Skip to content

Sheila Pantry Associates Ltd

News from around the World

News Archive

October 2016

The pain that’s crippling Europe

The European Trade Union Confederation is calling on the European Commission to tackle the number one cause of occupational sickness in Europe: the epidemic of back, shoulder, neck, elbow, hand and knee pain costing workers severe loss of quality of life and millions of days off work.

The cost to employers, workers and health services has been estimated at €163 billion.

“Back pain is crippling Europe” said Esther Lynch, Confederal Secretary of the ETUC. “Nearly 9 million working days were lost in France from back pain and other musculoskeletal problems, and it will only get worse with Europe’s ageing workforce.”

In 2013 the European Commission refused to support a directive on ‘ergonomics in the workplace’ proposed by employers and trade unions and instead issued a non-binding recommendation.

“It’s time for the Commission to admit that their recommendation is not enough. More need to be done.”

More information:

Who’s protecting your occupational health?

Are occupational health services at work really protecting your health? A large-scale Trades Union Congress (TUC) survey has found that 92 per cent of workplaces with union health and safety representatives have some form of occupational health provision.

“This is well above the national average, where it is estimated that only 38 per cent of the UK workforce has health service coverage,” notes TUC head of safety Hugh Robertson, who says the figure is partly explained by high levels of unionisation in larger firms and the public sector. But he questions the effectiveness of some occupational health provision. “A lot of employers are simply using it to monitor sickness absence and less than half actually provide access to rehabilitation,” he says. And a clear move to out-sourced provision has seen “some dreadful examples of very bad ‘occupational health’ providers.

More information:

Amazon ‘putting profits before safety’

Amazon UK Services Ltd been accused by a union of putting profits before safety after it was fined £65,000 for attempting to ship dangerous goods on passenger planes. The retailer was found during sentencing at Southwark Crown Court on 23 September 2016 to have breached four UK civil aviation rules for the offence of “causing dangerous goods to be delivered for carriage in an aircraft.”

Prohibited items including spare lithium-ion batteries for mobile phones or tablets and aerosol beauty products were intercepted by staff working for Royal Mail or UPS during routine screening of domestic and international airline cargoes between January 2014 and June 2015, before they could be transported. “Under the right circumstances the batteries, even new, undamaged batteries, could overheat, potentially causing burns, explosion or a fire,” prosecutor Martin Goudie told the court.

Kate Staples, general counsel for the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), which brought the prosecution, said: “The safety of aviation and the public is paramount and we will continue to work closely with retailers and online traders to ensure they understand the regulations and have robust processes in place so their items can be shipped safely.”

More information:

Trade unions call on IFIs to support recovery through stronger labour market institutions and increased public investment

In advance of the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, scheduled to start in Washington this Friday, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and its Global Unions partner organisations call on the international financial institutions (IFIs) to support a vigorous and coordinated strategy of public investment in services and infrastructure and strengthening of labour market institutions to secure wage growth.

For the seventh year in a row, the IMF reduced its global economic growth forecasts and cautioned that further risks to its growth projections “are tilted to the downsides”. ITUC General Secretary General Sharan Burrow commented: “The IMF’s chief economist correctly said that the downward spiral of growth ‘could be reversed were global demand higher’, but the Fund’s lending programmes actually work to reduce demand further. In the Arab countries, which recently overtook Europe as the largest recipient of IMF loans, the focus of the country programmes is on austerity and calls for labour market reform, which in Europe has meant measures to compress wages and make employment more precarious.”

Global Unions’ statement for the IFIs’ annual meetings points out that some IMF programmes in the Middle-East-North Africa have supposedly included requirements to reach a minimum level of social spending, but when actual expenditures were far below the so-called social spending floor, there was no consequence for the status of the loan. Instead, the IMF expressed approval of the government’s success in achieving “fiscal consolidation” targets.

More information:

Santander signs up to TUC’s charter for helping terminally ill workers

Santander Bank on 10/10/16 added its name to a new charter aimed at helping employees who become terminally ill at work.

Santander is the latest high-profile employer to sign up to the Dying to Work Voluntary Charter, following in the footsteps of companies such as E.On, Legal and General, and Carillion Rail.

The charter is part of the TUC’s wider Dying to Work campaign which is seeking greater security for terminally ill workers through a ‘protected period’ where they cannot be dismissed as a result of their condition.

Dying to Work was taken forward by the TUC following the case of Jacci Woodcock, a 58-year-old sales manager from Derbyshire, who was forced out of her job after being diagnosed with terminal breast cancer.

The TUC is asking employers to sign up to its voluntary charter to stop cases like Jacci’s happening in the future.

More information:

Fatigue concessions by easyJet after pilots vote for action

An overwhelming vote by easyJet pilots in favour of industrial action on fatigue risks has led to concessions from the company. The budget airline and pilots’ union BALPA this week discussed a set of proposals to mitigate pilot fatigue. The proposals will be put to pilots in a consultative ballot. The talks came on the heels of a strong vote in favour of industrial action amongst pilots, with 96 per cent in favour of some form of action in an 88 per cent ballot turnout.

BALPA said it had suspended serving strike notice in response to the company’s new proposals. Brian Strutton, BALPA general secretary, said both parties had been working hard “to find a solution to this dispute about pilot fatigue. easyJet management have put a proposal on the table that the BALPA team feel has closed the gap between us considerably on a range of issues. We therefore feel it is right and proper to consult with our members at this stage and so we are suspending serving notice of industrial action on the company.” He added: “This does not mean the dispute is over, but it does mean that we have made sufficient progress to take an offer to pilots in easyJet for their consideration. We take the issue of pilot fatigue extremely seriously, and hope that today’s proposals will form the basis of a strong agreement between easyJet and its pilots.”

More information:

Workplace stress at record levels, say union health and safety reps

Stress is the top health and safety concern in UK workplaces according to a TUC study published on World Mental Health Day.

The TUC’s biennial survey of more than 1,000 health and safety reps around the UK asks them to pick out the hazards at work that most trouble them and their workforces.

Stress was at the top of the list in this year’s survey, with 7 in 10 reps (70%) citing it as a problem – up 3% since the last survey in 2014 when 67% did so, and a higher proportion than in any previous TUC study. Stress is one of the main causes of mental health problems, in particular anxiety and depression.

More information:

Event: 4th International Conference on Safety Management and Human Factors (SMHF)

17-21 July 2017, Westin Bonaventure Hotel, Los Angeles, California, USA

You are invited to submit an abstract for paper presentation or poster demonstration at the 4th International Conference on Safety Management and Human Factors (SMHF), an Affiliated Conferences of the 8th International Conference on Applied Human Factors and Ergonomics (AHFE 2017) to be held at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel, Los Angeles, California, USA, 17-21 July 2017.

Peer-review accepted papers will be published in the AHFE 2017 proceedings and as chapters in Springer Multi-volume Edited Books under the prestigious series of Advances in Intelligent Systems and Computing. The proceedings are submitted to ISI, EI-Compendex, DBLP, SCOPUS, Google Scholar and Springerlink.

UK Technical Meeting covering “New Insights into Risk Assessment”

30th November & 1st December 2016, Aberdeen and London (and via webcast)

FABIG announces the forth coming UK event. It will be a half-day Technical Meeting covering “New Insights into Risk Assessment” and will be held on Wednesday 30th November 2016 in Aberdeen and on Thursday 1st December in London & via Webcast.

The meeting will take place between 12.10 and 17.00 (between 13.00 and 17.00 UK time for the webcast).

More information:

Great Britain Health and Wellbeing Week

The week aimed at enhancing people’s understanding of health and wellbeing by encouraging workers to get involved through various activities and promotional events.

The week is framed around four central themes:

The GB Health and Wellbeing week is expected to involve several million employees across the country in a week of activities and awareness raising. It is a great opportunity to start conversations around health and for employers to learn what issues need tackling to improve standards within the workplace. HSE supports this campaign as a great example of using the workplace to ensure we don’t harm our workforce, but also to use the great potential of influencing employees through work to have healthy lifestyle behaviours for longer healthier happier lives.

Human Factors Foundation Course

7-11 November 2016, Energy Institute, 61 New Cavendish Street, London

This 5 day course delivers a comprehensive introduction into human factors for non-specialists. It provides a practical, engaging and interactive background to key topic areas, as well as to how human and organisational factors (HOF) can be applied within the workplace. Successful candidates will receive the Human Factors Foundation Certificate from the Energy Institute and IEHF, allowing them to demonstrate the skills that have been gained during the course.

This course is designed to provide a comprehensive practical introduction to human factors and give non-specialists a basis from which to begin implementing HOF within their work.

More details:

CSB releases the final report into the 13 June 2013, explosion and fire at the Williams Olefins Plant in Geismar, Louisiana, which killed two employees

The report concludes that process safety management program deficiencies at the Williams Geismar facility during the 12 years leading to the incident allowed a type of heat exchanger called a “reboiler” to be unprotected from overpressure, and ultimately rupture, causing the explosion.

The Williams Geismar facility produces ethylene and propylene for the petrochemical industry and employs approximately 110 people. At the time of the incident, approximately 800 contractors worked at the plant on an expansion project aimed at increasing the production of ethylene.

The incident occurred during non-routine operational activities that introduced heat to the reboiler, which was offline and isolated from its pressure relief device. The heat increased the temperature of a liquid propane mixture confined within the reboiler, resulting in a dramatic pressure rise within the vessel. The reboiler shell catastrophically ruptured, causing a boiling liquid expanding vapor explosion (BLEVE) and fire, which killed two workers; 167 others reported injuries, the majority of which were contractors.

More information:

Meeting of Experts on Violence against Women and Men in the World of Work

Violence against men and women at work has been high on the agenda of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) for a few years now.

At the heart of the ILO’s work is the aim to give people the opportunity “to pursue both their material well-being and their spiritual development in conditions of freedom and dignity, of economic security and equal opportunity.”

Violence in the world of work is a threat to the dignity, security, health and well-being of everyone. It has an impact not only on workers and employers, but also on their families, communities, economies and society as a whole. Indeed, violence in the world of work strikes at the heart of the efforts of the International Labour Organization (ILO) to promote the right of all human beings “to pursue both their material well-being and their spiritual development in conditions of freedom and dignity, of economic security and equal opportunity”. The issue has recently been brought into sharp focus at the global level, with the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which calls for the achievement of full and productive employment and decent work for all women and men, the reduction of inequalities and the elimination of “all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres”.

The need for international leadership on the issue of violence in the world of work has been highlighted recently in ILO forums. 3 The Governing Body of the ILO, at its 325th Session (November 2015), decided “to place a standard-setting item on ‘Violence against women and men in the world of work’ on the agenda of the 107th Session (June 2018) of the Conference” and “to convene a tripartite meeting of experts to provide guidance on which basis the Governing Body will consider, at its 328th Session (November 2016), the preparations for the first discussion of possible instruments by the Conference” (ILO, 2015a, paragraph 33(a) and (b)). The Meeting of Experts was been convened for 3–6 October 2016.

This issue is, likewise, central to the ILO’s centenary initiative on women at work.

This report serves as a technical background paper for the Meeting of Experts, in the light of the approved agenda. The issue of violence is multifaceted, and not all dimensions can be discussed in this report. The report does not focus on specific areas of violence such as child labour and forced labour, which have been addressed in detail through recent standards. As violence in the world of work affects all sectors of economic activity around the world, including the private and public sectors and the formal and informal economies, the report examines the issue from the perspective of a general protection for all. It focuses on the types of violence in the world of work where international standards are absent or limited, particularly on physical violence, such as abuse; psychological violence, such as mobbing and bullying; and sexual violence, such as sexual harassment. It also takes into account the variety of workers and sectors affected.

Violence clearly undermines this and the ILO’s latest report published October 2016 can be found here:

Extending working lives through flexible retirement schemes: Partial retirement

The European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions has produced a report and executive summary showing that many EU Member States have implemented reforms to improve the sustainability of their pension systems.

However, the impact of discouraging early retirement and increasing the pension age on effective retirement ages is limited, as many people are unable or unmotivated to work until pension age. Reduction of working time is one approach to enabling people to work longer than would have been feasible if they continued working full time. But a barrier to reduction of hours is the loss of income. Partial retirement schemes address this barrier by substituting part of the income loss with a partial pension or benefits.

This report investigates how partial retirement schemes can contribute to sustainable and adequate pension systems by enabling and motivating people to extend their working lives. It maps schemes at the national and sector levels in the EU and Norway, examines their characteristics and assesses their impact on the extension of working lives.

Full report:

Alton Towers’ owners fined £5 million with costs of £69,955.40 over Smiler crash

The owners of Alton Towers in the UK have been fined £5 million with costs of £69,955.40 following a rollercoaster collision which left 16 people injured, a number of them seriously.

Two young women on the Smiler ride suffered leg amputations and others suffered severe injuries when their carriage collided with a stationary carriage on the same track on 2 June 2015.

The UK Stafford Crown Court heard that on the day of the incident engineers overrode the Smiler’s control system without the knowledge and understanding to ensure it was safe to do so.

A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found no fault with the track, the cars, or the control system that keeps the cars apart from each other when the ride is running.

Investigators found the root cause to be a lack of detailed, robust arrangements for making safety critical decisions. The whole system, from training through to fixing faults, was not strong enough to stop a series of errors by staff when working with people on the ride.

Following the incident Alton Towers made technical improvements to the ride and changed their systems.

Merlin Attractions Operation Ltd of 3 Market Close, Poole, Dorset pleaded guilty to breaching section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act etc, 1974 and were fined £5 million with costs of £69,955.40.

More information:

Taking health to the forefront of the industry’s agenda

Speakers at the British Safety Council’s 2016 Annual Conference called for a fresh approach to managing health in the workplace.

The British Safety Council’s Annual Conference “Health and work in a changing world”, held on 5 October 2016 at The King’s Fund in London, provided a platform for sharing evidence, best practice and experience of managing employee health and wellbeing.

The presentations and discussions centred on four main issues:

  1. Why should health be considered as a key business priority for a company?
  2. Who should be responsible for company’s health and wellbeing? What is the role of line managers in it?
  3. How can you make workplaces healthier, as well as helping employees to manage their own health throughout their working life?
  4. What is the best way of dealing with mental health issues?

Opening the conference, the British Safety Council’s Chair Lynda Armstrong remembered the charity’s founder, James Tye. “His vision in establishing the organisation in 1957 was to campaign towards a very simple objective – that no-one should be injured or made ill at work – and he worked tirelessly towards this aspiration throughout his life. James was a consummate marketeer. He didn’t shy away from publicity and his often controversial campaigning meant that he was regularly in the headlines.

More information:

Thousands of workers at risk of disease

Most people have probably never heard of mesothelioma unless they know of someone who has suffered from it, but it is a form of cancer of the external lining of the lung. It is caused by exposure to asbestos and invariably fatal. The latest Health and Safety Executive report shows that, for the third year running, the number of deaths from mesothelioma has been over 2,500 and this level is likely to continue for at least the rest of the decade.

Since 1968 when figures first became available, the total for the number of people who are recorded as having died from mesothelioma in the past 46 years is 54,631. Given the high levels of under-diagnosis in previous decades, the true figure is much higher.

Since 1968 when figures first became available, the total for the number of people who are recorded as having died from mesothelioma in the past 46 years is 54,631. Given the high levels of under-diagnosis in previous decades, the true figure is much higher.

The importation and use of asbestos was banned in the UK in 1999 so we are now told that mesothelioma is soon going to become a disease of the past. Well it is not. There are still millions of tonnes of it in place in at least half a million commercial properties, and every day thousands of workers are put at risk of breathing in the fatal fibre.

Whenever any kind of maintenance work is done on a building where there is asbestos it puts everyone at risk. A survey of 500 tradespeople for the HSE showed that less than a third were aware of the correct ways to deal with and handle asbestos in the workplace and only 15% knew that asbestos could still be found in buildings built up to the year 2000.

According to the HSE, 1.3 million tradespeople such as carpenters and joiners could come into contact with asbestos at least 100 times a year, with few workers knowing whether the deadly material is present in buildings which they are working on. Millions of shop workers, office workers, teachers, and hospital workers are also at risk as they work in buildings riddled with asbestos.

The need for effective ongoing action and support for those who develop mesothelioma was recognised by the TUC and major trade unions in the region, leading to the formation of the Northern TUC Asbestos Support & Campaign Group in 2012.

More information:

IOSH’s new CEO aims to enhance its global profile

The new CEO of safety and health’s international leading professional body will work with its members to build partnerships and raise its global profile as part of a new five-year strategy for the organisation.

Working with Trustees, staff and senior members on delivering the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health’s (IOSH) 2017-2022 plan is top priority for Bev Messinger, who took up her post on Monday 3 October 2016 following her departure from the UK water regulator Ofwat.

She said: “I was attracted to the role at IOSH as I believe I can make a difference to people’s lives. I would like to build on the strong history and credibility of IOSH and take it to the next level. Our Presidential team and wider membership do a great job in raising the profile of IOSH on the international stage. I intend to support them on this, building strategic partnerships and alliances which can enhance the drive to make workplaces across the globe safe and healthy.”

Bev, who takes over from IOSH’s Interim Chief Executive Cyril Barratt, also intends to ensure that IOSH members continue to be provided with a responsive customer service and that the Institution is modern and agile.

A Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, she brings with her a huge amount of experience in HR and people development. She was formerly Senior Director – Business Improvement at Ofwat. She previously worked at Coventry City Council, as Corporate Director of Customer and Workforce Services and Head of Human Resources, before becoming Acting CEO.

More information:

Training Event: Are you a Health and Safety Leader?

If you’re a business leader or senior manager who wants to encourage a culture of risk awareness and improve your organisation’s health and safety performance, the UK Health and Safety Laboratory (HSL) can help.

HSL’s health and safety leadership experts will show you how you can:

Strong health and safety leadership brings numerous business benefits.

Find out more about their professional leadership training and how it can benefit you:

US NIOSH Study Finds Widespread Use of Scavenging Systems to Control Waste Anesthetic Gases During Medical Procedures, but Other Recommended Controls Lacking

A new article from the US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) found that scavenging systems, equipment used to prevent waste anesthetic gases from escaping into the operating room, are widely used but other recommended practices to minimize exposure are not always followed. This study was published in the October 2016 issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene and is currently available online.

Results are derived from the 2011 NIOSH Health and Safety Practices Survey of Healthcare Workers, the largest federally-sponsored survey of healthcare workers in the U.S. which addresses safety and health practices relative to use of hazardous chemicals. This national survey is the first to examine self-reported use of scavenging systems and other controls to minimize exposure to waste anesthetic gases among anesthesia care providers. Members of professional practice organizations representing physician anesthesiologists, nurse anesthetists and anesthesiologist assistants were invited to participate in the survey. The survey was completed by nearly 3,000 anesthesia care providers who administered inhaled anesthetics in the seven days prior to the survey.

Working in hospitals and outpatient surgical centers, respondents reported that they most often administered sevoflurane and, to a lesser extent desflurane and isoflurane, usually in combination with nitrous oxide. Use of anesthesia machines equipped with scavenging systems was nearly universal. However, adherence to other recommended practices were lacking by varying degrees and differed among those administering anesthetics to pediatric or adult patients. The following describes examples of practices which may increase exposure risk:

More information: