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July 2020

Contents
  1. Draft Building Safety Bill announced by UK government
  2. The UK Health and Safety Executive Welcomes Government’s Draft Bill to Improve Building and Fire Safety in England
  3. UK Health and Safety Executive Biosafety and microbiological containment – Coronavirus (COVID-19): update
  4. UK Health and Safety Executive: Sector plans and Health priority plans
  5. HSE Weekly Digest eBulletin
  6. Nearly half of UK NHS workers were infected at Covid peak
  7. PCS prioritises safety at under pressure passport offices
  8. Government ‘must stop garment worker exploitation’
  9. Australia: Work linked to 4-in-5 new coronavirus cases
  10. Global: Stop sending toxic chemicals to poor nations – UN expert
  11. USA: Congress urged to slow meat plant line speeds
  12. USA: Amazon employees track Covid-19 outbreaks
  13. UK HSE Plant Protection Products and Biocides Training and Events
  14. Event: The future of commissioning health services in England – integration, use of data to support decisions, responding to COVID-19, and priorities for specialised commissioning
  15. Event: First Aid for Mental Health
  16. Event: Safer by Design Workshop presented by RoSPA
  17. Event: SPF WORLD 2020
  18. UK All Party Group urges Government to keep its foot on the pedal and publish plan to deliver a smokefree future
  19. HSE urges businesses to become COVID-secure
  20. HSE releases annual workplace fatality figures for 2019/20
  21. HSE Scientist wins Royal Society of Chemistry’s exceptional service award
  22. News from the Society of Occupational Medicine (SOM)
  23. Update from the Grenfell Tower Fire Inquiry
  24. WHO urged to act on big Covid-19 airborne risks
  25. Workers are dying while WHO fails to move
  26. Most testing positive for coronavirus have no symptoms
  27. One in ten Covid-19 cases in health and care workers
  28. PCS challenges HSE on air conditioning and fan claims
  29. Creating safe workplaces is more urgent than ever
  30. Sharp rise in construction site deaths as enforcement plummets
  31. HSE inspector calls for ‘desperately needed’ funds
  32. Driverless trains are an unsafe ‘nonsensical distraction’
  33. Empty promise of ‘zero tolerance’ on shop violence
  34. Post workers demand protection from dangerous dogs
  35. One in five bosses not trained in health and safety
  36. Help the TUC build a database of coronavirus risk assessments
  37. Get your essential TUC guide to Hazards at Work
  38. Australia: Welcome for work safety, diseases and suicides new legislation
  39. Europe: Chemical restrictions drive use of safer substances
  40. Global: OECD backs paid Covid-19 sick leave
  41. South Africa: Thousands of miners hit by Covid-19
  42. Australian Chemical Research fined $25,200 for alleged breaches in relation to hand sanitizer

Draft Building Safety Bill announced by UK government

Alongside the Fire Safety Bill and fire safety consultation, the Building Safety Bill is said to be bringing the “biggest improvements to building safety in nearly 40 years”. The Draft Bill was announced on 20 July 2020 by Robert Jenrick MP, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government.

The 334-page long bill is in response to the findings of Dame Judith Hackitt’s Building a Safer Future, originally published in May 2018 following an independent review of fire safety in buildings as a result of the Grenfell Tower disaster.

What happens next?

The Draft Building Safety Bill, like all draft bills, will now be examined by a Parliamentary Committee, who will offer feedback with their findings before it is finalised. Stakeholders and external experts will also be consulted.

This process is designed to enable consultation and scrutiny, before being formally introduced into the House of Commons and House of Lords.

In the opening foreword, Mr Jenrick highlighted that the reforms will bring forward ‘significant and fundamental changes to building safety legislation,’ with ‘wholesale reform of the regulatory system’ central to this process. The Bill is designed to introduce greater clarity on accountability and those responsible for managing safety risks in high rise buildings. There will also be ‘tougher sanctions’ for those who fail in their responsibilities.

A new Building Safety Regulator will be key to all of this. Housed in the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), it will be responsible for overseeing the “safety and performance of all buildings”.

https://www.ifsecglobal.com/fire-news/draft-building-safety-bill-announced-by-uk-government

The UK Health and Safety Executive Welcomes Government’s Draft Bill to Improve Building and Fire Safety in England

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has welcomed the publication of the government’s draft Building Safety Bill, which aim to create the biggest change in building safety for a generation.

The publication of the draft bill, on Monday 20 July 2020 follows the announcement made by Housing Secretary Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP in January that HSE would create a new Building Safety Regulator (BSR), with the aim of implementing reforms that go further and faster to improving building safety following the Grenfell Tower tragedy.

The BSR will oversee the new, more stringent building safety regime for higher-risk buildings, which prioritises blocks of flats more than 18m high or more than six storeys tall in England. It will also have a broader oversight role in the safety and performance of buildings; and in promoting improvements in the competence and organisational capability of all those working in the built environment.

More information: https://press.hse.gov.uk/2020/07/18/the-health-and-safety-executive-welcomes-governments-draft-bill-to-improve-building-and-fire-safety-in-england

UK Health and Safety Executive Biosafety and microbiological containment – Coronavirus (COVID-19): update

Manufacture and supply of biocidal hand sanitiser products during the coronavirus outbreak.

This page provides links to the home pages for three sites that contain information relating to microbiological safety. They cover occupationally-acquired infections, the contained use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and work with specified animal pathogens.

More information: https://www.hse.gov.uk/biosafety

UK Health and Safety Executive: Sector plans and Health priority plans

HSE’s focus over the next 3–5 years is set out in sector and cross-cutting thematic plans. These cover 19 industry sectors and 3 themes on work-related ill health.

They have benefited from the input of employers, trade unions and professional bodies, and reflect the direction we set out in Helping Great Britain work well.

More information: https://www.hse.gov.uk/aboutus/strategiesandplans/sector-health-plans.htm

HSE Weekly Digest eBulletin

This week’s digest contains advice on how to clean and disinfect large areas during the coronavirus outbreak. We have information on spot inspections HSE is carrying out to ensure workplaces are COVID-secure too.

Disinfecting premises during the coronavirus outbreak

You can help to control the spread of COVID-19 by cleaning and disinfecting a larger space or room.

Fog, mist, vapour or UV treatments may be suitable options for cleaning and disinfecting larger spaces, in order to help control the spread of coronavirus.

Any use of these treatments for these purposes should form part of your COVID-19 risk assessment, while users must be competent and properly trained.

Read our guidance on selecting the correct treatment.

https://www.hse.gov.uk/coronavirus/disinfecting-premises-during-coronavirus-outbreak.htm

Spot inspections: ensure your workplace is COVID-secure

HSE is committed to making sure employers are managing the coronavirus risks that apply to their workplaces.

HSE inspectors are carrying out spot inspections in cities and towns where there is a coronavirus outbreak, to check that businesses are COVID-secure.

HSE’s guide to working safely during the coronavirus outbreak will help you to manage the risk associated with restarting or running your business during the pandemic.

www.hse.gov.uk

Nearly half of UK NHS workers were infected at Covid peak

Nearly half of NHS workers were infected with Covid-19 during the peak of the pandemic, research suggests. Sir Paul Nurse, Francis Crick Institute director, told MPs that “up to 45 per cent” of healthcare workers were infected in April 2020.

But a lack of testing meant most cases went undetected as the majority were not displaying symptoms (asymptomatic). He told the Health and Social Care Committee on 21 July: “At the height of the pandemic, our own research, and of course that only backs up what’s been done elsewhere, is that up to 45 per cent of healthcare workers were infected. And they were infecting their colleagues, they were infecting patients, yet they weren’t been tested systematically.” He added: “My colleagues in the Crick contacted Downing Street in March, wrote to minister (Matt) Hancock in April, emphasising two main things. The importance of regular, systematic testing of all healthcare workers, including not only frontline doctors and nurses, support staff, ambulance drivers, other healthcare providers such as the care homes, GP surgeries, community nurses and the like. And these all needed to be tested.”

More information: https://www.tuc.org.uk/news/risks-union-health-and-safety-news-number-957-22-july-2020#_Toc46304939

PCS prioritises safety at under pressure passport offices

UK Civil service union PCS has said the safety of its members must be the ‘primary concern’ as pressure builds to deal with lengthy delays in processing passport applications.

The union said small and often cramped offices mean social distancing is difficult to observe and as a result Her Majesty’s Passport Office (HMPO) is struggling to get its 4,000 staff members back into the workplace. Ministers lifted the ban on non-essential travel to 70 popular destinations earlier this month, in a bid to stimulate travel abroad as part of efforts to revitalise the sector. However, PCS said it has been clear that its five tests must be met before there can be a safe return to work.

More information: https://www.tuc.org.uk/news/risks-union-health-and-safety-news-number-957-22-july-2020#_Toc46304942

Government ‘must stop garment worker exploitation’

More than 50 MPs and peers have written to the home secretary urging her to do more to protect UK garment factory workers from exploitation.

It follows reports of staff at factories in Leicester being underpaid and unprotected from Covid-19. The letter – which was also signed by investors, charities and retailers such as Asda and Asos – said concerns around unethical use of labour in the UK’s garment industry had been raised “multiple times” in the last five years by academics, retailers and MPs, but little had been done. It said “thousands more” could be exploited without stronger government action.

More information: https://www.tuc.org.uk/news/risks-union-health-and-safety-news-number-957-22-july-2020#_Toc46304944

Australia: Work linked to 4-in-5 new coronavirus cases

As New South Wales and Victoria face rising numbers of coronavirus cases, there are growing calls for Australia’s federal government to do more to protect workers.

On 19 July 2020, Victorian premier Daniel Andrews acknowledged the state’s spike could largely be traced back to spread between employees. “About 80 per cent of our new cases since May are being driven by transmission in workplaces,” he told media, as he revealed the state had seen 363 new cases of Covid-19 and two related deaths in the last 24 hours.

More information: https://www.tuc.org.uk/news/risks-union-health-and-safety-news-number-957-22-july-2020#_Toc46304954

Global: Stop sending toxic chemicals to poor nations – UN expert

The practice of wealthy states exporting their banned toxic chemicals to poorer nations lacking the capacity to control the risks is deplorable and must end, a United Nations expert has said.

The comments by the UN special rapporteur on toxics, Baskut Tuncak, were endorsed by 35 other experts from the Human Rights Council. Last year, at least 30 states exported hazardous substances that had been banned locally because of health and environmental reasons to Latin America, Africa and Asia. Tuncak said that wealthier nations often create double standards that allow the trade and use of prohibited substances in parts of the world where regulations are less stringent, externalising the health and environmental impacts on the most vulnerable.

More information: https://www.tuc.org.uk/news/risks-union-health-and-safety-news-number-957-22-july-2020#_Toc46304955

USA: Congress urged to slow meat plant line speeds

The US food workers’ union UFCW has called on Congress to pass immediately the Safe Line Speeds in Covid-19 Act.

The measure, introduced in the House of Representatives, would mandate a reduction in the dangerously fast line speeds which have made many meatpacking plants coronavirus hotspots. “Congress must pass this vital legislation immediately,” said UFCW president Marc Peronne. “This bill is a critical step to reining in the dangerously fast line speeds at so many meatpacking plants and will put the safety of workers and our country’s food supply first.”

More information: https://www.tuc.org.uk/news/risks-union-health-and-safety-news-number-957-22-july-2020#_Toc46304956

USA: Amazon employees track Covid-19 outbreaks

Jana Jumpp spends eight hours a day updating a spreadsheet – not for work, but to figure out how many of Amazon’s 400,000 warehouse workers have fallen sick with the coronavirus.

Amazon won’t give a number, so Jumpp tracks it on her own and shares what she finds with others. She relies on Amazon employees at more than 250 facilities who call, text or send her Facebook messages with possible cases. She asks for proof, like messages or voicemails from Amazon, and tries to make sure she doesn’t count the same case twice. “Amazon is not going to do it, so it’s up to us,” said Jumpp, 58, who lost her job in July at an Amazon warehouse in Jeffersonville, Indiana, after she went on leave for fear of contracting the coronavirus and ran out of paid time off. Unions and advocate groups have taken up the cause, too, creating lists or building online maps of stores where workers can self-report cases they know about.

More information: https://www.tuc.org.uk/news/risks-union-health-and-safety-news-number-957-22-july-2020#_Toc46304957

UK HSE Plant Protection Products and Biocides Training and Events

Following the fast-changing developments and escalation of the COVID-19 outbreak in the UK, HSE has taken the decision to postpone all of their face-to-face training and events until further notice.

The Chemicals Regulation Division (CRD) is considering hosting future events on the topics listed in the table below, subject to there being a sufficient level of interest:

More information: https://solutions.hse.gov.uk/crd

Event: The future of commissioning health services in England – integration, use of data to support decisions, responding to COVID-19, and priorities for specialised commissioning

18 August 2020, Online Conference

This full-scale conference is easily accessed online for full participation, and includes:

More information: https://www.westminsterforumprojects.co.uk/conference/The-future-of-health-commissioning-2020

Event: First Aid for Mental Health

1 September 2020, Central London

FAA Level 2 Award in First Aid for Mental Health

Each year approximately 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health condition and at least 1 in 6 employees experience common mental health problems in the workplace. Research has shown that work is the biggest cause of stress which can stop people performing at their best. Mental health conditions are often hidden due to stigma and fear of discrimination and research has shown that a culture of fear and silence around mental health is costly to employers.

This 6-hour qualification provides learners with the knowledge to recognise a range of mental health conditions, how to start a supportive conversation and when and how to signpost a person to seek appropriate professional help.

Contact: NewbyCore Consulting Limited, https://www.newbycore.co.uk

Event: Safer by Design Workshop presented by RoSPA

15 September 2020

A framework to reduce serious accidental injury in new build homes.

Responsible for more than 6,000 accidental deaths each year, our homes are statistically the most dangerous place to be. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Low-cost, evidence-based changes to house design can have massive implications for the safety, health and wellbeing of residents.

Join the growing club of elite designers, working hard to go beyond current building regulations, to ensure that the next generation of new-build homes are safer by design.

Sign up to attend this hands-on, discussion led, half day workshop for all those with responsibilities for the design of new-build homes. Hear the first-hand experiences of adoption and implementation from those in both the private and social housing sectors. Find out how you can get involved, and lead the way in shaping the safety agenda.

More information: https://www.rospa.com/Events/Safer-by-design.aspx

Event: SPF WORLD 2020

16-19 November 2020, Virtual Event

The SPF World 2020 is the can’t-miss virtual event of the year for future and existing Enablon customers across the globe. The Conference will be in English.

SPF is the unparalleled opportunity to sharpen your industry knowledge and skills by attending a program filled with keynotes, breakout sessions, and peer networking events.

With more than a 1000 EHS, Risk, Operations and Sustainability professionals from the world’s largest corporations, over thirty sessions around case studies and best practices sharing , the SPF World 2020 is the can’t-miss event of the year for future and existing Enablon Users across the globe.

More information: https://enablon.com/events/spf-world-2020

UK All Party Group urges Government to keep its foot on the pedal and publish plan to deliver a smokefree future

A year after the Government’s announcement of its smokefree 2030 ambition, a new analysis of child smoking rates shows how the number of children under 16 taking up smoking fell dramatically as Government regulation of tobacco tightened after the turn of the century.

Around one in five children smoked throughout the 1990s, when you could still buy cigarettes at 16, health warnings on cigarette packs were barely visible, and tobacco was heavily promoted on billboards and sponsored TV sporting events.

Two decades later, with a ban on all tobacco promotion, smoking in public places and cars carrying children banned, and glitzy packaging replaced by drab packs with large pictorial health warnings, fewer than one in twenty children smoke.

A new analysis presented to the All Party Group shows that if the number of children taking up smoking had not declined as it did, an additional five hundred children a day would be taking up smoking. But, with 280 children still lighting up for the first time every day, there is no room for complacency. Two thirds of those experimenting with smoking go on to become daily smokers.

In a round table with the Public Health Minister today, the APPG congratulated the Government on achievements so far, and explored the next steps needed to deliver a future where children no longer smoke.

More information: https://ash.org.uk/about-ash/all-party-parliamentary-group-on-smoking-health/press-releases-all-party-parliamentary-group-on-smoking-health/all-party-group-urges-government-to-keep-its-foot-on-the-pedal-and-publish-plan-to-deliver-a-smokefree-future

HSE urges businesses to become COVID-secure

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is calling for businesses in Great Britain to make sure they’re COVID-secure as more sectors open their doors from 11 July 2020.

Inspectors are out and about, putting employers on the spot and checking that they are complying with health and safety law. Being COVID-secure means being adaptable to the current guidance and putting measures in place to control the risk of coronavirus to protect workers and others.

There are five practical steps that businesses can take to do that:

More information: https://press.hse.gov.uk/2020/07/02/hse-urges-businesses-to-become-covid-secure and http://www.hse.gov.uk/coronavirus

HSE releases annual workplace fatality figures for 2019/20

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has released its annual figures for the number of work-related fatalities in 2019/20, as well as the number of people known to have died from the asbestos-related cancer, mesothelioma, in 2018.

The provisional annual data for work-related fatal accidents revealed that 111 workers were fatally injured at work between April 2019 and March 2020 (a rate of 0.34 deaths per 100,000 workers), the lowest year on record. This represents a fall of 38 deaths from the previous year, though it is likely that this fall was accentuated by the impact of coronavirus (COVID-19) on the economy in the final two months of the year.

In line with previous years’ fatal injury statistics, these figures do not include deaths from occupational disease. Covid-19 infection is therefore not part of these figures and will not feature in fatal injury statistics in subsequent years.

While there has been a long-term reduction in the number of annual fatalities (the number has almost halved in the last 20 years), aside from the current fall, the number has remained broadly level in recent years.

More information: https://press.hse.gov.uk/2020/07/01/hse-releases-annual-workplace-fatality-figures-for-2019-20

HSE Scientist wins Royal Society of Chemistry’s exceptional service award

Health and Safety Executive (HSE) principal scientist Dr Jackie Morton has received The Royal Society of Chemistry Exceptional Service Award.

Dr Morton, based at HSE’s Science and Research Centre in Buxton, is part of a biological monitoring team whose work involves determining workplace exposures to chemicals. Her area of expertise includes the analyses of toxic elements (such as lead) in biological samples.

She was nominated for the award for her ongoing voluntary commitment to the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) Sheffield and District Local Section; and, the RSC Atomic Spectroscopy Group.

Dr Morton is the programme secretary of RSC Sheffield and District Local Section and organises a variety of chemistry themed public events during the year including lectures, school and pub quizzes and school visits. This included a street event in Buxton earlier this year where school children were invited to visit booths and take part in hands on science experiments.

Dr Morton also acts as treasurer for the RSC Atomic Spectroscopy Group a national group of scientists and academics who share information and knowledge to collaborate in the pursuit of science. As part of this group Dr Morton supports younger scientists working in the Atomic Spectroscopy field and helps to organise a biennial conference to bring together national and international researchers. She was nominated by colleagues from her team at HSE for an outstanding contribution to proactively and inclusively supporting colleagues and the wider scientific community.

More information: https://press.hse.gov.uk/2020/06/24/hse-scientist-wins-royal-society-of-chemistrys-exceptional-service-award

News from the Society of Occupational Medicine (SOM)

Why I Became an Occupational Physician and Other Occupational Health Stories

edited by Dr John Hobson and The Society of Occupational Medicine

The book is an edited collection of the fascinating and diverse ‘filler’ articles originally published in the journal Occupational Medicine. It includes 50 personal accounts of what inspired different doctors to pursue their career in occupational medicine.

A valuable resource for occupational physicians, those considering occupational medicine as a career, or any health professional curious about this unique corner of medicine.

A podcast is available at https://youtu.be/kqMPBJlgURc

The book can be purchased at https://global.oup.com/academic/product/why-i-became-an-occupational-physician-and-other-occupational-health-stories-9780198862543

Event: Safely returning to work SOM Online Symposia

15 July 2020, 12 noon – 2.00 pm

This Virtual Symposia is designed for professionals who specialize in or have an interest in occupational and workplace health, including HR professionals, doctors, nurses, hygienists, safety professionals, and environmental health specialists. It will cover a comprehensive approach to returning to work including use of the SOM / ACAS / Mind / BITC and CIPD return to work toolkit – attached.

Faculty: Professor Anne Harriss, Dr Bethan Harrison, Christine Poulter (SOM Strategic Clinical Adviser)

More information: https://www.som.org.uk/civicrm/event/info?id=293

Update from the Grenfell Tower Fire Inquiry

On 2 July 2020, the Inquiry has published an update on its work, including information about limited attendance hearings.

This update provides a digest of:

Full details: https://www.grenfelltowerinquiry.org.uk/news/update-inquiry-44

WHO urged to act on big Covid-19 airborne risks

A letter signed by over 200 scientists from around the world has urged the World Health Organisation (WHO) to recognise Covid-19 can be spread by ‘aerosol’ or ‘airborne’ transmission and called on the UN body to revise its guidance.

On 7 July, WHO acknowledged there could be a problem and said it plans to review its advice. From early in the coronavirus crisis, global unions have urged WHO to act on worrying evidence of airborne/aerosol transmission, and argued a precautionary approach was necessary.

Now the letter backed by 239 scientists, published on 6 July 2020 in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, reinforces the union concerns and says the evidence is “beyond any reasonable doubt”.

More information: https://www.tuc.org.uk/news/risks-union-health-and-safety-news-number-955-9-july-2020#_Toc45188365

Workers are dying while WHO fails to move

Until the World Health Organisation (WHO) revises it guidance on personal protective equipment, physical distancing and other protective measures in the workplace, workers will continue to die unnecessarily, global unions have warned.

WHO has denied repeatedly that there is evidence for the airborne mode of transmission, instead saying the risk was limited to droplet transmission from close contact with infected individuals. The UN body has devised its recommendations on worker protection accordingly. This has meant WHO has only recommended the higher quality protections, particularly use of N95/FFP3 or better respiratory protection, for a small proportion of almost entirely health care staff involved in a small number of particularly hazardous ‘Aerosol Generating Procedures. WHO’s refusal to accept the airborne risk from normal processes like breathing or talking, or the evidence that people with no symptoms can also be spreaders, has also framed its advice on physical distancing.

More information: https://www.tuc.org.uk/news/risks-union-health-and-safety-news-number-955-9-july-2020#_Toc45188366

Most testing positive for coronavirus have no symptoms

Only 22 per cent of people testing positive for coronavirus reported having symptoms on the day of their test, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The figures published on 7 July 2020 demonstrate the importance of ‘asymptomatic transmission’ – spread of the virus by people who aren’t sick or aware they’re carrying it. Health and social care staff appeared to be more likely to test positive.
While the ONS survey includes relatively small numbers of positive swab tests (120 infections in all) they do suggest in people-facing health or social care roles, and working outside their homes in general, were more likely to have a positive test.

More information: https://www.tuc.org.uk/news/risks-union-health-and-safety-news-number-955-9-july-2020#_Toc45188367

One in ten Covid-19 cases in health and care workers

An estimated 10 per cent of all Covid-19 infections in England between 26 April and 7 June were among healthcare workers or social care workers interacting directly with patients or care home residents, according to a new report.

The research was carried out by Data Evaluation and Learning for Viral Epidemics (DELVE) – an independent group of researchers convened by the Royal Society. DELVE’s scoping report noted: “Using publicly available data, we estimate that at least 10 per cent (95 per cent confidence interval: 4-15 per cent) of all Covid-19 infections in England were among patient-facing healthcare workers and resident-facing social care workers during the period from 26 April to 7 June 2020.”

More information: https://www.tuc.org.uk/news/risks-union-health-and-safety-news-number-955-9-july-2020#_Toc45188368

PCS challenges HSE on air conditioning and fan claims

Civil service union PCS has written to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) asking the regulator to revisit its position on the use of air conditioning systems and ceiling and desk fans in light of emerging scientific evidence.

The union’s move came after HSE published a statement claiming air conditioning systems and desk fans pose ‘an extremely low risk’ in the transmission of coronavirus. In a response to Sarah Albon, HSE’s chief executive, the union asks HSE to “stump up evidence to support this conclusion.”

More information: https://www.tuc.org.uk/news/risks-union-health-and-safety-news-number-955-9-july-2020#_Toc45188376

Creating safe workplaces is more urgent than ever

New workplace death figures are a ‘devastating’ indictment of safety standards in UK workplaces, the TUC has said.

The union body was commenting on provisional Health and Safety Executive (HSE) figures showing there were 111 fatalities at work in Great Britain in 2019/20. TUC workplace safety lead Shelly Asquith commented: “It makes for devastating reading and a reminder of how important the role of union safety reps are in preventing injury and saving lives.”

More information: https://www.tuc.org.uk/news/risks-union-health-and-safety-news-number-955-9-july-2020#_Toc45188382

Sharp rise in construction site deaths as enforcement plummets

A large increase in construction deaths could be related to a steep fall in proactive inspections and prosecutions being undertaken by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), Unite has said.

The union was commenting after provisional figures released by HSE showed that construction fatalities increased by 33 per cent in a year from 30 in 2018/19 to 40 in 2019/20, and made up over a third of all work-related deaths. A freedom of information request by Unite has discovered that the increase in deaths corresponds with at least a 25 per cent decline in proactive (unannounced) construction inspections. In 2018/19 there were a total of 9,286 proactive inspections compared to just 6,381 in 2019/20, a decline of 31 per cent. In March 2020, the HSE ceased making proactive inspections in response to Covid-19. “Notwithstanding this development, the fall in construction inspection still amounts to a massive 25 per cent reduction in the number of inspections when compared to the corresponding 11-month period in the previous year,” Unite said.

More information: https://www.tuc.org.uk/news/risks-union-health-and-safety-news-number-955-9-july-2020#_Toc45188383

HSE inspector calls for ‘desperately needed’ funds

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is desperately in need of more funds to meet the ‘expectations’ of politicians and the public, an HSE inspector had said.

Neil Hope-Collins, who is also the vice-president of HSE union Prospect, said a succession of reviews have found “the HSE is strongly supported by both business and workers. It feels sometimes as if the only part of the tripartite foundation that wants to reduce HSE is the government! And reducing HSE is exactly what government has done. They stopped carrying out reviews, and instead have just systematically cut the funding.”

More information: https://www.tuc.org.uk/news/risks-union-health-and-safety-news-number-955-9-july-2020#_Toc45188384

Driverless trains are an unsafe ‘nonsensical distraction’

Rail unions have hit back at the prime minister’s suggestion that driverless trains should be a condition of the funding settlement for Transport for London this autumn.

Mick Whelan, the general secretary of train drivers’ union ASLEF, commented: “It’s the usual signs of a failing Tory government that they’ll attack trade unions and working people to try to distract from their own failings. Train drivers on London Underground have continued to work throughout this pandemic to make sure that fellow key workers can get to work and back. Now those very same workers are being treated with contempt and told they’re not needed.”

More information: https://www.tuc.org.uk/news/risks-union-health-and-safety-news-number-955-9-july-2020#_Toc45188385

Empty promise of ‘zero tolerance’ on shop violence

Retail trade union Usdaw has criticised the Prime Minister for failing to back a new law to protect shop workers from violence.

The union said it took over a year for the Home Office to respond to evidence on violence against shopworkers, and the eventual response this week was ‘deeply disappointing’. Boris Johnson promised ‘zero tolerance’ of retail violence at prime minister’s questions this week, but did not accept there should be a new law to protect staff.

More information: https://www.tuc.org.uk/news/risks-union-health-and-safety-news-number-955-9-july-2020#_Toc45188386

Post workers demand protection from dangerous dogs

With an average of seven dog attacks on post workers every day, the CWU and Royal Mail are highlighting the legal responsibility of owners to ensure their dogs are kept indoors when their postman or postwoman calls.

Speaking ahead of Dog Awareness Week 2020, which kicked off on 6 July, CWU national safety officer Dave Joyce said: “Of the 2,500 dog attacks on Royal Mail workers over the past year, 83 per cent of them happened either at the front door or in the garden, but with a few basic precautions, these could be prevented.”

More information: https://www.tuc.org.uk/news/risks-union-health-and-safety-news-number-955-9-july-2020#_Toc45188387

One in five bosses not trained in health and safety

One in five companies do not train their managers in health and safety, according to a new report.

The Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) report, How to manage your people safely, includes the results of a YouGov survey of 698 company decision makers. It found of the respondents, 96 per cent agreed that line managers are important in ensuring the people who report to them are safe and healthy in the workplace, with 21 per cent saying investigations into accidents had shown a management failure was a contributing factor. However, 19 per cent said their organisations do not train line managers in health and safety.

More information: https://www.tuc.org.uk/news/risks-union-health-and-safety-news-number-955-9-july-2020#_Toc45188388

Help the TUC build a database of coronavirus risk assessments

The TUC is collating the risk assessments published by employers as they start to open again after lockdown.

The TUC said its aim is to support a safe return by increasing transparency about how safety is being addressed in each sector and to pressure non-compliant employers to conduct the proper risk assessments and publish them online.

“You can help by checking out your own employer or others in your sector, and entering them into the database at COVID Secure Check portal”, the TUC said.

Get your essential TUC guide to Hazards at Work

The 6th edition of TUC’s bestselling Hazards at Work guide is the best single source on health and safety, union style.

The revised new edition is packed with advice on health and safety laws and good practice at work. It covers all the classic hazards and has new Covid-19 related advice and reworked chapters on mental health, bullying, harassment, and all the other modern workplace causes of illness and injury. It also has extensive checklists, case studies and links to online resources.

Reps, unions, employers can order online from the TUC shop.

Australia: Welcome for work safety, diseases and suicides new legislation

Unions have welcomed a new legal safety measures coming into force in the Australian state of Victoria.

From 1 July 2020, employers in the state that fail to meet health and safety obligations face tough new workplace manslaughter penalties should their negligence lead to a worker dying on the job. As part of the health and safety reforms, the state regulator WorkSafe has also broadened the definition of a workplace death. These now include killed on the road while working, suicides attributable to a workplace health and safety failure, deaths from industrial diseases such as silicosis, and workplace deaths resulting from a criminal act.

More information: https://www.tuc.org.uk/news/risks-union-health-and-safety-news-number-955-9-july-2020#_Toc45188394

Europe: Chemical restrictions drive use of safer substances

Replacing harmful chemicals with safer alternatives and greener technologies is strongly driven by regulation, with companies reporting that restrictions and authorisation are their main drivers for substitution, research by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) has concluded.

Based on a survey of industry associations and more than 80 companies, many of which were affected by authorisation or restriction, around 19 per cent indicated that restriction is their main reason for replacing hazardous chemicals with safer alternatives.

ECHA said adding a substance to the substances of very high concern (SVHC) Candidate List or Authorisation List was the next most significant trigger for companies, with authorisation selected by 15 per cent of the companies responding.

More information: https://www.tuc.org.uk/news/risks-union-health-and-safety-news-number-955-9-july-2020#_Toc45188395

Global: OECD backs paid Covid-19 sick leave

Paid sick leave can be a particularly effective tool in addressing the coronavirus crisis, an Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) analysis has concluded.

A new OECD policy brief reveals that about half of OECD countries have strengthened support to employees suffering from Covid-19 and that nearly all OECD countries provide income support to eligible employees in mandatory quarantine – which it described as an ‘unprecedented’ policy in most countries. The OECD concludes that paid sick leave can be a particularly effective tool, as part of a rigorous testing, tracking, tracing and isolating strategy.

More information: https://www.tuc.org.uk/news/risks-union-health-and-safety-news-number-955-9-july-2020#_Toc45188396

South Africa: Thousands of miners hit by Covid-19

Mining industry figures show 18 mineworkers in South Africa have so far died from Covid-19, with nearly 3,000 workers testing positive for the virus.

The Minerals Council said more than half of the deaths were in the platinum sector, which has seen the highest number of infections as companies ramp up production following the easing of lockdown regulations. Gold mines, which have some of the world’s deepest shafts, have reported six deaths, while no deaths have occurred in the coal sector. The number of deaths has been slowly rising, the industry body said, despite hygiene and safety guidelines aimed at curbing the spread of infections, including the daily screening of employees before they enter work spaces.

More information: https://www.tuc.org.uk/news/risks-union-health-and-safety-news-number-955-9-july-2020#_Toc45188397

Australian Chemical Research fined $25,200 for alleged breaches in relation to hand sanitizer

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has issued two infringement notices totalling $25,200 to Sydney-based company Australian Chemical Research Pty Ltd for alleged breaches of the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989 (the Act).

Australian Chemical Research allegedly manufactured and supplied antibacterial/anti-viral hand sanitiser not included in the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG), and which was neither an exempt good nor a good that is excluded from the operation of the Act. Unless a specific exemption, approval or authority applies, therapeutic goods must be entered in the ARTG before they can be lawfully manufactured or supplied in Australia.

The company allegedly claimed the hand sanitiser kills 99.99% of germs, viruses and bacteria on hands, including the flu virus, the common cold virus and HIV. The label also stated that the active ingredients of the hand sanitiser included 80% iso-propanol. However, the product contained a large percentage of n-propanol, which is a less effective and potentially hazardous alcohol. Australian Chemical Research was not licenced to manufacture therapeutic goods, and did not have approval to do so.

More information: https://www.tga.gov.au/media-release/australian-chemical-research-fined-25200-alleged-breaches-relation-hand-sanitiser