF looks at practices at global firm, and also describes pregnant women miscarrying after being denied lighter shifts and drivers having to live in their lorries for months on end.
GMB news release. ITF news release. Risks 969. 17 October 2020

USA: Trump administration accused of Covid ‘forced labour’
Trade unions in the US have filed a complaint with the United Nations' International Labour Organisation (ILO), making the case that under the Trump administration, the US has violated a catalogue of labour laws during the coronavirus pandemic. National union federation AFL-CIO and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) filed the complaint with ILO, detailing how the White House has undermined the quality and enforcement of labour laws and occupational health and safety measures.
Common Dreams. Mass Device. Risks 969. 17 October 2020

Britain: Government admits Covid airborne transmission risk
A UK government Covid-19 prevention strategy based on an assumption the disease was transmitted by close contact with viral-loaded droplets was wrong, latest Public Health England (PHE) guidance suggests. The recognition of airborne transmission indicates a much wider group of workerscould be at risk, and helps explain the higher Covid-19 death rates in some non-medical service sector jobs and in construction identified by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) in a 22 September report.
COVID-19: epidemiology, virology and clinical features, PHE guidance, updated 30 September 2020.
Coronavirus (COVID-19) related deaths by occupation, before and during lockdown, England and Wales: deaths registered between 9 March and 30 June 2020, 22 September 2020.
Lidia Morawska, Donald K Milton. It is Time to Address Airborne Transmission of COVID-19, Clinical Infectious Diseases, ciaa939, 6 July 2020. 
WHO knew? WHO’s complacency over work virus risks a world class disaster, Hazards special report, July 2020. Risks 968. 10 October 2020

Britain: We’ll be ‘policed all the way to the factory gates’
Larger penalties and £60m new money to enforce social distancing rules will mean ‘we’ll be policed all the way to the factory gates’, while workplace scrutiny remains threadbare. The warning from the national Hazards Campaign came after the UK government announced fines of up to £10,000 for individuals flouting Covid-19 rules, together with new enforcement cash and ‘Covid Marshals’ to police the rules.
Hazards Campaign news release and ‘where are the sirens?’ zoom recording. Risks 968. 10 October 2020

Britain: Poor consultation and confusion hampers enforcement
New Covid-secure rules are being announced to the public before local authorities are informed or consulted, environmental health practitioners have warned. Mirroring the concerns mounting among MPs at the lack of parliamentary scrutiny of Covid-secure rules, the Association of London Environmental Health Managers (ALEHM) urged Whitehall to at least sense check with the people who are doing the work.
ALEHM statement. Environmental Health News. Risks 968. 10 October 2020

Britain: Teachers don’t trust PM on school safety
Few teachers trust Boris Johnson’s government on schools safety, a teaching union survey has found. NEU joint general secretary Dr Mary Bousted said “84 per cent of NEU members in our latest survey have said they do not trust Boris Johnson’s government to keep schools safe, to protect workers, to listen to the profession, to support vulnerable or disadvantaged children, or to ensure exams and assessment are fit for purpose during Covid.”
NEU news release and survey findings. Risks 968. 10 October 2020

Britain: Government failing on Covid secure schools promise
Overcrowded classrooms are a major barrier to maintaining school distancing in schools, NASUWT has found. The union said its survey findings show the UK government is failing on its promise that schools would be ‘Covid-secure’, with just 1 per cent of teachers told the union pupils are always practising social distancing from adults in their school, and over half (56 per cent) saying pupils are rarely or never doing so.
NASUWT news release. Risks 968. 10 October 2020

Britain: Government failing self-isolating pupils
New UK government support for distance learning for self-isolating children is not sufficient for the task facing schools, teaching union NEU has said. Commenting on 1 October announcements from the Westminster government on the provision of remote education for children who are having to self-isolate, NEU joint general secretary Dr Mary Bousted said ministers were “once again trying to cut corners over Covid.”
NEU news release. DfE news release. Risks 968. 10 October 2020

Britain: School remote learning need extra resources
A switch to provide remote learning in schools will not be sustainable without substantial extra resources, including extra teachers, NASUWT has warned. As disruption increased in schools due to teachers being off sick with coronavirus or isolating, and more and more classes and year groups being sent home, the union said on 30 September that it was “increasingly likely a greater proportion of children’s learning may have to take place remotely.”
NASUWT news release. Risks 968. 10 October 2020

Britain: Union launches school Covid-19 tracker
Teaching union NEU has launched an interactive Covid-19 map to give staff and parents up-to-date information on infection rates around their local schools.  The website gives information about the Covid-19 rate in the locality of every school in England and will be updated weekly.
NEU news release and Covid-19 map for schools. BBC News Online. Morning Star. Risks 968. 10 October 2020

Britain: Skint schools can’t afford to handle Covid-19
Headteachers have warned they do not have enough funding from the government to meet the extra costs of the Covid-19 crisis. The new president of the National Association of Headteachers (NAHT), Ruth Davies, said schools are being expected to implement Covid safety arrangements “without any additional funding at all”, placing pressure on “exhausted” school leaders.
NAHT news release. The Guardian. Risks 968. 10 October 2020

Britain: Lecturers and students in joint Covid action call
Lecturers’ union UCU and the National Union of Students (NUS) have called for online working, students to be allowed to return home if they wish and funding guarantees to safeguard universities' finances and protect jobs. A joint statement notes: “We are not prepared to take chances with the health and safety of students, staff or local communities and neither should government or vice chancellors. UCU and NUS are therefore demanding that the Westminster government take urgent action to support and protect staff and students on our campuses and the wider communities that they serve.”
UCU news release. Statement from education secretary Gavin Williamson, 29 September 2002. Risks 968. 10 October 2020

Britain: Fire alert for Covid lock down universities
Firefighters and education staff have warned universities that it is “dangerous and illegal” to block or lock fire exits, after pictures emerged of a locked fire exit at a student accommodation block. Obstructing fire exits "can, and has, cost lives in the past", the leaders of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) and University and College Union (UCU) warned, in a letter to all UK universities, demanding that the safety of students and staff be “absolutely paramount.”
UCU news release. Risks 968. 10 October 2020

Britain: Unite wins free buses at Covid-hit Bernard Matthews
Bernard Matthews has suspended fares on company-subsidised buses to all of its sites to help prevent the spread of coronavirus through car sharing, following pressure from Unite. The move came after the company said the Covid-19 outbreak at its site in Holton, Suffolk, could be linked to low paid workers sharing cars on the work commute. 
Unite news release and earlier release. Risks 968. 10 October 2020

Britain: Weekly testing of NHS staff needed to stop the virus
A call by the Health and Social Care Committee for the weekly virus testing of NHS staff has been welcomed by health service union UNISON. Commenting on the 1 October Commons select committee report, committee chair Jeremy Hunt said: “Weekly testing of NHS staff has been repeatedly promised in hotspot areas - but is still not being delivered.”
Commons Health and Social Care committee news release and report, 1 October 2020. UNISON news release. Risks 968. 10 October 2020

Britain: NHS testing contractor broke safety laws
NHS Covid-19 testing contractor The Doctors Laboratory (TDL) breached several criminal health and safety rules, and official investigation has found. TDL is one of the key providers of tests and courier services for the NHS, including by transporting Covid-19 samples from the Nightingale hospital in London to laboratories.
Morning Star. Risks 968. 10 October 2020

Britain: Government figures contradict PM's PPE claim
Despite prime minister Boris Johnson's claim that 70 per cent of personal protective equipment (PPE) is to be made in the UK, his government's own figures suggest the total is likely to be closer to a third. More than 3.5 billion items, including aprons, goggles, facemasks and gloves, have been bought by the government this year to protect NHS and social care staff from the spread of coronavirus.
BBC News Online. Prime minister’s statement, 30 September 2020. Risks 968. 10 October 2020

Britain: Concern at Unipres Covid site clock in
Unite has said a Sunderland manufacturing firm hit by a Covid-19 cluster has been ‘diligent’ in its efforts to prevent infections but said it has raised concerns about possible problems entering the site safely. The union was commenting on an outbreak at automotive parts manufacturer Unipres, which supplies major car firms including Honda, Nissan and Renault.
Unite news release. Northern Echo. The Chronicle. Risks 968. 10 October 2020

Britain: Coal mine closed after ‘high rate’ of positive tests
An underground drift coal mine in Wales has been closed after several staff tested positive for coronavirus. ‘High rates’ have been linked to Aberpergwm Mine, near Glynneath, in recent days, Neath Port Talbot Council said.
Neath Port Talbot Council news release. BBC News Online. Risks 968. 10 October 2020

Britain: Unions call for action after MP’s coronavirus breaches
Civil service and rail unions have called for action after a symptomatic MP travelled from Scotland to the House of Commons and completed the return train journey after testing positive for Covid-19. Following the ‘entirely unacceptable’ behaviour of SNP’s Margaret Ferrier, parliamentary union Prospect called on House authorities to suspend the MP for Rutherglen and Hamilton West.
Prospect news release. ASLEF news release. BBC News Online. The Guardian. Risks 968. 10 October 2020

Britain: Sleeper staff in ‘rock solid’ strike for safety
Rail union RMT has said the first of two 48 hour strikes on SERCO Caledonian Sleeper that commenced on 4 October was ‘rock solid’, as its members continued their fight for safe working conditions‎. The RMT general secretary Mick Cash said “it remains a scandal that SERCO appear to have deliberately provoked this dispute and have never had any intention of entering serious talks.”
RMT news release. Risks 968. 10 October 2020

Zimbabwe: Teachers refuse unsafe return to work
Teachers in Zimbabwe are refusing to return to work after the resumption of some classes, accusing the government of failing to adequately prepare for the opening of schools. Only a limited amount of hand sanitiser has been made available to schools, according to the Progressive Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ), and acute water shortages make handwashing impossible.
The Guardian. VOA News. AllAfrica News. Risks 968. 10 October 2020

Britain: Massive under-reporting of Covid cases at food firms
The number of Covid-19 infections at food factories could be more than 30 times higher than reported, according to research that concludes employers have too much influence over official data. A report from the ethical investments consultancy Pirc found just 47 notifications of Covid-19 workplace infections – and no deaths – had been reported to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) by food manufacturing companies, who employ 430,000 people in the UK, and calculated there have been at least 1,461 infections and six deaths in the sector, with the true toll likely to be even higher.
Unreported deaths. A PIRC sector briefing: Food production, September 2020.
RM Agius. COVID-19: statutory means of scrutinizing workers' deaths and disease, Occupational Medicine, 21 September 2020.
Abdication: HSE has been missing in action throughout the Covid-19 crisis, Hazards, June 2020.  The Observer. Risks 967. 3 October 2020

Britain: Strict government Covid enforcement – except at work
A sharp disparity between enforcement resources directed at public and workplace breaches of Covid-19 rules has emerged. A funding pot of £60m is to be made available for police and local authorities in England to assist them in enforcing Covid-19 rules, and includes the introduction of Covid ‘marshals’; by contrast, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) was provided with a boost to its coffers of just £14m and has not to date prosecuted any firms for breaching criminal safety laws over Covid.
DHSC news release. CIEH news report. UCL Constitution Unit blog. BBC News Online.
TUC crowdsourced database of companies that have published their Covid-secure risk assessment, in compliance with government guidelines. You can view the risk assessments identified so far at covidsecurecheck.uk. Prospect campaign for a fully funded HSE. Risks 967. 3 October 2020

Britain: TUC welcomes new short-term working scheme
The TUC has said the government’s announcement of a short-time working scheme ‘is a significant step forward’. The union body was commenting after a 24 September statement from chancellor Riski Sunak announcing a new Jobs Support Scheme.
TUC news release. Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s speech, 24 September 2020. Prime minister’s statement, 22 September 2020. BBC News Online. Risks 967. 3 October 2020

Britain: UCU says university teaching must go online
Face-to-face teaching at universities should be halted until the government fixes test-and-trace failures and curbs the spread of Covid-19, the lecturers’ union UCU has said. The warning comes as institutions increasingly take matters into their own hands by switching to majority online-only teaching.
UCU news release, update and letter to the prime minister and news releases on Manchester Metropolitan University and University of Liverpool outbreaks and Scottish university restrictions. The Guardian. BBC News Online and update. Risks 967. 3 October 2020

Britain: Government must do more to keep schools open and safe
Giving all education staff priority testing, reducing the size of pupil ‘bubbles’ and making face coverings compulsory on school buses would help ensure schools can continue to stay open in the coming weeks, education unions have said. In a joint letter to education secretary Gavin Williamson, UNISON, GMB and Unite outline proposals to reduce the risk of infection for children and staff, and reduce the likelihood of entire schools closing.
Unite news release. GMB news release. The Observer. Risks 967. 3 October 2020

Britain: Bus passenger face covering fines ‘vanishingly rare’
Over three months after the requirement for face coverings to be worn on public transport was first made compulsory, fines for those not complying with the order are 'vanishingly rare', the union Unite has said. The transport union – whose public transport members have been hit hard by Covid-19 - is warning that the government’s latest announcement of increased fines for not wearing face coverings could make little difference unless accompanied by properly resourced and consistent enforcement.
Unite news release. Risks 967. 3 October 2020

Britain: Shop workers need respect as Covid rules tighten
Retail trade union Usdaw has called on the shopping public to respect shop workers and follow the necessary in-store safety measures to keep us all safe. The union comments came in its response to new workplace and other Covid-19 rules announced by the prime minister on 22 September.
Usdaw news release. BBC News Online. Risks 967. 3 October 2020

Britain: Covid-19 is biggest violence flashpoint for shopworkers
Enforcing social distancing measures and the wearing of face coverings are now the biggest triggers for abuse of shopworkers, a survey by Usdaw has found. The union said earlier similar surveys had found consistently that theft from shops and age identification were the major flashpoints, but these had now been overtaken by Covid-related abuse.
Usdaw news release and petition. Morning Star. Risks 967. 3 October 2020

Britain: Health and care staff need reassurance about the future
Health and care staff need reassurance about next stage of the pandemic, the public sector union UNISON has said. The union was commenting on the health secretary’s announcement of increased production and supply of personal protective equipment for health and care workers.
DHSC news release and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Strategy: Stabilise and build resilience. UNISON news release. NHS Confederation news release. Risks 967. 3 October 2020

Britain: Coronavirus may cause 'wave' of neurological disease
Covid-19 can cause worrying neurological symptoms like a loss of smell and taste, but Australian scientists are warning the damage the virus causes to the brain may also lead to more serious conditions such as Parkinson's disease. Findings published in the Journal of Parkinson's Disease describe a “two-hit hypothesis”: The brain gets inflamed from something like a virus, then something else comes along later causing more damage and eventually Parkinson's disease develops.
Leah C Beauchamp and others. Parkinsonism as a Third Wave of the COVID-19 Pandemic?, Journal of Parkinson's Disease, published online pre-press, 22 September 2020. ABC News. Risks 967. 3 October 2020

[hours] Britain: RMT members to strike for safety on Caledonian Sleeper
RMT members on the Caledonian Sleeper have voted in favour of strike action and action short of a strike in a safety dispute. The union said this showed the clear desire to take industrial action against private operator SERCO's lack of concern for members’ safety and wellbeing and the company's refusal to negotiate with their union.
RMT news release and strike talks update. Risks 967. 3 October 2020

USA: Fast line speeds linked to high Covid rates
Forty per cent of the poultry plants participating in the US agricultural department’s (USDA) controversial line speed waiver programme have had Covid-19 outbreaks, according to a new analysis by the Food and Environment Reporting Network. Unions and workers’ rights groups have warned continually that faster speeds on crowded processing lines could expose slaughterhouse workers to a greater risk of Covid-19.
FERN report. Covid-19 demands from the global food union IUF. Risks 967. 3 October 2020

Britain: Prime minister told to ‘get a grip’ on work safety
The prime minister must ‘get a grip’ on safety at work and extend support for jobs, the TUC has said. The union body was commenting after Boris Johnson told the Commons on 22 September that the UK had reached “a perilous turning point” as he set out new coronavirus restrictions for England which could last for up to six months.
TUC news release. Prime minister’s statement, 22 September 2020. Scotland first minister’s statement. Wales first minister’s statement. Sky News. The Express. Edinburgh News. The Herald. BBC News Online, changes at a glance and news update. Risks 966. 26 September 2020

Britain: Gove ‘safer’ workplaces claim exposes risks cover-up
The UK government’s refusal to admit the growing Covid-19 risks arising from work has been further exposed after Michael Gove claimed only limited work restrictions were necessary because “workplace are now safer”. The comments from the Cabinet Office minister, trailing the prime minister’s announcement, came four days after latest official Public Health England (PHE) figures showed workplace outbreaks are at a record high.
BBC News Online.  Weekly Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) surveillance report Summary of COVID-19 surveillance systems Year: 2020; Week: 38 and National COVID-19 surveillance data report: 18 September 2020 (week 38), PHE, 18 September 2020. Risks 966. 26 September 2020

Britain: Safety measures a priority to tackle infection spread
Decent sick pay, social distancing and an effective testing system are key to reversing soaring coronavirus infection rates, UNISON has said. The public service union was commenting after the UK's Covid-19 alert level moved up to 4 on 21 September, meaning transmission is “high or rising exponentially.”
UNISON news release and news releases on sick pay for care workers and a fit-for-purpose testing system. Update from the Chief Medical Officers on the Covid alert level, 21 September 2020. ONS mortality figures for England and Wales, 22 September 2020. BBC News Online. The Guardian. Risks 966. 26 September 2020

Britain: Many thousands of work Covid-19 cases unreported
Health and Safety Executive (HSE) guidance outlining when employers should report work-related Covid-19 may miss ‘many thousands’ of cases and should be widened, according to a new study. Professor Raymond Agius of the University of Manchester’s Centre for Occupational and Environmental Health found the HSE guidance doesn’t correspond with Office for National Statistics (ONS) data on the highest risk jobs, adding: “Available evidence suggests that it might have failed in capturing many thousands of work related Covid-19 disease cases and hundreds of deaths.”
SOM news release.
RM Agius. COVID-19: statutory means of scrutinizing workers' deaths and disease, Occupational Medicine, kqaa165, 21 September 2020. https://doi.org/10.1093/occmed/kqaa165 Risks 966. 26 September 2020

Britain: UNISON recruits record numbers of safety reps
UNISON’s summer campaign to recruit new health and safety reps has already paid dividends, with over 1,000 members so far declaring an interest in taking on the role. UNISON said it will hold introductory webinars for potential new safety reps on 29 September and 13 October.
UNISON news release and safety reps’ campaign page. Risks 966. 26 September 2020

Britain: Improved coronavirus safety enforcement call
A warning that curfews could be imposed in London to fight a second Covid-19 wave, has prompted a union call for stricter enforcement of safety rules to protect workers. Commenting on an interview in the Evening Standard with Public Health England director Professor Kevin Fenton, Unite secretary for the London and Eastern region, Pete Kavanagh, said: “In workplaces, we need more inspections and fines on employers who are not safeguarding their employees, coupled with firms and the authorities working with trade union health and safety reps to keep outbreaks at bay.”
Unite news release. Evening Standard. Risks 966. 26 September 2020

Britain: Hospitals told not to test staff or patients
NHS hospitals have been told they should not run their own coronavirus testing for staff and patients who have symptoms – despite a nationwide shortage in tests. Leaked NHS documents, passed to The Independent, show the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has now capped funding for Covid-19 testing in the health service, even though the lack of tests has left hospital doctors, nurses, teachers and other key workers forced to stay at home.
The Independent. Risks 966. 26 September 2020

Britain: NEU demands urgent action on testing in schools
Teaching union NEU is urging the UK urging government to take emergency measures if schools and colleges are to keep safe and open. It says as the testing regime buckles under the strain of demand, staff and pupils cannot get tested, or get results, and schools cannot deal with outbreaks or sustain full opening if people are unnecessarily isolating.
NEU news release. BBC News Online. Risks 966. 26 September 2020

Britain: Education staff 'should have priority for tests'
Everyone working in schools in Wales should be prioritised for coronavirus testing, education unions have said. They said staff planning proved difficult without the “ongoing threat” of absences caused because employees cannot find out if they have Covid-19.
GMB news release. BBC News Online. Wales Online. Risks 966. 26 September 2020

Britain: Hundreds sent home in school outbreaks in Wales
Hundreds of children at one of Wales' biggest schools were sent home last week to self-isolate after a pupil tested positive for coronavirus. A total of 455 sixth formers at Olchfa Comprehensive School must stay at home for two weeks; itis believed that more than 50 schools across Wales have reported Covid-19 incidents to date, although additional cases have since emerged including five Cardiff primary schools where staff and pupils are self-isolating.
Swansea Council news release. BBC News Online and related story and update. Risks 966. 26 September 2020

Britain: SEN pupil transport a 'tragedy waiting to happen'
The UK government’s ‘heartless’ approach to vulnerable special educational needs (SEN) pupils’ transport to school is a tragedy waiting to happen, the GMB has warned. The union said while most school buses have a strict limit of 30 pupils on a double decker bus to stop the virus spreading, across England SEN pupils are being herded on to small mini buses crammed to capacity - meaning that social distancing is impossible.
GMB news release. Risks 966. 26 September 2020

Britain: More Wetherspoon pubs hit by staff infections
Two more pubs run by the JD Wetherspoon chain have been hit by coronavirus outbreaks among staff. Eight workers at a Swansea Wetherspoon’s pub tested positive for coronavirus, the chain said. And on 21 September, it said 30 staff from the Lime Kiln pub in Liverpool were self-isolating.
BBC News Online. Liverpool Echo. Daily Mail. Risks 966. 26 September 2020

Britain: Law firm closed over links to 18 Covid cases
A solicitors’ firm in Bolton linked to 18 cases of coronavirus has had its office closed by the local council. Accident Injury Solicitors was served a closure notice by environmental health officers on 18 September, with immediate effect, after family members related to employees working at the firm raised concerns about its practices.
Bolton News. Manchester Evening News. The Law Gazette. Risks 966. 26 September 2020

Britain: ASLEF dismay at minister’s ‘glib’ train crash comments
Train drivers’ union ASLEF has accused the UK transport secretary of “treading on the feelings” of those bereaved in last month’s Stonehaven rail crash, after the cabinet minister said the site looked “like a Hornby train set thrown up in the air”. Kevin Lindsay, organiser for train drivers’ union ASLEF in Scotland, hit out at Grant Shapps’ comment in the Commons on 18 September, calling the remark “glib”.
ASLEF news release. Press and Journal. Risks 966. 26 September 2020

China: Factory leak spreads animal disease
Thousands of people in northwest China have been diagnosed with a highly infectious bacterial disease after an outbreak caused by a leak at a pharmaceutical company. Authorities in the city of Lanzhou confirmed that 3,245 people had tested positive for brucellosis caused by “contaminated exhaust” from a factory in Lanzhou producing vaccines for animals.
CNN News. The Independent.
Resources: Brucellosis in humans and animals, WHO. Risks 966. 26 September 2020

France: Burned out virus testers strike over conditions
Hundreds of workers at Covid-19 laboratories in France went on strike on 17 September over the poor working conditions in the over-stretched coronavirus testing system. The CGT union said the strike was disrupting testing in some towns and could drag on if laboratory owners failed to deal with staff shortages and increase pay.
US News and World Report. The Telegraph. Risks 966. 26 September 2020

Global: Health workers hit hard by Covid infections
The World Health Organisation (WHO) said health care workers make up about 1 in 6 cases of coronavirus infection around the world and more than a third of cases in some countries. “While health workers represent less than 3 per cent of the population in the large majority of countries and less than 2 per cent in almost all low- and middle-income countries, around 14 per cent of Covid-19 cases reported to WHO are among health workers,” the UN agency said in a statement.
WHO news release, WHO director-general speech and Health Worker Safety Charter.
Other resources: Caring for those who care: National Programmes for Occupational Health for Health Workers, Policy Brief by WHO and ILO. Protection of health and safety of health workers: Checklist for healthcare facilities, WHO.
OpenWHO online course Occupational health and safety for health workers in the context of COVID-19, short free course aimed at health care workers.
The Hill. US News and World Report.
WHO knew? Complacency over work virus risks a world class disaster, Hazards magazine, number 150, 2020. Risks 966. 26 September 2020

USA: Safety regulator has abandoned at risk workers
Estimates based on data from the US government’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that more than 150,000 US hospital and nursing home staff have been infected by the coronavirus at work, and more than 700 have died. As the epidemic has spread, many other workers, including emergency responders, corrections officers, transit workers, and workers in meat and poultry factories, farms, grocery stores, and warehouses, also have been infected, with “a devastating effect on communities of colour”, a paper in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) has warned.
David Michaels and Gregory R Wagner. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and Worker Safety During the COVID-19 Pandemic, JAMA, published online 16 September 2020. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.16343 Risks 966. 26 September 2020

Britain: Many UK workplaces still not ‘Covid-Secure’ – TUC
Many workplaces are still not taking adequate measures to protect employees from coronavirus, the TUC has said. The warning came as the union body’s new polling revealed that fewer than half of employees (46 per cent) say their workplaces have introduced safe social distancing.
TUC news release and crowdsourced database of companies that have published their Covid-secure risk assessment, in compliance with government guidelines. You can view the risk assessments identified so far at covidsecurecheck.uk. Risks 965. 19 September 2020

Britain: BME workers shouldered more risk during pandemic
Black and minority ethnic (BME) workers have been asked to “shoulder more risk” during the pandemic, often working in insecure jobs with fewer rights at work, the TUC has revealed. The union body said BME people are far more likely to be in precarious work and in jobs with higher coronavirus mortality rates than white people.
TUC news release and analysis of BME people working in professions with higher mortality rates. NASUWT news release. Risks 965. 19 September 2020

Britain: Weak labour law linked to high Covid death rates
The “lamentable” state of workplace rights in Britain is directly responsible for the devastating impact of Covid-19, a TUC Congress fringe meeting has heard. Professor Keith Ewing told the Institute of Employment Rights (IER) meeting: “It is no coincidence that we have one of the worst health outcomes in the developed world and one of the most highly deregulated labour law systems.” 
IER comment. Morning Star. Risks 965. 19 September 2020

Britain: Safety reps are key to a safe economy
The statutory right of union health and safety representatives to paid work time to perform their functions is essential and must be protected, teaching union NASUWT has told TUC Congress. An NASUWT motion adopted at the national union event highlights the importance of trained health and safety representatives in reviewing Covid-19 risk assessments and ensuring workplace safety.
NASUWT news release. Risks 965. 19 September 2020

Britain: Unions must work together to keep society safe
Civil service union PCS has said it will work with other unions to help keep everyone in society safe and to hold government to account. PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka told the TUC Congress the handling of the coronavirus crisis by Boris Johnson’s government had contributed to thousands of deaths.
PCS news release. Risks 965. 19 September 2020

Britain: NHS staff forced off work due to testing shortages
A lack of coronavirus tests for NHS staff is leading to staff absences and services being put at risk, hospital bosses have warned. NHS Providers, which represents hospital trusts in England, said staff are having to self-isolate rather than work because they cannot get tests for themselves or family members.
NHS Providers news release. NHS Confederation news release. BBC News Online. Risks 965. 19 September 2020

Britain: Key workers need a fit-for-purpose testing system now
An effective system of testing is crucial to ensure workers aren’t isolating unnecessarily and can do their jobs, public service union UNISON has said. Commenting on shortages of coronavirus tests for key workers, UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said: “A squeeze on capacity when schools reopened was entirely predictable, but the government still wasn’t ready,” adding: “It beggars belief that ministers aren’t even able to prepare for the expected.”
UNISON news release. BBC News Online. Risks 965. 19 September 2020

Britain: Union slams PM’s failure to address school safety
The government must address school safety concerns after a sharp rise in Covid cases in in England in recent days, teaching union NEU has said. The union comments came after Office of National Statistics released on 11 September revealed Covid-19 cases had risen by 60 per cent in a week.
NEU news release and letter to the prime minister. Risks 965. 19 September 2020

Britain: Only half of school staff given Covid training
Less than half of school support staff have received Covid-19 health and safety training, a GMB back to school survey has found. In the poll of more than 2,600 teaching assistants, caretakers, admin and catering staff from across England, 51 per cent answered no to the question ‘have you had training on Covid-19 health and safety measures and working practices including infection control and correct use of PPE?’.
GMB news release. Risks 965. 19 September 2020

Britain: Wiltshire school sends home all 284 pupils
Nearly 300 pupils at a Wiltshire school have been sent home after one of them tested positive for coronavirus. The 284 year nine students at Royal Wootton Bassett Academy have been asked to self-isolate and take classes remotely for 14 days.
Wiltshire Council news releases. BBC News Online. Risks 965. 19 September 2020

Britain: Unions must lead on second wave prevention
A second Covid wave is preventable if ministers follow the science and unions organise to make them act on it, UCU general secretary Jo Grady has told the TUC Congress. The lecturers’ union leader said unions are the only organisations with the power to keep workplaces and the wider population safe.
UCU news release and naming and shaming initiative. Risks 965. 19 September 2020

Britain: Wetherspoons claims ‘no risk’ as 66 staff test positive
Pub chain JD Wetherspoon has said that 66 of its workers have tested positive for the coronavirus but maintains that visiting pubs is safe. The company, which employs more than 41,000 people, said had been one or more cases among staff at 50 of its 861 open pubs.
Wetherspoon update. BBC News Online. Risks 965. 19 September 2020

Britain: Seven Covid cases linked to police training college
Seven people with links to the driving school at the Police Scotland training college in Tulliallan have tested positive for coronavirus. The Scottish Police Federation (SPF), which represents rank and file officers, said the news was concerning but not a surprise.  
SPF news release. NHS Fife news release and coronavirus news webpages. BBC News Online. Risks 965. 19 September 2020

Britain: Unions welcome face coverings rule for shops in Wales
Retail trade union Usdaw has welcomed an announcement requiring the wearing of face coverings in shops in Wales. The Welsh government move comes after repeat calls from the union, and on the heels of a demand from Wales TUC for masks to be made compulsory in shops and secondary schools.
Usdaw news release. Wales TUC news release. Risks 965. 19 September 2020

Britain: Prospect blasts ‘outdated’ attitudes to work safety
Outdated attitudes that saw health and safety regulation as a burden on business must be banished if we are to adjust to the impact of the global pandemic, Prospect general secretary Mike Clancy has said. He praised the work of Prospect members working for the HSE who have been trying to keep the public safe as they return to workplaces, but argued that the agency had been performing ‘regulatory gymnastics’, with the number of inspectors now lower than the number of MPs.
Prospect news release and campaign for a fully funded HSE. Risks 965. 19 September 2020

Britain: Can the tsunami of work clusters be stopped? Webinar, 24 September
‘Can the tsunami of work clusters be stopped to ensure the health, safety and welfare of workers and our communities, when the government is still waging a class war?’, the national Hazards Campaign is asking. The latest in the campaign’s highly successful series of Thursday webinars, to start at 6pm on 24 September, will discuss ‘how we prioritise workers’ health and safety in an unfair society.’
Where are the sirens? Can the tsunami of work clusters be stopped?, Hazards Campaign webinar, Thursday 24 September 2020, 6.00pm-7.30pm. Free. Register. Risks 965. 19 September 2020

USA: Under Trump, worker safety has been abandoned
An editorial board statement in the New York Times has expressed dismay at the lack of protection afforded US workers by the Trump administration. “Even as the dangers and virulence of the coronavirus have become more glaring, infecting 6.5 million Americans and killing nearly 200,000, the nation’s top worker protection arm has been asleep at the wheel,” the editorial board noted.
New York Times. OSHA news release. UFCW news releases on the Smithfield Foods and JBS fines. Risks 965. 19 September 2020

Britain: Self-isolating workers plunged into financial hardship
The NHS Test and Trace system could fail unless ministers boost Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) and ensure everyone is eligible for it, the TUC has warned. The union body was commenting as polling revealed more than 4 in 10 workers would be plunged into financial hardship if forced to self-isolate for two weeks on SSP.
TUC news release and blog. Sick pay and debt, TUC, 9 September 2020. The Guardian. Morning Star. More on work hazards and low pay. Risks 964. 12 September 2020

Britain: ‘Poverty’ sick pay drives care workers to work sick
Social care workers must be given full pay when sick, the union GMB has said. The union call came after its survey of thousands of care workers across the UK showed that a ‘shocking’ 81 per cent of the respondents across the UK would be forced into work if they became ill on Statutory Sick Pay (SSP).
GMB news release and Care Full Pay campaign. Risks 964. 12 September 2020

Britain: UCU slams PM’s ridiculous plan for uni Covid outbreaks
The prime minister’s plan to force students to stay in their university town or city in the event of a future lockdown has been slated as ‘ridiculously irresponsible’ by lecturers’ union UCU. The union said universities should instead move the majority of teaching online to avoid students having to travel across the country and risk being locked down in unfamiliar surroundings.
UCU news release and related news release. Principles for Managing SARS-CoV-2 Transmission Associated with Higher Education, SAGE, 3 September 2020. Principles for Managing SARS-CoV-2 Transmission Associated with Further Education, SAGE, 3 September 2020. Higher education: reopening buildings and campuses, Department for Education, updated 10 September 2020. Morning Star. Times Higher Education. Risks 964. 12 September 2020

Britain: Brum university ‘putting city at risk’ warn unions
Unions at the University of Birmingham have expressed serious concerns about plans to reopen the Edgbaston campus. UCU and UNISON said there have been at least three confirmed cases of Covid-19 on campus among support staff, including one case that unions believe is likely to be the result of onsite transmission, before the campus has even reopened.
UCU news release and related release. BBC News Online. Birmingham Mail. Risks 964. 12 September 2020

Britain: Colleges must prioritise student wellbeing, NUS warns
Coronavirus has had a huge impact on the wellbeing of students, with 60 per cent of students reporting low self-esteem, a new survey from the National Union of Students (NUS) has found. Students are also more likely to have experienced feelings of isolation during this period, with 73 per cent of students interacting less with students from their institution, 72 per cent less with their course mates and 59 per cent less with their friends.
NUS news release. Risks 964. 12 September 2020

Britain: Dozens of schools hit by Covid outbreaks
Dozens of schools across England and Wales have reported coronavirus outbreaks, prompting some to shut their doors while others have sent warnings home to parents about infections. A week after children began returning to classrooms for the first time since lockdown in March, over 60 schools have been battling outbreaks.
The Guardian. BBC News Online on the Caerphilly school and Haverhill school outbreaks. Sheffield Star. Risks 964. 12 September 2020

Britain: Scottish government urged to tackle teacher burnout
The heads and deputy heads running Scottish schools are facing a burnout risk from the “excessive” and “unsustainable” workloads they are facing, their union EIS has warned. The union said the additional workload demands being placed on school management teams (SMTs), compounded by ‘constantly changing’ official guidance, created a “risk to health in the current situation – stress-related illness as a result of ever-increasing workload, and increased risk of potential Covid infection as a result of working, often without physical distancing, with large groups of colleagues and/or pupils.”
EIS news release. Morning Star. Risks 964. 12 September 2020

Britain: Wales TUC wants rethink on masks rules
Wales TUC has called on the Welsh government to re-think its approach to face coverings. Commenting after a rise in cases, union body’s general secretary, Shavanah Taj, said: “These developments also highlight the challenges in enforcing the Covid rules and we look forward to working closely with the Welsh government and other partners through the new National Health and Safety forum to ensure that employers are meeting their obligations to keep their workers safe.” 
Wales TUC news release. Risks 964. 12 September 2020

Britain: Expert questions drive to get people back in work
One of the UK’s top infectious disease experts has suggested the government should “maybe pause at the headlong rush to get everybody back into offices” in England, as a minister admitted there was not yet a certified on-the-spot Covid test available. Prof Neil Ferguson, an epidemiologist from the MRC Centre for Global Infectious Disease Analysis, said it was still too soon to know if reopening England’s schools last week had contributed to a significant spread of the disease.
Prime minister’s speech, 9 September 2020. BBC News Online. Evening Standard. The Guardian and related story. The Telegraph. Risks 964. 12 September 2020

Britain: Civil servants must not be forced into work - unions
Government plans to get 80 per cent of civil servants in England to attend their usual workplace each week by the end of September are not acceptable, civil service unions have said. The unions PCS and Prospect were commenting after the permanent secretaries running government departments were told to greatly increase the number of staff in workplaces.
PCS news release. Prospect news release. Daily Mail. BBC News Online. Risks 964. 12 September 2020

Britain: Unite says no go on Go Ahead cuts
Transport union Unite has launched an international campaign to stop the owners of the Manchester bus company Go North West from using Covid-19 ‘as cover’ for making savage cuts to bus drivers' pay and conditions, while victimising and gagging a Unite union representative. Unite general secretary Len McCluskey has written to Go Ahead Group's CEO David Brown to warn him that Unite will be using all available resources to provide “immediate assistance to our members.”
Unite news release. Risks 964. 12 September 2020

Britain: RMT blasts Tory MP for temperature checks blunder
A call by a Tory MP for over-stretched rail staff to take the temperatures of passengers has been blasted by the union RMT. Nickie Aiken, the Conservative MP for Cities of London and Westminster, made the call for public transport workers to conduct temperature checks on commuters travelling into London hubs.
RMT news release. Comments from Nickie Aiken MP. Morning Star. Risks 964. 12 September 2020

Britain: Peers back TUC call for help for vulnerable workers
A group of cross-party peers is backing calls from the TUC and charities for more government support for clinically vulnerable people going back to workplaces. The national union body and the coalition of charities including Age UK, Diabetes UK, Macmillan and the MS Society want a guaranteed decent income and job security for vulnerable people while infection risks remain high.
Morning Star.
Job security: Saving the jobs of those who cannot work at home, but who have to stay at home, TUC, July 2020. Risks 964. 12 September 2020

Britain: Big outbreak on Amazon construction site
A dedicated coronavirus testing centre has been set up by construction contractor Bowmer + Kirkland after 39 construction workers tested positive on one site over a six-day period. Nottinghamshire County Council is stepping-up testing at the Amazon warehouse site in Sutton-in-Ashfield, to offer free tests for the 700 workers.
Nottinghamshire County Council news release. Construction Enquirer. Risks 964. 12 September 2020

Britain: Jaguar Land Rover hit by Covid outbreak
Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) has confirmed an outbreak of Covid-19 at its Solihull plant - with four workers testing positive. The company has also revealed other employees who may have come into contact with the confirmed cases were now self-isolating.
Birmingham Mail. Daily Mail. Morning Star. Risks 964. 12 September 2020

Britain: Coronavirus means there ain’t no chicken tonight
A branch of KFC in Glasgow has been closed after six members of staff tested positive for coronavirus. The fast food restaurant on Pollokshaws Road has been shut for two weeks as a precaution, the company confirmed on 6 September.
BBC News Online. Risks 964. 12 September 2020

Britain: TUC Congress 2020, 14-15 September
The TUC’s Congress 2020 is about to kick off! The event will hear from Labour leader Keir Starmer, TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady, as well as union leaders and frontline wrkers.
Sign up for TUC Congress 2020, 14-15 September – and see the dedicated TUC Congress webpages include the agenda, programme and details of fringe events. Sign up for Congress updates. Share on Facebook and twitter using #TUC20. Risks 964. 12 September 2020

Britain: Webinar on Covid-19: LGBT+ and black workers
What has been the impact of Covid-19 on LGBT+ and black workers? Join TUC experts Quinn Roache and Wilf Sullivan on 16 September to find out how you can support colleagues facing redundancy and the effects of the economic downturn.
The impact of Covid-19: LGBT+ and black workers, Wednesday 16 September 2020, 14:00-14:45. Register for the webinar. Risks 964. 12 September 2020

Ireland: Meat firms must look after their workers
The rights of workers in Ireland’s meat industry need strengthening, and collective representation for those workers is important, the leader of the Irish government has said. “That will form part of the government’s continuing engagement with the industry,” Taoiseach Micheál Martin told the Dáil (the Irish parliament).
Irish Examiner. Risks 964. 12 September 2020

Britain: Jobs, security, dignity – TUC Congress 2020, 14-15 September
The TUC’s Congress 2020 is going ahead – and is set to be the biggest ever. The national union body says every trade unionist is invited to join the event, the first to take place online. On the mornings of Monday 14 and Tuesday 15 September, trade union members from across the UK will discuss the huge impact of coronavirus on working lives and how to stop mass unemployment.
Sign up for TUC Congress 2020, 14-15 September – and see the dedicated TUC Congress webpages include the agenda, programme and details of fringe events. Sign up to Congress updates. Share on Facebook and twitter using #TUC20. Risks 963. 6 September 2020

Britain: PM told to drop the back-to-work scare campaign
Boris Johnson has been urged to produce a “credible plan” for persuading more workers to return to the office instead of relying on what unions have condemned as a “scare campaign”. The government is expected to launch a publicity campaign in the coming days to encourage more workers to return to the office, and advise employers about what they can do to keep staff safe.
TUC news release. Daily Telegraph. The Mirror. The Guardian and related article. The Independent. Evening Standard. Morning Star. BBC News Online. Risks 963. 6 September 2020

Britain: Scottish unions reject ‘shambolic’ UK government push
Scotland’s national union body has dismissed the ‘shambolic’ UK government drive to pressure people back into their workplaces. Roz Foyer, STUC general secretary, said: “It’s highly dangerous for the UK government to be pressuring workers who don’t have to be based there back into the workplace and it needs to be made clear to all Scottish workers that this is not in line with public health guidance here in Scotland.”
STUC news release. BBC News Online. Risks 963. 6 September 2020

Britain: Covid warning as a million students set for uni return
Universities in the UK are being urged to drop plans for face-to-face teaching until Christmas in order to prevent a second wave of coronavirus. With students set to return in September, academics' union UCU said more than a million students moving around the country was “a recipe for disaster.”
The Observer. BBC News Online.
Independent Sage Consultation Statement on Universities in the context of SARS-CoV-2, 21 August 2020.
Resources: How to measure ventilation in a classroom, Harvard University. Risks 963. 6 September 2020

Britain: Government ‘abdicating responsibility’ on work risks
The UK government has been accused of “abdicating responsibility” for making workplaces safe before urging people back to offices, ahead of the launch of a publicity campaign aimed at reducing working from home. The Independent Sage (I-Sage) group of scientific advisers has called for a national system of inspections to make sure even the worst employers are complying with social distancing best practice to keep workers safe.
Independent Sage YouTube channel, 28 August 2020 and The COVID-19 Safe Workplace Charter and briefing document on ending work lockdowns in GB. Hazards Campaign news release. The Independent. Risks 963. 6 September 2020

Britain: 'Paltry’ £13 a day is not enough to help self-isolate
The UK government’s pilot of payments of £13 a day to people on low incomes who need to self-isolate is insufficient, unions have warned. TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Every worker should have the right to decent sick pay so they can help stop the spread of the virus.”
Department of Health and Social Care news release. TUC news release. STUC news release. Risks 963. 6 September 2020

Britain: Welsh care workers to get full coronavirus sick pay
All care workers in Wales will be entitled to full pay whilst off sick or self-isolating due to coronavirus. The commitment to top up wages by Welsh health minister Vaughn Gethin was welcomed by the GMB.
GMB news release. BBC News Online. Risks 963. 6 September 2020

Britain: Arriva accused of ‘lax response’ to bus driver infection
Bus company Arriva has been accused of a ‘lax response’ to public and worker safety after one of its bus drivers tested positive for coronavirus. Unite, which represents over 60,000 bus drivers throughout the UK, raised its concerns following the news that a driver based at Arriva’s Southern Counties Northfleet depot in North Kent tested positive on 25 August.
Unite news release. Risks 963. 6 September 2020

Britain: Death linked to poor PPE guidance for home care workers
A home care worker who did not wear protective equipment may have infected a client with a fatal case of coronavirus during weeks of contradictory UK government guidance on whether the kit was needed or not, an official investigation has found. The government’s confusion about how much protection care workers visiting homes needed is detailed in a report into the death of an unnamed person by the Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch (HSIB), which conducts independent investigations of patient safety concerns in NHS-funded care in England.
HSIB news release and report, PPE: care workers delivering homecare during the Covid-19 response, HSIB, 27 August 2020. The Guardian. Risks 963. 6 September 2020

Britain: Chicken plant with rising cases allowed to reopen
A food processing plant in Scotland that was closed due to a cluster of Covid-19 cases has been given the go-ahead to reopen, despite a rising number of infections. A 28 August update from NHS Tayside, just four days ahead of the scheduled reopening, said in the previous 24 hours the number of positive cases linked to the 2 Sisters factory in Coupar Angus has risen by 11 to 188.
NHS Tayside update. BBC News Online. Risks 963. 6 September 2020

Britain: Banham Poultry must ‘step up’ on sick pay
Hundreds of workers at the Banham Poultry factory in Attleborough, Norfolk, and their families have been instructed to self-isolate. Authorities reported on 1 September that 104 staff had tested positive for coronavirus. Unite said the affected workers must receive ‘adequate sick pay’.
Unite news release. Norfolk County Council 28 August news update and 1 September update. Eastern Daily Press. Environmental Health News. BBC News Online. Risks 963. 6 September 2020

Britain: Grantown abattoir shuts after rise in cases
An abbatoir centred cluster of Covid-19 cases in the Highlands has increased to 31, NHS Highland has said. By 3 September, 29 of the cases in the Grantown on Spey area are linked to the town's Millers of Speyside abattoir.
NHS Highland news release. BBC News Online. Risks 963. 6 September 2020

Britain: Greggs depot deep cleaned after virus outbreak
A deep clean at a Greggs distribution depot in Leeds has taken place after an outbreak of coronavirus among staff. Leeds City Council, Public Health England, and Greggs said they were working closely together to ensure safe management of the outbreak at the Bramley depot.
Joint statement by Leeds City Council and Greggs plc. Telegraph and Argus. ITV News. Evening Standard. Risks 963. 6 September 2020

Britain: Asda supermarket staff test positive for Covid-19
Eight workers from an Asda supermarket in the West Midlands have tested positive for coronavirus. The company said the employees had self-isolated and it had carried out a “comprehensive deep clean” at the store in Cape Hill, Smethwick.
Sandwell Council news release. BBC News Online. Risks 963. 6 September 2020

Britain: IKEA agrees to continue virus sick pay
Furniture giant IKEA has said it will pay full wages to staff forced to self-isolate for 14 days during the coronavirus pandemic. The move was welcomed by retail union Usdaw. Dave Gill, the union’s national officer for IKEA, said: “We will continue to work with IKEA on their absence policy, and welcome the clarification that IKEA will continue to pay our members who are affected by the coronavirus their full pay for the duration of their sickness or isolation period and this will not be counted towards any absence trigger points.”
Usdaw news release. Daily Record. Risks 963. 6 September 2020

Britain: Unite call for clarity on face coverings on flights
Cabin crew union Unite has said the government and aviation authorities must publish clear policies requiring the use of face masks on flights. The union call came after travellers found to be infected were discovered to have travelled on packed passenger flights, with little or no regard paid to social distancing or use of masks.
Unite news release. The Guardian. BBC News Online. Risks 963. 6 September 2020

Britain: Scottish schools failing on Covid safety measures
Schools and colleges in Scotland are failing to follow essential safety measures on physical distancing, cleaning, hand hygiene and dealing with suspected cases of Covid-19, a survey by the teaching union NASUWT has found. No teachers responding to the snapshot survey of their experiences since the reopening of their school or college at the start of the new academic year were able to say that pupils were always following physical distancing and only 5 per cent said adults in their school are always keeping a two metre distance from others.
NASUWT news release. Risks 963. 6 September 2020

Britain: ‘Outdated’ physical distancing rules criticised
Current rules on safe physical distancing are based on outdated science, with evidence suggesting the coronavirus responsible for Covid-19 may travel much further than 2m through activities such as coughing and shouting. In an analysis published in the British Medical Journal, Nicholas Jones of Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, University of Oxford, and colleagues note the rigid physical distancing limit “overlooks the physics of respiratory emissions, where droplets of all sizes are trapped and moved by the exhaled moist and hot turbulent gas cloud that keeps them concentrated as it carries them over metres in a few seconds.”
Nicholas R Jones and others. Analysis: Two metres or one: what is the evidence for physical distancing in Covid-19?, BMJ 2020;370:m3223, published 25 August 2020. doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m3223 Risks 963. 6 September 2020

Scotland’s workers: No return to unsafe workplaces
Scotland’s national union body STUC has launched a new workers’ safety website. Whether you are a worker worried about returning to work, a business who wants to work with STUC to get things right or a union rep who wants to join our safety community, the union body says the ‘No return to unsafe workplaces’ is the place for you.
No return to unsafe workplaces, STUC. Risks 963. 6 September 2020

Australia: Covid enforcement focus moves to firms
Workplaces have been a significant driver of Covid-19 spread in the Australia state of Victoria, especially in aged care, healthcare and the meat industry, state agencies have found. The state government said it is now starting to provide data on workplaces failing to provide safe and healthy conditions for workers, having earlier focused on penalising the behaviour of individuals.
Premier of Victoria news release. The Guardian. Risks 963. 6 September 2020

Philippines: Government blamed for spike in work virus cases
An increase in Covid-19 clusters in workplaces in the Philippines can be blamed on the government’s refusal to look after workers’ welfare, a safety organisation has charged. The Institute for Occupational Health and Safety Development (Iohsad) said government guidance to companies was insufficient to curb infections when certain industries were allowed to restart operations in May.  
The Inquirer. Risks 963. 6 September 2020

USA: Workers left in jeopardy by government inaction
The top officials in the US Department of Labor and the government safety regulator OSHA should resign, as they failed to take basic steps to curb the spread of the coronavirus in workplaces. Paul Bland, the executive director the non-profit legal advocacy group Public Justice, said labour secretary Eugene Scalia and OSHA head Loren Sweatt “have profoundly failed” on Covid-19.
NBC News. Risks 963. 6 September 2020

Britain: Face coverings u-turn for England’s secondary schools
Secondary pupils will have to wear masks in school corridors in local lockdown areas of England, after the government reversed its guidance. UK education secretary Gavin Williamson said the shift follows advice from the World Health Organisation (WHO) that was updated, with the move also following repeat demands from unions for clarity on the issue.
Department for Education news release. Q&A: Children and masks related to COVID-19, WHO, 21 August 2020. NEU news release. GMB news release. BBC News Online and related story. The Guardian. Risks 962. 29 August 2020

Britain: Government ‘negligent’ on school return safety rules
Unions have reacted angrily to claims that coronavirus is more likely to be spread by teachers than pupils, warning that everyone has a responsibility to try to avoid bringing Covid-19 into school and transmitting it to others. The union comments follow a report by Public Health England (PHE) and the Chief Medical Officer, trailed two weeks ago by the government, which found that though Covid-19 outbreaks were “uncommon” in English schools after they reopened in June, the virus more likely to be spread by staff than pupils.
Prime minister’s office news release. PHE news release. NEU news release. NASUWT news release and related release. UNISON news release. The Guardian. Morning Star. Evening Standard. Risks 962. 29 August 2020

Britain: Union calls for on-site testing of school staff
GMB Scotland has called for routine on-site coronavirus testing of school staff. The union is urging the Scottish government to bring forward a Covid testing regime for every school in the country. It followed a survey of its members indicating two-thirds of school support staff do not feel safe at work.
Tayside Cares update. Scottish government news release. EIS news release. BBC News Online, related story and story on the South Lanarkshire outbreak. The Independent. Risks 962. 29 August 2020

Britain: Prediction of ‘explosion in work cases’ proved right
The workplace is emerging as the new frontline for Covid-19 spread, after the UK government and health agencies ignored warnings on the dangers of a rush back to work, occupational health experts have warned. The campaign’s analysis of Public Health England (PHE) figures shows that over the last five weeks the ‘workplace’ has emerged as the second most common site of Covid-19 ‘situations/incidents’, trailing only care homes; PHE’s definition of workplaces does not include work-related Covid incidents in hospitals, schools or prisons, so under-estimates the real extent of work-related cases.
Hazards Campaign report. National COVID-19 surveillance report: 14 August 2020 (week 33) and National COVID-19 surveillance report: 21 August 2020 (week 34), PHE. Risks 962. 29 August 2020

Britain: Virus risks fuelled by ‘shoddy’ guidance and HSE cuts
Unions have condemned official inaction on workplace Covid-19 risks. The unions were speaking out after the national Hazards Campaign revealed workplaces are suffering ‘an explosion’ of Covid cases because the government ignored warnings not to rush Britain back to work.
Morning Star. Risks 962. 29 August 2020

Britain: HSE hampered by ‘chronic’ resource shortages
Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspectors “have been let down by a chronic lack of resources”, the safety regulator’s inspectors have warned. Neil Hope-Collins and Geoff Fletcher, both experienced HSE field inspectors and members of the union Prospect, said there are only 390 full-time equivalent band 3 (main grade) inspectors for the whole of mainland UK,” adding: “That is just not enough.”
Prospect blog. Risks 962. 29 August 2020

Britain: Workers ‘sacked workers for raising Covid-19 concerns’
British Cables Company has sacked workers for raising Covid-19 safety concerns, the GMB has said. GMB members Steve Saxon and Mark Vernon expressed worries about management’s lax attitude to workers’ wellbeing after a member of staff tested positive for Covid-19 in April and also contacted their GMB union official, highlighting several breaches of government rules by the company.
GMB news release. About Manchester.
Resources: Worksmart guidance on the Employment Relations Act and Pubic Interest Disclosure Act. Section 44 and Section 100 of the Employment Rights Act 1996. TUC/HSE Covid-19 concerns reporting form. Trade union reps can report coronavirus related concerns to the HSE by email, to union.covidconcerns@hse.gov.uk. Risks 962. 29 August 2020

Britain: Thousands told to self-isolate after factory outbreak
Families of workers at a chicken factory hit with a large Covid-19 outbreak have been told to stay at home and self-isolate until the end of the month. Health bosses issued the 20 August urgent update to restrictions in place at the 2 Sisters plant in Coupar Angus. All 900 staff at the plant were told to enter quarantine after an outbreak of the virus last week, but on 25 August the official direction was refused to require their families to self-isolate too.
Unite news release. Scottish government news release. NHS Tayside news release. Tayside Cares alert. BBC News Online. The Herald. The Courier. Risks 962. 29 August 2020

Britain: Norfolk chicken processing plant staff test positive
Seven workers at a Norfolk chicken processing plant have tested positive for coronavirus and five more are isolating as they await test results. The outbreak at Banham Poultry in Attleborough was announced on 25 August by Louise Smith, the director of public health at Norfolk County Council.
Eastern Daily Press. Diss Express. BBC News Online. Risks 962. 29 August 2020

Britain: Meat processor hit by outbreak at second plant
A second plant operated by the UK meat processing firm Cranswick plc had been hit by a Covid-19 outbreak. The Ballymena pork processing plant of the company, which has its HQ in Hull, closed for mass testing of its 500 staff after a “significant” outbreak in which 35 workers tested positive for Covid-19 - the move comes less than three months after the company confirmed three workers at its food processing facility in Wombwell, Barnsley had died after testing positive for Covid-19.
Proactive Investors. Belfast Telegraph. Market Watch. Cranswick plc first quarter trading statement. Risks 962. 29 August 2020

Britain: Work Covid-19 payouts stop welfare benefits
The families of low-paid frontline NHS and social care workers who die from Covid-19 will be stripped of eligibility for welfare benefits if they receive a payout under the government’s Covid-19 compensation scheme. Under the NHS and Social Care Coronavirus Life Assurance Scheme, the £60,000 lump sum breaches capital limits rules for most benefits, meaning that the recipient would be unable to claim universal credit, housing benefit or pension credit.
The Guardian. Risks 962. 29 August 2020

Britain: Call to allow disabled workers to work from home
Disabled employees working from home during lockdown say they have been more productive and took fewer days off sick than when they were doing their jobs in the office, according to a UNISON survey. The union is now calling on the government to give disabled people a new right to work from home if they wish and for employers to face penalties if they don’t comply.
UNISON news release and related news release. BBC News Online. Risks 962. 29 August 2020

Britain: NHS Scotland workers at 'breaking point'
Scotland’s health service workforce is at ‘breaking point’, a union survey had found. The findings of the Unite Scotland survey of NHS Scotland workers during the Covid-19 pandemic, found a large majority of workers are suffering in the face of acute staff shortages, regularly work beyond their contracted hours and don’t feel valued by their employer.
Unite news release. Morning Star. Risks 962. 29 August 2020

Britain: Midwives missing out on breaks, report reveals
Overworked midwives are missing meals and loo breaks while at work as they do not have enough time to take them, union research has revealed. Midwives are also working additional unpaid hours, on top of long shifts, according to a survey of 980 professionals in England carried out by the Royal College of Midwives (RCM).
RCM news release. Morning Star. Risks 962. 29 August 2020

Global: Action call on big airborne Covid risks
Transmission of Covid-19 through an airborne ‘aerosol’ is “stronger than that for any other pathway”, greatly increasing the preventive efforts required, a US expert has warned. Jose-Luis Jimenez, a professor of chemistry and a fellow of the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado-Boulder, said the evidence on airborne transmission demonstrates why more stringent efforts are needed to control the virus, going beyond current official guidelines.
Time Magazine.
Lidia Morawska, Donald K Milton. It is Time to Address Airborne Transmission of COVID-19, Clinical Infectious Diseases, ciaa939, 6 July 2020.
Song Tang and others. Aerosol transmission of SARS-CoV-2? Evidence, prevention and control, Environment International, volume 144, November 2020. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envint.2020.106039
WHO knew? WHO’s complacency over work virus risks a world class disaster, Hazards special report, July 2020. Risks 962. 29 August 2020

USA: Empowering workers is key to safe reopening
Workers have a key role to play in designing and implementing new, on-the-job health practices - and even more so in the absence of enforceable federal standards, top US work practice experts have said. Writing in Fortune Magazine, Sharon Block, the executive director of the Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard Law School and Rachel Korberg of the Ford Foundation’s Future of Work(ers) initiative, warn that where workers “aren’t able to speak up when they spot a problem, we risk prolonging this crisis, deepening the economic pain, and ultimately losing more lives.”
Fortune magazine. Risks 962. 29 August 2020

Britain: Hundreds test positive at sandwich supplier
Almost 300 workers have tested positive for coronavirus following an outbreak at a factory in Northampton that makes M&S sandwiches. Workers at the Greencore factory were there would be no company sick n pay if they had to self-isolate, making it difficult for many to comply, their union BFAWU said.
Greencore statement. The Guardian and follow-up story. BBC News Online. Sky News. ITV News. Risks 961. 22 August 2020

Britain: McVities factory cluster linked to school cases
Staff at a Glasgow biscuit factory have claimed a cluster of Covid cases are linked to an outbreak that has affected pupils at a local school. A worker told The National newspaper that the cases at the McVities biscuit factory are linked to the outbreak that has affected 11 people in the north east of the city including pupils at Bannerman High School.
The National. Leicester Mercury. Risks 961. 22 August 2020

Britain: School Covid cases highlight dangers
Scottish teaching union EIS has repeated its call for enhanced procedures to protect pupils and staff from potential Covid infection. The union said since schools re-opened in Scotland on 11 August, pupils at a number of schools have tested positive for Covid-19, illustrating the risk of the virus spreading through school communities if safeguards are not in place.
EIS news release. BBC News Online. Morning Star. Risks 961. 22 August 2020

Britain: Nine coronavirus cases linked to Orkney fishing boat
Nine cases of Covid-19 in a cluster linked to an Orkney fishing boat have now been confirmed. NHS Orkney began contact tracing after a member of the crew of the unnamed trawler tested positive.
NHS Orkney news release. BBC News Online and related story. The Guardian. The National. Risks 961. 22 August 2020

Britain: New 2 Sisters chicken plant closed after virus cluster
A Scottish chicken processing plant has been closed after four members of staff tested positive for Covid-19. Two other workers at the 2 Sisters facility in Coupar Angus in Perth and Kinross are awaiting the results of a test for the virus; it comes after over 200 workers at a 2 Sisters processing plant in Anglesey tested positive in June for the infection.
The Courier. BBC News Online. Risks 961. 22 August 2020

Britain: More than 70 test positive at dessert factory
More than 70 staff at a Nottinghamshire dessert factory have tested positive for Covid-19. It was announced on 7 August that all staff would be tested after 39 cases were detected, but that figure has risen to 72 after 701 employees at the Bakkavor site in Newark were tested.
The Guardian. Food Manufacture. Evening Standard. Risks 961. 22 August 2020

Britain: Raise sick pay and extend furlough to tackle virus
Statutory sick pay should be increased and the furlough scheme extended on a flexible basis, a report from the Royal Society has concluded. Doing so would better manage a “crude” trade-off between lives and livelihoods as the UK economy reopens, Professors Sir Tim Besley and Sir Nicholas Stern state.
Royal Society news release and report, Economic Aspects of the COVID-19 Crisis in the UK, The DELVE Initiative,  August 2020. BBC News Online. Risks 961. 22 August 2020

Britain: Support and resources needed for safe school return
All schools in England must be supported and resourced so they have in place the practical safety measures recommended by the UK government prior to the return of pupils to schools in September, teaching union NASUWT has said. The union’s survey of 9,000 members concluded it was of ‘particular concern’ that three in ten of those who completed the survey said they believe budgetary constraints will affect their schools’ ability to reopen safely.
NASUWT news release, related release and self-audit checklist. Risks 961. 22 August 2020

Britain: Work hurts low paid twice as much
The government should make injury prevention a public health priority and take further action to prevent the transmission of Covid-19 in workplace, a new report from the IPPR think tank has concluded. Its analysis reveals lower earning workers are twice as likely to be physically injured or become ill at work than higher earners
IPPR publication alert and paper, Better than cure: Injury prevention policy, Lesley Rankin and Henry Parkes, IPPR, August 2020. More on work hazards and low pay. Risks 961. 22 August 2020

Global: Nearly half schools lack basic handwashing facilities
As schools worldwide struggle with reopening, the latest data from UN agencies has revealed that 43 per cent of schools around the world lacked access to basic handwashing with soap and water in 2019. The WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) findings reveal a stark failure to meet a key condition for schools to be able to operate safely in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic.
WHO news release. Risks 961. 22 August 2020

Ireland: ‘Bogus’ work practices blighting meat plants
The meat processing industry contains “unrivalled vectors for the transmission of Covid-19,” with around 90 per cent of workers in the industry not receiving sick pay, the union Siptu has said. Siptu divisional organiser Greg Ennis revealed the extent of the crisis in evidence to the government Oireachtas Covid-19 committee.
Irish Times. Irish Independent and related article. RTE news. AgriLand. Risks 961. 22 August 2020

Mozambique: Covid-19 has made workers’ health a union priority
With the Covid-19 pandemic, the importance of occupational health and safety has returned to the union priority list in Mozambique, IndustriALL has said. The crisis has seen the crucial role of union health and safety reps reemphasised, the global union said.
IndustriALL news report. Risks 961. 22 August 2020

Philippines: Alarm after spike in work Covid-19 cases
The Philippines government must identify and immediately address the real causes of widespread Covid-19 infection among workers, a workplace safety advocacy group has said. The Institute for Occupational Health and Safety Development (Iohsad) made the appeal as infection rates among workers spiked.
IOHSAD news webpages. Risks 961. 22 August 2020

USA: Race inequalities in Covid-19 linked to worse jobs
Higher rates of Covid-19 in Hispanic and other non-white workers are explained by these groups being over-represented in high risk jobs, a US study has found. A 17 August report in the US government’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) noted: “Systemic social inequities have resulted in the overrepresentation of Hispanic and non-white workers in frontline occupations where exposure to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, might be higher; extra vigilance in these sectors is needed to ensure prevention and mitigation strategies are applied equitably and effectively to workers of racial and ethnic groups disproportionately affected by Covid-19.”
Bui DP, McCaffrey K, Friedrichs M, and others. Racial and Ethnic Disparities Among COVID-19 Cases in Workplace Outbreaks by Industry Sector — Utah, March 6–June 5, 2020. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. ePub: 17 August 2020. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm6933e3 [also in pdf format]. Risks 961. 22 August 2020

Britain: School reopening ‘gamble’ criticised by safety advocates
A claim by the education secretary that schools must reopen because there is ‘little evidence’ of a Covid-19 transmission risk has been condemned by workplace safety advocates as an ‘unnecessary gamble’. The national Hazards Campaign points out that international studies have identified “robust spread” in high schools and “sizeable outbreaks” in schools overall.
Hazards Campaign news release. Weekly Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Surveillance Report, Week 32, PHE, 7 August 2020. BBC News Online. Risks 960. 15 August 2020

Global: Studies undermine Williamson’s ‘little evidence’ claim
A series of studies, including two in the last three weeks from UK experts, have undermined claims by education secretary Gavin Williamson that there is ‘little evidence’ of a Covid-19 transmission risk in schools. A study by US and UK experts – including Muge Cevik from the NHS Lothian Infection Service – published online on 24 July found here is “evidence of robust spread of SARS-CoV-2 in high schools, and more limited spread in primary schools, with another study on the risks of school reopening warning: “Without sufficient coverage of a test-trace-isolate strategy the UK risks a serious second epidemic peak either in December or February.”
Edward Goldstein, Marc Lipsitch, Muge Cevik, On the effect of age on the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in households, schools and the community, medRxiv preprint, 24 July 2020. doi: https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.07.19.20157362
Jasmina Panovska-Griffiths and others, Determining the optimal strategy for reopening schools, the impact of test and trace interventions, and the risk of occurrence of a second COVID-19 epidemic wave in the UK: a modelling study, Lancet Child and Adolescent Health, Online first 3 August 2020. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/S2352-4642(20)30250-9. Risks 960. 15 August 2020

Britain: Clearer guidance needed on school face coverings
Parents and staff are still confused over the wearing of face coverings in schools in England, UNISON has said. The union has now written to secretary of state for education Gavin Williamson urging him to allow all school staff to be allowed to wear face coverings if they choose, with the teaching union NEU also noting: “It remains our view that no member of staff or pupil should be prevented from wearing a face mask if they wish to do so and we anticipate that the majority of schools and colleges will respect this.”
UNISON news release. NEU news release. Risks 960. 15 August 2020

Britain: Boss demands blood from isolating school worker
A self-isolating school worker was horrified when bosses from her academy turned up at her home and bullied her into taking a Covid-19 blood test. Her union GMB said the ‘terrified’ teaching assistant, who had already requested a test from the NHS, let them take her blood – even though the NHS does not recommend home antibody test kits, as it has not been confirmed they are safe and reliable.
GMB news release. Risks 960. 15 August 2020

Britain: Returning teachers not told of virus safety measures
A majority of teachers returned to schools in Scotland this week without knowing what safety measures their schools are taking to deal with coronavirus, an NASUWT survey has found. Two-thirds (67 per cent) of teachers responding to the NASUWT survey did not feel prepared to return to their school/college and the vast majority (87 per cent) felt anxious about returning to their school as it reopened to all pupils.
NASUWT news release and related news release. BBC News Online. Risks 960. 15 August 2020

Britain: Most teachers concerned over Scotland schools return
The majority of teachers in Scotland still had serious concerns about Covid-19 school safety measures immediately ahead of the return of pupils to schools on 11 August. Only 1 in 5 expressed confidence that schools are currently safe – indicating that much more needs to be done to reassure staff that schools are safe to work in, said EIS.
EIS news release and survey report. Risks 960. 15 August 2020

Britain: Unite's ‘unique’ support for extremely vulnerable workers
Unite has pledged to support vulnerable workers as the UK government increases pressure for them to return to work. Unite says its new checklist will help its workplace reps assist members who have been shielding to safely return to work where the workplace is “Covid-secure”.
Unite news release and vulnerable workers checklist. Updated government working safely guidance. Risks 960. 15 August 2020

Britain: Worker safety can’t be an afterthought - Wales TUC
Wales TUC has renewed its call for workers’ health and safety to be at the centre of plans to reopen the Welsh economy. This call from the union body came following a Welsh government press conference where international relations minister Eluned Morgan announced that rules designed to keep people safe will be enforced by the police  and businesses flouting the rules could be forced to close.
Wales TUC news release, related news release and confidential whistleblowers form. Keep Wales safe at work guidance. Daily Post. ITV News. Risks 960. 15 August 2020

Britain: Concern at spate of Swindon workplace outbreaks
A Tesco Extra store has become the latest Swindon workplace to see staff test positive for coronavirus. The news comes after an Iceland distribution centre, a Royal Mail depot, the Honda car factory and workers at the town's fire station were also found to have the Covid-19 infection.
BBC News Online on the Tesco, Iceland and Royal Mail outbreaks. The Mirror. Daily Star. Swindon Advertiser. Risks 960. 15 August 2020

Britain: Smell and taste loss points to high NHS worker infections
A large proportion of UK healthcare workers may already have been infected with Covid-19, according to new research led by the University of East Anglia in collaboration with University College London (UCL). Senior author Prof Carl Philpott, from UEA’s Norwich Medical School, said: “Cases like this most likely went undiagnosed at the time because of a lack of awareness about smell loss as a symptom.”
UEA news release. Matt Lechner, Nicholas Counsell, Jacklyn Liu, Valerie J Lund, Sam Jayaraj and Carl Philpot. Anosmia/hyposmia in healthcare workers with a SARS-CoV-2 infection, The Lancet Microbe, 6 August 2020.
Richard C Gerkin and others. The best COVID-19 predictor is recent smell loss: a cross-sectional study, medRxiv preprint, 26 July 2020. doi: https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.07.22.20157263 Risks 960. 15 August 2020

Britain: Concern over fatigue and anxiety levels in NHS staff
The mental and physical health of staff will be a major concern for leaders of NHS trusts as they prepare for the next phase of the Covid-19 pandemic, a report has concluded. The report from the NHS Confederation, the body that represents NHS organisations, is based on interviews with 13 trust chief executives conducted in May and June.
NHS Confederation news release. BMJ news. Risks 960. 15 August 2020

Britain: Surgeons told not to discuss lack of PPE
Surgeons were told by their NHS employers to stop discussing shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) during the coronavirus crisis, a survey has found. The Confederation of British Surgery (CBS) said almost 70 surgeons working in major hospitals around the country – over 1-in-10 of those surveyed - had been warned off discussing a lack of PPE by their trust.
The Independent. Risks 960. 15 August 2020

Britain: Benefits staff in safety action ballot
Members of the civil service union PCS are being balloted for industrial action over government plans to extend working hours in Universal Credit service centres and jobcentres. The union said despite tens of thousands of its members working “flat out during lockdown” to support claimants, they now face “ministers insisting jobcentres should open to the public, including beyond normal office hours without consulting us or doing a proper risk assessment.”
PCS news release. Risks 960. 15 August 2020

Britain: PR workers face stress and abuse during pandemic
More than threequarters of public relations (PR) workers have been working longer than usual hours during the pandemic, with almost four out of five feeling more stressed than usual. Two-thirds told their union NUJ they have suffered abuse or had to deal with abuse because of their employer’s work during the pandemic.
NUJ news release. Risks 960. 15 August 2020

Global: Covid led to ‘brutal crackdown’ on workers’ rights
Some of Europe’s biggest retailers are standing by while Covid-19 is used as a pretext for union busting and other workplace abuses, human rights activists have warned. A new report, from the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre (BHRRC), portrays an “emerging and widespread pattern of supplier factories appearing to target unionised workers for dismissal”.
Union busting and unfair dismissals: Garment workers during Covid-19, BHRRC, August 2020. The Guardian. Risks 960. 15 August 2020

Netherlands: Ventilation system spread led to outbreak
A Covid-19 outbreak at a Dutch retirement home that affected large numbers of staff and residents was spread by the ventilation system, a leaked official study has indicated. The report by the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment into the incident in Maassluis, in the western Netherlands, provides additional evidence of the risks posed by ‘airborne transmission’ of the disease.
New York Times. De Volkskrant (in Dutch). Risks 960. 15 August 2020

USA: Distancing key to preventing workplace outbreaks
Working too close to your colleagues is the main factor linked to major workplace Covid-19 outbreaks, new studies have shown. Two reports in the 7 August 2020 issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) examine outbreaks at US meat processing plants, and both show those workers forced to work at less than 2m social distancing were those most at risk of getting the infection.
Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), volume 69, number 31, 7 August 2020. COVID-19 Outbreak Among Employees at a Meat Processing Facility — South Dakota, March–April 2020 and Notes from the Field: Characteristics of Meat Processing Facility Workers with Confirmed SARS-CoV-2 Infection — Nebraska, April–May 2020. Risks 960. 15 August 2020

Britain: TUC warning over ‘heartless and reckless’ work return plan
The TUC has urged employers to prioritise the safety of shielded workers and not demand that they return to workplaces immediately. Official guidance ends shielding from 31 July in Scotland, 1 August in England, and 16 August in Wales, so shielding workers may face demands from their employers to return to workplaces.
TUC news release and report, Job security: Saving the jobs of those who cannot work at home, July 2020. Daily Mail. Personnel Today. Risks 959. 8 August 2020

Britain: Serious concerns over shielding ‘pause’
Serious concerns have been raised about the UK government’s plans ‘to pause’ its shielding policy and the challenges that will then face thousands of extremely vulnerable people returning to the workplace. Unite said that the world of work had changed dramatically since the lockdown was introduced in March and questioned if ministers had thought through all the implications of ‘pausing’, as Covid-19 was still prevalent across the UK.
Unite news release. Risks 959. 8 August 2020

Britain: RMT warning over ‘high risk’ back to work gamble
Transport union RMT has warned that ‘confused and conflicted’ government messaging could lead to widespread breaches of public health measures on masks and social distancing. The union was commenting as Boris Johnson urges people to “get back to work” on 3 August, a move that coincided with tightened restrictions being introduced in areas hit by Covid-19 infection spikes, including large areas of Lancashire and West Yorkshire.
RMT news release. The Guardian. Risks 959. 8 August 2020

Britain: Covid breaches at Oxford put reopening plans at risk
The University of Oxford has been accused of flouting government guidelines on reopening universities. The university has refused to share health and safety risk assessments as staff try to ensure the university is able to reopen safely in October.
UCU news release. Risks 959. 8 August 2020

Britain: Test, trace and isolate 'key to schools returning'
Current testing and contact tracing levels are not sufficient to prevent a second wave of coronavirus after schools reopen, scientists have warned. Researchers said getting pupils back to school was important - but more work was needed to keep the virus in check.
Jasmina Panovska-Griffiths and others, Determining the optimal strategy for reopening schools, the impact of test and trace interventions, and the risk of occurrence of a second COVID-19 epidemic wave in the UK: a modelling study, Lancet Child and Adolescent Health, Online first 3 August 2020. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/S2352-4642(20)30250-9. CIEH news release. BBC News Online. Risks 959. 8 August 2020

Britain: UNISON condemns ‘chaotic’ track and trace
England’s ‘chaotic’ privately-run test and trace system is unlikely to prevent a second wave of Covid-19, public sector union UNISON has warned. UNISON has labelled the system ‘a mess’ after researchers at UCL and London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) warned reopening of schools in September, combined with a sluggish test and trace system, could bring another spike in the virus.
UNISON news release. Risks 959. 8 August 2020

Britain: Listen to school staff on reopening, says STUC
The STUC has called on the Scottish government and local authorities to heed the advice of teachers and the whole education workforce to ensure that schools are safe environments for pupils and staff. Commenting after Nicola Sturgeon announced schools in Scotland would reopen on 11 August, STUC deputy general secretary Dave Moxham said: “Schools re-opening full-time is an enormous step which requires continuing suppression of the virus across communities, the full implementation of safety guidance and a proactive testing regime.”
STUC news release. Scottish government news release and related news release. BBC News Online. Daily Record. Risks 959. 8 August 2020

Britain: Teachers concerned over Scottish school reopening
‘Significant concerns’ have been raised by a teaching union over new guidelines for the reopening of Scotland’s schools. The executive committee of the EIS has written to deputy first minister John Swinney calling for urgent action to protect pupils, staff and the wider community from the risk of Covid-19 infection.
EIS news release, related news release and letter to John Swinney. Risks 959. 8 August 2020

Britain: Deep cleaning ‘vital’ for re-opening of schools
A regular deep cleaning regime must be in place for when schools reopen in Scotland, UNISON has said. Lorraine Thomson, chair of UNISON’s education issues group, said: “Crucial to ensuring a safe return is that schools get a regular deep clean, that’s why UNISON will continue to raise the needs school cleaners, janitors and other staff who have a role to play in getting kids back safely into schools.”
UNISON Scotland news release. Scottish government news release.
Webinar: The US Toxics Use Reduction Institute is to run a free Safer Cleaning and Disinfection for Schools webinar on Friday 14 August 2020, 3-5pm UK time. Risks 959. 8 August 2020

Britain: STUC welcomes Scottish call centre guidance 
Scotland’s national union centre has welcomed new stringent call centre guidance released by the Scottish government and has called on non-union firms to make use of the expert advice available through the union roving rep system. The guidance comes two weeks after health officials said they were investigating an outbreak of Covid-19 at an NHS test and trace call centre in run by Sitel in Motherwell.
STUC news release and Call Centre Collective campaign. Scottish government call centre guidance and publication note. BBC News Online. Risks 959. 8 August 2020

Britain: Call for workplace zero-Covid policy
The UK government should adopt immediately a zero-Covid-19 policy, with prevention of work-related infection and transmission a priority, campaigners have said. The union-supported Hazards Campaign said the action was necessary to drive down the infection rate.
Hazards Campaign news release. Risks 959. 8 August 2020

Britain: Homerton hospital workers in sick pay victory
Homerton Hospital’s cleaners, porters and security staff will be paid the London living wage and NHS sick pay “from day one” of a renewed, five-year contract with facilities firm ISS. Over half of the 200 staff employed by ISS were only entitled to statutory sick pay, meaning they were paid nothing at all for the first three days of sickness and just £94.25 a week thereafter.
UNISON news release. GMB London news release. Hackney Gazette. Risks 959. 8 August 2020

Australia: Cold store workers stop work over Covid concerns
Workers at JBS cold storage facility in Melbourne ceased work last week, saying they wanted safety assurances before they returned. Their union said the action was in line with the Victorian Occupational Health and Safety Act and came after 71 positive cases were linked to a JBS Covid-19 outbreak.
United Workers Union news release. Risks 959. 8 August 2020

Global: Danone agrees to support workers post-Covid
The global food and farming union federation IUF and food multinational Danone have committed to opening negotiations on measures to support workers during and beyond the Covid-19 pandemic. A joint statement recognises that, as a priority, any future agreement will need to focus on identifying and protecting the most vulnerable workers within Danone.
IUF news release and IUF/Danone joint statement. Risks 959. 8 August 2020

USA: Reopening schools too dangerous while coronavirus lurks
Teachers and support staff at more than 35 school districts across the United States staged protests on 3 August over plans to resume in-class instruction while Covid-19 is surging in many parts of the country. The protesters, who formed car caravans and attached signs and painted messages on their vehicles, demanded schools hold off until scientific data supports a safe return.
Daily Maverick. Daily Mail. New York Times. New York Post.
Demand Safe Schools campaign. Risks 959. 8 August 2020

Britain: HSE accused of being ‘missing in action’ on Covid-19
The Health and Safety Executive’s “worrying lack of on the ground intelligence” on the workplace Covid-19 crisis and a shocking failure to inspect workplaces has been criticised in a new report. ‘Abdication’, an analysis of HSE’s performance throughout the crisis, says the ‘absentee regulator’ is unaware of outbreaks and is failing to either undertake inspections or enforcement action for criminal breaches of reporting and safety rules related to Covid-19.
Abdication: HSE has been missing in action throughout the Covid-19 crisis, Hazards, number 150, 2020, and Hazards infections special issue. ETUC note on occupational health and safety violations under Covid-19. Covid-19 disease reports to HSE.
EVENT: Safety reps taking the lead – during and after Covid-19, Hazards Campaign national Hazards Conference 2020 workshop, 12:00 noon, 1 August. Risks 958. 1 August 2020

Britain: Data flaws exposed on Oldham spike link to high risk jobs
A surge in Covid-19 cases in Oldham has been linked to “at-risk occupations”, but concerns have been raised about poor or absent data on occupation in virus testing results. Katrina Stephens, director of public health for Oldham council, said the new cases involved younger people, aged 20 to 40, and many were in areas of high deprivation; she added they were likely to be among those in “at-risk occupations,” such as warehouse workers, taxi drivers, manufacturing jobs and health and social care workers.
BBC News Online. The Guardian. ITV News. Risks 958. 1 August 2020

Britain: Royal Mail warned it could face Covid action
Royal Mail has been warned it could face enforcement action unless it acts on a catalogue of safety failings at a mail centre and a delivery office in Kent. The Communication Workers’ Union (CWU) said the safety shortcomings identified by a Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspector had earlier been drawn to the attention of management by CWU area safety representatives (ASRs).
CWU bulletin. Risks 958. 1 August 2020

Britain: PCS says no return without consultation
Government departments must consult ‘properly’ with PCS over safe working before submitting plans to get more people back into their workplaces, the civil service union has said. The union was commenting after talks with Cabinet Office officials on 27 July, where they discussed civil service chief executive Alex Chisholm’s letter instructing departments to accelerate the return to the workplace from 1 August.
PCS news release, related news release and Mark Serwotka video message. Daily Mail. The Express. Civil Service World. Risks 958. 1 August 2020

Britain: More cleaners needed to make schools safe
Some cleaners in English schools are still having to work without protective kit and are not given the ‘deep-clean’ training needed to keep people safe, a UNISON survey has found. The union is calling on the government to provide schools with money to hire extra cleaners.
UNISON news release. Risks 958. 1 August 2020

Britain: Earlier lockdown would have saved bus driver lives
Imposing an earlier lockdown in England would have saved workers’ lives, according to a report into the high death rate of London bus drivers in the pandemic by a leading expert on health and social inequalities. Male London bus drivers aged 20 to 65 were 3.5 times more likely to die from Covid-19 between March and May than men in other occupations across England and Wales, said Sir Michael Marmot of the Institute of Health Equity (IHE).
Institute of Health Equity (IHE) news release. London Bus Drivers Review, IHE, 2020. TfL statement. The Guardian. Morning Star. Risks 958. 1 August 2020

Britain: Public inquiry call into bus worker virus deaths
Poor working conditions have been an unacceptable contributor to the high Covid-19 death toll affecting bus drivers, Unite has said. Commenting on the Transport for London (TfL) commissioned report that found an earlier lockdown would have saved lives amongst London bus drivers, Unite regional officer John Murphy said: “This report makes it quite clear that in its approach to lockdown the government tried to lock the stable door after the horse had bolted.”
Unite news release. Risks 958. 1 August 2020

Britain: Bus report an indictment of ‘sluggish’ government
Transport union RMT has slammed the government and employers for a ‘sluggish and irresponsible’ response to the Covid-19 threat to bus workers. The union said among 13 deaths certificates provided by relatives of drivers who died of Covid-19, in seven cases hypertension was identified by the certifying doctor as a contributory factor to the death.
RMT news release. The Guardian. Risks 958. 1 August 2020

Britain: Union welcomes face coverings across transport hubs
A requirement for face covering use in all indoor transport hubs in England has been welcomed by the rail union TSSA. TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes said the mandatory use of face coverings from 24 July applies in all enclosed stations, ports, terminals and airports.
TSSA news release. Risks 958. 1 August 2020

Britain: School staff should be allowed to wear face masks
Unions have called for teachers, support staff and pupils to be allowed to wear face masks in schools in England, in order to protect them and help limit the spread of coronavirus. The government does not currently recommend the use of face coverings in schools.
The Guardian. Risks 958. 1 August 2020

Britain: Union calls for public support for shopworkers
Retail union Usdaw is urging shoppers to support shopworkers, as the wearing of face coverings became mandatory in shops in England. The union is asking shoppers to follow the law by wearing a face covering, while following existing social distancing and hygiene procedures.
Usdaw news release. Risks 958. 1 August 2020

Britain: Concrete plant shuts after Covid cluster
Balfour Beatty has closed down its concrete manufacturing plant in Bristol after 20 workers tested positive for Covid-19. The Avonmouth factory produces concrete segments for Balfour’s tunnelling contract at Hinkley Point C.
Construction Enquirer. Risks 958. 1 August 2020

Britain: Firefighters agree to continue ‘vital’ coronavirus role
Firefighters have agreed to continue aiding the coronavirus response, warning that the virus threat “remains serious” despite the government’s easing of lockdown restrictions. Their union FBU has assured the public that “firefighters aren’t going to abandon their communities now,” as preparations for a second wave of Covid-19 infections commence.
FBU news release. Risks 958. 1 August 2020

Global: Paper sector campaigns reinvented for Covid-19
Unions in the pulp and paper industry from around 20 countries have met online to analyse and formulate their organising response to Covid-19 on the sector. Sector co-chairs Leeann Foster, international vice-president of North American union USW and Pontus Georgsson, president of Swedish union Pappers, stressed the pandemic has underlined the importance of health and safety at work.
IndustriALL news release. Risks 958. 1 August 2020

Malaysia: Union leader targeted for safety warnings
A Malaysian union leader has faced government harassment since airing safety concerns in a report for Channel 4 News in the UK. N Gopalkishnam, the targeted union leader, said the government should focus instead on taking serious steps to ensure the safety and health of workers in factories exporting personal protective equipment.
IndustriALL news report. Risks 958. 1 August 2020

USA: Regulator told to release work injury and illness data
The US workplace safety regulator OSHA must make public workplace injuries and illnesses records, a federal court has ruled. The just announced decision came in response to a legal challenge by rights advocacy group Public Citizen and means OSHA has until 18 August to provide the data from 237,000 employers, under a federal court ruling that ends a two-year battle over the agency’s controversial electronic record-keeping rule.
Public Citizen news release. Business Insurance. Risks 958. 1 August 2020

Britain: Government ‘passing the buck’ on workplace risks
Business leaders have joined trade unions in warning Boris Johnson he risks spreading confusion by making em ployers decide when to bring back their staff to offices and other workplaces. In a 17 July statement, the prime minister announced: “From 1 August, we will update our advice on going to work.”
TUC news release. Prime minister’s statement. CBI news release. BCC news release. The Guardian and related video. BBC News Online.
Find links to many employer Covid-Secure risk assessments at the TUC's new website. Workers and employers can add details of their own assessments to the database. Risks 957. 25 July 2020

Britain: Unions accuse PM of ‘dangerous’ return to work push
Unions have accused the prime minister of a failure of leadership as he passed responsibility for keeping people safe to employers and local authorities. Commenting after Boris Johnson’s call for a much wider return to the workplace from 1 August, GMB acting general secretary John Phillips said: “The prime minister has once again shown a failure of leadership in the face of this pandemic.”
ASLEF news release. GMB news release. RMT news release. TSSA news release. Evening Standard. Morning Star. Risks 957. 25 July 2020

Britain: Government was told poor sick pay was an infection factor
An admission by the government’s top medical adviser that it failed to recognise the workplace circumstances that helped spread Covid-19 has been slammed by the union GMB. In evidence to the Commons Health and Social Care Committee on 21 July, chief medical officer Chris Whitty said “we hadn’t recognised what in retrospect are obvious but were not recognised at the time... people who were working at multiple homes. People without sick leave etc.”
GMB news release. The Times. ITV News. Risks 957. 25 July 2020

Britain: Nearly half NHS workers were infected at Covid peak
Nearly half of NHS workers were infected with Covid during the peak of the pandemic, research suggests. Sir Paul Nurse, Francis Crick Institute director, told MPs that “up to 45 per cent” of healthcare workers were infected in April.
Francis Crick Institute news release. The Sun. Daily Mail. The Telegraph.
Catherine F Houlihan and others. Pandemic peak SARS-CoV-2 infection and seroconversion rates in London frontline health-care workers, The Lancet, Online First, 9 July 2020. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(20)31484-7 Risks 957. 25 July 2020

Britain: Call centre outbreak reinforces union engagement call
A Covid-19 outbreak linked to a Scottish call centre underlines the need for strong safety guidance and union engagement, STUC has said. The Scottish national union body was commenting after health officials said they were investigating an outbreak of coronavirus at an NHS test and trace call centre in North Lanarkshire - Sitel, which carries out contact tracing for the NHS, said it was aware of a “local outbreak” at its Motherwell site.
STUC news release. BBC News Online. Glasgow Live. The Guardian.
Call centre report, Professor Phil Taylor, University of Strathclyde. Risks 957. 25 July 2020

Britain: STUC welcomes renewed ‘fair work’ deal for Scotland
The STUC has welcomed the signing of a ‘refreshed’ statement on fair work principles including commitments from the Scottish government, business groups, trades unions and leaders from local government and the third sector to put fair work at the heart of Scotland’s economic recovery. Organisations including STUC, the Institute of Directors (IoD), SCDI, COSLA and SCVO have signed a statement supporting the collaboration.
STUC news release. Scottish government news release. Glasgow Live.
Revised Fair Work Statement and Fair Work Convention website. Risks 957. 25 July 2020

Britain: PCS prioritises safety at under pressure passport offices
Civil service union PCS has said the safety of its members must be the ‘primary concern’ as pressure builds to deal with lengthy delays in processing passport applications. The union said small and often cramped offices mean social distancing is difficult to observe and as a result Her Majesty’s Passport Office (HMPO) is struggling to get its 4,000 staff members back into the workplace.
PCS news release. Risks 957. 25 July 2020

Britain: Dip and deli food processor in work virus cluster
All workers at a food processing plant in south Wales are to be tested for coronavirus after four people associated with the factory tested positive for Covid-19. Public Health Wales (PHW) said it was investigating the cause of the confirmed cases associated with Zorba Delicacies, which produces dips, deli fillers and soups.
South Wales Argus. Wales Online. BBC News Online. The Mirror. Risks 957. 25 July 2020

Britain: Government 'must stop garment worker exploitation'
More than 50 MPs and peers have written to the home secretary urging her to do more to protect UK garment factory workers from exploitation. It follows reports of staff at factories in Leicester being underpaid and unprotected from Covid-19.
BRC news release and joint letter. BBC News Online. The Guardian. Risks 957. 25 July 2020

Britain: Boohoo calls for licensing scheme for textile factories
Scandal-hit retailer Boohoo has called on the UK government to introduce a licensing scheme to ensure textile factories are fit to trade. The move comes after allegations of malpractice by the online fashion group’s suppliers.
The Guardian. Evening Standard. Risks 957. 25 July 2020

Britain: Stress-out Covid nurses told 'lives would be made hell'
Hospital nurses were told their “lives would be made hell” if they complained over conditions on a coronavirus ward, UNISON has said. The union has raised a group grievance for 36 employees, most of them nurses, at Nottingham University Hospitals Trust.
BBC News Online. ITV News. Risks 957. 25 July 2020

Britain: More talks needed on Scottish schools return
Teaching union EIS has welcomed the publication of the scientific advice on how schools in Scotland might reopen, but has said ‘significant discussion’ is still needed around actual practical guidelines. EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan said: “The recent experience of Israel, where levels of infection have soared again following the removal of mitigations, is a stark reminder that the virus remains a threat.”
EIS news release. Advice from COVID Advisory Sub-Group on School transport and Social distancing. Risks 957. 25 July 2020

Britain: Belly Mujinga petition smashes 2m signature mark
Rail union TSSA has described as ‘incredible’ news that the petition calling for 'Justice for Belly Mujinga' has now garnered more than two million signatures. TSSA member died of Covid-19 in April after being redeployed to the concourse at London’s Victoria station despite having an existing respiratory condition.
TSSA news release. Risks 957. 25 July 2020

Australia: Work linked to 4-in-5 new coronavirus cases
As New South Wales and Victoria face rising numbers of coronavirus cases, there are growing calls for Australia’s federal government to do more to protect workers. On 19 July, Victorian premier Daniel Andrews acknowledged the state’s spike could largely be traced back to spread between employees, noting: “About 80 per cent of our new cases since May are being driven by transmission in workplaces.”
Victorian state government news release. Business Insider. Daily Mail. Risks 957. 25 July 2020

USA: Congress urged to slow meat plant line speeds
The US foodworkers’ union UFCW has called on Congress to pass immediately the Safe Line Speeds in Covid-19 Act. The measure, introduced in the House of Representatives, would mandate a reduction in the dangerously fast line speeds which have made many meatpacking plants coronavirus hotspots.
IUF news release. Risks 957. 25 July 2020

USA: Employees track Covid-19 outbreaks
Unions and advocate groups have taken up Covid-19 tracking, creating lists or building online maps of stores where workers can self-report cases they know about. Marc Perrone, the president of the union UFCW which represents grocery and meatpacking workers, called it “stunning” that this many months into the pandemic “some of America's largest companies still refuse to release this information.”
New York Times. CTV News. WFMJ News. United for Respect. Risks 957. 25 July 2020

Britain: Sick easyJet redundancy scheme is unsafe, warns union
An easyJet plan to use sickness records in its selection of pilots for redundancy is ‘outrageous’ and unsafe, the pilots’ union BALPA has warned. The union was commenting after the airline announced its proposals to select 727 pilots for the axe.
BALPA news release. BBC News Online. Daily Mail. Risks 956. 18 July 2020

Britain: Face coverings in England's shops to be compulsory
Retail trade union Usdaw has welcomed the mandatory wearing of face coverings in shops, but warns it will only be effective alongside existing social distancing and hygiene procedures. The union comments came after the government announced wearing a face covering in shops and supermarkets in England is to become mandatory from 24 July.
Usdaw news release. BBC News Online. The Guardian and related report. Risks 956. 18 July 2020

Britain: Shop unions and retailers must be consulted on face coverings
Retail trade union Usdaw has said it is concerned that the health secretary did not indicate he will engage with the union and retailers on detailed guidance for the mandatory wearing of face coverings in shops. Usdaw general secretary Paddy Lillis, commenting on Matt Hancock’s 14 July statement to the House of Commons, said: “We urge them to develop and agree that with Usdaw and retail employers, as we successfully did on joint safety guidance for the reopening of high street shops with the British Retail Consortium.”
Usdaw news release. Risks 956. 18 July 2020

Britain: Shame of our high health worker death rates
The union GMB has said the UK government has ‘utterly failed’ health care workers after a report revealed more than 540 health and social workers have died of Covid-19 in England and Wales, compared to a worldwide total of 3,000 deaths in these jobs. The Amnesty International report makes wide-ranging recommendations, including provision of full PPE and other protections to all at-risk workers, recognition of Covid-19 as an occupational disease, compensation for all those made sick as a result of ‘work-related activities’, and protection of workers from any disadvantage for raising safety concerns.
GMB news release. Amnesty International news release. Exposed, silenced, attacked: Failures to protect health & essential workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, Amnesty international, 14 July 2020. Risks 956. 18 July 2020

Britain: WHO shouldn’t gamble with our health
Health service workers could have been exposed to deadly Covid-19 risks because the World Health Organisation (WHO) refused to give their safety the benefit of the doubt, a global union has said. Public Service International (PSI) said u a 5 June recommendation on masks, WHO admitted its guidance – followed by the UK and other governments – was tailored to fit the “availability of medical masks versus respirators, cost and procurement implications, feasibility, equity of access to these respiratory protections by health workers around the world,” with PSI noting this approach has allowed “corporations’ wealth to be prioritised over people’s health.”
PSI news report. Transmission of SARS-CoV-2: implications for infection prevention precautions, 9 July 2020 update, WHO. Risks 956. 18 July 2020

Britain: Unite welcomes Welsh transport masks move
Unite has ‘warmly welcomed’ the decision by the Welsh government to make the use of face coverings mandatory on public transport. Three-layer face coverings will be mandatory on all public transport in Wales including taxis from 27 July, first minister Mark Drakeford said.
Updated Welsh government transport safety guidance. Unite news release. BBC News Online. Risks 956. 18 July 2020

Britain: Unions welcome schools reopening plan for Wales
Unions in Wales have welcomed Welsh government plans for school reopening. The unions were commenting after education minister Kirsty Williams confirmed there would be a full opening of schools in September.
Welsh government news release and related news release. NEU Cymru news release. NASUWT news release. Wales TUC news release. GMB news release. Risks 956. 18 July 2020

Britain: Large farm outbreak exposes new work hubs
Around 200 staff at the vegetable farm and packing business AS Green & Co in Herefordshire have been ordered to isolate on the property after at least 74 workers tested positive for the virus, prompting concerns about safety standards in agriculture.  Concerns have been raised about working conditions on the farm prior to the outbreak, with unions warning that coronavirus was “lifting up a stone” on the situation in workplaces such as textile factories, meat processing plants and now farms.
The Guardian. BBC News Online. Risks 956. 18 July 2020

Britain: Food firm virus sick pay rethink welcomed
Unite has welcomed a u-turn by Covid-19 hit firm Rowan Foods which has now agreed to pay company sick pay to anyone testing positive or isolating. Unite regional officer Dave Griffiths, commenting after a meeting with the Wrexham firm, said: “Unite believes that the payment of sick pay for Covid affected workers at Rowan Foods will help enormously in containing this outbreak and limiting wider community spread.”
Unite news release. Risks 956. 18 July 2020

Britain: All workers in Blackburn told to wear masks
New measures to curb the spread of Covid-19 in Blackburn with Darwen have been introduced after a spike in cases. For the next month, residents are being told to wear cloth face coverings in all enclosed public spaces, including workplaces, libraries, museums, health centres and hair and beauty salons.
Blackburn and Darwen Council news update. BBC News Online. The Guardian. Lancashire Telegraph. Risks 956. 18 July 2020

Britain: Hospitality businesses in Scotland must step up
As Scotland took its biggest step so far in the easing of lockdown, Scotland’s national union organisation STUC has warned employers to step up on staff safety. Commenting ahead of the re-opening of indoor hospitality on 15 July, Roz Foyer, STUC general secretary, called on workers to ensure that their employers do not skirt their safety obligations.
STUC news release and Better Than Zero webpages. Risks 956. 18 July 2020

Britain: Unite concern at new site PPE and hygiene guidance
Construction union Unite has said it will not support latest industry guidance until major failings on personal protective equipment (PPE) and hygiene are addressed. It says the new version of the Construction Leadership Council’s site operating procedures (SOP) have major safety failings and potential ‘illegalities’, including the advice relating to the use and supply of PPE when a two metre distance cannot be maintained, and the ‘wrong and potentially illegal information’ regarding site deliveries.
Unite news release. Risks 956. 18 July 2020

Britain: Regulators too weak and unprepared for pandemic
An occupational health and safety expert has said UK’s regulators were under-resourced and under-prepared when the coronavirus [SARS-CoV-2] pandemic hit, with the workplace enforcement agency the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) going ‘missing’. Stirling University professor Andrew Watterson said the Leicester lockdown “continues to expose even wider and still neglected policy failings along with inadequate national, regional and local capacity relating to information, surveillance and inspection of workplaces.”
BMJ Rapid Response, 11 July 2020. Risks 956. 18 July 2020

Britain: Covid exposes need to address HSE’s ‘chronic’ problems
Prospect members in the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have reacted angrily after it was revealed that inspectors who have left are being offered short-term contracts on beneficial terms to return to help with Covid spot checks. Retirees and people who left for other employment are being offered pay levels at the top of their former bands to return to work for eight months.
Prospect news release. Risks 956. 18 July 2020

Australia: New outbreak closes giant JBS abbatoir
Unions have warned that workers at a giant JBS abattoir in Melbourne hit by a Covid-19 outbreak must continue to be paid after the company was ordered to close its doors. United Workers Union said workers at JBS have continued to work at a backbreaking pace to keep up with panic buying, even during the worst of the pandemic, and in return the company needs to ensure all workers are paid during the site closure.
United Workers Union news release. Risks 956. 18 July 2020

Global: Covid-19 seafarers’ rights agreement welcomed
New international measures to protect the rights of seafarers, stranded at sea because of the Covid-19 crisis, has been welcomed by the International Labour Organisation (ILO). A joint statement signed by more than a dozen countries gives seafarers enhanced rights as ‘key workers’.
ILO news release. DfT news release. Joint statement on crew changes. Risks 956. 18 July 2020

India: ‘Industrial homicide’ during Covid-19 kills at least 75
There have been more than 30 industrial accidents in India since May, killing at least 75 workers and injuring over a hundred, IndustriALL has said. These numbers are based on reported incidents and the real number may be far higher, the global union has said.
IndustriALL news release. Risks 956. 18 July 2020

Morocco: Berry plants ‘breeding grounds’ for coronavirus
A sharp rise in Covid-19 cases in Morocco has been linked to international berry processing plants. The plants owned by Spanish multinationals Frigodar and Natberry operate in the agricultural region between Larache and Rabat, and specialise in the packing and freezing of berries.
ETUI news report. Risks 956. 18 July 2020

Global: WHO urged to act on big Covid-19 airborne risks
A letter signed by over 200 scientists from around the world has urged the World Health Organisation (WHO) to recognise Covid-19 can be spread by ‘aerosol’ or ‘airborne’ transmission and called on the UN body to revise its guidance. On 7 July, WHO acknowledged there could be a problem and said it plans to review its advice.
Lidia Morawska, Donald K Milton. It is Time to Address Airborne Transmission of COVID-19, Clinical Infectious Diseases, ciaa939, 6 July 2020.  New York Times and follow up article. CNN News. LA Times. BBC News Online. Risks 955. 11 July 2020

Global: Workers are dying while WHO fails to move
Until the World Health Organisation (WHO) revises it guidance on personal protective equipment, physical distancing and other protective measures in the workplace, workers will continue to die unnecessarily, global unions have warned. WHO has denied repeatedly that there is evidence for the airborne mode of transmission, instead saying the risk was limited to droplet transmission from close contact with infected individuals.
A safe and healthy return to work during the COVID-19 pandemic, ILO policy brief, 22 May 2020.  Key issues on the return to work, ITUC Covid-19 briefing, 15 May 2020. ITUC and Council of Global Unions letters calling for recognition of Covid-19 as on occupational disease. Risks 955. 11 July 2020

Britain: Most testing positive for coronavirus have no symptoms
Only 22 per cent of people testing positive for coronavirus reported having symptoms on the day of their test, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). The figures published on 7 July demonstrate the importance of ‘asymptomatic transmission’ - spread of the virus by people who aren't sick or aware they're carrying it.
Coronavirus (COVID-19) infections in the community in England: July 2020. Characteristics of people testing positive for the coronavirus (COVID-19) in England from the COVID-19 Infection Survey, ONS, 7 July 2020. BBC News Online. Risks 955. 11 July 2020

Britain: One in ten Covid-19 cases in health and care workers
An estimated 10 per cent of all covid-19 infections in England between 26 April and 7 June were among healthcare workers or social care workers interacting directly with patients or care home residents, according to a new report. The research was carried out by Data Evaluation and Learning for Viral Epidemics (DELVE) – an independent group of researchers convened by the Royal Society.
Scoping Report on Hospital and Health Care Acquisition of COVID-19 and its Control, Royal Society DELVE Initiative, DELVE report number 3, 6 July 2020. New Scientist. The Telegraph. Daily Mail. Risks 955. 11 July 2020

Britain: Chancellor backs down on Covid tests tax
The chancellor, Rishi Sunak, has reversed a decision to force workers to pay income tax on Covid-19 tests purchased by their employers. HMRC guidance stated that workers would face a taxable benefit in kind when their employer pays for coronavirus testing, meaning a reduction in take-home pay.
The Guardian. Treasury Committee news release and letter to the Chancellor. HMRC guidance, 6 July 2020. BBC News Online. Risks 955. 11 July 2020

Britain: Boohoo to investigate suppliers over exploitation claims
The online fashion retailer Boohoo is launching an independent review of its UK supply chain after allegations that some factories in Leicester that sell clothes to Boohoo paid workers below the minimum wage and failed to protect them from the coronavirus outbreak. The company had more than £1bn wiped off its value on 6 July as it pledged to investigate renewed claims staff making its products in the city were being exploited and put in danger.
Labour Behind the Label publication notice and report, Boohoo and Covid-19: the people behind the profits, June 2020. The Guardian and related story. BBC News Online and related story. Morning Star. Financial Times. Risks 955. 11 July 2020

Britain: Second bed factory suffers outbreak
A West Yorkshire bed firm has been hit by a coronavirus outbreak just days after an outbreak at another bed firm just four miles away. Wakefield Council confirmed Deep Sleep Beds UK Ltd in Ossett has had four employees test positive for Covid-19, and follows one at Batley's DuraBeds factory a week earlier, where eight employees tested positive.
The Examiner. BBC News Online. Risks 955. 11 July 2020

Britain: Second Asda meat factory hit by coronavirus cluster
A second Asda-owned meat factory in West Yorkshire has been hit by a coronavirus cluster, with 17 workers testing positive last week. Further cases are being investigated at Forza Foods in Normanton, with 300 staff offered tests and told to self-isolate at home.
BBC News Online. Risks 955. 11 July 2020

Britain: Government has no plans to tackle PPE shortages
The government still has no proper plans to ensure that hospitals and care homes have sufficient personal protective equipment (PPE) to deal with a second wave of coronavirus, MPs have warned. The cross-party Commons public accounts committee said the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) was not treating the issue with “sufficient urgency.”
House of Commons Public Accounts Committee news release and report summary, conclusions and recommendations and full report. Morning Star. The Independent. BBC News Online. Risks 955. 11 July 2020

Britain: Anger at huge national stockpiles of unusable PPE
Almost 80 per cent of respirators in the national pandemic stockpile were out of date when coronavirus hit the UK, a Channel 4 News investigation has found. The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has issued safety warnings, notices for disposal, and distribution stoppages for 85 million masks and respirators, according to an investigation.
Channel 4 News. Morning Star. Risks 955. 11 July 2020

Britain: Coronavirus sick pay win for 15,000 care workers
Unions have won full sick pay for at least 15,000 care workers employed by Four Seasons Health Care (FSHC). Negotiations by GMB, RCN and UNISON secured full pay for any coronavirus-related absence for all staff at the company's care facilities.
GMB news release. Risks 955. 11 July 2020

Britain: PCS challenges HSE on air conditioning and fan claims
Civil service union PCS has written to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) asking the regulator to revisit its position on the use of air conditioning systems and ceiling and desk fans in light of emerging scientific evidence. The union’s move came after HSE published a statement claiming air conditioning systems and desk fans pose ‘an extremely low risk’ in the transmission of coronavirus.
PCS news release. HSE statement. Risks 955. 11 July 2020

Britain: Union demands clarity on English schools return
School leaders in England need clear guidance based on scientific evidence, teaching union NEU has said, but instead they are confronted by a government “rushing through ideas that seem more based on hope than on science.” Commenting on guidance issued today by the Department for Education, intended to prepare schools for full opening from September, Kevin Courtney, NEU joint general secretary, said: “A poor plan, such as this one, risks failing children, parents and staff alike.”
NEU news release. Department for Education guidance. Risks 955. 11 July 2020

Britain: Scottish teachers have fears over August return
Only just over a quarter of teachers in Scotland think it will be safe for their pupils to return to their school or college in August, a survey by the teaching union NASUWT has found. Nearly half (49 per cent) of teachers who responded to the survey said they do not feel prepared to return to their school or college in August and just 22 per cent said they feel safe or very safe as a result of the provisions their employer is putting in place to mitigate the risks of Covid-19.
NASUWT news release. Risks 955. 11 July 2020

Britain: Unscrupulous employers must not exploit distancing change
A relaxation of social distancing rules in Scotland must not be used by unscrupulous employers to risk workers’ health, national union federation STUC has said. Commenting after Scotland’s first minister's announced the country “will retain 2 metres as the default physical distancing requirement” but allow a relaxation of social distancing in transport, outdoor hospitality and retail, STUC general secretary Roz Foyer, said: “It is clear that the scientific advice has not changed – relaxing social distancing from 2 metres to 1 metre comes with increased risk – between two and tenfold.”
STUC news release. Scottish government news release. Risks 955. 11 July 2020

Britain: Commons catering staff may refuse unsafe work
Catering staff at the House of Commons could be advised to walk out if health and safety measures are not put in place, their union has warned. The London region of the GMB union is calling on management to adhere to regulations and the government’s guidance on Covid-19, and to meet key coronavirus safety tests.
Morning Star. Risks 955. 11 July 2020

Global: OECD backs paid Covid-19 sick leave
Paid sick leave can be a particularly effective tool in addressing the coronavirus crisis, an Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) analysis has concluded. The OECD concludes that paid sick leave can be a particularly effective tool, as part of a rigorous testing, tracking, tracing and isolating strategy
OECD TUAC news release. OECD policy brief on sick leave. Risks 955. 11 July 2020

South Africa: Thousands of miners hit by Covid-19
Mining industry figures show 18 mineworkers in South Africa have so far died from Covid-19, with nearly 3,000 workers testing positive for the virus. The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) wants the government to shut down mines that fail to comply with healthy and safety regulations, and arrest mine managers found to be flouting the law.
News 24. Risks 955. 11 July 2020

Britain: UNISON safety rep recruitment drive amid Covid crisis
UNISON is launching a ‘Be on the safe side’ campaign to recruit more safety reps in workplaces across the UK. The public sector union said the move comes in the wake of its tireless campaign to protect its members at work during the Covid-19 pandemic. UNISON added it has supported its safety reps in carrying out their difficult role, whether ensuring that members have access to correct PPE, conducting workplace risk assessments or addressing the particular risks to Black and vulnerable workers.
UNISON news release and pointers on becoming a UNISON health and safety rep. UNISON campaign on twitter: #BeOnTheSafeSide. Risks 854. 4 July 2020

Britain: Covid workplace guidance ‘not fit for purpose’
The GMB has slammed the government’s updated Covid-19 workplace guidance, warning it will not protect workers or head off a second spike. Commenting on updated guidance issued on 24 June, GMB national health and safety officer Dan Shears said: “The government's guidance is still not fit for purpose.
GMB news release. UK guidance on Working safely during coronavirus (Covid-19) and updates webpage. HSE guidelines: Working safely during the coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak; PPE guidelines; Manufacturing: returning to work safely during the coronavirus outbreak, HSE, June 2020. Risks 854. 4 July 2020

Britain: Public enquiry ‘imperative’ on inequality and work practices
Unite is calling for an urgent ‘warts and all’ public inquiry into the death rates of workers from Covid-19 during the pandemic. The union made its call following the publication this week of the latest Office of National Statistics (ONS) report into deaths by occupation up to 25 May 2020.
Unite news release. Coronavirus (COVID-19) related deaths by occupation, England and Wales: deaths registered between 9 March and 25 May 2020, ONS, 26 June 2020. Risks 854. 4 July 2020

Britain: Care staff death rate a national scandal, says UNISON
High Covid-19 death rates in men and women working in social care in England and Wales are a “national scandal”, public sector union UNISON has said. In its latest report, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported the “rates of death involving the coronavirus (Covid-19) among men and women social care workers were found to be statistically significantly higher than the rates of death involving Covid-19 among those of the same age and sex in England and Wales.”
UNISON news release. ONS figures of death rates in health and social care workers. Risks 854. 4 July 2020

Britain: 'Gruesome' figures show keyworkers need urgent protection
New Office of National Statistics (ONS) figures on Covid-19 related deaths show keyworkers need urgent protection, the GMB has said. The data show that workers in care, security, professional driving, nursing and other occupations are the most likely to die from Covid-19.
GMB news release. Risks 854. 4 July 2020

Britain: Meat workers put at risk by safety check failures
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has failed to carry out basic on-site Covid-19 safety assessments, which has put hundreds of workers at risk of coronavirus infection in the meat slaughter and processing industry in England and Wales, UNISON has warned. The union raised its concerns in a letter to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) on 3 June, which is now investigating whether there have been breaches of safety regulations over the failure to carry out proper workplace risk assessments.
UNISON news release and 3 June 2020 letter to HSE. Risks 854. 4 July 2020

Britain: Welsh meat plant ‘must comply’ with new guidance
Unite has said a Covid-19 hit meat processing plant must comply with new Welsh government guidance aimed at the prevention and management of the outbreak in the food sector. The guidance states that employers in the sector should ensure that employees “do not suffer a financial detriment as a result of self-isolation.”
Unite news release. Welsh government statement, 26 June 2020. Wrexham News. The Metro. Risks 854. 4 July 2020

Britain: Wales must not act like ‘reckless’ UK government
The Welsh government should not follow the ‘reckless’ example of the UK government and must instead continue to prioritise the safety of workers and maintain a cautious approach to the easing of the lockdown, the Wales TUC has said. General secretary Shavanah Taj said: “The greatest risk facing the Welsh economy remains a failure to get the coronavirus under control.”
Wales TUC news release. Risks 854. 4 July 2020

Britain: ‘Second spike’ danger from transport masks failings
A second spike in Covid-19 infections is becoming ‘ever more likely’ due to increasing non-compliance with face covering and social distancing rules on public transport, Unite has said. The union warning came after transport secretary Grant Shapps announced that bus and rail timetables will return to 85 per cent of normal services in early July.
Unite news release. Risks 854. 4 July 2020

Britain: Two metre rule to stay on public transport
Transport union TSSA has said it is ‘pleased’ new government guidance for England continues to stress social distancing measures of at least two metres should remain in place across the transport network and says people should continue to work from home if possible. The Department for Transport (DfT) updated guidance, published on 29 June, says: “Passengers and people working on the transport network should maintain 2 metres distance from people outside their household or support bubble where possible, because the risk of transmission is small at this distance.”
TSSA news release. Department for Transport (DfT) updated guidance. Risks 854. 4 July 2020

Britain: Leicester lockdown must come with job protection
Unite has said the lockdown intended to reverse the surge in Covid-19 cases in Leicester will not be effective unless jobs and incomes are protected. Health secretary Matt Hancock told the Commons on 29 June that non-essential shops in the city will shut on 30 June, and schools will close for most pupils on 1 July, with the stricter lockdown continuing for at least two weeks.
Unite news release. Leicester City Council news release. BBC News Online. Leicester Mercury. Risks 854. 4 July 2020

Britain: Unions welcome Labour’s ‘Care for Carers’ call
The unions GMB, Unite and UNISON have backed Labour’s call for a ‘Care for Carers’ package to provide mental health support to 3 million NHS and care staff. GMB said MPs, including shadow minister for mental health Dr Rosena Allin-Khan, had heard GMB members tell of huge stress as a result of the lack of PPE and the risk that poses to their own health and the health of their families.
Labour Party news release. GMB news release. Unite news release. UNISON news release. Risks 854. 4 July 2020

Britain: Concern at plans to scrap social distancing in schools
The government needs to agree a ‘coherent’ strategy for reopening schools safely, teaching unions have said. Commenting on leaked reports that the government will remove social distancing requirements in schools by September, they said schools and parents needed the government to provide the ‘necessary evidence’ and strategy for a return for all pupils.
NEU news release and NEU's 10 point National Education Recovery Plan. NASUWT news release. BBC News Online. Risks 854. 4 July 2020

Britain: School cleaners, janitors and support staff 'do not feel safe'
More than 1,700 school cleaners, janitors and support staff in Scotland have told the country’s leader they do not feel safe at work and are being put at risk every day. In an open letter to Nicola Sturgeon, the GMB members raised concerns over personal protective equipment (PPE) and risk assessments.
BBC News Online. Risks 854. 4 July 2020

Britain: PCS warns reopening jobcentres creates ‘perfect storm’
The reopening jobcentres as early as next week could create a perfect storm as staff and customers are faced with a lack of social distancing, inadequate personal protective equipment and the real risk of Covid-19 being brought into workplaces, civil service union PCS has said. While the reopening is understood to be gradual, the union said a lack of adequate protection for staff and customers “could lead to pandemonium.”
PCS news release. Risks 854. 4 July 2020

Britain: Masks shortage must not put site worker lives at risk
Construction union Unite is urging workers not to risk their health if they are not supplied with the correct personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect against dust, fumes and other site hazards. The union’s warning came after a survey by trade bodies ECA, BESA, SELECT, SNIPEF, LEIA and the CICV Forum found over six in 10 engineering services businesses (63 per cent) were struggling to obtain respiratory protective equipment.
Unite news release. ECA news release. Construction Enquirer. Risks 854. 4 July 2020

Europe: Probe exposes trucking ‘pandemic of exploitation’
Road transport companies are using Covid-19 to further exploit truck drivers and cut transport prices, pay, conditions and health and safety across Europe, an investigation from union bodies FNV-VNB, ITF and IUF has revealed. A new report and documentary video released by the groups reveals that human trafficking is alive in European trucking, and has uncovered shocking human rights abuses on the doorstep of the European Union, said Stephen Cotton, general secretary of the global transport union ITF.
ITF news release, report and documentary video. Risks 854. 4 July 2020

Germany: Meat union demands strict regulation and enforcement
New coronavirus hotspots in Germany's meat processing plants have highlighted the massive abuse of subcontracted migrant labour on which the industry depends, unions have said. Draft legislation published in May 2020 and due to take effect on 1 January 2021 would require the meat companies to directly employ their workforce, impose new oversight of working hours and payment and enforce strict liability for violations.
IUF news release. Risks 854. 4 July 2020

Germany: Amazon workers walk out over outbreaks
Amazon warehouse workers in Germany walked out this week after staff at several logistics centres tested positive for the coronavirus. The strikes hit six of the e-commerce giant’s warehouses across the country.
CNBC News. The Verge. Risks 854. 4 July 2020

India: Advocacy group condemns release of LG managers
A workplace and environment health advocacy group has slammed an Indian court decision that has allowed three South Koreans managers at a LG Polymers plant where a deadly gas leak occurred to leave the country. The Asian Network for the Rights of Occupational and Environmental Victims (ANROEV) said the passports of the South Korean bosses had been confiscated because of the importance of their evidence in the ongoing investigation in the styrene monomer vapour leak from a storage tank at the plant owned by the Korean multinational LG Chem – the incident occurred as it rushed to restart production after the coronavirus shutdown.
The Hindu. Risks 854. 4 July 2020

Britain: Wide concern as lockdown relaxed and 2m rule eased
Unions have warned that workers could be put at risk as a result of a government decision this week to weaken lockdown rules in England. In changes announced on 23 June, prime minister Boris Johnson said people should remain 2 metres apart where possible but a “one metre plus” rule will be introduced from 4 July.
Prime minister’s statement and Prime minister’s office news release. Unite news release. ASLEF news release. RMT news release. TSSA news release. Usdaw news release. GMB news release. UNISON news release. BBC News Online. Risks 953. 27 June 2020

Britain: Rules easing could boost virus, say UK scientists
The easing of multiple lockdown measures in England at once risks Covid-19 gaining a fresh foothold, scientists advising the government have warned. They raised concerns over the halving of the 2-metre physical distancing rule at the same time as reopening venues, saying the country was currently experiencing up to 4,300 Covid-19 infections a day and had no effective digital track-and-trace system, while highlighting research that showed transmission of the virus was more likely to happen indoors.
The Guardian. Risks 953. 27 June 2020

Britain: Two-metre downgrade risks ‘more outbreaks’ for meat industry
Downgrading the two-metre social distancing rule risks causing ‘more outbreaks’ of coronavirus within the meat processing sector, Unite has said. Unite called for ‘significant intervention’ by both the government and employers to prevent Covid-19 spreading at meat processing factories to accompany any downgrading of the social distancing measures, including better health and safety regimes and improvements to testing and tracing.
Unite news release. Risks 953. 27 June 2020

Britain: Mounting concern as coronavirus food plants close
Three large food factories have closed in England and Wales after hundreds of workers tested positive for coronavirus, as the Unite union said it was aware of suspected outbreaks at five other sites across the UK. Bev Clarkson, a national officer at Unite, said there were “major issues” with the health and safety of workers in the meat processing industry and urged employers to implement proper physical distancing and provide adequate protective equipment “to stop further spikes within the sector”.
The Guardian. BBC News Online. The Grocer. US Food and Environment Reporting Network. Risks 953. 27 June 2020

Britain: Action needed to stem Welsh meat plant outbreaks
Employers and the Welsh government must take urgent action before workplace Covid-19 outbreaks spread elsewhere within Wales, the union Unite has said. The union was commenting on 19 June following confirmation of significant outbreaks of Covid-19 at two food production facilities in Wales.
Unite news release. Welsh government news release. Risks 953. 27 June 2020

Britain: Local lockdown 'possibility' for chicken factory outbreak
A local lockdown could be enforced to bring under control a Covid-19 outbreak at a food factory, Public Health Wales has said. PHW’s Giri Shankar said “aggressive control measures” were being used on Anglesey to stop the outbreak which by 22 June had seen 158 workers at a 2 Sisters chicken processing plant in Llangefni test positive for Covid-19.
Unite news release. BBC News Online. Risks 953. 27 June 2020

Britain: Experts warn keep your distance at work
Safety experts have said a reduction in the 2-metre physical distancing rule cannot be justified. The Stirling University commentary on the evidence for and against lowering the separation limit notes: “The arguments for a blanket reduction of 2m in the UK economy do not stack up.”
Keep your distance: Is two metres too far or not far enough to protect from COVID-19 and who benefits and who loses if it is reduced?, Stirling University commentary, 22 June 2020. Environmental Health News. Morning Star. Risks 953. 27 June 2020

Britain: Coronavirus spreads more easily than other viruses
Measures to limit the spread of the coronavirus should have been more stringent because modelling was based on earlier, less transmissible viruses, a new study has indicated. New research, published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases journal, indicates the coronavirus that causes Covid-19 seems to spread far more easily than either severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) or Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), and can be transmitted by people with no symptoms, with “substantial infectivity” during the incubation period.
Qin-Long Jing, Ming-Jin Liu, Zhou-Bin Zhang, Li-Qun Fang, Jun Yuan, An-Ran Zhang and others. Household secondary attack rate of Covid-19 and associated determinants in Guangzhou, China: a retrospective cohort study, The Lancet Infectious Diseases, online first, 17 June 2020. Migrant Clinicians Network blog. Risks 953. 27 June 2020

Britain: HSE hasn’t earned public confidence during pandemic, say MPs
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has not been visible enough during the pandemic and has not got the confidence of the public, a group of cross-party MPs has said. The Work and Pensions Committee report issued on 22 June, and which is highly critical of the safety regulator, noted that during the pandemic, the HSE has so far required just one business to close and had not inspected a single care home since 20 March.
House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee news release and report, DWP's response to the coronavirus outbreak, 22 June 2020. The Independent. Risks 953. 27 June 2020

Britain: Government urged to deploy safety rep ‘army’
Ahead of the UK government announcement on social distancing in England, Unite repeated its offer to deploy its ‘army' of health and safety reps to help keep the country's workplaces safe. The union has also written to the government to raise concerns that trade unions were not asked to contribute to the government's review of the social distancing advice.
Unite news release. Risks 953. 27 June 2020

Britain: Transport unions warn reduced distancing increases risk
Transport unions have warned of the 'increased risks' of reducing social distancing on public transport. In a joint statement ASLEF general secretary Mick Whelan, RMT senior assistant general secretary Mick Lynch and TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes said: “The government’s own advisers have said that reducing social distancing to one metre will significantly increase the chance of infection by up to 30 times whilst the chances of Covid-19 spreading are increased in confined spaces such as train carriages and stations.”
ASLEF news release. RMT news release. TSSA news release. SAGE advisory on mitigating measures, 4 June 2020. Risks 953. 27 June 2020

Britain: Usdaw urges retailers to maintain 2m rule
Shopworkers’ trade union Usdaw is urging retailers to maintain the already agreed joint safety guidance on social distancing in shops at two metres. The union call came after the prime minister announces a ‘one metre plus’ rule for situations where two metre distancing cannot be observed.
Usdaw news release. Review of scientific evidence on 2-metre versus 1-metre social distancing, Independent SAGE press statement, 18 June 2020. Risks 953. 27 June 2020

Britain: Lidl store closure threat over staff distancing concerns
Bosses at a Lidl supermarket in Scotland caught repeatedly flouting coronavirus safety rules have been told by council enforcement officers the store could be closed if the dangerous practices continued. The Greenock store has been the focus of a series of secret unannounced visits by council health and safety officers after serious concerns were expressed by staff.
Scottish Hazards statement. Greenock Telegraph. Risks 953. 27 June 2020

Britain: For safety’s sake, schools need more teachers and space
While it is in favour of all children being back in school, teaching union NEU has warned that even with a one-metre rule, schools will need more teachers and more space. Dr Mary Bousted, NEU joint general secretary, said: “It is now more vital than ever that Boris Johnson and Gavin Williamson listen to the profession so that parents, teachers and pupils can be reassured that a return to school is as safe and as well planned out as possible for  the whole school community and wider society.”
NEU news release and NEU's 10 point National Education Recovery Plan. Risks 953. 27 June 2020

Britain: Lockdown easing ‘must not let bad bosses put workers at risk’
Employer guidelines can’t just be theory, they need to be practical and enforceable to avoid a second Covid-19 wave in the autumn, unions have said. Responding to the easing of lockdown measures announced by the government, GMB acting general secretary John Phillips said: “Everyone wants to get back to normal as much as humanly possible but it has to be safe - we need quick and urgent progress on supplying everyone who needs it with PPE, testing and tracing if we’re going to avoid a second peak.”
GMB news release. UNISON news release. Risks 953. 27 June 2020

Britain: Address inequality to protect Black workers
The government must act immediately to protect Black workers from Covid-19 by closing gaps that create health inequalities and poverty and ensuring workplaces are safe, UNISON has said. The union has written to the prime minister urging him to implement all Public Health England’s (PHE) recommendations such as developing comprehensive risk assessments for Black staff to reduce their chance of coronavirus exposure and infection.
UNISON news release. Understanding the impact of COVID-19 on BAME groups, PHE, 16 June 2020. Risks 953. 27 June 2020

Britain: Migrant workers forced to risk their lives and work
The government must suspend an immigration rule that forces migrant workers to choose between “financial ruin” or risking their lives to work during the coronavirus pandemic, a group of cross-party MPs has said. A report from the Work and Pensions Committee concluded the Home Office's no recourse to public funds (NRPF) policy – which prevents tens of thousands of migrants who live and work in the UK legally from claiming benefits and accessing financial support – was forcing people to make "invidious” choices, and leaving many at risk of destitution and homelessness.
House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee news release and report, DWP's response to the coronavirus outbreak, 22 June 2020. The Independent. Risks 953. 27 June 2020

Britain: School cleaning firm says PPE or union – you choose
A cleaning contractor at a London academy school has been accused of ‘union busting’, after cleaners were allegedly told to ‘drop the union’ after they staged an unofficial walkout. Ridge Crest – a Hertfordshire-based cleaning company provide cleaning for Ark Globe Academy in Southwark, as well other schools – was hit by a walkout of cleaners on 4-5 June over weeks of unpaid wages.
Left Foot Forward. Morning Star. Risks 953. 27 June 2020

Britain: TSSA welcomes staff visors move at Govia Thameslink
The decision by Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) to provide visors in addition to facemasks for all non-safety critical staff has been hailed by rail union TSSA as ‘great news’. The union has been calling for visors at GTR and across Britain’s railways in the wake of the death from Covid-19 of Belly Mujinga, a GTR ticket office clerk and TSSA member who was redeployed to the concourse at London’s Victoria Station despite having an existing respiratory condition.
TSSA news release. Risks 953. 27 June 2020

Britain: Call for universal access to occupational health
Swift action is needed in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis to ensure the UK population has access to occupational health (OH) advice and assessment, the Society of Occupational Medicine has said. The organisation for occupational health professionals said at the moment only half the UK population has access to occupational health support.
SOM news release. Risks 953. 27 June 2020

Britain: Help build a database of coronavirus risk assessments
The TUC is collating the risk assessments published by employers as they start to open again after lockdown. The TUC said its aim is to support a safe return by increasing transparency about how safety is being addressed in each sector and to pressure non-compliant employers to conduct the proper risk assessments and publish them online. “You can help by checking out your own employer or others in your sector, and entering them into the database at https://covidsecurecheck.uk”, the TUC said.
COVID Secure Check portal. Risks 953. 27 June 2020

Germany: Workplaces implicated in second wave fears
A sharp rise in Germany’s reproduction rate of Covid-19 has prompted concerns over a second wave of the virus. The country has also seen a new lockdown across a district with a meatpacking plant hit by a large outbreak. Workplaces including meatpacking plants and logistics centres have been implicated in a spike in the R number, up from 1.06 to 2.88 in the span of two days following a string of localised outbreaks.
The Independent. The Guardian. Risks 953. 27 June 2020

South Korea: Workplace focus for second wave of infections
Health officials in South Korea believe the country is going through a second wave of coronavirus based around workplace clusters, despite recording relatively low numbers overall. The country had been viewed as a success story in dealing with Covid-19, but now expects the pandemic to continue for months.
BBC News Online. Risks 953. 27 June 2020

USA: Why is the safety regulator OSHA AWOL?
As US states and municipalities relax lockdown orders, the nation seems to be racing to get the economy back to something resembling the pre-pandemic era. But an opinion piece by the New York Times editorial board notes “the federal agency meant to protect America’s workers continues to sit on the sidelines..”
New York Times. Risks 953. 27 June 2020

Britain: NUJ condemns attacks on journalists
UK journalists’ union NUJ has condemned the ‘outrageous and unacceptable attacks’ on reporters and photographers covering demonstrations in London on 13 June. The union was commenting after a demonstration, involving far-right activists claiming to be ‘defending statutes’, turned violent, with police and journalists among those targeted.
NUJ news release and statement. Vice. The Telegraph. Risks 952. 20 June 2020

Britain: Many businesses still flouting Covid-Secure guidance
Many businesses are ignoring government guidance to keep their workers safe from Covid-19, the TUC has warned. The union body said all employers with more than five staff are required to produce written risk assessments, in consultation with recognised unions.
TUC news release. Testing and tracing for Covid-19; How to ensure fair access and manage monitoring in the workplace, TUC, May 2020. Return to safe workplaces, TUC Education, May 2020. TUC proposals on ensuring a safe return to work, 4 May 2020. TUC video on coronavirus and employment rights at work. Risks 952. 20 June 2020

Britain: TUC sets up its own Covid-19 risk assessment portal
The TUC has launched its own online platform to collect risk assessments in one place and to name and shame employers who have failed to publish them. It says ‘COVID Secure Check’ will be used to monitor good and bad safety practice as the economy reopens, and to put pressure on government and employers to keep their workers safe.
TUC news release and COVID Secure Check portal. Government guidance on working safely during coronavirus, including risk assessments. Risks 952. 20 June 2020

Britain: Protect jobs and workers, union bodies demand
A panicked rush to re-open workplaces could cause a second spike in infection rates followed by a double dip recession, the STUC said. The Scottish union body was responding to UK Office for National Statistics (ONS) unemployment figures released on 16 June that showed the number of workers on UK payrolls dropped by more than 600,000 between March and May, which STUC said was relatively low thanks to the furlough scheme allowing firms to retain workers and showed the scheme should be extended.
STUC news release. TUC news release and research on young workers and unemployment. BBC News Online. The Guardian. Risks 952. 20 June 2020

Britain: WHO warns against relaxing lockdown in England
England’s coronavirus lockdown should not be further lifted until the government’s contact-tracing system has proven to be “robust and effective”, the World Health Organisation has said. As shops across England prepared to reopen, and people were encouraged by the government to come out of their homes and on to the high street, Dr Hans Kluge, the WHO’s director for Europe, cautioned that the UK remained in a “very active phase of the pandemic”.
The Guardian. Risks 952. 20 June 2020

Britain: Wider shop reopening must be safe and abuse free
Shopworkers’ trade union Usdaw is urging customers to respect staff and for employers to ensure safety in stores, as shops are allowed to reopen. Paddy Lillis, the union’s general secretary, said: “The safety of our members and the public is our top priority, so Usdaw worked with the British Retail Consortium on joint safety guidance for shops.”
Usdaw news release. Risks 952. 20 June 2020

Britain: Government must protect BAME people from Covid-19
The TUC and doctors’ organisation the British Medical Association (BMA) have called for immediate action after a delayed official report concluded racism could contribute to the increased Covid-19 risks for Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) groups. The Public Health England report found “historic racism and poorer experiences of healthcare or at work” meant people in BAME groups were less likely to seek care when they needed it or speak up if they had concerns about risk in the workplace.
TUC news release. Covid-19: How racism kills, TUC blog, 1 May 2020. BMA news release. Understanding the impact of COVID-19 on BAME groups, Public Health England review, 16 June 2020. GMB news release. NEU news release. PCS news release. UNISON news release. BBC News Online. Risks 952. 20 June 2020

Britain: Teachers expected to clean classrooms
Threequarters of teachers are being expected to clean their own classrooms and equipment regularly amid concerns some schools are not implementing effective measures to control the spread of coronavirus, a survey by the teaching union NASUWT has discovered. As more schools reopen to pupils, the union’s survey found that teachers still have significant concerns over their own safety and access to personal protective equipment (PPE).
NASUWT news releaseRisks 952. 20 June 2020

Britain: Limited school reopening highlights dangers
Rushed government reopening plans have led to guidelines on ‘safe’ class sizes being ignored by some schools, according to a UNISON survey. More than one in five (22 per cent) support staff said primary schools have operated class sizes bigger than the 15 pupils limit recommended to maintain social distancing.
UNISON news release. Risks 952. 20 June 2020

Britain: Fast food chains accused of ‘taking the pee’
Unite has demanded that takeaways and major fast food chains stop breaking the law and allow fast food couriers to use their toilets. The union said it has been contacted by several self-employed couriers who work via platforms such as Deliveroo and Uber Eats, who are concerned that Covid-19 is being used as a excuse to bar them from using a toilet when collecting food from takeaways.
Unite news release. Risks 952. 20 June 2020

Britain: RMT launches Covid-19 charter for Tube staff
On the day that face masks were made compulsory on public transport in England, London Underground union RMT has launched a Covid-19 charter for Tube workers. The transport union said its charter, announced on 15 June, offers support to the London Underground workers who have kept the Tube and other Transport for London (TfL) services running throughout the Covid-19 crisis.
RMT news release. British Transport Police news release. Risks 952. 20 June 2020

Britain: Union warning as public transport masks come in
The compulsory use of face coverings on public transport in England must “not be seen as a green light” for wider use of public transport or the ditching of social distancing measures, the rail union TSSA has said. TSSA general secretary, Manuel Cortes, added that it must be police, rather than frontline transport workers, that enforce the new rules.
TSSA news release. Risks 952. 20 June 2020

Britain: Arriva face coverings move should set Wales standard
Unite Wales has welcomed the decision by Arriva to make the use of face coverings compulsory on their bus services across Wales. The union said the decision by Arriva, which includes a small number of exceptions, is in line with Unite's call for the Welsh government to ensure face coverings are mandatory on public transport.
Unite news release. Risks 952. 20 June 2020

Britain: Mandatory NHS masks rule requires more masks
Hospitals and GP practices must have clarity and adequate supplies as new NHS face covering rules come into effect, the doctors’ organisation BMA has said. Responding to new government rules which from 15 June made it mandatory for hospital staff in England to wear face masks and patients and visitors to wear face coverings, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA council chair, said it was “imperative” that there is wearing of masks by staff and face coverings by the public “to prevent the spread of infection in healthcare settings.”
BMA news release. New government recommendations. Risks 952. 20 June 2020

Britain: HSE says dodgy KN95 facemasks must not be used
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is warning against the use of KN95 facemasks as personal protective equipment (PPE). A safety alert from the regulator has told all employers and suppliers not to purchase or use KN95 facemasks. KN95 is a performance rating that is broadly equivalent to the EU standard for FFP2 facemasks, when working properly are not as protective as the better spec FFP3 masks - however, products manufactured to KN95 requirements rely on a self-declaration of compliance by the manufacturer.
HSE news release and alert. Risks 952. 20 June 2020

Britain: Government errors linked to care deaths catastrophe
A catalogue of government errors that saw infected patients returned to care homes and gross shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) contributed to high Covid-19 death rates in residents, the National Audit Office (NAO) has found. An NAO report on how the UK government prepared the NHS and social care for the Covid-19 pandemic notes: “The central procurement route set up to supply PPE during the outbreak met the modelled PPE requirement (under a worst case scenario) for some items in NHS trusts, but distributed 50 per cent or less of the modelled requirement for gowns, eye protectors, or aprons.”
UNISON news release. NAO news release and full report, Readying the NHS and adult social care in England for COVID-19, 12 June 2020. Risks 952. 20 June 2020

Britain: Care worker pay deductions fuel virus risks
Huge disparities in financial support for care workers during the Covid-19 pandemic show the government must act to ensure staff are not left in financial peril and forced to take health risks, UNISON has said. Staff in the care sector, who need to self-isolate, shield or have the virus, have told UNISON they’re being forced to take unpaid leave or survive on minimal statutory sick pay (SSP), leaving them hundreds of pounds out of pocket each week.
UNISON news release. Risks 952. 20 June 2020

Britain: Covid-19 deaths show selfless contribution of cleaners
UK unions have called for proper recognition of the essential role played by cleaners and security guards. The unions were marking International Justice Day for Cleaners and Security Workers on 15 June, a worldwide event coordinated by the global service sector union federation UNI.
GMB news release. RMT news release. UNI news release. BBC News Online. Risks 952. 20 June 2020

Europe: Campaign wins Covid-19 guarantees for workers
European workers will benefit from better protection from Covid-19 following pressure from the union federation ETUC and MEPs on the European Commission. ETUC deputy general secretary Per Hilmersson said: “The ETUC would have preferred the virus to be classified in the highest risk level but it’s important Covid-19 is included in the Directive and we welcome the commitment to enforcing the measures and to a future review of the legislation.”
ETUC news release. Socialists & Democrats news release. Risks 952. 20 June 2020

Global: Unions are key to return to work talks
As governments start to ease lockdowns, unions around the world are negotiating the return to work and say how this happens is critical for unions and workers. Global union IndustriALL cites the example of its UK affiliates Unite, GMB and USDAW, who it says “will not recommend a return to work for their three million members until the government and employers agree to a nationwide health and safety revolution as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.”
IndustriALL news report. A safe and healthy return to work during the COVID-19 pandemic, ILO policy brief, 22 May 2020. Key issues on the return to work, ITUC Covid-19 briefing, 15 May 2020. Risks 952. 20 June 2020

USA: America pays a high price for cheap meat
Workers’ rights in the United States are exceptionally limited, while the coronavirus pandemic is exceptionally widespread. James Ritchie, of the global food and farming union IUF said slaughter line speeds could make it impossible to comply with coronavirus precautions, noting: “You can’t even stop to cough into your hand or your elbow because the line speeds are so, so fast.”
New York magazine. The Food and Environment Reporting Network. Risks 952. 20 June 2020

Britain: Employers illegally forcing pregnant women out
A quarter of pregnant women have faced discrimination at work during the coronavirus outbreak, according to a new TUC survey. The poll of more than 3,400 women who have been pregnant or on maternity leave during the Covid-19 pandemic found that one in four (25 per cent) had experienced unfair treatment at work, including being singled out for redundancy or furlough, and one in four (25 per cent) saying felt unsafe at work.
TUC news release and report, Pregnant and precarious: new and expectant mums’ experiences of work during Covid-19, 11 June 2020. GMB news release. Risks 951. 13 June 2020

Britain: New, enforced rights needed to protect pregnant women
The TUC’s new report on pregnancy discrimination during the Covid-19 crisis shows working women do not have the protection they deserve. ‘Pregnant and precarious: new and expectant mums’ experiences of work during Covid-19’ calls for wide-ranging changes to improve and enforce legal curbs on discrimination.
Pregnant and precarious: new and expectant mums’ experiences of work during Covid-19, 11 June 2020. Risks 951. 13 June 2020

Britain: Scottish tourism reboot must include roving union reps
The Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) has sounded a serious note of caution at the Scottish government’s plan to re-open tourism and hospitality next month. STUC said any reopening of the largely non-union sector should occur only in full consultation with staff. They should be supported by union roving reps and union organisers provided access to their workplace, it added.
STUC webpage. BBC News Online. Risks 951. 13 June 2020

Britain: Government backtracks on school mission impossible
The government has had to concede the need to ensure social distancing has made a quick return to school impossible, teaching unions have said. The unions NEU and NASUWT were commented after the government said primary schools and secondary schools in England will not now re-open to all pupils until September at the earliest
NEU news release and related news release. NASUWT news release. BBC News Online. The Independent. Risks 951. 13 June 2020

Britain: Unions ‘pleased’ school opening plan has been dropped
Unions GMB and UNISON have welcomed a decision to shelve plans to bring all pupils in England back before the summer holidays.
GMB news release. UNISON news release. BBC News Online. Risks 951. 13 June 2020

Britain: NASUWT not happy with Welsh schools plan
Teaching union NASUWT has ‘serious concerns’ at the Welsh government’s back to schools plan for the end of the month. Commenting on the publication of new operational guidance for schools on reopening more widely to more pupils, Dr Patrick Roach, the union’s general secretary, said: “The Welsh government must not press ahead with its plans for the wider reopening of schools unless it can demonstrate it is safe to do so.”
NASUWT news release. NEU Cymru news release. Risks 951. 13 June 2020

Britain: Care home firm probed after Covid deaths
A major social care company has been reported to regulators after the deaths of ‘multiple’ residents from Covid-19. The three homes in Sheffield where the deaths occurred are run by Horizon Care, and are now under investigation by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) after staff raised safety and hygiene concerns with UNISON.
UNISON news release and petition demanding the government “step up and deliver on its promises around PPE and do much more to protect care staff and elderly people.” Risks 951. 13 June 2020

Britain: Unite action call on ‘massive alarm’ in call centres
Unite has called for urgent action after a survey of nearly 3,000 staff working in call centres throughout the UK found what the union described as ‘massive alarm’ amongst the workforce about the safety conditions. The independent research was conducted by Phil Taylor, a professor at the University of Strathclyde, who found 47.2 per cent of respondents ‘strongly agreed’ and 30.7 per cent ‘agreed’ with the statement, ‘I think it is likely that I will catch Covid-19’.
Unite news release. Risks 951. 13 June 2020

Britain: RMT condemns ‘botched’ passenger masks plan
Transport union RMT has written to transport secretary Grant Shapps to warn a lack of consultation and proper discussion in the transport industry means that the requirement for face masks on public transport from 15 June risks being marred by “confusion and conflict.” RMT general secretary Mick Cash said he had received representations from both transport workers and transport employers that the “botched” announcement means there are “high levels of concern and confusion over how these new arrangements will apply and basic issues do not appear to be have been consulted on or resolved.”
RMT news release. ASLEF news release. TSSA news release. Risks 951. 13 June 2020

Britain: Unite welcomes face coverings on the buses
Unite has welcomed the announcement that passengers on public transport will be required to wear a face covering before boarding and throughout their journey. The new requirements will come into effect from 15 June in England.
Unite news release. Risks 951. 13 June 2020

Britain: Union fury at BAME ‘same risk’ line on the Tube
Tube union RMT has expressed fury after London Underground bosses said Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) staff are at no greater risk from Covid-19 at work than if they stayed at home. RMT was commenting on a London Underground document, ‘Covid-19 Risk Assessment for BAME and clinically vulnerable employees: Guidance for all line managers’, which states: “You can reassure them that we have assessed the risks and put controls in place; and assure them that the risk is no greater at work than not being at work (unless they stay in their home and go nowhere).”
RMT news release. Morning Star. Risks 951. 13 June 2020

Britain: Derbyshire PCC backs under fire shopworkers
Derbyshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) has warned that his force will take action against those who abuse the ‘unsung heroes’ working in shops. In a move welcomed by shopworkers’ union Usdaw, Hardyal Dhindsa said: “I urge people to come forward and report incidents of this kind to the police,” adding: “They will take it seriously I assure everyone.”
Usdaw news release. Risks 951. 13 June 2020

Britain: Sunday trading move a ‘slap in the face’ for retail staff
The unions Usdaw and Unite have criticised government plans to relax Sunday trading rules, with Usdaw saying it would be ‘a slap in the face’ for the key retail workers that have toiled through the Covid-19 outbreak. Unite national officer Bev Clarkson said: “The government must understand that many retail workers have to work around childcare and by extending Sunday opening hours it will create additional stress and make it impossible for many workers to juggle work and their caring duties.”
Usdaw news release and related news release. Unite news release. Morning Star. The Times. Risks 951. 13 June 2020

Britain: Health chiefs tell PM to prepare for new Covid wave
Senior figures from across the NHS have issued an urgent plea for a comprehensive plan to tackle a second wave of coronavirus infections, no relaxation to the lockdown until track and trace is working properly and a strategy to ensure the correct PPE is available. The calls came as Boris Johnson continued to lose public confidence in his handling of the pandemic.
The Observer. The Express. Risks 951. 13 June 2020

Britain: HSE adviser calls for better health worker protection
A top expert adviser to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has said current evidence justifies far more extensive health worker protection than is provided in the UK. Professor John Cherrie, who is a member of HSE’s Workplace Health Expert Committee (WHEC), cites HSE advice and evidence of good practice, but points out the UK follows neither HSE’s preventive hierarchy nor the masks requirement the evidence indicates is required.
John W Cherrie, Miranda Loh and Robert J Aitken. Editorial: Protecting HCWs from inhaled SARS-CoV-2 virus. Occupational Medicine, 2020. doi:10.1093/occmed/kqaa077. Risks 951. 13 June 2020

Britain: Imperial Covid-19 scientists' outcry at staff cull
Members of the Imperial College Covid-19 Response Team have warned against plans to cut the staff who have made their life-saving work possible. UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: “It is incredible that Imperial would risk undermining the fight against Covid-19 by starting an eight-month restructure to get rid of over a quarter of the staff in such a vital department in the midst of this global pandemic.”
UCU news release. Risks 951. 13 June 2020

Britain: Firefighters’ coronavirus response agreement extended
Firefighters’ work responding to the Covid-19 pandemic has been extended until July, as the UK continues to battle coronavirus. The Fire Brigades Union (FBU), National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC), and National Employers agreed the extension to the national agreement stating that the virus “continues to be a risk in our communities”.
FBU news release. Risks 951. 13 June 2020

Britain: TUC calls for UK to take lead on seafarer crisis
The TUC has warned the UK government of the threat posed to Britain's economic recovery from the mounting crisis on board merchant vessels, where up to 200,000 seafarers remain stranded at sea by Covid-19 travel restrictions. The union body urged the UK government to lead the international effort to facilitate crew changes in the world's merchant fleet.
Nautilus UK news release. Risks 951. 13 June 2020

Britain: Sick pay for outsourced civil servants must stay
All outsourced staff working on civil service contracts should be eligible for full occupational sick pay from day one, PCS has said in a letter to prime minister Boris Johnson. The union is launching a new national campaign, ‘Dying for Sick Pay’, to press the claim, after winning sick pay rights for outsourced civil servants for the duration of the coronavirus crisis.
PCS news release. Risks 951. 13 June 2020

Britain: Firm fined after worker fatally injured
IFG Drake Ltd has been fined after a worker suffered fatal crush injuries whilst working on a machine at its site in Huddersfield. Leeds Crown Court heard how, on 24 March 2017, Javeed Ghaffar, 51, was using a knife to clear a blockage in a stretch roller at around 2am on 24 March 2017 when he was suddenly dragged into it and pulled around the roller at least twice.
HSE news release. Yorkshire Evening Post. Huddersfield Examiner. Risks 951. 13 June 2020

Canada: Thousands get Covid-19 workers’ compensation
Workers compensation boards across Canada have approved thousands of claims from employees who believe they contracted Covid-19 at work, underscoring how the pandemic has become a new workplace hazard for many Canadians. Nurses, orderlies and other health-care workers - especially those at long-term care homes - have filed the largest number of claims, followed by municipal workers, agricultural labourers and firefighters - by late May, claims totalled 5,786 in Quebec, 4,156 in Ontario, 1,366 in Alberta and 541 in British Colombia.
National Post. Global News. Risks 951. 13 June 2020

Global: WHO ignores evidence for greater worker protection
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has so far ignored the findings of a major medical review it commissioned and part-financed and which called for high quality respirators as the ‘minimum’ necessary to protect health care workers at risk from Covid-19. The review, published in the Lancet on 1 June, also noted that physical distancing of two metres is twice as protective as WHO’s ‘at least one metre’ recommendation.
Advice on the use of masks in the context of Covid-19, WHO interim guidance, 5 June 2020. Comments from WHO director-general, media briefing, 5 June 2020. WHO press briefings.
Derek K Chu, Elie A Akl, Stephanie Duda, Karla Solo, Sally Yaacoub, Holger J Schünemann, on behalf of the COVID-19 Systematic Urgent Review Group Effort (SURGE) study authors. Physical distancing, face masks, and eye protection to prevent person-to-person transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19: a systematic review and meta-analysis, The Lancet, published online 1 June 2020.
C Raina MacIntyre and Quanyi Wang. Physical distancing, face masks, and eye protection for prevention of COVID-19, The Lancet, published online 1 June 2020. Migrant Clinicians Network blog. Risks 951. 13 June 2020

Global: WHO criticised for downplaying transmission risks
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has faced a barrage of criticism for failing to keep on top of rapidly evolving research that shows the extent of the risk posed by Covid-19, which could be transmitted in far more circumstances than the UN agency has acknowledged. WHO faced the concerted pushback from leading researchers and backtracked after an official asserted that transmission of the coronavirus by people without symptoms is “very rare.”
WHO press briefings. New York Times. Washington Post and earlier article. BBC News Online. CNBC News.
Oran DP. Topol EJ. Prevalence of Asymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 Infection: A Narrative Review, Annals of Internal Medicine. 3 June 2020. Risks 951. 13 June 2020

Global: Call to free seafarers trapped on ships
The International Labour Organisation (ILO) has called for urgent and coordinated action to release the 150,000 to 200,000 seafarers trapped on board ships around the world because of measures to contain the Covid-19 virus. The ILO has urged governments, immigration, health and maritime authorities to work together to recognise seafarers as ‘key workers’ who ensure the flow of trade and the movement of vital medical supplies, safety equipment, food and other critical goods during the pandemic.
ILO news release. Nautilus news release. Risks 951. 13 June 2020

USA: Black workers face more retaliation over Covid concerns
In a national US survey on workplace retaliation during the pandemic, Black workers were found to be twice as likely as white workers to report that they or someone at work may have been punished or fired for raising concerns about Covid-19 risks in the workplace. The research by the National Employment Law Project (NELP) asked respondents if anyone had been victimised or fired in their workplace for raising Covid-19 safety concerns.
NELP news release and report, Data Brief: Silenced About COVID-19 in the Workplace. Risks 951. 13 June 2020

Global: Lancet review backs better masks and physical distancing
Reducing physical distancing advice from 2 metres to 1 metre could double the risk of coronavirus infection, according to the most comprehensive study to date. The research, commissioned and part-funded by the World Health Organisation (WHO), also concludes respirators rather than less protective surgical masks should be the ‘minimum’ requirement for health care work.
Derek K Chu, Elie A Akl, Stephanie Duda, Karla Solo, Sally Yaacoub, Holger J Schünemann, on behalf of the COVID-19 Systematic Urgent Review Group Effort (SURGE) study authors. Physical distancing, face masks, and eye protection to prevent person-to-person transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19: a systematic review and meta-analysis, The Lancet, published online 1 June 2020.
New York Times. The Guardian. The Independent. CNN News. The Telegraph. Risks 950. 6 June 2020

Global: ‘Unacceptable risk’ to frontline workers, says expert
Health care workers are not being give the protection they deserve and are contracting deadly infections as a result, a top biohazards expert has warned. Writing in the Lancet, Raina MacIntyre, an epidemiologist at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, noted the World Health Organisation’s current Covid-19 guidance, which has been the template for health worker protection in the UK and elsewhere, is failing health workers by refusing to recommend respirators for a wide range of health care work.
C Raina MacIntyre and Quanyi Wang. Physical distancing, face masks, and eye protection for prevention of COVID-19, The Lancet, published online 1 June 2020.01, 2020. Risks 950. 6 June 2020

Global: Public health experts say 2m distancing essential as firms reopen
Pressure from some business sectors to reduce social distancing between individuals to one metre rather than two metres must be resisted by government, the environmental health practitioners’ body CIEH has said. CIEH said it has demanded that the government holds its ground on the two metre distance, especially as the riskier businesses gear up to open from the beginning of July, including pubs, restaurants, and hairdressers.
CIEH news release. Risks 950. 6 June 2020

Britain: Poll finds two-thirds of workers want real inspections
The vast majority of UK workers want the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to carry out physical spot inspections to check employers are sticking to social distancing and other safety plans, new research for HSE union Prospect has found. Prospect, which represents HSE staff, revealed how reliant the HSE had become on telephone checks to ensure safe working.
Prospect news release. The Independent. Risks 950. 6 June 2020

Britain: Test and Trace only works if isolating workers get paid
The TUC is calling on the government to make sure that all workers have financial support to comply with social isolation requirements under the NHS Test and Trace scheme. The union body warns that inadequate sick pay could stop people acting on public health requests to self-isolate. 
TUC news release. Testing & tracing for Covid-19: How to ensure fair access and manage monitoring in the workplace, TUC, May 2020. The Guardian. Risks 950. 6 June 2020

Britain: Track and Trace will spread problems without full sick pay
The union GMB said the new Track and Trace app will spread either poverty or infection - unless it is backed up by full sick pay for all. GMB national officer Rachel Harrison said: “Ministers on whopping salaries expecting the keyworkers who've been keeping our country going to self-isolate on £95 a week.
GMB news release. Risks 950. 6 June 2020

Britain: Short-time furlough move another union win, says TUC
Changes to the job retention scheme for furloughed workers, which will allow some wages to be reimbursed by government where workers return on reduced hours, have been described as ‘another union win’ by the TUC. General secretary Frances O’Grady added: “The government must start planning now to build on the job retention scheme with a national recovery plan that prioritises protecting and creating jobs.” 
TUC news release. Risks 950. 6 June 2020

Britain: Qualified union welcome for furlough plan ‘lifeline’
Unions have described the revised furlough plans announced on 29 May by Rishi Sunak as a ‘valuable lifeline’ but have warned extra safety and pay protection is needed, particularly for industries hardest hit by the lockdown.
Labourlist. Prospect news release. Risks 950. 6 June 2020

Britain: All staff should be assessed before return to work
Staff should be assessed individually before they return to workplaces during the Covid-19 pandemic, civil service union PCS has said. The union has laid out tests it wants carried out in workplaces to ensure they are safe.
Morning Star. Risks 950. 6 June 2020

Britain: ‘Stay alert’ shift left workers more worried about safety
Workers have become increasingly concerned about health and safety since the government encouraged those who can to return to work, official research has found. The survey by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) also revealed working adults have become increasingly concerned about health and safety since the government eased lockdown rules and encouraged those who can return to work to do so.
ONS opinions and lifestyle survey. The Guardian. Morning Star. Risks 950. 6 June 2020

Britain: ‘Class and race’ biggest coronavirus risk factors
Class and race are the biggest factors in determining those that have died or been taken ill by Covid-19, Unite has said. The union has called for a raft of policies to tackle ‘systemic failures’ that have led to the disproportionate death toll amongst the Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities and the poorest groups in society.
Unite news release. PCS news release. TSSA news release. GMB news release. UNISON news release. BBC News Online.
Disparities in the risk and outcomes of Covid-19, PHE, 2 June 2020. Risks 950. 6 June 2020

Britain: Inquiry is welcome, but action is already overdue, says TUC
A new inquiry in the risks faced by black and minority ethnic people is welcome, but we need action on the known inequalities responsible right now, the TUC has said. TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “The government needs to put in place a funded action plan to tackle the egregious inequality BME people still face, and must be fully transparent about how it is considering BME communities in its policy decisions.”
TUC news release. Risks 950. 6 June 2020

Britain: NEU warning on school reopening risks
As many primary schools in England prepared to accept back more pupils on 1 June, teaching union NEU warned the move was premature and could increase the risk to staff and parents. The union was commenting after four prominent members of the government’s own scientific advisory body SAGE broke ranks to express worries about the safety of wider primary school opening.
NEU news release and five tests. Morning Star. Risks 950. 6 June 2020

Britain: Government's wider reopening of schools ‘disappointing’
Unions have warned school staff are deeply concerned by the government’s rush to reopen schools. Their comments came after Sir David King, a former government chief scientific adviser and the chair of Independent Sage, said 1 June “is just too early,” adding “we are really concerned that the level of infectivity across the country as a whole is too high to open schools.”
GMB news release. UNISON news release. Independent SAGE report, 28 May 2020. The Guardian. Risks 950. 6 June 2020

Britain: School closes as 7 staff test positive for Covid-19
Seven members of staff at the same primary school have tested positive for Covid-19. Arboretum Primary School, in Derby, has shut after the positive test results. A spokesperson for the Derby Diocesan Academy Trust confirmed the school had been closed “due to a number of staff having confirmed cases of Covid-19”.
Derby Telegraph. The Mirror. Daily Mail. Risks 950. 6 June 2020

Britain: Big challenges before Scottish schools can reopen
There are ‘significant concerns’ to address before the planned reopening of Scottish schools on 11 August, teaching union EIS has found. Over 26,000 EIS members responded to it online survey, which the union said made it the biggest survey of teachers’ opinions to have been carried out in Scotland.
EIS news release. Risks 950. 6 June 2020

Britain: Great deal more to be done on early years return
Nicola Sturgeon’s announcement that early years and childcare services in Scotland will start to expand from 3 June could be really problematic, UNISON Scotland has warned. The union pointed to the need for risk assessments, staff training and clear guidance on safe working practices prior to a resumption, with full trade union involvement.
UNISON Scotland news release and survey findings. Risks 950. 6 June 2020

Britain: PCS warns parliament is not safe from Covid-19
Speaking ahead of a resumption of parliament on 1 June, civil servants’ union PCS warned there are inadequate measures to control the numbers coming on to the parliamentary estate. While the government insists MPs will be kept safe from coronavirus with new working practices, PCS said there is pressure to return to ‘business as usual’.
PCS news release. Thompsons Solicitors news release. BBC News Online. Risks 950. 6 June 2020

Britain: Unite calls for masks for site workers
Construction union Unite is demanding that workers are provide with masks when they cannot keep to the two metre social distancing guidelines on site. The union has written to the Construction Leadership Council (CLC) highlighting its concerns about the current site operating procedures (SOP).
Unite news release. Construction Enquirer. Risks 950. 6 June 2020

Britain: Unite demands strict safety checks on new bus plan
Unite has given its qualified support to the announcement by Transport for London (TfL) that has seen the start of a phased return to front door entry on London buses. Unite officer for London buses John Murphy said: “Unite has been working closely with experts at UCL, TfL and London bus operators to ensure that the return to front door loading does not adversely affect driver safety.”
Unite news release. TfL news release. Risks 950. 6 June 2020

Britain: Rail union hopes Covid-19 tragedy leads to improvements
After the British Transport Police (BTP) said it had concluded its investigation into the incident at Victoria Station that preceded the death of railway ticket office clerk Belly Mujinga from Covid-19, rail union TSSA said it hoped it would lead to better protection of transport workers. Manuel Cortes, TSSA general secretary, said: “What is clear is that protective equipment is absolutely vital to protect frontline workers like Belly.”
TSSA news release. BTP statement. Morning Star. Risks 950. 6 June 2020

Britain: Get your essential TUC guide to Hazards at Work
The newest update of TUC’s best-selling Hazards at Work guide is now available. The mammoth 6th edition is packed with advice on health and safety laws and good practice at work, and covers all the 'classic' hazards and has new Covid-19 related advice and reworked chapters on mental health, bullying, harassment, and all other modern workplace causes of illness and injury.
Reps, unions, employers can order online from the TUC shop. For large orders, email the TUC. Risks 950. 6 June 2020

Europe: Despite the virus, safety doesn’t make EC’s to-do list
Trade unions have said they are ‘shocked and concerned’ that the European Commission still has no official plans to make workplaces safer in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. An updated work programme published by the Commission on 28 May includes 43 new initiatives, including proposals ranging from airport charges to crypto assets and ‘better regulation’.
ETUC news release. Risks 950. 6 June 2020

Global: Health and safety ‘paramount’ for return to work
Ensuring health and safety in workplaces must be the highest priority as people return to work in many countries emerging from Covid-19 restrictions and closures, the global union confederation ITUC has said. “Re-opening workplaces is much more complicated than closing them, and it is crucial that occupational health and safety regulations, procedures and systems provide the basis for return to work, as well as in situations where work has continued,” said Sharan Burrow, ITUC general secretary.
ITUC news release. Risks 950. 6 June 2020

Japan: Health care workers face coronavirus discrimination
While medical workers in many nations have been heralded as heroes in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, many nurses and doctors in Japan have faced discrimination and ostracism despite heightened social media efforts to recognise their contribution. In an April survey conducted by the Japan Federation of Medical Workers’ Unions, 9.9 per cent of its 152 offices across the country responded that medical workers in their jurisdictions had encountered discrimination or harassment due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Japan Times. Risks 950. 6 June 2020

USA: Senators call for review of workplace Covid enforcement
A group of US senators has asked the inspector general of the Labor Department to review the actions of its Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic. According to the letter from Democratic senators Elizabeth Warren, Tim Kaine, Tammy Baldwin and Robert Casey and Tammy Duckworth and independent senator Bernie Sanders, OSHA citations have dropped 70 per cent since the national emergency was declared on 13 March; that the inspection rate has dropped, and that not a single citation related to the virus has occurred.
Government Executive. Risks 950. 6 June 2020

Britain: Roving union safety reps in Scotland’s reopening plan
Official return-to-work guidance in Scotland is recommending the deployment of union roving health and safety reps to ensure reopening of workplaces is safe. The roving reps are to be on call for workers and employers in non-unionised workplaces, according to a joint statement from the Scottish government, Police Scotland, Health and Safety Executive and local authorities.
STUC news release. Scottish government news release and Coronavirus (COVID-19): safer workplaces statement. BBC News Online. Risks 949. 30 May 2020

Britain: Quarantine cash needed for testing and tracing to work
Test, track and trace systems to control Covid-19 infection risks will only work if those quarantined have financial support, the TUC has said. Commenting on the launch on 28 May of the NHS Test and Trace programme, TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “If workers can’t afford to self-isolate, then they will be forced to keep working,” adding: “That will put them, their workmates and their local community at risk, and undermine the entire test and trace programme.”
TUC news release and report, Testing and tracing for Covid-19; How to ensure fair access and manage monitoring in the workplace, TUC, May 2020. Return to safe workplaces, TUC Education, May 2020. BBC News Online. Risks 949. 30 May 2020

Britain: Covid-19 workplaces must face safety inspections
The government must ‘rescind’ measures preventing the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and local authorities undertaking proactive, spot check safety inspections in many of the sectors most at risk of Covid-19 transmission, Unite has said. The union said sectors where local authorities and the HSE are prevented from making unannounced inspections include social care, health, transport, agriculture, shops, offices, pubs, clubs, postal services and light manufacturing, employing millions of UK workers.
Unite news release. Thompsons Solicitors briefing on return to work. Risks 949. 30 May 2020

Britain: Call for enforcement forum to keep Wales workers safe
The Wales TUC is calling for the creation of a national enforcement forum to coordinate workplace health and safety compliance and enforcement activity once lockdown is eased. The trade union body says it believes that workplace social distancing and other health and safety measures in Wales are best achieved and sustained in partnership between employees and employers.
Wales TUC news release. Risks 949. 30 May 2020

Britain: Models show big infection risks in ‘low risk’ office work
New studies from the UK and the US, modelling virus risks in offices and other indoor environments, have concluded there is a potentially substantial risk of Covid-19 infection. Matthew J Evans of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, conclude: “ Generally, office spaces should not be occupied by more than one person”; and Professor Clive Beggs of Leeds Beckett University said his computer modelling study, which simulated transmission in an office building, “suggest that individuals who share enclosed spaces with an infector may be at risk of contracting Covid-19 by the aerosol route, even when practising social distancing.”
Matthew J Evans. Avoiding Covid-19: Aerosol guidelines, medRxiv preprint, 25 May 2020.
Clive B Beggs. Is there an airborne component to the transmission of COVID-19?: a quantitative analysis study, medRxiv preprint, 25 May 2020. Risks 949. 30 May 2020

Britain: Four in five workers worried about work return risks
Four in five workers are think returning to work will put their family at risk, a GMB survey has revealed. The poll, which was completed by almost 3,500 workers across a wide range of sectors, showed 60 per cent are worried about being pressured into returning to work, with 95 per cent worried about catching Covid-19; fewer than 1-in-5 (18 per cent) respondents said they believed returning to their workplace will be safe.  GMB news release. Risks 949. 30 May 2020

Britain: ‘Massive’ GMB sick pay win at giant care provider
Care provider HC-One has pledged to pay full Covid-19 sick pay for all its 27,000 workforce, following a GMB campaign. The company, which operates about 350 homes, has also promised to retrospectively pay any carer who has been diagnosed since the outbreak began.
GMB news release. BBC News Online. Risks 949. 30 May 2020

Britain: PCS wins vital concessions at the Home Office
Home Office border officers are to be allowed to wear face masks in operational and public facing settings, following a PCS campaign. The union said its ‘constant pressure’ has led to a change in the employer’s position and Border Force officers and other public facing Home Office staff are now being provided with face masks to be worn when social distancing in a public setting is impossible.
PCS news release. Risks 949. 30 May 2020

Britain: Covid response team a hit with PCS members
More than 1,600 PCS members have been helped and supported by the union’s Covid-19 response team since its launch seven weeks ago. The civil service union said in order to support PCS members during the Covid-19 emergency, it had changed the way it worked, so it could provide safety information more quickly.
PCS news release. Risks 949. 30 May 2020

Britain: HSE must intervene in schools reopening moves
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) must be urgently tasked by government with providing guidance and advice to schools and colleges about the safety of reopening to more pupils, teaching union NASUWT has told ministers. NASUWT general secretary Dr Patrick Roach has written to both the education secretary Gavin Williamson and work and pensions secretary Thérèse Coffey calling on them to exercise their powers to direct the HSE to provide support and advice to schools and colleges.
NASUWT news release. Prime minister’s office news release. The Guardian. Risks 949. 30 May 2020

Britain: NEU ‘does not agree’ school reopening can be right
Teaching union NEU has said it is ‘not convinced’ that it is safe to open schools more widely on 1 June, and “does not agree” the plan is right. The union was commenting after the prime minister’s 24 May announcement that primary schools could move to wider opening from 1 June, though Boris Johnson also acknowledged that many wouldn’t be ready to do it by that date.
NEU news release and 5 Tests. Should Schools Reopen?, the draft report of Independent SAGE, 22 May 2020. Prime minister’s office news release. ASLEF news release. Morning Star. BBC News Online. Risks 949. 30 May 2020

Britain: Government should ‘step back’ on school restart
Public sector union UNISON has reiterated its call on the government to ‘step back’ from its unsafe plan to see thousands of schools reopen on 1 June. Commenting on the report on school safety from the committee of independent scientists chaired by Sir David King, UNISON head of education Jon Richards said: “Not only do these scientists say the government’s plans for schools in England are premature, they also suggest any risks to children would be halved by waiting a fortnight.”
UNISON news release and survey news release. Full Independent SAGE report, 22 May 2020. BBC News Online. Risks 949. 30 May 2020

Britain: Scotland’s schools to stay shut
Scottish teaching union EIS has welcomed official confirmation that the country’s schools will not reopen before 11 August. The union said it has called consistently for three conditions to be met before schools reopen: full test trace and isolate capacity to be established; a programme for implementing operationally in schools all public health advice eg. physical distancing; and demonstrable evidence that the virus is under control.
EIS news release. BBC News Online. Risks 949. 30 May 2020

Britain: Retailers must put safety first when reopening stores
Usdaw is urging retailers to work with the union to complete thorough risk assessments and to ensure reopening stores are safe for staff and customers. The retail union has also called on the government for tougher guidance and more rigorous enforcement of safety measures.
Usdaw news release. Prime minister’s office news release. BBC News Online. Risks 949. 30 May 2020

Britain: Bakers’ union says ‘let’s stay protected’
As attention moves to reopening the economy, the bakers’ union BFAWU has said the enhanced coronavirus safety protections it has obtained so far must be maintained. In a blog post, the union’s national president Ian Hodson noted: “Many of those that work in the food industry have continued to attend work throughout, working together with employers and our safety representatives to put in place measures to protect people.”
BFAWU blog. Risks 949. 30 May 2020

Britain: Government must improve food processing guidance
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) must open a dialogue with food producers and unions to address the “inadequacy of the government guidance” on coronavirus risks, the union GMB has said. The GMB call came after confirmation that three workers at a Cranswick food processing facility in Wombwell, Barnsley, which supplies UK supermarkets, have died after testing positive for Covid-19.
GMB news release. Risks 949. 30 May 2020

Britain: Eurostar incident shows visors are ‘absolutely vital’
The “absolutely vital” provision of visors for all staff on Britain’s railways has been highlighted after a customer travelling from London to Brussels was given a police caution for displaying aggression when he was challenged for not wearing a face mask, the union TSSA has said. Face masks are compulsory on public transport and in many outside spaces in Belgium.
TSSA news release. Risks 949. 30 May 2020

Britain: Firefighters call for UK-wide moratorium on fire cuts
The firefighters’ union FBU has called for a UK-wide moratorium on fire cuts, calling on the prime minister and devolved administrations to halt fifteen years of “unprecedented” austerity and to invest in the fire and rescue service. Firefighters have taken on 14 new areas of work to support their communities through the pandemic, delivering “important results for the health service and the public”, the union says, which “may be needed in case of further waves or future outbreaks”.
FBU news release and related news release. Risks 949. 30 May 2020

Britain: Firms must address all work risks, says IOSH
As lockdown restrictions are eased and workplaces reopen in many countries, businesses have been again urged to ensure new working practices do not cause health and wellbeing problems for staff. The Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) says reopening premises cannot happen overnight as employers may need to adjust policies, procedures, working conditions and other factors to manage the risk of Covid-19 being transmitted.
IOSH news release and Returning Safely resources. Risks 949. 30 May 2020

Britain: Real costs of retail crime and violence revealed
Retail trade union Usdaw has called for government action after a new report exposed the high cost to business and staff of violence, threats and abuse against shopworkers. Commenting on ‘Retail violence: abused and attacked at work’, the online report by broadcast journalist Jamie Long, Usdaw general secretary Paddy Lillis said: “Violence, threats and abuse against shopworkers are unfortunately nothing new, as this report sets out, but we were shocked to see that incidents have doubled during the coronavirus emergency.”
Usdaw news release. Retail violence: abused and attacked at work, Jamie Long, May 2020. Risks 949. 30 May 2020

Asia: Wide-range of jobs linked to high Covid-19 risks
Greater preventive efforts and surveillance strategies are ‘warranted’ to tackle work-related Covid-19, a study on infection patterns in Asia has concluded. The paper concludes “our study demonstrates that occupational infections are considerable in early Covid-19 local transmission,” and adds “several specific professional groups were at higher risk during early domestic outbreaks.”
Fan-Yun Lan, Chih-Fu Wei, Yu-Tien Hsu, David C Christiani and Stefanos N Kales. Work-related COVID-19 transmission in six Asian countries/areas: A follow-up study, PLoS ONE 15(5): e0233588, 19 May 2020. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0233588. Risks 949. 30 May 2020

Australia: Deep cleaned classrooms ‘not a real thing’
As Australian pupils head back to school with the promise of deeply cleaned classrooms, cleaners say the concept doesn’t exist. A United Workers Union survey revealed nine in 10 cleaners say they have to rush essential work, and eight in 10 revealed they do not have enough adequate equipment, including suitable disinfectant.
United Workers Union news release. The New Daily. Risks 949. 30 May 2020

Global: Don’t return to work until you are ‘confident’ it is safe
Workers should not return to their jobs until they are ‘confident’ it is safe to do so, the UN’s top labour standards body has said. Launching its new return to work guide on 22 May, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) also called for consultation with workers’ organisations and a physical distancing requirement of at least two metres.
ILO news release. A safe and healthy return to work during the COVID-19 pandemic, ILO policy brief, 22 May 2020. Risks 949. 30 May 2020

USA: Trump breaks safe work rule to force work return
US workers who fear a return to work may not be safe have been told the will be denied unemployment benefits if they don’t go back. President Trump ramped up his coronavirus rhetoric throughout May, referring to himself as a ‘wartime president’ and telling workers to be ‘warriors’ for the economy.
NELP statement and letter to Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia. Disaster Unemployment Assistance regulations. Huffington Post. Politico. Washington Post. Risks 949. 30 May 2020

Britain: Government creates illusion of Covid-19 safety spot checks
The government is talking workplace safety “without actually doing anything about it,” the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspectors’ union Prospect has charged. Prospect general secretary Mike Clancy was responding to reports that HSE is carrying out no physical spot checks and has no date set for their restart.
Prospect news release. i news. The Guardian. Risks 948. 23 May 2020

Britain: Studies cast doubt on Covid-19 restart safety assurances
A light breeze can spread a viral plume over 6 metres in under two seconds, a new study has shown, casting doubt on claims Covid-19 risks are insignificant in construction and other outdoor work, while other studies have warned that apparently healthy ‘presymptomatic and asymptomatic’ individuals can present a significant infection risk, and normal speech can spread the virus.
Talib Dbouk and Dimitris Drikakis. On coughing and airborne droplet transmission to humans, Physics of Fluids, volume 32, issue 5, published online 19 May 2020.
Furukawa NW, Brooks JT, Sobel J. Evidence supporting transmission of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 while presymptomatic or asymptomatic, Emerging Infectious Diseases, volume 26, number 7, July 2020.
Lucy Rivett and others. Screening of healthcare workers for SARS-CoV-2 highlights the role of asymptomatic carriage in COVID-19 transmission, CITIID-NIHR COVI Bioresource Collaboration, medRxiv, published online 15 May 2020.
Krystal J Godri Pollitt and others. COVID-19 vulnerability: the potential impact of genetic susceptibility and airborne transmission, Human Genomics volume 14, article number 17, published online 12 May 2020.
Working safely during coronavirus (Covid-19): Construction and other outdoor work, BEIS, updated 19 May 2020. All government guides by sector. Risks 948. 23 May 2020

Britain; Almost all teachers concerned at school opening plans
The government must provide the scientific evidence to justify the decision to reopen some schools from 1 June, the teaching union NASUWT has said. It warned that teachers ‘remain far from unconvinced’ that reopening can be safely or practicably achieved by this date.
NASUWT news release and call on the government to release the scientific evidence. BBC News Online. Morning Star. The Guardian and related editorial and article on the local authority ‘rebellion’. Risks 948. 23 May 2020

Britain: NEU calls for openness on school reopening plan
The government must make public the evidence informing its plan to start reopening schools on 1 June, the teaching union NEU has said. The union was commenting after challenges to Boris Johnson’s claim 25,000 contact tracers, able to track 10,000 new cases a day, would be in place by 1 June.
NEU news release and related news release. NHS Confederation news release and letter to health secretary Matt Hancock. BBC News Online and related story. The Guardian. Risks 948. 23 May 2020

Britain: School support staff say 1 June reopening ‘unrealistic’
Reopening schools on 1 June is unrealistic as key safety tests have not been met, UNISON has warned. UNISON head of education Jon Richards said “the DfE guidance has a number of holes, and the government has neither met unions’ safety tests nor its own,” adding: “That’s why the beginning of June for reopening is unrealistic.”
UNISON news release. Risks 948. 23 May 2020

Britain: EIS lays ‘red lines’ before Scottish school can reopen
Unresolved ‘challenges’ must be overcome before any Scottish schools reopen, the teaching union EIS has said. Over 26,000 EIS members – including teachers from every local authority in Scotland – took part in a survey which identified solid support for the union’s ‘red lines’.
EIS news release. Risks 948. 23 May 2020

Britain: University reopening plans ‘only adding to confusion’
The government needs to step in and underwrite fees and teaching grants lost by universities and universities must in turn promise to work together on plans for safely reopening, lecturers’ union UCU has said. Plans from universities to either ban face-to-face lectures, try blended learning and to try and reopen fully in September are only adding to the confusion for students, the union said.
UCU news release. UNISON news release and Protect higher education campaign. Risks 948. 23 May 2020

Britain: Tube drivers sent home after raising safety concerns
At least 30 Tube drivers were sent home from work on 18 May after they expressed concerns about their safety and that of their passengers, their union said, as more people returned to work after the coronavirus lockdown was eased in England. Train drivers’ union ASLEF accused the government of regarding Transport for London (TfL) workers as “nothing more than collateral damage” after rail and Tube operators increased services this week.
ASLEF news release. The Independent. Risks 948. 23 May 2020

Britain: RMT calls for binding Covid-19 rail transport rules
Rail union RMT is calling for new compulsory protections for passengers and rail workers on trains. Commenting as the increased rail service timetable came into effect on 18 May, the union said there must be compulsory 2-metre social distancing, reflecting official guidance to the public.
RMT news release.  Morning Star. Risks 948. 23 May 2020

Britain: Answers needed on high rates of Covid-19 in BAME workers
Transport union RMT has written to industry bosses and safety regulators seeking ‘answers and protections’ to address the high rates of Covid-19 in Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) workers in the transport sector. The union said it has reminded employers that there is ‘concrete evidence’ regarding the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on BAME workers and has raised a series of questions with transport bosses and safety regulators.
RMT news release. Risks 948. 23 May 2020

Britain: Belly Mujinga’s death has ‘touched the nation’
Rail union TSSA has said it has been ‘overwhelmed’ by the response to the death last week of union member Belly Mujinga from Covid-19. Belly was working as a ticket office clerk at London’s Victoria Station when she and a colleague were spat and coughed at on the concourse by a man claiming to have the infection.
TSSA news release. Risks 948. 23 May 2020

Britain: London transport advice and funding a mess
The government is at ‘sixes and sevens’ over its London transport policy and plans to get commuters back to work, Unite has said. The union said that the £1.6bn government bailout - a combination of grant and loans -  for Transport for London (TfL), after the dramatic slump in passenger numbers, had too onerous conditions attached to it, such as the reintroduction of congestion charges and that the funding was only for four months.
Unite news release. TfL news release. Evening Standard. Risks 948. 23 May 2020

Britain: Bereavement scheme extended after backlash
A bereavement scheme set up to support the families of workers who die of coronavirus has been extended to the families and dependants of all NHS support staff and social care workers. The Home Office made the announcement following criticism from unions and others that care workers, cleaners and porters had been left out of the scheme, which only applied to certain occupations including nurses, biochemists and radiographers.
Home Office news release. GMB news release. Evening Standard. Risks 948. 23 May 2020

Britain: G4S sick pay fails prison officers at high virus risk
Private prison operator G4S is failing to give guarantees on sick pay for prison officers -revealed as among the most likely workers to die from Covid-19 - their union GMB has said. An analysis this month by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed prison workers are a high risk occupational group for the infection.
GMB news release. Risks 948. 23 May 2020

Britain: Care home deaths expose ‘unfit’ social care system
New Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures showing UK care home deaths linked to coronavirus have now exceeded 10,000 show the social care system is ‘unfit for purpose’ and needs a ‘complete overhaul’. UNISON assistant general secretary Christina McAnea said: “These deaths show the government’s failure to support those in society who are most in need of care.”
UNISON news release. ONS care home statistics. BBC News Online. The Guardian. Risks 948. 23 May 2020

Britain: A full return of parliament could put MPs and staff at risk
A government plan for parliament to return to normal operation from the start of June has been condemned by a civil service union. Prospect said the announcement by Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg, the leader of the House of Commons, risked “putting MPs and staff at risk.”
Prospect news release and related news release. Morning Star. Risks 948. 23 May 2020

Britain: Warning on deadly Legionnaires’ risk on return to work
Businesses have been warned to flush out the water supply in their building before they reopen as potentially deadly Legionella bacteria may have built up in water systems during the coronavirus lockdown. The Public Health England (PHE) guidance came on the heels of workplace hygiene experts this month warning “all of the processes that are there to keep people safe from harmful exposures to chemicals, biological agents and other hazards have not been in operation,” creating serious return to work risks including Legionnaires’ disease.
PHE guidance. The Independent. Risks 948. 23 May 2020

Britain: 5G conspiracy related abuse must be reported
Telecommunications sector field engineers are being reminded by their union of the ‘paramount importance’ of ensuring any abusive behaviour they encounter in the course of their duties is formally reported and logged – especially where it relates to ‘fake news’ that coronavirus is being spread by the rollout of 5G. The communications union CWU said so far 76 Openreach engineers had reported abuse, the ‘vast majority’ while conducting work that had nothing whatsoever to do with 5G.
CWU news release. Risks 948. 23 May 2020

Britain: East Sussex fire authority faces backlash over cuts
East Sussex fire authority has been deluged with concerns from firefighters and members of the public, as a campaign against sweeping fire and rescue service cuts in the county gathers pace. More than 14,000 concerned residents have signed a petition calling on members of the fire authority to reject the proposed cuts, which the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) says will “decimate” the county’s fire service.
FBU news release. Risks 948. 23 May 2020

Global: Union campaign for safe fashion retail after Covid-19
As shops around the world roll up their shutters and open their doors, unions for the retail sector are kicking off a global campaign for a safe return to work in fashion retail shops. The campaign, coordinated by the global union UNI, supports its new guidelines to help its union affiliates negotiate in-store measures to protect retail workers, customers, and external vendors in the wake of Covid-19.
UNI news release, guide and graphic summary. Risks 948. 23 May 2020

Britain: Return to safe workplaces – new TUC guide
If employers want workers to return to their normal place of work, they must make sure it’s done safely, to protect the health of workers, customers and the public. A new TUC Education online publication gives a step-by-step how-to guide, and goes in turn through Covid-19-specific risk assessments, employers’ duties, consultation, and steps to address risks to all workers, including vulnerable workers, and to get approval for plans before going ahead.
Return to safe workplaces, TUC Education, May 2020. Risks 948. 23 May 2020

Global: UN rights experts say ‘no worker is expendable’
As countries begin to ease restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic, UN human rights experts are calling on governments and businesses to ensure all workers are protected from exposure to Covid-19. In a joint statement, 16 UN human rights special rapporteurs and UN working group leaders concludes: “We urge states and businesses to work with labour unions and other worker representatives to help ensure necessary safeguards are in place… Our message today is simple, but crucial: every worker must be protected, no matter what.”
OHCHR news release. IUF news release. Risks 948. 23 May 2020

Global: Meat plant line speeds speed up Covid-19 spread
Despite US president Donald Trump's 27 April executive order requiring meat plants to remain open, 47 meat and poultry plants were temporarily closed as of 11 May due to the rapid spread of infections through their workforce. According to the global food and farming union federation, IUF, at least 30 meat workers have died and thousands have been infected.
IUF news release and news release on the Canadian outbreaks. Philadephia Inquirer. Huffpost. Risks 948. 23 May 2020

USA: Call for more return to work protection
As US states consider reopening and Americans head back to work, there is still no federal mandate in place to prevent the transmission of airborne viruses. Instead, politically powerful industries like meat processing plants aren’t operating under any federal controls, only voluntary guidance.
ABC News. Risks 948. 23 May 2020

USA: Unions sue safety watchdog for a coronavirus law
The US national union federation AFL-CIO has filed a petition in the US Court of Appeals to compel the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to issue an emergency temporary standard (ETS) protecting workers against the coronavirus. AFL-CIO warns that as the economy reopens and people return to work, person-to-person contact will increase and health experts predict the already ‘shocking’ number of infections and deaths among workers will rise.
AFL-CIO news release. Risks 948. 23 May 2020

Britain: Inquiry call as low paid dominate Covid-19 worker deaths
Unite is calling for a full public inquiry after figures from the Office for National Statistics revealed workers in ‘low skilled elementary occupations’ (21.4 deaths per 100,000) were almost four times as likely to die from the virus as ‘professionals’ (5.6 per 100,000). The 11 May age-adjusted figures for the working age population show the highest number of deaths were recorded in the social care sector, with 131 deaths recorded.
ONS publication note and analysis of deaths in England and Wales related to Covid-19 by occupation the occupations in the UK that have the highest potential exposure to Covid-19. Unite news release. Morning Star. The Guardian. Risks 947. 16 May 2020

Britain: Unions call for action at ‘horrifying’ death figures
Urgent action must be taken to address high Covid-19 death rates in low paid workers, unions have said. Commenting on the latest figures Office for National Statistics (ONS) Covid-19 statistics, acting GMB general secretary John Phillips said: “These figures are horrifying,” adding: “If you are low paid and working through the Covid-19 crisis you are more likely to die - that’s how stark these figures are.”
GMB news release. RMT news release. ONS publication note. Risks 947. 16 May 2020