News from around the World
- Don’t rely on goodwill to keep staff safe
- HSE eBulletin: Coronavirus (COVID-19) – latest advice and information
- New guidance on working safely (being COVID secure) during the coronavirus outbreak
- HSE assembles specialist unit to support UK’s coronavirus response
- Coronavirus – HSE open letter to the food industry
- Business Secretary’s statement on coronavirus (COVID-19): 12 May 2020
- Education unions’ statement on the safe reopening of schools
- HSE Annual Science Review 2020
- The effectiveness of moral messages on public health behavioural intentions during the COVID-19 pandemic – Working Paper
- GDP reaction: Job Guarantee Scheme needed to help restore economy – TUC
- Behavioural science can be used to fight the coronavirus
- Grouping of chemicals speeds up regulatory action – European Chemicals Agency (ECHA)
- Working from home has not been a common feature of employment in Ireland
- RoSPA health and safety adviser warns firms not to rush return-to-work practices
- Europe: Commission blasted on COVID-19 risk ranking
- Global: The deadly cost of unregulated and illegal fishing
- Global: Chemical industry must step up on human rights
- Return to safe workplaces – UK TUC Guidance
- Digital transformation in the NHS
- US CSB Releases New Guidance Document for Boards of Directors and Executives Focused on High Hazard Accident Prevention
- British Safety Council Technical Support for COVID-19 Workplace Protocols
- Canada: Resources to prevent COVID-19 in the workplace
- COVID-19 Should be Classified as an Occupational Disease
- UK TUC: No one should have to return to work without “tough new measures” on safety
- One year on, how is London prepared to prevent another Notre Dame?
- USA NIOSH – Workers Memorial Day, 28 April 2020: NIOSH Director John Howard, M.D., Reflects on the State of Worker Safety and Health
- International Workers’ Memorial Day 2020 – 28 April 2020
- Union pushed HSE into more ‘robust’ coronavirus role
- UK National survey confirms widespread COVID-19 concerns in contact centres
- Usdaw calls for employers to follow the Next example to make their warehouses safer
- Big 6 food retailers must guarantee worker safety
- British Safety Council marks 2020 World Day for Safety and Health at Work
- Coronavirus – Free resources to help employers and employees from British Safety Council (BSC)
- All COVID-19 key worker deaths must be recognised
- Risky business: Economic impacts of the coronavirus crisis on different groups of workers
- Care home death figures are ‘shameful’
- Unions provide crucial support for bereaved workers
- Life is tough on the retail frontline – survey
- Survey confirms COVID-19 ‘terror’ in contact centres
- Reopening: Guidance for Cleaning and Disinfecting Public Spaces, Workplaces, Businesses, Schools, and Homes – Advice from the USA
Don’t rely on goodwill to keep staff safe
As the Prime Minister sets out how the UK will start emerging from lockdown, the TUC has warned that it cannot be left to the goodwill of employers to keep workers safe.
Describing draft government guidance as worrying, TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “What the government is proposing amounts to little more than the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) crossing its fingers that employers will act responsibly and keep their workers and the wider community safe.”
Writing in the Guardian, she noted: “Actions will be left to employers’ discretion. Risk control measures such as social distancing and handwashing should be taken ‘where possible’. There is a blank space where the proposed policies on PPE should be. Without a big shift from the government, when lockdown eases bad bosses will be able to expose their workers – and all of us – to infection without fear of consequences.”
More information: https://www.tuc.org.uk/news/risks-946-9-may-2020#_Toc39751320
HSE eBulletin: Coronavirus (COVID-19) – latest advice and information
An update on the latest information for employers and employees in the construction industry, including guidance on working safely (being COVID secure) during the coronavirus outbreak.
This bulletin covers:
- Working safely during the coronavirus outbreak
- Social distancing guidelines
- Work equipment – examinations and testing
- Stay up to date with the latest advice
New guidance on working safely (being COVID secure) during the coronavirus outbreak
Guidance from the UK Government has published guidance to help employers keep their workplaces operating safely during this time.
The latest guidance covers eight workplace settings:
- construction and other outdoor work
- factories, plants and warehouses
- other people’s homes
- labs and research facilities
- offices and contact centres
- restaurants offering takeaway or delivery
- shops and branches
HSE assembles specialist unit to support UK’s coronavirus response
Britain’s workplace regulator has assembled a team of specialists to assist the Government’s national effort to get personal protective equipment (PPE) to frontline health care workers fighting the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Supporting the Government’s PPE Plan, the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) PPE Unit is made up of regulatory inspectors, policy makers and scientists. It has been evaluating materials and specifications against relevant PPE requirements, to rapidly provide agreement that new and novel sources of supply have been properly assessed and can be deployed to frontline workers without unnecessary delay.
Working closely with the Department for Health and Social Care, as well as Public Health England, the NHS and other government departments, HSE’s expertise in managing workplace risk combined with its knowledge of PPE material science and regulations is helping the Government’s aims to ensure there is a continued supply to where PPE is needed.
The unprecedented global demand for PPE during the coronavirus pandemic has meant that the UK is sourcing products from new suppliers and HSE is providing the reassurance that these are of the right quality to protect NHS workers.
Coronavirus – HSE open letter to the food industry
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has published an open letter to the food industry in response to concerns raised originally by bakeries, but the relevance of the points raised applies across the whole food sector:
As you will appreciate this is a fast moving and unprecedented situation. In these extraordinary times, we are constantly reviewing how we can support the national effort to tackle COVID-19 and continue to protect Britain’s workforce.
In support of the Government and to help businesses and workers, the Health and Safety Executive are clarifying and promoting guidance for those continuing to work away from the home.
In bakeries, breathing in flour dust can be a significant risk as it can cause occupational asthma. We are aware that currently there is a restricted supply of dust masks (PPE) across many parts of the food industry and that many employers still rely on them to control exposure to hazardous substances. However, suitable control can often be achieved using good working practices and local exhaust ventilation (engineering controls) which then means that employees do not need to wear dust masks; reducing overall pressure on the supply chain.
Business Secretary’s statement on coronavirus (COVID-19): 12 May 2020
The press briefing from Downing Street was led by Business Secretary Alok Sharma. He was joined by Sarah Albon, Chief Executive of the Health and Safety Executive, and Prof Stephen Powis, the Medical Director for NHS England:
Business Secretary Alok Sharma urged employers to use the government’s new safety guidelines for workplaces during the crisis (see below);
He told workers who have concerns that they should talk to their employer and – if they don’t get “any traction” – should contact the HSE, or their local authorities;
The HSE is prepared to use its enforcement powers when necessary and will also consider criminal prosecutions, its Chief Executive Sarah Albon said;
She said she is aware of a small number of firms “not doing the right thing or not sure what the right thing is to do”;
Up to £14 million extra funding has been made available to the watchdog for extra call centre staff, inspectors and kit, Mr Sharma said;
The government wants businesses to carry out COVID-19 risk assessments;
Prof Powis said that the number of people in hospitals with COVID-19 is falling but that it was “critical” people maintained social-distancing;
But while numbers in hospital are continuing to fall in London and several other regions, there appears to have been a slight uptick in the North-East of England and the East of England;
Mr Sharma said England will only take “careful steps” in lifting lockdown measures.
Amended regulations now set out what the legal rules are for lockdown in England (more below);
The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will continue until end of October, with workers continuing to receive 80% of their current salary;
From the start of August 2020, furloughed workers will be able to return to work part-time with employers being asked to pay a percentage towards the salaries of their furloughed staff;
Northern Ireland published its five-stage lockdown recovery plan yesterday (see below). There is no timetable, which has been described by some business groups as “a mistake”;
Twitter has announced that staff will be allowed to work from home “forever”, with many predicting that other tech firms will follow suit;
Thailand has reported no new virus infections for the past 24 hours – the first time since 9 March the daily toll was zero.
Eased lockdown rules in England
From Wednesday 13 May 2020, people in England can spend more time outside, meet a friend at the park and move home, as the government begins easing some lockdown measures.
Garden centres can also reopen and people can meet one person from outside their household. Sports that are physically distanced – such as golf – are also now permitted. And estate agents can now reopen, viewings can take place and removal firms and conveyancers can re-start operations – so long as social-distancing and workplace safety rules are followed.
And some employees who cannot work from home are being encouraged to return to their workplaces. Employers have been issued with guidelines (see below) on keeping workplaces as safe as possible, including the use of staggered shifts and frequent cleaning.
Employers will need to undertake a COVID-19 risk assessment, and any workers with any concerns are advised to contact the HSE.
The government is still advising people to only use public transport for essential journeys, with commuters in England being advised to wear a face covering and keep a safe distance away from other passengers.
All of the new regulations are subject to social distancing rules. More details below on guidance covering access to green spaces.
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are keeping stricter measures in place and retaining the message to stay at home.
Education unions’ statement on the safe reopening of schools
On 13 May 2020 Unions with members in the education sector are publishing a joint statement on the safe reopening of schools in England.
This statement follows a longer statement to the Secretary of State on Friday (8 May), which set out in full detail the principles and tests necessary for the safe reopening of schools. It is signed by AEP, GMB, NAHT, NASUWT, NEU, NSEAD, Prospect, UNISON and Unite.
Full text of statement: https://www.tuc.org.uk/news/education-unions-statement-safe-reopening-schools
HSE Annual Science Review 2020
Dr Andrew Curran, HSE Chief Scientist says he hopes that this year’s science review (2020) will make an interesting read; the mix of case studies helps to illustrate the breadth of problems that we are asked to address by colleagues in HSE, in other parts of government and by industry. When taken as a whole, three interesting points emerge: first, that our scientists, engineers and analysts are exploring how risk accumulates in complex systems and developing approaches to mitigate these risks; second, that these risks often emerge in the interfaces found between components within the whole system (e.g. between the people, the plant, the processes and the product); and finally that the most significant element of the system are the people in it, and the impact the variation in their physical and mental health status has on the efficient functioning of that system.
HSE Annual Science Review 2020
Health and Safety Executive; March 2020; 67 pp.
The effectiveness of moral messages on public health behavioural intentions during the COVID-19 pandemic – Working Paper
With the COVID-19 pandemic threatening millions of lives, changing our behaviours to prevent the spread of the disease is a moral imperative. Here, we investigated the persuasiveness of messages inspired by three major moral traditions. A sample of US participants representative for age, sex and race/ethnicity (N=1032) viewed messages from either a leader or citizen containing deontological, virtue-based, utilitarian, or non-moral justifications for adopting social distancing behaviours during the COVID-19 pandemic. We measured the messages’ effects on participants’ self-reported intentions to wash hands, avoid social gatherings, self-isolate, and share health messages, as well as their beliefs about others’ intentions, impressions of the messenger’s morality and trustworthiness, and beliefs about personal control and responsibility for preventing the spread of disease.
Consistent with our pre-registered predictions, compared to non-moral control messages, deontological arguments had a modest effect on intentions to share the message. Message source (leader vs. citizen) did not moderate any of the observed effects of message type. A majority of participants predicted the utilitarian message would be most effective, but we found no evidence that the utilitarian message was effective in changing intentions or beliefs. We caution that our findings require confirmation in replication studies and are modest in size, likely due to ceiling effects on our measures of behavioural intentions and strong heterogeneity across all dependent measures along several demographic dimensions including age, self-identified gender, self-identified race, political conservatism, and religiosity. Although we found no evidence that the utilitarian message was effective in changing intentions and beliefs, exploratory analyses showed that individual differences in one key dimension of utilitarianism – impartial concern for the greater good – were strongly and positively associated with public health intentions and beliefs. Overall, our preliminary results suggest that public health messaging focused on duties and responsibilities toward family, friends and fellow citizens is a promising approach for future studies of interventions to slow the spread of COVID-19 in the US. Ongoing work is investigating the reproducibility and generalizability of our findings across different populations, what aspects of deontological messages may drive their persuasive effects, and how such messages can be most effectively delivered across global populations.
The effectiveness of moral messages on public health behavioural intentions during the COVID-19 pandemic: Working Paper
Everett, Jim; Colombatto, Clara; Chituc, Vladimir; Brady, William; Crockett, Molly
PsyArXiv preprints, 20 March 2020
GDP reaction: Job Guarantee Scheme needed to help restore economy – TUC
Commenting on 13 May 2020 GDP figures for the first quarter of 2020, which show the economy contracting as the UK entered lockdown, TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:
“What’s important now is having the right plan for Britain’s economic recovery. A plan that keeps us safer than before, and that makes Britain fairer than before for the key workers who have put their lives on the line.
“The Chancellor was right to extend the furlough scheme. The next steps must include a Job Guarantee Scheme to prevent problems with long-term unemployment. And we will need a programme of investment so that we can build back better, with jobs for everyone, fairer work and a greener economy.”
Behavioural science can be used to fight the coronavirus
The spread of the coronavirus could be slowed using findings from behavioural science, according to a new ESRI research paper. The conclusion is based on more than 100 scientific research papers reviewed in early March 2020 by the institute’s Behavioural Research Unit.
The review covers seven topics: hand washing, face touching, isolation, collective action, avoiding undesirable behaviours, crisis communication, and risk perception. Some clear conclusions emerge from the evidence.
Simple, cheap behavioural interventions can make large differences. For instance, many more people use hand sanitisers when they are placed with colourful signs in unmissable locations, such as the centre of entrance halls, the middle of lift lobby areas, or immediately facing doors. All organisations can do this.
The researchers collected evidence on the psychological impact of isolation and how to help people to cope. The implication is that we need more official support, perhaps resourcing a dedicated phoneline. People can be helped to plan isolation. They do better by staying in contact with others and keeping up a routine. This is important to ensure that those who need to self-isolate are supported and not deterred from doing so.
Findings from behavioural science also suggest how to encourage people to act in the public interest and to avoid undesirable behaviours like panic buying or xenophobic responses.
Grouping of chemicals speeds up regulatory action – European Chemicals Agency (ECHA)
To speed up identifying and managing the risks of hazardous chemicals, ECHA is screening structurally similar substances in groups. Last year, the Agency together with national authorities reviewed around 220 high-volume substances of which 56 % needed more hazard data.
ECHA’s second report on the Integrated Regulatory Strategy gives an overview on the progress in addressing substances of concern and in the “mapping of the chemical universe”. It includes recommendations to authorities and industry on managing chemicals’ risks.
In 2019, ECHA moved from a substance-by-substance approach to addressing structurally similar chemicals in groups. The aim is to speed up the identification of hazardous substances and get their risks controlled more quickly.
Together with Member States, the Agency reviewed around 220 substances registered above 100 tonnes per year and allocated them to different pools of the chemical universe for regulatory action. For 56 % of them, more data was needed to clarify the need for further risk management. For 22 % of the substances, no further action was proposed and 7 % were considered as high priority for EU regulatory risk management.
The number of substances registered above 100 tonnes and not yet assigned to a pool in the chemical universe has reduced to around 2 400. The grouping approach also enabled ECHA to scrutinise more than 300 low-production volume substances in 2019.
Working from home has not been a common feature of employment in Ireland
The COVID-19 health crisis has resulted in most employees being asked to work from home. The ability of employees to work from home is important as it may limit job losses and the associated economic contraction. Furthermore, as public health measures are relaxed and economies reopen, ensuring as many people as possible work from home will help control against another spike in virus cases. Finally, while combining working from home with childminding is not a sustainable long-term option, it may alleviate short-term childcare pressures in light of school and crèche closures.
This study examines the incidence and distribution of homeworking in Ireland using recent Irish data from before the COVID-19 crisis.
RoSPA health and safety adviser warns firms not to rush return-to-work practices
A rushed, inappropriate or ill-thought-out return to work could spell financial disaster for organisations.
That’s the warning from RoSPA’s occupational safety and health policy adviser, Dr Karen McDonnell, as many employers across England start to ease their staff back into physical workplaces.
The Government and Health and Safety Executive have developed detailed guidance on how different workplaces can be reopened safely, to allow those who cannot work from home to return.
But if the guidelines are not strictly adhered to, and good health and safety practice is substituted for speed of return, then organisations could be bringing about their own downfall.
Karen, who has worked in the sector for more than 30 years, said: “Decades of experience tell us that good health and safety is good for business and good for the economy. The Government guidelines for risk assessment are based on existing good practice, and are designed to minimise the risk for employees, customers and others.”
Europe: Commission blasted on COVID-19 risk ranking
A European Commission decision not to put COVID-19 in the highest risk category of the Biological Agents Directive has been criticised by unions.
The unions had earlier argued the virus, for which there is no vaccine, should be classified in the top risk group.
Commenting on the 14 May 2020 decision, ETUC deputy general secretary Per Hilmersson said the union body welcomed the inclusion of COVID-19 under the Biological Agents Directive “but we regret that the decision today, if confirmed by the Commission, would mean that it will be classified as an agent belonging only in the second highest risk group. Research shows that the characteristics of the virus justify its classification in the highest risk group, not only because of the lack of effective treatment or vaccine, but because of the high risk of workers who are in contact with the public spreading the virus to the community.”
Global: The deadly cost of unregulated and illegal fishing
Video evidence and media reports detailing gross abuses aboard a Chinese fishing vessel operating with migrant seafarers have again shone a spotlight on the violence and human trafficking proliferating in the global fishing industry.
On 24 April 2020, two Chinese-owned vessels entered Korean waters and 26 Indonesia seafarers were disembarked after spending more than a year at sea without interruption. According to information they provided, they had signed on for a monthly salary of US$ 300. Instead, they were paid less than a dollar a day after deductions for recruitment and security and their passports were confiscated. The Indonesian seafarers were made to work up to 18 hours a day, denied rest and denied fresh drinking water, instead being given filtered sea water.
Global: Chemical industry must step up on human rights
A deadly gas leak at a chemical plant in India last week is a grim wakeup call for the industry to recognise and meet its responsibility to respect human rights, a UN expert has said.
Baskut Tuncak, the UN special rapporteur on hazardous substances and wastes, was commenting on a 7 May 2020 chemical plant leak in India in which 12 people died and more than 1,000 fell ill. Styrene, a substance used to make plastics that is linked to cancer, neurologic damage and reproductive harm, leaked from the LG Polymers factory near the city of Visakhapatnam, in southern state of Andhra Pradesh, as the company rushed to restart production after the lockdown. The factory is operated by South Korean multinational LG Chem.
Return to safe workplaces – UK TUC Guidance
If your employer is asking colleagues to return to work outside home, they must make sure it’s done safely – to protect the health of workers, customers, and the public. A COVID-19 risk assessment is essential. But how do you know your employer’s doing the right things?
Learn how you can help colleagues return to safe workplaces: https://learning.elucidat.com/course/5eb42594092f7-5ebc26efb60ce?mailt=256%40WS26Ug2D5AZUb7Yq-QFnVXPFo0iGJ-K8Gscne6fNkog%40310726
Digital transformation in the NHS
This report considers the readiness of the government to deliver its ambitions for digital transformation in the NHS in England.
Progress in transforming digital services in the NHS has been slower than expected. This report by the National Audit Office has found that recent investment in digital transformation has been inadequate, and it is uncertain whether current funding will be sufficient to meet the government’s ambitions because plans are based on very limited cost data.
Improving digital services in the NHS and implementing new ways of working is a huge challenge, and the previous attempt to do this, between 2002 and 2011, was both expensive and largely unsuccessful. The Digital Transformation Portfolio (the Portfolio) was launched to deliver the NHS’s 2014 digital strategy. This strategy and the Portfolio are now being updated and a new unit, NHSX, has been set up to lead digital transformation in the NHS.
US CSB Releases New Guidance Document for Boards of Directors and Executives Focused on High Hazard Accident Prevention
On 14 May 2020, the USA Chemical Safety Board (CSB) has released a new guidance document entitled, “CSB Best Practice Guidance for Corporate Boards of Directors and Executives in the Offshore Oil and Gas Industry for Major Accident Prevention.” The new seven-page document is focused on the importance of the role of boards of directors and executives in ensuring that there are effective safety management systems in place to properly manage risks, with the goal of preventing major accidents and protecting workers, the public, and the environment.
Chairman Dr. Katherine Lemos said, “April 20, 2020, marked 10 years since the catastrophic Macondo/Deepwater Horizon blowout, fire, and explosion. The CSB’s final report determined that a robust process safety program is important to a company’s overall success. Companies operating offshore have the potential for major accidents that threaten the lives of workers and may result in catastrophic environmental damage, as seen in the Macondo / Deepwater Horizon blowout and explosion.”
British Safety Council Technical Support for COVID-19 Workplace Protocols
Following the government’s amended “lockdown” criteria, together with the issuing of framework guidance for the phased return to the workplace for several sectors of business, the British Safety Council are launching are new service to give you the technical support you need.
They are offering you support, guidance and independent assurance to help ensure your workplace remains as safe and healthy as reasonably practical.
Their technical support from experts in the field includes:
- Risk assessment reviews
- Support for workplace procedure development and reviews (including social distancing, health surveillance, workplace control measures, emergency planning, PPE, etc)
- Health and wellbeing guidance (including mental health factors)
- Communication and information
- Leadership and behavioural factors
- Assurance auditing.
More information: https://www.britsafe.org/audit-and-consultancy/managing-return-to-work
Canada: Resources to prevent COVID-19 in the workplace
Find sector-specific guidelines and posters to help protect workers, customers and the general public from coronavirus (COVID-19) in Ontario.
Ontario is releasing safety guidelines to protect workers, customers and the general public from COVID-19 as it prepares for a gradual reopening of the provincial economy.
These resources are available for different sectors. They will help employers and workers better understand how to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Sector guidelines contain recommendations and tips for employers on how to keep workers safe on the job. Posters for both employers and workers also offer advice on preventative actions, including physical distancing and workplace sanitation. Employers are encouraged to download the posters to print and post in the workplace.
As new sectors of the economy begin to reopen, additional COVID-19 workplace safety resources will be added.
More information: https://www.ontario.ca/page/resources-prevent-covid-19-workplace
COVID-19 Should be Classified as an Occupational Disease
The ITUC – The International Trade Union Confederation and its Global Unions partners are calling for COVID-19 to be classified as an occupational disease, to ensure stronger workplace protections and access to compensation as well as to medical care. The call was being made on the International Workers Memorial Day – 28 April 2020
“While there are many aspects of the SARS-CoV-2 virus which are yet unclear, one thing that is clear is that most transmission is occurring in workplaces such as hospitals and care facilities, as well as in workplaces where transmission can occur between workers with the public. There is already evidence that in numerous countries, protective workplace measures such as distancing and personal equipment are insufficient or even absent. Workers are being made to take risks that shouldn’t be taken, and in some cases such as in Amazon warehouses, face sanctions or dismissal for raising safety concerns. Brining COVID-19 into occupational disease classification is crucial to stopping this and reducing the spread of the virus. This is becoming even more urgent as countries begin to relax restrictions on economic sectors and public spaces,” said ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow.
Occupational disease classification would mean that where workers are infected with the virus, the presumption would be that is was workplace-related unless conclusive evidence is presented to the contrary. It would also reinforce public health measures which are in place and which will evolve in the coming months and years.
“We are also calling for occupational health and safety to be given the status of a fundamental right at the International Labour Organisation. This is a long-overdue measure which would give workers’ protection from death and disease the same priority as freedom of association, collective bargaining and protection from discrimination, forced labour and child labour,” said Burrow.
More information: https://www.ituc-csi.org/covid-19-occupational-disease
UK TUC: No one should have to return to work without “tough new measures” on safety
On 27 April 2020 the TUC called on the UK government to introduce tough new measures to ensure that before lockdown restrictions are eased, all employers assess the risks of their staff team returning to work outside the home.
In a new report, the TUC outlines what government and employers need to do to keep workers safe at work after lockdown is eased, and to give staff the confidence they need.
Risk assessments in every workplace
The union body is demanding that every employer in the UK be required to carry out a specific COVID-19 risk assessment, developed in consultation with unions and workers.
The assessment must:
- Identify what risks exist in the workplace and set out specific steps to mitigate them, including through social distancing.
- Be agreed with the staff trade union, where there is one.
- Be signed off by one of the UK’s 100,000 trade union health and safety reps, or by a Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspector, to make sure that it is robust.
- Be completed and communicated to workers before they are expected to return to their normal place of work, which means that employers should start work on their assessments now.
Employers who fail to complete their risk assessments or put the appropriate safety measures in place should face serious penalties, including prosecution.
One year on, how is London prepared to prevent another Notre Dame?
One year on from the devastating Notre Dame, Paris blaze, London Fire Brigade is warning managers of London’s closed historic venues not to be complacent about fire safety during the coronavirus outbreak.
Twelve months ago, a blaze raged through the Parisian cathedral, destroying its roof and spire.
The fire prompted the Brigade to write to venue owners across London, urging them to consider emergency response planning to protect their buildings and the precious items they contain.
A year on and many of these venues have been forced to close due to the coronavirus outbreak but the Brigade is warning that it is now more essential than ever for venues to work with us on planning for an emergency.
Advice to building managers
During these uncertain times it is understandable that premises owners may be concerned about the safety of their buildings. The Brigade is issuing practical advice such as switching off non-essential appliances, substituting older light bulbs with safer LED bulbs and ensuring adequate control measures are in place if construction work is still being carried out on site. It is also essential to ensure that fire safety systems and equipment are maintained in good working order. Fire detection and alarm systems should be subject to regular testing and maintenance.
Having an up to date emergency response salvage plan is equally as important and this is something that venue managers can produce remotely. The plan, which will give our firefighters a strategy for their salvage operations, should identify the priority items that need to be removed from the building, along with other important information such as the size of the item, the number of people required to lift it, any security fastenings that need to be removed and also the exact location of the item within the premises.
USA NIOSH – Workers Memorial Day, 28 April 2020: NIOSH Director John Howard, M.D., Reflects on the State of Worker Safety and Health
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Occupational Safety and Health Act that established the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) as the sole federal agency focused on worker safety and health research. The Act also charged the Secretary of Labor with setting and enforcing workplace safety and health standards, giving birth to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
In 1970, when the Act became law, the need for worker protection was urgent, with approximately 14,500 workers dying each year in work-related incidents, and 390,000 becoming ill or injured. Since then, we have made tremendous strides in reducing work-related death, illness, and injury. Even so, 5,250 work-related deaths and 2.8 million injuries or illnesses in private industry occurred in 2018, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Each year on April 28th, Workers Memorial Day commemorates workers who have died or become ill or injured due to hazardous exposures in the workplace. As technology continues its steady progression toward automation, it is changing the fundamental nature of work. We are faced with new and different risks unlike any we have seen before, in addition to some persistent ones from the past.
A new and unprecedented risk is coronavirus disease 2019, or COVID-19. On this Workers Memorial Day, I would like to honor the dedicated workers on the front lines of this pandemic.
Key workers such as healthcare personnel continue to go into work to treat people who have become ill with this life-threatening infection. Agricultural, transportation, and service workers continue to go into work to ensure that the shelves of our stores stay stocked with food and that critical medical supplies reach their destinations. And, environmental services workers and waste collectors continue to go to work to ensure that hospitals and other essential public buildings stay clean and that trash gets collected.
More information: https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/updates/upd-04-28-20.html
International Workers’ Memorial Day 2020 – 28 April 2020
A message from Sarah Albon on her first year commemorating International Workers’ Memorial Day as Health and Safety Executive (HSE) Chief Executive.
I believe firmly in our mission – that no-one should get ill, be injured or die because of work. And as I write this, I’m thinking about the key workers who are risking their own health and wellbeing during the coronavirus outbreak. I want to recognise them and their efforts which are so instrumental to the national effort. The extra levels of risk they’re now exposed to at work are in some cases unavoidable but let me be clear that all risk must be managed appropriately. I’m proud of how hard HSE is working to make sure employers put sensible and pragmatic approaches in place, and keeping our guidance, based on science and evidence, updated. These efforts are a vital part of keeping essential services going. So to my colleagues, and all those duty holders adapting to the current circumstances, thank you.
As well as all those affected by the coronavirus outbreak, I also want to think about everyone else we’ve lost.
Union pushed HSE into more ‘robust’ coronavirus role
Prospect, the union representing the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) inspectors, scientists and specialists, ‘has led the argument’ and pushed the regulator ‘to be robust in fulfilling its duty’ to enforce health and safety at work.
The union said its reps in HSE have been engaging with HSE management since mid-February on issues related to COVID-19 and the current lockdown. The union’s intervention has seen HSE move most of its operations to a home working basis, and to prioritise the protection of the health, safety and welfare of HSE staff. Another critical role has been “tackling what Prospect and the other union reps saw as HSE taking a passive approach, with Public Health England taking the lead.”
More information: https://www.tuc.org.uk/news/risks-944-22-april-2020#_Toc38448624
UK National survey confirms widespread COVID-19 concerns in contact centres
Close proximity working, worries about cleaning/ sanitisation regimes – especially in hotdesking situations – and a widespread puzzlement over ‘key worker’ designations being applied to clearly non-essential workstreams have all emerged as headline findings of a major national survey of contact centre workers.
Just over a week after the online survey was emailed out to thousands working in call centres the length and breadth of the UK by a number of unions, including the CWU, the preliminary findings have confirmed a massive discrepancy between the best and worst responses by employers to the risk of such workplaces becoming a hotbed for the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
Led by world-renowned contact centre expert, Professor Phil Taylor of Strathclyde University, working in conjunction with the Scottish TUC, the survey has so far been completed by nearly 2,100 respondents across the country – and, while more data is still coming in, the interim findings paint a worrying picture of poor and even reckless practice in many areas – juxtaposed by exemplary responses by some employers.
Usdaw calls for employers to follow the Next example to make their warehouses safer
Retail trade union Usdaw has worked with clothes retailer Next to make their online fulfilment centres safe for staff during the Coronavirus emergency. The union now calls on other employers to follow suit.
Next closed their warehouses two weeks ago and used the time to work with Usdaw reps and officials to redesign operations so that social distancing can be observed. Staff are being trained in new working practices and demand is being limited to ensure that orders can be fulfilled safely.
Big 6 food retailers must guarantee worker safety
GMB, the union for food producers, has called for Government to convene an urgent meeting with the big 6 retailers and the Food and Drink Federation after a major Tesco, Sainsbury and Marks and Spencer supplier admitted social distancing was impossible in its factory.
The letter, sent to Secretary of State for DEFRA, ASDA, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, M&S, Lidl and Aldi, comes after a Bakkavor manager was secretly filmed admitting social distancing was not possible and threatening to sack staff who stayed at home during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The union has also identified numerous employers refusing to pay essential workers full pay if they are absent due to COVID-19 – in some instances workers are only paid Statutory Sick Pay (£95.85 a week) increasing the likelihood that workers who face losing money will come into work and risk spreading the virus.
GMB is calling for an urgent summit of the retailers, the Food and Drink Federation and Government to agree and implement minimum industry standards to reflect to the essential nature of the work.
British Safety Council marks 2020 World Day for Safety and Health at Work
Remember the workers who have died, renew our commitment to the living “Let’s make workplaces fit for heroes”: British Safety Council.
The British Safety Council is today marking the World Day for Safety and Health at Work with a pledge to support workers’ safety through the coronavirus outbreak and beyond. It is also honouring the memory of all workers who have died during the coronavirus outbreak on Workers’ Memorial Day – a day traditionally given to the memory of workers who have been killed or injured at work, now including many healthcare workers.
The British Safety Council joins the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in calling for a coordinated global response to safeguard people’s jobs and incomes and to respect workers’ rights as the world tackles the pandemic.
The British Safety Council is providing support to employers whose workers are at the frontline, including healthcare workers and essential workers in retail, manufacturing and construction. As well as providing direct support through the lockdown, the British Safety Council is developing new services to help organisations adapt when restrictions are eased. The British Safety Council has today published its annual impact report, setting out key campaigning and advocacy activity in 2019.
Coronavirus – Free resources to help employers and employees from British Safety Council (BSC)
To help protect your workforce from the risks associated with coronavirus, last month BSC started offering several of their online courses for free. British Safety Council is pleased to say that the expiry date of the offer has now been extended until the end of May. Courses currently available are:
- Remote workers – health, safety and welfare
- Managing stress within your team
- Mental health awareness
- Stress awareness
- Managing mental health
Mental Health Resources
BSC is proudly working in partnership with Mates in Mind to address mental wellbeing in the workplace. Connection and communication with our colleagues, especially in times of stress and anxiety is extremely important. By providing the support in small ways employers can help their employees cope with the current situation, reduce anxiety and stress, and keep them focused on their work.
It is crucial to support the mental health of yourself and your employees whilst home working.
It is important to establish long distance management practices to support the health and wellbeing of your people.
Free resources: https://www.britsafe.org/about-us/coronavirus-resource-database
All COVID-19 key worker deaths must be recognised
Firefighters’ union FBU is demanding that the government issue guidance to employers stating that the death of firefighters and key workers as a result of COVID-19 should be automatically recognised as work-related, allowing their families to receive compensation.
In a letter to prime minister Boris Johnson and devolved administrations, the FBU says that the guidance must cover all of those officially recognised as key workers as well as those who have been required to continue to work by their employer.
The Westminster government announced a life assurance scheme for the families of NHS and care staff, but the FBU says thousands of families of firefighters and other key workers are still at risk of financial harm should they die from the virus. The FBU says that any compensation scheme should not preclude employees’ families from taking legal action against employers who may have jeopardised the safety of their workers, such as by failing to provide protective equipment. The FBU says that employers need to be given clear and unambiguous instruction to automatically consider all COVID-19 deaths as having been caused by the performance of their employees’ duties.
More information: https://www.tuc.org.uk/news/risks-945-30-april-2020#_Toc39152269
Risky business: Economic impacts of the coronavirus crisis on different groups of workers
The coronavirus crisis has affected everyone. Everyone’s health is at risk and to combat the disease, working lives have been altered across the country. But some are affected more than others: the relationship between the kind of job people have and their exposure to big economic or health risks in this crisis is by no means uniform. This report from the Resolution Foundation explores in detail those very different experiences across the workforce.
It identifies four main groups of workers that have had similar experiences in this crisis. Key workers are most exposed to the health risks from coronavirus because they continue to work in jobs where social distancing is very difficult. People working in shutdown sectors are the most likely to be feeling the economic effects of the crisis acutely. Workers not in these groups are more likely to be able to continue working with some form of normalcy, with some able to work from home and some still having to go out to work.
It suggests that key workers and workers in shutdown sectors are experiencing the most acute consequences of this crisis. Across these groups lower-paid people, young and women stand out as the hardest hit.
More information: https://www.resolutionfoundation.org/publications/risky-business
Care home death figures are ‘shameful’
There has been a shameful disregard of the health and safety of care home residents and workers, the UK public sector union UNISON has said.
Responding to figures released on 29 April 2020 that show a steep rise in coronavirus deaths due to the inclusion for the first time of those occurring in care homes, UNISON assistant general secretary Christina McAnea said: “Care workers have been crying out for essential safety equipment, clear guidance and widespread virus testing for weeks. The risks have been plain to see and these new figures paint a stark picture of how the pandemic has been sweeping through residential homes across the UK.”
More information: https://www.tuc.org.uk/news/risks-945-30-april-2020#_Toc39152280
Unions provide crucial support for bereaved workers
There is a lot trade unions can do to support people who are grieving, as well as to remember those we have tragically lost to coronavirus, the TUC has said.
“Trade unions have been crucial in securing bereavement and compassionate leave in workplaces in the past. We now have a role to play during this crisis to support people who are grieving, as well as to remember those we have lost,” noted TUC safety specialist Shelly Asquith. “Any worker who needs time off for bereavement should be granted leave by an employer. Trade union reps may wish to start negotiating for this immediately where there is no existing contractual provision.”
In a TUC blog posting, she wrote: “Workers have a legal right to time off work if they experience the death of a dependant (for example their partner, parent, child, or someone else who relied on them). While there is no legal right to time off for the loss of other loved ones, many contracts, company policies, and staff handbooks will include a clause about compassionate leave. Trade union reps should bear in mind that certain sections of the workforce may have different provisions, for example, agency staff versus those permanent contracts.”
More information: https://www.tuc.org.uk/news/risks-945-30-april-2020#_Toc39152282
Life is tough on the retail frontline – survey
The results of an online survey of members of the shopworkers’ union Usdaw has revealed the harrowing impact of coronavirus in the workplace.
Usdaw says its ‘shocking’ survey findings provides an in-depth look at the working life of the key workers ensuring food supplies are maintained.
The survey is of 7,357 members – primarily essential workers in shops, distribution warehouses, road transport or working as delivery drivers – found 70 per cent are experiencing anxiety and raised concerns with their employer. Over a quarter (29 per cent) have had COVID-19 related absences from work, because of illness, self-isolating or shielding. Abuse of shopworkers has doubled during the coronavirus emergency, the survey found.
More information: https://www.tuc.org.uk/news/risks-945-30-april-2020#_Toc39152283
Survey confirms COVID-19 ‘terror’ in contact centres
Close proximity working, worries about cleaning and sanitisation regimes – especially in hotdesking situations – and a widespread puzzlement over ‘key worker’ designations being applied to clearly non-essential workstreams have all emerged as headline findings of a major national survey of contact centre workers.
Led by contact centre expert, Phil Taylor – professor of Work and Employment studies at Strathclyde University – the survey has so far been completed by nearly 2,800 respondents across the country. While more data is still coming in, the intermediary findings paint what communications union CWU described as ‘a worrying picture of poor and even reckless practice’ in many areas. Almost 88 per cent of respondents said they thought they were likely or very likely to catch COVID-19 as a result of their working conditions. Seven in ten (69.7 per cent) of respondents said they were ‘very scared’ about going into work compared with the 58 per cent of respondents who answered the same question just seven days previously.
More information: https://www.tuc.org.uk/news/risks-945-30-april-2020#_Toc39152284
Reopening: Guidance for Cleaning and Disinfecting Public Spaces, Workplaces, Businesses, Schools, and Homes – Advice from the USA
Whilst this guidance is intended for all Americans, whether you own a business, run a school, or want to ensure the cleanliness and safety of your home, it gives some very useful guidance and advice that can be followed in any country. Reopening America requires all of us to move forward together by practicing social distancing and other daily habits to reduce our risk of exposure to the virus that causes COVID-19. Reopening the country also strongly relies on public health strategies, including increased testing of people for the virus, social distancing, isolation, and keeping track of how someone infected might have infected other people. This plan is part of the larger United States Government plan and focuses on cleaning and disinfecting public spaces, workplaces, businesses, schools, and can also be applied to your home.
Cleaning and disinfecting public spaces including your workplace, school, home, and business will require you to:
- Develop your plan
- Implement your plan
- Maintain and revise your plan
More information: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/reopen-guidance.html