Skip to content

Sheila Pantry Associates Ltd

News from around the World

News Archive

March 2020

  1. Coronavirus (COVID-19): latest information and advice
  2. Essential and exciting reading – HSE’s 2020 Annual Science Review and 2020 Foresight Centre Report
  3. UK TUC Corona Virus Updates: Unions ensure outbreak action works at work
  4. New TUC advice for people now working at home
  5. ASH release – Health Secretary: “It is abundantly clear that smoking makes the impact of a coronavirus worse”
  6. Government must protect jobs and livelihoods, says TUC
  7. UK Unions will work with ministers on virus crisis
  8. Chancellor must support workers as well as business
  9. Sick pay reality for gig worker couriers
  10. Tube cleaners to get full sick pay
  11. Media owners should follow official advice
  12. Unite warning on relaxation of lorry driving regulations
  13. Hospital union slams ‘dangerous’ infection PPE advice
  14. UK ambulance workers left unprotected
  15. More NHS firms agree full pay for self-isolated
  16. Unions worldwide demand Amazon addresses virus safety
  17. Unions call for special measures for seafarers
  18. Government should be ‘ashamed’ of unsafe budget say the FBU
  19. Europe: Outbreak exposes danger of sick pay cuts
  20. Global: Crew and passengers can’t be abandoned at sea
  21. India: Saint-Gobain worker dismissed for occupational illness
  22. Myanmar: Growing union pushes for mine safety
  23. International Women’s Day and gender-equal workplaces for all – 8 March 2020
  24. UK TUC Budget submission sets out the actions the Chancellor must take to improve pay and strengthen the economy
  25. Summit discussed violence against prison staff
  26. Hyde pilots Evident Software to provide assurance to tenants about the safety of their home
  27. News from the USA: NIOSH Health Hazard Evaluation (HHE) Reports
  28. Day one sick pay an important step forward but not enough, says TUC
  29. Publications and Products to help you improve your safety culture
  30. The Walton-Beckett Graticule
  31. Rail Accident Investigation Board Urgent safety advice

Coronavirus (COVID-19): latest information and advice

The UK Department of Health & Social Care (DHSC) and Public Health England (PHE) are leading the UK government response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

You can get up-to-date information about the situation in the UK and guidance for the public on the risk from Coronavirus on the government’s website.

Care professionals, workers in education and other affected sectors: For people working in health care specific advice is available on GOV.UK. It is updated regularly.

Employers and businesses: If you employ people, the guidance for employers and business on GOV.UK will help you and your workers prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Health and safety law says employers must take reasonable steps to protect workers. You can take reasonable precautions by following Public Health England’s guidance for your sector.

The UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is working closely with the DHSC, PHE and other government departments to provide support when it’s needed, including technical advice on the protection of workers.

Check GOV.UK for the VERY latest information from the UK government.

Essential and exciting reading – HSE’s 2020 Annual Science Review and 2020 Foresight Centre Report

The UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is a scientific and evidence-based organisation and employs over 850 science and engineering experts. The 2020 Annual Science Review and the 2020 Foresight Centre Report provides case studies of the science, engineering work that HSE has delivered and illustrates how HSE uses robust science and evidence to Help Great Britain Work Well

UK TUC Corona Virus Updates: Unions ensure outbreak action works at work

The TUC says union reps should ensure employers assess risks posed by the coronavirus outbreak and their workplace and take the necessary preventive action in consultation with their staff.

A new TUC coronavirus guide for unions reps says they “should ensure their employer has in place either a separate policy for dealing with Covid-19, or a general policy covering public health emergencies, major disasters or incidents. It should not be left to employers alone to decide on what is an appropriate response – unions must also be involved, as any effective policy must have the confidence of the whole workforce.”

Employers should risk assess all the potential impacts on their operations and staff, the TUC states, “right up to the worst likely situation of workplace closure, disruption to transport, and the disruptions to other services such as banking, the internet and supply chains.”

Management must have received any necessary training on understanding Covid-19 and the measures necessary should an outbreak be suspected, the guide says, adding union safety reps should be consulted about and made aware of any policies or measures taken, and clear lines of reporting to managers should be established.

More information:

New TUC advice for people now working at home

The UK Trades Union Congress (TUC) has published new advice on home working.

The move follows the prime minister’s call this week for people to work at home during the coronavirus outbreak if they can. More than 1.7 million people already work from home on a regular basis in the UK, but millions of people are likely to be home working for the first time this week, the TUC says. The union body says it is vital that staff have access to safe working conditions in their own home. It says workers should also take regular breaks and follow their usual working hours if possible.

The TUC adds that it is important to keep in contact with colleagues – by email, Skype, phone and chat for example – to avoid the mental health effects of isolation. The TUC is calling for protection of those unable to take the work from home option, especially frontline workers in public services.

More information:

ASH release – Health Secretary: “It is abundantly clear that smoking makes the impact of a coronavirus worse”

As the Government again highlights the risks to smokers from COVID-19, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) is joining health professionals in calling on smokers to #QuitforCovid.

Speaking in the UK House of Commons recently, in response to a question from Bob Blackman MP Chair of the APPG on Smoking and Health, Secretary of State for Health Matt Hancock said: “It is abundantly clear from the research into previous coronaviruses that smoking makes the impact of a coronavirus worse.”

This echoes the advice of the Chief Medical Officer from last week’s Health Select Committee who said: “If you are going to give up smoking, this is a very good moment to do it.”

More information:

Government must protect jobs and livelihoods, says TUC

TUC is calling on the government to follow other countries and introduce wage subsidies to protect working families and save jobs.

A new TUC report, published following the chancellor’s 17 March 2020 statement, sets out proposals that will build on the Rishi Sunak’s announcements to protect business and the economy by guaranteeing all families an income and protecting jobs from being lost.

The TUC says these additional measures will also help slow down the spread of the infection by ensuring people can afford social distancing and self-isolation.

More information:

UK Unions will work with ministers on virus crisis

The UK Chancellor’s statement that he “will do whatever it takes” to protect business and “people’s financial security” and will work with unions to do it, has been welcomed by unions.

In his 17 March 2020 speech outlining the government’s plans, Rishi Sunak said: “In particular, I will work with trade unions and business groups to urgently develop new forms of employment support to help protect people’s jobs and incomes through this period.” He added: “We have never faced an economic fight like this one. But we are well prepared. We will get through this. And we will do whatever it takes.”

UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis responded: “The government needs to give people certainty in this rapidly changing situation. Easing the anxiety many people have over their jobs and livelihoods is crucial.”

More information:

Chancellor must support workers as well as business

The government must provide workers as well as businesses protection during the coronavirus crisis, unions have said.

Tim Roache, GMB general secretary, commenting after Rishi Sunak said he would work with unions to help address workplace issues, said: “The chancellor is right that we need to work together to get through this, and GMB is willing to play our part. It’s crucial the government acts urgently to secure jobs, wages and living standards while keeping workers on the frontline safe.”

He added: “Support for business is welcome, but we need support for workers too because bills won’t go away while people self-isolate. We need a sector by sector approach to securing the economy, mitigating losses now and crucially planning now for investment in recovery.”

More information:

Sick pay reality for gig worker couriers

The ‘paltry’ sick pay for delivery couriers affected by coronavirus could push them to keep working to stay financially afloat rather than self-isolate, critics have warned.

Hermes, which has around 15,000 self-employed parcel couriers, will only pay £20 a day to drivers if they need to self-isolate and only if they typically earn less than £90 a day. It means that almost half its workers will receive nothing and those who do will see payments capped at £280 because they are effectively limited to 14 days. DPD is offering the equivalent of statutory sick pay, or £94.25 a week.

More information:

Tube cleaners to get full sick pay

Rail union RMT has welcomed the news that a union campaign to get Tube cleaners ‘in the frontline of the fight to contain the coronavirus on London Underground’ full sick pay has been successful.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “The union has been demanding that all privatised staff on the transport network get full sick pay in light of the coronavirus outbreak and the news that Tube cleaners working for ABM are to get just that is a welcome breakthrough others must now follow.”

More information:

Media owners should follow official advice

Journalists’ union NUJ has called on media employers to follow UK government advice to facilitate home working to the greatest extent possible, stop unessential travel and avoid unnecessary social contact in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The union has also reminded journalists covering the Covid-19 pandemic to exercise ‘maximum care’ in their public interactions. The NUJ says while the press has a clear duty to continue to work and report news and advice on the pandemic, it needs to do so in safety. Employers must put in place technological and other solutions to enable this, the union says.

More information:

Unite warning on relaxation of lorry driving regulations

Commercial drivers’ union Unite has warned that the decision by the Department for Transport (DfT) to relax the regulations on lorry drivers’ driving hours from 18 March to 16 April 2020 must not affect driver welfare and road safety.

The union, which represents over 50,000 lorry drivers in the UK, said it understands that the decision to relax the regulations which govern for how long HGV drivers can drive for as well as ensuring they take sufficient breaks, was a result of a request from retailers to the department for the environment and rural affairs (DEFRA), in order to ensure deliveries of ‘essential’ supplies. The relaxation of the regulations applies only to certain deliveries and is currently time limited.

More information:

Hospital union slams ‘dangerous’ infection PPE advice

GMB has said it is ‘very concerned’ after porters at a coronavirus-hit hospital were told they should only wear personal protection equipment (PPE) on the ‘advice of a clinical colleague’.

The union was commenting on guidance given to staff working for Mitie at Epsom and St Helier hospital. The union is demanding frontline health service workers are issued with the appropriate PPE at all times to protect themselves and patients and to help prevent the spread of this virus. It said advice given to frontline health service workers has to be consistent, with health and safety the first priority.

More information:

UK ambulance workers left unprotected

The ambulance workers dealing with the coronavirus epidemic are turning up for shifts to find no hand sanitiser, face masks or wipes and faulty testing equipment, the union GMB has warned.

Paramedics and ambulance workers across the UK are also being forced to deal with inconsistent guidance and fatigue due to increased workloads as colleagues self-isolate, it said. GMB has published key demands the government must meet to keep emergency workers – and the British public – safe. It wants priority testing for ‘vital workers’, and full pay for those who have to self-isolate. It adds the government should ‘underwrite any employers who can’t afford it.’

The union wants emergency PPE given as a priority to these health workers, including goggles, thermometers, masks and hand sanitisers. It is also seeking paid-time childcare or care support for essential health workers.

More information:

More NHS firms agree full pay for self-isolated

Private company Medirest has become the latest to promise full pay for all health workers self-isolating due to coronavirus.

GMB said following pressure from the union, the company joined NHS ‘outsourcers’ ISS, Sodexo, Interserve and Mitie in guaranteeing full pay. The union is seeking similar urgent commitments from other private firms operating in the NHS, including transport firms and social care providers. GMB organiser Lola McEvoy said the Medirest agreement is “another fantastic GMB win for workers.

More information:

Unions worldwide demand Amazon addresses virus safety

In the wake of coronavirus outbreaks in Amazon warehouses, a global alliance of unions is calling on the company to take urgent measures to protect workers and communities.

The alliance, coordinated by the global UNI and which includes the UK union GMB, is making its demands as workers in Italy are striking and workers in Spain are filing complaints to make the company fulfil its legal obligations to provide a safe workplace.

More information:

Unions call for special measures for seafarers

Seafarers should be treated as key workers and provided with special measures and exemptions from the travel and other restrictions being imposed for Covid-19 containment, according to the London-based maritime professionals’ union Nautilus.

It says in the United Kingdom, 95 per cent of all trade into and out of the country moves by sea. Globally that figure is 90 per cent. “We call for special measures and exemptions for seafarers, otherwise world trade will grind to a halt,” Nautilus general secretary Mark Dickinson said.

The union is recommending preventive measures to protect the health and safety of seafarers including, where necessary, screening and testing for Covid-19. “Ships crews need to be provided with medical kits for protection and priority medical treatment if found to be infected in order to allow them get back to work quickly,” the Nautilus leader said.

More information:

Government should be ‘ashamed’ of unsafe budget say the FBU

The firefighters’ union FBU has condemned chancellor Rishi Sunak’s 11 March 2020 budget for “failing to recognise the role of firefighters in responding to flooding, for failing to provide building safety funding for buildings under 18 m and for promising a ‘pittance’ to fund firefighters’ crucial fire safety work.”

Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said: “This budget once again fails to end a decade of pay restraint for firefighters and the chronic underfunding of the fire and rescue service.” He noted that funding allocated for the replacement of flammable cladding ignores “those at risk in buildings under 18 m, such as the Bolton Cube. This is not good enough and won’t keep people safe.”

More information:

Europe: Outbreak exposes danger of sick pay cuts

Europe’s trade union federation ETUC is calling for paid sick leave for all workers across Europe, warning the coronavirus exposes the danger to public health posed by the cuts made to sick pay by member states.

European Commission figures show the majority of member states have reduced spending on sickness benefits since the 2008 financial crisis. ETUC says the cuts to sick pay across Europe mean more people go to work when they are ill because they can’t afford to lose income or risk losing their job. It adds this presents a risk to public health, particularly in the context of the coronavirus outbreak.

More information:

Global: Crew and passengers can’t be abandoned at sea

The refusal of ports to allow the crew and passengers of ships affected by the coronavirus to disembark is “insane and unsustainable”, the global transport union ITF has warned.

In one incident last week, the Grand Princess cruise ship was refused permission to dock in California amid speculation that some passengers and crew had tested positive for Covid-19. The move was supported by President Trump, but critics warned the refusal to allow those onboard to disembark was treating the ship like a disease breeding ‘petri dish’. Dave Heindel, chair of the ITF seafarers’ section, condemned the failure of flag states to protect seafarers’ and passengers’ health during “this humanitarian crisis.”

More information:

India: Saint-Gobain worker dismissed for occupational illness

An employee of the global building materials giant Saint-Gobain in Bangalore, India, was fired for absenteeism after exposure to the highly toxic chemical cadmium left him with severe health problems, the global union IndustriALL has said.

Saint-Gobain Crystals and Detectors fired Jayaraj Mathangi in 2016 after years of service. The 35-year-old is demanding reinstatement and compensation for lost health. Jayaraj, who joined the company in August 2008, was required to check some 300-400 cadmium crystals per day. Transparent under normal conditions, cadmium tungstate crystals emit light when exposed to gamma rays and x-rays, and are used to make scintillation detectors. To test and calibrate the detectors, workers used Caesium-137, a radioactive element. Cadmium and caesium are both extremely hazardous.

More information:

Myanmar: Growing union pushes for mine safety

A mining union is Myanmar is calling on the government and employers to improve health and safety in mines, demanding measures including emergency exits, clean drinking water and fire extinguishers at the worksites.

The Mining Workers Federation of Myanmar (MWFM), which is affiliated to the global union IndustriALL, has said there can be no compromise when it comes to health and safety, stating that authorities and employers must put human lives before profit.

More information:

International Women’s Day and gender-equal workplaces for all – 8 March 2020

8th of March provided an opportunity that everyone must seize. Observed annually around the globe, the Day is a powerful reminder to keep working hard on eliminating gender-based stereotypes while celebrating women’s achievements, creativity and strength.

International Women’s Day creates an outstanding platform to raise awareness of the challenges affecting the lives of working women.

This is also a top priority embedded in various research activities of EU-OSHA.

What better occasion than now to help us make a positive difference for women at work?

Read more about women and safety and health at work

Get involved and celebrate the International Women’s Day 2020 – #EachforEqual

More information in this month’s Editorial.

UK TUC Budget submission sets out the actions the Chancellor must take to improve pay and strengthen the economy

On 8 March 2020 the UK TUC published its Budget submission to the Treasury and calling on the Chancellor to make the 2020s a decade of renewal – with green infrastructure, rebuilding of public services, and support for better quality jobs.

The TUC has set out four challenges for the government to turn around Britain’s weak and austerity-damaged economy. And it has set budget tests on each challenge:

  1. Prepare the country for a just transition to a low carbon economy
  2. Invest in communities as well as infrastructure
  3. Decent jobs across the country
  4. A strong economy with trade deals that protects jobs, rights and peace
  5. Urgent action needed to tackle coronavirus

More information:

Summit discussed violence against prison staff

Union members spoke about their experiences of violence and health and safety issues in prison at a summit in London.

A report last year (2019) by the Joint Unions in Prisons Alliance (JUPA) which has 9 members including PCS, highlighted that the number of assaults on staff in prisons increased in the previous 12 months by 21% to 10,213 – an average of 28 every day. It said that a common issue that staff all face is the daily threat of violence and abuse, and the toll that this takes on their mental health. Retention of a skilled and experienced prison workforce is key to making these improvements in safety; however, the current environment is not conducive to sustainable careers in the prison service or associated support services.

Each of the last 5 publications of the HM Chief Inspector of Prisons for England and Wales’s annual report has cited the reduction in prison officers as a key contributor to the growing crisis in prisons.

The summit organised by JUPA heard from unions representing staff employed by HMPPS, private prison providers, and staff working for contractors providing cleaning, maintenance, and healthcare and education services.

In addition to significant concerns about the safety of members, with an ageing prison population and cases of assaults and self-harm at continuing high levels, the alliance is also concerned about the impact of current conditions on the welfare of prisoners.

More information:

Hyde pilots Evident Software to provide assurance to tenants about the safety of their home

Two-year pilot scheme of Evident Software will benefit 530 social homes across London.

Social housing residents living in 530 homes across London are now safer from the risk of fire, thanks to a pilot of new technology to track and manage fire safety equipment by housing association the Hyde Group (Hyde).

The two-year pilot scheme of Evident Software (Evident) by Hyde, will see the implementation of Evident’s fire safety asset management software across four apartment blocks and one sheltered housing property, spanning the London boroughs of Bermondsey, Croydon, Southwark, Lambeth and Lewisham, managed by Hyde.

Evident has already tagged and logged every piece of fire safety equipment in each of the five buildings, from smoke alarms and fire extinguishers, to emergency lighting and dry risers. The equipment will now be monitored by Evident’s Landlord software, which gives Hyde a real-time dashboard on each of the building’s safety equipment – including audits, service reports and end-of-life data to ensure all apparatus is fit for purpose and regularly maintained. It also helps identify any areas that are without adequate protection which can then be swiftly rectified.

For Hyde, which is responsible for more than 100,000 residents and is part of the G15, an organisation made up of the largest housing associations in and around Greater London, this provides clarity. The safety compliance equipment information, maintenance management, contract and audit details for all the buildings are now instantly accessible from any mobile device, and any location.

Liz Oliver, director of compliance at The Hyde Group, said: “Hyde exists to provide its residents with safe, decent homes, which they can be proud of. Our work with Evident now makes it fundamentally easier for us to reduce the risk of fire in our buildings and provide these residents with peace of mind.

“The software makes it easy for us to check the status of all our safety equipment and enables us to act far in advance of items requiring servicing and end-of-life replacement. The entire social housing sector requires innovation to drive it forward and create safer homes. We’re proud to be at the forefront of this revolution.”

Tracie Williams, managing director of London-based Evident Software, comments: “This pilot creates the golden thread of information that Dame Judith Hackitt called for in her government-commissioned post-Grenfell report, to ensure the transparency and compliance of fire safety equipment and maintenance in residential buildings.

“Our mission is to help landlords like Hyde have full control of fire safety compliance and oversight of the equipment in their buildings, to ensure transparency and accountability. Hyde will now have a holistic view of what equipment exists, what work needs to be done, what work hasn’t been done, and what work is upcoming in a live and digestible way. We hope that this subsequently will help residents to feel confident that Hyde is doing everything it can to keep them safe in their homes.”

News from the USA: NIOSH Health Hazard Evaluation (HHE) Reports

Evaluation of Exposures to Metals and Flame Retardants at an Electronics Recycling Company

At an electronics recycling company, HHE Program investigators found flame retardants in the air, on employees’ hands, and in their blood and urine, and blood leads above the CDC reference level. We recommended providing employees with a lead-removing product to wash their hands, retraining employees on the proper wear and use of respirators, and prohibiting dry sweeping to clean work areas.

Evaluation of Health Symptoms after a Law Enforcement Operation

Finding influenza-like illness symptoms among law enforcement officers after they participated in a law enforcement operation, HHE Program investigators recommended improving infection prevention practices and provision of annual influenza vaccination to help minimize similar occurrences in the future.

Evaluation of Wildland Fire Fighters’ Exposures to Asbestos During a Prescribed Burn

HHE Report No. 2017-0076-3352, June 2019

Request – Management at a federal forest management agency was concerned about wildland fire fighters’ exposures to asbestos during prescribed burns near a former vermiculite mine.

Workplace – This federal forest management agency is responsible for approximately 28,000 acres of Kootenai National Forest. Within this zone, approximately 10,000 acres of land are centered on a former vermiculite mine. The geological deposit where the vermiculite was mined contains amphibole asbestos. The prescribed burn in this evaluation was just outside of this area.

To learn more about the workplace, go to Section A in the Supporting Technical Information. Our Approach during our two visits to the worksite, we completed the following activities:

Day one sick pay an important step forward but not enough, says TUC

Commenting on Boris Johnson’s announcement of statutory sick pay provision from day one of illness, TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:

“This is an important step forward for working people. But it’s not enough.

“Two million workers still don’t earn enough to qualify for statutory sick pay. They can’t afford not to work. And statutory sick pay still isn’t enough to live on.

“Government must go further to ensure that no one is penalised for doing the right thing.”

More information:

Publications and Products to help you improve your safety culture

Workplace Safety Climate Tool

The HSE safety climate tool is an online assessment tool designed to proactively measure and improve organisational safety culture.

Using a simple, online questionnaire, the SCT explores your employees’ attitudes and perceptions in key areas of health and safety, while guaranteeing anonymity. Once the survey has been completed, it generates a comprehensive report and provides guidance and recommendations that will help improve the organisation’s safety culture.

More information:

The Health and Safety Toolbox (HSG268)

Packed with simple, straightforward advice, this book covers the most common workplace hazards. It shows how most small to medium-sized businesses can put measures in place to control the risks. Easy to use, it will help you comply with the law and prevent workplace accidents and ill health.

More information:

Managing for Health and Safety (HSG65)

This revised edition of one of HSE’s most popular guides is mainly for leaders, owners and line managers. It will particularly help those who need to put in place or oversee their organisation’s health and safety arrangements.

The advice may also help workers and their representatives, as well as health and safety practitioners and training providers.

More information:

Health and Safety at Work: Vital Statistics Poster 2019

HSE publishes annual statistics on health and safety in Great Britain. This poster visualises the key statistics in an infographic style, allowing health and safety professionals to easily educate their workforce about the consequences of poor health and safety.

More information:

Safe Deal Playing Cards

These cards can make it much easier to break the ice, broach big subjects and start meaningful discussions.

There is no fixed way to use the cards. You can ask the question first to start a conversation, then use the information provided to add context to the discussion. Or you can use the information on the card to introduce the subject, then ask the related question to begin a discussion. Either way, Safe Deal will generate interesting dialogue.

More information:

The Walton-Beckett Graticule

The Walton-Beckett Graticule is used world-wide in the measurement of airborne asbestos. Steve Beckett, its co-designer, has died.

An obituary in the latest issue of the BOHS magazine “Exposure” explains:

In the 1970s, Steve Beckett demonstrated that without careful quality control, measurements of asbestos in air were subject to huge errors. He co-designed an eyepiece graticule which helped make the measurements more accurate, and this continues to be used world-wide.

He then changed career and became an expert of chocolate technology, and the editor of a book on the subject which is similarly world-famous.

Steve died in January 2020, and this note summarises his contribution to occupational hygiene.

Non-members of BOHS can access the text of the article by Trevor Ogden, OBE at:

Rail Accident Investigation Board Urgent safety advice

Passing between or close to the end of stationary rail vehicles in depots, yards and sidings

UK Rail Accident Investigation Board (RAIB) has issued urgent safety advice addressed to employers of train drivers and other operational staff whose duties may take them close to stabled rail vehicles when walking and working in depots, yards and sidings.

More information: