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Sheila Pantry Associates Ltd

News from around the World

News Archive

March 2021

  1. HSE seeks experts to join its REACH Independent Scientific Expert Pool (RISEP)
  2. Updated HSE advice on talking with your workers about preventing coronavirus
  3. Coronavirus: Working safely
  4. UK ‘Big bang’ return a big worry for school support staff
  5. Lift the burdens on working mums, says TUC
  6. IOSH backs ‘fundamental right’ to safety
  7. Ill health driving many out of work before retirement
  8. New publications from the European Agency for Safety and health at Work
  9. USA NIOSH: Masks Block More Cough Aerosol Particles than Face Shields
  10. Event: New Webpage Highlights USA NIOSH 50th Anniversary Info!
  11. Event: World Glaucoma Week 2021
  12. Event: International Women’s Day
  13. Event: No Smoking Day
  14. Event: COVID-19 Workplace Management and Resilience – Free Webinar
  15. Event: World Sleep Day and the Workplace
  16. Event: Nanotechnology and Nanomedicine (iNano-2021)
  17. HSE Education eBulletin
  18. UK HSE has updated information on Ventilation and air conditioning during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic
  19. HSE Safety Alert issued
  20. New Books
  21. US NIOSH: Advancements in Elastomeric Respirator Technology for Use as Source Control
  22. Health and safety is ‘key’ to reopening the UK economy
  23. UK Furlough scheme extension late but welcome
  24. Large expansion in vaccine production and equitable distribution are vital
  25. USA FDA Grants Emergency Use Authorization for New COVID-19 Vaccine Developed by Janssen with Support from BARDA
  26. Prioritising workers for vaccine works best
  27. Urgent need for Covid safety in the British courts
  28. PPE policy leaves low paid ambulance staff at risk

HSE seeks experts to join its REACH Independent Scientific Expert Pool (RISEP)

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is seeking scientific and technical experts in chemical risk assessment and socioeconomic analysis to join its new multidisciplinary REACH Independent Scientific Expert Pool (RISEP).

The EU REACH Regulation has been brought into UK law under the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018. REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals), and related legislation, has been replicated in the UK with the necessary changes to make it operable in a domestic context.

The key principles of the EU REACH Regulation have been retained and this regime is now in operation and is known as UK REACH. HSE is responsible for operating the Agency function under UK REACH.

RISEP is being established to provide the Agency with independent scientific expert advice and scrutiny regarding the safety of chemicals and possible regulatory action under UK REACH.

RISEP experts will help to ensure that the regulation of chemicals under UK REACH continues to be informed by the best independent scientific advice.

More information:

Updated HSE advice on talking with your workers about preventing coronavirus

The law says you must consult with your workers about reducing risks from coronavirus in your workplace. Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has updated its guidance to help you have conversations with your workforce about providing support and keeping control measures in place.

Talking to your workers means you can explain changes you are making to keep the workplace COVID-secure and continue to run your business safely. It also gives workers the chance to:

HSE has converted this advice to web pages so it is easier for people to find the information they need and we have expanded the guidance to include more advice on:

The updated guidance will help you keep in touch with workers and support them as restrictions are eased in the coming months.

More information:

Coronavirus: Working safely

HSE has produced a range of guidance and support on working safely and making your workplace COVID-secure.

It gives an overview of the things you should do to help make your work and workplace COVID-secure. Covers:

For all the latest updates on health and safety at work during the pandemic visit HSE website:

UK ‘Big bang’ return a big worry for school support staff

Half of school support staff in England were anxious ahead of the return to classrooms last week, with many fearing measures to keep them safe were inadequate, according to a UNISON survey.

More than 8,000 teaching assistants, cleaners, technicians, librarians, receptionists and catering staff took part in the poll between 26 February and 8 March 2021.

Major worries include the absence of adequate protective kit, poor social distancing and a lack of safety assessments to measure the threat staff face, especially given new, more transmissible Covid variants, according to the survey. One in three (33 per cent) were worried school ventilation systems – crucial to generating air flow to combat airborne transmission of the virus – aren’t up to the job.

More than a third (35 per cent) hadn’t seen their school’s risk assessment or received an individual safety check, said the union.

More information:

Lift the burdens on working mums, says TUC

The TUC is asking UK ministers to do more to lift the burdens facing working mums.

While the reopening of schools has eased some of the burden mums face, there are ongoing pressures about getting enough childcare to cover hours at work, the union body said. Previous TUC polling has revealed that Covid-19 has had a huge impact on working mums over the last 12 months. The vast majority (90 per cent) told the TUC that they have taken on more childcare responsibilities since the pandemic began.

The same proportion said that their anxiety and stress levels had increased during this latest lockdown. Calling for a range of government interventions, the TUC said these should include an increase in statutory sick pay to at least the level of the real Living Wage, for everyone in work. It noted 1.3 million women workers earn too little to get any sick pay.

More information:

IOSH backs ‘fundamental right’ to safety

The UK-based Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) has said health and safety should be treated as a ‘fundamental right’ at work.

The world’s biggest safety professionals’ organisation was commenting after it signed up to the United Nations (UN) Global Compact. Member organisations of this voluntary pact – the world’s largest corporate sustainability initiative – agree to align their strategies with universal principles on human rights, labour rights, and the environment and anti-corruption. They also commit to taking action to advance the most urgent societal goals, such as the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – the blueprint for achieving a better world for people and planet, including ‘decent work’.

IOSH said it will offer its expertise to help foster sustainable development in a variety of ways, including “supporting the principle that OSH [occupational safety and health] is a fundamental right for all workers and advocating for the respect of internationally proclaimed human rights.”

More information:

Ill health driving many out of work before retirement

Hundreds of thousands of older workers are retiring early and “consigned to poverty” due to ill-health, the UK TUC has said.

A new report published by the union body shows that 1 in 8 (12 per cent) men and women are forced to stop working before state pension age due to ill-health or disability. The report – Extending working lives: how to support older workers – finds that more than half a million (534,876) workers aged 60 to 65 have had to leave the workplace due to medical reasons.

The report reveals a stark income and class divide. People who left the labour market early while working in low-income jobs – like cleaning, care and manual labour – were six times more likely to quit due to medical reasons than those in higher paid jobs. It also found 1 in 3 low-paid workers who left their jobs before state pension age did so because of ill health.

By contrast, just 1 in 20 professionals who left the labour market early did so because of long-term sickness. The TUC said plans to hike to the state pension age while the healthy life expectancy gap between rich and poor areas is growing would deepen inequalities further.

More information:

New publications from the European Agency for Safety and health at Work

Working with chronic MSDs — good practice advice

by Joanne Crawford, Evanthia Giagloglou, Alice Davis, Richard Graveling, Sarah Copsey and Anthony Woolf

This report takes an in-depth look at working with chronic musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) and makes a clear case for the benefits of enabling those with chronic conditions to remain in work. It highlights the importance of designing inclusive workplaces and sets out principles for managing chronic MSDs, with prevention, early intervention, and effective, participative rehabilitation and return-to-work planning being identified as key.

Good practice examples detail a wide range of workplace adjustments made to accommodate individuals with MSDs, from offering flexitime to providing the right tools and ergonomic equipment. This comprehensive practical advice is complemented by broader recommendations for policy-makers.

Occupational Exoskeletons: Wearable robotic devices to prevent work-related musculoskeletal disorders in the workplace of the future – Discussion Paper

Exoskeletons are personal assistive technologies that affect the body mechanically. They can reduce the load of physical work such as heavy lifting, lessening the risk of musculoskeletal disorders. Ergonomic workplace design and layout are not always possible, for example in temporary workplaces. Exoskeletons can help compensate.

Like all new technology, they create a need for regulations and standards. This report provides designers with guidance. Redistributing stress to different parts of the body can affect workers’ health. Comfort is also an issue. Human-centred equipment design is advisable to make exoskeletons useful and accepted.

USA NIOSH: Masks Block More Cough Aerosol Particles than Face Shields

USA Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends wearing face masks in all public settings to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. NIOSH recently tested face masks, neck gaiters, and face shields to see how well they block the small aerosol particles produced by people when they cough. They asked lead author William Lindsley, NIOSH biomedical research engineer, to explain the study, published in the journal Aerosol Science and Technology.

What do we know about the efficacy of different types of face coverings?

We tested how well face coverings stopped cough aerosols from being expelled into the air (called source control). We used a device that simulates coughs to propel small aerosol particles through different face coverings placed on a manikin head. We did not test these devices as personal protective equipment to prevent aerosols in the environment from being inhaled by the wearer.

We found that a 3-ply cotton face mask blocked 51% of the cough aerosol particles, and a polyester neck gaiter blocked 47% as a single layer and 60% when folded into a double layer. Face shields, however, blocked only 2%.

Are there any face coverings we see often that are not effective?

We are testing other types of face coverings. Our preliminary results suggest that bandanas are not as effective as other face coverings, probably because of the loose fit.

Is any face covering better than no face covering?

Yes, our results indicate that any face covering is better than no covering, as also specified by CDC guidelines.

What questions remain?

For face masks and gaiters, we would like to test how different materials perform, the effect of fit, and the effectiveness during breathing versus coughing. For face shields, we would like to test alternative designs. We also would like to test all these devices using a broader size range of aerosol particles.

More information:

Event: New Webpage Highlights USA NIOSH 50th Anniversary Info!

This year marks the 50th anniversary of NIOSH! NIOSH will be recognizing this important milestone through various channels throughout the year and posting links to them on the NIOSH 50th Anniversary webpage. NIOSH 50th Anniversary webpage.

NIOSH 50th Anniversary webpage:

Event: World Glaucoma Week 2021

7-13 March 2021

World Glaucoma Week is a joint initiative between the World Glaucoma Association and the World Glaucoma Patient Association and has had a highly successful run for the past 10 years.

We need your help in making World Glaucoma Weeks successful and creating greater glaucoma awareness, so please:

More details about World Glaucoma Week and many examples of glaucoma awareness activities around the world are to be found on the WGW website

Event: International Women’s Day

8 March 2021

A challenged world is an alert world! IWD 2021 campaign theme: #ChooseToChallenge

International Women’s Day is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating women’s equality. International Women’s Day (IWD) has occurred for well over a century, with the first IWD gathering in 1911 supported by over a million people.

On 8 March 2021, IWD belongs to all groups collectively everywhere. IWD is not country, group or organization specific. Individually, we’re all responsible for our own thoughts and actions – all day, every day, even in these challenging Covid-19 pandemic days!

We can choose to challenge and call out gender bias and inequity. We can choose to seek out and celebrate women’s achievements. Great examples have been shown worldwide during the 2020 pandemic and continuing now into 2021… you will all know women who have responded to the challenges of surviving and daily striving to keep some “normality” for families, in workplaces and generally carrying on.

Collectively, we can all help create an inclusive world. From challenge comes change, so let’s all choose to challenge…

Now… Strike the #ChooseToChallenge pose… Raise your hand assertively and show that you choose to challenge inequity.

Show your solidarity in choosing to challenge and call out aspects that are unhelpful to women. Will you raise your hand high and pledge to #ChooseToChallenge? To see how, visit:

Have a Great IWD 8 March 2021

Event: No Smoking Day

10 March 2021

No Smoking Day has been held on the second Wednesday in March every year since 1984. It is a day to encourage smokers to give quitting a go and promote the benefits of stopping.

This year the UK Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), in collaboration with local and regional public health organisations, is coordinating activity around the theme: Quitting doesn’t have to be stressful.

There will be new data and research looking at the relationship between smoking and poorer mental health and wellbeing and how ex-smokers experience better mental health. Data will be available at regional and national level for England.

Event: COVID-19 Workplace Management and Resilience – Free Webinar

16 March 2020

Aligning with the launch of revised COVID-19 workplace management guidance, British Safety Council (BSC) will be hosting a free webinar at 10 am (GMT) on Tuesday 16 March 2021. In the webinar, BSC will take you through the revised guidance, together with information on our COVID assurance support.

British Safety Council’s revised COVID-19 workplace management guidance document is designed to help employers provide ongoing support to their workforce. It also helps to re-establish workplace arrangements as restrictions begin to be eased by national or regional governments.

The guidelines take account of current good practice, health and safety guidance issued by the World Health Organisation (WHO), The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE), governmental departments, non-governmental organisations (NGO’s), other professional organisations and relevant legislation.

The British Safety Council’s experience over the last twelve months in providing COVID-19 assurance assessments across many sectors, both within the UK and internally, has also provided valuable input into this updated guidance.

The webinar will cover the following:

There will be opportunities to ask questions at the end.

To Register visit:

Event: World Sleep Day and the Workplace

19 March 2021

The slogan for the 14th annual World Sleep Day (WSD) is Regular Sleep, Healthy Future.

WSD is a call to all sleep professionals to advocate and educate the world about the importance of sleep for achieving an optimal quality of life and improve global health. The focus on regular sleep for 2021 is based on the benefits that regular sleep offers.

The World Sleep Society recommends the following 10 steps to achieve healthy sleep:

Spreading the word on social media about #WorldSleepDay.

We really need to think how sleep or lack of it affects our performance at our workplace and how smoking affects your health and the implications of the legislation and workplaces and also gender equality in life and the workplace.

So, help is at hand for you – whichever industry you are working in there is guidance, advice, reports, journal articles, research reports and more are brought together in an easy-to-use web service entitled OSH UPDATE + FIRE

Event: Nanotechnology and Nanomedicine (iNano-2021)

24-25 March 2021, webinar

Nanotechnology and Nanomedicine (iNano-2021) provides a global platform to discuss about the present and future challenges of Nanotechnology and Nanomedicine.

Nanotechnology is a rising field includes scientists from multiple disciplines like engineers, chemists, physicist, material science researchers, biologists and information technologists. Nanotechnology is being applied to almost every single field i.e. imaginable, including, magnetics, electronics, materials development, information technology, and biomedicine.

There are countless areas of concern in the nanoscience and nanotechnology markets that are estimated to be explored in the coming years, for an instance, nanoparticles, Nanomaterials, nanowires, semiconductors, nanotubes and nano biological systems, etc.

Nanomedicine is key field born from nanotechnology, which has grown up in the fields of chemistry, engineering, biotechnology and physics now moving into medicine, with huge potential for expansion and improvement over the next decade and beyond.

During this Covid-19 crisis period of lockdown, travel restrictions and also by considering all major factors like cost efficiency, time, funds Join us in iNano-2021 and enjoy all the benefits.

HSE Education eBulletin

The UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE) Education eBulletin is aimed at all those running, governing or working in the education sector as Spring term re-opening of schools start

As schools re-open for the Spring term, they should ensure that the mitigating measures put in place to control the risks from COVID-19 are maintained. It is important that control measures continue to be rigorously applied, with arrangements in place to ensure effective supervision, monitoring and review of expected standards.

Relevant government guidelines for the reopening of schools in the Spring term have not substantially changed since HSE carried out spot checks and inspections on schools in the latter part of 2020. Findings from this work are outlined below which includes examples of the ways some schools implemented good practice. It also provides information on areas for improvement that were found during some inspections.

HSE will continue to investigate concerns and incidents reported to us as schools return, although it should be noted that some of the new measures being introduced e.g. asymptomatic testing of staff and pupils, and the wider use of face coverings are not matters enforced by HSE.

Questions and concerns about these issues should be directed to the relevant education or public health authority for England, Scotland and Wales.

Findings from HSE’s school spot checks and inspections

HSE conducted spot checks and inspections in primary and secondary schools over a three-month period from September to December 2020.

HSE contacted 5000 schools in England and Wales to check they were following the relevant government guidelines. This followed similar spot checks carried out in August on schools in Scotland.

Checks were carried out across primary and secondary schools in all regions and included a proportionate number of state-maintained, independent and special schools.

Following the initial calls, HSE found that around 80% of schools had a good understanding of the guidance and what it means to be COVID-secure. For those schools where it was less certain they were following the guidance, HSE undertook over 1000 follow up site inspections to check the measures they had in place.

All of the HSE inspections were completed by the beginning of December 2020 and these visits have shown that nearly all of the schools had implemented COVID-secure measures in accordance with the relevant government guidelines. This resulted in no further action for more than half of the schools visited, and for most of the remaining inspections only minor issues were found that required verbal advice.

Only a minimal number of inspections (less than 1%) identified contraventions of health and safety requiring formal interventions and improvement.

Our inspectors did find some areas of concern, which were common to a small number of schools, where improvements were needed. These included social distancing in staff rooms and kitchen/canteens, cleaning regimes, and ventilation in school buildings.

For ventilation, most schools were relying on windows and doors being open for long periods of time. Balancing the room temperature for staff and students with the need for adequate ventilation was a common issue, especially in colder months.

HSE has updated its own guidance on ventilation and air conditioning which should help school leaders to strike this balance.

Other issues that HSE advised on included:

Additionally, HSE inspectors found many examples of innovative ways in which schools were helping to promote good practice. These included:

Guidance on being COVID-secure and information on spot checks and inspections is available at:

You can visit their education website for more advice and guidance:

UK HSE has updated information on Ventilation and air conditioning during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic

Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has updated and expanded its advice to help employers provide adequate ventilation in their workplaces during the pandemic.

This guidance builds on helping you to identify and take action in poorly ventilated areas. It also provides guidance on other factors to consider when assessing the risk from aerosol transmission, and determining whether adequate ventilation is being provided to reduce this risk.

You should be maximising the fresh air in a space and this can be done by:

Read the updated guidance and find out how you can provide adequate ventilation in your workplace, helping to protect workers and other people from transmission of coronavirus.

Covers: Identifying poorly ventilated areas, Assessment of fresh air (ventilation), How to improve natural ventilation, How to improve mechanical ventilation, Balancing ventilation with keeping warm, Air cleaning and filtration units and ventilation in vehicles

The law says employers must make sure there is an adequate supply of fresh air (ventilation) in enclosed areas of the workplace. This has not changed during the pandemic.

This guidance will apply in most workplaces – it will help you and your workers:

Why ventilation is important

Adequate ventilation reduces how much virus is in the air. It helps reduce the risk from aerosol transmission, when someone breathes in small particles (aerosols) in the air after a person with the virus has been in the same enclosed area.

The risk is greater in areas that are poorly ventilated.

Ventilation reduces the aerosol risk but has minimal impact on:

Assessing the risk of aerosol transmission

Adequate ventilation can look different in different workplaces or settings.

You can reduce the risk of aerosol transmission by:

Deciding what adequate ventilation looks like in your workplace should be considered as part of a risk assessment.

All details can be found here:

HSE Safety Alert issued

Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has issued a safety alert following an incident which saw the failure of a road tanker pressure/vacuum relief valve.

Bulk transport containers used for flammable, corrosive and toxic liquids and gases will normally have a pressure/vacuum relief valve fitted to prevent damage to the tank from changes in the internal pressure. These valves should be inspected and maintained in line with the manufacturer’s instructions.

Following a road incident in April 2020, investigations by Cleveland Police and HSE found evidence that a pressure/vacuum relief valve had undergone an unauthorised modification by a third party which prevented the valve’s safe operation

View the safety alert for full details:

New Books

Brannigan’s Building Construction for the Fire Service includes Navigate Advantage Access, Sixth Edition

by Glenn P. Corbett and Francis L. Brannigan

In 1971, Francis L. Brannigan created Building Construction for the Fire Service, a ground breaking resource offering a comprehensive description of building construction available to fire fighters. With his dedication to fire fighter safety and saving lives, the legacy of Frank Brannigan continues with the sixth edition of Brannigan’s Building Construction for the Fire Service.

The Sixth Edition meets and exceeds the National Fire Academy’s Fire and Emergency Services Higher Education (FESHE) course objectives and outcomes for the Associate’s Core-Level course called Building Construction for Fire Protection (C0275). Brannigan’s Building Construction for the Fire Service, Sixth Edition is an integral resource for fire officers, instructors, those studying for promotion, individuals taking civil service examinations, fire science students, and both current and prospective fire fighters. It is part of an integrated teaching and learning system that combines dynamic features and content to support instructors and to help prepare students for their career in firefighting

More information:

Handbook of Standards and Guidelines in Human Factors and Ergonomics, Second Edition

Edited by Waldemar Karwowski, Anna Szopa and Marcelo M. Soares

With an updated edition including new material in additional chapters, this one-of-a-kind handbook covers not only current standardization efforts, but also anthropometry and optimal working postures, ergonomic human computer interactions, legal protection, occupational health and safety, and military human factor principles. While delineating the crucial role that standards and guidelines play in facilitating the design of advantageous working conditions to enhance individual performance, the handbook suggests ways to expand opportunities for global economic and ergonomic development.

Also covers: Guidance on the design of work systems including tasks, equipment, and workspaces as well as the work environment in relation to human capacities and limitations; Emphasis on important human factors and ergonomic standards that can be utilized to improve product and process to ensure efficiency and safety; A focus on quality control to ensure that standards are met throughout the worldwide market.

Mindful Safety: A Multi-level approach to Improving Safety Culture and Performance

By Christopher Langer

Synthesising the latest thinking from neuroscience and psychology with the practice of safety management, Mindful Safety shows how a much stronger safety culture can be built from the ground up. Case studies, applied research and practical exercises all demonstrate how attention, and the ability to focus, can significantly boost performance and resilience, whilst reducing human error and the number of safety incidents.

Representing a new kind of safety thinking to meet contemporary challenges, the book covers four critical levels: the individual, the relational, the organisational and the societal. The approach can be successfully applied to the healthcare, road, rail, aviation and energy sectors for greater safety and performance.

The emphasis on self-care, strengthening relationships and learning from positives signals a clear shift in safety management thinking. This is not just an insightful, analytical approach, but an action-based one ready for implementation. Few approaches in the field tackle the subjects of sleep, fatigue, distraction, smartphone addiction, workplace stress and mental health with the same vigour, or provide the safety toolkit for fighting a pandemic.

If you want to create the right mindset to achieve exceptional results in these uncertain times, this book will show you how. It is aimed at professionals in the health and safety industry, as well as graduate students in human factors, ergonomics, industrial engineering and production engineering.

US NIOSH: Advancements in Elastomeric Respirator Technology for Use as Source Control

Respirator design is constantly improving and evolving to meet new challenges. Manufacturers have recently developed innovative NIOSH-approved elastomeric half mask respirator (EHMR) designs that both protect the wearer as well as provide adequate source control – protecting others by filtering the wearer’s exhaled air that may contain harmful viruses or bacteria.

EHMRs are being used more widely in U.S. healthcare systems because they can be cleaned, disinfected, and reused. During times when there are shortages of the filtering facepiece respirators (FFRs) typically worn in healthcare settings, EHMRs can help to meet this demand and alleviate the burden on the FFR supply. However, EHMRs traditionally have exhalation valves, which is a design feature that has caused concern about source control.

A respirator’s exhalation valve works by closing when the wearer inhales, pulling the inhaled breath through the filter material, and then opening to allow exhaled unfiltered breath to be expelled through the exhalation valve. This helps to reduce the overall breathing resistance, remove moisture, and reduce CO2 concentration and its effects, thereby increasing the user’s comfort, especially over a long period of time. A NIOSH-approved particulate respirator with an exhalation valve offers the same intended protection to the wearer as one without a valve. However, potential respiratory droplets expelled by wearers may exit along with air through the exhalation valve, which means that they may not provide efficient source control for use in certain healthcare settings, such as those requiring a sterile field. This limits how much traditional EHMRs with exhalation valves can be incorporated into healthcare systems to alleviate the supply shortage of FFRs.

Several NIOSH respirator approval holders have tackled this source control dilemma, developing new EHMR options that can both protect healthcare workers and be used in all healthcare settings. NIOSH has recently approved the first EHMR model without an exhalation valve. The Mine Safety Appliance Corporation (MSA) designed the Advantage 290, which provides P95 and P100 level protection to the wearer, as well as reduces the risk of spreading infectious diseases through expelled droplets in exhaled breath. This is because the air is being filtered in both directions. The lack of open exhalation valve forces the exhaled breath of air back out the same filter in which the air was breathed in.

Since this first approval, NIOSH also issued approval for Dentec Safety Specialists’ 400 NX series half mask respirators without exhalation valves. This includes the 400NXML, 400NXMDML, 400NXSM, and 400NXMDSM.

Read more on the NIOSH Science Blog:

Health and safety is ‘key’ to reopening the UK economy

The success of economic recovery is dependent on maintaining workplace safety for everyone – but to achieve that we need a Health and Safety Executive (HSE) that is properly resourced, HSE union Prospect has stated.

Mike Clancy, the union’s general secretary, stated talk of ‘health and safety gone mad’ and ‘red tape’ was never grounded in fact, adding “in the wake of a deadly global pandemic such talk would surely be laughed out of town. The reality is that health and safety is now the key to commerce, and smart regulation and enforcement is one of our best weapons in the battle to safely reopen businesses through the Spring and Summer.”

In a Prospect blog, Clancy said “it was more than a little surprising that the English government’s roadmap out of lockdown didn’t contain a single mention of the Health and Safety Executive, or the expert inspectors charged with ensuring that workplaces are made safe in time for workers to return.”

More information:

UK Furlough scheme extension late but welcome

Unions have welcomed the chancellor’s announcement of an extension to the furlough scheme until the end of September.

Ahead of his 3 March 2021 budget, Rishi Sunak said the scheme – which pays 80 per cent of employees’ wages for the hours they cannot work in the pandemic – would help millions through “the challenging months ahead.”

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme has protected more than 11 million jobs since its inception and had been due to close at the end of April. Commenting on the government’s announcement ahead of the budget that the job retention scheme will continue until the end of September, with reduced rates of support from July 2021, TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “The chancellor should have announced it earlier, and should now promise it will last as long as needed to secure the recovery.”

More information:

Large expansion in vaccine production and equitable distribution are vital

A massive scaling up of global vaccine production, and equitable distribution of vaccines, tests and treatments, are essential to combatting the COVID-19 pandemic.

While some countries are making progress on vaccinating their whole populations, more than 100 countries have yet to receive a single dose. The 190-country COVAX facility has set a target of vaccinating 20% of people in the world’s poorest countries by the end of this year, but on current trends even that will not be realised. Meanwhile, richer countries are ordering enough vaccines to inoculate their entire populations several times over.

“Vaccine nationalism and market forces won’t defeat the pandemic; only international cooperation can bring it under control. We need an urgent global effort to produce enough vaccines and get them to everyone, with priority for the most vulnerable and also for the frontline workers who are saving lives and keeping economies and societies functioning.

“Those politicians who are playing nationalistic games or spreading misinformation are not only undermining trust but also deepening inequalities, with devastating consequences for developing countries in particular. The moral imperative to provide vaccinations to all people in the world is underpinned by the public health need to suppress the virus in every part of the world,” said Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary.

More information:

USA FDA Grants Emergency Use Authorization for New COVID-19 Vaccine Developed by Janssen with Support from BARDA

The USA FDA’s emergency use authorization of the Janssen single-shot COVID-19 vaccine is great news for America, and a welcome addition to the growing supply of vaccines available to end this pandemic and save lives.

ASPR’s Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) and Janssen Pharmaceutical of Johnson & Johnson have a long-term partnership. The company’s COVID-19 vaccine relies on the same vaccine platform Janssen used to develop and manufacture an Ebola vaccine with BARDA support.

BARDA also provided funding to accelerate development of Janssen’s COVID-19 vaccine, and in collaboration with the Department of Defense, BARDA expanded that partnership to begin scaling up manufacturing.

Prioritising workers for vaccine works best

Approaches that prioritise workers for the Covid-19 vaccine ‘consistently outperform’ those that do not, academics and health researchers from the UK and Canada have found.

The researchers from the University of Manchester, Simon Fraser University and Canadian health agencies examined different vaccination strategies in the Canadian province of British Columbia. They note “age-based rollouts are both less equitable and less effective than strategies that prioritise essential workers. We demonstrate that strategies that target essential workers earlier consistently outperform those that do not, and that prioritising essential workers provides a significant level of indirect protection for older adults.”

The authors add: “This conclusion holds across numerous outcomes, including cases, hospitalisations, Long Covid, deaths and net monetary benefit, and over a range of possible values for the efficacy of vaccination against infection.” The researchers conclude: “Our analysis focuses on regimes where the pandemic continues to be controlled with distancing and other measures as vaccination proceeds, and where the vaccination strategy is expected to last for over the coming 6-8 months – for example British Columbia, Canada. In such a setting with a total population of 5 million, vaccinating essential workers sooner is expected to prevent over 200,000 infections, over 600 deaths, and to produce a net monetary benefit of over $500m.”

More information:

Urgent need for Covid safety in the British courts

Safety arrangements must be reviewed across courts and tribunals as Covid has made large parts of the justice sector unsafe, organisations in the sector have warned.

Civil service unions and other justice sector organisations have signed a joint statement to Kevin Sadler, acting CEO of HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS), reiterating concerns that some courts are unsafe. PCS is currently running a strike ballot of its members who work at 12 of the courts where it says staff are most at risk due to Covid, as well as a consultative ballot until 15 March for all other HMCTS members.

The union said the concerns raised in the 1 March 2021 joint statement from organisations including PCS, Napo, POA, FDA and the Criminal Bar Association identify that “HMCTS has failed, and continues to fail, to take timely and appropriate action to improve safety measures. Significantly high levels of transmission of Covid across the HMCTS estate are continuing to be reported.”

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PPE policy leaves low paid ambulance staff at risk

Low paid ambulance workers are being put at risk by their trust’s two-tier policy towards PPE, the union UK GMB union has warned.

It says the North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) is ‘playing fast and loose with Covid safety’ by prioritising higher paid staff and leaving lowest paid frontline ambulance workers with the most basic of masks. NEAS utilises two different services: unscheduled care, the blue light emergence service which responds to urgent cases and accidents; and scheduled care, which performs the patient transport role to and from hospital to home and residential care for non-urgent cases. GMB says both services deal with Covid positive patients daily, yet only the ‘blue light’ crew members have an acceptable level of protection.

Michael Hunt, GMB regional organiser, said: “NEAS is playing fast and loose with Covid safety and has hid behind the most basic of PHE [Public Health England] guidance on masks. They’ve had to be dragged into providing higher quality masks. However, they are not giving these masks to lower paid front line ambulance crews.”

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