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News Archive

September 2020

UK Government Coronavirus (COVID-19) Advice

There are three simple actions we must all do to keep on protecting each other

You must not meet in groups larger than 6 (with some limited exceptions).

Find out what you need to do:

Health and Safety Executive (HSE) advice on cleaning, hygiene and handwashing to make your workplace COVID-secure

The guidance covers:

As an employer, you must protect people from harm. This includes taking reasonable steps to protect your workers and others from coronavirus (COVID-19).

Coronavirus can transfer from people to surfaces. It can be passed on to others who touch the same surfaces.

Keeping your workplace clean and frequent handwashing reduces the potential for coronavirus to spread and is a critical part of making and keeping your business ‘COVID-secure’.

These webpages will show how you can organise your work and workplace, so hygiene is maintained, surfaces are clean and people are provided with the right facilities to control the risk from COVID.

There is also separate advice on use, manufacture and supply of hand sanitiser products and surface disinfectants disinfecting premises using fog, mist and vapour.

More information:

Health and Safety Executive (HSE) advice on Social distancing to make your workplace COVID-secure

The guidance covers:

Social distancing means keeping people apart to help reduce the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). Where possible, you should keep people 2 m apart. If this is not possible, consider additional control measures.

More information:

Many UK workplaces still not “Covid-Secure” – TUC poll reveals

Many workplaces are still not taking adequate measures to protect employees from coronavirus, the TUC has said.

The warning came as the union body’s new polling revealed that fewer than half of employees (46 per cent) say their workplaces have introduced safe social distancing.

The survey – carried out for the TUC by BritainThinks – also reveals that under two-fifths (38 per cent) of workers say they know their employers have carried out Covid-Secure risk assessments. It is a legal requirement to carry out a risk assessment and share with staff. Just four in 10 (42 per cent) report being given adequate PPE.

More information:

Safety reps are key to a safe economy

The statutory right of union health and safety representatives to paid work time to perform their functions is essential and must be protected, teaching union NASUWT has told TUC Congress.

An NASUWT motion adopted at the national union event highlights the importance of trained health and safety representatives in reviewing Covid-19 risk assessments and ensuring workplace safety.

Dr Patrick Roach, general secretary of the NASUWT, said: “Workers, especially frontline workers, the lower paid and agency staff have borne the brunt of the coronavirus crisis. They have been exposed to weakened protections and exploitative employer practices, and to a lack of effective regulation. Instead of obstacles and derision, governments need to recognise and take seriously that workplace safety is central to the provision of high quality services and to keeping the economy going throughout this crisis and beyond.”

More information:

Unions must work together to keep society safe

Civil service union PCS has said it will work with other unions to help keep everyone in society safe and to hold government to account.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka told the TUC Congress the handling of the coronavirus crisis by Boris Johnson’s government had contributed to thousands of deaths.

The PCS leader said: “We have been successful in keeping the overwhelming bulk of our members safe and able to deliver essential services. Contrast that to the actions of this government that have contributed to thousands of deaths that could have been avoided. There must be a public inquiry into the government’s handling of the pandemic. We must never forget what the government has done and its awful political decisions.”

More information:

Unions must lead on second wave prevention

A second Covid wave is preventable if ministers follow the science and unions organise to make them act on it, UCU general secretary Jo Grady has told the TUC Congress.

The lecturers’ union leader said unions are the only organisations with the power to keep workplaces and the wider population safe. She said the government has no answers that do not rely on rebooting the economy ‘by asking us to pay with our health’.

Calling for as much university education to go online as possible, she told TUC delegates: “We are the ones calling for caution and planning. The government and sector leaders are ploughing ahead because they’ve constructed a market for education that needs its ultimate consumers – students – to pay fees and rent. Unions are the only organisations with the power to keep workplaces and the wider population safe in situations like these. But we need to be clear and realistic about where that power comes from.”

More information:

Safe Quarry – A guide to Pedestrian Safety in Quarries

Ireland’s Health and Safety Authority HSA / National Authority for Occupational Safety and Health has issued this guidance that has largely been developed from the Quarries National Joint Advisory Committee (QNJAC) Follow our Footsteps – Guide to Pedestrian Safety in Quarries document. HSA acknowledge QNJAC as the original source and thank them for allowing the Health and Safety Authority to replicate and adapt their material.

This guidance is for all those with responsibilities for the management of quarries and surface mining operations, including managers and supervisory staff. Pedestrian safety will be improved where safely maintained vehicles are operated by safety conscious and trained vehicle operators. To operate a loading shovel or a dumper truck at a quarry the vehicle operator must have been issued with and be in possession of a current registration card in respect of the Quarries Skills Certification Scheme.

A site where vehicles are well maintained, have good visibility, trained and competent operators, well designed roadways, and minimised reversing manoeuvres will automatically put pedestrians at less risk of an injury than sites where this is not the case. The interaction between vehicles and pedestrians is potentially dangerous if not well managed. Therefore, this guidance is intended to deal specifically with the residual risk to pedestrians after specific vehicle safety measures have been introduced and includes consideration of the other hazards on site that impact on their safety.

Full guidance:

Working safely with bales on the farm – Information Sheet

Ireland’s Health and Safety Authority HSA / National Authority for Occupational Safety and Health has issued this new Information Sheet warning all farmers, contractors and all on farms  that they need to know and understand the risks involved when dealing with all types of bales. Many people have been killed when working with bales on Irish farms. Some of whom have died as a result of being crushed by falling bales or rolled over by round bales. Others have been crushed or trapped by tractors or farm machinery which was involved in transporting or moving bales on the farm.

Bales are commonly made from hay, straw or silage and pose a significant risk while being made or handled on the farm. Baled silage is now made on over two-thirds of all farms in Ireland and accounts for one third of all silage made.

It is particularly prevalent as the primary silage-making system on both beef farms and smaller-sized farms. However, it is also widespread as a second silage making system and as a simple means of storage of extra fodder on many other farms.

Full guidance:

Unions welcome face coverings rule for shops in Wales

Retail trade union Usdaw has welcomed an announcement requiring the wearing of face coverings in shops in Wales.

The Welsh government move comes after repeat calls from the union, and on the heels of a demand from Wales TUC for masks to be made compulsory in shops and secondary schools.

Usdaw divisional officer Nick Ireland welcomed the announcement, adding: “We have been lobbying for this for some time as a way of helping to limit the spread of Covid-19 and protect retail staff. We encourage customers to support shop workers by remembering to wear a face covering, unless they are covered by an exemption. We expect employers to display signage to remind customers about the rules. It needs to be made clear that shop workers are not responsible for enforcing the law. We are concerned that it may be another flashpoint for abuse of staff, which has doubled during the pandemic.”

More information:

Guidelines: Conflict management using de-escalation, communication and negotiation

New conflict management guidelines have released to coincide with the publication of the results of the National police safety survey. The updated guidelines address some of the key findings from the survey, which is likely to be the largest ever survey carried out in the police service in England and Wales, and support officers in practicing de-escalation, communication and negotiation skills to avoid the use of force where possible.

The survey, designed to address aspects of training that should be updated to keep officers and staff safe from assault while in the line of duty, received more than 40,000 responses from officers and staff across policing. In the survey, officers were asked which tactics they used regularly that may have been taught during personal safety training (PST). A total of 91% said they were most likely to use non-physical conflict management skills on a regular basis rather than physical skills.

More information:

World Day for Decent Work: A New Social Contract for Recovery and Resilience – 7 October 2020

A New Social Contract is required to ensure the global economy can recover and to build the resilience required to meet the convergent challenges of the pandemic, climate change and inequality.

This year marks the 13th World Day for Decent Work (WDDW) on 7 October. Millions of people have taken part in WDDW events since 2008, and this year again it is a day for mobilisation all over the world: one day when all the trade unions in the world stand up for decent work. Decent work must be at the centre of government actions to bring back economic growth and build a new global economy that puts people first.

The effects of the pandemic on health, employment, incomes and gender equality are all the more catastrophic because the world was already fractured, with the deeply flawed model of globalisation causing entrenched inequality and insecurity for working people. A new social contract is central to charting the path to recovery from the effects COVID-19 as well as to building an economy of shared prosperity and sustainability.

More information:

HSE latest news

The latest health and safety news and advice on coronavirus (COVID-19), as well as information on protecting new workers.

There are also links to a step-by-step guide and video to help employers manage risk in the workplace, while there are links to details of recent enforcement activity and our current job vacancies.

Full details:

HSE COVID updates and guidance

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has published a range of coronavirus-related guidance and information, which you may find useful.

It includes:

For all the latest information and advice visit the coronavirus microsite:

Protecting new workers in 2020

Workers are as likely to have an accident in the first six months at a workplace as they are during the whole of the rest of their working life.

People are at particular risk of injury when they are new as they may be unaware of existing or potential risks. Take a look at HSE’s advice to protect those new to a job, including six steps to protect new workers.

They also have guidance to help users and suppliers of agency/temporary workers, and those workers themselves, understand their health and safety responsibilities.

When employing a young person under the age of 18, whether for work, work experience, or as an apprentice, employers have the same responsibilities for their health, safety and welfare as they do for other employees. This guidance will help young people and those employing them understand their responsibilities.

More information:

Prediction of ‘explosion in work cases’ proved right

The workplace is emerging as the new frontline for Covid-19 spread, after the UK government and health agencies ignored warnings on the dangers of a rush back to work, occupational health experts have warned.

Janet Newsham, the chair of the union-backed national Hazards Campaign, which is tracking workplace outbreaks, said the organisation had earlier raised concerns about the unsafe opening of workplaces, including schools. “While the community transmission is so high reopening of schools will massively increase contacts between potentially infected individuals and will lead to pressure for more people to return to workplaces, greatly increasing risks,” she said.

The campaign’s analysis of Public Health England (PHE) figures shows that over the last five weeks the ‘workplace’ has emerged as the second most common site of Covid-19 ‘situations/incidents’, trailing only care homes. PHE’s definition of workplaces does not include work-related Covid incidents in hospitals, schools or prisons, so under-estimates the real extent of work-related cases. The campaign warns that evidence elsewhere, including France and Germany, shows workplaces are the ‘new frontline’ for virus spread.

The report notes: “The Covid-19 workplace clusters that are now appearing all over the country, are being put down to individuals breaking the rules, but when that coincides with workplaces closing down, mass testing of workers and mass positive results of the same workers, then this is uncontrolled transmission of the virus in workplaces, especially where workers are working inside buildings with an aerosol risk of transmission.”

Hazards Campaign report:

HSE hampered by ‘chronic’ resource shortages

Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspectors “have been let down by a chronic lack of resources”, the safety regulator’s inspectors have warned.

Neil Hope-Collins and Geoff Fletcher, both experienced HSE field inspectors and members of the union Prospect, said when Covid-19 hit they “did not stop regulating workplaces. Initially working remotely (including via video calls) and then through in-person site visits. But there are only 390 full-time equivalent band 3 (main grade) inspectors for the whole of mainland UK. That is just not enough.”

In a blog posting on Prospect’s website, they note: “HSE just doesn’t have the capacity to fulfil public and political expectations in these high-profile areas and maintain meaningful activity in other places. There just aren’t enough suitably qualified and experienced staff, and it takes at least five years to train an inspector. This capacity isn’t a tap the country can just turn on overnight.” The £14 million one-year-only funding boost announced by the prime minister in May (Risks 947), had by 2 July seen just £4m spent on “additional call centre capacity from a private contractor.”

More information:

HSE must end rumours on deadly crane collapse

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) must publish its initial findings into the causes of the fatal crane accident in east London in July, in which a member of the public died and worker was seriously injured.

Construction union Unite wrote to the HSE last month urging it to not to delay publication of the initial findings in order to end ‘a cloud of suspicion’ about who was to blame. With the removal of the Wolffkran Ltd crane likely to take several months, Unite is arguing that the local community need to have the reassurance that the site and all involved with it are safe. It says the HSE’s initial findings are also important in order to ensure that similar accidents are prevented. This week, Tower Hamlets council admitted that due to how and where the crane collapsed it may take six months before it can be fully removed.

More information:

Australia: Banned asbestos found in new ferries

New ferries operating in New South Wales and manufactured overseas contain banned asbestos, a union has revealed.

A 21 August 2020 letter from the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) Sydney assistant branch secretary Paul Garrett to MUA members on Transdev Sydney Ferries said the union had called an urgent meeting with the company. The subsequent meeting heard the company was aware four river class vessels contained the cancer-causing substance, which was banned in Australia in 2003. The union has called for “a full independent inspection” of all the new vessels.

The letter to members noted: “The four new 24m river vessels are not to be boarded, inspected or worked by MUA members until further advised from the Maritime Union of Australia.” It added: “For some 18 months now, the MUA has warned both the NSW government and Transdev Sydney Ferries about our concerns that asbestos containing material was going to be used in these vessels.

More information:

New approach to trade advisory groups will exclude workers’ voices, warns TUC

Commenting on proposals announced today to reform the government’s trade advisory groups, which will mean a lesser role for unions, TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:

“When ministers sit at the negotiating table to make trade deals, they must be properly briefed on the needs of Britain’s working people.

“But the new advisory group structure will mean workers have less of a say. It means fewer groups with union seats. It upsets the balance between the voices of workers and business. And it means UK workers will get less of a say than workers in the US and the EU, where unions have a real voice in the negotiating process.

“The UK needs trade deals that promote good jobs, protect workers’ rights and safeguard public services like the NHS. The government must reconsider. It is hard to see how our trade deals can be negotiated in the wider public interest if workers’ voices are excluded.”

More information:

TUC Guide to Health, safety and wellbeing

We spend a lot of our lives at work. When we’re healthy, happy and safe there, our lives are better overall. But problems at work can have serious consequences for our mental and physical health.

At worst, working people are seriously injured or killed in avoidable workplace accidents. Thankfully, incidents like these are relatively rare. But work-related health problems can affect anyone and some are very common, such as headaches, back problems or stress.

There are steps you can take to keep well at work, but your employer also has certain legal obligations. If they’re putting you at risk of illness or injury, you can take action.

More information:

Learning for government from EU Exit preparations

In this report the National Audit Office (NAO) draws on the breadth of its work on EU Exit to share its perspectives on what government can learn from this experience. The learning is relevant to the ongoing work to prepare for the end of the transition period and for other cross-government challenges, such as the response to COVID-19 and moving to a net zero carbon economy.

When the UK voted to leave the EU in 2016, it created an unprecedented challenge for government. Departments had to formulate new policies, procure goods and services, design and implement new systems and engage stakeholders. Departments also had to plan for multiple potential outcomes and respond to changing deadlines. The scale of resources devoted to the work was significant. Departments spent more than £4.4 billion on preparations between 2016 and 31 January 2020. Ahead of the then 31 October 2019 deadline, more than 22,000 civil servants were involved in EU Exit.

More information:

US Labor Day 2020: Statement by John Howard, M.D., Director, US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)

Labor Day was created to honor workers for their contributions and achievements at a time in history when workers faced long working hours and dangerous working conditions. The need to recognize our nation’s workers for their contributions and resilience could not be more relevant today.

Millions of workers provide “essential services” – services that are vital to the health and welfare or critical infrastructure of our nation. These workers carry on through disasters or public health emergencies reporting to their worksite, seeing patients, responding to emergencies, delivering needed supplies, or harvesting crops – often working long hours.

Workers nationwide are experiencing new challenges in the ways they work and connect with others such as transitioning to full-time telework, balancing caregiving responsibilities, increasing work demands, or job insecurity. The new reality of work may adversely affect worker well-being, increasing feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression.

Full statement: