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Hazards news, 1 December 2021

Britain: Increase sick pay so workers can isolate
The UK government must increase sick pay so workers can afford to self-isolate, the TUC has said. Commenting on the prime minister’s announcement on 27 November of tightened rules to address the new Omicron Covid-19 variant, TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “We all want to stay safe and stop this variant from spreading. Failure to do so will have a huge impact on public health, our frontline services and the economy.”
TUC news release and report, Sick pay that works: TUC report on the urgent need for reform, February 2021. Prime Minister’s Office news release, 30 November update and Boris Johnson 27 November 2021 statement. WHO Omicron variant update, 28 November 2021. WHO Technical Brief.
BBC News Online. Stat News. CNN News. Risks 1024. 1 December 2021

Britain: Watering down safety in stores was ‘wrong’
The UK government must be absolutely clear that it is a legal requirement in England for shoppers to wear face coverings again, the retail union Usdaw has said. It was commenting after the Omicron variant of Covid-19 was detected in the UK and a government reversal of its relaxation of transport and retail mask rules.
Usdaw news release. BRC news release. BBC News Online. The Guardian. Risks 1024. 1 December 2021

Britain: ‘Protect yourself’, RMT tells transport staff
Transport union RMT is advising its members “to ensure that they protect their own personal safety and the safety of their colleagues as a priority as masks become compulsory on transport services in England.” The union warned that the government has made no arrangements to resource the enforcement of their policy switch, leaving staff in the frontline “seriously exposed.”
RMT news release and earlier news release. Risks 1024. 1 December 2021

Britain: Compulsory face mask ‘useless’ unless enforced
New rules requiring wearing of face masks to protect the population against the spread of the Omicron strain of the coronavirus will be “useless” unless the government ensures they are enforced, unions have said. The renewed measures include compulsory wearing of face masks on public transport and in retail from 30 November — but with no government measures to enforce the rules.
Unite news release. TSSA news release. Morning Star. Risks 1024. 1 December 2021

Britain: Union concern over Tube infection risks
London Underground workers were placed at avoidable risk after mask wearing became “openly ignored” on a large scale, unions said. Commenting ahead of the UK government’s announcement that masks should be worn on all public transport, they said there had been noticeable decline in the number of Tube users wearing face masks despite this being required on the underground system.
Evening Standard. East London Guardian. Risks 1024. 1 December 2021

Britain: Transport union backs more home working
The transport and travel union TSSA has called for employers to support homeworking wherever possible as the most effective method to stop transmission of the Omicron variant. The union's demand for greater preventive measures to protect against Covid infection follows successful calls for face masks to be made mandatory on public transport and in shops.
TSSA news release. Risks 1024. 1 December 2021

Britain: Masks good, but other measures necessary
Teaching union NEU has welcomed new government guidance requiring some mask wearing in secondary schools, but has warned that other measures including improved ventilation and air filtration are also necessary. Commenting on the new Department for Education (DfE) guidance that masks must be worn by adults and children in year 7 and above in communal areas, NEU joint general secretary Kevin Courtney said: “We think the DfE should go further and encourage mask-wearing in secondary classrooms and also plan investment to improve ventilation and air filtration.”
NEU news release and vaccine policy news release. Prime Minister’s Office news release, 30 November 2021. Schools COVID-19 operational guidance, DfE, updated 29 November 2021. Risks 1024. 1 December 2021

Britain: School face coverings rule not enough
Just reintroducing face coverings in secondary schools in England may not be enough to protect staff and pupils from infection, teaching union NASUWT has warned. Commenting on the UK government’s announcement of new temporary measures in response to the potential threat from the new Omicron variant of Covid-19 in the UK, NASUWT general secretary Dr Patrick Roach said: “The reintroduction of the requirement for face coverings to be worn in communal areas in all settings by staff and visitors and by pupils in year 7 and above, including on public transport, is helpful,” adding: “But there is strong evidence that the government needs to go further, including by reintroducing the requirement for wearing face coverings in classrooms in light of the persistently high daily number of coronavirus cases.”
NASUWT news release. Risks 1024. 1 December 2021

Britain: Covid rules should apply in hospitality too
Workers in the hospitality sector should not be exempted from the new Covid safety protections, Unite has said. The union is demanding that culture secretary Nadine Dorries acts to ensure mandatory mask wearing for customers visiting hospitality venues across the UK.
Unite news release. Risks 1024. 1 December 2021

Britain: Prime minister again caught flouting mask rules
Boris Johnson’s has followed up his mask-less appearances at a hospital and the Glasgow UN climate summit with further flouting at the rules on a train and in a theatre. On 18 November photographs emerged of a mask-less Boris Johnson on a train in Manchester, while other passengers around him wore masks, then on 23 November the prime minister again flouted official requests to wear a mask as he watched a performance of Macbeth at the Almeida theatre in north London.
The Guardian. The Mirror. Risks 1024. 1 December 2021

Britain: Groups highlight priorities for Covid public inquiry
Trade unions, scientists and doctors have joined forces with families bereaved by Covid to highlight issues ranging from public health policy to the supply of face masks and inadequate risk assessments they want addressed by next year’s public inquiry into the UK’s handling of the pandemic. The TUC, the British Medical Association (BMA), the Independent Sage group of scientists and human rights campaigners are presenting a united front with the campaign group Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice to increase pressure on Downing Street to step up preparations for the inquiry.
The Guardian. Sky News. Evening Standard. Risks 1024. 1 December 2021

Britain: Amazon ambulance call outs surge ahead of sales
Ambulance callouts for injuries and other health concerns at Amazon warehouses surged almost 50 per cent in the run up to Black Friday on 26 November, research by GMB has revealed. The union used freedom of information requests to obtain monthly data from four ambulance trusts that cover major Amazon sites.
GMB news release and related news release. Morning Star.
ITUC news release. MakeAmazonPay.com. Risks 1024. 1 December 2021

Britain: Care staff warn of ‘dangerous’ under-staffing
Nearly a third (31 per cent) of care staff say staffing levels are dangerously low, getting worse and negatively affecting the care provided, a UNISON survey has found. The union says the ‘dangerous situation’ has resulted in the majority of sector’s stressed-out staff considering switching jobs.
UNISON news release. Risks 1024. 1 December 2021

Britain: Danger warning on 'bargain basement' ambulances
An ambulance service is putting staff and patients’ safety at serious risk by using ‘bargain basement’ vehicles, the union GMB has warned. The union believes the Fiat vehicles - which South East Coast Ambulance Service (Secamb) operates alongside its traditional fleet - have a significant safety flaw.
GMB news release. Risks 1024. 1 December 2021

Britain: Rail unions warning on ‘epidemic’ of harassment
Rail unions have called for action to tackle a rise in sexual harassment of passengers and workers on public transport. Commenting on 25 November - International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women – RMT said its survey exposed a growing epidemic of sexual harassment. The survey of women public transport workers  - on rail, London Underground, metro, bus and passenger ferry services - found that a ‘massive’ 70 per cent were aware of passengers being sexually harassed on public transport in the last five years, with more than 50 per cent saying they were aware of multiple instances.
RMT news release. Risks 1024. 1 December 2021

Britain: Proper rail staffing needed to protect women
Rail union TSSA has demanded the UK government make railways safer for female passengers by stopping planned cuts to station staff. The call on the UN International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women came after government research published earlier this year showed that 28 per cent of all sexual harassment incidents took place on the railway system.
TSSA news release. Risks 1024. 1 December 2021

Britain: Court case management system ‘incredibly stressful’
Court staff are feeling ‘at risk, incredibly stressed, overwhelmed and ill’ as a result of a ‘deeply flawed and failing’ Common Platform (CP) case management system, they have told their union PCS. A ballot of court staff is now seeking support for wide-ranging PCS demands, including suspension of the CP system, an organisational risk assessment in consultation with the union and suitable and sufficient resources to support individual risk assessments.
PCS news release. Risks 1024. 1 December 2021

Britain: Tiny fine for workplace asbestos crimes
A builder has been fined just £300 after carrying out a botched asbestos removal job he was not licensed to undertake. Salisbury Magistrates’ Court heard how, on 8 September 2018, Robert Angell undertook work to remove asbestos-containing material while renovating a pub in Trowbridge, Wiltshire.
HSE news release. Risks 1024. 1 December 2021

Britain: Farm fined after young worker crushed to death
A farming partnership has been fined following an incident where a 21-year-old farm employee was killed whilst dismantling a redundant piece of farming equipment. Folkestone Magistrates’ Court heard how, on 30 April 2019, The J&D Foster Farms LLP employee George Murrell was crushed by a grain drying tunnel at Fishpond Farm in Tonbridge. employee sustained fatal injuries.
HSE news release. Risks 1024. 1 December 2021

Australia: Support for workers ‘critical’ to Covid recovery
Providing proper income support and time off for workers who fall ill, need to get tested or need to isolate is the most sure-fire way to keep workplaces safe, Australian union federation ACTU has said. The union body’s ‘Making work Covid-safe’ report says paid leave “is the most efficient method of making sure sick workers don’t attend workplaces, and aren’t forced to take time off work without pay.”
ACTU news release and report, Support for workers critical to keeping reopening workplaces safe. BBC News Online. ABC News. Risks 1024. 1 December 2021

Global: Call to end gender-based violence at work
Unions worldwide embarked on 16 days of activism on 25 November to press governments to sign up to a landmark legal standard on the prevention of violence and harassment in the world of work. Global union federation ITUC said so far nine governments have ratified the International Labour Organisation’s Convention 190, with over 20 governments in the process of doing so.
ITUC news release and campaign tool kit. EI news release. IFJ news release. IndustriALL news release. ITF news release. IUF news release. PSI news release. ETUC news release. Risks 1024. 1 December 2021

Russia: Over 50 dead in coal mine fire
Over 50 workers have died in Russia's worst mining disaster in a decade. The incident started when coal dust in a ventilation shaft caught fire on 25 November. Several rescuers are reported to be among the dead.
BBC News Online. ABC News. New York Times. Risks 1024. 1 December 2021

Hazards news, 23 November 2021

Britain: Vaccine alone is not enough, warn experts
International experts have concluded Covid-19 vaccination alone is not sufficient to stem the pandemic. Their evidence review, published on 18 November in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), concludes several personal protective and social measures, including mask wearing and physical distancing, are associated with reductions in the incidence Covid-19 and should be continued alongside vaccination.
Stella Talic and others. Effectiveness of public health measures in reducing the incidence of covid-19, SARS-CoV-2 transmission, and covid-19 mortality: systematic review and meta-analysis, BMJ 2021;375:e068302, 18 November 2021.
doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj-2021-068302
Paul P Glasziou, Susan Michie and Atle Fretheim. Editorial: Public health measures for covid-19: Lack of good research is a pandemic tragedy, BMJ 2021;375:n2729, 18 November 2021. doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.n2729
The Guardian. Risks 1023. 23 November 2021

Britain: PCS slams mass DWP work return as ‘irresponsible’
Civil service union PCS has said it believes it is irresponsible for the DWP ‘to try to force a mass return to workplaces for staff currently working from home’, as scientists have made it clear that Covid-19 still poses a very serious risk to public health. In an online post, the union said: “With the winter months throwing up additional health risks, now is not the time to be ramping up the return to workplaces.”
PCS news release. Risks 1023. 23 November 2021

Britain: For DVLA strikers, it really is all about safety
Civil service PCS is calling on the DVLA to conclude a health and safety agreement if the department's ‘only priority’ really is the health and safety of staff. The union was commenting after DVLA chief executive Julie Lennard declared, after union members voting again backed industrial action: “It’s important to say that the ballot was never about winning or losing, as our only priority throughout has been staff safety.”
PCS comment and strike vote news release. Risks 1023. 23 November 2021

Britain: Animal charity staff facing ‘mental health disaster’
Staff at a high profile animal charity in London are facing a ‘mental health disaster’ as a result of loss of staff and spiralling demand, Unite has warned. The crisis is behind a ballot for strike action and industrial action short of a strike by staff at the long-established Mayhew animal charity, which includes kennels, a cattery and a clinic.
Unite news release. Risks 1023. 23 November 2021

Britain: Six demands to beat bullying in film and TV
Film and TV technicians’ union Bectu has launched a six-point plan to help tackle harassment and bullying in the industry. The union says its #UnseenOnScreen campaign has shown that all forms of harassment and bullying remains prevalent. The union’s six demands on production companies, broadcasters and studios seek to prevent and address all forms of harassment and bullying.
Bectu news release. Risks 1023. 23 November 2021

Britain: Payout for worker sacked while battling cancer
A man who was made redundant after battling cancer has been compensated after it was found he had been a victim of disability discrimination. Unite member Gary Hall, a father of two from Stevenage, had been working for NextGenAccess Ltd in Hatfield - initially as a contractor and later as an employee - since 2017.
Thompsons Solicitors news release. Risks 1023. 23 November 2021

Britain: Train drivers need to stop at the loo
Accessing suitable toilet and hygiene facilities across the UK rail network is a ‘real problem’ for train drivers, their union ASLEF has said. Commenting on World Toilet Day, the 19 November United Nations annual event intended to inspire action to tackle the global sanitation crisis, the union said the problem affects drivers on lots of difference services.
ASLEF news release. Morning Star article and Mick Whelan commentary.
Health implications of not having access to toilets at work, ASLEF, November 2021 – publication alert and online resource list and full report.
ITF news release and campaign for clean, safe, accessible toilets for transport workers. Risks 1023. 23 November 2021

Britain: Delivery drivers need to go to the toilet
Distribution and retail trade union Usdaw is calling for all drivers to be provided with safe and easy access to toilets and other welfare facilities. The union said drivers have faced a lack of appropriate facilities for many years, both at the roadside and when making deliveries
Usdaw news release. Morning Star. More on health and safety and toilet breaks. Risks 1023. 23 November 2021

Britain: London bus strikes looming over shifting shifts
Bus passengers in South and West London face disruption and delays this winter as drivers at Abellio ballot for industrial action in a dispute over shifts their unions says will push up stress and make workers ill. The dispute relates to the company’s scheduling agreement, which establishes a driver’s shift patterns for a year.
Unite news release.
Loughborough University: Bus Driver Fatigue – Final Report, August 2019. Risks 1023. 23 November 2021

Britain: Usdaw backs #ShopKind campaign
Retail trade union Usdaw has welcomed the Christmas launch of the national #ShopKind campaign, which encourages shoppers to treat staff with respect when they visit high streets. New polling by the Home Office-funded campaign reveals that over one third of shoppers (38 per cent) have witnessed violence and abuse against shopworkers.
Usdaw news release. Risks 1023. 23 November 2021

Britain: Peers add to pressure for shopworker protection
Retail trade union Usdaw has welcomed cross-party support from peers for two protection of shopworkers amendments to the government’s Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill. The amendments, debated of 17 November in the House of Lords, were moved by Lord Coaker (Labour) and Baroness Neville-Rolfe (Conservative), with supportive speeches made by Lord Lea (Independent), Baroness Bennett (Green) and Baroness Jolly (Lib Dem).
Usdaw news release. Morning Star. Risks 1023. 23 November 2021

Britain: 'Bittersweet justice' as firms fined after worker froze
The family of a security guard who froze to death at a construction site when he was snowed in have said they now have justice after two companies were fined almost £900,000 for criminal health and safety failings. Ronnie Alexander was on duty at Afton wind farm, near New Cumnock in East Ayrshire, in January 2018 during bad weather.
HSE news release. The National. Construction Enquirer. BBC News Online. Risks 1023. 23 November 2021

Britain: Director jailed for ignoring HSE notices
A director of a former car salvage company in Wales has been jailed for a year after failing to comply with Health and Safety Executive (HSE) enforcement notices. Newport Crown Court heard that between 2018 and 2021, Tahir Karim was in control of activities and those working at Long Life Spares in Llanbradach, Caerphilly.
HSE news release. South Wales Argus. Risks 1023. 23 November 2021

Britain: Workers burned in vehicle service centre
A commercial vehicle servicing and repair company has been fined after two workers suffered serious burns when flammable brake cleaning fluid ignited. An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) into the incident, which occurred at STA Vehicle Centres Ltd in Birmingham, found that the company failed to carry out a risk assessment to consider whether it was possible to eliminate or reduce the risk.
HSE news release. Risks 1023. 23 November 2021

Global: NHS PPE supplier linked to forced labour
The UK government has launched an investigation into one of the NHS’s main suppliers of personal protective equipment over its alleged use of forced labour. Officials at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) are investigating Supermax, which won a £316m contract for 88.5m rubber gloves as the Covid pandemic began to unfold.
The Guardian. Risks 1023. 23 November 2021

Australia: More workers getting harmed by their jobs
The number of workers’ compensation claims for serious injury or illness increased again last year in Australia, as they have every year since the coalition federal government came to power in 2014, according to data released by the national regulator SafeWork Australia. The national union federation ACTU said the workers’ compensation statistics for 2019-20 illustrate that the previous downward trend of serious workplace injury or illness claims prior to 2014 has stagnated under the coalition and has risen fast since Scott Morrison became prime minister.
ACTU news release. Risks 1023. 23 November 2021

Global: Covid-19 has hit migrant workers harder
The Covid-19 crisis has had a devastating impact on migrant workers all over the world, in particular those employed in precarious low-wage sectors, who were often the first to experience the economic shock of the pandemic, according a new report by the International Labour Organisation (ILO). ‘Locked down and in limbo: The global impact of Covid-19 on migrant worker rights and recruitment’ reports that many migrant workers had their employment summarily suspended or terminated as the virus spread, or suffered a dramatic fall in income.
ILO news release and report, Locked down and in limbo: The global impact of COVID-19 on migrant worker rights and recruitment, November 2021. Risks 1023. 23 November 2021

Qatar: New transparency hopes for work safety
The International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the government of Qatar have published a new report on health and safety provisions for workers, pointing to a new level of openness and transparency in support of workers’ rights. “The transparency shown in the review of the data collection and analysis processes has allowed us to put forward a set of concrete recommendations that can serve as a road map for action,” said Max Tuñón, head of the ILO project office in Qatar.
ITUC news release. ILO news release and report, One is too many: The collection and analysis of data on occupational injuries in Qatar, November 2021. Risks 1023. 23 November 2021

Hazards news, 17 November 2021

Britain: Mandatory care vaccines creating staffing ‘black hole’
The UK government’s mandatory vaccine for care workers is ‘taking a sledgehammer to crack a nut’, the union GMB has said. Commenting immediately after the 11 November deadline for care workers in England to be double vaccinated, GMB national officer Rachel Harrison said: “It’s cruel, has caused unnecessary heartache and has contributed to care’s potentially catastrophic staffing black hole.”
GMB news release. Risks 1022. 17 November 2021

Britain: PM defied mask up request on hospital visit
Boris Johnson was warned three times that he would need to wear a mask during a hospital visit but was pictured without one anyway, it has been revealed.  The prime minister has been accused of a “callous disregard” for the NHS after wandering around the hospital without a mask.
The Mirror. The Express. The Independent. Risks 1022. 17 November 2021

Britain: Worker ‘suspended’ for getting Covid booster jab
A Yorkshire engineering company has been accused of suspending a trade union representative because he went for a Covid-19 booster injection during working hours. GMB member Thomas Keady, 66, is employed as an inspector at Longwood Engineering in Huddersfield and is a member of the GMB.
Huddersfield Examiner. Morning Star. Risks 1022. 17 November 2021

Britain: UK ratifies prevention of violence at work treaty
The TUC has welcomed the UK ratification of an international treaty on prevention of violence and harassment at work. The union body was commenting after work and pensions secretary Thérèse Coffey told the Commons the UK was putting measures in train to ratify the International Labour Organisation’s Convention 190 on violence and harassment.
TUC news release. Statement by Thérèse Coffey, secretary of state for work and pensions, 15 November 2021. NUJ news release.
ILO Convention 190, Violence and harassment convention 2019. Risks 1022. 17 November 2021

Britain: Violence against shopworkers widespread but unreported
Almost nine out of ten shopworkers have faced abuse at work in the last year but nearly half are not confident that reporting abuse to their employer will make a difference, a survey by the retail union Usdaw has found. The interim results of the union’s annual survey, based on responses from nearly 3,500 retail staff, show that in the last twelve months 89 per cent have experienced verbal abuse, almost two-thirds (64 per cent) have been threatened by a customer and over one in ten (11 per cent) have been assaulted.
Usdaw news release. Risks 1022. 17 November 2021

Britain: AI is ‘damaging mental health’ of workers
Monitoring of workers and setting performance targets through algorithms is damaging employees’ mental health and needs to be controlled by new legislation, according to a group of MPs and peers. An ‘accountability for algorithms act’ would ensure that companies evaluate the effect of artificial intelligence (AI) performance-driven regimes such as queue monitoring in supermarkets or deliveries-per-hour guidelines for delivery drivers, said the all-party parliamentary group (APPG) on the future of work.
APPG on the future of work website and The New Frontier: Artificial Intelligence at Work: A final report produced by the  All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Future of Work, November 2021.  The Guardian. Risks 1022. 17 November 2021

Britain: Union slams school inspections acceleration
UK government plans to accelerate Ofsted inspections for schools and further education will exacerbate the problems facing already exhausted and stressed teaching staff, the union NEU has warned. The union was commenting after Ofsted said it “has been asked by government to inspect all schools and further education (FE) providers by summer 2025, to give a quicker assessment of how well education is recovering from the pandemic.”
NEU news release. Ofsted news release. The Guardian. Risks 1022. 17 November 2021

Britain: Warning on work-related mental health ‘crisis’
Work-related stress and poor mental health ‘risk becoming a health and safety crisis for Great Britain’s workplaces’, the UK’s workplace safety regulator has warned. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) said its new ‘Working Minds’ campaign aims to help businesses recognise the signs of work-related stress and make tackling related issues routine.
HSE news release and Working Minds campaign. Morning Star.
RESOURCES: TUC guide to responding to harmful work-related stress. Tackling workplace stress using the HSE Stress Management Standards, TUC and HSE guidance for health and safety representatives. TUC workbook on mental health in the workplace. TUC mental health awareness training. TUC health, safety and wellbeing guide.
Hazards stress and mental health webpages. Risks 1022. 17 November 2021

Britain: Hotel worker overdosed days after being fired
A hotel bar worker who had struggled with alcohol and drug problems died after a deliberate overdose of a painkiller, four days after he lost his job. Simon David Pick, 37, fired from his job on the 6 May.
Hampshire Chronicle.
RESOURCES: Work and suicide: A TUC guide to prevention for trade union activists. ‘Don’t despair’ pin-up-at-work suicide prevention poster. More on work-related suicides.
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 1022. 17 November 2021

Britain: Covid-concerned menopausal key worker killed herself
A menopausal supermarket worker killed herself two days after being signed off with anxiety because of her fear of falling ill with Covid, an inquest has heard. Linda Salmon, 56, took her own life in April last year after her anxiety worsened during the Covid pandemic.
BBC News Online and video report. The Mirror. Yorkshire Live.
Resources: TUC menopause at work interactive guide and Supporting working women through the menopause: guidance for union representatives. Menopause is a workplace issue guide, UNISON. Risks 1022. 17 November 2021

Britain: CWU welcomes tachograph safety agreement
A new tachograph infringements agreement covering CWU members working as cash and valuables in transit (CViT) drivers has been introduced following negotiations between the union and Post Office. CWU assistant secretary Andy Furey said the update to tachograph rules introduced new supportive rather than ‘punitive’ procedures suitable for the digital age.
CWU news release. Risks 1022. 17 November 2021

Britain: Ferry workers to strike over ‘year of misrule’
Workers on London’s Woolwich Ferry have voted for further strike action after nearly ‘a year of misrule’ by Transport for London (TfL) bosses, including inadequate safety training for new recruits. Unite said the ferry operation has been plagued by poor employment relations for years, first with the previous operator Briggs Marine Contractors Ltd and now with TfL, which has led to more than 30 days of strike action during 2021.
Unite news release. Risks 1022. 17 November 2021

Britain: Ambulance staff concern over unqualified military role
The GMB has launched a formal dispute with the Welsh Ambulance Service Trust (WAST), citing bullying and harassment from the management over the service’s use of underqualified military help. The union said the Welsh government had pledged military support would be limited ‘lower acuity, non-emergency’ work, however the GMB is concerned its use has become more widespread.
GMB news release. Risks 1022. 17 November 2021

Britain: Night Tube plan places ‘impossible’ demands on staff
Tube union RMT has warned plans for the reintroduction of the Night Tube in London will place ‘unacceptable and intolerable demands’ on staff. A statement from the union’s national executive said RMT “has made every effort to reach an agreement with LUL [London Underground Ltd] that allows for the staffing of night-tube services without imposing unacceptable additional night and weekend working onto our members.”
RMT news release. Risks 1022. 17 November 2021

Britain: Builders are ‘gaming system’ on fire safety rules
The firefighters’ union FBU has criticised the government for a lack of action on the building safety crisis, after the London Fire Brigade said that builders were able to “game the system” and avoid fire rules. The union said that the “massive” building safety crisis in the UK exposed by the Grenfell disaster could be resolved if the government provided “the regulations and funding necessary to solve this crisis,” including “watertight legislation that prevents dodges and loopholes like this being possible.”
FBU news release. Risks 1022. 17 November 2021

Britain: Fine after apprentice loses sight in one eye
A Bradford-based construction company has been fined after an apprentice decorator was injured at work, leading to significant sight loss in his right eye. Pearl Services UK Limited pleaded guilty to a criminal safety offence and was fined £16,500 and ordered to pay costs of £5,778.40.
HSE news release. Construction Enquirer. Risks 1022. 17 November 2021

Britain: Health and safety in Scotland’s hands
The Scottish Hazards conference is to take place on 24 November. The online event has the theme ‘Health and safety in Scotland’s hands’. The opening session will hear from Shavanah Taj and Roz Foyer, general secretaries of the Wales TUC and Scottish TUC respectively.
Register for Health and Safety in Scotland’s Hands, online, Wednesday 24 November, 11.00am-2.00pm. Further information. Risks 1022. 17 November 2021

Britain: Health and access to toilets at work
A new report from the train drivers’ union ASLEF, ‘Health implications of not having access to toilets at work’, says a lack of access during the working day is a human rights issue, an occupational health and safety issue, an equality issue, and a public health issue. It says workers must be provided safe, clean and appropriate toilet facilities and the opportunities to use them. The report includes an extensive resources list.
Health implications of not having access to toilets at work, ASLEF, November 2021 – publication alert and online resource list and full report.
Hazards resources on toilet breaks at work. Risks 1022. 17 November 2021

Global: Shein garment makers doing 75-hour weeks
Workers for some suppliers of the Chinese fashion giant Shein are doing excessive overtime, an investigation by a non-governmental organisation has found. A number of staff across six sites in Guangzhou were found to be working 75-hour weeks in the probe by Swiss advocacy group Public Eye.
Public Eye news release. BBC News Online. Risks 1022. 17 November 2021

Portugal: Bosses banned from messaging staff after hours
Portugal has banned bosses from text messaging and emailing staff out of working hours as part of new laws dubbed the “right to rest.” Companies with more than 10 staff could face fines if they contact employees outside their contracted hours and there are also new rules on allowing staff with children to work remotely.
BBC News Online. Prospect ‘right to disconnect’ campaign. Risks 1022. 17 November 2021

Qatar: Migrant workers still exploited ahead of World Cup
Reforms in Qatar have stalled with a year to go before the 2022 football World Cup, leaving thousands of migrant workers trapped and exploited, according to a new report by Amnesty International. A new 48-page Amnesty report, ‘Reality Check 2021’, has accused the authorities of “complacency” in applying the laws and says it has led to the worst elements of the kafala system, which binds workers to their employer, resurfacing.”
Amnesty International news release. Uefa Working Group on Workers’ Rights in Qatar. The Guardian. BBC News Online. Risks 1022. 17 November 2021

USA: Amazon agrees worker ‘right to know’ settlement
Amazon has reached a legal settlement in California over a legal complaint it failed to adequately inform its warehouse workers about Covid-19 cases in the workplace. California's attorney general said workers had been left ‘terrified and powerless’.
California Attorney General news release, the stipulated judgment and original complaint. BBC News Online. Risks 1022. 17 November 2021

Hazards news, 10 November 2021

Britain: Persuasion not coercion needed on NHS staff jabs
Covid vaccinations for NHS and social care staff should not be mandatory, Unite has reiterated. Commenting ahead of a 9 November announcement by health and social care secretary Sajid Javid that the UK government is to require all ‘frontline’ NHS staff in England to be fully vaccinated, the union said that persuasion and not coercion was the best way to drive up vaccination rates.
Unite news release and submission to the DHSC consultation. NHS Providers submission. BBC News Online. Evening Standard. Morning Star. Risks 1021. 10 November 2021

Britain: Forced jab rule risks doing more harm than good
The UK government’s ‘sledgehammer approach’ to the vaccination of NHS staff risks doing more harm than good, the union UNISON has warned. Commenting on the announcement from health secretary Sajid Javid that all NHS staff in patient-facing roles will need to be Covid double jabbed by 1 April, UNISON head of health Sara Gorton said “this sledgehammer approach risks doing more harm than good.”
UNISON news release. Risks 1021. 10 November 2021

Britain: NHS vaccine rule will add to 'crushing' staffing crisis
Compulsory health worker vaccination is a heavy-handed approach that risks exacerbating the already 'crushing' staffing crisis, the union GMB has said. Commenting on the mandatory NHS England staff vaccination plan announced by health secretary Sajid Javid, national officer Rachel Harrison said: “GMB is opposed to legally enforced medical procedures as a condition of employment - it's heavy-handed, rudimentary approach from the secretary of state.”
GMB news release. The Guardian. Risks 1021. 10 November 2021

Britain: Warning that double jab rule ‘risks care collapse’
Care homes face closure if the government persists with draconian plans to sack care staff who aren’t doubled vaccinated, UNISON has warned. The union says the ‘no jab, no job’ policy risks the collapse of care companies, and needless upset for thousands of elderly residents and their families.
UNISON news release and related news release. Risks 1021. 10 November 2021

Britain: Maskless PM in hospital visit as MP cases rise
Boris Johnson appeared maskless during a visit to a hospital on 8 November despite fears that Covid is spreading around parliament, with 114 people catching the virus on the Palace of Westminster estate in the past month. Safety measures have been gradually reintroduced to the House of Commons and more Tory MPs have begun wearing face coverings in the chamber, though some frontbenchers – including the Commons leader, Jacob Rees-Mogg, and the chief whip, Mark Spencer – remained maskless during an 8 November debate.
The Guardian. The Herald. Risks 1021. 10 November 2021

Britain: New protections needed to stop work surveillance
Almost one in three (32 per cent) workers are now being monitored at work - up from a quarter (24 per cent) just six months ago in April, research for the union Prospect has found. This work surveillance includes a doubling of the use of camera monitoring in people’s homes, with 13 per cent of home workers currently being monitored by cameras compared to 5 per cent six months ago.
Prospect news release and release on new tech sector. Union News. Risks 1021. 10 November 2021

Britain: Most journalists have faced threat and violence
Four in five journalists have experienced threats and violence at work, a UK government survey has found. The situation was worse for women, the survey suggested, with over one in three female respondents reporting they do not feel safe operating as a journalist in the UK.
NUJ news release. Call for evidence report, Home Office/DCMS, November 2021. Risks 1021. 10 November 2021

Britain: Tube staff face routine violence
Over threequarters (76 per cent) of staff in public facing roles on London’s Underground and Transport for London (TfL) rail networks have been subjected to violence at work since the pandemic began, according to an RMT survey, with half of these reporting that it has happened multiple times. The results of the survey, published in a new union report and including testimony from frontline workers, reveal that more than half of staff reported being threatened with physical violence, 28 per cent reported being racially harassed, 14 per cent reported being spat at or targeted with bodily fluids and 7 per cent had been sexually assaulted.
RMT news release. Violence against London Underground, Overground and TfL staff during the Coronavirus pandemic, RMT policy brief, 9 November 2021. Risks 1021. 10 November 2021

Britain: Action call after transport harassment reports rocket
A huge increase in reports of sexual harassment across public transport networks since the start of the pandemic shows urgent action is necessary, transport and travel union TSSA has said. The union was commenting after new statistics from the British Transport Police (BTP) revealed that reports of sexual harassment on public transport have increased by 63 per cent in summer 2021 compared to the same pre-pandemic period two years earlier.
TSSA news release. BBC News Online. Morning Star. Risks 1021. 10 November 2021

Britain: Teachers in safety strike at secure unit
Teachers at a Nottingham secure unit have taken strike action over ‘adverse management practices’, including the failure to deal with poor pupil behaviour which the union NASUWT says is affecting the health, safety and wellbeing of its members. Commenting on the treatment of teaching staff at Clayfields House Secure Unit, Anne Thompson, NASUWT’s national executive member for Nottingham, said the strike action was ‘a last resort’, adding: “The NASUWT urges the employer to take the actions necessary to protect the safety and welfare of staff and resolve this dispute.”
NASUWT news release. Nottingham Post. Risks 1021. 10 November 2021

Britain: Gateshead teachers in safety strike
Teachers at Furrowfield School in Gateshead have started strike action over adverse management practices they say are adversely affecting staff. The NASUWT members say they have been subjected to poor management practices which are impacting on their health, safety and wellbeing.
NASUWT news release. Risks 1021. 10 November 2021

Britain: New lorry driving rules risk road safety
The UK government’s decision to press ahead with a relaxation of the rules on consecutive deliveries or pick-ups by overseas drivers risks the safety of all road users, Unite has warned. In an attempt to lessen the problems caused by a shortage of lorry drivers, the Department for Transport has relaxed the rules on foreign lorries making deliveries and collecting goods in the UK.
Unite news release and news release on lorry driver professional competency (CPC) reforms. Risks 1021. 10 November 2021

Britain: PM should apologise for “not unsafe” building comments
The prime minister should apologise for saying buildings caught up in the cladding crisis are “not unsafe”, the firefighters’ union FBU has said. The union said the comments, made “apparently without justification”, came at prime minister’s questions in the House of Commons on 3 November.
FBU news release. Risks 1021. 10 November 2021

Britain: Clyde naval base fire response dispute escalates
Unite members working for Capita Business Services Ltd at HM Naval Base (HMNB) Clyde have raised ‘safety critical’ concerns over the effectiveness of fire response cover as workers take part in strike action. The workers, who provide onsite fire cover for both Faslane and Coulport naval bases, have been involved in an overtime ban since 16 September, and 6-hour strike action on various days since 19 October.
Unite news release. Risks 1021. 10 November 2021

USA: Stats show workers hit hard by Covid
While furloughs and the economic slowdown caused by Covid led to a fall in reported workplace injuries in the US, there was a massive rise in work-related illnesses, official government statistics show. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) newly released ‘Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses 2020’ shows reports from private industry employers showed the number of workplace illnesses in 2020 quadrupled to 544,600 cases, up from 127,200 cases in 2019.
US Department of Labor BLS Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses, 2020, 3 November 2021. Confined Space. Risks 1021. 10 November 2021

USA: Amazon tried to break blue and white collar alliance
Amazon tried to break the alliance formed between warehouse workers and white-collar staff by firing two tech employees who protested at Amazon’s poor treatment of workers in fulfilment centres during the Covid-19 crisis, according to an internal memo from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). “In an act of classic collective action, the [fired workers] boldly led hundreds of highly skilled tech employees with demonstrated power to join forces with the warehouse movement, comprised of thousands of employees who have remained largely voiceless thus far,” according to the legal memo issued by the advice division of the NRLB and obtained by Bloomberg Law.
UNI news release. NLRB legal memo. Risks 1021. 10 November 2021

Hazards news, 4 November 2021

Britain: MPs told to wear masks amid rising Covid cases
MPs and peers have been told to wear face masks in parliament following a rise in Covid cases in the building. The move comes after repeated criticism from unions, who have said a refusal by many MPs to wear masks was putting parliamentary workers at risk.
BBC News Online. The Guardian. Risks 1020. 4 November 2021

Britain: Deal struck in prison educators’ safety dispute
A long running dispute between prison educators at 49 prisons in England and Novus has ended after the employer agreed to UCU's demands to address health and safety concerns. Around 600 prison educators took four days of strike action between April and June 2021 after their Covid-19 safety concerns were not addressed.
UCU news release. Risks 1020. 4 November 2021

Britain: Workers taking disabled children to school in strike vote
Drivers and passenger assistants, who take disabled children to and from school in Hackney in what their union calls a ‘high risk environment’, are being balloted for strike action. The move by the 37 Unite members is in response to the ‘continuing failure of council bosses to recognise their efforts as key workers during the pandemic’, the union said.
Unite news release. Risks 1020. 4 November 2021

Britain: Night workers face low paid and high risks - TUC
The TUC is calling for better pay and conditions for the 3.2 million workers who regularly work nights. The TUC said employers should consider health hazards of night working and take responsibility for workers safely travelling to and from the workplace.
TUC news release. Wales TUC news release. Risks 1020. 4 November 2021

Global: Workplace health promotion benefits ‘marginal’
Workplace interventions to address unhealthy worker ‘behaviours’ such as physical inactivity, an unhealthy diet, high alcohol intake and smoking show only ‘marginal gains’ and are ‘disappointing’, workplace health researchers have concluded. The editorial in the Scandinavian Journal of Work Environment and Health is critical of the wide adoption of health promotion programmes focusing only on lifestyle and not on work-related factors, despite significant ‘knowledge gaps’ on their effectiveness.
Robroek SJW, Coenen P, Oude Hengel KM. Decades of workplace health promotion research: marginal gains or a bright future ahead, Scandinavian Journal of Work Environment and Health, volume 47, number 8, pages 561-564, 2021. doi:10.5271/sjweh.3995 Risks 1020. 4 November 2021

Britain: Half of university staff show signs of depression
A new report that reveals a widespread workload and mental health crisis in universities should ‘shame every single vice chancellor in the UK’, lecturers’ union UCU has said. The report by Education Support paints a picture of staff being pushed to breaking point with unsafe workloads resulting in one in five academic staff working an extra 16 additional hours per week, the equivalent of an extra two days’ work on top of their contracted hours.
UCU news release. Supporting staff wellbeing in Higher Education, Education Support, 2021.
Suicidal: HSE must recognise, record and investigate work-related suicides, Hazards, number 155, 2021. Risks 1020. 4 November 2021

Britain: Payout after suicide of unfairly dismissed dad
The widow of a dad who was unfairly dismissed by Glasgow City Council and later took his own life is to receive almost £19,000 in compensation. Kevin Clark, 49, who went on benefits following his dismissal, took his own life nearly two years later.
Daily Record. 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 1020. 4 November 2021

Global: IOSH urges businesses to look after their workers
The world’s businesses should ‘harness the wave of social change’ by putting the needs and welfare of people first, safety professionals’ organisation IOSH has urged. IOSH said it was making its call “as the Covid-19 pandemic, the rise of social justice movements and emerging global crises mean there is now more focus than ever on how businesses treat their workers, with investors and consumers paying close attention to how they make profit.”
IOSH news release and Catch the wave campaign. Risks 1020. 4 November 2021

Britain: Refuse workers to walk out over rubbish site
More than 100 refuse workers are set to strike for 12 days across the Christmas period in a bid to get Serco Sandwell to undertake a clean-up and necessary maintenance at a public household recycling centre. Safety issues identified by the GMB members include pools of dirty water, dilapidated fencing and trip hazards.
GMB news release. Risks 1020. 4 November 2021

Britain: TSSA brands e-scooters a ‘significant threat’
Transport and travel union TSSA is calling on Transport for London (TfL) to urgently enforce its ban on electric scooters across the network. The move follows an incident on the evening of 1 November at Parsons Green Tube station in which an e-scooter lithium battery caught fire on an underground train and continued to blaze on the platform – it followed a 26 October incident at Stanmore where London Fire Brigade attended a station fire in staff accommodation, as a result of the ignition of an e-scooter lithium battery being held in lost property.
TSSA news release. Risks 1020. 4 November 2021

Britain: Injured train driver acted impeccably, says operator
Robin Tandy, the driver of a train involved in a serious crash, acted in an “impeccable way in a valiant attempt to keep passengers safe,” the train operator South Western Railway (SWR) has said. Manuel Cortes, general secretary of the rail union TSSA, commented: “We will have to await further details but this is a very sobering reminder about why safety on our railways is always paramount.”
SWR news release. TSSA news release. RAIB news release. BBC News Online. Union News. Risks 1020. 4 November 2021

Britain: Quarry firm fined after probe into worker’s death
A quarrying and construction company has been fined £130,000 over criminal health and safety failings uncovered in the wake of a worker’s death. Machine operator Pawel Kocik was crushed to death at Leiths (Scotland) Ltd’s Kishorn Quarry in Wester Ross in 2017.
HSE news release. Press and Journal. Risks 1020. 4 November 2021

Britain: Director gets suspended jail sentence after death
The managing director of a scaffolding company has been fined after an employee died when he was struck from behind by a forklift truck. Leicester Magistrate’s Court heard how on 20 June 2016, Shaun Flynn had just finished loading a lorry in the yard of Boss Scaffolding (Northampton) Limited when he was struck from behind by the raised forks of a moving forklift truck.
HSE news release. Risks 1020. 4 November 2021

Britain: Galvanizing firm fined after worker fatally injured
Hereford Galvanizers Limited, a company that undertakes hot dip galvanizing for the corrosion protection of steelwork, has been fined after an employee was fatally injured. Kidderminster Magistrates’ Court heard that on 2 February 2019 Jamie Allen was operating an overhead crane adjacent to a molten zinc bath, when a tubular steel brace exploded during galvanizing, causing it to ‘rocket’ across the workshop floor, striking the 28-year-old and causing fatal injuries.
HSE news release. Risks 1020. 4 November 2021

Britain: Concrete supplier fined after tyre explosion fatality
A concrete supplier has been fined after an agency worker suffered fatal injuries following a tyre explosion. Dudley Magistrates’ Court heard how contract worker Nigel Schofield, 60, was using a compressed air line to inflate the tyre of an articulated wheel loader at Anytime Concrete (GB) of West Bromwich.
HSE news release. Risks 1020. 4 November 2021

Britain: Manufacturing firm fined over vibration disease
A company that manufactures and sells medical devices for the healthcare industry has been fined after two workers developed an occupational disease caused by vibrating tools. Newport Magistrates’ Court heard that employees of Frontier Plastics Ltd worked at the company’s Blackwood site in Gwent using vibrating tools including strimmers, hedge cutters, grinders, drills and linishers, without suitable controls to reduce the risks.
HSE news release. Risks 1020. 4 November 2021

Global: ‘What about the Workers?, COP26 people’s summit, 8 November
Climate change is already having a major impact on the hazards many face at work – from flooding, to temperature extremes to the spread of disease. A people’s summit online event at the COP26 meeting on 8 November will examine ‘What about the workers? Making workplaces safe for workers and the environment.’
What about the workers? Making workplaces safe for workers and the environment, Hazards Campaign/Scottish Hazards, free and online, 6.30-8.00pm, 8 November. Register. Risks 1020. 4 November 2021

Australia: Work deaths toll increases again
Workplace fatalities in Australia have increased for a second year running according to latest official figures. In a year that saw the conservative Morrison Government reject the inclusion of industrial manslaughter in model occupational health and safety (OHS) laws to be implemented by states, 194 workers lost their lives due to injuries at work.
ACTU news release. Safe Work Australia news release. Risks 1020. 4 November 2021

Bangladesh: Workplace rights abuses on increase
Thirty-five thousand Bangladeshis die at work every year, and eight million are injured, but promises of action from the government to have come to nothing, the global union confederation ITUC has said. The union body adds that sexual violence is rife, millions of workplaces are barely monitored by government labour inspectors, and people are trapped in jobs with poverty wages.
ITUC news release. Watch and share the ITUC video ‘A better Bangladesh’ on Facebook and Twitter. #ABetterBangladesh Risks 1020. 4 November 2021

Global: End ‘impunity’ for journalist deaths
More than 35 journalists around the world have been killed this year in the course of their work, some hit by bomb blasts, others personally sought out and killed in cold blood, figures from the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) have revealed. Commenting on 2 November - the United Nations International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists – UK journalists’ union NUJ joined the IFJ and its affiliates worldwide to demand that governments stop turning a blind eye to attacks on media workers and bring those who threaten journalists to justice.
NUJ news release. IFJ news release and end impunity campaign. Risks 1020. 4 November 2021

Global: Road transport workers in major safety campaign
A ‘Week of action for decent work and safety in road transport’ organised by the global transport workers’ union federation ITF has seen workers from the sector take to the streets to press their demands for ‘safe rates’ of pay and decent work. The event, which ran from 21 to 28 October, culminated with a major rally in Seoul where more than five thousand Korean truck drivers rallied in front of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport demanding the preservation and expansion of the Korean ‘Safe Rates’ system.
ITF news release and Safe rates webpages. Risks 1020. 4 November 2021

Hazards news, 26 October 2021

Britain: Don’t sleep-walk into ‘a winter of chaos’
The UK government “risks sleep-walking into a winter of chaos” unless it takes decisive action to curb the rise in Covid cases, the TUC and union leaders have warned. In a joint statement – signed by unions representing millions of public and customer-facing workers – the union leaders call on ministers to intervene urgently
TUC news release and full joint statement. The Guardian. The Independent and related story. Daily Mail. Risks 1019. 26 October 2021

Britain: Home working likely to be ‘best way to curb virus’
Advising people to work from home is likely to have the most impact on stopping Covid spreading this winter, scientists advising the government have said. Stricter virus restrictions should now be prepared for “rapid deployment,” the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) said, adding “presenteeism” - or turning in for work when unfit - could become an increasing cause of infections in workplaces.
Minutes of Sage meeting 96, 14 October 2021, published 22 October 2021. BBC News Online. Risks 1019. 26 October 2021

Britain: Covid safety measures must return in shops
Shopworkers’ trade union Usdaw is calling on the UK government to make in-store safety measures mandatory to help reduce the spread of Covid-19. Responding to evidence of rising Covid-19 infections, hospitalisations and deaths, the union’s general secretary, Paddy Lillis, said: “Protection for retail workers through customers following Covid safety rules should be backed up by the law and not left to individual choice, if we are going to avoid further lockdown measures.”
Usdaw news release. ONS update, 22 October 2021. BBC News Online. Risks 1019. 26 October 2021

Britain: Call for protection for transport and hospitality staff
Mandatory face mask wearing on public transport must return after a surge in Covid-19 infections, Unite has said. The union said it believes a return to compulsory mask wearing on all public transport, which the government ended in July, would be a simple and commonsense method to reduce the risk of Covid-19 transmission when travelling, adding it was also becoming increasingly alarmed about ‘the lack of dignity and respect’ that its hospitality workers are experiencing in the workplace due to the way members of the public react to social distancing measures set by venues.
Unite news release. Risks 1019. 26 October 2021

Britain: Stricter Covid measures needed to protect the NHS
Tighter Covid-19 controls are needed now to protect NHS services and workers, Unite has said. The union’s general secretary Sharon Graham said: “The government needs to do everything in its power to protect the NHS from being overwhelmed this autumn and winter and to keep working people safe.”
Unite news release. Risks 1019. 26 October 2021

Britain: Government must restore school safety measures
Teaching union NASUWT is calling on the UK government to learn from Scotland where mitigation measures are continuing in order to limit the spread of Covid in schools. Dr Patrick Roach, the NASUWT general secretary, said: “There is a need for mitigations to be restored, particularly as we move into the winter when the virus is more likely to spread further and faster as more indoor mixing takes place in the community.
NASUWT news release. Risks 1019. 26 October 2021

Britain: Government inaction behind Covid bad news
It’s not right for the UK government ‘to put responsibility on the people but to refuse simple actions themselves’ to address the concerning rise in Covid infections, teaching union NEU has said. Commenting on the Westminster government’s strategy to tackle Covid-19, laid out by health secretary Sajid Javid at the 20 October Downing Street briefing – where he warned Covid cases could rise to 100,000 a day this winter - NEU joint general secretary Kevin Courtney said: “It is something of an understatement to say things are going in the 'wrong direction'.”
NEU news release. I-Sage response to Sajid Javid statement. Slides accompanying 20 October press conference. Risks 1019. 26 October 2021

Britain: Too many Tory MPs still not wearing masks
Despite health secretary Sajid Javid making clear on 20 October that MPs should be wearing face masks in the chamber of the House of Commons, ‘too many’ Conservative MPs insist on remaining maskless, the union Prospect has said. The union said virtually no Conservative MPs have “deigned to wear a mask in the House, despite it being the government’s own advice to do so in enclosed spaces.”
Prospect news release. Risks 1019. 26 October 2021

Britain: Labour calls for Plan B measures
Labour is calling on the government to bring in its Plan B measures to tackle Covid in England, including advice to work from home and compulsory masks. Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves also told the BBC the vaccine programme was “stalling” and needed to work better.
Andrew Marr Show, BBC, 24 October 2021. BMA news release. BBC News Online and related story. The Independent. Risks 1019. 26 October 2021

Britain: Disabled workers want to work from home
Nine in 10 disabled workers surveyed (90 per cent) who worked from home during the pandemic want to continue doing so at least some of the time, according to a TUC poll. The poll – run by YouGov for the TUC – found that many disabled workers experienced working from home for the first time during the pandemic, adding working from home was a ‘gamechanger’ for many disabled workers.
TUC news release and full report, Disabled Workers’ access to flexible working as a reasonable adjustment, 22 October 2021. i-News. Risks 1019. 26 October 2021

Britain: Unite backs HGV drivers call for ‘decency and dignity'
A grassroots campaign by HGV drivers for safety, decency and dignity to be restored to lorry driving in the UK is being backed by the union Unite. The campaign - #TruckedOff – will encourage drivers to take their statutory rest break at 11am on Monday 1 November.
Unite news release, Bringing order to chaos briefing and campaign video. Risks 1019. 26 October 2021

Britain: Customer-facing workers report rising hostility
People in public-facing jobs are facing rising hostility and verbal abuse since the end of the Covid lockdowns, according to organisations that represent them. Half of all shop, transport, restaurant and hotel workers and others dealing regularly with the public have experienced abuse in the past six months, figures from the Institute for Customer Service (ICS) show.
The Guardian. ICS Service with Respect campaign. Risks 1019. 26 October 2021

Britain: Overworked mental health care workers want action
Mental health care workers in the north-west of England have voted to strike against bosses’ plans to make them work seven days a week. The Morning Star reports Greater Manchester Mental Health Trust has asked the 25 UNISON members, who help “extremely vulnerable people,” to “volunteer” to increase their working week from five days to seven days.
Morning Star. Risks 1019. 26 October 2021

Britain: Bakkavor guilty again after employee crushed
A multinational food manufacturer has been fined after one of its employees sustained two broken ribs as a result of being crushed in an industrial cooker whilst working to clear a blocked water inlet. Lincoln Magistrates’ Court heard how the employee of Bakkavor Fresh Cook Ltd in Holbeach St Marks was crushed in the machine after its safety systems were over-ridden and work on the machine continued while it was live.
HSE news release. Food Manufacture. Risks 1019. 26 October 2021

Britain: Director of fab firm fined over lost finger
The director of a handrail manufacturing company has been fined after an employee’s hand was drawn into a roller and crushed. Manchester Magistrates’ Court heard how, on 27 March 2019, an employee of Dealercast Ltd in Eccles was being trained by company director Chris Ellor to use a rolling machine to bend pieces of steel tube when the heavy-duty gloves he was wearing caught between the tubing and one of the rollers.
HSE news release. Risks 1019. 26 October 2021

Britain: Union safety reps in the pandemic, seminar, 11 November
A free University of Greenwich online seminar on 11 November will explore the critical role played by trade union workplace health and safety reps during the pandemic. Over the past year, research by the university’s Centre for Research on Employment and Work (CREW) has evidenced the key role of trade union workplace health and safety reps.
Register for On the Frontline –workplace union health and safety reps in the pandemic, Thursday, 11 November 2021, 10am–1.00pm. Free. Risks 1019. 26 October 2021

Europe: Backing for new lifesaving asbestos limits
New asbestos protections could save 90,000 lives across the European Union each year, the Europe-wide trade union confederation ETUC has said. Responding to a vote in the European Parliament overwhelmingly supporting recommendations in the Villumsen report on tighter standards to protect workers from asbestos, ETUC deputy general secretary Claes-Mikael Ståhl said: “This is a vital first step towards ending the scandal of work-related cancer.”
Villumsen report. ETUC news release, letter from European trade unions to MEPs, and ETUC position on the EU strategic framework on health and safety at work 2021-2027. Risks 1019. 26 October 2021

Global: Tea giant fails to halt Malawi sex abuse claims
The UK High Court has refused a bid by the British owners of a company which runs tea and macadamia nut plantations in Malawi to effectively end women’s claims of systemic sex abuse by limiting their legal costs. PGI Group Ltd, the UK-based parent company of Malawian tea company Lujeri, applied for the women’s future recoverable costs in their court case to be limited to £150,000.
Leigh Day news release. Risks 1019. 26 October 2021

USA: Tragedy highlights safety crisis in film production
Hours before the fatal shooting with a prop gun of a cinematographer on the New Mexico set of the western Rust, the union camera crew walked off the set in a protest at working conditions. There has been widespread dissatisfaction with conditions facing film crews, with a first every national IATSE strike averted at the 11th hour on 16 October.
IATSE news release. LA Times. Labor Notes. The Independent. The Guardian. Mother Jones. Risks 1019. 26 October 2021

Hazards news, 20 October 2021

Britain: Bring back rules amid rising cases, say NHS chiefs
Covid restrictions including working from home must immediately be reintroduced if England is to avoid “stumbling into a winter crisis,” health leaders have warned. As UK cases of Covid-19 have been rising sharply, the NHS Confederation said the UK government’s back-up strategy, or Plan B, which includes mandatory face coverings in crowded and enclosed spaces, should be implemented to protect NHS services.
NHS Confederation news release. BBC News Online. Evening Standard. The Guardian. CNBC News. Risks 1018. 20 October 2021

Britain: Ministers must protect over-stretched NHS staff
The UK government must protect staff looking after the nation’s health as waiting times hit a new record high, health service union UNISON has said. Responding to the latest NHS England figures showing the number of people waiting for hospital treatment in England is now up to 5.7 million and the waiting list is rising by about 100,000 a month, UNISON head of health Sara Gorton said: “Surging numbers awaiting treatment underline the intense pressure on the NHS and its staff.”
NHS England news release. UNISON news release. The Guardian. Sky News. Risks 1018. 20 October 2021

Britain: Covid mitigation to continue in Scottish schools
Teaching unions have welcomed an announcement by the Scottish government that current school Covid safety mitigations are to be retained following advice from senior clinicians. The unions were responding to an announcement by education secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville urging continued vigilance to protect pupils and staff.
NASUWT news release. EIS news release. Scottish government news release and guidance. Risks 1018. 20 October 2021

Britain: Wales investment in school ventilation welcomed
An announcement by the Welsh government of a £3.31m fund for ventilation in schools and colleges has been welcomed by the teaching union NEU. The union was commenting after Welsh minister for education Jeremy Miles said: “This investment for ventilation improvements, along with the rollout of CO2 monitors, will help keep transmission rates low.”
Welsh government news release. NEU news release. Risks 1018. 20 October 2021

Britain: Safety professionals call for menopause action
Employers should develop more inclusive and supportive workplace cultures and managerial styles to help menopausal women feel comfortable discussing their symptoms and requesting support, the top UK safety professionals’ organisation has said. The call is among a series of recommendations from the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) in response to a UK government inquiry into menopause and the workplace.
IOSH news release. Musicians’ Union news release. PCS news release.
House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee inquiry into Menopause and the Workplace and 23 July 2021 news release.
Resources: TUC menopause at work interactive guide and Supporting working women through the menopause: guidance for union representatives. Menopause is a workplace issue guide, UNISON. Risks 1018. 20 October 2021

Britain: Action call on MPs accused of sexual misconduct
Parliamentary unions have written to the Speaker asking him to look again at barring MPs accused of sexual misconduct from the Palace of Westminster. letter from Prospect, the FDA and MPs’ staff branches of GMB and Unite, says  the unions believe the time is right to revisit an issue we raised with the Commission last year and at the Women and Equalities Committee as part of its inquiry into a Gender Sensitive Parliament; the potential exclusion from the Parliamentary Estate of MPs who are the subject of investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct, or other serious misconduct that might suggest a potential risk to staff.”
Prospect news release. Risks 1018. 20 October 2021

Britain: Deliveries rule relaxation means more driver misery
The UK government’s announcement that it intends to relax lorry driving rules to allow foreign hauliers to make more consecutive deliveries will result in more driver misery and exploitation, the union Unite has warned. Under the present ‘cabotage’ rules, foreign haulage companies from Europe can send lorry drivers to make just two deliveries before they have to leave the UK – but the government intends to change this rule so that European haulage companies can require their drivers to make unlimited collections and deliveries during a two week period.
Unite news release. BBC News Online. Risks 1018. 20 October 2021

Britain: Journalists covering COP26 given union safety advice
Journalists’ union NUJ has published guidance, health and safety tips and emergency legal numbers for members covering the COP26 climate change conference in Glasgow. The union said NUJ members “need to plan accordingly and take appropriate health and safety precautions” against threats and other safety concerns ahead of the fortnight long event starting on 31 October.
NUJ news release and COP26 advice. UK COP26 website. STUC supported COP26 events listing. Risks 1018. 20 October 2021

Britain: Night Tube reopening must be ‘risk assessed’
Plans to partially resume Night Tube service next month must be ‘thoroughly risk assessed’ with full union involvement, the rail union RMT has said. The union was commenting after Transport for London (TfL) announced trains will run through the night on Fridays and Saturdays on London Underground’s Central and Victoria lines from 27 November.
RMT news release. TSSA news release. The Guardian. Risks 1018. 20 October 2021

Britain: Co-op festive move ‘a step in the right direction’
Retail trade union Usdaw has welcomed ‘as a step in the right direction’ the Co-op Group closing its stores earlier on Christmas Eve and operating reduced hours on Boxing Day. Usdaw national officer John Gorle responded: “Many retailers are taking a different approach to opening stores over the festive period and, following extensive discussions with the company, these changes are a step in the right direction from the Co-op.”
Usdaw news release. Risks 1018. 20 October 2021

Britain: CWU calls for ‘complete eradication’ of asbestos
The Communication Workers’ Union (CWU) has called for the ‘complete eradication’ of asbestos from buildings. The union call, in its response to a Work and Pensions select committee inquiry into the Health and Safety Executive’s approach to asbestos management, urges the UK government to require the ‘planned, phased, controlled removal of all asbestos-containing materials.’
CWU news release and DWP inquiry submission. DWP select committee on the Health and Safety Executive’s approach to asbestos management. Risks 1018. 20 October 2021

Britain: Firm fined for labourers’ asbestos exposure
Bradford firm MS Properties (Northern) Ltd has been fined for criminal safety breaches after casual labourers were exposed to asbestos when removing false ceiling tiles with a hammer during a shop conversion in Hull. An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the company employed casual labourers to remove over 1000m2 of asbestos insulation board (AIB) ceiling tiles in an uncontrolled manner.
HSE news release. Risks 1018. 20 October 2021

Britain: Site firm convicted after crane operator electrocuted
A Bridgend company has been convicted of a criminal safety offence after a worker was electrocuted whilst operating a lorry mounted crane. Cardiff Crown Court heard how on 17 May 2016, ASL Access Scaffold Limited employee Martin Tilby, 32, was killed when the crane he was operating struck an overhead powerline as he was unloading materials in a field at Cowbridge, South Glamorgan.
HSE news release. Risks 1018. 20 October 2021

Britain: Protecting mental health in the workplace, TUC webinar, 26 October
Stress, anxiety and depression top the official Health and Safety Executive (HSE) list of occupational health problems in the UK. Join TUC's Anna Kalsi and Peter Kelly, senior psychologist at HSE, to discuss what employers should be doing to prevent work related stress and to protect the mental wellbeing of their employees.
Register. Protecting mental health in the workplace, TUC webinar, 1-2pm, Tuesday 26 October 2021.
Further information: TUC stress and work webpages. Hazards work-related stress and work-related suicide webpages. Risks 1018. 20 October 2021

Ventilation assessment tool for workplace Covid risks
The British Occupational Hygiene Society, a scientific charity and the Chartered Society for Worker Health Protection, has developed in collaboration with the Health and Safety Executive a free online ‘Ventilation Tool’ intended to help limit the transmission of Covid-19 in workplaces. BOHS says the ‘non-technical ventilation check tool’ can provide an indication of the effectiveness of the ventilation system on reducing coronavirus transmission.
BOHS news release and free online Ventilation Tool. Risks 1018. 20 October 2021

Australia: Screen crew at risk from deadly fatigue
A screen industry culture is leading to potentially deadly levels of fatigue, a ‘Wake Up Call’ survey by the Australian media union MEAA has revealed. It found two in three workers have fallen asleep behind the wheel either driving home from work or driving to work.
MEAA news release. Risks 1018. 20 October 2021

Global: ITF condemns assault on inspector
The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) has condemned an incident where one of its inspectors was physically assaulted by a ship’s Master and has said it would now review the safety of all its inspectors. ITF has 134 inspectors, coordinators, and union contacts defending the rights of seafarers and helping thousands of seafarers every year.
ITF news release. Risks 1018. 20 October 2021

Hazards news, 13 October 2021

Britain: School unions call for more safety measures
Education unions have written to the education secretary asking him to urgently reconsider the reintroduction of additional safety measures in schools, in the light of rising rates of Covid infection and absence among school students. The five unions – GMB, NASUWT, NEU, UNISON and Unite – said they will also be writing to all local authorities and directors of public health asking them to consider measures in their local areas.
NEU news release. UNISON news release and release on school Covid surge. The Guardian. Morning Star. Risks 1017. 13 October 2021

Britain: ‘Scared’ staff deserve better school safety
“Scared, over-worked and exhausted” teachers and school staff in Wales are calling for immediate action to address Covid safety concerns. The call on the Welsh government to strengthen its approach to Covid safety in schools came after hundreds of school workers joined a 7 October Keeping Schools Safe and Open event organised by Wales TUC.
Wales TUC news release. Risks 1017. 13 October 2021

Britain: Covid spike at DVLA could spur more strikes
Covid cases among DVLA staff have risen rapidly at the government agency’s Swansea HQ, leading the union PCS to warn of further safety strikes. The union said the rise in cases comes as DVLA presses forward with a plan to increase the number of workers on site. PCS notified the DVLA on 4 October that “we will be balloting our members for strike action over the ongoing health and safety dispute.”
PCS news release and PCS demands to resolve the dispute. Risks 1017. 13 October 2021

Britain: HSE treating work suicide less seriously than an itch
The UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE) could, by failing to prioritise work-related suicide recognition and prevention, be standing by and watching as workers die, a new report has warned. ‘Suicidal’, published in the latest issue of the workplace safety journal Hazards, notes unlike other countries, notably the US and France, in the UK “the government safety regulator has refused repeatedly to change its practices to record and investigate suicides linked to work.”
Suicidal: HSE must recognise, record and investigate work-related suicides, Hazards, number 155, 2021. Risks 1017. 13 October 2021

Britain: Longer lorry driver hours ‘dangerous’ warns union
News that the government has further extended the relaxation of lorry driver hours has been met with anger and dismay by the drivers’ union Unite. Commenting on the 30 September UK government confirmation of the one-month extension, Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “This is yet another knee-jerk response to a crisis which has been building for nearly 20 years - and the blame for that lies entirely at the door of the employers, and their willing partners, the government.”
Unite news release. Risks 1017. 13 October 2021

Britain: Government didn’t check if driving rules move was safe
Unite’s concerns about the ‘dangerous’ decision to extend the relaxation of lorry driver working hour limits have been reinforced after the UK government admitted it had failed to undertake any related safety impact assessment. According to Unite, which represents tens of thousands of UK lorry drivers, the Department for Transport (DfT) has admitted in correspondence to the union that “there is not an impact assessment” of the ongoing extension to the maximum number of hours a lorry driver can drive.
Unite news release. Risks 1017. 13 October 2021

Britain: Bectu welcomes move to a 12-hour max shoots
Film and TV technicians and craft union Bectu has welcomed a new 12-hour maximum shoot day announced by the Advertising Producers Association (APA), the trade body for production companies, animation, VFX, immersive, sound design, music and editing companies making commercials. Announcing the changes, APA said from 1 November “shoots shall not be scheduled to go beyond 12 hours (11 hours plus one hour for lunch) from the main unit call time and unscheduled overtime beyond that time for the main unit shall be avoided in all but the most extreme circumstances and shall be limited as far as possible.”
APA news story. BECTU news release. Risks 1017. 13 October 2021

Britain: NHS staff face tide of abuse provoked by long waits
NHS staff across the UK are facing a “growing tide of abuse” including assaults from patients, which they say is being caused by frustration at long waits for care. In a strongly worded joint statement, six key medical bodies and staff groups blame patients’ increasingly long delays in receiving treatment on years of successive governments underinvesting in the NHS and not fixing severe workforce shortages.
The Guardian. Risks 1017. 13 October 2021

Britain: Women teachers express safety concerns
Women teachers have concerns about their safety inside and outside of work, the teaching union NASUWT has said. Members discussed the increasing problem of sexual harassment and violence against women at the union’s online Women Teachers’ Consultation Conference, where a real-time poll of delegates found one in ten said they feel “not safe” at work or “concerned and anxious about my safety at work.”
NAWUWT news release and related news release. ILO Convention 190. Risks 1017. 13 October 2021

Britain: UNISON secures over £1.7m for members in a month
Almost 200 settlements in a single month show the value of the UNISON’s personal injury legal assistance scheme, the union has said. UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea hailed “an incredible achievement for our members”, as almost 200 personal injury cases, worth over £1.7m in settlements, were won in August.
UNISON news release. Risks 1017. 13 October 2021

Britain: School trust fined over animal disease risks
A Nottingham-based school trust has been fined after pupils and staff were put at risk from infectious diseases carried by animals. Southern Derbyshire Magistrates’ Court heard how the Spencer Academies Trust, which operates 12 schools, failed to properly control the risk from zoonotic diseases - diseases than can be transmitted from animals to humans - to employees, pupils and visitors at one of its academies.
HSE news release.
Resources: Hazards guide to biohazards. Risks 1017. 13 October 2021

Global: ILO code to protect textile and garment workers
Experts from governments, employers’ and workers’ organisations have agreed a new code of practice on safety and health in the textiles, garment, leather and footwear sector – the first for these industries. The International Labour Organisation (ILO) says its new code “provides comprehensive and practical advice on how to eliminate, reduce and control all major hazards and risks.”
ILO news release. Risks 1017. 13 October 2021

Australia: Mental health and violence problems rising
Threats to mental health and workplace violence are high on the list of occupational health and safety risks faced by Australia’s workers, a survey by the national union federation ACTU has found. The union body’s research found that mental health continues to be the fastest growing challenge to the safety of working people in their workplaces, as well as ‘appalling’ rates of workplace violence experienced by the pandemic’s frontline workers.
ACTU news release. Risks 1017. 13 October 2021

Burkina Faso: Union outrage as building collapse kills 4
Trade unions in Burkina Faso have expressed outrage after the collapse of a building under construction at the Norbert Zongo University in Koudougou that resulted in the death of four people. In a press conference on 6 September, the unions – all affiliates of the global union federation BWI - sounded the alarm on ‘the rising number’ of buildings collapsing while under construction.
BWI news release. Risks 1017. 13 October 2021

USA: Frontline workers more likely to get infected 
The job you do is a major factor in determining if you will have tested positive for Covid-19, with all frontline workers more likely to have been infected, a US study has confirmed. After taking account of other factors “both healthcare and non-healthcare frontline workers had higher odds of having ever tested positive for SARsCov-2 across the study time period,” adding: “Similarly, non-healthcare frontline workers were more likely to test positive in the previous 14 days.”
D Phuong Do, Reanne Frank. US frontline workers and COVID-19 inequities, Preventive Medicine, volume 153, 106833, 2021. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ypmed.2021.106833. Risks 1017. 13 October 2021

Hazards news, 29 September 2021

Britain: HS2 accident spate ‘a result of union busting’
Unite has blamed a spate of serious accidents on the HS2 tunnelling and track laying project on a refusal to allow the union to speak to workers and a resulting absence of safety reps. The accidents have occurred on the section of the project in London being built by the joint venture company Costain/Skanska/Strabag.
Unite news release. Risks 1016. 29 September 2021

Britain: Unite vows to tackle NG Bailey union busting
Unite has vowed to stamp out attempts by major construction contractor NG Bailey to ‘union bust’ on the Mensa project at the Aldermaston Weapons establishment in Berkshire. The union says problems began on the project late on Friday 17 September, when five workers, including four members of Unite - one a health and safety representative - were informed that they had to leave the site immediately.
Unite news release. Risks 1016. 29 September 2021

Britain: FBU wins landmark Covid discrimination ruling
Firefighters’ union FBU has won a ‘landmark’ discrimination case against a fire and rescue service. The union argued successfully that forcing staff with disabilities to use annual leave or time off in lieu (TOIL) when shielding because of Covid amounted to discrimination.
FBU news release. Risks 1016. 29 September 2021

Britain: More strikes loom over Serco bullying
GMB has warned a 24-hour stoppage by refuse workers in Sandwell is set to take place on 6 October over unresolved safety, bullying and pay issues. GMB organiser Justine Jones said: “Serco have shown they are not serious about ending the dispute and resolving outstanding issues on safety, well-being and wages of our key workers in Sandwell Council.”
GMB news release. Risks 1016. 29 September 2021

Britain: Scottish ‘fair work’ includes right to disconnect
A decision by the Scottish government’s Fair Work Convention to back the ‘Right to disconnect’ in a major boost for Prospect’s campaign on the issue, the union said. A 23 September blog from the co-chairs of the Convention argues: “Boundaries between work and home life have become increasingly blurred for many, making it difficult for people to switch off.”
The Fair Work Convention blog. Prospect news release. Risks 1016. 29 September 2021

Britain: Temp visas only prop up a broken system
UK government plans to relax immigration rules for lorry drivers and poultry processors are ‘propping up a broken and exploitative system’, Unite has warned. The union said depriving other countries of their workers will allow the low pay and unpleasant and stressful working conditions that are the root cause of the driver and chicken factory shortages to continue.
Unite news release. Government news releases on temporary poultry worker and HGV driver visas. Risks 1016. 29 September 2021

Britain: Respect petrol crisis forecourt staff says Usdaw
Retail trade union leader Paddy Lillis has urged the public to respect staff in petrol stations that have been besieged by frustrated and sometime angry motorists. The Usdaw general secretary added that the government “must take responsibility” for the crisis that has seen long queues for the pumps and petrol station closures.
Usdaw news release. BBC News Online. Risks 1016. 29 September 2021

Britain: RMT action warning on ‘dangerous’ driverless trains
Tube union RMT has warned of a campaign of action as it emerged that the government has placed adverts for a consultancy contract to explore the introduction of driverless trains on London Underground. General secretary Mick Lynch described the idea as “dangerous nonsense,” adding: “The news that the government is pressing ahead with wasting money on a consultancy project on driverless trains on London Underground when there are massive challenges facing the transport network shows their twisted set of priorities.”
RMT news release. Risks 1016. 29 September 2021

Britain: Concerns over ‘unreliable’ SMART motorways tech
A combination of staff under ‘intolerable strain’ and ‘unreliable’ SMART motorways technology will lead to avoidable accidents, civil service union Prospect has warned. The union was commenting after a Daily Mail reporter who spent six weeks under cover at a control room said they “discovered alarming problems with the deadly roads where the hard shoulder is converted to a live lane.”
Prospect news release. Daily Mail. Risks 1016. 29 September 2021

Britain: Labour backs firefighters on building safety
The Labour Party has backed action to address the post-Grenfell tragedy building safety crisis, calling for “sustained investment” in public services that could help resolve the crisis and prevent it continuing in new buildings. The FBU motion passed at the party’s conference calls for “more sustained investment in local authority building control, in fire service fire safety teams, fire inspectors and in other public agencies required to ensure building safety”, and opposes “privatisation, deregulation and contracting out” of these services.
FBU news release. Risks 1016. 29 September 2021

Britain: Action call on mental health at work
The mental health problems afflicting many low-paid key workers have been highlighted by retail union Usdaw. A motion from the union to the annual Labour conference in Brighton called on a future Labour government to improve equality law and its enforcement, focussing on reasonable adjustments.
Usdaw news release. Labourlist. Risks 1016. 29 September 2021

Britain: Fitter compensated for biomass-related asthma
A worker whose career at Drax power station was cut short by an industrial disease, has secured ‘significant’ damages in a Unite backed claim. Neil Lindridge, 57, became unwell after being exposed to the burning of biomass at the plant for several years.
Thompsons Solicitors news release. Risks 1016. 29 September 2021

Britain: Engineering firm fined after work asthma 
Lantern Engineering Ltd has been prosecuted for a criminal health and safety offence after workers were exposed to metal working fluid (MWF), one developing occupational asthma as a result. The firm pleaded guilty to a criminal safety breach and was fined £15,000 and ordered to pay £7,500 in costs.
HSE news release and metalworking hazards webpage. Risks 1016. 29 September 2021

Britain: Spiders shut second school on safety grounds
Around 1,500 pupils have had to be taught online after a school closed on safety grounds due to a suspected infestation of false widow spiders. The Duston School in Northampton informed parents on the closure on the evening of 28 September, which came the heels of the 17 September temporary closure of another school in the town, the Malcolm Arnold Academy, for the same reason.
BBC News Online. Risks 1016. 29 September 2021

Britain: NHS Highland pays out millions to bullied staff
NHS Highland says it expects to pay £3.4m in settlements to current and former staff who have complained of bullying. A Scottish government-commissioned review suggested hundreds of health workers may have experienced inappropriate behaviour.
BBC News Online. Risks 1016. 29 September 2021

Global: Make health and safety a fundamental right
New estimates suggesting the total work-related toll each year could be close to a ‘staggering’ 3 million deaths reinforce the need for occupational health and safety to be recognised as a fundamental right at work, IndustriALL has said. The global union said that in November this year the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) Governing Body will decide on whether to include on the agenda of its 2022 International Labour Conference the elevation of occupational health and safety to an ILO fundamental right.
IndustriALL news release. ITUC news release.
WHO/ILO Joint Estimates of the Work-related Burden of Disease and Injury, 2000-2016: Global Monitoring Report, WHO/ILO, September 2021. Risks 1016. 29 September 2021

USA: New rules plan for work heat dangers
The Biden administration is to introduce the USA’s first ever labour standard aimed at protecting workers from extreme heat, as part of a growing recognition of the dangers posed by warming temperatures caused by climate change. The federal safety regulator, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), will draft its first rule governing heat exposure designed to protect those who work outdoors in agricultural, construction and delivery services as well as workers in warehouses, factories, and kitchens.
Statement by President Biden and Factsheet: Biden Administration Mobilizes to Protect Workers and Communities from Extreme Heat , 20 September 2021. OSHA news release and heat illness prevention campaign. National COSH news release. New York Times. Risks 1016. 29 September 2021

USA: Air rage epidemic hitting flight attendants
At a congressional subcommittee hearing about the escalation of air rage in the United States, flight attendants painted a stark picture of how unfriendly the skies have become during the Covid-19 pandemic. “Frontline aviation workers have to deal with everything from vulgar language, including racial epithets, to punching, kicking, biting, shoving and spitting from passengers,” Rick Larsen, chair of the Subcommittee on Aviation, said in his opening remarks at the hearing.
Forbes magazine. Disruption in the Skies: The Surge in Air Rage and its Effects on Workers, Airlines, and Airports, congressional sub-committee on aviation hearing. Risks 1016. 29 September 2021

Hazards news, 23 September 2021

Britain: Not quite a Covid prosecution labelled a first
A construction contractor has become the first firm prosecuted following a Health and Safety Executive (HSE) Covid spot check – although Covid risks were not cited explicitly in any of the related HSE enforcement actions, despite HSE claiming it was a ‘first’. Umar Akram Khatab, now resident in Bradford, pleaded guilty to criminal safety breaches and was sentenced to a 12-month community order and was also ordered to pay £3,000 towards costs.
HSE news release. Construction Enquirer. Risks 1015. 23 September 2021

Britain: Doctors condemn ‘shocking’ Sajid Javid mask line
The British Medical Association (BMA) has blasted the “shocking” irresponsibility of government ministers after Sajid Javid said there was no need for them to wear masks in cabinet. The head of the doctors’ organisation hit out after the health secretary defended pictures of a 14 September cabinet meeting, published on the No.10 flickr page, showed not a single minister in the packed meeting using a face covering.
Sky News. The Independent. ITV News. Huffington Post. Risks 1015. 23 September 2021

Britain: Health minister admits mountain of PPE is unfit
Health service unions have reacted with fury at a government admission that £2.8 billion of personal protective equipment (PPE) is not fit for purpose. Health minister Lord Bethell revealed that nearly two billion items of PPE are unusable and lying in warehouses labelled “do not supply” — more than 6 per cent of the volume purchased.
Morning Star. Risks 1015. 23 September 2021

Britain: Unite slams ‘reckless’ extension of driving limit
A UK government plan to continue the relaxation of maximum driving timing for lorry drivers is dangerous, reckless and potentially illegal, Unite has warned. The union said it has learned that the government is undertaking a technical consultation on continuing the relaxation on driving hours from 4 October until 23 January.
Unite news release. RoSPA news release. Risks 1015. 23 September 2021

Britain: Protection of public-facing workers bill welcomed
Retail trade union Usdaw has welcomed the launch of the Abuse of Public-Facing Workers (Offences) Bill by Labour MP Olivia Blake. The Bill was introduced in the House of Commons under the 10-minute rule on 15 September and is scheduled for a second reading on 28 January 2022.
Usdaw news release. BBC News Online. Risks 1015. 23 September 2021

Britain: Routine violence against transport staff exposed
Nearly 60 per cent of rail, bus and ferry workers have been subjected to verbal or physical attack since the start of the pandemic, according to research by the union RMT. The union’s survey of more than 5,000 transport workers showed that most believed that workplace violence has worsened during the pandemic and 73 per cent said they believed the government’s lifting of Covid restrictions and mixed messaging around safety measures had further aggravated the situation.
RMT news release. Risks 1015. 23 September 2021

Britain: Care firm fined after rape while working
Care provider The Action Group has been fined after an employee was abducted, assaulted, sexually assaulted and raped in the course of her duties. The Action Group pleaded guilty to two criminal health and safety offences and at a 22 September sentencing was fined £20,000. 
HSE news release. Edinburgh Evening News. Risks 1015. 23 September 2021

Britain: Work grievance led woman to take her life
A young woman who felt sick at the prospect of going to work following a dispute with her employer leapt from a bridge to her death, an inquest has heard. Call centre worker Chloe English, 24, from Brighouse, died instantly when she fell from a Victorian iron and stone bridge, in Halifax, West Yorkshire on 14 May 2021.
The Examiner. The Mirror. Daily Mail. Halifax Courier.
RESOURCES: Work and suicide: A TUC guide to prevention for trade union activists. ‘Don’t despair’ pin-up-at-work suicide prevention poster. More on work-related suicides.
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 1015. 23 September 2021

Britain: Poundland spreads the seasonal cheer
Retail trade union Usdaw has welcomed Poundland thanking its 18,000 staff by again deciding to close stores on Boxing Day and New Year’s Day. The bargain retailer is the latest chain to announce festive closures, joining Sainsbury's, Argos, Habitat, Aldi, Morrisons, Waitrose, Home Bargains, Pets at Home and Marks & Spencer.
Usdaw news release. Risks 1015. 23 September 2021

Britain: Chemical firm fined £1m for fatal explosion
Briar Chemicals Ltd has been fined £1 million after a man died in an explosion at its site in Norwich. Chelmsford Magistrates Court heard how on the 27 July 2018, maintenance contractor Rob Cranston, 46, was carrying out repair work on a mixing vessel during a planned period of shutdown maintenance.
HSE news release. Evening News and related story. Risks 1015. 23 September 2021

Britain: Diving instructor fined after trainee dies
A technical diving instructor has been fined after he failed to properly assess the competency of two pupils prior to a deep-water dive in Scotland, which ended in a fatality. Ashley Roberts pleaded guilty to two criminal safety breaches and was fined £2,300; his firm Ash Roberts Technical Limited was dissolved on 9 July 2019.
HSE news release. Risks 1015. 23 September 2021

Britain: Firm convicted after worker crushed at coal face
Three D’s Mining Ltd has been convicted of three criminal safety breaches and fined £100,000 following a roof fall on the NW9 coal face at Dan-y-Graig No 4 colliery located near the village of Crynant, South Wales. Swansea Crown Court heard that, on 15 November 2017, two workers were preparing the roof for the erection of supports with the use of a pneumatic chisel when 0.6 tonne of stone fell from the roof and hit one of the workers on his back.
HSE news release. Risks 1015. 23 September 2021

Global: New work deaths figures must spur action
New estimates jointly released jointly by two UN agencies that indicate 19 work-related risk factors cause approaching two million deaths each year fall substantially short of the real toll, the global union confederation ITUC has warned. The figures were announced by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and World Health Organisation (WHO), with WHO director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus commenting: “Our report is a wake-up call to countries and businesses to improve and protect the health and safety of workers by honouring their commitments to provide universal coverage of occupational health and safety services.”
ILO news release. WHO news release. ITUC news release.
WHO/ILO Joint Estimates of the Work-related Burden of Disease and Injury, 2000-2016: Global Monitoring Report, WHO/ILO, September 2021. ILO List of Occupational Diseases, Recommendation 194. World Congress on Safety and Health and related media advisory. Risks 1015. 23 September 2021

Australia: Anti-vaxxer attack on union office condemned
Australia’s national union federation ACTU has condemned a violent attack on a construction union office orchestrated by right-wing extremists and anti-vaccination activists. ACTU said the ‘reprehensible’ attack on the CFMEU Construction office in Melbourne endangered union officials, staff and the public.
ACTU news release. The Guardian. 9 News. The Age and related opinion. New Daily. Risks 1015. 23 September 2021

Thailand: Union leader ‘targeted’ for rail safety campaign
One of Thailand’s most prominent union leaders is facing three years in prison for his role in organising a railway safety campaign, in a case described as the biggest attack on organised labour in the country in decades. Rights advocates say the case involving Sawit Kaewvarn, president of the State Railway Union of Thailand (SRUT), will have a chilling effect on unions and threatens to further weaken workers’ rights in the country.
The Guardian. Risks 1015. 23 September 2021

Ukraine: Union wins payout for shipwreck survivor
A Ukrainian seafarer who could not face going back to sea after a shipwreck involving the tug supply vessel the Bourbon Rhode has won compensation with the help of his union. MTWTU chair Oleg Grygoriuk said “it is noteworthy that the company acted quickly as soon as it found out that Yevgeniy’s interests were represented by the MTWTU,” adding: “It’s no coincidence that when employers such as this hear that a seafarer has the backing of the ITF union family, and us, the only maritime ITF affiliate in Ukraine.”
ITF news release. Risks 1015. 23 September 2021

Hazards news, 16 September 2021

Britain: TUC warns of huge Covid class divide
The coronavirus crisis has been “a tale of two pandemics”, the TUC has said. The union body wants an urgent “economic reset” to tackle the huge class divide in Britain exposed by the pandemic.
TUC news release. The Guardian. More on the hazards of low pay. Risks 1014. 16 September 2021

Britain: Don’t delay Covid surge prevention
The UK government must not wait until it’s too late to bring back mask wearing and social distancing to prevent a new Covid surge, the union UNISON has said. The union was commenting on the government’s winter coronavirus plan for England, outlined by Sajid Javid and prime minister Boris Johnson on 14 September.
UNISON news release. Prime Minister’s Office news release. BBC News Online and earlier report. Daily Mail. The Guardian. Risks 1014. 16 September 2021

Britain: Pupil vaccinations is another ‘useful tool’
The decision by the UK’s Chief Medical Officers to encourage the take up of vaccinations by 12- to 15-year-olds will be another tool to help pupils sustain their access to education throughout the autumn and winter – but should be complemented by other mitigating measures, teaching union NEU has said. Commenting on the recommendation of the Chief Medical Officers of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, NEU joint general secretary Dr Mary Bousted said: “There is still an important role for other mitigations, particularly ventilation and face coverings.” 
NEU news release. Risks 1014. 16 September 2021

Britain: EIS welcomes pupil vaccination move
Scottish teaching union EIS has welcomed a recommendation by the UK’s Chief Medical Officers (CMOs) that young people aged between 12 and 15 should be offered a Covid vaccination. EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan said: “Offering the vaccine to young people in the 12 to 15 age group will make secondary schools safer by reducing the risk of the virus spreading through school communities and will help reduce the level of disruption to education.”
EIS news release. BBC News Online. Risks 1014. 16 September 2021

Britain: Unite opposes mandatory vaccinations for care staff
Unite has ‘strongly reiterated’ its opposition to any health and social care worker being forced to have the Covid vaccine or risk losing their job. The union said that it would be making a ‘robust’ submission in response to the UK government’s six-week consultation, which started on 9 September, into mandatory vaccination for frontline health and care staff in England.
Unite news release and position statement on vaccinations. DHSC news release.
Open consultation: Making vaccination a condition of deployment in the health and wider social care sector, DHSC, 9 September 2021. Closes 11.45pm on 22 October 2021. Risks 1014. 16 September 2021

Britain: Long Covid should be ‘recognised as a disability’
The Scottish government should campaign for long Covid to be legally recognised as a disability under the Equality Act of 2010, teaching union NASUWT has said. The union says at least 81,000 people in Scotland are estimated to be living with long Covid, with teachers and education support staff the second most likely profession to be affected, only just behind healthcare workers.
NASUWT news release. Risks 1014. 16 September 2021

Britain: Union hits out at ‘pandemic profiteers’
It is ‘frankly insulting’ that Amazon’s key UK business paid just £3.8m more corporation tax last year than in 2019 when its sales increased by £1.89bn, the union GMB has said. GMB national officer Mick Rix said “despite making billions from lockdown shopping, and trousering millions in government contracts and subsidies, Amazon has paid a frankly insulting amount of tax back into Treasury coffers,” adding: “At the same time Amazon workers suffer unsafe, dehumanising work practices; breaking bones, falling unconscious and being taken away in ambulances.”
GMB news release. The Guardian. Risks 1014. 16 September 2021

Britain: Abandoned Test match shows Covid is costly
The last-minute cancellation of the fifth cricket international between England and India “due to fears of a further increase in the number of Covid cases” in the Indian camp, shows the damaging effect the virus can still have on any organisation or business and across the value chain, safety professionals’ organisation IOSH has said. The England and Wales Cricket Board confirmed only two hours before the start of the 10 September final match in the Test series that it had been cancelled as India was unable to field a team.
IOSH news release. England and Wales Cricket Board official statement. Risks 1014. 16 September 2021

Britain: Unions praise DVLA safety strikers
PCS members who have been engaged in sustained strike action at the DVLA to make their workplace safe have been congratulated at the TUC Congress. PCS president Fran Heathcote called on Congress to support the campaign for a full independent investigation into events at the DVLA, which the union says allowed a mass Covid-19 outbreak to develop, involving more than 700 cases and one death.
PCS news release. Risks 1014. 16 September 2021

Britain: TUC welcomes Labour’s ‘new deal’ on rights
The TUC has welcomed Labour pledges to extend sick pay to all and raise it, ban zero hours contracts and deliver day one rights for workers. Keir Starmer praised the role played by union safety reps and told the TUC’s Congress that increased sick pay and stronger workers’ rights would form part of a “new deal” for employment under Labour.
Keir Starmer’s speech to TUC Congress 2021. TUC news release and TUC Congress 2021. TSSA news release. Usdaw news release. UNISON news release. Evening Standard. Risks 1014. 16 September 2021

Britain: Physio gets TUC Safety Rep Award 2021
The TUC has recognised the outstanding achievements of dedicated union reps who stepped up to the challenges of the pandemic. Among the 2021 awardees announced at this week’s at TUC Congress is Katrina Humphreys who received the TUC Safety Rep Award, commenting: “I became a trade unionist to allow equality and diversity and particularly safety in the workplace.”
TUC Congress Award Winners 2021 announcement and video. Risks 1014. 16 September 2021

Britain: Concerns over fast-track HGV driver testing
Proposals to fast-track drivers into the haulage industry are political rather than practical and lack substantial public scrutiny and union consultation, civil service union PCS has warned. The union was commenting after transport secretary Grant Shapps told parliament that the Class C test used for rigid lorries and Class E test for larger articulated lorries would be combined into a single test.
PCS news release. Risks 1014. 16 September 2021

Britain: Safety body warns of worker shortage dangers
Employers coping with staff shortages must not ‘sleepwalk’ into a health and safety nightmare, a to safety body has warned. Safety professionals’ organisation IOSH was commenting after latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures revealed UK job vacancies hit a record high of 1 million last month.
IOSH news release and checklist. ONS statistics release, 14 September 2021. BBC News Online. Risks 1014. 16 September 2021

Britain: Huge care staffing crisis hurts mental health
The UK government’s failure to deal with the growing staffing crisis in social care risks worsening the mounting mental health toll on workers, UNISON has warned. Staffing problems are likely to become more acute in the coming few weeks as thousands of care workers leave their jobs because of new compulsory vaccine rules, the union said, adding added recruitment problems caused by low pay, Brexit and increased competition for employees in the post-lockdown economy, are putting even more pressure on those care workers who remain.
UNISON news release and related release. Prime Minister’s Office news release. Risks 1014. 16 September 2021

Britain; Retail union hopes for shopworker law
Retail trade union Usdaw has welcomed interventions from Labour frontbenchers urging the UK government to follow Scotland’s lead and introduce a protection of shopworkers law. Responding to the Police Crime Sentencing and Courts Bill second reading debate in the Lords on 14 September, where several Labour peers urged the government to act, Home Office minister Baroness Williams said “the government has agreed to actively consider whether legislative change is necessary and to bring forward any proposal if it is.”
Usdaw news release. Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill – second reading. Risks 1014. 16 September 2021

Britain: Firefighters mark 9/11 twentieth anniversary
UK firefighters and emergency fire control staff commemorated the twentieth anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy, with a minute’s silence at fire service workplaces across the country. UK firefighters’ union FBU said the disaster holds particular poignancy for firefighters and emergency fire control staff, as 343 out of the 412 emergency workers killed on the day were firefighters, with many more since suffering and from diseases linked to toxic substances present at ground zero.
FBU news release, DECON training and cancer and disease registry. Risks 1014. 16 September 2021

Britain: Anti-vaxers hid razor blades in rail posters
Transport union RMT has called for the strongest possible action against the “anti-vaxers and Covid conspiracy theorists” accused of lacing their posters with razor blades ‎in order to injure anyone trying to remove them. The union has raised the issue formally with Transport for London (TfL) and warning bulletins highlighting the danger of injury have been issued to staff by TfL.
RMT news release. Evening Standard. The Guardian. Risks 1014. 16 September 2021

Australia: ‘Management culture’ behind mining harassment
Representatives of the joint union Western Mineworkers Alliance (WMWA) have told a West Australia government inquiry into sexual harassment in the mining industry that the problem is endemic. WMWA representatives Brad Gandy of the Australian Workers’ Union and Greg Busson of the mining and energy union told the inquiry a recent Alliance survey found 1-in-5 women reported they had experienced physical acts of sexual assaults, with the same proportion saying they had been explicitly or implicitly offered career advancement or benefits in return for sexual favours.
AWU news release. WMWA submission. Risks 1014. 16 September 2021

Global: Teleperformance job may have killed worker
For eight years, Glen Palaje worked at a Teleperformance call centre in Quezon City, Philippines. When he became sick with Covid in August 2020 - which his family and colleagues say he caught at on the job - his years of service were rewarded with “neglect,” according to one co-worker.
UNI news release. Washington Post. Risks 1014. 16 September 2021

USA: Government union expects to bargain on vaccines
US federal workers’ union AFGE has said it expects to bargain with agencies following the 9 September White House announcement of new Covid-19 workforce protocols. President Biden said under new rules government employees should either be vaccinated or be required to undergo regular testing.
President Biden’s remarks. AFGE news release. AFL-CIO statement. New York Times. BBC News Online. The Hill. Risks 1014. 16 September 2021

USA: California law to protect workers from algorithms
US labour rights experts and workers praised the passage of a first-of-its-kind bill in California aimed at empowering warehouse employees at Amazon and other companies that use algorithms to enforce work quotas — often pushing them to skip breaks and work unsafely in order to “make rate.” The new law, Assembly Bill 701, will require companies to disclose to the government and to their employees the quotas that are used to track productivity, prohibit penalties for “time off-task,” and bar companies from retaliating against workers who complain about the metrics used.
California Assembly Bill No.701. Truthout. New York Times. Risks 1014. 16 September 2021

Hazards news, 8 September 2021

Britain: End jab compulsion to prevent care home catastrophe
The government must immediately repeal ‘no jab, no job’ laws for care home staff in England to avert a staffing crisis that threatens to overwhelm the sector, UNISON has said. The union warned that mandatory vaccination rule is pushing thousands to the brink of quitting care work and ministers are “sleepwalking into a disaster” by failing to act.
UNISON news release. Full impact assessment, Department for Health and Social Care, July 2021 and data on the state of the adult social care sector and workforce in England. Risks 1013. 8 September 2021

Britain: Don’t take risks with Covid at work
Businesses must “not let their guard down” to stop Covid-19 spreading rapidly through workplaces, the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) has said. The safety professionals’ organisation said vigilance was especially important as schools reopen after the summer break and more workers return to offices.
IOSH news release and coronavirus resources. Morning Star. Risks 1013. 8 September 2021

Britain: Unions call for return of school safety measures
The UK government should re-introduce safety measures in schools, including bubbles, social distancing and face coverings, in light of warnings of a possible “exponential growth” of coronavirus amongst children when the new academic year begins. The call from the education unions GMB, UNISON and Unite came after the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) committee cautioned that it’s “highly likely” there will be a high prevalence of the virus for pupils and staff after the school restart, causing more disruption in learning.
GMB news release. UNISON news release. Risks 1013. 8 September 2021

Britain: Action call as Covid cases soar in Scottish schools
Teaching union NASUWT is calling for the Scottish government to step up Covid control measures in schools to help break chains of virus transmission, amid a backdrop of soaring cases in schools only a few weeks after pupils returned. Ministers committed to review the current mitigations based on the evidence which emerged in the first six weeks of term.
NASUWT news release, Wales news release and England news release. Risks 1013. 8 September 2021

Britain: Union anger after office hit by anti-vax assault
Prospect has condemned anti-vax protestors who attempted to storm a government agency in London on 3 September. Commenting after the incident at the Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), which is responsible for delivering Covid vaccines to the UK public, Prospect general secretary Mike Clancy said: “To see these workers targeted in this way in their workplace is utterly disgraceful, and only further discredits the perpetrators and their false narrative.”
Prospect news release. i News. Metro. Risks 1013. 8 September 2021

Britain: Workers may shun ‘cavalier’ maskless MPs
Two unions representing staff in parliament, Prospect and FDA, have told the House of Commons Commission that any staff who opt to remove themselves from situations where MPs are refusing to wear a mask and they feel unsafe should be backed by the authorities and will be supported by their union. Mask wearing is mandatory for staff where social distancing cannot be guaranteed, but is deemed as optional for MPs.
Prospect news release. Risks 1013. 8 September 2021

Britain: Rising health issues behind driver shortages
Ill-health and illness is a major factor in the increasing shortage of lorry drivers, Unite has revealed. The union identified the ‘rising’ problem after making a freedom of information (FOI) request to the Driving and Vehicle Licensing Association (DVLA).
Unite news release. Risks 1013. 8 September 2021

Britain: Food union takes aim at 12-hour shifts
Supply chain issues hobbling the food industry won’t be resolved until workers in the sector are given decent working conditions, the GMB has said. The union said unsustainable working practices, long shifts and low wages “are the real cause of supply chain crisis in the meat industry that is strangling the economy.”
GMB news release. Risks 1013. 8 September 2021

Britain: Tube tragedy exposes need for safe staffing levels
The death of a passenger on a London Underground (LU) line highlights the need for safe staffing levels on the system, rail union RMT has said. The union was commenting after the publication of what it described as a ‘damning’ official report into the May 2020 fatality at Waterloo underground station.
RAIB report. RMT news release. BBC News Online. ITV News. Risks 1013. 8 September 2021

Britain: New union training to combat firefighter cancers
A new training programme designed by the firefighters’ union FBU will address the “significant” cancer risks that come with the job. The union’s DECON programme intends to help reduce the impact of toxic substances released in fires.
FBU news release, DECON training and cancer and disease registry. Risks 1013. 8 September 2021

Britain: Work asthma costs health care housekeeper her job
A lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) at work left a health centre worker from Sheffield with an occupational disease and unable to work. Tracey Grayson, a 52-year-old UNISON member, who has received a five figure payout, used Chlor-clean about once or twice a week - without ever being supplied with the correct PPE.
Thompsons Solicitors news release. Risks 1013. 8 September 2021

Britain: Food firm fined after workers gassed
A food manufacturing company has been fined after several employees were gassed, with two having to give up work as a result. Lincoln Magistrates Court heard that Holbeach firm AH Worth Ltd, formerly known as QV Foods Ltd, dipped cut potatoes in ‘Microsoak’, a chemical added to water to prevent browning, but it gave off toxic sulphur dioxide (SO2) gas, affected workers in the packhouse.
HSE news release. US NIOSH guide to sulphur dioxide risks at work. Risks 1013. 8 September 2021

Britain: Worker killed in defective telehandler incident
A fencing manufacturer and the owner of the yard where the business operates have been fined following the death of an employee at the site. North Somerset Magistrates’ Court heard how on 14 August 2017, Roderick McKenzie Hopes was working for PA Fencing Ltd at the yard. A telescopic forklift, or telehandler, used to move timber was lifted too high and tipped over, knocking over some stacked timber which fell on to the 66-year-old, resulting in his death.
HSE news release. Somerset Live. Risks 1013. 8 September 2021

Australia: Unions launch national vaccination campaign
Australia’s national union federation ACTU has launched a national ad campaign to encourage Australians to get vaccinated. The union body says the move supports essential workers and those who have lost their jobs because of the pandemic.
ACTU news release and It’s time to get vaccinated broadcast/online advert. Risks 1013. 8 September 2021

Canada: Unions want a work deaths prosecutor
There must be immediate action to protect workers after the collapse of a high-profile criminal trial related to a young worker's death, unions in the Canadian province of British Columbia (BC) have said. The BC Federation of Labour president, Laird Cronk, described the decision to stay criminal negligence charges against Peter Kiewit Sons and two former managers as a “profound failure” of the justice system.
BCFED news release. USW news release. CBC News. Risks 1013. 8 September 2021

Global: WHO hits back at asbestos lobby ‘misinformation’
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has hit out at the “misinformation” used to lobby governments about the supposed safety of chrysotile asbestos, which WHO has reiterated is a potent cause of cancer. The WHO clarification came in the wake of pro-asbestos comments by a Russian government minister.
WHO policy statement and disputed article. International Ban Asbestos Secretariat feature on Russian asbestos lobbying. Risks 1013. 8 September 2021

Global: Brands and retailers back new safety accord
A new legally-binding international safety agreement is attracting support from top global brands and retailers. The International Accord for Health and Safety in the Garment and Textile Industry took effect on 1 September, with the number of firms signed up quickly toppping 100.
IndustriALL news release. UNI news release. International Accord for Health and Safety in the Textile and Garment Industry. Full list of signatories. Risks 1013. 8 September 2021

Hazards news, 2 September 2021

Britain: UK government failings on schools exposed
A SAGE statement on greatly increased Covid risks linked to the reopening of schools is “a rebuke” to education secretary Gavin Williamson, teaching union NEU has said. The union was commenting on a return to schools ‘Consensus Statement on Covid-19’ by the SAGE SPI-M-O subgroup, dated 11 August but only made public on 27 August.
NEU news release and related safe return news release. Consensus Statement on Covid-19 by SAGE SPI-M-O, 11 August 2021. Safe Education for All Show, episode 6, Socialist Telly. Risks 1012. 2 September 2021

Britain: Scots school infection figures a ‘significant concern’
A marked rise in Covid cases linked to Scottish schools is a ‘significant cause for concern’, the teaching union EIS has said. The union said the spike in cases highlights the need for continuing caution and effective mitigations to limit Covid spread through school communities.
EIS news release. BBC News Online.
Covid-19 Education Recovery Group: children and young people infographic and Coronavirus (Covid-19): daily data for Scotland, Scottish Government. Covid-19 - Schools and Childcare Information August 2021, Public Tableau. Risks 1012. 2 September 2021

Britain: DVLA chief urged to resolve dispute
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka has written to Julie Lennard, chief executive officer of the DVLA, urging her to work with the union to resolve the safety dispute affecting the authority’s Swansea HQ. In a 31 August update, PCS said the DVLA site had now hit the “grim milestone” of 700 Covid-19 cases.
PCS news release and update. Risks 1012. 2 September 2021

Britain: Give UK workers four more bank holidays
Workers in England and Wales are being fobbed off with a “stingy” number of bank holidays, the TUC has said. The union body is calling for a new public holiday between September and Christmas.
TUC news release. ETUC news release. BBC News Online. The Guardian. The Mirror. Risks 1012. 2 September 2021

Britain: Royal Mail ‘group stress assessment’ agreed
Royal Mail Group and unions at the company have announcing agreement on an updated Work-Related Stress Management Toolkit. The new resource adds the ‘whole office/group/unit’ stress risk assessment process to the existing individual stress risk assessment.
CWU news release and Royal Mail Group – Introduction of ‘Whole Workplace/Office’ Stress Risk Assessment Process Tool and Updated Stress Toolkit, Guidance and Joint Statement. Risks 1012. 2 September 2021

Britain: Union investigates harassment at agency
Civil service union PCS is to investigate harassment at the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) after “a number of instances” where workers reported being harassed by individuals not employed by the government body. In an online statement, PCS said the union and its PCS office reps “have agreed to survey our membership to identify how widespread these incidents are and identify any barrier which may be preventing members from reporting cases.”
PCS news release. Risks 1012. 2 September 2021

Britain: Serco bin workers walk out over safety
Sandwell refuse workers employed by the outsourcer Serco have started a series of 24-hour strikes over the firm’s “total failure” to resolve bullying, harassment and safety concerns. Their union GMB has also hit out the leadership of Sandwell Council for its refusal to confront attacks on basic workers’ rights by its statutory service providers.
GMB news release. Birmingham Mail. Risks 1012. 2 September 2021

Britain: Bad jobs to blame for food labour crisis
Supermarkets must take responsibility for the HGV and food industry labour shortages hitting their supply chains, Unite has said. The union said employers must work with the union to properly address the longstanding issues of insecure work, low pay and unpleasant working conditions that are the root causes of the labour shortages.
Unite news release and chickens news release. The Observer. Risks 1012. 2 September 2021

Britain: Union highlights safety concerns in renewables
The ‘urgent issue’ of health and safety in the renewables sector has been highlighted by the union Prospect. ‘Protecting workers’ health and safety in renewables’, a new guide from the union, warns “the massive growth in renewable energy over the years has not been matched by robust health and safety practices.”
Prospect news release, full booklet and concise poster. HESAC. Risks 1012. 2 September 2021

Britain: Train jump stunt is ‘utterly stupid’
Train drivers’ union ASLEF has hit out at the “completely and utterly stupid” practice of people pretending to jump in front of a train after the latest in a series of incidents. The union rebuke followed a ScotRail driver “calling out” someone involved in the prank at Livingston North Station, prompting a series of tweets from ScotRail drivers saying they had experienced similar incidents.
The Scotsman. Risks 1012. 2 September 2021

Britain: Bullied rail staff take action
Rail Gourmet staff at Edinburgh Waverley station will take further industrial action in “an on-going fight” against abuse and bullying by management, RMT has confirmed. The rail union said as a consequence of “the continued failure of the company to agree to meet with the union and negotiate a fair and just settlement members”, affected members would take further strike action on 17 and 18 September.
RMT news release. Risks 1012. 2 September 2021

Britain: ‘Bent out of Shape’ online book launch, 7 September
The Hazards Campaign is hosting the 7 September UK launch of Karen Messing’s book ‘Bent out of Shape - Shame, Solidarity, and Women’s Bodies at Work.’ Messing, an award-winning ergonomist and global expert on gender and work hazards, will be joined at the 6pm launch by ‘Invisible women’ author Caroline Criado Perez, Wales TUC general secretary Shavanah Taj and Hilda Palmer of the Hazards Campaign.
Register for launch of 'Bent out of Shape' by Karen Messing, 6pm UK time, 7 September 2021. Buy the book. Further details from the Hazards Campaign. Risks 1012. 2 September 2021

Australia:  Women’s amenities should be mandatory
Women’s amenities to be mandatory on worksites across Australia to boost the number of women in male dominated industries, a union has said. The Electrical Trades Union (ETU) is launching a ‘Nowhere To Go’ campaign after its report outlined the ‘significant obstacles’ women face within the industry and makes recommendations on how to increase female participation.
Mirage News. Risks 1012. 2 September 2021

Australia: Uber slammed for work deaths ‘cover-up’
Australian transport union TWU has slammed a ‘cover-up culture’ at Uber after it was revealed the rideshare giant failed to report over 500 reportable incidents in New South Wales. The TWU is calling on the federal government to create an independent body with the power “to tackle the root causes of safety breaches in exploitative businesses like Uber,” arguing that post-breach audits and low penalties will not prevent people being maimed or killed.
TWU news release. Risks 1012. 2 September 2021

Qatar: Decade of migrant deaths go unexplained
World Cup host Qatar has failed to investigate the deaths of thousands of migrant workers in the past decade, according to a new report by Amnesty International. The human rights organisation said the majority of migrant worker deaths in Qatar are attributed to “natural causes”, cardiac or respiratory failure, noting these classifications are “meaningless” if the underlying cause of death goes unexplained.
Amnesty International news release and report, In the prime of their lives, August 2021. UNI World Players Association. The Guardian. Risks 1012. 2 September 2021

USA: Whistleblower warning on chemical assessments
A top US government agency has been accused of falsifying risk assessments for dangerous new chemicals in an effort to make the compounds appear safe so it can quickly approve them for commercial use, whistleblowers have charged. Over the past five years, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has not rejected any new chemicals submitted by industry despite agency scientists flagging dozens of compounds for high toxicity.
PEER news release and complaint. The Guardian and earlier report in The Intercept. Risks 1012. 2 September 2021

Hazards news, 26 August 2021

Britain: England reopening came at a cost
A month after England dropped most of its coronavirus restrictions, experts have confirmed fears about a high human cost. The UK government went ahead with the changes despite thousands of scientists warning it was a “dangerous and unethical experiment.”
CNN News. 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. Risks 1011. 26 August 2021

Britain: Fears of Covid jump as schools return
Deaths from Covid-19 are now averaging 100 a day across the UK, according to official data, and scientists have warned that case rates will jump again when millions of pupils return to schools. Confirmed infection numbers have also started to rise once more following a dramatic fall in mid-July, and are now running at over 30,000 cases a day, with the seven-day average figure up 13 per cent in a week.
The Guardian. The Independent. Risks 1011. 26 August 2021

Global: Study confirms mitigation is necessary in schools
A study has confirmed wide-ranging mitigation measures are necessary to prevent Covid-19 transmission in schools. The research, led by scientists from Swiss government agencies and CERN, was published online on 20 August. The authors concluded: “Natural ventilation, face masks, and HEPA filtration are effective interventions to reduce SARS-CoV-2 aerosol transmission,” adding: “These measures should be combined and complemented by additional interventions (eg. physical distancing, hygiene, testing, contact tracing, and vaccination) to maximise benefit.”
Jennifer Villers and others. SARS-CoV-2 aerosol transmission in schools: the effectiveness of different interventions, medRxiv 2021.08.17.21262169; published online ahead of peer review 20 August 2021. doi: https://doi.org/10.1101/2021.08.17.21262169 Risks 1011. 26 August 2021

Britain: Union welcomes monitors plan for classrooms
Teaching union NEU has welcomed plans to provide air quality monitoring in schools as a “first step” towards recognition that funding is needed for ensure good ventilation. The union was commenting after Gavin Williamson said around 300,000 carbon dioxide (CO2) monitors would be made available during the autumn term.
DfES news release. NEU news release and update. Risks 1011. 26 August 2021

Britain: Scottish teachers call for continued caution
Teaching union EIS has called for continued caution around Covid-19 as pupils and staff returned to classrooms in Scotland. The union said “effective mitigations” must continue to protect workers and children and expressed concern about the risk of the virus being passed through school communities.
EIS news release. Morning Star. Risks 1011. 26 August 2021

Britain: Scottish government’s inquiry welcomed by union
An announcement that Scotland is to hold its own public inquiry into the handling of the Covid pandemic by the end of the year has been welcomed by the union UNISON. The Scottish government said the independent inquiry will scrutinise decisions that were taken over the course of the crisis, with the aim of learning lessons for any future pandemics.
Scottish government news release. UNISON Scotland news release. BBC News Online. Risks 1011. 26 August 2021

Britain: RMT threatens action over legionella in train loos
A rail union has said it will consider industrial action over the threat posed by the “potentially lethal” legionella bacteria found on Thameslink trains. RMT declared a dispute with the company after trace amounts of legionella were found in seven toilets on four trains.
RMT news release. BBC News Online. Risks 1011. 26 August 2021

Britain: GMB and Uber pledge to ‘end exploitation’
GMB and Uber have made a joint commitment to end the exploitation of more than 200,000 drivers who use ride hailing apps. The 26 August statement marked the first meeting between GMB general secretary Gary Smith and Uber’s Jamie Heywood, following a groundbreaking trade union recognition deal.
GMB news release. Risks 1011. 26 August 2021

Britain: New law to protect Scottish shopworkers
Retail trade union Usdaw has welcomed a new law to protect shopworkers in Scotland from violence, threats and abuse. The groundbreaking law, which came into force on 24 August 2021, came after Usdaw’s long-running campaign led to the Protection of Workers (Retail and Age-restricted Goods and Services) (Scotland) Bill.
Usdaw news release. Protection of Workers (Retail and Age-restricted Goods and Services) (Scotland) Act 2021. BBC News Online. Risks 1011. 26 August 2021

Britain: Retail bosses want more protection for UK workers
Retail leaders are urging the UK government to follow Scotland's example in extending new protections for shopworkers. The British Retail Consortium (BRC) boss Helen Dickinson said “enough is enough,” adding: “It is incomprehensible that despite Holyrood's decisive action, the UK government has so far failed to provide the same protections to shopworkers in the rest of the UK.”
BBC News Online. Risks 1011. 26 August 2021

Britain: Usdaw urges shopworkers to ‘report it to sort it’
Retail trade union Usdaw has launched a Freedom from Fear summer campaign highlighting shocking statistics from their annual survey.  Preliminary results from nearly 2,000 retail staff show that in the last twelve months, 92 per cent of retail staff experienced verbal abuse, 70 per cent were threatened by a customer and 14 per cent were assaulted, with one in five victims never reporting an incident to their employer, including 5 per cent who had been assaulted.
Usdaw Respect for Retail Workers summer campaign and UK, Wales and Northern Ireland news releases. BBC News Online. Risks 1011. 26 August 2021

Britain: Vibration disease strikes seven at site firm
Construction company Peter Duffy Ltd has been sentenced for criminal safety breaches after its workers were diagnosed with Hand Arm Vibration (HAVS). Leeds Magistrates’ Court heard that the company reported seven cases of HAVS, a potentially disabling condition, between November 2016 and August 2018.
HSE news release. Risks 1011. 26 August 2021

Britain: Shipbuilder fined after young worker is killed
A Merseyside shipbuilding and repair company has been fined after a young employee was fatally injured when struck by a 31-foot steel post. Liverpool Magistrates’ Court heard how on 30 March 2017, 23-year-old Tristan Nuttall and four other workers from Carmet Marine Limited had been adapting or ‘regulating’ a bogie, wehn one of the bogie’s steel side-posts weighing approximately 1,800kg fell and fatally struck Tristan on the back of the head.
HSE news release. Risks 1011. 26 August 2021

France: One in 10 suicides is work-related
One in 10 suicides in adults in France is related to work, a new government study has found, with the proportion much higher in those in work. The report from the French ministry of health, Santé publique France, found appeared among those in work their job to played a role in 42 per cent of suicides.
Surveillance des suicides en lien potentiel avec le travail, Santé publique France, August 2021. Suicide note: Global experts tell HSE to address work-related suicide risks, Hazards, Number 149, December 2019.
RESOURCES: Work and suicide: A TUC guide to prevention for trade union activists. ‘Don’t despair’ pin-up-at-work suicide prevention poster. More on work-related suicides.
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 1011. 26 August 2021

Global: New accord on worker safety programmes
A new workplace safety agreement has been negotiated by global unions and textile and garment manufacturers. The deal signed by IndustriALL, UNI and leading apparel brands updates the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh and now includes provision to extend the programme to other countries, with a commitment to add at least one more country within two years.
IndustriALL news release. Bangladesh Accord news release and full text of the new International Accord for Health and Safety in the Textile and Garment Industry. CCC news release. Workers Rights Consortium news release. Reuters. Risks 1011. 26 August 2021

Myanmar: Covid-19 spreads in factories as safety ignored
Health and safety is being ignored in factories since Myanmar’s military coup, unions have warned. The Industrial Workers’ Federation of Myanmar (IWFM) said two of its members have died from Covid-19 and more than 100 factory-level union leaders have been infected.
IndustriALL news release. Risks 1011. 26 August 2021

Global: New port safety app welcomed by unions
Dockers’ unions have welcomed a new safety app “developed by dockers, for dockers” that helps teach workers how to identify and reduce hazards in ports. Global transport union ITF said port workers who download the OSH Ports app and complete a short course can then take an assessment and receive an official completion certificate.
ITF news release and OHS ports app. Risks 1011. 26 August 2021

Hazards news, 19 August 2021

Britain: Unions demand action on ventilation in schools
The government must take firm action to improve ventilation in schools to reduce further Covid disruption, education unions have said. In a letter to education secretary Gavin Williamson, the unions - NEU, Unison, NASUWT, ASCL, NAHT, GMB and Unite – say proper measures to increase airflow in time for the start of the next academic year will make a difference to health and limit the damage to learning for pupils.
NEU news release. NASUWT news release. Unite news release. Morning Star. Risks 1010. 19 August 2021

Britain: University staff anxious about in-person working
Two in five university staff are wary about returning to in-person working and most report safety-related concerns and anxiety, University and College Union (UCU) Scotland research has found. Over threequarters (76 per cent) of respondents to the union’s survey reported an increase in workload last year, 86.5 per cent said they want better ventilation on campus and 78.5 per cent indicated they support the continued wearing of face coverings.
UCU Scotland news release and report. Morning Star. Risks 1010. 19 August 2021

Britain: Health unions warn of impending Covid crisis
Health unions have warned of an impending crisis after concerns were raised about a possible large wave of Covid-19 hitting hospitals in the autumn. The unions were commenting as rules were eased so that fully vaccinated adults will no longer have to isolate if they come into contact with someone who has tested positive for Covid-19.
Morning Star. BBC News Online. Risks 1010. 19 August 2021

Britain: Union calls for action after MPs flout mask rules
The ‘contempt’ shown by large numbers of MPs who failed to wear masks during an 18 August parliamentary debate – including the entire government front bench - should result in action from the parliamentary authorities, Prospect has said. The union, which represents hundreds of staff working in parliament, wants MPs to be bound by the same rules on mask wearing that apply to other staff.
Prospect news release. The Guardian. Risks 1010. 19 August 2021

Britain: Report backs right to disconnect
Working from home during the pandemic has caused an “epidemic of hidden overtime” that particularly affects women and demonstrates the need for a new “right to disconnect” law, according a report from the Autonomy thinktank. As part of the report, Autonomy proposed draft legislation that would create a right to disconnect, based on French law, which stipulates employees do not have to take calls or read emails related to work during their time off.
The right to disconnect, Autonomy, August 2021. Prospect ‘Right to disconnect’ campaign. The Guardian. The Mirror. Risks 1010. 19 August 2021

Britain: Shifts ‘significantly associated’ with heart problems
Long-term night shifts are “significantly associated” with heart-related health problems in UK workers, according to a new study. Researchers from China, Hong Kong, the USA and Sweden examined UK data and found working late hours was linked with irregular and fast heart rate, with women potentially at greater risk; working night shifts also increased the risk of coronary heart disease (CHD), according to the paper published in the European Heart Journal.
Ningjian Wang and others. Long-term night shift work is associated with the risk of atrial fibrillation and coronary heart disease, European Heart Journal, 2021;, ehab505. Published 10 August 2021. https://doi.org/10.1093/eurheartj/ehab505. The Independent. Risks 1010. 19 August 2021

Britain: Motorway workers protest over sick pay denial
Highways maintenance workers employed by construction giant Kier have protested at the company’s Basingstoke offices, over the company’s refusal to pay them sick pay. Unite said that despite being required to work day and night in all weathers the highways maintenance workers only receive statutory sick pay (SSP), which is worth just £96.35 a week, with this is in contrast to the office-based staff at Kier and the workers who are directly employed by the client Highways England who receive full sick pay from day one for a period of up to three months.
Unite news release. Risks 1010. 19 August 2021

Britain: Strike looms as bus drivers reject remote sign-on
A survey of London bus drivers by the trade union Unite has found overwhelming opposition to proposals to move to a system of remote sign-on for buses in the capital. Over 2,200 bus drivers replied to the survey, with 84 per cent replying that they believed that remote sign-on would be bad for them.
Unite news release. Risks 1010. 19 August 2021

Britain: Solid action in rail safety dispute
Rail union RMT has said action by senior conductors and train managers on East Midlands Railways in two separate disputes remains solid, despite the company’s “dangerous” efforts to operate services on strike days. The union said it is compiling a dossier of potentially lethal safety breaches as the company drafts in “an ill-trained army of strike breakers in a dangerous and desperate bid to try and undermine their frontline staff.”
RMT news release. Morning Star. Risks 1010. 19 August 2021

Britain: Asda workers demand action to stop violence
The union GMB has handed in 1,250 letters from ‘terrified’ supermarket workers asking Asda for protection in the wake of a ‘Spiderman’ gang attack at the supermarket giant’s Clapham Junction store. The letters were presented at the store, where workers were beaten and some subsequently hospitalised in the 22 July attack.
GMB news release. Risks 1010. 19 August 2021

Britain: Retailers urged to back new Bangladesh Accord
Top British retailers are being urged to renew an agreement that led to dramatic improvements in labour and safety standards at the garment factories in Bangladesh making products sold worldwide. The original Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety in its current, legally binding, form is due to end on 31 August 2021 and there is a risk that brands will return to a weaker, voluntary system.
Usdaw news release. Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety. Risks 1010. 19 August 2021

Britain: Journalists fleeing Afghanistan must be given sanctuary
The journalists’ union NUJ is calling on the UK government to put in place specific measures for journalists and media workers under a resettlement scheme and step up its effort to deliver their safe passage out of Afghanistan. As the Taliban took control of the country, the NUJ said there has been a rapid escalation of violence and threats against journalists and independent media, and house-to-house searches in Kabul that resulted in journalists being detained.
NUJ news release and related news release. IFJ Safety Fund for Afghanistan. Risks 1010. 19 August 2021

Britain: Access to OHS has been greatly exaggerated
A government-sourced statement that around half of the UK workforce has access to occupational health services (OHS) is based on unsubstantiated claims and is likely to be a significant over-estimate, a top occupational health expert has warned. In a Society of Occupational Medicine (SOM) blog posting, occupational doctor Paul Nicholson warns the evidence is “unreliable”, adding: “Data that is based on the estimates of ‘a couple of experts’ sounds rather slapdash” with “even published peer-reviewed expert opinion being the lowest quality evidence in most evidence hierarchies.”
SOM news release. Risks 1010. 19 August 2021

Britain: Spate of deaths prompts HSE farm safety alert
More must be done to improve farm safety after four fatalities on farms in just over a fortnight, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has warned. The tragedies, between 27 July and 10 August, came in the wake of HSE’s latest statistics on fatal injuries in agriculture, forestry and fishing in Great Britain; these showed the number of deaths in the sector almost doubled year-on-year, up from 23 in 2019/20 to 41 in 2020/21.
HSE news release. Fatal injuries in agriculture, forestry and fishing in Great Britain 2020/21, 19 July 2021. Risks 1010. 19 August 2021

Australia: Costly bid to block women’s toilet
Australia’s federal building industry watchdog has defended its decision to spend more than half a million dollars unsuccessfully pursuing a union through the courts after organisers demanded a women’s toilet on a Melbourne worksite. The action by the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) came after a CFMEU official said there should be a union enterprise agreement covering a project, with the union also noting a woman working on the site had previously been forced to use the men’s toilet.
ACTU news release. Sydney Morning Herald. ABC News. Risks 1010. 19 August 2021

Malaysia: Electronics firm told to act on Covid deaths
Malaysian company ST Microelectronics (STM) has been accused of putting profit before workers’ safety, after 19 employees died during a large scale workplace Covid-19 outbreak. The country’s Ministry of International Trade & Industry only ordered a total shutdown of the plant from 29 July until 4 August; prior to this the company only closed individual sections of the plant as Covid-19 cases were detected.
IndustriALL news release. Morning Star. Risks 1010. 19 August 2021

USA: Amazon loses bid to stop NY safety probe
A US federal judge has dismissed Amazon.com Inc's attempt to block New York’s attorney general from investigating the online retailer's ability to protect warehouse workers from Covid-19. In a 10 August ruling, US District Judge Brian Cogan rejected Amazon's lawsuit claiming attorney general Letitia James acted in bad faith by trying to police its pandemic response, and stop its alleged retaliation against workers who were unhappy the company wasn't doing more.
Seattle Times. Commercial Observer. Reuters. Bloomberg. Risks 1010. 19 August 2021

Hazards news, 11 August 2021

Britain: ‘Dial down the rhetoric’ on working from home
Ministers should ‘dial down the rhetoric’ on working from home, the civil service union Prospect has said. The call came after media reports suggested that some ministers proposed considering docking pay or amending terms and conditions in an effort to push more civil servants back to offices.
Prospect news release. The Guardian. The Independent. BBC News Online. Risks 1009. 11 August 2021

Britain: UCU hits back at education secretary slurs
Lecturers’ union UCU said Gavin Williamson was wrong to criticise university staff who have worked so hard, when his ‘disastrous mismanagement’ had caused chaos across the sector. The union was responding to the education secretary’s criticism of online provision.
UCU news release. The Guardian. Risks 1009. 11 August 2021

Britain: New union ballot over safety at the DVLA
Civil service union PCS has launched a consultative ballot over ongoing Covid-19 safety concerns at the DVLA. The electronic ballot aims to gauge the views of members at the Swansea vehicle licensing HQ, which has been hit by hundreds of Covid-19 infections.
PCS news release. South Wales Argus. BBC News Online. Risks 1009. 11 August 2021

Britain: End the anti-vax abuse of health service staff
Leading health organisations have come together to demand an end to the abuse endured by NHS workers during the pandemic. The call from the group – which includes the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), UNISON and the NHS Confederation –was prompted by abuse and death threats on social media targeting RCM chief executive Gill Walton for encouraging pregnant women to have the Covid-19 vaccine.
UNISON news release. RCM news release. NHS Confederation news release. Nursing Times. Risks 1009. 11 August 2021

Britain: Poor conditions in care jobs is the real problem
Poor pay and conditions in health care is leaving staff and services in a parlous state, the union GMB has indicated. The warning follows reports that care group HC-One is offering registered night nurses a signing bonus of £10,000, with similar bonuses proposed by other firms for had to recruit health and care staff.
GMB news release. More on the hazards of low pay. Risks 1009. 11 August 2021

Britain: Tracking exemption for Welsh carers slammed
An announcement by the Welsh government that it plans to exempt ‘pinged’ social care workers from having to self-isolate has been criticised by the union GMB. The move comes as reports circulate that local authorities are struggling to cover calls, with family members being asked to help out instead.
GMB news release. Risks 1009. 11 August 2021

Britain: HS2 protest as union is denied access to workers
The joint venture company Skanska-Costain-Strabag (SCS) is ‘seriously hindering’ legitimate trade union access to construction workers building the Euston tunnels of the HS2 railway, the union Unite has charged. The consortium was called out by the union ahead of a 6 August demonstration outside the site, with Unite saying SCS was flouting an agreement to allow union officials ‘meaningful’ access to the site.
Unite news release and Unite in HS2 campaign and petition. Morning Star. Risks 1009. 11 August 2021

Britain: Dehydration threat to health of maternity staff
Hot maternity wards and the need for staff to wear more personal protective equipment (PPE) than before the pandemic is seeing many midwifery workers struggle to stay hydrated, the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) has warned. The midwives’ union is concerned that the health and wellbeing of staff and the quality of the care they provide could be adversely affected as a result, with many workers going an entire shift without a drink.
RCM news release. Risks 1009. 11 August 2021

Britain: Better jobs key to solving HGV driver crisis
Government and haulage bosses have been ‘dragging their feet’ over the escalating HGV driver shortages and should sit down with Unite to tackle the underlying causes, Unite has said. The union accused the sector’s employers and government of doing nothing to deal with ‘a brazen lack of respect’ towards drivers as they tried to squeeze ‘the last drop of profit’ from their contracts.
Unite news release and hours extension news release. Risks 1009. 11 August 2021

Britain: Call for better security after latest rail station assault
Rail union TSSA is calling for more to be done to protect front line staff after another assault on a member of station staff left him fearing for his life. Manuel Cortes, TSSA general secretary, said: “This terrifying attack is the latest in far too many recent assaults on front line rail workers.”
TSSA news release. Risks 1009. 11 August 2021

Britain: ‘Bad faith’ from TfL sees ferry talks break down
Crunch talks to resolve the long-running Woolwich Ferry union rep victimisation dispute have broken down, with Unite accusing Transport for London (TfL) bosses of ‘bad faith’. Unite said the dispute centred on the victimisation of the two of its union reps, issues over pay and the use of agency staff “and the failure to provide adequate health and safety training to new employees.”
Unite news release. Risks 1009. 11 August 2021

Britain: Morrisons to give staff a Boxing Day break
Retail union Usdaw has welcomed the announcement that Morrisons will close their supermarkets on Boxing Day to say thank you to their staff. Usdaw national officer Joanne McGuiness said: “Key workers have done so much this year and we are asking retailers to give their staff the longest possible break over the festive season to provide them with a well-deserved breather.”
Usdaw news release. Evening Standard. BBC News Online. Sky News. Risks 1009. 11 August 2021

Global: Hazards Conference 2021 – online report
A report of the UK Hazards Conference, including recordings, presentations and documentation, is now available online. Contributors to the event included general secretaries Sharan Burrow of the global trade union confederation ITUC, Richard Wagstaff of the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions and Shavanah Taj of Wales TUC; other speakers included TUC national safety officer Shelly Asquith and Labour’s shadow employment secretary Andy McDonald MP.
National Hazards Conference 2021 – recordings, presentations and documents. Risks 1009. 11 August 2021

Australia: Crisis meeting demand over tracing failures
An Australian union is calling on the New South Wales provincial government to convene an immediate crisis meeting with unions, employer representatives and the safety regulator Safework NSW, to address ‘the growing Covid-19 crisis in workplaces.’ In a letter to the administration, the United Workers Union raised a series of proposals to prevent the increase in transmission taking place in distribution centres across Sydney.
UWU news release. Risks 1009. 11 August 2021

Bangladesh: Factory reopenings put workers at risk
On 1 August, Bangladeshi garment export factories were allowed by the government to resume operations with just two days’ notice, despite the strict lockdown imposed across the country. Apoorva Kaiwar, IndustriALL South Asia regional secretary, said: “It is not acceptable that garment workers are forced to take such risks in order to meet business targets.”
IndustriALL news release. Risks 1009. 11 August 2021

Korea: Foreign workers more likely to die at work
Foreign workers are three times as likely to be killed in South Korea’s workplaces as Korean nationals, official figures have indicated. Data from the Ministry of Employment and Labor submitted to Rep. Kang Eun-mi of the Justice Party showed that one in eight ― or 12 per cent ― of the victims of work fatalities over the past 18 months were workers of foreign nationality.
Korea Times. Risks 1009. 11 August 2021

Korea: Safe rates for truck drivers pay off
A ‘safe rates’ pay system for truck drivers in operation in South Korea since January 2020 is working, new research has confirmed. Safe rates systems, which have been promoted by the sector’s global union ITF, set legal standards for fair pay and working conditions in road transport and make companies at the top of contracting chains responsible for ensuring the standards are met.
ITF news release. Analysis of the Early Impact of the Korean Safe Rates System and Proposals for Sustainable Implementation, Korean Public Service and Transport Workers’ Union Cargo Truckers’ Solidarity Division (KPTU-TruckSol) and the Korean Safe Rates Research Group (KSRRG), 2021. ITF safe rates webpages. Risks 1009. 11 August 2021

Hazards news, 4 August 2021

Britain: Low pay will lead to unsafe care staffing levels
The UK government must pay care workers properly for the job they do, or risk thousands walking away from the sector or refusing vaccine jabs, GMB has said. The union says the imposition of mandatory vaccinations for care home workers in England is not the right approach, with its own estimates suggesting as many as 70,000 staff could lose their job in November at the end of the 16-week grace period by which time they have to have had the vaccine.
GMB news release and related news release. More on the hazards of low pay. Risks 1008. 4 August 2021

Britain: Warning on ‘no jab, no job’ policies
Companies have been warned they could face legal action if they introduce “no jab no job” policies in the workplace. Trade unions have criticised the government for encouraging the idea of mandatory vaccination for office staff – after transport secretary Grant Shapps said it was a “good idea” for companies to insist staff are double-jabbed.
The Independent. BBC News Online. Risks 1008. 4 August 2021

Global: Vaccination is not enough by itself, study finds
Vaccination alone won't stop the rise of new variants and could push the evolution of strains that evade their protection, researchers have warned. The researchers, from Austria, Spain and Switzerland, said people need to wear masks and take other steps to prevent spread until almost everyone in a population has been vaccinated.
Simon A Rella, Yuliya A Kulikova, Emmanouil T Dermitzakis and Fyodor A Kondrashov. Rates of SARS-CoV-2 transmission and vaccination impact the fate of vaccine-resistant strains, Scientific Reports, volume 11, Article number: 15729, 2021. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-021-95025-3   CNN News. Risks 1008. 4 August 2021

Britain: Union calls for rejection of self-isolation exemption
The union GMB is advising more than 2,000 street cleaners and bin collectors in Scotland to refuse to return to work and to instead self-isolate if they have been exposed to coronavirus. After talks with workplace representatives, GMB has recommended its more than 2,300 members in cleansing and waste services for councils in Glasgow, North and South Lanarkshire, West Lothian and elsewhere to put their health first and refuse self-isolation exemptions.
Morning Star. Risks 1008. 4 August 2021

Britain: STUC urges continuing caution as precautions go
The Scottish union body STUC has urged continuing caution as Nicola Sturgeon announced the country’s move ‘beyond level zero’. STUC general secretary Roz Foyer said: “Many workers particularly in areas such as health and social care remain concerned at the lifting of self-isolation restrictions for the double vaccinated – both workers and the wider public.”
Scottish government news release and Coronavirus (COVID-19) update: First Minister's statement – 3 August 2021. STUC news release. BBC News Online. Risks 1008. 4 August 2021

Britain: Ambulance staff face ‘unsustainable’ demand    
UNISON has written to ambulance service chiefs calling for urgent support for staff as services face unprecedented 999 call volumes and an ‘unsustainable’ demand from the public. The letter to Daren Mochrie, chair of the Association of Ambulance Chief Executives (AACE), says employers must act now to limit the impact on the wellbeing and morale of staff, especially those working in control rooms.
UNISON news release. Morning Star. Risks 1008. 4 August 2021

Britain: Scottish government staff want four-day week
An overwhelming majority of Scottish government workers want to see a four-day working week trialled, research has found. A scoping project of over 2,000 employees by the independent think tank Autonomy and supported by PCS in Scotland indicated that moving to a four-day week would boost productivity and deliver clear benefits for the employer.
PCS news release and full report. Autonomy webpage. UPAC Group blog. Morning Star. Packaging Scotland. STV News. Risks 1008. 4 August 2021

Britain: UCU member wins right to return to work
UCU has welcomed a decision by an employment tribunal ordering the University of Huddersfield to reinstate a senior lecturer, who it had ruled was unfairly dismissed. Earlier this year Jonathan Duxbury, 57, was successful at Leeds Employment Tribunal, after a multi-year legal battle following the university bringing in new rules which had an unfair impact on him.
UCU news release. Thompsons Solicitors news release. Risks 1008. 4 August 2021

Britain: Painful dermatitis led to worker being ditched
A Yorkshire grandmother, who developed a severe skin condition as a result of her work, has secured £50,000 in damages. BFAWU member Susan Robinson, 59, from Wakefield, worked at Speedibake – a factory in West Yorkshire that supplies muffins, cupcakes and other baked goods to big supermarket chains.
Thompsons Solicitors news release. Risks 1008. 4 August 2021

Britain: Wood firm fined 910k after driver’s death
Wood products manufacturer Egger (UK) Limited has been fined after a self-employed lorry driver was killed making a routine delivery of recycled wood. Kilmarnock Sheriff Court heard that on 3 October 2017, Kenneth Aitchison, 60, was standing on open ground at the rear of the trailer of his articulated vehicle, when he was struck by a wheeled shovel loader operating in the yard at Egger’s Auchinleck premises in Scotland.
HSE news release. Risks 1008. 4 August 2021

Britain: Freight firm convicted after boy’s electrocution
A freight firm has been fined £6.5 million after being convicted of criminal negligence over the death by electrocution of 11-year-old Harrison Ballantyne boy as he went to retrieve a football. WH Malcolm Limited, operator of the Daventry International Rail Freight Terminal, was sentenced at Northampton Crown Court following a prosecution brought by the rail regulator, the Office of Rail and Road (ORR).
ORR news release. Risks 1008. 4 August 2021

Britain: Butcher escapes jail after band saw crimes
A butchery boss with a long history of ignoring machine guarding rules has escaped jail after a worker had his finger partially amputated by an inadequately guarded band saw. Younis & Sons Limited and its sole director Nadeem Hussain both pleaded guilty to one criminal safety offence at Birmingham Magistrates Court; the company was fined £46,800 and ordered to pay to court costs of £3,775 and Hussain, 46, received a 12-week prison sentence, suspended for 12 months, and was ordered to pay £3,775 in costs.
Birmingham Council news release. Risks 1008. 4 August 2021

Lifting Covid restrictions, Wales TUC briefing, 11 August 2021
Wales TUC is to run an 11 August ‘Lifting Covid restrictions and the impact on workers’ zoom briefing for union reps. The hour-long session starting at 10.30am will be chaired by Wales TUC national officer Sian Cartwright and hear presentations from: Shelly Asquith, the TUC national health and safety policy officer; Doug Russell, Usdaw national health and safety officer; and Shavanah Taj, Wales TUC general secretary.
* Register for Lifting Covid restrictions, Wales TUC briefing, 10.30-11.30am, Wednesday 11 August. Briff Cynrychiolwyr Iechyd a Diogelwch TUC Cymru ar Covid, 10.30am, 11 Awst. Risks 1008. 4 August 2021

Australia: Government blamed for truck driver deaths
A damaging policy shift by Australia’s federal government is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of truck drivers, the Transport Workers’ Union (TWU) has charged. In April 2016, the federal government abolished the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal, despite its own report concluding that truck crashes would be reduced by 28 per cent.
TWU news release and Safe Rates Campaign. ITF safe rates webpages. Risks 1008. 4 August 2021

Global: Teleperformance told to respect safety rights
Call centre giant Teleperformance has been told to correct shortcomings in its approach to worker health and safety and collective bargaining across the company’s global operations. The French National Contact Point (NCP) to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) issued the recommendations, in the wake of an April 2020 submission by global union UNI and French unions.
UNI news release. OEDC communique (in French). Risks 1008. 4 August 2021

USA: Covid 60 per cent higher than reported, experts say
Sixty per cent of US Covid-19 cases could have gone unreported due to biases in test data and delayed reporting, a study by researchers at the University of Washington has found. “Our results indicate that a large majority of Covid infections go unreported,” the authors note, adding “continued mitigation and an aggressive vaccination effort are necessary to surpass the herd-immunity threshold without incurring many more deaths due to the disease.”
Nicholas J Irons and Adrian E Raftery. Estimating SARS-CoV-2 infections from deaths, confirmed cases, tests, and random surveys, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, volume 118 (31), e2103272118, August 2021.  DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2103272118  University of Washington news release. CIDRAP news release. Risks 1007. 4 August 2021

USA: Indoor protections still needed, says CDC
The US government has updated its guidance for fully vaccinated people, recommending that everyone wear a mask in indoor public settings in areas of substantial and high transmission, regardless of vaccination status. The decision by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) came after official data indicated that Delta infection resulted in similarly high viral loads in vaccinated and unvaccinated people.
CDC news release. NNU news release and scientific brief. The Atlantic.
Kasen K Riemersma and others. Vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals have similar viral loads in communities with a high prevalence of the SARS-CoV-2 delta variant, medRxiv 2021.07.31.21261387; doi: https://doi.org/10.1101/2021.07.31.21261387    Risks 1008. 4 August 2021

Hazards news, 29 July 2021

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

Britain: Missed chance to help disabled workers
A new UK government disability strategy amounts to a ‘missed chance’ to help disabled workers, the TUC has said. TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said:  “Disabled workers have a legal right to the reasonable adjustments they need – but two-fifths of disabled workers aren’t getting them.”
DWP news release, advice hub and National Disability Strategy. TUC news release. BBC News Online. Risks 1007, 29 July 2021

Britain: Work-related suicides are not counted
Cases of suicide clearly linked to work are going uninvestigated, unrecorded and ignored by the UK workplace safety regulator, new research has found. The Leeds University study, funded by Research England, analysed 12 suicide cases over the period 2015 to 2020 from different occupations and sectors; in 11 of the 12 suicides investigated, organisational or managerial workplace factors were identified as a dominant causal factor.
University of Leeds news release and report, Work-related suicide: a qualitative analysis of recent cases with recommendations for reform, Sarah Waters and Hilda Palmer, University of Leeds, July 2021. Risks 1007, 29 July 2021

Britain: Warning on deadly privatised fire inspections threat
The UK government’s Building Safety Bill is ‘vitally flawed’ and could allow ‘deadly’ private sector involvement in fire safety inspections, the firefighters’ union FBU has warned. FBU general secretary Matt Wrack, commenting after the draft law passed its second reading in parliament on 21 July, said it allowed for private sector firms to be brought in if fire and rescue services were not in a position to assist the new Building Safety Regulator.
FBU news release. Risks 1007, 29 July 2021

Britain: Action call after ‘horrifying’ attack on shopworkers
A vicious attack on Asda workers in Clapham, south London, has prompted a renewed GMB call for action on violence directed at shopworkers. Footage on social media shows a group of assailants - including one dressed as Spiderman – kicking and punching workers inside Clapham Junction Asda.
GMB news release. Enfield Independent. Risks 1007, 29 July 2021

Britain: Urgent investigation call into unstaffed station fire
Rail union RMT has demanded an urgent investigation by the rail health and safety regulator into the risks posed by unstaffed stations. The call came after unstaffed Troon station was hit by a devastating fire
RMT news release and Staff our Stations campaign. Risks 1007, 29 July 2021

Britain: Rail near miss findings show need for action now
Rail union TSSA has called for better terms and conditions for train driver managers, following a Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) report which identified “high turnover of driver managers, insufficient driver managers in post and their high workload” as a contributing factor to a near miss, as they did not effectively manage safety-related risk associated with the driver involved in the incident.
TSSA news release. RAIB report. Risks 1007, 29 July 2021

Britain: Unite demands heat distress audit on buses
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan and Transport for London (TfL) must institute an independent audit of air conditioning systems for all London buses, the union Unite has said. The call came after many drivers in the capital raised concerns about the air conditioning in their cabs not working, or being inadequate during the recent hot weather, resulting in sweltering temperatures and fears that drivers could become so fatigued by the heat it could impinge on road safety.
Unite news release. Risks 1007, 29 July 2021

Britain: Lighting firm fined after forklift fatality
A lighting manufacturer in Blackburn has been fined after an employee was fatally injured when the forklift truck he was driving struck an overhead steel beam. Preston Magistrates’ Court heard that on 14 June 2019, Maciej Koldys, 36, was operating a forklift truck to move pallets, when the mast of the forklift truck hit a low overhead structural beam, which caused the truck to overturn.
HSE news release. Risks 1007, 29 July 2021

Britain: National Hazards Conference, online, 31 July-1 August 2021
The National Hazards Conference takes place online this weekend, from Saturday 31 July to Sunday 1 August. Top international speakers at the opening plenary are Sharan Burrow, general secretary of the global trade union confederation ITUC, and Richard Wagstaff, general secretary of the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions (NZCTU).
National Hazards Conference 2021, 31 July-1 August, online. Attendance is free. Register separately for each day.
Saturday 31 July 2021: 10am-3.30pm – register.
Sunday 1 August 2021: 10am-1.00pm – register.
Further information: email info@hazardscampaign.org.uk Risks 1007, 29 July 2021

Britain: Lifting Covid restrictions, TUC briefings, August 2021
The TUC is continuing its series of zoom briefings on ‘Lifting Covid restrictions and the impact on workers’, with sessions coming up for reps in the London, South East and East of England (LESE) region, the Midlands and Wales.
* TUC Midlands region, from 2–3pm, Monday 2 August.
* TUC LESE region, 6-7.30pm -19.30, Tuesday 3 August.
* Wales TUC,  10.30-11.30am, Wednesday 11 August.
Briff Cynrychiolwyr Iechyd a Diogelwch TUC Cymru ar Covid, 10.30am, 11 Awst. 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

USA: Gas leak that killed six was 'entirely avoidable'
Four companies have been fined a total of almost $1 million for a liquid nitrogen leak at a poultry plant in Gainesville, Georgia, that killed six employees on 28 January this year, federal officials have announced. An investigation by the US Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) found Foundation Food Group and Messer “failed to implement any of the safety procedures necessary to prevent the nitrogen leak, or to equip workers responding to it with the knowledge and equipment that could have saved their lives,” the agency said in a statement.
OSHA news release and citation. New York Times. Business Insider. The Hill. Risks 1007, 29 July 2021

India: Migrant workers die in broken down bus smash
At least 18 migrant workers died after a truck crashed into their bus in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. Yamuna Prasad, superintendent of police in Barabanki, said: “The bus probably broke down because it had about 140 passengers when its capacity was just 65.”
BBC News Online. Daily Mail. Risks 1007, 29 July 2021

Hazards news, 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: Keep staff safe as temperatures soar, say unions
Employers must make sure their staff are protected from the sun and heat as temperatures soar this week, the TUC has said. The demand from the union body came as the Met Office issued one of its new-style extreme amber heat weather warnings for the first time.
TUC news release. TUC guide to getting organised for safer, cooler working conditions Sign the TUC petition for a maximum working temperature. PCS news release. ASLEF news release. Morning Star. Risks 1006. 22 July 2021

Britain: Action call on harassment of LGBT workers
The TUC and general secretaries of more than 39 British trade unions have written to equalities minister Liz Truss to call for an urgent reset in the government’s approach to LGBT rights. The open letter – signed by general secretaries representing over five million union members – criticises the government for its “inaction” on tackling discrimination and harassment faced by LGBT people.  
TUC news release and letter to the equalities minister. Risks 1006. 22 July 2021

Britain: Most disabled women sexually harassed at work
Around 7 in 10 (68 per cent) disabled women say they have been sexually harassed at work, according to a new poll from the TUC. It found younger disabled women aged 18 to 34 are even more likely to have experienced sexual harassment, with almost 8 out of 10 (78 per cent) reporting being harassed at work.
TUC news release and report, Sexual harassment of disabled women in the workplace, July 2021. Risks 1006. 22 July 2021

Britain: ‘Unacceptable’ agriculture tops deadly sectors list
The agriculture sector has been accused of an unacceptable neglect of safety after new official figures showed it remains top of the deadly workplaces table. Provisional figures from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) show from 1 April 2020 until 31 March 2021 41 people were killed in agriculture related activities in Great Britain, almost double the 23 deaths in the previous year.
HSE news release and report, Fatal injuries in agriculture, forestry and fishing in Great Britain 2020/21, 19 July 2021. Risks 1006. 22 July 2021

Britain: Stress and fatigue causing farm accidents, study finds
Stress and fatigue have been identified as key causes of agricultural accidents, a study has concluded. The University of Aberdeen research team found that “lapses in situation awareness” related to stress and fatigue were a main contributory factor.
Farmers Weekly. BBC News Online. The Scotsman.
University of Aberdeen farm safety project and NTSAg website. Risks 1006. 22 July 2021

Britain: Tool firm fined after engineering fatality
Cheltenham Tool Company Limited has been fined after an employee was fatally injured while moving heavy machinery. Cheltenham Magistrates’ Court heard how on 13 November 2019, 57-year-old Ian Challinor, a maintenance engineer at the company, was working with colleagues to move a large, heavy milling machine using a forklift and machine-moving skates when the machine became unstable and toppled onto him, causing fatal head injuries.
HSE news release. Risks 1006. 22 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: National Hazards Conference, online, 31 July-1 August 2021
The biggest national event for trade union safety reps and activists is days away! The National Hazards Conference will again be online, running over the weekend of Saturday 31 July to Sunday 1 August. Risks 1006. 22 July 2021
National Hazards Conference 2021, 31 July-1 August, online. Attendance is free. Register separately for each day.
Saturday 31 July 2021: 10am-3.30pm – register.
Sunday 1 August 2021: 10am-1.00pm – register.
Further information: email info@hazardscampaign.org.uk
Risks 1006. 22 July 2021

Britain: Lifting Covid restrictions, TUC LESE briefing, 3 August
‘Lifting Covid restrictions and the impact on workers in London, the South East and the East of England’ is an online zoom event from 6pm on Tuesday 3 August for union officers, reps, activists and organisers. The TUC’s regional office, TUC LESE, says the majority of legally enforceable restrictions may have ended, but all employers must still comply with their legal duties to make sure they are operating a safe environment, for workers and customers.
Lifting Covid restrictions and the impact on workers in London, the South East and the East of England, TUC LESE Zoom briefing 18.00-19.30, Tuesday 3 August 2021. To register and receive a zoom link, email lese@tuc.org.uk
STOP PRESS! Briefings are being added in other TUC regions, including:
* Midlands, from 2–3pm, Monday 2 August.
Check the TUC events webpage for other events. Risks 1006. 22 July 2021

Australia: Unions call for national action on silicosis
Unions in Australia are calling on the federal government to take action to address deadly silicosis risks at work. National union body ACTU says a National Dust Disease Taskforce’s (NDDT) report fails to make meaningful recommendations on prevention of the devastating occupational lung disease.
ACTU news release. Risks 1006. 22 July 2021

Global: Women far more likely to face work violence
Women are more likely to face violence and harassment at work, a new poll commissioned by the global union confederation ITUC has indicated. The respondents, in ten countries, were asked “Do you think men or women are more likely to face violence and harassment, or are they equally likely?” for nine professions: teaching, nursing, doctors, journalism, law, sport, politics, finance and banking, and building and construction.
ITUC news release and full report. Risks 1006. 22 July 2021

USA: Snack workers strike over ‘suicide’ shifts
Hundreds of works at PepsiCo-owned Frito-Lay have taken strike action at a production plant in Topeka, Kansas over working conditions they say have seen workers die in the heat and endure forced overtime shifts known as ‘suicides’.  Workers who make household name snacks including Fritos, Doritos and Cheetos, are nominally supposed to work eight-hour shifts, but because of shortages, workers are often forced to add on an extra four hours before or after their shifts.
Frito-Lay statement, 19 July 2021. Motherboard. The Independent. Jacobin magazine. CBS News. Risks 1006. 22 July 2021

Hazards news, 14 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: HSE ‘buries bad news on work deaths’
On the day all eyes were focused on the England football team’s Euro semi-final exploits, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) took the opportunity to “bury bad news on work deaths,” a workers’ safety campaign has alleged. The national Hazards Campaign said latest figures released by the safety regulator on 7 July show a ‘massive’ 25 per cent increase in reports of workplace fatalities in 2020/21, despite many workers during the reporting year being furloughed or working from home.
Hazards Campaign. HSE Covid-19 RIDDOR reports. Byline Times. Risks 1005. 14 July 2021

Britain: Big upturn in work fatalities confirmed
Provisional figures released by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) show 142 workers were killed at work in Great Britain in 2020/21, an increase of 29 from the previous year. HSE indicates this is also an increase on the average level over the last five years (2016/17-2020/21) of 136 and do not include deaths arising from occupational exposure to disease, including Covid-19.
HSE news release. Work-related fatal injuries: Fatal injuries in Great Britain, 2021, HSE, 7 July 2021. HSE statistics webpage. UNISON news release. BSC news release. FarmingUK News. Risks 1005. 14 July 2021

Britain: Deaths from key asbestos cancer remain over 2,000
The asbestos related cancer mesothelioma is stilling killing over 2,000 people in Great Britain each year, latest official figures show. New statistics from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) show 2,369 people died from mesothelioma in Great Britain in 2019 - this is seven per cent lower than the average of 2,540 deaths over the previous seven years.
Mesothelioma: Mesothelioma statistics for Great Britain, 2021, HSE, 7 July 2021. UNISON news release. Risks 1005. 14 July 2021

Britain: Stress fuelled by rise in worker surveillance in Wales
The rapid changes in work brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic has led to a sharp rise in the level of surveillance of people’s activities and performance at work and related stress, new Wales TUC research has revealed. The study found a quarter (25 per cent) of workers reported they have been subjected to closer surveillance since March 2020 and only 1 in 4 said that they feel comfortable objecting to such changes.
Wales TUC news release. Sarah Murphy MS comments. Risks 1005. 14 July 2021

Britain: Industry backlash against longer lorry driver hours
A temporary extension of lorry drivers' working hours introduced by the UK government  has been met with a backlash from unions and the industry, who say the government is applying a "sticking plaster" to driver shortage problems. HGV drivers can now increase their daily driving limits from nine to 10 hours or change weekly rest patterns.
RHA news release. Logistics UK news release. DfT/DVSA guidance, updated 7 July 2021. BBC News Online. The Guardian. Risks 1005. 14 July 2021

Extending lorry drivers’ hours could kill
Unions have said the government decision to extend the hours lorry drivers can work is a dangerous mistake. Unite national officer for road transport, Adrian Jones, said: “Asking an already exhausted workforce to work even longer is likely to make an already difficult situation worse.” The Unite officer said: “Unite will be advising its members to not place themselves in danger and that if they are too tired to drive safely they have a legal right to refuse to do so.”
Unite news release and manifesto for change. RMT news release. Usdaw news release. Risks 1005. 14 July 2021

Britain: Yodel faces ‘complete standstill’ over unworkable schedules
Delivery giant Yodel faces a summer of strikes that could bring its entire network to a standstill, the GMB has warned. The company has imposed “unworkable” driver schedules and “robbed” drivers of annual leave by reneging on long-standing agreements, the union said
GMB news release. Morning Star. Risks 1005. 14 July 2021

Britain: MoD outsourcing undermines safety, Unite warns
The ongoing outsourcing of civilian functions at the Ministry of Defence (MoD) is leading to cuts in pay, a deterioration in standards, severe reductions in service levels and increases in safety risks, Unite has warned. Giving evidence at the defence select committee on 12 July, Unite told MPs that outsourcing of services frequently creates a two tier workforce, with new starters recruited on vastly inferior terms and conditions from workers who were ‘TUPEd’ over on MoD contracts, retaining their existing contracts.
Unite news release. Defence select committee inquiry. Risks 1005. 14 July 2021

Bangladesh: Factory boss charged with murder after deadly fire
A factory owner in Bangladesh has been arrested and charged with murder after 52 people, including children, died in fire that broke out on 8 July. Abul Hashem, the owner of Hashem Foods, and four of his sons were among eight people detained on 10 July.
IUF-AP statements on the fire, inaction by the company prior to the fire, call for justice and child victims. Daily Star. New Age. South China Morning Post.  Morning Star. BBC News Online and related story. Risks 1005. 14 July 2021

Hazards news, 7 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

Britain: Hospital strikes off as Serco makes big concessions
Further strikes by back of house catering staff at the Royal London Hospital have been suspended after outsourcing giant Serco ‘largely capitulated’ to the workers’ demands. The Unite members took five days of strike action in June after the failure of year-long efforts to resolve problems around bullying and an unworkable roster system.
Unite news release. Risks 1004. 7 July 2021

Britain: Woolwich Ferry victimisation at ‘obscene levels’
The victimisation of two Unite trade union reps by the management of the Woolwich Ferry has reached ‘obscene levels’, their union has said. Unite said the victimisation was one of the worst cases currently on Unite’s books and called on the Transport for London (TfL) bosses at the ferry ‘to drag themselves into the 21st century in terms of progressive employment relations’
Unite news release. Risks 1004. 7 July 2021

Global: Amazon safety won’t improve without unions
The safety of Amazon’s workforce will not improve until it embraces unions, GMB has said. The union was commenting on 5 July, as Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos was succeeded by Andy Jassy as chief executive of the world’s largest retailer.
GMB news release. Risks 1004. 7 July 2021

Britain: Act on shop abuse, retail bosses urge PM
Retail bosses have called on prime minister Boris Johnson to take action against violence and abuse aimed at shop staff. Leaders of 100 brands, including Tesco, Sainsbury's, Ikea and Aldi, signed an open letter calling for greater legal protection for retail workers.
British Retail Consortium news release. BBC News Online. Risks 1004. 7 July 2021

Britain: Shopworkers gutted at latest violence snub
Usdaw has said it disappointed after MPs rejected an amendment to the UK government’s flagship policing bill, which would have provided greater protection for shopworkers from violence, threats and abuse. The retail trade union is now calling on the government to deliver on its promise to bring forward an amendment in the House of Lords.
Usdaw news release. Risks 1004. 7 July 2021

Britain: Working from home is upping mental distress    
Working from home during the coronavirus pandemic has caused increased levels of loneliness and mental distress, according to new research into how workers have been affected by the crisis. The study by the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen) found that the biggest increases in mental distress and loneliness during the pandemic were felt by the most isolated group – those working from home and living alone.
NatCen webpage, research programme and Stay home: affecting lives briefing, July 2021. The Observer. Risks 1004. 7 July 2021

Britain: Firm caught out using banned asbestos
A manufacturing firm has been fined for using banned asbestos components imported from its sister company in China. Power Link Machines (UK) Ltd pleaded guilty to criminal safety offences after the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) was informed the company was using gaskets within its generator sets that contained asbestos.
HSE news release. Risks 1004. 7 July 2021

Britain: Warehouse services firm fined after worker electrocuted
A warehouse management solutions company has been fined after an employee was electrocuted while servicing an air compressor. Maidstone Magistrates’ Court heard that on 8 December 2017, Logistex Limited employee Andrew Meade was carrying out pre-planned maintenance on an air compressor at a distribution centre in Gravesend, when he was electrocuted.
HSE news release. 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

Hazards news, 30 June 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

Britain: Commons committee backs shopworker safety law
Retail trade union Usdaw has welcomed a report from a cross-party committee of MPs that highlights the need for a new criminal offence to protect shopworkers. The House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee report, following a lengthy inquiry, concludes that violence and abuse towards shop workers is becoming endemic and the policing response is failing to match the scale of the problem.
Usdaw news release and related news release. Home Affairs Committee news release and report summary. Sarah Jones MP: NC45 amendment to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, “Offence of assaulting etc. retail worker. BBC News Online Risks 1003. 30 June 2021

Britain: Construction must tackle long hours culture
The construction industry must tackle the dangerous long hours culture that afflicts the sector, Unite has said. The construction union made its call following the announcement that a number of major contractors are now embracing flexible working for their directly employed staff.
Unite news release. More on working hours hazards. Risks 1003. 30 June 2021

Britain: Survey shows work is getting worse
A new study has warned the pandemic is having a dramatic negative impact on employee health and wellbeing. The survey by insurance giant Aviva of 1,000 employees in large firms found the number of employees who are completely satisfied with life has dropped by ten percentage points, falling from 67 per cent in February 2020 to 57 per cent in March 2021.
Aviva news release and report, Thriving in the Age of Ambiguity: building resilience for the new realities of work, June 2021. Prospect news release. Risks 1003. 30 June 2021

Britain: Union relief as Kent lorry chaos is set to end
A decision by the Department of Transport (Dft) not to extend the ban on lorries parking in Kent has been welcomed by Unite. Unite said the ban on lorries parking in lay-bys and roads has resulted in ‘huge overcrowding’ at service stations and lorry parks, as these are the only places that lorries can park legally and where drivers can take the rest they need to comply with driving hours regulations.
Unite news release and earlier news release. Unite manifesto for drivers. Risks 1003. 30 June 2021

Britain: RMT blasts ferry firm for ‘appalling’ working practices
Seafarers’ union RMT has called for a boycott of Irish Ferries, warning that crew members face long hours and unsafe conditions on poverty pay. The union said that some workers on the firm’s new Dover-Calais route will be paid less than the national minimum wage to work at least 12 hours per day on a gruelling six-weeks-on, three-weeks-off basis.
RMT news release. Morning Star. Risks 1003. 30 June 2021

Britain: Car firm convicted after apprentices get chemical burns
A car dealership has been fined after two apprentices suffered chemical burns. Leicestershire Magistrates’ Court heard how on 15 March 2018 two apprentices were working at Mercedes-Benz of Northampton, cleaning the vehicle ramps in the workshop using a chemical from an unlabelled barrel.
HSE news release. Risks 1003. 30 June 2021

Britain: British Airways hit with £1.8m serious injury fine
British Airways has been fined following a vehicle collision at Terminal 5 of Heathrow Airport with left a worker with serious crush injuries. Southwark Crown Court heard that on 16 March 2018, an employee was struck by a tug pulling a train of dollies, the vehicles used to transport baggage around the airport and was knocked under another passing tug with dollies loaded with luggage.
HSE news release. Get Surrey. Risks 1003. 30 June 2021

Britain: Survey finds widespread harassment at work
Half of women report having suffered unwanted sexual behaviour in the workplace, according to a new poll. Around a quarter of women suffered unwanted touching at work, heard colleagues make comments of a sexual nature about a fellow colleague in front of them at work, or were questioned or interrogated about their sex life in the workplace, the survey by YouGov found.
Avaaz website. The Independent.
Joint union statement, 12 March 2021. ILO convention 190. Risks 1003. 30 June 2021

Global: Back violence and harassment rules now!
Unions worldwide are calling on governments to ratify groundbreaking rules to protect workers from violence and harassment in the workplace. The International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) Convention 190 came into force on 25 June, two years after its adoption.
ITUC news release. BWI news release. Education International news release. IndustriALL news release. IUF news release. PSI news release, UNI news release. ILO news release.
Call on your government to Ratify ILO C190 to end gender-based violence and harassment in the world of work.
Global Unions: Train the Trainers Toolkit on the ILO Violence and Harassment Convention (No. 190) and Recommendation (No. 206). Risks 1003. 30 June 2021

Asia: Campaigners inflict major blow on asbestos trade
After many years of campaigning, the global ban asbestos campaign has chalked up a major win as a top funder of infrastructure work said no to the fatal fibre. The Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) has amended its Environmental and Social Framework to exclude asbestos containing materials from AIIB-financed projects.
APHEDA news release. AIIB revised Environmental and Social Framework, 2021. Risks 1003. 30 June 2021

Belgium: Union concern after migrant site workers die
Construction unions have expressed serious concerns after five workers were killed and another nine were injured at a site in Antwerp, Belgium. The tragedy occurred on 19 June after a section of a school building under construction collapsed, pulling down the scaffolding supporting it.
BWI news release. The Guardian. Brussels Times. Risks 1003. 30 June 2021

Europe: New work safety framework ‘falls short’
The European Commission is planning legislation to ensure safety protection is extended to more workers and the recognition of Covid-19 as an occupational disease. The plans to update the European Union rules on worker safety are intended reflect the shift millions employees made to working from home during the Covid-19 pandemic and to reflect the anticipated digital and green recovery.
European Commission news release and comments by EC Commissioner Schmit and Executive Vice-President Dombrovskis. EU Strategic Framework on Health and Safety at Work 2021-2027. ETUC news release. Reuters. Risks 1003. 30 June 2021

Hazards news, 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: Amazon worker injury spikes linked to shopping events
Injuries to Amazon workers spike in the build-up to key sales dates like Prime Day, GMB research has shown. The union’s analysis of ambulance call outs to Amazon warehouses reveals an increase before Prime Day, Black Friday and Christmas.
GMB news release. Risks 1002. 23 June 2021

Global: Amazon treats workers as ‘disposable’
“With its unrealistic and body-breaking productivity goals, and intrusive employee surveillance, Amazon treats workers as disposable items,” global union UNI has said. Commenting on Prime Day, it added: “The Amazon system is, by design, chewing workers in and spitting them out at a pace unparalleled in modern history.”
UNI news release. New York Times. Risks 1002. 23 June 2021

Britain: Public support for union protection at Amazon
A new Unite poll of 2,000 UK residents found more than threequarters of respondents (76 per cent) believe Amazon workers should be able to join a trade union if they choose without interference from the company. The survey by Survation for the union found that for workers indirectly employed in the “gig economy” by Amazon, 74 per cent of the public believe Amazon also has a responsibility to provide them with fair working conditions.
Unite news release, Action on Amazon facebook page and hotline. Morning Star. Risks 1002. 23 June 2021

Britain: ‘Emerging class divide’ in who gets flexible working
There is an emerging class divide as some workers opt to keep working from home whereas those who can’t work from home have little access to any forms of flexible working, new TUC polling has found. The union body found that people in higher paid occupations are much more likely to have worked from home during the pandemic (60 per cent) than those in working class jobs (23 per cent).
TUC news release. The future of flexible work, TUC, June 2021. Risks 1002. 23 June 2021

Britain: Labour says give workers the right to disconnect
Workers should be given the “right to switch off” when they have left for the day to ensure homes don't become “24/7 offices”, Labour has said. The party also wants employees to have the right to flexible practices such as working from home.
Prospect news release. BBC News Online. The Guardian. Risks 1002. 23 June 2021

Britain: Tory MP called out on Grenfell safety snub
David Badillo, a union rep for the firefighters’ union FBU who was one of the first on the scene of the Grenfell Tower disaster, has challenged a Conservative MP over a visit to the local fire station. Kensington MP Felicity Buchan voted against implementing recommendations of the Grenfell inquiry despite representing the community affected by the tragedy.
FBU news release. Dave Badillo’s tweet. Risks 1002. 23 June 2021

Britain: ‘Totally inadequate’ death factory boss escapes jail
A “totally inadequate managing director” of a wood mill where four people died in a blast has been given a suspended prison sentence. George Boden, 65, was given a nine-month prison sentence, suspended for 18 months, and fined £12,000; the company admitted a criminal safety offence last year and was fined £75,000.
BBC News Online. Stoke Sentinel. Manchester Evening News. Risks 1002. 23 June 2021

Britain: Private security firm sentenced after employee attacked
Private security company G4S Care and Justice Services (UK) Ltd has been fined £250,000 after an employee suffered life-changing injuries when he was assaulted at a young offenders training facility in Milton Keynes. The secure care officer (SCO) at Oakhill Secure Training Centre suffered brain damage and had a plate fitted in his skull.
HSE news release. Risks 1002. 23 June 2021

Britain: Oil firm fined over serious gas leak on offshore platform
Oil giant Apache has been fined £400,000 over criminal safety failings that led to a major gas leak on one of its North Sea platforms. Aberdeen Sheriff Court heard the firm failed to take appropriate measures to prevent fire and explosion and failed to carry out a suitable and sufficient risk assessment for how it handled the depressurisation of gas lift wells on the rig.
HSE news release. Evening Express. Risks 1002. 23 June 2021

Britain: Defend union safety reps! Online meeting, 1 July
A meeting hosted by Hazards Campaign will discuss how best to respond to the victimisation of union safety reps raising concerns over Covid. The one-hour event, starting at 6.30pm on 1 July, comes after reports of “union reps threatened with, or put through, disciplinary proceedings, in what is often a clear-cut case of management union busting,” says the campaign.
Defend union safety reps! Online meeting, Thursday 1 July, 6:30pm - 7:30pm. Register on Zoom. Risks 1002. 23 June 2021

Australia: Mine fire report fingers contract work hazards
An inquiry into a “terrifying” accident last year in which five mineworkers sustained serious burns has found that labour hire and contract work is “entrenched” in the Queensland coal mining industry and has recommended that employers and labour suppliers bear joint responsibility for safety compliance.  The Queensland Coal Mining Board of Inquiry's final report into an incident at Anglo American's Grosvenor coal mine in May last year concludes that “there is a perception among coal mine workers that a labour hire worker or contractor who raises safety concerns at a mine might jeopardise their ongoing employment.”
Report Part 2, Queensland Coal Mining Board of Inquiry, Terry Martin SC and Andrew Clough, May 2021. Workplace Express. National Resources Review. Mirage News. Risks 1002. 23 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

Hazards news, 16 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

Britain: BME hugely ‘over-represented’ on zero hours contracts
Structural racism in the labour market is trapping Black and minority ethnic (BME) workers on low pay and in insecure work, the TUC and Race on the agenda (ROTA) have warned. A joint report from the organisations reveals around one in six zero hours contract workers are BME, even though BME workers make up just one in nine workers overall.
TUC news release. ROTA website. The Guardian.
More on the hazards of insecure work and low pay. Risks 1001. 16 June 2021

Britain: NUJ concern at police failure to protect hounded journalist
Journalists’ union NUJ has raised concerns with the Metropolitan police about the failure of officers to intervene when a BBC journalist was chased by a group of protesters in Whitehall. Several demonstrators, protesting the extension of England's Covid restrictions on 14 June, pursued and harassed BBC Newsnight political editor Nick Watt, who was wearing a BBC lanyard.
NUJ news release. BBC News Online. Risks 1001. 16 June 2021

Britain: Parliament bullying case shows more sanctions needed
The Independent Expert Panel (IEP), which investigates cases of bullying involving MPs, has found that Daniel Kawczynski breached rules on bullying, instructing him to apologise to the House of Commons for his behaviour. The Conservative MP, in a subsequent statement to MPs, commented: “I have reflected on my behaviour, I accept it constituted bullying and as such was highly inexcusable” – but later backtracked in a TV interview.
Prospect news release and update. Independent Expert Panel report on Daniel Kawzcynski. Personal statement from Daniel Kawzcynski. The Guardian. BBC News Online. Risks 1001. 16 June 2021

Britain: Care manager cautioned after employee stabbed
A Liverpool care agency and a care home have been fined and a manager cautioned after an employee was stabbed. Liverpool Crown Court heard that on 2 November 2014 an employee of Options for Supported Living, which supports people with mental health issues, was undertaking a regular scheduled visit to assist the transition of services for a resident from Fulwood Care Ltd to Options for Supported Living when the incident occurred.
HSE news release and guide, Violence at Work: A guide for employers. Risks 1001. 16 June 2021

Britain: Ferry workers concern at safety on passenger vessel
A decision by P&O ferries to reintroduce a passenger ferry linked to serious safety problems shows the company is putting ‘costs before safety’, the seafarers’ union Nautilus has said. The union said there are still ‘grave concerns’ around safety and fatigue on the Pride of Burgundy following plans by P&O to circumvent established Collective Bargaining Agreements and rely on precarious employment.
Nautilus UK news release. Risks 1001. 16 June 2021

Britain: Finance staff want homeworking but better support
Workers in the banking and finance sector would like a continuation of flexible working patterns, but are calling for more support to prevent isolation and mental health problems. In the first large scale homeworking survey of thousands of staff in the sector, Unite found that over 80 per cent of respondents would like to continue to work from home once restrictions end for at least part of the week.
Unite news release. Risks 1001. 16 June 2021

Britain: Health and safety dominates union’s concerns
Health and safety dominated the agenda of UNISON’s water, environment and transport service group (WET) conference. Opening the service group’s virtual event, its executive chair Ruth Davies said the pandemic has had a “devastating impact” and was like “nothing we’ve experienced before, and safety has had to be paramount”.
UNISON news release. Risks 1001. 16 June 2021

Britain: New website presses case for school asbestos removal
The Joint Union Asbestos Committee (JUAC) has launched a new campaigning website to press the case for the removal of asbestos from schools. Announcing the initiative on 17 June - Clean Air Day 2021 – JUAC chair John McClean said: “A phased programme of removal, starting with the most dangerous first, is the only way forward.”
FE News. JUAC website. Risks 1001. 16 June 2021

Britain: Bell foundry fined over lead exposure
Britain's last traditional bell foundry has been fined £13,333 after workers were exposed to potentially harmful lead dust during restoration work. The men were carrying out repairs at St Peter's Church in Barton-upon-Humber on behalf of the John Taylor Bell Foundry when the incident happened.
HSE news release. BBC News Online. Risks 1001. 16 June 2021

Britain: The fight for Covid safety at work, campaign event, 22 June
If workplaces are vectors of Covid-19 transmission can they ever be virus free? Join the Hazards Campaign online event on Tuesday 22 June at 6pm to discuss this question with trade union and health and safety activists. Speakers are Tracy Edwards, health and safety officer with the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), in a personal capacity, and Kathy Jenkins of the Scottish Hazards campaign.
The fight for Covid safety at work, Tuesday 22 June at 6pm. Register on Zoom. Facebook event. Risks 1001. 16 June 2021

Britain: Long Covid and the workplace, TUC webinar, 30 June
The TUC is inviting union reps and members to a webinar discussing the results of its survey of Long Covid in the workplace, the related campaign priorities and what unions can do to support workers.
Long Covid and the workplace, TUC webinar, Wednesday 30 June, 7:30pm – 8:30pm. Register on Zoom. Risks 1001. 16 June 2021

Britain: Defend union safety reps! Online meeting, 1 July
A meeting hosted by Hazards Campaign will discuss how best to respond to the victimisation of union safety reps raising concerns over Covid. The one-hour event, starting at 6.30pm on 1 July, comes after reports of “union reps threatened with, or put through, disciplinary proceedings, in what is often a clear-cut case of management union busting,” says the campaign.
Defend union safety reps! Online meeting, Thursday 1 July, 6:30pm - 7:30pm. Register on Zoom.Britain: What do you know about occupational health nursing?
The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) wants to tap into the undoubted expertise of union health and safety reps, particularly regarding their experiences with occupational health nurses. NMC wants input from union reps because “union health and safety reps will sometimes work with occupational health nurses, or support members who are.”
NMC draft standards for community and public health nursing and content pack. 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

Hazards news, 10 June 2021

Britain: TUC slams move to tie up unions in red tape
The government is attempting to tie up unions in red tape, the TUC has warned, after the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) department announced a raft of reforms. In an 8 June ministerial statement on employment rights, BEIS secretary Paul Scully announced plans for a new “workers’ watchdog” to take over responsibility for tackling modern slavery, enforcing minimum wage, and other issues - but the TUC indicated changes to the role of the trade union certification officer announced by BEIS the same day exposed the government’s real agenda.
TUC news release and blog. Certification Officer's enforcement powers: government response to the consultation and related webpage. Trade Union Act 2016: Certification Officer's levy - government response. BEIS news release. Usdaw news release. Morning Star. BBC News Online. Risks 1000. 10 June 2021

Britain: Employment rights talk, but no employment rights action
Unions have said the government’s announcement about a new workers’ rights watchdog will not have a meaningful impact if it isn’t accompanied by new employment rights. Mike Clancy, general secretary of the civil service union Prospect, said said improvements to employment protection were also needed, calling for the government “to end the delay and bring forward the Employment Bill.”
Usdaw news release. RMT news release. GMB news release. Prospect news release. BEIS news release. Risks 1000. 10 June 2021

Britain: Biggest construction project recognises ‘fundamental’ safety
Unions and employers on Europe’s biggest construction project have signed a declaration recognising occupational health and safety as a ‘fundamental’ right at work. Unite signed the joint declaration with EDF Nuclear New Build at the Hinkley Point C (HPC) site in Somerset.
BWI news release and declaration. ITUC campaign and fundamental safety factfile. Risks 1000. 10 June 2021

Britain: Union action kills off electrician deskilling plans
A plan by two major building firms that union members warned could have led to dangerous deskilling of electrical work on site has been abandoned. The union Unite welcomed confirmation by contractors Balfour Beatty and NG Bailey that they remain committed to the existing Joint Industry Board (JIB) agreement and the training of fully qualified electricians on the Hinkley Point C (HPC) project, dropping plans to introduce training standards for a new position of ‘electrical support operative’.
Unite news release and 28 February statement Hinkley Point C and Threatened Deskilling of Electricians. Balfour Beatty Bailey joint venture (BBB JV) statement. Risks 1000. 10 June 2021

Britain: Health and care staff burnout at ‘emergency’ levels
Staff burnout in the NHS and social care has reached emergency levels and poses a risk to the future of services, MPs have warned. In a highly critical report published on 8 June, the Commons health and social care committee calls for immediate action to support staff who are exhausted from working throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.
Workforce burnout and resilience in the NHS and social care: Second Report of Session 2021–2, House of Commons Health and Social Care Committee, 8 June 2021, inquiry webpages and news release. BBC News Online. Morning Star. Risks 1000. 10 June 2021

Britain: ‘Exhausted’ ambulance staff consider action
North West ambulance staff are to hold a consultative ballot on possible action over concerns regarding a new work system unions say is leaving staff exhausted. Unite, the GMB and UNISON have called on bosses at the North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) NHS Trust to change the procedure that can see ambulance workers called repeatedly to anywhere across the region with up to 40 minutes driving time.
Unite news release. Risks 1000. 10 June 2021

Britain: Serco workers to strike in bullying and roster clash
Outsourced catering workers at the Royal London hospital in east London have voted for strike action in a row over ‘systematic bullying’ and ‘disastrous’ rosters. The Unite members report “the aggressive use of sickness absence triggers and the abuse of power in the allocation of shifts and holidays, which has left members at breaking point, during the pandemic.”
Unite news release. Risks 1000. 10 June 2021

Britain: Unite hails victory in library late opening row
Unite members are celebrating victory in their dispute at Bromley Central Library over late night openings with fewer staff. Talks between the union and Greenwich Leisure Limited (GLL) led to an agreement that library staff will now work one late night a week, instead of up to four late nights a fortnight.
Unite news release. Risks 1000. 10 June 2021

Britain: Nursing staff face sexual harassment at work
Three in five nurses (60 per cent) have experienced sexual harassment at work, according to a survey by UNISON and Nursing Times. More than 2,000 nursing staff and students took part in the research, which shows that incidents of sexual harassment are almost commonplace: One in nine (11 per cent) said they often encountered such experiences and a fifth (21 per cent) reported occasional harassment.
UNISON news release. Risks 1000. 10 June 2021

Britain: Suspend MPs facing harassment claims, say unions
Politicians accused of sexual misconduct should be barred from the UK parliament while investigations take place, unions representing staff have said. Parliament's Trade Union Side, said changes were needed to “protect workers”.
Prospect news release. House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee news release and Gender Sensitive Parliament inquiry. BBC News Online. Risks 1000. 10 June 2021

Britain: Scottish protection of shopworkers law imminent
Retail trade union Usdaw has welcomed an announcement by the Scottish government, confirming that a new law to protect shopworkers from violence, threats and abuse will come into force in Scotland on 24 August 2021. The union said the groundbreaking legislation was supported by MSPs after Usdaw’s long-running campaign led to the Protection of Workers (Retail and Age-restricted Goods and Services) (Scotland) Bill, which was successfully steered through the Scottish parliament by Labour MSP Daniel Johnson.
Usdaw news release. Risks 1000. 10 June 2021

Britain: Government blocks shop safety progress
Despite clear cross-party support for new legal protection for shopworkers, the UK government has refused to support any change in the law. The government position was spelled out during a parliament debate called after a petition launched by shopworkers’ trade union leader Paddy Lillis attracted 104,000 signatures.
Usdaw news release. Sarah Jones MP: NC45 amendment to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, “Offence of assaulting etc. retail worker”. Morning Star. Risks 1000. 10 June 2021

Britain: Site giant fined after worker crushed to death
A construction company has been fined £700,000 over its criminal safety failings after one of its employees was crushed by a dumper truck. John Cameron, who was in his early 60s, was working for BAM Nuttall during the building of an electricity substation at Blackhillock, near Keith in Moray, Scotland.
BBC News Online. Risks 1000. 10 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

Australia: Targeting exploited riders will led to deaths
The Transport Workers’ Union in Australia has slammed the New South Wales (NSW) state government’s new food delivery laws, saying the targeting and punishment of exploited riders will add to the deadly pressures they face. NSW minister for better regulation Kevin Anderson revealed riders will receive unique identification numbers and be targeted by police in compliance blitzes.
TWU news release. NSW government news release. Sydney Morning Herald. The Guardian. Risks 1000. 10 June 2021

Global: Shame of ‘scandalous’ child labour figures
A reversal in the long-term downward trend in child labour shames the world, the global union confederation ITUC has said. The new joint ILO and UNICEF report warns that progress to end child labour has stalled for the first time in 20 years, with the total number of children in child labour increasing by over eight million in the period 2016-2020, while the absolute number of children in hazardous work rose by 6.5 million.
ITUC news release. UNICEF news release. ILO news release, related release, video and ILO-UNICEF report, Child Labour: Global estimates 2020, trends and the road forward.  The Guardian. Risks 1000. 10 June 2021

India: Many dead in India chemical plant fire
At least 18 workers have died in a fire at a chemical plant on the outskirts of the western Indian city of Pune. Some 37 workers were trapped inside the SV Aqua Technologies factory when the blaze started in the afternoon of 7 June.
Pune Mirror. BBC News Online. Hindustan Times. Risks 1000. 10 June 2021

India: Court backs unions on carmaker Covid safety
An Indian court has ordered safety agencies to visit carmakers in the southern state of Tamil Nadu to draw up uniform safety guidelines for workers during a new and devastating wave of Covid-19 infections. Unions acting on behalf of workers at the Indian unit of Renault-Nissan had asked the Madras High Court for operations to be halted, saying social distancing norms were being flouted and the risk to their lives outweighed the health benefits provided by the company.
Saltwire. Risks 1000. 10 June 2021

Hazards news, 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: Uber union recognition deal will protect safety and rights
GMB and ride hailing firm Uber have announced a groundbreaking trade union recognition deal which the union says will mean Uber drivers are safer and have greater employer protection. Under the landmark agreement, GMB and Uber will work together on key topics including pay and employment conditions and health, safety and wellbeing.
GMB news release, news tweet and news release on the membership increase. TUC news release. ITF news release. The Guardian. Risks 999. 2 June 2021

Britain: FBU protects ‘vital’ fire safety apparatus
The firefighters’ union FBU has successfully overturned a policy it said would have “endangered firefighters’ lives and undermined public safety.” The policy proposed by London Fire Brigade (LFB) would have allowed firefighters fighting a fire in a tall building, to be deployed without breathing apparatus (BA) including an air supply.
FBU news release. LFB statement, 25 May 2021. Risks 999. 2 June 2021

Britain: MPs set to debate protection for shopworkers petition
A parliamentary petition that seeks to protect retail staff from violence, threats and abuse has been timetabled for a parliamentary debate on 7 June 2021. The Usdaw organised petition is seeking the support of MPs and the UK government for new protective legislation.
Usdaw news release and Freedom from Fear report. House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee Inquiry.  Sarah Jones MP: NC45 amendment to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, “Offence of assaulting etc. retail worker”. Morning Star. Risks 999. 2 June 2021

Britain: Bromley library workers to strike over under-staffing
Bromley Central Library workers will strike over plans by their employer, Greenwich Leisure Limited (GLL), to impose late-night openings with fewer staff, Unite has said. The 17 employees, members of Unite, voted unanimously in favour of strike action over a proposed change to working hours so that staff, instead of working one late night every two weeks, will work four late nights every two weeks.
Unite news release. Risks 999. 2 June 2021

Britain: Many new school buildings ‘have combustible insulation’
Dozens of schools have been built using combustible insulation since the material was banned on high-rise apartment blocks after the Grenfell Tower disaster, raising fears for safety. More than 70 schools are likely to have used plastic foam insulation, which burns, since it was banned on residential buildings over 18 metres in height in December 2018, according to industry research.
The Guardian. Risks 999. 2 June 2021

Britain: Amazon ridiculed over 'wellness chamber' for stressed staff
Amazon has faced ridicule after it announced plans to put ‘wellness chambers’ in its warehouses so that stressed workers can sit inside and watch videos about relaxation. In a now deleted video shared on its Twitter account, Amazon said the ‘AmaZen’ chamber would help staff focus on their mental health.
Motherboard. BBC News Online. AmaZen YouTube clip. Risks 999. 2 June 2021

Britain: RMT anger at stabbing after ignored warnings
Rail union RMT has demanded that rail bosses take full responsibility for the stabbing of a member at London’s Bromley South station after they ignored union warnings that violence on Southeastern was “out of control” and a serious incident of this nature was bound to happen. The RMT member was stabbed seven times on 31 May and another member had a tooth knocked out.
RMT news release. The Standard. The Mirror. 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

Britain: Waste firm convicted after traffic marshal is killed
Grundon Waste Management has been convicted of a criminal health and safety offence after traffic marshal Kiril Karadzhov was hit and killed by a waste lorry at a construction site at the former BBC Television Centre. In November 2020, construction logistics provider, Wilson James Limited, was fined for its role in the incident and fined £850,000 plus £11,750 in costs.
HSE news release and earlier news release. Materials Waste Recycling. Risks 999. 2 June 2021

Britain: Director fined after teen injured in fall from height
Company boss Wayne McKnight has been fined for criminal safety breaches after a 17-year-old worker fell from a mezzanine floor to the ground below. McKnight, trading as RJE Construction, pleaded guilty to a criminal breach of the Work at Height Regulations 2015 and was fined £500 and ordered to pay costs of £1,300.
HSE news release. Risks 999. 2 June 2021

Britain: Clearing the air at work, webinar, 17 June 2021
The Hazards Campaign have organised a zoom seminar on 17 June to discuss the future work of the Trade Union Clean Air Network (TUCAN). The network seeks to address both the risk posed to workers by pollution at work and the role of the workplace as a source of pollution.
What next for the Trade Union Clean Air Network (TUCAN)?, online seminar, Thursday, 17 June 2021, from 18:00–19:30 BST. Risks 999. 2 June 2021

Britain: Where you will be working? Short survey.
The Hazards Campaign wants to find out if employers are supporting the health, safety and welfare of their workforce properly, wherever they are working.  Its short survey, which should only take about three minutes to complete, “will inform our campaigning priorities and enable us to support workers better.”
Complete the Hazards Campaign ‘Where will you be working?’ survey. Risks 999. 2 June 2021

Bangladesh: Garment safety transition accord extended
Negotiations on the future of the 2018 Transition Accord on labour standards in the Bangladesh garment sector are to continue after global unions and international fashion brands agree to a three-month extension. The deal between global unions UNI and IndustriALL and a negotiating committee representing leading fashion brands must still be signed by the individual brands.
IndustriALL news release. UNI 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

Global: IUF focus on safety in fast food
Global food union IUF has said it is sharpening its focus on the fight on health and safety in the fast food sector. IUF said since the beginning of the pandemic, fast food workers, many of whom are paid as little as US$7.25 per hour, have reported serious workplace hazards around Covid-19.
IUF news release. 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

Hazards news, 26 May 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

New Amazon safety tech is a dangerous admission
Amazon has finally admitted it has a workplace safety problem after introducing new health and safety technology to one of its warehouses, GMB has said. A site in Yorkshire has been chosen by the online giant to trial technology in its UK operations which it says will support safer ways of working - including automated guided vehicles and robot sorters.
GMB news release. Morning Star. Hackney Gazette. Risks 998. 26 May 2021

Britain: Bus win means walk out on remote sign-on is off
Planned London bus strikes slated for 25 May were called off after the operator Metroline agreed to halt a remote sign-on process Unite warned would lead to fatigue, lack of access to welfare facilities and other hazards. The dispute involving more than 4,000 bus drivers was prompted by Metroline’s plans to introduce the controversial system, in which drivers do not report to a depot but meet a bus along a route, such as at a bus stop.
Unite news release. Risks 998. 26 May 2021

Britain: MP gets ‘slap on the wrist’ for sexual misconduct
In any normal employment setting the “inappropriate and predatory” behaviour of MP Rob Roberts would probably have been classed as gross misconduct and seen him fired, the civil service union Prospect has said. The union was commenting after the Conservative MP for Delyn was found by an independent panel to be guilty of sexual misconduct and suspended from parliament for six weeks.
Prospect news release. Independent Excerpt Panel report, 25 May 2021. BBC News Online. Risks 998. 26 May 2021

Britain: Teachers 'struggle to deal with classroom sexual abuse'
Teachers say they do not feel equipped to deal with peer-on-peer sexual abuse because they have had no training. More than 1,500 UK teachers replied to a questionnaire from BBC Radio 4's File on 4 programme and teachers’ union the NASUWT.
BBC News Online. File on 4, 25 May 2021. Risks 998. 26 May 2021

Britain: Violence in schools is ‘becoming normal’
Teaching union NASUWT is demanding action as concerns grow that workplace violence is becoming the norm in Scotland’s schools. The union has claimed that in “too many schools, verbal and physical abuse against teachers is going unchallenged.”
NASUWT news release. Morning Star. Risks 998. 26 May 2021

Britain: More proof of soaring abuse against retail staff
Shopworkers’ trade union Usdaw is joining with the British Retail Consortium (BRC) in calling for UK government action to stem a ‘growing tide’ of violence and abuse against shopworkers.  The BRC Annual Retail Crime Survey shows that violence and abuse against shopworkers is now occurring at a rate of 455 incidents every day, a 7 per cent increase on the previous year, with only 6 per cent of incidents of violence and abuse in retail result in prosecution.
BRC news release and BRC Crime Survey 2021. Usdaw news release and Freedom from Fear report. House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee Inquiry.  Sarah Jones MP: NC45 amendment to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, “Offence of assaulting etc. retail worker”. BBC News Online. Risks 998. 26 May 2021

Britain: Nuclear base safety fears over fire crew cuts
Workers at the Coulport and Faslane nuclear bases say the cutting of specialist fire crews by a privatised fire response company is “an accident waiting to happen.” The union Unite said Capita management has reduced the specialist fire safety crew at the Clyde nuclear bases by eight, representing a cut of 15 per cent.
Unite news release. BBC News Online. Risks 998. 26 May 2021

Britain: Firm fined after allergic reaction to metalworking fluid
A Berkshire firm has been fined £100,000 after a worker was splashed with metalworking fluid and had a serious allergic reaction. The worker at automotive company Xtrac Ltd, based in Thatcham, experienced a painful burning sensation, and broken, oozing skin, the Health Safety Executive (HSE) said, suffering sensitisation that meant he had to leave his job.
HSE news release and metalworking fluids webpages. BBC News Online. Reading Chronicle. Risks 998. 26 May 2021

Britain: Firm fined after painter plunged to his death
JMS Plant Hire Ltd has been fined £200,000 after a Scottish worker plunged to his death from a shipping container. Patrick Gallagher, 70, was using to clamber on top of the structures was not properly secured and slipped.
Daily Record. Risks 998. 26 May 2021

Australia: ‘Huge step forward’ on workplace mental health
Australia is to introduce a new law to tackle hazards to mental health at work, in what unions have described as a ‘huge step forward’. Federal and state workplace health and safety ministers agreed the need for the new law in a move national union federation ACTU said will have a significant impact in preventing mental illness, sexual harassment and gendered violence in the workplace.
ACTU news release. We Are Union. 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

Hazards news, 19 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

Britain: Flexible working should be available for all workers
The rise of homeworking for office workers must not lead to ‘new inequalities’, the TUC has warned. The union body warns of “a new class divide” between those who were able to work from home in the pandemic, who will find it easier to achieve more flexible working patterns in the future, and those who worked from workplaces or were furloughed, who may have fewer options for flexible working patterns and is calling on the government to strengthen all workers’ rights to flexible working.
TUC news release. Homeworking in the UK Labour Market: 2020, ONS, 17 May 2021. Work Wise UK. Morning Star. The Guardian. Risks 997. 19 May 2021

Britain: Disability discrimination success for MoD worker
A Prospect member who suffered a work-related physical and mental health breakdown has been awarded a five-figure sum in a disability discrimination case against the Ministry of Defence (MoD). Operations manager Paul Hollands has complex musculoskeletal conditions and required modified equipment and auxiliary aids to continue with his job, not all of which his employer agreed to provide.
Prospect news release. Risks 997. 19 May 2021

Britain: Call for safeguards against harassment on set
Broadcasters and production companies must take action to safeguard workers from bullying and harassment on sets, a union leader has said. In her address to the union’s conference, Bectu leader Philippa Childs, speaking in the wake of a series of high profile scandals in the sector, called for the industry to step up.
Bectu news release. Risks 997. 19 May 2021

Britain: Shopworkers are owed better protection says Usdaw
Retail trade union Usdaw has said it listened in disbelief as a government minister accepted that police responses suffer because of a lack of resources and capacity - but couldn’t recognise the impact of losing of 20,000 police officers due to Conservative austerity cuts. Policing minister Kit Malthouse MP was quizzed on 12 May by the House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee on violence, threats and abuse of shopworkers.
Usdaw news release. House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee Inquiry. Risks 997. 19 May 2021

Britain: Boss jailed for failing to report lost leg
A builder has been imprisoned for 24 weeks after he failed to report a serious incident at a construction site which led to a worker’s leg being amputated. Trading as Surrey Conversions, Paul Adams pleaded guilty to a criminal breach of the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 (RIDDOR) and was handed a 24-week jail sentence and was ordered to pay costs of £2,033.
HSE news release. Construction Enquirer. Risks 997. 19 May 2021

Australia: Queensland emergency workers win PTSD cover
Emergency service workers in the Australian state of Queensland no longer need to prove they developed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) while on the job. In a big union win, the Workers Compensation and Rehabilitation and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2020 passed this month allows workers’ compensation claims by first responders diagnosed with PTSD to be deemed work-related so they can get immediate treatment and benefits.
United Workers Union news release. Risks 997. 19 May 2021

Global: Long working hours are a major heart killer
Long working hours are killing hundreds of thousands of people a year, according to UN agencies. The first global study of its kind showed 745,000 people died in 2016 from stroke and heart disease due to long working hours; the report for the UN’s World Health Organisation (WHO) and International Labour Organisation (ILO) warned the trend may worsen due to the coronavirus pandemic.
ILO news release. WHO news release. Frank Pega, Bálint Náfrádi, Natalie C Momena and others. Global, regional, and national burdens of ischemic heart disease and stroke attributable to exposure to long working hours for 194 countries, 2000–2016: A systematic analysis from the WHO/ILO Joint Estimates of the Work-related Burden of Disease and Injury, Environment International, online 17 May 2021, Corrected Proof. BBC News Online. 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

Hazards news, 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

Britain: Plan to boost workers’ rights absent from plan
The TUC has accused the government of ‘rowing back’ on its promise to boost workers’ rights, after ministers failed to include an employment bill in the Queen’s Speech. Commenting on the decision to exclude the bill from the 11 May Queen’s Speech, TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said “the government has rowed back on its promise boost to workers’ rights by not bringing forward its long overdue employment bill.”
TUC news release. Queen’s Speech, 11 May 2021. GMB news release. Unite news release. NUJ news release. Prospect news release. BBC News Online. Risks 996. 13 May 2021

Britain: Union safety first call as train cracks stop services
The cancellation of train services after cracks were found in the high-speed fleet show the need for rigorous safety controls, rail unions have said. Eight trains in the fleet were taken out of service last week after the hairline cracks were discovered. Great Western Railway (GWR) said the cracks were found during routine maintenance of two of its Hitachi 800 trains and added “possible issues” had been discovered on another six trains, which had been withdrawn from service while an investigation was carried out.
RMT news release. TSSA news release. BBC News Online. Risks 996. 13 May 2021

Britain: RMT accuses rail firm Abellio of cutting corners on safety
Rail union RMT has accused ‎Abellio of playing fast and loose with safety on its trains. The union said that during industrial action the company has been using unqualified ‘scab labour’ to act as a second person on trains responsible for fare collection, despite these volunteers lacking the knowledge, experience and safety competencies required of the job.
RMT news release, related news release and petition. Risks 996. 13 May 2021

Britain: ‘Remote sign-on’ prompts more bus action
London bus operator Metroline’s decision not to drop permanently its controversial ‘remote sign-on’ policy will lead to five days of strike action that will cause serious disruption to services in the capital, Unite has said. The union announced 48 hours of strike action by more than 4,000 bus drivers will take place on Tuesday 25 May and Wednesday 26 May, to be followed by a 72-hour strike from 7 June to 9 June.
Unite news release. Risks 996. 13 May 2021

Britain: Screen workers call for action on sexual harassment
TV and film union Bectu is calling for a meeting of industry bosses to address sexual harassment concerns, following an open letter signed by 1,000 workers from across the industry. The letter, penned by producer and Bectu rep Meriel Beale, demands an end to a culture that turns a blind eye to predators and harassers operating in plain sight.
BECTU news release. Joint letter. Risks 996. 13 May 2021

Britain: New campaign to improve conditions for cleaners
A new alliance of trade unions has launched a listening campaign to get the views of cleaners on common issues affecting them at work. Cleaners United includes PCS, Unite, and the Independent Workers' Union of Great Britain (IWGB) and community organisations that are working together to improve the working conditions of cleaners. The listening campaign has been launched to tackle issues like low pay, discrimination and sexual harassment in the workplace, which cleaners say is rife in their industry.
PCS news release. The Cleaners United survey is available in English, Polish and Spanish. Risks 996. 13 May 2021

Britain: Bargaining on mental health at work
Unless policies are put in place, increased home working and pressures placed on staff are liable to act as ‘detonators’ of mental health problems, public sector union UNISON has warned. In response, the union says its bargaining guidance is evolving to help activists meet the challenge at the negotiating table.
UNISON news release, related news release and new guide, Bargaining on Mental Health Policies. Related UNISON guidance: Bargaining over Workplace Issues During the COVID-19 Pandemic and Bargaining on Leave Guide. Risks 996. 13 May 2021

Britain: Mental health drive in haulage and logistics
Senior figures from across road haulage, warehousing and logistics have convened to determine how to tackle the growing mental health crisis in the sector. The 13 May roundtable, the first of its kind in the sector and chaired by Unite’s Diana Holland, also involved representatives from the mental health charity Mates in Mind and the Department for Transport (DfT).
Unite news release. Risks 996. 13 May 2021

Britain: MPs urged to support retail violence action
A coalition including retail union Usdaw and more than 30 major retail businesses is urging MPs to avoid shackling over three million shopworkers to a “life sentence” of violence, abuse and anti-social behaviour. It is urging them to back an amendment to a flagship government crime bill that would offer frontline workers greater protection.
Usdaw news release. Risks 996. 13 May 2021

Canada: Renewed call to hold deadly employers to account
Canada’s unions are marking the anniversary of the 1992 Westray mining disaster by calling for negligent employers to be held accountable in the event of a workplace death or injury, through effective enforcement of the Westray law. The first known criminal probe into a Covid-19 workplace outbreak occurred in January when the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) initiated a criminal investigation into the 10 May 2020 death of Benito Quesada, a worker at the Cargill meat packing plant in High River, Alberta.
CLC news release. Risks 996. 13 May 2021

Global: Companies urged by UN to protect seafarers
A wide-ranging human rights checklist has been issued to businesses in the maritime industry to protect seafarers stranded on ships due to new Covid-19 variants and government-imposed travel restrictions. The joint initiative by the UN Global Compact, the UN Human Rights Office, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) has created a Human Rights Due Diligence Tool for cargo owners and charterers.
UN news release. Risks 996. 13 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

Zimbabwe: Safety campaign in small-scale mining
Campaigns by trade unions, civil society organisations and mine affected communities in Zimbabwe are seeking to improve the deadly working conditions of miners by formalising artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM). IndustriALL, the global union for the mining sector, says with no other source of income, over one million miners, or 14 per cent of the country’s labour force, continue to look for minerals, especially gold, to eke out a living.
IndustriALL news release. Risks 996. 13 May 2021

Hazards news, 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: ‘Huge’ demand for action on workers’ rights
The government must “stop dithering” and deliver on its manifesto promise to boost workers’ rights, the TUC has said. The call came as the union body released new polling showing more than eight in ten working people want all workers to have the same basic rights.
TUC news release. Risks 995. 6 May 2021

Britain: Bosses still cash in as their workers die
Calls are growing for an end to the practice of paying executives health and safety bonuses if none of their employees die on the job, as an analysis revealed the average value of a human life in some boardrooms under such schemes is as little as £33,000. The research, by the shareholder advisory firm Pensions & Investment Research Consultants (PIRC), looked at annual reports from 38 FTSE 350 companies in which at least one person died at work between 2015 and 2019 and found that at least two had not reported docking their top executive’s bonus at all after employees died, while those that did imposed an average cut of £33,628 – the equivalent of less than 1 per cent of the executive’s total annual pay.
The Guardian. Risks 995. 6 May 2021

Britain: HSE condemned for going easy on offshore criminal
Offshore union RMT has responded with concern to the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) light-touch action after a serious safety incident in the offshore decommissioning sector. The safety offences came to light in 2020 when a video was circulated of a dangerous occurrence during decommissioning work carried out by contractor Ocean Kinetics on the Buchan Alpha rig in waters off Shetland.
RMT news release. Energy Voice. Shetland News, including the video clip. Risks 995. 6 May 2021

Global: Call to tackle online violence against women journalists
UK journalists’ union NUJ has said there must be great coordination in tackling and preventing systemic online violence against women journalists. The call came in response to new research, carried out by the International Center for Journalists and commissioned by UNESCO, the union says echoes many of the NUJ's safety survey findings.
NUJ news release. The Chilling, International Center for Journalists/UNESCO report. Risks 995. 6 May 2021

Britain: Employment tribunal backs unfairly dismissed lecturer
A university lecturer from Yorkshire has won an employment tribunal, which found he was unfairly dismissed while working for the University of Huddersfield. Jonathan Duxbury, 57, was successful at Leeds Employment Tribunal, after a multi-year legal battle following the university bringing in new rules which had an unfair impact on him.
Thompsons Solicitors news release. Risks 995. 6 May 2021

Britain: Gas blast killed asbestos worker
An asbestos removal contractor has been fined for criminal safety offences after a young worker died and a colleague was seriously injured as a result of a gas explosion. Hamilton Sheriff’s Court heard how on 5 October 2017, Enviraz (Scotland) Limited pleaded guilty to criminal safety breaches and was fined £150,000.
HSE news release. Daily Record. Construction Enquirer. Risks 995. 6 May 2021

Britain: Firefighters honour 2,300 fallen colleagues
Firefighters across the UK held a minute’s silence at midday on 4 May for Firefighters’ Memorial Day, in memory of more than 2,300 firefighters who have died in the line of duty. Firefighters and control staff stood outside their stations and workplaces and sounded their sirens to commemorate the fallen firefighters, including two serving UK firefighters who have lost their lives to Covid-19 over the last year.
FBU news release and Firefighters’ Memorial Day website. Risks 995. 6 May 2021

Australia: Call for reforms to protect mental health at work
Australia’s national union federation ACTU has joined with mental health advocates and academics in a joint statement calling on federal industrial relations minister Michaelia Cash and her equivalents in state governments to support key reforms. They say the changes were recommended in both the Boland Review of Model WHS [workplace health and safety] Laws and the Respect@Work report on sexual harassment in the workplace.
ACTU news release. Joint Statement. Risks 995. 6 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

USA: Union report shows 275 US workers killed a day
In 2019, 5,333 working people were killed on the job and an estimated 95,000 died from occupational diseases, according to a new report from the US national union federation AFL-CIO. ‘Death on the job: The toll of neglect’ reveals that every day, on average, 275 US workers die from hazardous working conditions.
AFL-CIO news release and report, Death on the job: The toll of neglect, 4 May 2021. Report summary. Risks 995. 6 May 2021

Hazards news, 28 April 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: Wrongly accused Post Office worker took his own life
A former post office worker killed himself after he was wrongly accused of stealing. Martin Griffiths, who took his own life in 2013 at the age of 59, was one of many post office workers who died with convictions against their names and whose lives were “irreparably ruined” after they were wrongly prosecuted by the Post Office.
Evening Standard. BBC News Online. The Guardian and related story. 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 994. 28 April 2021

Britain: RMT condemns outsourced Mitie over tracking app
Rail union RMT has demanded the withdrawal of a stress-inducing app that giant outsourcing outfit Mitie is attempting to force on staff and which would track their movements. Mitie is insisting staff download the app to their own personal phones, but RMT has condemned the imposition of the app without any consultation and is taking legal advice.
RMT news release. Risks 994. 28 April 2021

Britain: Ministers urged end long hours abuse of chefs
Ministers need to tighten up legislation to stop chefs - one of the groups of employees from being pressurised into working more than 48 hours a week. Unite national officer for hospitality Dave Turnbull said: “We are calling all chefs to protect their wellbeing by opting back into the 48-hour maximum working week and that contracts which make a 48-hour ‘opt out’ an employment condition to be outlawed.”
Unite news release. Risks 994. 28 April 2021

Britain: Another gig employer told to treat workers right
Private hire firm Addison Lee is the latest gig economy firm to have the courts reject its ‘bogus’ self-employment model, the union GMB has said. The Court of Appeal ruled the company will not be able to fight Employment Tribunal rulings that drivers are entitled to workers’ rights.
GMB news release. Risks 994. 28 April 2021

Britain: Government fire adviser pick a 'harbinger of doom'
Firefighters must be ready to fight ‘tooth and nail’ for their service, the FBU has said, after a service slashing fire boss was appointed as a government adviser on forthcoming reform to fire and rescue services in England. The firefighters’ union was commenting on the selection of former National Fire Chief’s Council (NFCC) chair and service slashing former fire chief Roy Wilsher as the person who would advise the Home Office ahead of a white paper, due later this year.
FBU news release. Risks 994. 28 April 2021

Britain: Transport operator fined £1.5m after worker electrocuted
Tyne & Wear Metro operator Nexus has been fined £1.5m after a maintenance worker was electrocuted. Nexus pleaded guilty at Newcastle-Upon-Tyne Crown Court following the death of John Bell at the company’s South Gosforth depot on 6 July 2014.
ORR news release. Construction Enquirer. Newcastle Chronicle. Risks 994. 28 April 2021

Britain: Director evades jail after a decade of crimes
A buy to let property developer and company director have been fined for poor health and safety standards on a construction site in Cardiff. JNR Developers Limited pleaded guilty to a criminal safety offence and was fined £32,000 plus £8,000 costs and Mehrded Chegounchei, who has been guilty of safety crimes spanning a decade, pleaded guilty to a criminal safety breach and received a six month custodial sentence, suspended for 12 months, and was ordered to undertake 80 hours of unpaid work.
HSE news release. Risks 994. 28 April 2021

Britain: Action call as agriculture deaths show steep increase
An analysis of workplace deaths in agriculture by Unite has shown a steep increase in fatalities in the sector. Figures for the period April 2019 to March 2020 - show there were a total of 20 deaths in the agricultural sector, but according to the Health and Safety Executive’s fatality list for 2020/21, by the third week of February there had already been 33 deaths, an increase of 61 per cent.
Unite news release. Health and Safety Executive fatality list for 2020/21. Morning Star. Risks 994. 28 April 2021

Britain: ‘Work should support life – not endanger it’, says IOSH
IOSH, the largest organisation of safety professionals’ worldwide, says 28 April’s International Workers’ Memorial Day is a reminder of the importance of the role played by the occupational safety and health profession in protecting workers. Jimmy Quinn, president of IOSH, said: “IOSH has always advocated that the best approach is prevention first.”
IOSH news release. Risks 994. 28 April 2021

Global: Why unions make a stand on 28 April
As workers around the world who have lost their lives to workplace accidents and disease are commemorated on 28 April, trade unions are pressing two key demands to save lives, says the global union confederation ITUC. First, it says occupational health and safety must be given the status of a fundamental right by the International Labour Organisation (ILO); the second priority is for Covid-19 to be classified as an occupational disease.
ITUC news release. ITUC photostory – Why occupational health and safety must be a fundamental right at work. EN | ES | FR. ITUC/Hazards 28 April fundamental factfile. Risks 994. 28 April 2021

Global: Union frees seafarer after years on abandoned ship
Seafarer Mohammad Aisha last week boarded a plane en route to his native Syria, ending a four-year battle where he was forced to live on an abandoned ship in the Suez Canal while the vessel waited to be sold. He is free because the global seafarers’ union ITF offered to have one of its union representatives in Egypt take Mr Aisha’s place and become the legal guardian of the vessel.
ITF news release. The Independent. Risks 994. 28 April 2021

Global: Work to keep garment factories safe must continue
In the wake of the Rana Plaza factory collapse in 2013, in which over 1,100 garment workers died, the groundbreaking Bangladesh Accord was created. The legally binding agreement has transformed factory safety in Bangladesh’ garment industry, saved lives, supported freedom of association and increased collective bargaining.
UNI news. IndustriALL news release and related story. Thomson Reuters Foundation Op Ed. Toronto Star. Related news: CLC news release. Clean Clothes Campaign news release. Risks 994. 28 April 2021

Global: Big Mac makes little move on gender-based violence
Following significant international pressure by workers and unions to deal with systemic sexual harassment and gender-based violence in its restaurants, McDonald’s CEO Chris Kempczinski has announced new “Global Brand Standards” related to working conditions for the brand’s two million workers worldwide. Although the move has been welcomed by unions, the global food and farming union IUF noted: “The announcement fails to mention cooperation with trade unions, an ‘essential element’ in ILO Convention 155 on occupational safety and health; prior efforts to end the systemic sexual harassment have proven ineffective due to lack of enforcement and involvement by trade unions.”
IUF news release. McDonald’s news release. Risks 994. 28 April 2021

Hazards news, 22 April 2021

Britain: Just days to go to Workers’ Memorial Day, 28 April!
The TUC is gearing up for the biggest ever 28 April campaign day - on what is already established as the world’s biggest single health and safety event. A new dedicated TUC #IWMD21 webpage lists planned local activities, has great downloadable graphics and spells out how and why unions mark this day and includes some pointers on how this might be done in a Covid-safe manner.

1. Register for the 28 April TUC national zoom with special guest speakers (2-3pm).

2. Check out the historical timeline of workplace tragedies and the fight for safer work

3. Visit the online memorial and pay tribute to a worker who lost their life

4. Search for your local Memorial Day event or add your own

5. Download posters and graphics to print off or share online

Want more? TUC has lots of pointers on how you can take part.
Check out what’s going on worldwide on 28 April 2021.
Risks 993. 22 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: Contract dispute coffee factory labelled ‘toxic’
Conditions for staff working at the JDE coffee factory in Banbury are becoming unsafe because of increasing pressure on workers, staff have warned. JDE (Jacobs Douwe Egberts) workers have voted for industrial action in protest at a 'fire and rehire' process that aims to force them to accept different contracts.
Unite news release. IUF news release. Banbury Guardian. Risks 993. 22 April 2021

Britain: Food delivery firms must address rider safety concerns
Food delivery companies such as Deliveroo should be forced to investigate accidents and address risks facing their Scottish couriers, according to campaigners. The call comes as the Workers’ Observatory – an Edinburgh project supporting fast food couriers – prepares to launch a manifesto in response to rider safety concerns such as traffic hazards.
The Ferret. The Workers’ Observatory. Risks 993. 22 April 2021

Britain: Rail disaster report shows need for action
An interim report into the crash at Stonehaven in Aberdeenshire which claimed the lives of three people – driver Brett McCullough, 45, conductor Donald Dinnie, 58, and passenger Christopher Stuchbury, 62 – and in which six other people were injured has exposed Network Rail’s failures, unions have said. The Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) report on into the 12 August 2020 tragedy exonerated the driver of the train and has found it was caused by “debris washed onto the track near Carmont, Aberdeenshire, following heavy rainfall.
Interim report by the Rail Accident Investigation Branch. ASLEF news release. RMT news release. TSSA news release. BBC News Online. Risks 993. 22 April 2021

Britain: RMT launches 'No cuts at Network Rail' campaign
Rail union RMT has launched the latest phase of its campaign to derail Network Rail plans that could increase risks and result in thousands of job losses by September. The union says the move would result in a “wholescale dilution of safety standards, including a halving the frequency of safety critical maintenance work.”
RMT news release and campaign webpage. Risks 993. 22 April 2021

Britain: Network Rail fined for injuries after ignoring safety warnings
Network Rail has been fined almost £700,000 after pleading guilty to a criminal safety offence that left an employee with serious burns after safety warnings were ignored. The worker suffered third degree and mixed depth burns in a fire at the at Godinton substation in Kent at the end of 2018.
ORR news release. Risks 993. 22 April 2021

Britain: Nothing smart in government motorways response
The UK government’s changes to the way it runs Smart and All Lanes Running (ALR) motorways will not remedy serious problems unless it also addresses staffing shortages among the traffic officers and a lack of capacity at the regional operating centres responsible for road safety, the union Prospect has warned. Garry Graham, Prospect deputy general secretary, commented: “Technology can identify breakdowns but you need an operator in an ROC to spot the problem, and then you need traffic officers to resolve it.”
Prospect news release. DfT written statement to parliament. BBC News Online. Risks 993. 22 April 2021

Britain: Workers want a ‘right to disconnect’
Almost 6-in-10 workers across the UK want to see a new ‘right to disconnect’ policy in the forthcoming Westminster Employment Bill, new polling from the union Prospect has found. Oveall, 70 per cent of those in Scotland and 59 per cent across the UK would support the policy, which would require companies to negotiate with their staff and agree rules on when people could not be contacted for work purposes.
Prospect news release. TechRepublic. Risks 993. 22 April 2021

Britain: Short notice shifts are unsafe
The failure of many businesses to provide adequate notice of shift patterns is damaging workers’ health and destroying family lives, Unite has warned. The union was commenting after a survey by the Living Wage Foundation found where workers operated on variable hours or shifts, more than three-fifths (62 per cent) were only given notice of a week or less about when they would be working.
Unite news release. Living Wage Foundation news release. Risks 993. 22 April 2021

Global: Make safety a fundamental right at work
IndustriALL is calling on its affiliates worldwide to join the campaign for recognition of health and safety as a fundamental right at work. On 28 April – International Workers’ Memorial Day – the global union for chemical, manufacturing and mining unions says affiliates can share local actions and activities to ensure this recognition is agreed at the International Labour Organisation’s 2022 conference.
IndustriALL news release and poster.
ITUC photostory – Why occupational health and safety must be a fundamental right at work. EN | ES | FR.
ITUC/Hazards 28 April fundamental factfile.
It’s Fundamental: Making work safety an ILO Fundamental Right at Work – Hazards magazine, April 2021. Risks 993. 22 April 2021

China: Truck driver suicide sparks anger vehicle tracking
Truck driver Jin Deqiang took his own life on 5 April this year after he was fined 2,000 yuan for driving while his satellite positioning system was offline. Jin was stopped at a checkpoint in Tangshan, Hebei. After officials insisted he pay the fine, Jin drank a bottle of pesticide.
China Labour Bulletin. More on work-related suicide. Risks 993. 22 April 2021

Hazards news, 14 April 2021

Britain: Just two weeks to go to Workers’ Memorial Day, 28 April
The TUC is gearing up for the biggest ever 28 April campaign day - on which is already the world’s biggest single health and safety event. A new dedicated TUC #IWMD21 webpage lists planned local activities, has great downloadable graphics and spells out how and why unions mark this day and includes some pointers on how this might be done in a Covid-safe manner and zoom meeting on 28 April will feature top speakers including Sharan Burrow, the general secretary of the ‘world’s trade union’ ITUC, and TUC’s own Frances O’Grady.
TUC’s brand new #IWMD21 page. Click to tweet or share to Facebook.
Register for the TUC national zoom at 2pm on Wednesday 28 April.
Search for your local Memorial Day event or add your own.
Download posters and graphics to print off or share online.
Check ways you can get involved.  
Find out what’s going on worldwide on 28 April 2021. Risks 992. 14 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

[infections] 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: Unite warns safeguards needed on hi-tech work monitoring
Safeguards need to be fully implemented in the workplace to protect workers from the ‘unintended consequences’ of hi-tech monitoring, Unite has warned. The union was speaking out as more hi-tech monitoring equipment for construction workers was put on the market.
Unite news release. Technology managing people – the legal implications, Robin Allen QC and Dee MastersCloisters. A report from the TUC by the AI Law Consultancy, March 2021. The TUC AI manifesto. Risks 992. 14 April 2021

Britain: ‘Big Brother’ fears over Teleperformance webcam plan
Working from home call centre workers say the installation of cameras to monitor remote workers is a “Big Brother” tactic and have said they fear the technology could be open to abuse. Webcams are being sent out this week to thousands of Scottish staff who work for Teleperformance –the largest contact centre company in the world.
Teleperformance news release. Call Centre Collective. Daily Record. Risks 992. 14 April 2021

Britain: Teachers face routine abuse in class
Teachers face routine abuse, violence and threats from pupils in the classroom, a union conference has heard. The NASUWT conference condemned schools and colleges that claim “unacceptable” student behaviour is “part of the job.”
NASUWT news release. BBC News Online. The Guardian. The Standard. The Independent. Risks 992. 14 April 2021

Britain: Empower schools to tackle sexism, harassment and abuse
Schools must be empowered to do more to address harassment abuse aimed at female pupils and staff, teaching union NEU has said. Commenting on an emergency motion passed at the NEU’s online annual conference, joint general secretary Dr Mary Bousted said: “Sexism has real negative consequences for girls and for female staff, who disproportionately experience sexual violence and harassment.”
NEU news release. Risks 992. 14 April 2021

Britain: Under pressure teachers being driven out of the job
The vast majority of teachers are overworked, worried about their wellbeing and blame the government for failing to listen to them, union research has found. Findings of the National Education Union’s (NEU) State of Education survey of more than 10,000 teaching staff reveal seven in 10 teachers, leaders and support workers reported that workload has increased over the past year, with almost all respondents — 95 per cent — worried about the impact on their wellbeing and over a third of respondents (35 per cent) said they would “definitely” no longer be working in education in five years’ time.
The State of Education: Poverty, the Pandemic and Recovery, NEU, 7 April 2021. Morning Star. Risks 992. 14 April 2021

Britain: Woolwich Ferry workers threaten strike over victimised rep
Workers operating the Woolwich Ferry, now run by Transport for London (TfL), are holding a ballot for strike action over the victimisation of a union rep amidst concerns over safety, pay and casualisation. Unite said the ballot of its 57 members will close on 29 April, the day after International Workers’ Memorial Day.
Unite news release. Risks 992. 14 April 2021

Britain: Devonport tugboat crew strikes over rostering dangers
Plymouth tugboat crews have taken two days strike action in a dispute over hazardous rostering patterns. About 40 Unite tractor tug crew members employed by Serco Marine at Devonport’s naval base walked out on 9-10 April, as part of a long-running dispute over the imposition of a new three weeks ‘on’ and three weeks ‘off’ roster.
Unite news release. Business Live. Risks 992. 14 April 2021

Britain: Bus drivers vote for strike action over ‘remote sign-on’
More than 4,000 bus drivers working for Metroline in London have voted overwhelmingly for strike action over a new ‘remote sign-on’ policy, Unite has said. The union said that unless remote sign-on is scrapped dates for strike action would be announced.
Unite news release and remote sign-on campaign. Risks 992. 14 April 2021

Britain: Unite push to protect Turkish and Kurdish workers
Unite is stepping up its campaign to eradicate the pay and employment abuses affecting members of the Turkish and Kurdish communities in London. The union said last year, as the pandemic took hold, it joined forces with community organisation Day-Mer to kickstart a workers’ rights campaign aimed at the Turkish and Kurdish community in the north London boroughs of Enfield, Hackney, Haringey and Islington.
Unite news release. Risks 992. 14 April 2021

Britain: Waste firm fined £1m over binman's death
A waste contractor has been fined £1m after a young refuse collector was killed under his own bin lorry. Kane Beard, 22, from Daventry, Northamptonshire, was working in a four-person crew when he died from head injuries after falling under the reversing lorry on 8 April 2016.
HSE news release. BBC News Online. Northampton Chronicle. Risks 992. 14 April 2021

Canada: Quebec farmers to get Parkinson's compensation
For people working in the agriculture industry who have developed Parkinson's as a result of long-term exposure to pesticides, claiming benefits from Quebec's workplace health and safety board (CNESST) is about to get easier. With Parkinson's added to the province’s list of accepted occupational illnesses, people working on farms will no longer have to prove the disease is related to their work.
CBC News. Risks 992. 14 April 2021

USA: Meat plant line speed-up thrown out by court
In a major victory for workers in America’s pork industry, a federal district court in Minneapolis has ruled that the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) acted unlawfully when it eliminated limits on the speed at which plants run their slaughter lines without considering the increased risk of injury to workers. “The court’s decision recognised that Trump’s USDA violated basic principles of administrative law when it refused to consider the impact of its actions on plant workers and claimed, contrary to its longstanding practice, that it was not allowed to do so,” said Adam Pulver, the Public Citizen attorney who serves as lead counsel on the union UFCW-backed case.
UFCW news release. Public Citizen news release. Daily Kos. Risks 992. 14 April 2021

USA: Amazon grovels after pee-in-vans denial
Amazon has apologised to a US politician for falsely denying its drivers have been forced to urinate in plastic bottles. Mark Pocan, a Democrat from Wisconsin, referenced Amazon making “workers urinate in water bottles” in a tweet; the official Amazon Twitter account then replied: “If that were true, nobody would work for us,” but then apologised after evidence emerged of drivers having to urinate in bottles.
Amazon statement and Amazon twitter exchange with Rep. Pocan. BBC News Online. Risks 992. 14 April 2021

Hazards news, 31 March 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

Britain: Warning on ‘huge gaps’ in the law over AI at work
The TUC and legal experts have warned that “huge gaps” in British law over the use of artificial intelligence (AI) at work could lead to “widespread” discrimination and unfair treatment at work. A new report - carried out for the TUC by leading employment rights lawyers Robin Allen QC and Dee Masters from the AI Law Consultancy – says that employment law is failing to keep pace with the rapid expansion of AI at work. 
TUC news release and AI manifesto. Technology managing people – the legal implications, Robin Allen QC and Dee MastersCloisters. A report from the TUC by the AI Law Consultancy, March 2021. Prospect news release. UNISON news release. Computer Weekly. Personnel Today. Risks 991. 31 March 2021

Britain: Homeworking call centre staff to be monitored by webcam
Thousands of staff at one of the world’s biggest call centre companies face being monitored by webcams to check whether they are eating, looking at their phones or leaving their desks while working from home. Teleperformance – which employs about 380,000 people in 34 countries and counts dozens of major UK companies and government departments among its clients – has told some staff that specialist webcams will be fitted to check for homeworking “infractions”.
The Guardian. Risks 991. 31 March 2021

Britain: Unite campaign for a ‘new deal’ for Amazon workers
A major newspaper and digital advertising campaign to alert Amazon workers to a new Unite confidential whistleblowing hotline has been launched by the union. It says Amazon workers can blow the whistle and expose poor treatment free from reprisals by contacting the hotline freefone or online.
Action on Amazon Campaign. Call 08000 14 14 61 in the UK or 1800 851 268 for the Republic of Ireland; twitter @ActionOnAmazon and Action on Amazon facebook page. BBC News Online. The Mirror. Risks 991. 31 March 2021

Britain: Police urged to respect media's right to report at protest
The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) has expressed concern at the behaviour of some police officers and members of the public towards the media covering recent ‘Kill the Bill’ protests in Bristol. Séamus Dooley, NUJ assistant general secretary, said the actions of some police officers marked “an unwelcome departure from the standard of policing which has characterised similar public demonstrations and gatherings in other parts of the UK.”
NUJ news release and guidance on covering protests. NPCC guidance: Working with journalists during Covid-19 outbreak. Risks 991. 31 March 2021

Britain: Tragedy exposes deadly folly of fire service cuts
There could be further avoidable loss of life unless fire cuts are not reversed, firefighters have warned in a letter to the leader Surrey County Council. The move by firefighters’ union FBU followed a deadly fire on 19 March in which the first fire engine took 14 minutes to arrive.
FBU news release. Risks 991. 31 March 2021

Britain: RMT to ballot for action over whisteblower sacking
Transport union RMT will be balloting bus driver members for a strike and other forms of industrial action over the victimisation of its Southampton bus branch secretary. Declan Clune was dismissed for reporting to Network Rail concerns around a bridge being struck by vehicles.
RMT news release. Risks 991. 31 March 2021

Britain: Crime survey exposes appalling abuse of shopworkers
Retail trade union Usdaw has again called for legislation to better protect retail staff. The union was speaking out after new figures from the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) revealed that 89 per cent of those working in local shops have experienced some form of abuse, with over 1.2 million incidents recorded over the last year; ACS also found that two-thirds (65 per cent) of respondents have seen Covid-related threats to staff around face coverings, social distancing, queueing and age identification.
Usdaw news release and petition. ACS news release. Risks 991. 31 March 2021

Britain: DB Cargo fined £200,000 after amputation
DB Cargo has been fined £200,000 after pleading guilty to a criminal safety offence that saw a worker lose his arm at the Dollands Moor freight yard in 2018. Terry Currie, then aged 43 and working as a shunter, suffered life changing injuries including the amputation of his right arm, when a freight train collided with his vehicle on a level crossing at the yard on 4 September 2018.
ORR news release. 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: ‘Fundamental’ health and safety moves a step closer
A significant step towards making occupational health and safety a fundamental workers’ right has been taken at the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Governing Body, an influential committee comprised government, employer and union delegates. On 23 March, governments at the governing body’s meeting overwhelmingly supported a call from worker members to move ahead with the process.
ITUC news release. Collegium Ramazzini statement. 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

Germany: Firms to face justice for safety violations abroad
Germany could force companies to take responsibility for any labour or environmental abuses in their global supply chains. The law passed by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet, and which still needs approval from the country’s parliament, was spurred by a deadly fire in a textile factory in Pakistan and a devastating dam collapse at a Brazilian iron ore mine, both of which had links to German companies.
The Local Germany. India Times. Risks 991. 31 March 2021

USA: Proof Amazon knows drivers forced to pee in bottles
A denial by Amazon that its delivery workers have been forced to pee in bottles or poop in bags was shot down last week when a leaked internal memo revealed the company has been aware of the problem for at least several months. Documents provided by employees at Amazon to the Intercept showed that an email sent in May 2020 admonished workers for urinating in bottles and defaecating in bags while on the job.
The Intercept. The Guardian. Risks 991. 31 March 2021

USA: Amazon makes drivers sign spy in the cab consent
Amazon drivers are being forced to sign “biometric consent” forms to continue working for the retailing giant. Cameras being introduced to vehicles across the US would use artificial intelligence to access drivers' location, movement, and biometric data. 
Vice. Risks 991. 31 March 2021

Hazards news, 23 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. Risks 990 . 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

Lord Tebbit’s blacklisting admission must be investigated
Revelations that Norman Tebbit was regularly briefed by Special Branch on the activities of trade unionists while he was employment secretary underscore the need for both a public inquiry into blacklisting and for the Mittings Inquiry into undercover policing to investigate the matter, Unite had said. Lord Tebbit made his comments at a 16 March parliamentary meeting about the Mittings Inquiry; replying to a contribution from Dave Smith of the Blacklist Support Group, Lord Tebbit said that the level of briefing he received from the police was so detailed that he knew where trade unionists went on holiday.
Unite news release. Blacklist blog. Morning Star. Risks 990. 23 March 2021

Britain: Threats to media at lockdown protest condemned
The journalists’ union NUJ has condemned threats and harassment targeted at its members during an anti-lockdown protest on 20 March. NUJ members told the union they were targeted at the anti-lockdown, anti-vaccine protest that saw thousands march through the capital.
NUJ news release. BBC News Online. Sky News. Risks 990. 23 March 2021

Britain: Unions slam sleep-in appeal decision
The 19 March judgment by the Supreme Court that social care staff are not entitled to the national minimum wage for every hour they work, including sleep-in shifts, is a huge blow for thousands across the country, UNISON has said. The ruling marks the end of a long-running UNISON-backed case taken on behalf of care worker Clare Tomlinson-Blake against her now former employer Mencap.
UNISON news release. GMB news release. Unite news release. The Guardian. Risks 990. 23 March 2021

Britain: Contract changes will make British Gas 'less safe'
Contract changes being imposed by British Gas will make the work ‘less safe’, the company’s skilled engineers have warned. Thousands of British Gas workers responded to a GMB survey on the planned contract changes, with 87 per cent of respondents saying that the reduced times allocated for jobs would make them less safe.
GMB news release. Risks 990. 23 March 2021

Britain: Tesco accused of ‘morally bankrupt’ fire and rehire tactics
Tesco is facing a legal challenge to its ‘morally bankrupt’ fire and rehire tactics. Thompsons Solicitors issued High Court proceedings against the supermarket giant, supported by the retail union Usdaw.
Thompsons Solicitors news release. Usdaw news release. 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

Britain: RMT set for nationwide rail dispute
RMT is moving onto a “national dispute” footing with Network Rail after it was revealed the government controlled company is planning thousands of job cuts by September and a wholesale dilution of safety standards, including a halving the frequency of safety critical maintenance work. The attack on jobs and safety comes on top of an attempt by the company to implement an open-ended pay freeze on Network Rail workers and a wide-ranging attack on working conditions, the union said.
RMT news release. Risks 990. 23 March 2021

Britain: Site worker killed by high pressure jet of grease
Specialist plant hire firm Ruislip Plant Ltd has been fined for a criminal safety offence after a worker was fatally injured while undertaking maintenance on a piling rig. Reading Crown Court heard that, on 13 May 2014, Ben Wylie was assisting Ruislip Plant director Noel Kearney, who has since died, with the maintenance of a high-pressure grease track adjusting mechanism at a construction site in Maidenhead.
FACK news release. HSE news release. Construction Enquirer. Risks 990. 23 March 2021

Britain: Uber ‘finally does the right thing’ says GMB
It took losing four court battles but Uber has finally done the right thing, the union GMB has said, and given its drivers employment rights. The union was commenting after the ride hailing company announced that from 17 March all 70,000 drivers would be paid holiday time, automatically enrolled into a pension plan and would earn at least the minimum wage.
GMB news release. Leigh Day news release. ITF news release. Risks 990. 23 March 2021

Britain: Asbestos campaign conference, 16 April
A 16 April half-day interactive online asbestos conference organised by three advocacy groups will focus on campaigning and how you or your union can get involved with campaigns for victims of asbestos-related diseases and victim support groups. Guest speakers include Unite’s Colin Hampton on creative campaigning, GMB health and safety director Dan Shears on the case for asbestos eradication, Blacklist Support Group founder Dave Smith on organising and John McClean of the Joint Union Asbestos Committee (JUAC) on asbestos in schools.
Asbestos: The Campaign Against All Fears, half-day (9.30am-1.30pm) online conference, Friday, 16 April 2021. Register. 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

Global: IUF and Sodexo sign safety declaration
Global food and farming union IUF has signed a first of its kind ‘Declaration of intent on health and safety’ with the catering transnational Sodexo. The declaration references the international standards contained in International Labour Organisation (ILO) health and safety conventions, with a particular emphasis on its risk assessment and hierarchy of control approach and the central role for elected union health and safety representatives.
IUF news release and IUF-Sodexo Declaration of intent on health and safety, March 2021. Hospitality and Catering News. Risks 990. 23 March 2021

Hazards news, 16 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: IOSH backs ‘fundamental right’ to safety
The Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) has said health and safety should be treated as a ‘fundamental right’ at work. The world’s biggest safety professionals’ organisation was commenting after it signed up to the United Nations (UN) Global Compact.
IOSH news release.
More on International Workers’ Memorial Day, 28 April 2021. Risks 989. 16 March 2021

Britain: The safety of workers is secondary to Rees-Mogg
Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Leader of the House of Commons, has been condemned for putting the safety of workers in Westminster below his ‘bizarre’ sense of tradition. The criticism by civil service union Prospect came after Rees-Mogg rejected a report by parliament’s Restoration and Renewal Sponsor Body recommended that in order to renovate parliament safely, a full decant to alternative premises should be undertaken.
Prospect news release and related release. Restoration and Renewal Sponsor Body news release and full report. Risks 989. 16 March 2021

Britain: Ill-health driving many out of work before retirement
Hundreds of thousands of older workers are retiring early and “consigned to poverty” due to ill-health, the TUC has said. A new report published by the union body shows that 1 in 8 (12 per cent) men and women are forced to stop working before state pension age due to ill-health or disability.  The report – Extending working lives: how to support older workers – finds that more than half a million (534,876) workers aged 60 to 65 have had to leave the workplace due to medical reasons.
TUC news release and report, Extending working lives: how to support older workers, March 2021. 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

Britain: Unions make stand against male violence
A joint statement from over 30 UK unions has demanded safety, justice and equality in the face of “an epidemic of male violence”. The statement notes that in the UK 97 per cent of young women have been sexually harassed, and one in two women are sexually harassed in the workplace.
Joint statement. PCS news release. TSSA news release. Unite news release.
ILO convention 190. Risks 989. 16 March 2021

Britain: Waste firm fined after horrific bin worker death
A waste collection company has been fined nearly £2 million after  binman Peter Coleman, 54, was killed when he was dragged under the wheels of his runaway lorry. The F&R Cawley Ltd lorry was found to have had two defects - a faulty set of brakes on the second axle, and a disabled mechanism intended to stop bins being lifted while the lorry was in gear.
BBC News Online. Watford Observer. Risks 989. 16 March 2021

Britain: Global firm fined after chemical spill
A global engineering firm has been fined after a hazardous chemical spill left four workers suffering serious health symptoms. Poole Magistrates’ Court heard how, on 9 October 2017, between 150 and 200 litres of a chemical preparation including highly hazardous hydrofluoric acid spilled across a large area of the factory floor of Nasmyth Technologies Limited’s fabrication division, and that four workers with no training and inadequate personal protective equipment (PPE) and respiratory protective equipment (RPE) suffered ill-health in the clean-up, included an asthma attack, a severe headache, nausea, sore eyes and throat.
HSE news release. Dorset Echo. Risks 989. 16 March 2021

Global: UK shipping firm can be sued for shipbreaking death
A shipping company that sold on a defunct vessel for scrapping will have to face a claim by the widow of a Bangladeshi man who died while breaking up the ship. An attempt by Maran (UK) Limited to have the claim struck out by the Court of Appeal failed, and followed an earlier high court judgment also in favour of the widow.
Leigh Day news release and Court of Appeal judgment, 10 March 2021. 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

Global: IFJ reveals 65 journalists died at work in 2020
The circumstances in which 65 media workers died last year while doing their jobs has been revealed in a new report from the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ). The global journalist union’s federation detailed how they had been victims of targeted attacks, bomb attacks and crossfire incidents in 16 countries.
IFJ news release. 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

Hazards news, 11 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

Britain: Sick days hit new record low in 2020
Workplace absences are at the lowest level since records began in 1995, latest official figures show. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said the coronavirus had caused many sick days, the measures taken to contain it, such as furloughing, social distancing, shielding and homeworking, appeared to have helped reduce other causes of absence.
Sickness absence in the UK labour market: 2019 and 2020, ONS, 3 March 2021. The Guardian. Risks 988. 11 March 2021

Britain: NUJ welcomes national action plan to protect journalists
Journalists’ union NUJ has welcomed a new UK government national action plan to protect journalists. The union said the National Committee for the Safety of Journalists’ plan, launched with cross-party support, was an important step towards ensuring journalists can carry out their work free from harassment and attack.
NUJ news release. UK government news release. National Committee for the Safety of Journalists’ plan. Risks 988. 11 March 2021

Britain: CWU win on backbreaking low letter boxes
Postal union CWU has won another local victory against buildings with low-level letter boxes. The latest win came courtesy of Vistry Group, who own Bovis Homes and Linden Homes, who are building 250 homes on Bexley-on-Hill’s “Gateway” development site – the agreement came after a CWU health and safety rep alerted the union’s national safety department, which lobbied the house builders, local MPs and the local authority.
CWU news release. Risks 988. 11 March 2021

Britain: Abuse of shopworkers worsened in the pandemic
Retail trade union Usdaw has renewed a call for legislation to protect retail staff after new statistics showing that 79 per cent of shopworkers say abuse was worse last year. The final results of Usdaw’s 2020 survey of 2,729 shopworkers across the UK found that 88 per cent had experienced verbal abuse, 60 per cent were threatened by a customer and 9 per cent had been assaulted.
Usdaw news release, Freedom From Fear survey and petition. Morning Star. Risks 988. 11 March 2021

Britain: Capita slashes firefighters at Clyde naval bases
Unite has raised ‘major’ safety concerns following plans by Capita to reduce the number of firefighters based at the Faslane and Coulport nuclear naval bases. The union has been notified that Capita, which won the outsourced contract last year, is set to reduce the specialist fire safety crew by eight positions, or 15 per cent.
Unite news release. Risks 988. 11 March 2021

Britain: Union action call on Sellafield ‘toxic culture’
Unions have called for action after revelations of bullying, discrimination and racism at Cumbria’s Sellafield nuclear plant. Unite and Prospect were commenting after a BBC investigation heard whistleblowers warn that a “toxic culture” of bullying and harassment at Sellafield could let serious safety concerns go unreported.
BBC News Online. Prospect news release. Unite news release. Risks 988. 11 March 2021

Britain: Foundry fined £500k after workers hit by vibration disease
A multinational building products giant has been fined £500,000 after its workers developed debilitating hand arm vibration syndrome (HAVS) caused by their jobs. Newcastle-under-Lyme Magistrates’ Court heard that three employees at the Saint-Gobain Construction Products UK Limited foundry in Telford were diagnosed with HAVS in 2016, but the company did not identify each employee’s daily exposure to vibration and did not measure cumulative exposures from using different vibrating tools throughout a shift.
HSE news release. 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: Work health and safety must be fundamental
A death toll from work hazards that claims five lives every minute of every hour of every day around the world demonstrated the scale of the problem. That’s why, says Owen Tudor, that the International Labour Organisation (ILO) conference agreed two years ago that occupational health and safety should become a ‘fundamental right at work’.
ETI blog and ETI member supporting health and safety as an ILO fundamental right. More on International Workers’ Memorial Day, 28 April 2021. 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

India: No progress on workplace health and safety crisis
‘Incessant’ industrial accidents in India show that no progress has been made in improving occupational health and safety, IndustriALL has said. The global union’s compilation of accidents reported in the press since India’s lockdown ended in May 2020 shows that “the shockingly high accident rate in India’s factories, chemical plants and mines continues,” it said
IndustriALL news release. Risks 988. 11 March 2021

Hazards news, 3 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

Britain: Cruise ship accommodation for site workers questioned
Plans by the London Resort, the Disney style theme park due to be built in the Kent estuary, to house 2,000 construction workers on a cruise ship in the Thames estuary must not go ahead without full consultation, the union Unite has said. Unite national officer for construction Jerry Swain said: “It is essential that those concerned in the project enter into negotiations with Unite, to provide guarantees on not just the price of accommodation but the cost and quality of the food provided, as workers will have no access to their own cooking facilities.”
Unite news release. BBC News Online. Construction Enquirer. Risks 987. 3 March 2021

Britain: RMT raises ‘serious’ ferry safety concerns
The UK transport union RMT has raised serious safety concerns over commercial pressures on seafarers and ferry services. The union was responding to a Maritime Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) report into a fire on the Lithuanian registered Finlandia Seaways in April 2018 which resulted in the withdrawal of the vessel from the Rosyth-Zeebrugge route by the owners, DFDS, despite support from the Scottish taxpayer.
RMT news release. MAIB report. Risks 987. 3 March 2021

Britain: Union hails big win on workplace injury rules
Retail union Usdaw is celebrating success in its 'Justice for Injured Workers' campaign, after the UK government dropped plans that would have priced many workers out of compensation for workplace injuries and diseases. The union was commenting after the government published the regulations relating to the Civil Liability Act 2018, which confirm that the small claims limit for employers’ liability and public liability claims will not be increased and will remain at £1,000.
Usdaw news release. Risks 987. 3 March 2021

Britain: England's fire services cut by £140m since 2016
Government funding for fire and rescue services in England has been cut by £139.7m since 2016/17, the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has revealed. The new analysis of the 2021/22 local government finance settlement shows a reduction in funding for fire and rescue services of 13.8 per cent in cash terms over the five years since the last local settlement, leaving fire and rescue services exposed as they face emerging threats from flooding, wildfires and the Covid-19 pandemic.
FBU news release. Risks 987. 3 March 2021

Britain: Zombie firm resurrected and fined for death
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) ordered the restoration of a defunct roofing contractor to the Companies House register ahead of a court hearing that saw the firm receive a six figure fine following a fatal fall. Basildon Crown Court heard how on 25 February 2018 Jonathan Moore, 34, an employee of R4 Industrial Roofing Cladding Systems Ltd, fell more than 10 metres to the concrete floor below, sustaining fatal injuries
HSE news release. Construction Enquirer. Risks 987. 3 March 2021

Britain: Let off for bosses after worker dies in revolving drum
Waste recycling firm Stonegrave Aggregates, its director and site manager have been sentenced after pleading guilty to criminal safety offences that saw employee Simon Hogg, 47,  die and a second employee seriously injured when a large rotating drum was switched on with the two workers inside. Site manager David Basham, 60, was sentenced to six months in prison suspended for a year; company director Bruce David Whitley, 61, was given a 12-month community order, and the firm was fined £200,000 and ordered to pay £48,952.90 in prosecution costs.
HSE news release. The Gazette. BBC News Online. Risks 987. 3 March 2021

Britain: Severe scalding injuries left worker suicidal
A chemical company has been fined £560,000 after scalding water ‘erupted’ over a father-of-two at its Scottish plant, scarring him for life. Colin Brockie suffered burns to his right arm and leg, partial burns to his left foot, and burns to his left leg and groin in the incident at Calachem in Grangemouth, Scotland and had suicidal thoughts and saw a psychologist for 18 months after suffering the injuries.
HSE news release. Daily Record. Falkirk Herald. Risks 987. 3 March 2021

Britain: Asbestos campaign conference, 16 April
A 16 April half-day interactive online asbestos conference organised by three advocacy groups will focus on campaigning and how you or your union can get involved with campaigns for victims of asbestos related diseases and Victim Support Groups. Guest speakers include Unite’s Colin Hampton on creative campaigning, GMB health and safety director Dan Shears on the case for asbestos eradication, Blacklist Support Group founder Dave Smith and John McClean of JUAC (Joint Union Asbestos Committee on asbestos in schools.
Asbestos: The Campaign Against All Fears, half-day (am) online conference, Friday, 16 April 2021. Register. 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

Hazards news, 24 February 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

Britain: Historic workers' rights win for Uber drivers
GMB has scored an ‘historic’ win at the Supreme Court in a worker’s rights case against car hailing platform Uber. The country’s highest court ruled in GMB's favour, determining that Uber drivers are not self-employed, but are workers entitled to workers’ rights including holiday pay, a guaranteed minimum wage and an entitlement to breaks.
Supreme Court press summary and full decision. GMB news release. Leigh Day news release. BBC News Online. Risks 986. 24 February 2021

Britain: Unions welcome Uber ruling and call for action
Unions have welcomed the Supreme Court ruling against Uber on the employment status of its drivers and called for government action to improve employment rights across the economy. TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Unions will continue to expose nasty schemes that try and cheat workers out of the minimum wage and holiday pay.”
STUC news release. ITF news release. The Guardian. Morning Star. Risks 986. 24 February 2021

Britain: High Court urged to overturn PM's Patel decision
The High Court must overturn Boris Johnson's decision that home secretary Priti Patel did not breach government rules on behaviour, a civil service union has said. The prime minister decided not to sack Ms Patel last year despite a report finding evidence of “bullying” and “some occasions of shouting and swearing,” leading the FDA to seek a judicial review of the prime minister's decision.
FDA report. BBC News Online. 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

Qatar: Thousands of migrant construction workers die
More than 6,500 migrant workers from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka have died in Qatar since it won the right to host the World Cup 10 years ago, an investigation by the Guardian has found. Using information compiled from official sources, it estimates an average of 12 migrant workers from five south Asian nations have died each week since December 2010.
The Guardian. 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

Hazards news, 17 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

Britain: Report shows need for direct employment on sites
Unite has welcomed a report supporting a major increase in direct employment in the electrical contracting sector, with the report concluding this could have a positive effect on safety and employment conditions. The report prepared by Howard Gospel, emeritus professor of management at King’s College London, is based on interviews with over 50 experts, industry materials, government reports and peer-reviewed academic research.
Unite news release.  Electrotechnical JIB news release and report, Direct Employment - A Study of Economic Business and Social Outcomes, Electrotechnical JIB, February 2021 [full report and summary]. Risks 985. 17 February 2021

Britain: Site firms fined for bodged asbestos removal
A construction company and a property management company have been fined for their criminal failures to manage asbestos safely during the refurbishment of a former office block in Stockport. Swift Property Management Limited pleaded guilty to two criminal safety offences and was fined £25,000 plus £3,428 costs; Samer Constructions Limited also pleaded guilty to two criminal charges and was fined £12,000 plus £3,428 costs.
HSE news release and asbestos webpages. Risks 985. 17 February 2021

Britain: Chem Trust webpage on chemical mixtures
UK chemical safety charity CHEM Trust has produced a new online resource on chemical mixtures. The webpage includes information on why mixtures are a problem, support for action on mixtures, and links to related resources and position papers.
Chem Trust chemical mixtures webpages. Risks 985. 17 February 2021

Morocco: Supply chain pressure behind factory disaster
A 14-year-old girl was among the 28 garment workers killed in a factory disaster in Tangier, Morocco, on 8 February. The illegal facility, which was flooded, operated in an underground garage in a residential area with 130 workers, most of them women.
Solidarity Center news release. Morocco World News. 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

USA: Deadly chicken plant accused of intimidating workers
Meat plant workers who were injured or lost their jobs after a fatal accident in the US last month have been intimidated and denied necessary medical care, workers’ rights advocates have reported. A liquid nitrogen leak at a Foundation Food Group poultry plant in Gainesville, Georgia, killed six people in January and hospitalised at least 11 others.
The Guardian. Risks 985. 17 February 2021

Hazards news, 11 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

FBU launches firefighter cancer and disease registry
Firefighters’ union FBU has launched a new nationwide database to assess the potential link between exposure to fire toxicants and the increased occurrence of cancers and other diseases among firefighters. The union, which has developed the registry with researchers at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan), is calling on every current and former UK firefighter suffering from a serious or chronic illness to add their name to the registry, a move it says will help save firefighters’ lives in the future.
FBU news release and UK Firefighters Cancer and Disease Registry (FCDR). 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

Britain: Workplace protection for domestic abuse victims welcomed
Public sector union UNISON has won a key amendment to ensure that domestic abuse protection orders (DAPOs) will apply to the workplace. The provision is included in the Domestic Abuse Bill currently moving through the UK parliament.
UNISON news release. Risks 984. 11 February 2021

Britain: Rail union warning after track worker is killed
The rail union TSSA has issued a safety warning after railway track worker Tyler Byrne was struck and killed by a train. The 30-year-old from Hampshire was struck by a service operated by South Western Railway (SWR) near Surbiton, Kingston, south-west London, shortly after 11:30 in the morning on 9 February.
TSSA news release. BBC News Online. Risks 984. 11 February 2021

Britain: Worker fell to his death through fragile roof
A glass firm has been fined for a criminal health and safety offence after a worker fell to his death through an asbestos roof. Marius Andrus, 36, was carrying out snagging repairs to a roof above the “toughening area” at Pearsons Glass in Kirkdale, on 22 May 2017 when he plunged down six metres into an unnetted part of the factory.
HSE news release. Liverpool Echo. Risks 984. 11 February 2021

Britain: Senior retail leaders call for protection of shopworkers
Senior retail leaders have written jointly to UK prime minister Boris Johnson to raise concerns about the increasing problem of violence and abuse against shopworkers. The letter asks the government to treat the issue with the seriousness it deserves and to improve protection for staff by creating a new statutory offence of assaulting, threatening, or abusing a retail worker.
BRC letter. Usdaw news release and petition. Morning Star. Risks 984. 11 February 2021

Australia: Fears about hidden toll from deadly silica
Workers at risk of developing an incurable, progressive and fatal lung disease caused by silica dust need greater protections across a range of workplaces, Australian unions have warned. The warning comes after a spate of cases of the lung-scarring disease silicosis affecting young workers.
Sydney Morning Herald.
ACTION: Send an e-postcard to HSE demanding it introduce a more protective UK silica standard no higher than 0.05mg/m³ and with a phased move to 0.025mg/m³. www.hazards.org/HSEstopkillingus. More on work-related dust diseases. Risks 984. 11 February 2021

Global: Saving lives at work is ‘fundamental’
Many governments and employers don’t think that being protected should be a fundamental worker’s right, the global union confederation ITUC has warned. This year, trade unions around the world will be pressing governments and employers to agree to put that commitment into practice, said ITUC general secretary Sharan Burrow, adding: “Making occupational health and safety a fundamental right at work — on a par with the prohibition of child and forced labour, discrimination at work, and the right to join a union, bargain collectively and ultimately to take strike action — wouldn’t solve every problem at work.”
ITUC news release. Medium.com.
Find out more about International Workers’ Memorial Day, 28 April 2021. #iwmd21 Risks 984. 11 February 2021

Global: Impact of chemicals on women’s health ignored
The global food and farming union IUF has welcomed a new report from IPEN – the International Pollutants Elimination Network - highlighting the overlooked impact on women of exposure to chemicals. The IPEN review found there is a lack of research and information about women’s exposure to chemicals or nanomaterials and their effects on women’s specific physiology or endocrine [hormone] system, as well as the long-term effects on their reproductive health.
Women, chemicals and the SDGs: Gender review mapping with a focus on women, February 2021. IUF news release and manual, Making women visible in occupational health and safety. 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

Hazards news, 3 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: Relief as new u-turn sees rights review dropped
UK government u-turns that saw ministers deny then admit they was considering downgrading workers’ rights have now seen the plans dropped. The latest reverse comes in the wake of a 25 January joint statement, where 12 unions warned they would fight Boris Johnson “tooth and nail” to stop any watering down of workers’ rights.
Unite news release. Community news release. Thompsons Solicitors news release. The Guardian. Morning Star. Personnel Today. Risks 983. 3 February 2021

Britain: Shrewsbury pickets appeal for justice
The Shrewsbury 24 Campaign, which is seeking justice for North Wales building workers prosecuted for picketing during the 1972 national building workers’ strike over safety and working conditions, is to go to the Court of Appeal. The campaign is seeking justice for 24 trade unionists arrested and charged after the strike.
PCS news release. BFAWU news release. TSSA news release. Public Interest Law Centre news release. Morning Star. Shropshire Star.
The Shrewsbury 24 campaign. Risks 983. 3 February 2021

Britain: Sawmill worker fatally injured by conveyor collapse
A sawmill company has been fined after Roman Kokot, 32, was fatally injured when a lift conveyor collapsed on top of him. Hereford Crown Court heard how on 20 December 2017, two employees were working below a lift conveyor at Pontrilas sawmill in Hereford to remove wood debris.
HSE news release. Free Press. 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

USA: Nitrogen leak at poultry plant kills six workers
A liquid nitrogen leak at a US poultry plant killed six people on 28 January, and sent at least 11 others to the hospital, some in a critical condition. The incident occurred at the Prime Pak Foods plant near Gainsville, Georgia.
RWDSU news release. CSB statement. New York Times. Insurance Journal. The Guardian. BBC News Online. Whittier Daily News. Risks 983. 3 February 2021

Hazards news, 28 January 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

Britain: Government should publish rights rollback review
Unite is demanding that the UK government discloses the full impact of any rollback of workers’ rights. The union call comes in a letter from general secretary Len McCluskey to business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng, who is overseeing the review. Unite has described efforts to cut rights as a 'bad bosses' charter' and a gift to rogue employers that will force workers to work longer hours, on lower pay and seriously undermine family life.
TUC news release. Unite news release. Usdaw news release. Labour Party news release. The Mirror. Risks 982. 28 January 2021

Britain: UNISON demands higher PPE ‘human rights standards’
UNISON has joined a push for a new law to prevent UK businesses and public services from sourcing from companies that violate workers’ human rights. Evidence has emerged throughout the pandemic that PPE suppliers to the NHS were tied to severe, widespread human rights violations of workers in the global south.
UNISON news release. Parliamentary briefing on a ‘Failure to Prevent’ law.
UNISON is encouraging union members to add their voice to a EU consultation on measures that would apply to UK headquartered companies by signing here. Risks 982. 28 January 2021

Britain: Action needed as assaults on emergency workers soar
Urgent action is needed to address rising levels of violence directed at emergency workers, the union GMB has said. The union was commenting in the wake of new Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) figures on assaults against emergency workers linked to Covid-19.
GMB news release. CPS news release. BBC News Online. Risks 982. 28 January 2021

Britain: Steel company fined after driver fatally injured
An Essex steel firm has been fined after a 47-year-old worker was fatally injured by steelwork, which fell from a telehandler forklift truck during loading. Chelmsford Magistrates’ Court heard how on 4 April 2019, Chris Sparks, an employee of South East Galvanizers Limited, had visited PCR Steel Ltd at their premises in Essex to collect a load, but was crushed when the balcony frame weighing approximately 400kg fell.
HSE 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

Hazards news, 20 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: Government owns up to plan to weaken workers’ rights
In a reversal of an earlier denial, Kwasi Kwarteng has admitted reports that his department is planning to dilute UK workers' rights are correct. The business secretary has now confirmed the government is looking at scrapping some EU-derived labour laws.
TUC news release. Unite news release. GMB news release. ETUC news release. Labour Party news release. CIPD news release. Financial Times. Morning Star. The Guardian and related update. BBC News Online. Britannia Unchained. Risks 981. 20 January 2021

Britain: Scotland says no to ditching employment protections
The Scottish government and the country’s national union federation STUC have issued a joint call to the UK government to rule out the downgrading of employment protections. The move came after revelations that the UK government has asked the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) to work up a package of deregulatory measures following the UK’s final departure from the European Union.
STUC news release. Risks 981. 20 January 2021

Britain: Labour warning on growth in spying at work
Workers must be protected from employers tracking them while they work from home during the pandemic, Labour has said. Online software can log how long it takes people to reply to messages, take camera shots and monitor emails, messages and meeting attendance
Labour Party news release. Morning Star.
Technology managing people: the worker experience, TUC, 30 November 2020. Risks 981. 20 January 2021

Britain: Lorry drivers in Kent ‘persecuted’ union says
Lorry drivers in Kent are being fined and prevented from resting by Kent county council, despite parking provisions provided by authorities to deal with post-Brexit delays being ‘woefully inadequate’, Unite has said. Commenting on 15 January, the union blasted the council’s recently established HGV parking ban scheme and said drivers are being ‘persecuted’ for the council’s own lack of preparations.
Unite news release. Risks 981. 20 January 2021

Britain: STUC ‘encouraged’ by talks with first minister
The Scottish national union federation STUC said it is ‘encouraged’ following its latest of its twice-yearly meetings with Nicola Sturgeon. The union body said the meeting with the first minister was dominated by the need for a precautionary approach to workplace health and safety, the case for a new National Care Service, a decent pay rise for public workers and an investment-led plan for jobs.
STUC news release. Risks 981. 20 January 2021

Britain: Scottish shopworkers win new protections
Usdaw has welcomed a unanimous vote in the Scottish parliament for a ‘groundbreaking’ law to protect shopworkers. The retail union says the move follows its long campaign for new legislation to tackle growing violence, threats and abuse against retail staff.
Usdaw news release and the new law against violence, threats and abuse against retail staff. Morning Star. Risks 981. 20 January 2021

Britain: Union backing for proposed Scottish injury scheme
Unite Scotland has given its backing to plans for a new advice and research council to modernise occupational injury and disease benefits in Scotland. The Scottish Employment Injuries Advisory Council Bill lodged by Labour MSP Mark Griffin aims to support the devolved industrial injuries benefits system so that it reflects modern workplaces.
Unite Scotland news release and vaccinations news release. 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: Recognition of domestic abuse impact at work welcomed
The union GMB has welcomed a UK government report accepting the need for employers to do more to support workers that have survived domestic abuse. As part of its ongoing campaign, the union is now calling on the government to bring forward greater workplace protections for domestic abuse survivors in legislation, such as paid leave and the right to flexible working.
GMB news release and Work to Stop Domestic Abuse Charter. UK government report. 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: Safety at work is a ‘fundamental’ right
The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed an occupational health crisis in workplaces worldwide. The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) says that occupational health and safety should be recognised as an International Labour Organisation (ILO) fundamental right at work – the decent, universally accepted and binding rights protecting all workers, everywhere.
28 April 2021 International Workers’ Memorial Day theme announcement (also in French and Spanish). ITUC Campaign Brief. Resources and updates will be posted on the ITUC/Hazards dedicated 28 April webpages: www.28april.org Risks 981. 20 January 2021

Germany: New law ends subcontracting of meat jobs
After years of campaigning, the Germany food union NGG has succeeded in winning a new federal law ending subcontracting and curtailing temporary work in the meat sector. The global union for the sector, IUF, said this is an “important win” that comes after rights abuses as well as the low pay and poor work conditions suffered by migrant workers were exposed through the Covid-19 pandemic.
IUF news release. 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

Hazards news, 13 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: Tory cleaning cuts left NHS ‘woefully under-prepared’
There must be urgent investment to reverse swingeing cuts to NHS cleaning services over the last decade, the union GMB has said. Figures published by NHS Digital show that the full-time equivalent of almost a thousand NHS cleaners have been cut in England since 2010/11.
GMB news release. Risks 980. 13 January 2020

Britain: Scottish work injuries scheme needs reform
The UK industrial injuries scheme is not protecting workers from developing occupational diseases including Covid-19, Labour members of the Scottish parliament have said. Labour is calling for Scotland to introduce its own, more comprehensive scheme.
Proposed Scottish Employment Injuries Advisory Council Bill. Mark Griffin MSP on YouTube and related webpage on the Bill. Evening Express. Morning Star. Risks 980. 13 January 2020

Britain: Jail terms after electrocution on farm
A farmer whose ‘reckless disregard’ of the dangers of trying to do electrical work led to the death of his partner in their caravan home has been jailed. James Atkin had denied the manslaughter of Deana Simpson by gross negligence – but was found guilty following a trial at Warwick Crown Court.
HSE news release. Coventry Telegraph. Risks 980. 13 January 2020

Britain: Firefighter gets pioneering asbestos cancer treatment
A former part-time firefighter has secured the cost of a revolutionary cancer treatment as part of his asbestos disease compensation claim. Anthony Carlton, originally from Kent but who moved to Aberdare in 2006, is now receiving immunotherapy, a pioneering cancer treatment, as part of his mesothelioma settlement.
Thompsons Solicitors news release. Wales Online. 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

Korea: Union accuses steel firm of manslaughter
A pattern of fatal accidents at a global steel company will only be resolved when workers have the right to organise freely and participate in safety systems, the Korean Metal Workers’ Union (KMWU) has said. The KMWU had earlier indicated POSCO CEO Jeong-Woo Choi should the first person to be held accountable under a new corporate manslaughter law.
IndustriALL news release. Korea Times. 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

Hazards news, 4 January 2021

Britain: Warning on ‘serious ill-health’ risks of school reopening
A ‘chaotic’ reopening of schools in England is leaving education staff at risk of ‘serious ill-health’, education unions have warned. A 4 January union joint statement on the safe reopening of schools signed by GMB, NAHT, NASUWT, NEU, UNISON and Unite came as the majority of primary schools in in the country were set to reopen.
Joint union statement. GMB news release. NEU news release. The Guardian. Morning Star and related story. BBC News Online and related story. Labourlist.
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 979. 4 January 2021

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 st