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Risks is the TUC's weekly newsletter for safety reps and others, sponsored by Thompsons Solicitors.

Risks: Union health and safety news - number 1001 - 17 June 2021

In this issue: 
COVID NEWS OTHER NEWS EVENTS ACTION INTERNATIONAL NEWS PUBLICATION TUC COURSES FOR SAFETY REPS  

COVID NEWS

Government’s ‘reckless’ sick pay shocker killed workers

Evidence the UK government deliberately suppressed information on how workers could be temporarily furloughed on 80 per cent of their wages when forced to self-isolate due to Covid-19 has exposed a “reckless” approach that has “cost lives”, Unite has said. The union was commenting after emails obtained by the Politico website revealed that in January and February this year — when the second wave was surging —  the Treasury instructed senior government officials to conceal from the public how a little-known part of the furlough scheme could be used to access isolation sick pay, as the cost of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme soared. The emails show the Treasury’s instruction was opposed by other senior civil servants. Unite said since the pandemic began the low levels of statutory sick pay at just £96.35 a week has been a major factor in workers with symptoms of Covid-19 feeling unable to self-isolate. In contrast if a worker is furloughed they receive 80 per cent of their pay. Unite national officer Joe Clarke said: “This revelation is absolutely disgusting and demonstrates that the government acted recklessly with the safety of workers. The government cynically suppressed this information from businesses at a time when over 1,000 people a day were dying from Covid.” He added: “This decision will have cost lives, led to increased infections and meant that successive lockdowns have lasted longer than necessary, further damaging the economy. This is a government that has been shown to have repeatedly given huge contracts to their friends. But when it comes to the workers who have kept the economy going through the pandemic, they suppressed the information needed to keep them safe and financially secure.”
Unite new release. Politico.
 

One worker in ten ‘forced back into workplace’

Bosses are blatantly ignoring official Covid guidance by forcing staff back into workplaces, a TUC poll has revealed. The TUC comments came as the government put back the planned 21 June easing of restrictions in England for another four weeks until 19 July, reiterating its work from home if you can guidance. However the TUC found around 9 per cent of workers say they have been put under pressure to return to their workplaces, with the number leaping to 17 per cent among disabled staff. The poll suggests that as many as a quarter of workers are operating from offices or other workplaces despite being able to work from home. This is contrary to current government guidance – and the union body says it is “the tip of the iceberg” of employers ignoring their health and safety responsibilities. The TUC polling reveals that 46 per cent of workers say their boss has not taken steps to improve workplace airflow, 17 per cent have not been given personal protective equipment (PPE) and 11 per cent say that social distancing has not been enabled in their workplace. Yet despite the clear lack of action and Covid outbreaks in many workplaces, no employer has yet been prosecuted for breaching Covid guidelines. Calling for more enforcement resources for the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which Conservative administrations have hobbled through massive funding cuts, TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Employers should not be able to ignore government safety guidance with impunity. The government must send out a clear message to employers to play by the rules or face serious action.”
TUC news release. Prime minister’s office news release. NHS Confederation news release. BBC News Online. Morning Star.
 

Bus safety rules must be extended, says Unite

The government must ensure the current rules on mask wearing and reduced capacity on public transport are properly enforced and that the measures continue beyond 19 July when the UK’s remaining restrictions are set to end. The union was commenting after the 14 June announcement by Boris Johnson that the 21 June date for easing of lockdown restrictions has been abandoned. The prime minister said 19 July would now be the ‘terminus date’ for the remaining restrictions on social contact. In response, Unite is calling on the government to ensure current rules are enforced and that mask wearing and reduced capacity rules continue after other restrictions are relaxed on 19 July. Unite national officer for passenger transport Bobby Morton said: “The increasing Covid-19 infection rates are putting passengers and bus drivers at renewed risk. Unless there is clear enforcement of the existing rules on mask wearing and social distancing on public transport, drivers and passengers will be needlessly infected.” He added: “It is the absolute responsibility of the bus companies, working alongside the police and other enforcement bodies, to ensure that the rules are followed. Equally, with the danger of Covid infection set to continue for some time, the rules on mask wearing and on reduced capacity need to continue well beyond the current four-week extension.  This is in order to protect the health of the travelling public and provide clear reassurance for those who are nervous and reluctant to return to public transport.”
Unite news release.
 

Ministers must extend furlough, says TUC

The UK government must extend the furlough scheme in line with the continuation of restrictions, the TUC has said. The union body comments followed Office for National Statistics employment figures showing employee jobs are still down by 550,000. TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “While it’s good that people are returning to work as parts of the economy re-open, the recovery has a long way to go. Payrolled employment is still down by over half a million.” She added: “In many industries employment is still well down. Manufacturing jobs are down by 105,000, jobs in arts and entertainment have fallen by 110,000, and roles in accommodation and food services are down by 350,000. And three million people are still on furlough.” The TUC leader said: “Government must delay asking businesses to make contributions to the furlough scheme in July and extend the scheme as long as needed.”
TUC news release. ONS statistics. BBC News Online
 

Joint safety campaign as hospitality reopens

Regional tourism body Welcome to Yorkshire has joined with the TUC in an awareness campaign that asks customers to respect the safety of staff by keeping windows and doors in hospitality venues open. Jointly branded posters have been designed for display in hospitality and culture venues, highlighting the importance of fresh air and ventilation in reducing Covid transmission. The campaign says that 44 per cent of the hospitality and tourism workforce is aged between 16-34 and as a consequence unvaccinated. TUC Yorkshire and the Humber regional secretary Bill Adams said:  “We are experts in the world of health and safety, and we encourage all employers to work with us to support their staff. We know that fresh air and ventilation indoors is one of the key factors that reduces Covid transmission, and the TUC and Welcome to Yorkshire are promoting this important message together.” He added: “People are excited to get out and have a good time, but that should never be at the expense of customer or workers’ health and safety. We’re asking everyone to think about that before they close windows or doors deliberately left open by staff.” Welcome to Yorkshire CEO James Mason said: “As we enter the summer months and approach the time when further restrictions may be lifted across the UK, we should still be mindful that air circulation is a key factor to keeping staff and customers virus free. Therefore, in conjunction with the TUC, we are providing posters which all businesses can download to help promote this message in venues and workplaces across Yorkshire.”
TUC news release and campaign posters.
 

Unite welcomes closure of Covid hit restaurant

Unite has welcomed the decision by a top Edinburgh restaurant to close temporarily following a Covid outbreak among staff. It is understood 26 members of staff at The Ivy on the Square have tested positive. Initially, restaurant workers from the chain’s Glasgow restaurant were reportedly drafted in to cover the absences. However, following pressure from Unite, which represents many of the restaurant workers, management decided to close the Edinburgh restaurant for a deep clean and to protect staff. Carrie Binnie, Unite industrial officer, said: “Unite made representations to The Ivy chain headquartered in London to temporarily close down the Edinburgh restaurant following the serious concerns raised by members of staff after the Covid outbreak. We are pleased that these concerns on health and safety grounds have been accepted. The Ivy will be temporarily closed in order to conduct a deep clean and to protect staff after 26 workers tested positive for Covid.” The Unite officer added: “The Ivy must respect its workforce and not penalise them through no fault of their own by making them take annual leave or not paying their wages in full. If they do, then Unite will explore all legal avenues open to us in order to vigorously represent our members."
Unite news release.
 

Care employers failing to pay Covid-hit staff

A third of care staff get less than £100 a week — and more than one in 10 no pay at all — if forced to stay at home by coronavirus, their union has revealed. A survey of thousands of care staff carried out by UNISON found that many are put under pressure by bosses to go to work, even if displaying Covid-19 symptoms or needing to self-isolate. Separate evidence seen by the union confirms that many care companies refuse to pay full wages for staff affected by Covid, or tell them to use their leave. Half (51 per cent) of those surveyed have had to self-isolate during the pandemic, and only half of those received full pay. Over 1-in-10 (11 per cent) received nothing and a third received statutory sick pay of just £96.35 a week — despite government advice to employers to pay staff in full, backed by a pledge from health secretary Matt Hancock. UNISON is demanding that the government guarantees all care workers full pay. UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea said: “It’s over a year into the pandemic and staff still face severe financial hardship for self-isolating. Care workers who follow official health guidance mustn’t be penalised with huge cuts in wages. Not paying those affected by Covid puts the vulnerable at risk by driving up infections.” She added: “The government should ensure all care employers guarantee staff full income. The care sector also needs to be reformed urgently and that includes decent wages for workers.”
UNISON news release. Morning Star.
 

Unite no to forced vaccination of care home staff

‘Encouragement, not compulsion’ for health and social care staff when it comes to vaccination against Covid-19 is the best approach, Unite has said. The union was commenting on media reports on 16 June that the government is to announce in the coming days that care staff in England will be given 16 weeks to have the jab or risk losing their jobs. Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail said: “Unite strongly opposes forcing any health and social care workers to have a vaccine or risk sacrificing their job. Encouragement, not compulsion is the advice of the World Health Organisation (WHO) for the very good reason that such an approach is shown to work.” She added: “NHS and social care workers need and deserve respect from our government, a decent pay rise and a drastic reduction in vacancies that are placing an immense strain on the system. Boris Johnson pledged on the day that he became prime minister in July 2019 that he had a plan ‘to fix’ the decades-old social care crisis – two years on we are still waiting for this blueprint.” Unite has already submitted its response to the Department of Health and Social Care consultation on making vaccination a condition of deployment in older adult care homes. In the submission, the union said: “Unite believes all Covid-19 vaccination and Covid-19 testing regimes in the UK should be voluntary and not mandatory. Compulsion is a very bad way to achieve a high level response, will lead to increased resistance, a worsening staffing crisis and is embroiled with issues such as equalities, human rights, privacy, and ethical breaches.” Health secretary Matt Hancock subsequently described mandatory vaccinations of care staff as a “sensible and reasonable step”, adding he would consult on extending compulsion to the NHS.
Unite news release. The Guardian. BBC News Online and update.
 

GMB slams ‘ill thought through’ vaccine plan

More than a third of its members in care “would consider packing their jobs in” if vaccines were mandated, the union GMB has said. The union warned the widely trailed government plans for care workers in England are ‘ill thought through’ and could lead to a staff exodus. Uptake of vaccinations has been on the increase in social care and the government could do more to address vaccine hesitancy instead of forcing vaccines on workers, the union said. GMB national officer Rachel Harrison said minsters should be addressing problems of low pay, poor conditions, lack of access to sick pay “and ensuring more mobile NHS vaccination teams so those working night shifts can get the jab. Instead, ministers are ploughing ahead with plans to strongarm care workers into taking the vaccine without taking seriously the massive blocks these workers still face in getting jabbed.” She added: “This looks like another potential avoidable mess. We’ve told ministers that more than a third of our members in social care would consider packing their jobs in if vaccines were mandated. They can’t now say they weren’t warned. GMB won’t stop calling out politicians who don’t have the foggiest idea or concern about the impact their decisions make on a workforce already suffering from many of the worst political failures during the pandemic.”
GMB news release. Morning Star.
 

Compulsory jabs risk driving staff out, says UNISON

Undervalued and underpaid care home workers could walk away if they are told they must have the Covid vaccine, UNISON has said. Responding to reports that the government is set to announce that Covid-19 vaccinations are to be made compulsory for care home staff in England, UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea: “The only way out of the pandemic is for everyone that can to have their jabs. Encouragement has the best results and research shows coercion makes the nervous less likely to be vaccinated. The government’s sledgehammer approach now runs the risk that some care staff may simply walk away from an already understaffed, undervalued and underpaid sector.” The UNISON leader added: “If these heavy-handed plans show anything, it’s that ministers can implement changes across the whole care sector when it suits. After everything they’ve been through this past year care workers deserve to be paid at least the real living wage. Any claims the government is powerless to introduce a pay rise into a fragmented system with thousands of private employers will ring rather hollow in future. The NHS has been successfully vaccinating the public and its own staff for more than six months. There’s no reason to change this successful approach.”
UNISON news release.
 

Hancock clueless or lying on PPE shortages

Matt Hancock either lied to MPs or had “no idea” what was going on when he claimed there was no personal protective equipment (PPE) shortage during the pandemic, the union GMB has said. It was commenting after the health secretary told a joint hearing of the Commons science and health committees on 10 July “there was never a point at which NHS providers couldn’t get access to PPE.” But GMB said it members across the NHS reported shortages of PPE on numerous occasions and GMB contacted Hancock’s department, the Department of Health and Social Care, on several occasions to raise this. The union said at one stage GMB NHS members were even issued with emergency guidance advising people to reuse disposable PPE. GMB national officer Rachel Harrison said: “Matt Hancock either has no idea what happened under his watch during the pandemic, or he is lying through his teeth. Our NHS members have been let down by the government throughout the crisis – and lack of proper PPE is probably their number one complaint. Many were left terrified for their lives treating Covid positive patients with either inadequate or non-existent PPE.” She said: “It appears Mr Hancock is either too incompetent or too untrustworthy to remain health secretary.”
GMB news release. Joint meeting of the Commons science and health committees - Inquiry: Coronavirus: lessons learnt10 June evidence from health secretary Matt Hancock. BBC News Online. The Guardian.
 

Shapps should resign over DVLA ‘debacle’

Workers striking for Covid safety at the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA) in Swansea have demanded the resignation of transport secretary Grant Shapps after hearing that he was the prime suspect for scuppering a deal that could have ended the dispute (Risks 1000). The conference of civil service union PCS heard more than 600 Covid cases have been reported at the DVLA, where months of stoppages have followed management’s failure to introduce adequate safety measures. Branch chair Sarah Evans told delegates that bosses had refused to tell staff who pulled the deal. “We have to assume it was Shapps,” she said, demanding his resignation. Delegates heard that senior bosses had visited the site on just a handful of occasions, while CEO Julie Lennard was accused of lying to the transport select committee over the situation facing staff. PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said that the DVLA branch, along with support shown by the “Swansea six” MPs, represented “everything that is great about our union,” adding: “It is a dispute that must be won.”
Morning Star.
 

OTHER NEWS

BME hugely ‘over-represented’ on zero hours contracts

Structural racism in the labour market is trapping Black and minority ethnic (BME) workers on low pay and in insecure work, the TUC and Race on the agenda (ROTA) have warned. A joint report from the organisations reveals around one in six zero hours contract workers are BME, even though BME workers make up just one in nine workers overall. BME women are the most disproportionately affected group, followed by BME men. The TUC and ROTA say zero hours contracts are “the most egregious example of one-sided flexibility at work”, handing the employer total control over their workers’ hours and earning power. They say BME workers are over-represented in insecure jobs, which have limited rights, endemic low pay and disproportionately high Covid-19 mortality rates. Recent TUC research found workers in more insecure jobs are twice as likely to die from Covid-19 as those in less insecure occupations (Risks 993). Earlier research has linked low paid, insecure work to higher work-related accidents and ill-health (Risks 855). TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Too many BME workers are stuck on zero hours contracts, and face a triple whammy of low pay, limited rights, and an increased risk of dying from the virus.” She added: “Enough is enough. Ministers must challenge the systemic discrimination that holds BME workers back by banning zero hours contracts and ending the scourge of insecure work. And they must introduce ethnicity pay gap reporting without delay.” ROTA CEO, Maurice Mcleod, said: “If we want an economy that everyone can engage in, we need to enshrine workers’ rights in our legislation and protect workers from precarious, one-sided working arrangements.”
TUC news release. ROTA website. The Guardian.
More on the hazards of insecure work and low pay.
 

NUJ concern at police failure to protect hounded journalist

Journalists’ union NUJ has raised concerns with the Metropolitan police about the failure of officers to intervene when a BBC journalist was chased by a group of protesters in Whitehall. Several demonstrators, protesting the extension of England's Covid restrictions on 14 June, pursued and harassed BBC Newsnight political editor Nick Watt, who was wearing a BBC lanyard. Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said: “The hounding and abuse levelled at Newsnight’s Nick Watt outside Downing Street yesterday by anti-lockdown protesters was frightening and outrageous. It is genuinely shocking that a man escaping a mob screaming at him, shouting traitor and calling him scum, didn’t result in the police immediately intervening. Action should be taken against these thugs. No one should have to tolerate such abusive behaviour and harassment simply for doing their job.” The union is a member of the UK government's National Committee for the Safety of Journalists and will be flagging up the incident with ministers and officials as yet another example of harassment of journalists in the course of their work. Martin Hockridge, 57, has been charged by police with offences under the Public Order Act of using threatening, abusive or insulting behaviour with the intention of causing harassment or distress. He will appear at Westminster Magistrates' Court on 29 June.
NUJ news release. BBC News Online.
 

Parliament bullying case shows more sanctions needed

The Independent Expert Panel (IEP), which investigates cases of bullying involving MPs, has found that Daniel Kawczynski breached rules on bullying, instructing him to apologise to the House of Commons for his behaviour. The Conservative MP, in a subsequent statement to MPs, commented: “I have reflected on my behaviour, I accept it constituted bullying and as such was highly inexcusable. The circumstances were stressful for the staff who were assisting the committee and for me.” Responding to the panel findings, Prospect deputy general secretary Garry Graham said: “The ruling found that the MP made ‘malicious claims’, behaved in an ‘intimidatory and threatening’ manner, and that this amounted to a ‘serious breach’ of the behaviour code – yet the sanction imposed was simply that he must apologise in the House. It is Prospect’s view that there ought to be a wider range of sanctions available for MPs to reflect when a more serious breach has taken place, but which falls short of triggering recall.” He said the Leader of the House of Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg “should consider whether a system of written warnings could be brought in so that offenders would be at risk of recall should they fail to address their behaviour.” In a BBC interview, Kawczynsk later claimed he “had no alternative” but to apologise, leading unions to complain he was undermining the IEP process. The joint parliamentary trade unions said it had written to the IEP and Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards asking for them to consider further action against Kawzcynski.
Prospect news release and update. Independent Expert Panel report on Daniel Kawzcynski. Personal statement from Daniel Kawzcynski. The Guardian. BBC News Online.
 

Care manager cautioned after employee stabbed

A Liverpool care agency and a care home have been fined and a manager cautioned after an employee was stabbed. Liverpool Crown Court heard that on 2 November 2014 an employee of Options for Supported Living, which supports people with mental health issues, was undertaking a regular scheduled visit to assist the transition of services for a resident from Fulwood Care Ltd to Options for Supported Living. During the visit, the untrained Options employee was left alone in the kitchen with the individual, despite the care plan stating that the resident, whose violence and aggression had been clearly identified, required the attendance of two care workers at all times. Whilst the employee was unaccompanied, the resident crossed the kitchen and stabbed the employee in the right side of her neck. While the employee made a physical recovery, she has suffered post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and long-term psychological trauma and is still receiving counselling. An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that despite care plans and risk assessments being in place from Liverpool council, the NHS Mental Health Trust and Fulwood Care Limited, all of which indicated the high risk the individual posed to themselves and others, neither Fulwood Care Limited or Options for Supported Living took account of these documents prior to the visits by Options for Supported Living. This included the manager at Supported Living, Marie Binns. Options for Supported Living Ltd pleaded guilty to a criminal safety offence and was fined £31,000 plus £10,000 costs. Fulwood Care Ltd also pleaded guilty and was fined £14,000 with £10,000 costs. Manager Marie Binns accepted a formal caution for a criminal safety offence.

HSE news release and guide, Violence at Work: A guide for employers.
 

Ferry workers concern at safety on passenger vessel

A decision by P&O ferries to reintroduce a passenger ferry linked to serious safety problems shows the company is putting ‘costs before safety’, the seafarers’ union Nautilus has said. The union said there are still ‘grave concerns’ around safety and fatigue on the Pride of Burgundy following plans by P&O to circumvent established Collective Bargaining Agreements and rely on precarious employment. Earlier this month, the company rejected the union’s safety concerns around fatigue, stating it used 'a risk-based approach to all our activities, related to both health and safety and our commercial interests.' Nautilus strategic organiser Martyn Gray said: “We remain aghast at the company's blasé reintroduction of the Pride of Burgundy on an operating schedule that increases fatigue, and uses seafarers on unsecure employment terms.” He added: “The company, in seeking to circumvent our Collective Bargaining Agreement and ignore established evidence about the safety of the established working pattern, are putting cost ahead of safety at a time where a major incident risks not only the company's own future viability but the reputational integrity of the entire ferry sector.” He concluded: “P&O Ferries, by putting the safety of maritime professionals and the safety of its passengers behind operational expediency and cost, risk repeating the morbid mistakes made in the history of ferry operations.”
Nautilus UK news release.
 

Finance staff want homeworking but better support

Workers in the banking and finance sector would like a continuation of flexible working patterns, but are calling for more support to prevent isolation and mental health problems. In the first large scale homeworking survey of thousands of staff in the sector, Unite found that over 80 per cent of respondents would like to continue to work from home once restrictions end for at least part of the week. Nearly 70 per cent of those would like to spend between 60 to 100 per cent of their time working remotely in the future. But the union also said members in the finance sector had reported a ‘massive increase’ in mental health problems. Unite national officer for the finance and legal sector, Dominic Hook, said: “Thousands of finance staff wish to continue to work remotely and with flexibility in order to give customers the high levels of service they have received since the start of the pandemic.” He added: “Some staff did report to their union that homeworking causes them to feel isolated and in need of better management communication. Unite workplace reps in finance have reported a massive rise in mental health problems. Staff are demanding that their employers do more to ensure they receive the support they need while working remotely. Unite will now be discussing our survey results with employers across the sector.” The survey also found that staff welcomed elements of homeworking including the lack of commuting, savings on travel costs, and improved work-life balance.
Unite news release.
 

Health and safety dominates union’s concerns

Health and safety dominated the agenda of UNISON’s water, environment and transport service group (WET) conference. Opening the service group’s virtual event, its executive chair Ruth Davies said the pandemic has had a “devastating impact” and was like “nothing we’ve experienced before, and safety has had to be paramount”. But she said it was a “demonstration of the strength of our union and our reps that we have carried on.” John Jones, for the service group executive, told delegates that “health and safety is one of the main reasons people join UNISON” – a situation that “will no doubt continue in a post-pandemic world of work. During Covid-19, the union’s health and safety reps have been the first point of contact for employees to ensure their employer has made things Covid secure, he said. Pointing out that some employers in the industry initially held lax views about the government instruction to work from home wherever possible, he noted that once the argument was won, it was then a challenge to “ensure members were remotely working from home in a safe manner with adequate equipment provided and funded by employers.” Delegates supported the call for the group’s executive to work with UNISON’s health and safety unit to investigate shift work hazards and “evaluate the scale of the problem and develop a guide for branches to use to evaluate the potential of recompense for members affected as well as reducing the necessity of shift working.” Noise, provision of PPE and fatigue also featured among the key concerns. For the LGBT+ national committee, Neil Crookston explained how mental health problems for LGBT+ people have risen in the pandemic. He called on the executive to “seek to ensure that workforce health and wellbeing is on the bargaining agenda with all WET employers.”
UNISON news release.
 

New website presses case for school asbestos removal

The Joint Union Asbestos Committee (JUAC) has launched a new campaigning website to press the case for the removal of asbestos from schools. Announcing the initiative on 17 June - Clean Air Day 2021 – JUAC said latest Department for Education (DfE) figures estimate 83.5 per cent of schools in England contain asbestos. It noted official ONS figures show that since 2001 at least 305 teaching and education professionals have died from the asbestos related cancer mesothelioma. JUAC is calling for an independent review of the government’s current policy of managing asbestos in-situ instead of removing it. The campaign is also pressing for funded programme for the phased removal of all asbestos, starting with the most dangerous, with completion no later than 2028. It also wants the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to undertake proactive inspections to ensure that educational establishments are managing asbestos effectively. John McClean, chair of JUAC, said: “The continuing presence of asbestos in so many of our schools is a disgrace, when the risks to children and adults are so well known. Effective government action to tackle this is long overdue. A phased programme of removal, starting with the most dangerous first, is the only way forward.” The national trade unions that form JUAC are ASCL, GMB, NAHT, NASUWT, NEU, UNISON, Unite, UCU and Voice.
FE News. JUAC website.
 

Bell foundry fined over lead exposure

Britain's last traditional bell foundry has been fined £13,333 after workers were exposed to potentially harmful lead dust during restoration work. The men were carrying out repairs at St Peter's Church in Barton-upon-Humber on behalf of the John Taylor Bell Foundry when the incident happened. Grimsby Magistrates' Court heard three men were exposed to the lead dust while restoring paintwork in the bell tower. The foundry was fined after it admitted a criminal breach of the Control of Lead at Work Regulations 2002. Prosecutor Alan Hughes said English Heritage, which runs the church, had warned the Loughborough-based foundry that lead paint might be present prior to work starting in March 2019. He said tests had been carried out, but despite the warning the foundry instructed the men to begin their work before receiving the results. The workmen used power tools to remove rust and loose paint, he told the court. He said facemasks they wore were not "face-fit tested" and that neither shower nor bathing facilities were provided at the site. When the test results came back 10 days later indicating there was lead present at the site, the work was halted, he said. Blood tests were carried out on the three men and two were found to have “slightly elevated blood lead levels”, Mr Hughes said. He said the company's “failure to put in place any control measures” had exposed all three to the risk of “ill-health effects” such as kidney damage and infertility. In addition to the fine, the company was ordered to pay £6,469.90 in costs.
HSE news release. BBC News Online.
 

EVENTS

The fight for Covid safety at work, campaign event, 22 June

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

Long Covid and the workplace, TUC webinar, 30 June

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

Defend union safety reps! Online meeting, 1 July

A meeting hosted by Hazards Campaign will discuss how best to respond to the victimisation of union safety reps raising concerns over Covid. The one-hour event, starting at 6.30pm on 1 July, comes after reports of “union reps threatened with, or put through, disciplinary proceedings, in what is often a clear-cut case of management union busting,” says the campaign. “We want to discuss what union and safety activists can do to better support ourselves and each other as we act in the interests of workplace health and safety.”
Defend union safety reps! Online meeting, Thursday 1 July, 6:30pm - 7:30pm. Register on Zoom.
 

ACTION

What do you know about occupational health nursing?

The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) wants to tap into the undoubted expertise of union health and safety reps, particularly regarding their experiences with occupational health nurses. NMC says: “We're currently consulting on new draft standards for community and public health nursing. These are standards for nurses working in community and public health roles, including occupational health nurses (as well as community learning disability, mental health, children's and school nurses, health visitors and district nurses).” NMC wants input from union reps because “union health and safety reps will sometimes work with occupational health nurses, or support members who are.” It adds: “We'd like people to tell us what we’ve got right, what is needed to make the draft standards better, and if we have missed anything important. There's a content pack with resources to help do this.” The consultation ends on 2 August.
NMC draft standards for community and public health nursing and content pack.
 

INTERNATIONAL NEWS

USA: Healthcare rules come in after thousands die

US labour department officials have announced an emergency temporary standard (ETS) to protect healthcare workers, saying they face “grave danger” in the workplace from the coronavirus pandemic. The measure to protect 10.3 million healthcare workers nationwide has been welcomed by unions and senior political figures, but they have also expressed disappointment the new rules do not cover all at risk occupations. The new standard would require employers to remove workers who have Covid-19 from the workplace, notify workers of Covid exposure at work and strengthen requirements for employers to report worker deaths or hospitalisations to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). “These are the workers who continue to go into work day in and day out to take care of us, to save our lives,” said Jim Frederick, acting assistant secretary of labour for occupational safety and health. “And we must make sure we do everything in our power to return the favour to protect them.” Senator Patty Murray, chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, said the ETS for health care workers was an important step. “But I am disappointed that this safety standard does not cover all frontline workers - because while we have made tremendous progress in our fight against Covid-19, we are not out of the woods yet.” Richard Trumka, president of the national union federation AFL-CIO, also welcomed the rule, but added “we are deeply concerned that the ETS will not cover workers in other industries, including those in meatpacking, grocery, transportation and corrections, who have suffered high rates of Covid-19 infections and death. Many of these are low-wage workers of colour who have been disproportionately impacted by Covid-19 exposures and infections.” UFCW president Marc Perrone said the standard “represents a broken promise to the millions of American workers in grocery stores and meatpacking plants who have gotten sick and died on the frontlines of this pandemic.”
OSHA news release and Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) on Covid workplace safety. AFL-CIO news release. UFCW news release. The Guardian.

 

PUBLICATION

TUC Hazards at Work 6th Edition

Stock Code: HS111
Price £22 RRP £52
Also now available as an eBook
This is the Sixth edition of the TUC's best-selling guide to health and safety at work.
Used by reps, officers, employers, professionals in the field and even enforcement officers. This incredibly popular book is now even more informative at over 400 pages, an invaluable resource, which incorporates common hazards and cause of ill health at work, and how to assess and prevent them.
The book also contains HSE and other guidance, extensive checklists, case studies and web resources.
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