News from around the World
- Fatal incident at water recycling centre in Avonmouth, UK
- Theme park fined £333,344 and ordered to pay costs of £16,183 after child seriously injured on a ride
- Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI): New advice on priority groups for COVID-19 vaccination
- Health and Safety Executive (HSE) asks for your views on stress
- New Poster – Health and Safety at Work: Stress, Anxiety and Depression Statistics 2019
- HSE’s Risk-reduction through design award 2020-21
- New Irish Biological Agents Code of Practice
- RoSPA’s Health and safety webinars
- TUC welcomes Climate Change Committee call for a ‘Just Transition Strategy’
- News from the USA: Filtering Facepiece Respirators with an Exhalation Valve – Measurements of Filtration Efficiency to Evaluate Their Potential for Source Control
- News from the USA: Winners Announced in the 2020 NIOSH Mine Safety and Health Technology Innovations Awards
- WHO Meeting: Youth perspectives in focus at high-level meeting on schooling during COVID-19 pandemic
- ILO Governing Body calls for urgent action on seafarer COVID-19 crisis
- Scientific committees: EU-wide restriction best way to reduce microplastic pollution
- UK HSE’s Chief Scientific Adviser welcomes introduction of new Covid-19 research programme
- UK HSE is checking businesses in the transport sector are COVID-secure
- ITUC 2020 General Council Meeting
- Event: Work Disability Prevention – Bridging research and practice
- New UK national £2 billion Kickstart scheme
- Environmental Chemicals, Breast Cancer Progression and Drug Resistance
- UK HSE publishes advice on avoiding the need for RPE when using power tools during the pandemic
- New fresh air system protects London bus drivers against Covid-19
- The UK NAO publishes report on supply of personal protective equipment during the COVID-19 pandemic
- International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women
- Urgent action needed to protect firefighters from cancer, scientists find
- Invest in fire and rescue service or forget a green recovery, say climate groups and firefighters
- Management Transformed: Managing in a Marathon Crisis
Fatal incident at water recycling centre in Avonmouth, UK
Enquiries by the UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE) are ongoing following an explosion at Wessex Water’s Bristol water recycling centre in Avonmouth on the morning of Thursday 3 December 2020, in which four people sadly died.
HSE is fully supporting the investigation into the incident, for which Avon and Somerset Police have primacy.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is Britain’s national regulator for workplace health and safety that prevents work-related death, injury and ill health through regulatory actions that range from influencing behaviours across whole industry sectors through to targeted interventions on individual businesses. These activities are supported by globally recognised scientific expertise.
Given this is a fatal incident, the Work Related Deaths Protocol is now being applied.
Emergency services were called at approximately 11.20 am on 3 December 2020 to reports of a large explosion involving one of the chemical tanks at the site, off Kings Weston Lane.
A cordon at the site is likely to remain in place over the coming days while police conduct an investigation into the cause of the incident, with the support of the Health and Safety Executive and a team of chemical and mechanical experts.
Specially trained officers are supporting the families of the individuals who lost their lives in the incident. Formal identification is yet to take place and post-mortem examinations are underway.
The individuals believed to have died have been named as Michael James, 64; Brian Vickery, 63; Raymond White, 57; and Luke Wheaton, 16.
A fifth person who was injured is now at home and investigators will be speaking to them when appropriate.
Supt Simon Brickwood said:
“I’d like to extend my heartfelt sympathies to the families of those involved in yesterday’s tragic incident.
“An investigation has been launched into the causes of the explosion, with the support of partner agencies and the Health and Safety Executive. This is likely to be ongoing for some time and we will be keeping the victims’ families informed throughout.
“We appreciate the impact this incident has had on the local community and we thank those affected for their patience while our investigative work is carried out. The local neighbourhood policing team is available to address any concerns members of the public may have.
“I’d like to pay tribute to those involved in the emergency response, who have been at the scene throughout the night under very difficult and challenging circumstances.”
Giles Hyder, HSE’s head of operations in the South West said:
“We send our deepest condolences to the families of those who tragically died. It is important a joint investigation is carried out.
“We will provide specialist support to what is likely to be a complex investigation under the command of the police.”
Wessex Water Chief Executive Colin Skellett said:
“We are all absolutely devastated by what has happened.
“Our hearts go out to the family, friends and colleagues of those who lost their lives during the tragic event on Thursday.
“I know from the thoughts and comments I have received from so many, that this has affected the whole Wessex Water family.
“I know Avonmouth, I worked there for many years, and I know the people, some of whom have lost their lives during this terrible incident.”
Theme park fined £333,344 and ordered to pay costs of £16,183 after child seriously injured on a ride
The UK Lightwater Valley Attractions Ltd has been fined following an incident where a child was thrown from its Twister ride.
York Magistrates’ Court heard that on 30 May 2019, a child was ejected from the Twister ride at Lightwater Valley Theme Park in Ripon, North Yorkshire resulting in serious head injuries.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that although the theme park’s procedures for the Twister ride stated that those between 1.2m and 1.5m tall must wear seat belts, several children under 1.5m in height were not wearing seat belts on this ride. This was seen in CCTV footage over several days and mentioned in statements by members of the public. On examination of the restraining systems, many belts were not functioning correctly. On several occasions, the final position of the lap bar restraint allowed significant gaps to remain in the containment and did not fully contain smaller passengers.
Lightwater Valley Attractions Ltd, registered in Acreman Street, Sherborne, Dorset pleaded guilty of breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and was fined £333, 344 and ordered to pay costs of £16,183.
More information: https://press.hse.gov.uk/2020/12/04/2208
Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI): New advice on priority groups for COVID-19 vaccination
This UK advice is provided to facilitate the development of policy on COVID-19 vaccination in the UK.
JCVI advises that the first priorities for any COVID-19 vaccination programme should be the prevention of COVID-19 mortality and the protection of health and social care staff and systems. Secondary priorities could include vaccination of those at increased risk of hospitalisation and at increased risk of exposure, and to maintain resilience in essential public services. This document sets out a framework for refining future advice on a national COVID-19 vaccination strategy.
This advice has been developed based on a review of UK epidemiological data on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic so far, data on demographic and clinical risk factors for mortality and hospitalisation from COVID-19, data on occupational exposure, a review on inequalities associated with COVID-19, Phase I, II and III data on the Pfizer-BioNTech mRNA vaccine and headline phase III results on the AstraZeneca vaccine, Phase I and II data on other developmental COVID-19 vaccines, and mathematical modelling on the potential impact of different vaccination programmes.
Vaccine priority groups: advice on 2 December 2020 Phase 1 – direct prevention of mortality and supporting the NHS and social care system JCVI advises that the first priorities for the COVID-19 vaccination programme should be the prevention of mortality and the maintenance of the health and social care systems. As the risk of mortality from COVID-19 increases with age, prioritisation is primarily based on age.
More information: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/priority-groups-for-coronavirus-covid-19-vaccination-advice-from-the-jcvi-2-december-2020/priority-groups-for-coronavirus-covid-19-vaccination-advice-from-the-jcvi-2-december-2020
Health and Safety Executive (HSE) asks for your views on stress
In the HSE Stress eBulletin Health and Safety Executive would like your views to help improve their understanding of the impact that COVID-19 is having for employers and workers.
The changes and uncertainty caused by COVID-19 and the associated local and national restrictions have greatly increased the risks of work-related stress and mental health.
To improve our understanding of the impact across all work sectors, we’ve developed two short surveys – one for workers and one for the employer or people that represent the business or organisation. We would be grateful if you would take the time to complete one or both of them.
The worker’s survey is open to any worker, whether you think COVID-19 has or hasn’t, had an impact on you or your role.
The employer’s survey is targeted at decision makers within the organisation – owners, board members, directors etc, and those involved in the organisational response to health and safety and the pandemic.
If you’re completing the employers’ survey, remember you’re also an employee, so feel free to complete both!
New Poster – Health and Safety at Work: Stress, Anxiety and Depression Statistics 2019
The latest ‘Health and Safety at Work Stress, Anxiety and Depression Statistics Poster’ is now available. This new poster provides updated statistics on the severity of work-related stress, anxiety and depression in the UK.
Key features: The new infographic poster is informative and eye-catching and provides the latest statistics for stress, anxiety and depression at work in the UK. Displaying this poster will raise awareness and show that you as a business take this issue seriously. It will provide confidence to those experiencing these symptoms, so they do not feel alone.
- 0.6 million workers suffering from work-related stress anxiety and depression (new and long-standing cases) in 2018/2019
- 21 working days lost per case on average
- 2.8 million working days lost
- 54% of all working days lost due to ill health
- 44% of all work-related ill health cases
- £5.2 billion annual cost of work-related stress, anxiety and depression in Great Britain
Delivery options and charges: https://books.hse.gov.uk/Posters/?DI=652799
HSE’s Risk-reduction through design award 2020-21
There is evidence of links between work-related stress and musculoskeletal disorders, so we thought readers may be interested in seeing the following article published recently in the MSD bulletin...
HSE’s annual musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) ‘Risk-reduction through design’ award needs your nominations.
The award highlights the important contribution that design changes can make to reduce risks of MSDs.
Building on the success of last year’s award, we want businesses to nominate design changes that have made a real impact. We are looking for approaches that have worked from across all sectors, anywhere in the UK regardless of the size of the business or the scale/cost of the solution.
The emphasis is on design solutions that have or can reduce the risk of MSDs for workers, but we are also interested in novel, innovative or niche solutions that tackle difficult-to-solve problems. Involving the workforce in developing the solution is essential and cross-sector application, that might inspire others to think more actively about design-based solutions, will also be part of the judging criteria.
Entries should be submitted on no more than two sides of A4 paper. Include your contact details and tell us about the problem, the design solution, its potential for MSD risk reduction and any wider benefits. Also, tell us how your workforce was involved and what they think about the changes.
Please submit your nominations via email by 31 January 2021.
New Irish Biological Agents Code of Practice
Code of Practice for the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (Biological Agents) Regulations 2013 and 2020 (S.I. No. 572 of 2013 as amended by S.I. No. 539 of 2020)
This code of practice from Ireland, in accordance with Regulation 3 (1) of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (Biological Agents) Regulations 2013 and 2020, applies to activities in a place of work where existing or potential – whether deliberate or incidental – exposure to a biological agent has occurred or may occur. The Health and Safety Authority (the ‘Authority’), with the consent of Leo Varadkar TD, Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, and following public consultation, publishes this code of practice entitled Code of Practice for the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (Biological Agents) Regulations 2013 and 2020 (S.I. No. 572 of 2013 as amended by S.I. No. 539 of 2020), hereafter referred to as the 2020 Biological Agents Code of Practice, in accordance with Section 60 of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 (No. 10 of 2005).
The code of practice contains the list of classified biological agents in Schedule 1. The minimum containment measures for the specific containment levels for laboratories, rooms for laboratory animals and human and animal isolation facilities are detailed in Schedule 2 while Schedule 3 details those for industrial processes. Where applicable, dispensations from minimum containment measures for laboratories and animal rooms are detailed in Schedule 4. This code of practice came into effect on 24 November 2020 and revokes and replaces all previous versions of the code of practice.
RoSPA’s Health and safety webinars
Join the UK RoSPA for a packed schedule of online knowledge sharing webinars.
The health and safety webinars are ideal for keeping you up to date on a range of the latest health and safety topics. Every couple of weeks, RoSPA will be hosting sessions that bring together speakers from organisations across the world, to share their opinions and experiences.
An estimated 2.3 million people around the world die from work-related accidents or diseases every year – that’s more than 6,000 deaths every single day. Worldwide, in total there are around 340 million occupational accidents and 160 million victims of work-related illnesses annually. Work-related and new cases of ill health cost the UK £15 billion annually.
The RoSPA webinars are an opportunity to listen, learn, share best practice, and ask your questions on a variety of different health and safety topics. It’s a way to stay connected and engage with fellow professionals to help you keep your employees safe.
If you’re a RoSPA member then these health and safety webinars are free of charge. You will be sent your personal invitation via email – 48 hours before the webinar is set to take place – to reserve your free place.
If you’re not already a RoSPA member, they urge you to join today so you don’t miss out and gain exclusive access to all future webinars, plus so much more. Alternatively, a place at each webinar can be purchased via the online shop.
More information: https://www.rospa.com/events/rospa-webinars
TUC welcomes Climate Change Committee call for a ‘Just Transition Strategy’
The TUC has welcomed Wednesday’s (9 December 2020) recommendation from the Committee for Climate Change that there should be a national just transition strategy to reach net zero emissions.
The Committee’s report, Policies for the Sixth Carbon Budget and Net Zero, states that a strategy for just transition is required, and says: “Only a transition that is perceived as fair, and where people, places and communities are well-supported, will succeed. UK Government policy, including on skills and jobs, must join up with local, regional and devolved policy on the just transition. Vulnerable people must be protected from the costs of the transition and benefits should be shared broadly.”
News from the USA: Filtering Facepiece Respirators with an Exhalation Valve – Measurements of Filtration Efficiency to Evaluate Their Potential for Source Control
This technical report summarizes research undertaken by the National Personal Protective Technology Laboratory (NPPTL) to provide improved science-based recommendations on the use of filtering facepiece respirators (FFRs) with an exhalation valve. FFR models with an exhalation valve are thought to increase the wearer’s comfort at high work rates and be suitable for longer periods of use. However, respiratory secretions expelled by wearers may exit along with air through the exhalation valve. A concern with FFRs with an exhalation valve is that individuals may spread disease if unfiltered, virus-laden aerosols pass through the valve. Therefore, the question has emerged about the effectiveness of using an FFR with an exhalation valve for source control – i.e., to filter respiratory secretions to prevent disease transmission to others – and whether the valve should be covered with a surgical mask, procedure mask, or a cloth face covering that does not interfere with the respirator fit.
More information: https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2021-107
News from the USA: Winners Announced in the 2020 NIOSH Mine Safety and Health Technology Innovations Awards
On 10 December 2020, the US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Mining Program, in conjunction with the Industrial Minerals Association–North America (IMA-NA), the National Mining Association (NMA), and the National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association (NSSGA), recognized four organisations in their respective industry sectors, some for developing new safety tools and systems, and others for instituting new health protocols to keep their workforce safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. The four award categories are: industrial minerals, coal, metal, and stone, sand and gravel.
Genesis Alkali, LLC, won the industrial minerals award for implementing numerous innovative approaches to keep its workforce safe and operational throughout the pandemic.
In the coal category, the Matrix Design Group won the award for using artificial intelligence (AI) to prevent equipment collisions.
In the metal category, Freeport-McMoRan Inc. won for its Haul Truck Scorecard.
And in the stone, sand, and gravel category, Suwannee American Cement won for also keeping its workforce safe and operational during the pandemic by using multiple innovations.
Full details: https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/updates/upd-12-10-20.html
WHO Meeting: Youth perspectives in focus at high-level meeting on schooling during COVID-19 pandemic
This week finishing 11 December 2020, WHO/Europe hosted a virtual high-level meeting with ministers of health and education from across the WHO European Region to highlight ways to minimize the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the schooling, health, well-being and education of young people.
In a statement, Dr Hans Henri P. Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe, said: “School closures and interventions such as distance learning may have a negative effect on children’s long-term educational outcomes. Children living with disabilities are further disadvantaged by school closures and inadequate distance learning measures to meet their needs. We owe it to the next generation, particularly those in vulnerable settings, to do everything we can to reduce vulnerabilities and to keep their in-person learning alive.
“The evidence is growing that targeting transmission in our communities will address the risk of transmission in schools. If proper and consistent measures are in place, schools do not pose a greater risk of infection for children, teachers and other staff than any other public place.”
ILO Governing Body calls for urgent action on seafarer COVID-19 crisis
Its resolution addresses the plight of hundreds of thousands of seafarers who have been trapped at sea for as many as 17 months or longer because of pandemic restrictions.
On the 8 December 2020 The Governing Body of the International Labour Organization has taken the exceptional action of adopting a Resolution to address the dire situation of seafarers trapped at sea because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The problems faced by seafarers resulting from efforts to contain the virus have lasted unacceptably long”, said ILO Director-General, Guy Ryder. “These key workers continue to transport the food, medicines and goods that we need, but their extended periods at sea, and the inability of seafarers ashore to relieve them, are simply unsustainable. The Resolution sets out the actions to be taken urgently.”
The Resolution concerning Maritime labour and the COVID-19 pandemic acknowledges the considerable social dialogue that has occurred and actions that have been taken by key shipowner and seafarer organizations and some governments to address the crisis. It notes that, despite numerous appeals and actions through the United Nations system, hundreds of thousands of seafarers continue to work well beyond usual periods of service at sea, with some now on board for 17 months and longer.
It refers to the “immense risk that seafarer fatigue represents for the physical and mental health of individual seafarers and for the safety of navigation, security and the protection of the marine environment.”
The Resolution also recalls that the rights of seafarers are set out in the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 (MLC, 2006), including the right to repatriation and to access medical care ashore. States which have ratified the Convention are to prescribe the maximum duration of service periods on board, with such periods to be less than 12 months.
Scientific committees: EU-wide restriction best way to reduce microplastic pollution
The Committee for Socio-economic Analysis (SEAC) has adopted its opinion on a landmark restriction proposal, which would ban microplastics in products such as cosmetics, detergents, fertilisers and could lead to a ban of its use as soft infill on artificial turf sports pitches. It would prevent the release of 500 000 tonnes of microplastics into the environment over 20 years.
The adoption of SEAC’s opinion follows an earlier opinion by the Committee for Risk Assessment (RAC) in June 2020. Both committees concluded that an EU-wide restriction under the EU’s chemicals legislation REACH is the most appropriate means to address the risks of billions of small, solid plastic particles polluting our environment. SEAC also concluded on the expected benefits and costs to society of the proposal.
UK HSE’s Chief Scientific Adviser welcomes introduction of new Covid-19 research programme
The UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has been asked to lead one of seven studies as part of a national COVID-19 research programme funded by the UK government and fronted by the Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance.
Britain’s regulator for workplace health and safety has been asked to lead a study addressing the transmission of COVID-19 in the environment, including in workplaces, transport and other public settings. The study is structured around five themes, each led by a leading scientist in the field: Professor Cath Noakes (Leeds University), Allan Bennett (Public Health England), Prof Wendy Barclay (Imperial College), Prof Martie van Tongeren (University of Manchester) and Dr Yiqun Chen (HSE).
Reacting to the news, HSE’s Chief Scientific Adviser, Professor Andrew Curran said:
“HSE is privileged to lead this programme and use our experience in workplace risk management to improve our understanding of how the virus is transmitted. We employ some of the leading scientists in workplace health and safety who are skilled in addressing complex issues such as this. We will also harness the knowledge and expertise of our counterparts in other organisations to coordinate the most effective response to answer these important questions.
“As findings emerge, they will be shared. We hope they will feed directly into effective approaches and guidance that will help improve practices in workplaces. This work will yield information on an ongoing basis, improving our understanding of what a COVID-Secure workplace looks like. When infection rates will allow sustained re-opening of the economy, working safely will be even more crucial than it is now.”
UK HSE is checking businesses in the transport sector are COVID-secure
In the run up to the festive period, the UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is working with local authorities to inspect businesses in the transport and logistics industry to ensure they are managing the risk of coronavirus (COVID-19).
With the current lockdown restrictions, the demand for online shopping is already high and this is expected to increase over the next few weeks. This will also increase demand in the supply chain for the sector.
HSE inspectors and local authority officers will be visiting warehouses and distribution centres across the country to make sure workplaces are COVID-secure and following the relevant guidance.
Being COVID-secure means that businesses need to put in place workplace controls such as social distancing and cleaning arrangements to manage the risk and protect workers and others from coronavirus.
They will be making sure that businesses have suitable toilet and handwashing facilities for all workers, including visiting drivers. They will also check other health and safety matters if required.
ITUC 2020 General Council Meeting
The International Trades Union Congress (ITUC) General Council meeting on 24 and 25 November 2020 has adopted a focused and ambitious programme for the coming year, with the endorsement of three Frontline campaigns:
- A New Social Contract for Recovery and Resilience
- Climate and Employment Proof Our Work with Just Transition
- Democracies for People
These campaigns are underpinned by four pillars for action: Peace, Democracy and Rights; Regulating Economic Power; Global Shifts – Just Transitions; and Equality.
Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary, said “In the face of four convergent areas of crisis – the pandemic, inequality, exclusion based on race or gender and climate change – these Frontlines campaigns and Pillars for action are the framework for realising an urgently-needed new social contract with reconstruction and resilience based on jobs – climate friendly jobs, rights, just wages, universal social protection and inclusion. The work of the global trade union movement is vital to meeting these challenges.”
More information: https://www.ituc-csi.org/ituc-2020-general-council-meeting
Event: Work Disability Prevention – Bridging research and practice
14-18 June 2021, Kurhotel Skodsborg, Skodsborg, Denmark
This course presents “The Best Of” the highly valued 3-year course on Work Disability Prevention. Work disability occurs when a worker is impaired in performing his or her job. Work disability is expressed by continuing working but performing less, i.e. presenteeism, or by reporting sick, i.e. absenteeism. As such, it imposes large individual, social, and economical burdens. It is also a major concern to workers, their families, employers, policy makers, insurers, and occupational health service providers.
Three different Work Disability Prevention topics will be addressed and integrated:
- Introduction to Work Disability Prevention (including transdisciplinarity)
- Intervention research in Work Disability Prevention (including organizational interventions and health promotion aiming at both individuals and workplaces)
- Sociopolitical challenges with Work Disability Prevention (including implementation of evidence-based practice)
New UK national £2 billion Kickstart scheme
The UK government introduced a new national £2 billion Kickstart scheme in July 2020. The intention is to support around 250,000 jobs of six months for 16-24-year-olds.
Any young person taking part in the scheme claiming Universal Credit and at risk of long-term unemployment is eligible for these opportunities. Only the work coach at the job centre can refer the young participant.
The scheme is now launched and the first places will start in November 2020. The scheme is due to end in December 2021 and as placements will last for six months the scheme should close in May/June 2021. The scheme is open to the public, private and voluntary sector.
The funding available for the employer for each placement will cover 100 per cent of the relevant National Minimum Wage for 25 hours a week, plus the associated employer National Insurance contributions and employer minimum automatic enrolment contributions.
The government will also pay employers £1,500 to set up support and training known as ‘wrap around support’ for young people on a Kickstart placement.
More information: https://www.tuc.org.uk/resource/kickstart-introduction-union-activists
Environmental Chemicals, Breast Cancer Progression and Drug Resistance
Breast cancer (BC) is one of the most common causes of cancer in the world and the second leading cause of cancer deaths among women. Mortality is associated mainly with the development of metastases. Identification of the mechanisms involved in metastasis formation is, therefore, a major public health issue. Among the proposed risk factors, chemical environment and pollution are increasingly suggested to have an effect on the signalling pathways involved in metastatic tumor cells emergence and progression.
The purpose of this article is to summarize current knowledge about the role of environmental chemicals in breast cancer progression, metastasis formation and resistance to chemotherapy. Through a scoping review, we highlight the effects of a wide variety of environmental toxicants, including persistent organic pollutants and endocrine disruptors, on invasion mechanisms and metastatic processes in BC.
We identified the epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition and cancer-stemness (the stem cell-like phenotype in tumours), two mechanisms suspected of playing key roles in the development of metastases and linked to chemoresistance, as potential targets of contaminants. We discuss then the recently described pro-migratory and pro-invasive Ah receptor signalling pathway and conclude that his role in BC progression is still controversial.
In conclusion, although several pertinent pathways for the effects of xenobiotics have been identified, the mechanisms of actions for multiple other molecules remain to be established. The integral role of xenobiotics in the exposome in BC needs to be further explored through additional relevant epidemiological studies that can be extended to molecular mechanisms.
Meriem Koual, Céline Tomkiewicz, German Cano-Sancho, Jean-Philippe Antignac, Anne-Sophie Bats, Xavier Coumoul; Environmental Health, November 2020, 19 (1):117.
Full article: https://doi.org/10.1186/s12940-020-00670-2
UK HSE publishes advice on avoiding the need for RPE when using power tools during the pandemic
The UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has published advice explaining alternative ways of working to reduce risk which may mean you no longer need to use respiratory protective equipment (RPE) for working with power tools.
We have guidance explaining the control measures employers should consider when dealing with (RPE) supply issues during the pandemic.
The new webpage on power tools outlines control measures, including using alternative ways of working, to reduce the risk of exposure to hazardous substances. There is advice on working with tools such as:
- power or masonry drills
- cut-off saws
- handheld pneumatic breakers or jackhammers
- core drills
- angle grinders
Putting in place improved control measures may mean that you no longer need to use RPE or can use RPE with a lower assigned protection factor (APF).
New fresh air system protects London bus drivers against Covid-19
More than 1,200 London buses have been fitted with a device to allow drivers to breathe fresh air and reduce the risk of catching Covid-19 after 45 TfL deaths from the virus were recorded.
Grayson Thermal Systems (GTS) took under three months to create the system and install them on the capital’s buses.
Scientists at University College London worked with TfL and recommended a separate ventilation system for the driver’s cab, advising TfL on air quality targets on the bus and what would be required in terms of ventilation to protect drivers.
Drivers’ compartments can now receive over 100 changes of air from outside the bus every hour. Drivers no longer have to breathe in air from the passengers zones.
An independent review found London bus drivers aged 20-64 had a mortality rate that was 3.5 times higher than men of the same age in all occupations in England and Wales from March to May.
The UK NAO publishes report on supply of personal protective equipment during the COVID-19 pandemic
On 25 November 2020 the report The supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) during the COVID-19 pandemic by the National Audit Office (NAO) was published and finds that government was initially reliant on stockpiles of personal protective equipment (PPE) that proved inadequate for the COVID-19 pandemic. In a rapidly deteriorating situation government made a huge effort to boost supply, but it has paid very high prices due to unusual market conditions and many front-line workers reported shortages of PPE.
Demand for PPE soared in England from March 2020, when NHS and care workers, and key workers in some other industries, started to require protection from the virus. Government’s stockpiles of PPE were intended for an influenza pandemic and did not hold all the equipment that proved to be required during the COVID-19 pandemic, such as gowns.
Government attempted to use its stockpiles to meet demand but there were difficulties distributing PPE and a lack of information on how much stock each NHS trust needed. To manage the rapidly deteriorating situation and urgently source PPE, the Department for Health & Social Care (DHSC) created a Parallel Supply Chain. It made orders worth £7 billion for 14.6 billion items of PPE by the end of May.
International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women
On the eve of International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, 25 November 2020, the trade union federations of Great Britain and the island of Ireland (TUC, STUC, WTUC and ICTU) which together represent over 6 million workers, call for urgent interventions to support victims and survivors of domestic and sexual violence in work and in society.
Domestic abuse is always a workplace issue and trade unions know that work is often a place of safety for women experiencing domestic abuse.
Every year sees mounting evidence of the devastating impact of violence against women but 2020 has been particularly difficult. During lockdowns, which extended to all parts of the UK and Ireland, many women were stuck at home with the perpetrator of violence, unable to escape to, what for many women, is the safety of their workplace.
During this time, trade unions across these islands joined the call for additional emergency support for organisations supporting victims of domestic violence. As our societies eventually emerge from lockdowns and restrictions, however, and people return to work, it is vital that employers and Governments around the UK and Ireland consider what is required to support victims in the longer term.
Urgent action needed to protect firefighters from cancer, scientists find
Ground-breaking research has revealed the serious health risks to UK firefighters following exposure to toxic fire effluents, the chemicals emitted during a fire, in an independent University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) report commissioned by the Fire Brigades Union (FBU).
The work is a UK first and the latest in a growing body of international evidence suggesting an increased risk of firefighters developing cancer and other diseases. Fires produce a cocktail of toxic, irritant and carcinogenic chemicals in the form of aerosols, dusts, fibres, smoke and fumes or gases and vapours.
The report includes a summary of UCLan’s testing on-site at 18 fire stations as well as over 10,000 responses to a national firefighter survey run jointly between the FBU and UCLan.
Indoor air testing at a number of fire stations and training centres highlighted that UK firefighters are still being exposed to the high levels of toxic contaminants during and after a fire, as cancer-causing chemicals remain on PPE clothing, equipment, and elsewhere at the fire ground. Test samples revealed carcinogens inside firefighters’ helmets, on PPE, and even on breathing apparatus mask filters.
Invest in fire and rescue service or forget a green recovery, say climate groups and firefighters
Firefighters, climate campaigners and scientists have urged Chancellor Rishi Sunak to invest in the fire and rescue service to protect the public and vital infrastructure from the devastating effects of climate change – or risk ruining the chance of a green recovery.
In a letter to the Chancellor ahead of the Spending Review on 25 November, the Fire Brigades Union and climate groups including Green New Deal UK, Greenpeace UK, Friends of the Earth, and the Campaign Against Climate Change (CACC), call for the recruitment of “at least an additional 5,000 frontline firefighters in the next year” to deal with severe weather events such as mass flooding and wildfires that are “increasing in occurrence and intensity.”
Signatories to the letter, which also include Robin Hood Tax UK, We Own It, Tax Justice UK, and Economist Ann Pettifor, say that “Climate change is posing a serious and growing threat to the United Kingdom” and that as the risk from climate change has grown “the fire and rescue service has not seen its funding increase to match the threat”.
Management Transformed: Managing in a Marathon Crisis
Management Transformed: Managing in a Marathon Crisis is a Chartered Management Institute (CMI) research project exploring the extraordinary challenges and new ways of working that emerged in 2020.
In August 2020, CMI polled nearly 2,300 senior leaders, managers and employees. At a moment of unprecedented change, Management Transformed seeks to understand how managers are coping in this marathon crisis, how work and management responsibilities are changing, and the proven approaches that all managers and leaders need to know.
Key findings include:
- 72% of staff named ‘ensuring wellbeing’ as the top priority for managers in 2021
- 85% of those surveyed said that managers would be just as important if not more important in 2021
- Just over 2 out of 5 managers across all workplace settings (the workplace, remote, and a hybrid of both) reported increases in productivity for their direct reports
- 95% of those surveyed say that communicating clearly is the most important trait for managers right now – 68% identified it as very important
- Nearly half (49%) of senior leaders believe their employees are more involved in decision-making, but only a quarter (27%) of employees report feeling engaged
- Nearly half (46%) of staff from diverse ethnic groups think that workplace inclusion has improved since Covid-19, compared to 29% of all UK employees