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Hazards news, 19 November 2020

Britain: Safety reps - tell the TUC what makes you sick
What health and safety problems are affecting union members in your workplace? The TUC wants to know and has just launched its biennial trade union Safety Reps’ Survey.
TUC health and safety reps’ survey 2020/21. Risks 974. 19 November 2020.

Britain: BEIS contract staff to ballot on Covid strike action
Up to 100 contracted-out support staff at the Business Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) could walk out in December over a lack of Covid safety, civil service union PCS has warned. The union is balloting facilities management members who work in security cleaning, porterage and postal services at 1 Victoria street of the Brexit department, for strike action next month because contractor ISS is refusing to wind down support services sufficiently to enable members to shield safely.
PCS news release. Risks 974. 19 November 2020.

Britain: Bus strike warning as services ‘near normal’ levels
A return to near pre-Covid passenger numbers on West Yorkshire’s buses is leaving transport workers at risk as they struggle with reduced schedules and absent staff, Unite has warned. Nearly 400 bus drivers in Bradford, employed by First West Yorkshire, will be balloted for strike action from 23 November in a dispute over the company’s refusal to restore the bus schedule to pre-pandemic levels, leaving workers under a great deal of stress as they are made to work long shifts, covering for absent colleagues.
Unite news release. Risks 974. 19 November 2020.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Britain: Working drivers denied access to toilets
Professional drivers are routinely and illegally denied access to toilets during working hours, a union survey of thousands of professional drivers has found. The research by the Unite involved over 6,000 of its driver members and found that during their normal working day, 70 per cent do not have adequate access to toilets and washing facilities.
Unite news release. Risks 974. 19 November 2020.

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

Britain: Professional drivers put at greater risk of cancer
Professional drivers are facing a routine and serious health risk from diesel exhaust fume exposures at work. In what they described as “the largest real-world in-vehicle personal exposure study to date”, researchers from the MRC Centre for Environment and Health, Environmental Research Group and Imperial College London, found that professional drivers are regularly exposed to hazardous levels of diesel emissions as part of their work.
IOSH news release and full report.
See the Hazards magazine feature Fuming, factsheet Diesel out and poster Die diesel die. Risks 974. 19 November 2020.

Britain: Criminal violence against journalists ‘must be punished’
The journalists’ union NUJ has called on the Scottish authorities to ‘hunt down’ the perpetrators of an attack aimed at silencing Glasgow journalists. On Sunday 1 November, the car belonging to the founder and publisher of The Digger magazine, James Cruickshank, was firebombed in Glasgow and local shops were visited and told to stop selling the publication, according to Press Gazette.
NUJ news release and NUJ safety report 2020. Hold the Front Page. The Press Gazette. Risks 974. 19 November 2020.

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

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

Britain: Fears for maternity services as staffing shortages hit
The safety of maternity services is under serious threat, according to a new survey by the Royal College of Midwives (RCM). The union survey found that more than eight out of 10 midwives (83 per cent) do not believe their NHS Trust or Board has enough staff to operate a safe service.
RCM news release. Risks 974. 19 November 2020.

Britain: Asthma risk linked to permanent night shift work
Shift workers, especially those working permanent night shift rotas, may be at heightened risk of moderate to severe asthma, new UK research has indicated. The new findings, published online in the journal Thorax, found there was a 36 per cent increase in the odds of having moderate to severe asthma in permanent night shift workers compared to those working normal office hours, while the odds of wheeze or airway whistling were 11-18 per cent higher among those working any of the three shift patterns.
Maidstone R, Turner J, Vetter C and others. Night shift work is associated with an increased risk of asthma, Thorax, Published Online First: 16 November 2020. doi: 10.1136/thoraxjnl-2020-215218 Risks 974. 19 November 2020.

Australia: Gig worker deaths highlights need for rights
The recent deaths of three fast food delivery drivers illustrates the urgent need to provide these workers legal protection, the national secretary of Australia’s Transport Workers’ Union (TWU) has said. Michael Kaine, writing in the Sydney Morning Herald, said the dead workers had “hustled for one-off jobs from digital platforms, where pay is dictated by opaque algorithms.”
Sydney Morning Herald and related story on risking injury rates. The Guardian. More on health and safety and insecure work. Risks 974. 19 November 2020.

Global: Systemic failures on seafarers’ hours
New research has identified “systemic failures” in the implementation of the regulatory regime protecting seafarers’ hours of work and rest, undermining the credibility of international regulations relating to working hours. ‘A culture of adjustment’, a report from a team at the World Maritime University (WMU), confirms previous research that suggested recording malpractices are widespread, which seriously undermines the capacity of the current regulatory framework to prevent fatigue and mitigate its effects.
ITF Seafarers’ Trust news release. WMU report. Risks 974. 19 November 2020.

Southern Africa: Site unions seek greater involvement
Construction unions across Southern Africa are calling for greater involvement in workplace safety. Global building workers’ union BWI said its training on labour inspections for trade union educators from Mauritius (CMWEU), Mozambique (SINTICIM), Namibia (MANWU), South Africa (BCAWU and NUM), Zambia (NUBEGW) and Zimbabwe (CLAWUZ and ZCATWU) “aimed to create greater union involvement in the monitoring and inspection of worksites and develop new indices to counter-check the usual occupational health and safety (OHS) descriptors of companies.”
BWI news report. Risks 974. 19 November 2020.

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

Hazards news, 14 November 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Britain: Work injury and sickness levels soar as enforcement falls
The Health and Safety Executive’s new workplace injury and ill-health statistics have revealed a major increase in the numbers being harmed at work. The figures show 1.6 million workers suffering from work-related ill-health, up from 1.4m the previous year; within this total, 638,000 were new cases of work-related ill-health, up over 28 per cent from 497,000 cases in 2018/19; and the non-fatal injury toll has seen a 20 per cent increase on the previous year, rising to 693,000 workers sustaining non-fatal injuries in 2019/2020 from the figure of 581,000 in 2018/19.
HSE news release and statistics summary for 2019 and 2018 comparison. Risks 973. 14 November 2020

Britain: Undercover police spied on union reps ‘for decades’
Undercover police officers spied on union reps raising safety and employment rights concerns ‘for decades’, an inquiry has heard. In his 6 November opening statements, made on behalf of trade unions represented at the Undercover Policing Inquiry chaired by Judge Mittings, Lord John Hendy QC said the infiltration dated back to at least 1973.
Unite news release and Block the Spycops Bill campaign. NUJ news release. Morning Star. Risks 973. 14 November 2020

Britain: Union campaign on facilities in Brexit lorry parks
Brexit lorry parks must provide decent facilities for the drivers who may end up stranded there, their union Unite has said. MPs and councillors in Kent are to be lobbied by Unite “to ensure that decent welfare facilities are installed at all lorry parks built in the county, to manage transport delays as a result of the UK’s transition deal with the European Union ceasing at the end of December,” the union said.
Unite news release. Risks 973. 14 November 2020

Britain: Firefighter’s water training death an ‘avoidable tragedy’
Firefighters’ union FBU has broadly welcomed the recommendations of an investigation the into a water training accident that resulted in the death of 35-year-old firefighter Josh Gardener. The union was commenting after Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) chief inspector Andrew Moll said: “This tragic accident could have been avoided had the training activities been properly planned and communicated to all the fire and rescue crew on the water that morning.”
FBU news release. MAIB news release and report. BBC News Online. Wales Online. Risks 973. 14 November 2020

Truck firm fined after employee engulfed in fireball
A haulage firm in Scotland has been fined for the serious criminal safety failings that left a young worker with horrific injuries after he was engulfed in flames in a gas cylinder explosion. A hearing at Paisley Sheriff Court saw Linwood firm A&D Logistics being ordered to pay £48,000 for failures that resulted in worker Dean Beggs suffering life-changing burns to his face, arms and hands.
HSE news release. Daily Record. Risks 973. 14 November 2020

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

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

Canada: Suicide highlights pressures in visual effects work
Malcolm Angell took his own life in May, a tragedy former colleagues and unions believe was linked to his working conditions in Canada’s visual effects industry. Colleagues of the 46-year-old New Zealander who moved to Montreal in 2019 to work in the city’s famed visual effects industry allege the work environment at his workplace, Mill Film, was toxic, with 80-hour work weeks common.
Kamloops This Week. More on work-related suicide.
UK ACTION! Use the Hazards e-postcard to tell the safety regulator HSE to recognise, record and take action to prevent work-related suicides. www.hazards.org/hsesuicide Risks 973. 14 November 2020

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

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

Hazards news, 7 November 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Britain: UK not ready for two national emergencies at once
Fire and rescue services won’t be prepared to deal with major threats to the UK without more firefighters, the firefighters’ union FBU has warned. The union said the combined threats of climate change related events, terrorism, and the post-Grenfell building safety crisis will require the immediate funding for at least 5,000 firefighters in the next year, to ensure the fire and rescue service can tackle “the risks of today and tomorrow”.
FBU news release. Risks 972. 7 November 2020

Britain: NUJ demands action to protect and safeguard journalists
A survey by the journalists’ union NUJ has uncovered ‘shocking evidence’ of abuse and harassment, with journalists revealing they have been punched, threatened with knives, forcibly detained, kicked and spat at while doing their job. As well as physical assault, NUJ says it members are being threatened online and offline, including death threats, rape threats and other threats to their families and homes.
NUJ safety report 2020. IFJ news release, end immunity campaign and report, Dirty Hands; Still in Power. Risks 972. 7 November 2020

Global: FBU backs investigation call into Beirut chemical blast
The UK Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has joined Amnesty International in calling on the UK government to press for a full international investigation into the devastating explosion in Beirut three months ago. In a new one-minute video, UK firefighter Holly Ferguson, 36, who has been in the fire service for 11 years, says the Lebanese firefighters were “badly let down” by officials who knew that dangerous chemicals were stored at the port but failed to pass on this information.
Amnesty International news release and video. Morning Star. Risks 972. 7 November 2020

RMT wants Serco thrown off the Caledonian Sleeper
Rail union RMT has launched a petition calling on Transport Scotland to take action to help resolve the union’s ongoing dispute with Caledonian Sleeper operator Serco over staff fatigue and safety. RMT says it has been seeking to reach a fair and reasonable resolution which addresses the main causes of staff fatigue over a period of months, but says Serco has continually refused to take action and rejected the union’s reasonable proposals.
RMT news release and petition. Risks 972. 7 November 2020

Britain: Site firm fined for concrete pour injuries
Construction company Axio (Special Works) Limited has been fined after an employee was struck by the placing boom of a concrete pump during a pour, causing serious injuries. During the pour, the ground beneath one of the pump outriggers collapsed, causing the concrete pipe and boom to strike the employee, dislocating and fracturing his hip, fracturing his spine and tearing ligaments and muscles; he was later diagnosed with a brain injury.
HSE news release. Construction Enquirer. Risks 972. 7 November 2020

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

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

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

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

Hazards news, 31 October 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Britain: ‘Nonsensical’ rail contract changes ‘jeopardise track safety’
Railway track safety standards and jobs in Nottinghamshire, South Yorkshire and Scotland are being put in jeopardy by ‘nonsensical’ Network Rail plans to switch its track component suppliers, Unite has warned. The long-time holder of the contracts, Progress Rail Services, has been informed that the work will be carried out elsewhere when the current contracts come to an end.
Unite news release. Risks 971. 31 October 2020

Britain: Epidemic of ill-health revealed at Heathrow
A confidential survey of workers at London’s Heathrow Airport has revealed an ‘epidemic’ of work-related mental and physical ill-health. The findings of the Unite survey comes as Heathrow Airport Limited (HAL) is gearing up to use a highly controversial ‘fire and rehire’ strategy to shift staff to worse contracts on lower pay.
Unite news release. Risks 971. 31 October 2020

Britain: Recruiters banned after exploiting agricultural workers
A husband and wife have been banned from acting as company directors for a total of 21 years after they exploited and abused agricultural workers. Inspectors from the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA) discovered that between July 2017 and September 2018, Simon and Julie Melville failed to make holiday payments to 186 employees, charged employees for safety equipment which should have been supplied free of charge and didn’t provide employees with copies of their contracts.
Insolvency Service news release. GLAA news release. Risks 971. 31 October 2020

Britain: Transport firm fined £5,000 for agency driver’s death
A transport company has been fined after a worker was fatally injured when the pallet of stone tiles he was attempting to deliver fell onto him. High Wycombe Magistrates’ Court heard how, on 23 November 2016, agency driver Petru Pop, 52, died while carrying out a delivery for Reason Transport UK Limited in High Wycombe.
HSE news release. Motor Transport. Buckinghamshire Free Press. Risks 971. 31 October 2020

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

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

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

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

Hazards news, 24 October 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Britain: Organisation not resilience tackles stressful work
Resilience, mindfulness or other ‘stress-busting’ initiatives aren’t the answer to stressful work – but organising in your union to tackle that stress is, the TUC has said. While measures to support affected workers are fine, “they ignore that stress is often a result of work itself, requiring a change to work structures, rather than a shift in the behaviours and attitudes of individuals,” points out TUC safety lead Shelly Asquith.
TUC blog. TUC and HSE joint guide to managing stress. Hazards magazine work stress resources. Risks 970. 24 October 2020

Britain: Concern at Sumburgh helicopter crash inquiry findings
Offshore union RMT has said a ‘narrow’ inquiry had wrongly laid the blame for a helicopter crash on ‘pilot error’ when a critical safety system in the craft had not been enabled. RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “The fact remains that the tragedy would have been avoided if the safety systems in the helicopter had been enabled.”
Fatal Accident Inquiry determination. RMT news release. BBC News Online. The Guardian. Press and Journal. Risks 970. 24 October 2020

Britain: Footballer’s dementia death ‘an industrial disease’
A former Wales international footballer died from dementia linked to repeatedly heading the ball, an inquest has heard. Coroner John Gittins concluded former midfielder Alan Jarvis died from Alzheimer's “caused by his occupation.”
BBC News Online. PFA dementia support. Risks 970. 24 October 2020

Britain: Council fined after assault on teacher by pupil
Luton Borough Council has been fined after a teacher in one of its schools was violently attacked and left disabled and unable to work. Assistant headteacher Gillian Stephens was left brain damaged after she was hit repeatedly over the head with a mobile phone by a female pupil in Putteridge High School on 17 June 2016.
HSE news release. Luton Today. Risks 970. 24 October 2020

Europe: Major reforms signalled on chemicals policy
The European Commission has signalled the biggest reform of chemical regulation in over a decade, saying it will shift the focus of EU legislation away from the safe use of harmful chemicals to avoiding their use in the first place. The strategy includes a wide range of policy initiatives, including a phase-out of all the most harmful substances, measures to better take into account the effect of chemicals in combination and a commitment to ban the export of hazardous chemicals already banned in the EU
European Commission press notice and associated briefing and action points. EEB news release. ECHA news release. Environmental Health News. ENDS Europe. Risks 970. 24 October 2020

Pakistan: Six workers suffocate in factory chemical tank
Six workers have been asphyxiated while trying to clean a chemical tank in a garment factory near Naurus Chowrangi, Pakistan. After receiving information on 17 October that some workers were trapped in the tank, police and rescue workers arrived at the factory and took the six victims to a nearby private hospital, where doctors pronounced them dead on arrival.
The News and follow up story. Risks 970. 24 October 2020

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

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

Hazards news, 17 October 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Britain: Domestic abuse is a workplace safety issue
The TUC has said health and safety law requires employers to act to protect workers from domestic violence and has called for more to be done at work to protect victims. In a TUC response to a government call for evidence, the TUC calls on the government to: “Ensure the Health and Safety Executive has sufficient additional resources to prioritise compliance and enforcement of existing health and safety legislation in relation to preventing and tackling domestic abuse in the workplace.”
Support in the workplace for victims of domestic abuse: TUC response to BEIS call for evidence, 5 October 2020. Full TUC response. Risks 969. 17 October 2020

Britain: Working drivers need Brexit lorry bottleneck guarantees
Lorry drivers need “cast iron guarantees” they won’t end up stranded without access to decent food and welfare facilities in Brexit bottlenecks, their union Unite has said. Commenting on the government's confirmation of 10 Brexit lorry park locations and the introduction of the Kent Access Permit scheme for HGV drivers, Unite national officer Adrian Jones said: “Unite will be seeking cast iron guarantees that drivers will not be left twiddling their thumbs for days in concrete expanses where the only facilities are a few mucky portable toilets and an old burger van.”
Unite news release. The Mirror. Risks 969. 17 October 2020

Britain: Second Sleeper safety strike goes ahead
A second ‘rock solid’ 48-hour safety strike by rail workers has taken place on the Caledonian Sleeper. The action by RMT members on the SERCO-operated service, angry at exhausting rosters, took place on 8-9 September.
RMT news release. The Herald. The Scotsman. Risks 969. 17 October 2020

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

Britain: Asbestos, real and present danger, conference, 27 November
A free online half-day conference for trade unions and others concerned about asbestos risks is to examine how the greatest industrial killer still poses a real danger today. The event, organised by asbestos support groups in Yorkshire and Humberside, Derbyshire and the Midlands, will take place on Friday 27 November. Speakers include occupational disease advocates and medical experts, and a fair trade expert looking at the implications of Brexit and trade deals on asbestos policies and practices.
Register for the Asbestos, real and present danger conference, Friday 27 November 2020, 09:30am–12:30pm. Risks 969. 17 October 2020

Europe: Unions back ‘lighten the load’ campaign
Europe’s lead trade union body has backed a new EU-wide campaign addressing musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) at work. A declaration from ETUC welcoming the campaign noted: “The European trade union movement believes that a more comprehensive EU legislation on MSDs is needed, and the member states should include MSDs in their national strategies.”
EU-OSHA news release and Lighten the load campaign website. ETUC declaration. Risks 969. 17 October 2020

Europe: Major coalition aims to stop cancer at work
A Stop Cancer at Work Campaign has been launched by coalition of professional organisations, trades unions and patient groups. The groups say their objective is to ensure that the current fourth revision of the Carcinogens and Mutagens Directive (CMD) includes groups of carcinogenic and mutagenic hazardous drugs, which cause cancer, and that have not been included by the European Commission in proposals published on 22 September 2020.
Stop Cancer at Work campaign news release, website and petition. Risks 969. 17 October 2020

Global: Health and safety at work is ‘fundamental’
The global union body ITUC has condemned employer representatives and employer-aligned governments for blocking moves to get health and safety at work recognised formally as a “fundamental right.” Despite a pledge in the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) Centenary Declaration adopted last year that all workers should have adequate health and safety protection, the industry lobby and compliant governments are blocking discussion of the issue at the ILO’s Governing Body meeting in November.
ITUC news release. IOE statement. Risks 969. 17 October 2020

Korea: Overwork concern as another delivery worker dies
Unions in Korea are demanding rigorous safety measures to protect deliver workers after another death they say is linked to overwork. The Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) said the CJ Logistics worker, who was a 20-year veteran, had delivered around 400 parcels on average each day, working from 6:30am to around 9 to 10pm, adding: “Of the eight delivery workers who died from overworking, five of them worked for CJ Logistics.”
Korea Herald. Yonhap News. Risks 969. 17 October 2020

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

Hazards news, 10 October 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Britain: Victory for union on bus remote sign on
Unite has scored a victory in its campaign against the introduction of highly controversial remote sign-on operating procedures. Bus operator HCT (Hackney Community Transport) confirmed to the union that it has withdrawn proposals to introduce remote sign on at its Walthamstow garage in North East London.
Unite news release. Risks 968. 10 October 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

Global: Amazon ‘in denial’ over work injury ‘crisis’
Online retail giant Amazon is ‘in denial about its appalling safety record’ after a new report revealed accidents are significantly higher in warehouses with robots, the union GMB has said. The union was commenting after a Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR) probe found serious injuries are 50 per cent higher for fulfilment centres that have robots than those without.
How Amazon hid its safety crisis, Center for Investigative Reporting, 29 September 2020. GMB news release. BBC News Online. CBS News. Risks 968. 10 October 2020

Britain: Workers concerned about remote monitoring
Workers are ‘deeply uncomfortable’ about the introduction of remote monitoring technology by employers, a Prospect poll has found. Two-thirds of workers are uncomfortable with workplace tech like keystroke and camera monitoring and wearables being used when working remotely, the union said.
Prospect news release. Hazards workplace privacy webpages. Risks 968. 10 October 2020

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

Britain: Usdaw and retailers want shop violence inquiry
A retail industry coalition has written to Yvette Cooper, the chair of the Commons Home Affairs Committee, calling for an inquiry into violence and abuse against shop workers. The coalition includes retail union Usdaw and trade bodies the British Retail Consortium (BRC), the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) and the National Federation of Retail Newsagents (NRFN).
Usdaw news release and petition. Risks 968. 10 October 2020

Britain: Second censure for MoD over diving death
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has been issued with a Crown Censure by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after a military diver died during training. The censure followed an incident on 14 November 2018, where 26-year-old Marine Benjamin McQueen was brought back to surface after he became separated from other divers.
HSE news release. Risks 968. 10 October 2020

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

Hazards news, 3 October 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Britain: Brexit chaos could ‘strand’ HGV drivers at ports
Michael Gove has been accused of being ‘evasive and blame-shifting’ on Britain’s border readiness with 100 days to go before full Brexit. Transport union Unite was responding to the Cabinet office minister’s comments to the House of Commons on 23 September on the UK’s preparations for the end of the EU transition period on 31 December, after the government published its scenario document on the implications for the UK’s port trade hubs.
Unite news release. Risks 967. 3 October 2020

Britain: Uber decision ‘a sad day for the travelling public’
The news that Uber has won its appeal against Transport for London's (TfL) decision not to renew its licence has been met with concern by Unite. The union, which represents nearly 1,000 taxi cab drivers in the capital, was reacting to the ruling by Westminster magistrates court that Uber was now ‘fit and proper’ to hold an operator’s licence.
Unite news release. London mayor statement. BBC News Online. Risks 967. 3 October 2020

Britain: Call for immediate action on deadly silica risks
MPs are being urged to take immediate action to prevent avoidable deaths and illness caused by exposure to respirable crystalline silica. The British Occupational Hygiene Society (BOHS), the scientific society on workplace health exposures, has written to MPs calling for action on a dust hazard which could put over 2 million workers at risk in the construction industry alone.
BOHS news release. Unite silica dust campaign and silica exposure register.
Biting the dust: HSE defends a silica standard six times more deadly, Hazards, number 148, December 2019.
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. Risks 967. 3 October 2020

Britain: HSE inspections to target site dust
Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspectors across Great Britain will be targeting construction firms to check that their health standards are up to scratch during a month-long inspection initiative, starting on 5 October 2020. The safety regulator says it will be looking at the measures businesses have in place to protect their workers’ lungs from potentially deadly hazards including asbestos, silica and wood dust.
HSE news release. Risks 967. 3 October 2020

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

Britain: RMT says unfilled vacancies are causing safety hazards
Safety on Scotland’s rail network is being jeopardised by the ‘double whammy’ of 200 unfilled job vacancies at Network Rail and private contractors planning redundancies, rail union RMT has warned. A motion tabled in the Scottish parliament calls on the Scottish government to ensure safety on the network by employing sufficient workers to maintain the rail infrastructure.
RMT news release. Morning Star. Risks 967. 3 October 2020

Britain: Progress on law to protect Scottish shopworkers
Retail trade union Usdaw has welcomed the Scottish parliament’s stage one unanimous vote for a new law to protect shop workers from abuse. The vote on 24 September allows the Bill to go forward for detailed scrutiny in committee. The Protection of Workers (Retail and Age-restricted Goods and Services) (Scotland) Bill is promoted by Daniel Johnson MSP.
Usdaw news release. Protection of Workers (Retail and Age-restricted Goods and Services) (Scotland) Bill. Risks 967. 3 October 2020

Britain: Firm fined £2m after water jetting fatality
A company has been fined £2 million after a worker suffered a fatal injury while cleaning waste water pipes. Birmingham Magistrates Court heard how, on 18 June 2017, Joseph McDonald was using high pressure water jetting equipment to clear paint residue from pipes in the paint shop at a car manufacturing site in Solihull.
HSE news release. Leamington Observer. Risks 967. 3 October 2020

Canada: Anger as ‘non-profit’ pushes asbestos globally
A lobby group promoting asbestos sales in developing nations and listed in Quebec as a public interest ‘non-profit’ should be deregistered by the provincial government, health campaigners have said. In a letter to Quebec Premier François Legault, Kathleen Ruff of RightOnCanada and Dr Jean Zigby, past president of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, call for the International Chrysotile Association (ICA) to be stripped of its non-profit status under the Quebec Companies Act.
RightOnCanada blog and 21 September letter to the Quebec Premier. Risks 967. 3 October 2020

Europe: Industry tries to stall hazardous chemicals database
A coalition of 40 manufacturing industry organisations has urged the European Commission to put the brakes on a new EU chemicals database requiring suppliers selling products containing hazardous substances to provide extra information about their chemical constituents. The trade bodies, which represent business across wide sections of the economy from aerospace to battery manufacturers, wrote to commission president Ursula von der Leyen on 21 September urging her to postpone by at least one year the European Chemicals Agency’s (ECHA) new Substances of Concern in Products (SCIP) database.
Ends Europe. Industries letter to EC president Ursula von der Leyen. Risks 967. 3 October 2020

Europe: Work cancer action welcome, but not enough
Trade unions have welcomed action by the European Commission they say will protect over 1.1 million people from work-related cancer by putting binding exposure limits on three dangerous substances. The Commission has proposed Binding Occupational Exposure Limit Values (BOELs) on acrylonitrile, nickel compounds and benzene as part of an update to its Carcinogens and Mutagens Directive (CMD).
EC news release and Commission Proposal for the fourth revision of the Carcinogens and Mutagens Directive. ETUC news release. Risks 967. 3 October 2020

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

Hazards news, 26 September 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Britain: Unite anger at post-Brexit chaos revelations
Unite has called for the public release of a leaked government document warning of potential queues of up to 7,000 lorries across Kent after the Brexit transition period ends on 31 December. Unite national officer Adrian Jones said: “The government must now release the leaked document on prospective impacts in Kent, as well as similar documents for other port regions across the UK, so workers, communities, councils and businesses can properly prepare
Unite news release. The Guardian. BBC News Online. Risks 966. 26 September 2020

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

Britain: Welcome move on spitting, no move on protection
Retail trade union Usdaw has welcomed official recognition that deliberately spitting or coughing at a worker is ‘assault’, but is concerned workers in the sector will continue to lack the necessary legal protection. The union was responding on 15 September to a Sentencing Council consultation on assault offences, which proposes the introduction of ‘intention to cause fear of serious harm, including disease transmission’ as a high culpability factor, with ‘spitting or coughing’ as an aggravating factor.
Usdaw news release and petition. Sentencing Council assault offences consultation, closed 15 September 2020. Risks 966. 26 September 2020

Government refuses to protect shop workers
Retail trade union Usdaw has said it is ‘disappointed but not surprised’ by the UK government’s 15 September response to a parliamentary petition calling for a law to protect retail staff from violence, threats and abuse. Paddy Lillis commented: “We deeply disappointed by the government’s response to the petition.”
Usdaw news release and petition. Violence and Abuse Toward Shop Staff – Government Response. Risks 966. 26 September 2020

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

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

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

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

Hazards news, 19 September 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Britain: London bus drivers in strike ballot over remote sign on
London bus drivers employed by Singapore-owned Metroline will be balloted next week for industrial action in a dispute over the company’s proposals to introduce a controversial and ‘reckless’ remote sign on system. Remote sign on means drivers do not report to a depot to start work but meet their bus and begin work at an alternative location such as a bus stop.
Unite news release. Risks 965. 19 September 2020

Britain: RSPCA workers at risk from violent pet owners
RSPCA lone workers visiting violent animal owners face a risk of attack, as a ‘failure of management’ crisis continues to dog the 196-year-old charity, Unite has warned. The union said long-serving employees of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) could lose their ‘homes for life’, as the charity plans to sack nearly 300 workers to plug a £47 million funding gap, as well closing four animal centres.
Unite news release. Risks 965. 19 September 2020

Britain: Usdaw calls for better protection of shop workers
Retail trade union Usdaw has repeated its call for a change in the law to better protect shop workers. Dave McCrossen, Usdaw’s deputy general secretary, said: “That’s why Usdaw has launched a petition calling on the government to make it a specific offence to abuse, threaten or assault a shopworker.”
Usdaw news release. Sign the parliamentary petition calling for protection of retail staff from violence, threats and abuse. Government response to the petition. Risks 965. 19 September 2020

Britain: Jail terms for attacking emergency workers to be doubled
The maximum penalty for assaulting police officers, nurses or any other emergency workers is to be doubled from one to two years, the government has announced. A law will be introduced raising the maximum sentence to two years in jail and will, the MoJ said, offer greater protection to emergency workers, including police, prison officers, custody officers, fire service personnel, search and rescue services and frontline health workers.
The Guardian. Risks 965. 19 September 2020

Britain: UNISON in homecare worker travel time pay victory
The government must end the practice of employers denying care staff wages for time spent travelling between visits to the sick and elderly, UNISON has said. The call from the public sector union follows a significant legal victory by a group of homecare workers over illegal pay, in a case brought by UNISON.
UNISON news release. The Guardian. More on the hazards of low pay. Risks 965. 19 September 2020

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

DR Congo: At least 50 killed DRC gold mine collapse
At least 50 people are thought to have died when an artisanal gold mine collapsed near Kamituga in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, a local mining NGO said. The cave-in occurred on the Detroit mine site at around 3pm local time on 11 September following heavy rains, said Emiliane Itongwa, president of the Initiative of Support and Social Supervision of Women.
Aljazeera. The Guardian. Risks 965. 19 September 2020

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

Hazards news, 12 September 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pakistan: Many dead in marble mine collapse
At least 22 workers have been killed and dozens are battling for their lives after a 7 September rock collapse at a famed marble mine in Pakistan's Ziarat Ghar mountain. Kemal Özkan, assistant general secretary with the global union for the sector, IndustriALL, commented: “It’s a massacre,” adding: “Pakistan cannot wait for more workers dying and must work with national and international agencies, including the ILO and global unions, to improve mine safety.”
IndustriALL news release. The Hindu. Discourse on Development. Risks 964. 12 September 2020

Hazards news, 6 September 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Britain: Asbestos app could lead to blacklisting - Unite
An app which rates the performance of asbestos workers could potentially be used to blacklist workers, Unite has warned. The construction union says the app, launched by the Asbestos Removal Contractors Association (ARCA), allows contractors to rate operatives which the union believes could be used to victimise and blacklist workers.
Unite news release. ARCA news release. Construction Enquirer. Risks 963. 6 September 2020

Britain: Shopworkers’ Protection Pledge backed by Usdaw
Shopworkers’ trade union Usdaw is supporting a campaign by the British Retail Consortium (BRC) to improve legislation to protect shopworkers from violence. The BRC Shopworkers’ Protection Pledge has been signed by MPs who support legislation necessary to protect shopworkers.
Usdaw news release and petition. Risks 963. 6 September 2020

Britain: 'Shocking' lack of regulation at Leicester garment firms
Leicester’s garment district, which is home to more 1,000 factories, has received fewer than 60 health and safety inspections and only 28 fire inspections since October 2017 despite long-held concerns about working conditions, a Guardian investigation has found. The paper said the figures highlight the low rate of regulatory oversight of factories in Leicester despite the creation of a multi-agency group to try and tackle their problems in October 2017.
The Guardian. Risks 963. 6 September 2020

Britain: Isle of Wight firms fined over site worker death
Three firms have been fined for criminal safety failings after a worker was fatally injured on a building site. David Shayler, 53, died in hospital after he was hit on the head by masonry at the site in Newport, Isle of Wight, in October 2016.
HSE news release. BBC News Online. Island Echo. Risks 963. 6 September 2020

Britain: MoD censured following death of military diver
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has been issued with a Crown Censure by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after a military diver died during training. On 26 March 2018, 27-year-old Lance Corporal George Partridge was brought back to surface after he stopped responding to lifeline signals while he was underwater.
HSE news release. Risks 963. 6 September 2020

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

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

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

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

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