Skip to content

Sheila Pantry Associates Ltd

News from around the World

News Archive

February 2019

Zero Hour workers twice as likely to work “health risk” night shifts – UK TUC analysis

Zero-hours workers more likely to do night shifts and are paid on average £4 an hour less as the TUC calls for zero-hour contracts to be banned across the economy, according to new analysis published by the TUC on 11 February 2019.

The analysis shows that on a range of key measures, zero-hours workers are having a tougher time those in secure employment.

Nearly a quarter (23%) regularly work through the night, compared to 1 in 10 of the rest of the workforce.

Night-working has been shown to increase long-term health impacts, such as heart disease, shortened life expectancy and risk of cancer.

Lower pay

People on zero-hour contracts are paid around a third (£4.10) less an hour than other workers.

This is despite the fact that 1 in 7 (14%) are responsible for supervising other workers.

Struggling to find work

1 in 7 zero-hour workers (16%) do not have work each week.

Zero-hours workers work on average 25 hours a week, compared to the average worker, who works 36 hours a week.

The TUC is calling for a ban on zero-hour contracts alongside further action from government to tackle exploitative and insecure work.

TUC polling shows that two-thirds of zero-hours workers prefer to be on permanent, secure contracts.

More information:

Grenfell fire disaster exposes wider fire safety failings

The firefighters’ union FBU has said a TV documentary on the failings that contributed to the Grenfell tower block tragedy should throw the focus onto a wider malaise that has seen fire safety nationwide undermined.

A Channel Four Dispatches documentary aired on 18 February 2019 claimed up to 55 people who died in the Grenfell fire were subject to advice to stay put in the building after the fire was raging out of control. It also highlighted claims that firefighters have been given insufficient training about mass evacuating entire residential towers, despite recommendations from a coroner following a previous high-rise fire.

More information:

A report from the European Agency for Safety and Health at work (EU-OSHA) has found systems used in European countries for the early detection of work-related diseases still leave many cases unacknowledged and uncounted.

The report examines the effectiveness of 12 national schemes implemented operating in European countries and the United States, all of which help to spotlight health problems caused by bad working conditions and insufficient prevention measures. The report concludes there is a need for more comprehensive systems, noting none of those examined were ‘ideal.’

More information:

28 April ‘dangerous substances’ campaign theme confirmed

Global union confederation ITUC has confirmed the theme for International Workers’ Memorial Day on 28 April 2019.

‘Taking control – removing dangerous substances from the workplace’ will be this year’s focus for what has become the world’s largest annual health and safety event.

The union-led campaign will emphasise a ‘Zero Cancer’ approach, urging reps to seek to eliminate or minimise exposure to carcinogens in the workplace. ITUC says it will be developing resources in the coming weeks to support union preparation of campaign materials.

More information:

USA: Farming tasks increase rheumatoid arthritis risks

It has long been known that the hard labour common to many jobs in agriculture leads to osteoarthritis – pain and mobility problems caused by wear and tear in the body’s joints.

Now a new study has found it also causes rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease. A team headed by Christine Parks of the US National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), using data from the Agricultural Health Study (AHS), investigated non-pesticide agricultural exposures in relation to rheumatoid arthritis in licensed pesticide applicators and their spouses.

Overall, they found the condition was associated with regularly applying chemical fertilisers, using non-gasoline solvents and painting. In applicators over 62 years of age, rheumatoid arthritis was also associated with driving combined harvesters and milking cows.

The paper concluded its findings “suggest several agricultural tasks and exposures may contribute to development of rheumatoid arthritis”. Other studies have linked the condition to occupational exposure to mineral oils, textile dusts and crystalline silica.

More information:

Which? says hundreds of potentially unsafe fridges and freezers still on sale

Britain’s biggest electrical retailers are continuing to sell plastic-backed fridges, freezers and fridge-freezers even though this type of backing has been shown to pose a fire risk, a Which? investigation has revealed.

There were 369 plastic-backed refrigeration models listed when Which? checked the websites of the four biggest retailers on 21 January 2019.

Since Which? alerted retailers to their findings, they have told them they have made some progress in reducing that number. But Which? estimates that the total currently stands at between 148 and 241 plastic-backed models still on sale. Their own testing has found plastic backing to be extremely flammable and, in the event of a fire in your home, can dramatically accelerate the spread of flames.

Despite their calls for them to be introduced earlier, stricter safety standards that will ban the manufacture of fridges and freezers with flammable plastic backs are not expected to come into force for several more months, so consumers remain at risk. The manufacture and sale of flammable plastic-backed appliances remains legal until the introduction of new safety standards, but we’re calling on retailers to put the safety of their consumers first and stop selling them now.

Read more:

When a fire breaks out in the workplace the consequences can be devastating

In fact, 75% of businesses do not recover from a serious fire PDF Document. Yet why is it, that in the twenty-first century, confusion still occurs over which fire extinguisher should be used to tackle a fire?

With 60 per cent of office fires estimated to occur during working hours PDF Document, it makes sense that more small fires could be extinguished in the workplace if staff were better equipped to tackle them before they become unmanageable. It’s time we re-think how fires are dealt with and tackle the problem through both innovation and improved staff training.

Please see below a viewpoint from Dave Breith, CEO of Firexo which discusses how innovation and improved staff training are fundamental in reducing the threat of fire to businesses.

Who’s in charge? What do I do? Reducing the threat of fire to businesses

A fire in the workplace can have devastating consequences for everyone involved; from employees and customers, to the business itself. In fact, research from the ABI (Association of British Insurers) shows that 75% of businesses do not recover from a serious fire PDF Document.

With the average cost of a fire in a commercial building estimated to stand at £58,100 PDF Document, the odds are stacked against a business being able to survive the repercussions of a serious blaze. And with statistics showing that fires in the workplace are more common than most people realise, it is essential that businesses do everything possible to prevent falling victim to them. In Greater London alone, there are between 20-22,000 fires a year in non-residential buildings PDF Document.

Duty of care

As an employer, it is your duty to have stringent policies and procedures in place to handle potential fire hazards. These policies usually include carrying out regular fire risk assessments, warning employees of any dangers, implementing appropriate fire safety measures, planning for emergencies and ensuring your staff are prepared for such an incident. There is clearly no room for error in fire safety procedures. Yet, despite best efforts, preventing a fire from sparking is not always achievable – accidents can happen, and unforeseeable incidents do occur.

But, whilst every business has a fire safety procedure in place, how many employees really know what to do if a fire breaks out? Employees might know who the fire marshal is, where the fire exits are and where the designated fire evacuation meeting point can be found. They might even know where the fire extinguishers are kept. But, how many of them know how to use a fire extinguisher? Or, more importantly, which fire extinguisher to use.

Time is of the essence when it comes to fire safety, but currently, the confusion over which fire extinguisher should be used, in which scenario, could be unnecessarily lengthening the time taken to put it out.

Using the wrong fire extinguisher can also have dangerous consequences and may even make the situation worse. For example, if an individual attempted to extinguish an electrical fire with water they could be putting themselves at risk of an electric shock. A CO2 extinguisher handled incorrectly can cause frostbite to the hands of the operator, and water sprayed into a pan fire can ignite a flare up into a fireball.

This uncertainty is often the reason that many employees are unsure if they’ll do more harm than good when faced with the decision of either tackling a small fire, or vacating the building. Ordering all staff to leave the building on discovering any fire might sound like the simplest and safest plan. However, by doing this, employers are forgetting their legal obligations, as the designated ‘responsible person’, to surrounding life and property, the environment (foam, for example, is toxic) and the safety of the fire crews that may have to risk their lives to tackle a large blaze that’s out of control.

Turning the table

With 60 per cent of office fires estimated to occur during working hours PDF Document, it makes sense that more small fires could be extinguished if staff were better equipped to tackle them before they become unmanageable. It’s time we re-think how fires are dealt with and tackle the problem through both innovation and improved staff training.

We need to replace rows of different fire extinguishers, with confusing warning labels depicting what they can and can’t be used on, with a one-size-fits-all solution. One extinguisher, all fires, and no dangerous consequences for holding it the wrong way, or risk of dangerous chemicals harming the environment.

Then we need to equip staff with the skills, training and confidence to pick up a single extinguisher and tackle a blaze when necessary. Yes, there will always be incidents that cannot be tackled with extinguishers, where it’s clearly safer to evacuate, but this cannot be the policy for every single fire.

The twenty-first century has seen a number of catastrophic fire disasters, with consequences that have cost millions of pounds, resources and, most importantly, lives. Too many of these devastating fires could have been easily stopped in their tracks if caught earlier.

In an era where we are harnessing the power of innovation to improve our lives, from 3D imaging to visualise health and safety hazards PDF Document and biometric collars to keep us awake at the wheel, knowing which fire extinguisher to use on what fire shouldn’t be a cause of confusion. The time for change is now, we need to clear up confusion with a single solution for every fire, and empower employees to use it, when safe to do so. Lives and livelihoods might depend on it.

Chris Plant, Senior Account Executive, Berkeley Communications | Tel: 0118 909 0909 | |

“E-commerce” push at WTO threatens to undermine labour standards

The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) has warned that new trade rules currently being tabled would place severe restrictions on governments’ ability to regulate in the interests of working people. The proposals, which come under the banner of the “e-commerce agenda”, have far-reaching implications on the future world of work.

At the recent Davos World Economic Forum, a number of governments, predominantly from advanced economies, have announced their intention to launch of trade negotiations on e-commerce. By launching these negotiations, they aim to consolidate market access for digital companies. Amazon, Alphabet (Google), Facebook, and other online multi-national corporations stand to gain the most.

Data governance issues are central to the proposed WTO expansion. By guaranteeing the uninhibited flow of data across borders, they place major limitations on countries’ data sovereignty and on governments’ space for addressing abuses. The proposed changes would introduce direct disciplines on public regulation-making and bar governments from requiring companies to open local offices and to host servers on their territory. Without a local presence of companies, there is no entity to sue and the ability of domestic courts to enforce labour standards, as well as other rights, is fundamentally challenged.

More information:

Chronic stress levels 40% higher in full-time UK working women with children, but flexible work reduces stress

Biological markers for chronic stress are 40% higher in women bringing up two children while working full-time, new research shows.

Working from home and flexitime have no effect on their level of chronic stress – only putting in fewer hours at work helps, according to the study published in the British Sociological Association journal Sociology.

Researchers from the universities of Manchester and Essex analysed data on 6,025 participants in Understanding Society, UK Household Longitudinal Survey, which collects information on working life and readings of measures of stress response, including hormones levels and blood pressure.

The researchers are Professor Tarani Chandola, of the University of Manchester, and Dr Cara Booker, Professor Meena Kumari and Professor Michaela Benzeval, of the Institute for Social and Economic Research at Essex.

They found that the overall level of 11 biomarkers related to chronic stress, including stress related hormones and blood pressure, was 40% higher if women were working full-time while bringing up two children than it was among women working full-time with no children. Women working full time and bringing up one child had 18% higher level.

They also found that women with two children who worked reduced hours through part-time work, job share and term-time flexible working arrangements had chronic stress levels 37% lower than those working in jobs where flexible work was not available. Those working flexitime or working from home, with no overall reduction in working hours, had no reduction in chronic stress.

The researchers found that men’s chronic stress markers were also lower if they worked reduced hours, and the effect was about the same as for women.

The researchers adjusted the raw data to rule out other influences on their findings, such as the women’s ages, ethnicity, education, occupation and income, so that the influence of working hours and family conditions could be studied in isolation.

More information:

MEWP simulators ‘will enhance but not replace’ existing IPAF training

Technologies including virtual reality (VR) and mobile elevating work platform (MEWP) simulators will soon be enhancing operator training, though not likely to replace practical testing in the foreseeable future, according to a comprehensive eXtended Reality (XR) strategy paper published by the International Powered Access Federation (IPAF).

In 2018, IPAF led an industry-wide consultation into this exciting new technology and produced a detailed strategy paper based on the findings. IPAF members worked with IPAF to produce a policy document on how virtual reality systems can be effectively and safely harnessed to train MEWP operators. This led to a ground-breaking set of recommendations that are being implemented in 2019.

Tim Whiteman, CEO & MD of IPAF, comments: “The MEWP training sector is undergoing a virtual reality revolution, with MEWP simulators now so advanced that operators have been known to reach for an imaginary harness while operating them, or even asked to get off the simulator because they suffered vertigo or motion sickness!

“We wanted to hear from everyone, people who had never used a MEWP before to senior IPAF instructors, from school children to powered access pioneers and those in leadership roles of major industry bodies, rental companies and manufacturers.”

IPAF took a sophisticated MEWP simulator, developed by a member firm, to events, including the IPAF Summit in Miami, US; Intermat in Paris, France; Vertikal Days and Elevation in the UK; the IPAF Asia Conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; and the Euro Institut: Health & Safety Forum at the EU Parliament in Strasbourg, France.

IPAF also took the simulator to other events aimed at college-leavers, construction and health & safety officials, to broaden the base of engagement as widely as possible, and to ensure input to the consultation was not offered exclusively to powered access specialists. All those who tried the simulator, or who had tried different VR or simulator applications, were invited to respond via an online survey on IPAF’s website.

More information:

Australia: Court backs union on airport split shifts

Airport workers in Australia are celebrating a legal victory after the federal court ruled they can’t be forced to work split shifts.

Justice Darryl Rangiah said airport services company Aerocare, now called Swissport Australia, cannot require employees to work split shifts. In his ruling, the judge dismissed Aerocare’s application to declare that split shifts are not prohibited under the employment award and workers are not entitled to overtime rates or recall penalties for the shifts. Aerocare’s part-time employees perform ground handling duties such as baggage and cargo handling and check-in assistance.

More information:

Brazil: Mining giant Vale faces dam deaths anger

Senior Brazilian politicians have called for mining giant Vale SA to be held to account for a 25 January dam collapse in which over 300 people are now believed to have died.

Brazil’s vice-president Hamilton Mourão said those to blame for the collapse of the mine tailings dam which devastated the town of Brumadinho should be punished, and a top prosecutor said executives could be held personally responsible. Brazilian multinational Vale, which owns the complex, said safety procedures were followed. Over 60 people have been confirmed dead after a sea of mud engulfed a works canteen and nearby houses. Nearly 300 are still missing, with rescuers saying they are very unlikely to find more survivors.

More information:

Europe: Commission slammed over EDC inaction

The European Commission has come under fire from MEPs who accuse it of continuing to drag its feet over action on regulating endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCS).

Speaking at a meeting of the European Parliament’s environment committee (Envi) on 22 January 2019, DG Sante’s director for food and feed safety and innovation Sabine Juelicher presented the EU executive’s long delayed strategy for EDCs, involving minimising exposures, more research and an annual forum for ‘active dialogue’ with stakeholders.

More information:

Global: Landmark agreement on hotel harassment

IUF, the global union for the hospitality sector, has signed a landmark agreement with Meliá Hotels International on preventing sexual harassment in the workplace. The union federation says it is the first between the IUF and an international hotel chain.

The agreement was signed on in January 2019 by IUF general secretary Sue Longley and Meliá CEO Gabriel Escarrer, as part of the process initiated with the 2013 IUF/Meliá agreement on workplace rights. The new agreement incorporates the ILO definition of sexual harassment, affirms a policy of ‘zero tolerance’ and commits both parties to develop appropriate local implementation procedures based on a shared recognition of the need “to protect the dignity of everyone who works for Meliá, as well as their rights relating to their physical and moral integrity and non-discrimination.”

More information:

Official review of HSE echoes union criticisms

A review of the UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE) conducted for its host ministry, the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), has called on the safety regulator to up its game, echoing concerns raised by the TUC, trades unions and safety campaigns.

The ‘tailored review’, carried out for DWP by a member of the board of the Pensions Trust, is generally positive about the HSE, but raises several serious concerns. High on the list is the government-ordered end to most proactive – preventive – inspections.

The review calls instead for inspection and enforcement to be based on evidence of the best outcomes and for HSE to consider more challenging prosecutions on issues like work-related stress. It also says the representative “tripartite structure of the HSE board should be retained”. The system has been misfiring in recent years, with lengthy delays – and on two occasions a flat refusal – by the government to appoint well qualified TUC nominated workers’ representatives.

More information:

Event: Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace

11-13 June 2019, Malmö, Sweden

Diversity, equality and inclusion are becoming more and more relevant for companies and other organizations. The society is changing demographically which reflects in the workplaces. Companies are facing harsher competition to attracted talented workforce. Customers are becoming more aware of and sensible to social responsibility and sustainability. All these matters can be addressed through diversity, equality and inclusion work in organizations.

Course objectives

More information:

Event: From Age Management to Life Course Management

27-29 August 2019, Skodsborg, Denmark

Best practices in age management embrace organizational level actions, such as age-friendly HR-policy together with individual level career management approach, such as enhancing employees’ preparedness to manage their own career (e.g. skills, work ability and employability). This comprehensive approach requires more resources and know-how of organizational actors but will yield greater benefits than narrower one measure approaches alone.

Course objectives

This course will focus on life course management concept and practices in work organizations comprising not only organizational level activities, such as top management, HR-policy and line-management practices, but also individual level activities, such as peer-support groups, self-help tools and work ability coaching.

The purpose of the course is to provide participants clear insights of current empirical evidence of effectiveness of organizational and individual level activities in supporting longer and better working careers among employees with all ages. Participants will gain understanding of theoretical background concepts and their practical application in form of concrete tools for work organizations as part of life course management practices.

More information:

Event: Physical Exercise at the Workplace – from research to practice

10-12 September 2019, Helsinki area, Finland

Musculoskeletal disorders such as back and neck-shoulder pain is a major problem in the working environment and is associated with reduced work ability and sickness absence. Physical exercise at the workplace have shown promising results in preventing and reducing musculoskeletal pain and improving work ability in different occupational groups. Several factors are required for a successful implementation of physical exercise at the workplace. Important targets for workplace interventions are 1) specific physical exercise and 2) reducing sitting time.

Course objectives

The objective of the course is to provide the participants with theoretical knowledge and hands-on experience on how to design, perform and evaluate workplace interventions for increased physical exercise and reduced sitting time for improved musculoskeletal and cardiovascular health.

More information: