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News from around the World

News Archive

April 2021

  1. ILO Green Week 19-23 April 2021
  2. Workers’ Memorial Day, 28 April 2021
  3. New UK HSE tools to prevent, reduce and manage stress in the workplace
  4. London-wide launch of Operation Cavell to convict those who assault NHS staff
  5. HSE Chair Sarah Newton reflects on the past year
  6. Leading UK businesses and researchers in £75 million collaboration to create technologies of the future
  7. Prosecution: Environmental management services company fined £1,020,000 and ordered to pay costs of £60,476 after worker fatally crushed
  8. TUC safe return report warns of infections ‘rebound’
  9. Self-isolation needs end to ‘poverty’ sick pay comments the GMB on a paper published in BMJ
  10. UK National Health Service (NHS) reeling as long Covid hits tens of thousands of staff
  11. Keeping face coverings is the right move, says UNISON
  12. USDAW urges customers to follow the rules and respect shopworkers
  13. Eurofound Report: Working life in the COVID-19 pandemic 2020
  14. News from Canada: Nine trends in the future of work that may impact vulnerable workers
  15. US Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) Deploying to Fatal Incident at Paint Plant
  16. Event: FIREX International
  17. Event: Workplace Wellbeing Show 2021
  18. Employee wellbeing: Shifting the focus on employee benefits in a pandemic
  19. Coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions in England – 31 March 2021
  20. UK Office of National Statistics (ONS) Survey on Prevalence of ongoing symptoms following coronavirus (COVID-19) infection in the UK – 1 April 2021
  21. UK TUC survey reveals widespread Covid-Secure failures
  22. Pub vaccine passports ‘reckless’ warns UK union
  23. Face coverings in UK schools make staff feel safer
  24. UK NHS workers need ‘sensitive’ Covid mental health support
  25. Warning on ‘huge gaps’ in British law over AI at work
  26. Homeworking call centre staff to be monitored by webcam
  27. Unite campaign for a ‘new deal’ for Amazon workers
  28. Survey exposes appalling abuse of shopworkers
  29. Covid-19 is an occupational disease: Campaign video and IIAC Position paper
  30. Is your workplace properly ventilated?
  31. ‘Fundamental’ health and safety moves a step closer
  32. USA to seize PPE over labour and safety abuses
  33. Germany: Firms to face justice for safety violations abroad
  34. TUC Hazards at Work – 6th Edition

ILO Green Week 19-23 April 2021

As the world grapples with the devastating economic and social consequences of the COVID-19 crisis, we ask: How can we build back better and greener?

During ILO Green Week 2021, you are invited to join innovators, business leaders, policy experts and environmental practitioners from around the globe to explore what a green future of work could look like, and how we can get there.

All events are online and open to all.

More information:

Workers’ Memorial Day, 28 April 2021

On 28 April 2021, unions and work safety advocates will observe International Workers’ Memorial Day. Every year, it is an opportunity to remember all workers who have lost their lives to fatal injury or illness just for doing their jobs. It is when we come together to renew our fight for safer work and stronger unions.

The UK TUC is gearing up for the biggest ever 28 April campaign day – on which is already the world’s biggest single health and safety event.

A new dedicated TUC #IWMD21 webpage lists planned local activities, has great downloadable graphics and spells out how and why unions mark this day and includes some pointers on how this might be done in a Covid-safe manner.

A zoom meeting on 28 April will feature top speakers including Sharan Burrow, the general secretary of the ‘world’s trade union’ ITUC, and TUC’s own Frances O’Grady.

New UK HSE tools to prevent, reduce and manage stress in the workplace

Employers are being urged to review the stress-causing factors in their workplaces and the work that their employees do by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE)

Stress, depression or anxiety account for 51% of all work-related ill health cases and 55% of all working days lost due to work-related ill health. Stress impacts on all sectors and businesses of all sizes and employers have a legal duty to protect employees from stress at work by doing a risk assessment and acting on it.

Evidence shows that there are six key factors which, if not properly managed, are associated with poor health, lower productivity and increased accident and sickness absence rates.

The six key factors are:

More information:

London-wide launch of Operation Cavell to convict those who assault NHS staff

Known as Operation Cavell, the initiative will see a senior officer review all reports of assaults and hate crime against NHS staff.

Following a three-month pilot, the National Health Service (NHS), Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) and Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) have been working in partnership to launch the scheme on
31 March 2021 which aims to increase convictions and protect NHS staff on the frontline.

As well as senior police officer involvement, senior welfare and support staff within the NHS will be brought on board to help those who have been a victim of such crimes.

A pilot scheme took place across five London boroughs between October 2020 and January 2021. Those were Lambeth, Southwark, Bromley, Croydon and Sutton. The pilot looked at 63 investigations and had a 26.45% charge rate. Before Op Cavell, over a three month period, 30 NHS and London Ambulance Service (LAS) assaults were recorded and revealed only 6.6% resulted in a charge.

One of the biggest challenges officers and NHS staff face is that many NHS workers feel being assaulted is “part of the job”. Prior to the pilot, 50% of NHS staff in London who were assaulted would not support an investigation whereas the last three months has seen that number drop to 25%.

More information:

HSE Chair Sarah Newton reflects on the past year

My overarching opinion of HSE since I became Chair in August last year (2020), is a hugely positive one. My first impressions are of a regulator staffed by passionate, committed and expert individuals who are fully engaged with and behind HSE’s core mission.

Today, as we reflect on the past year, the loss of life and impact in communities across Great Britain, it is safe to say that it has been a year unlike any of us have ever experienced.

As we think about the year ahead, and the anticipated emergence from the dark shadow of the pandemic, now is the time to apply renewed vigour to our work enabling Covid-secure workplaces. Drawing on what we are continuously learning from the data and science. With a focus on controlling risk, from identifying it to mitigating for it.

It’s worth mentioning that from all the conversations I’ve had with our people, it seems we have found the vast majority of businesses and workplaces are willing to follow Government advice, make necessary changes promptly, without the need for enforcement action from us. Where we have needed to, we have taken that action.

More information:

Leading UK businesses and researchers in £75 million collaboration to create technologies of the future

On Friday, 2 April 2021, the UK Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy announce nine innovative business-led research partnerships led by Unilever, EDF and the Francis Crick Institute to develop technologies such as accelerated medicine discovery, green household products and sensor technology for drivers.

This part of the Government’s ambition to build back better and drive economic growth and job creation through innovation.

Leading UK businesses and research institutions will join forces to develop new technologies, from 3D imaging accelerating medicine discovery, to transforming waste into eco-friendly household products.

Announced by Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng, 9 new partnerships will bring together expertise from some of the UK’s most prominent businesses and research institutions to develop innovations in support of the UK’s key priorities, such as tackling climate change and boosting medical research.

Backed by a £75.2 million joint investment from government, business and academia, the business-led collaborations will draw on existing industry and research strengths in regions across the UK, from Teesside to Bristol, to create products and technologies that can drive economic growth and create highly skilled local jobs.

Innovations receiving funding include the development of synthetic biology to improve the cost effectiveness of drugs to treat diseases such as cancer, sensor technology to help reduce distraction for drivers, and converting waste into clean household products such as shampoo.

To mark the announcement, the Business Secretary visited the Francis Crick Institute, which is partnering with British pharmaceutical firm GSK in a joint mission to accelerate medicine discovery. There he learnt how the 2 businesses will collaborate by integrating next generation chemistry with new technologies to speed up the development of medicines to help treat disease.

More information:

Prosecution: Environmental management services company fined £1,020,000 and ordered to pay costs of £60,476 after worker fatally crushed

An environmental management services company has been fined after a worker was fatally injured by a reversing vehicle.

Northampton Crown Court heard how on 8 April 2016, an employee of Enterprise Managed Services Limited was fatally crushed when he tripped and fell under the wheels of the refuse lorry in Ashby Road, Daventry whilst on a routine collection of recyclable refuse.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) into the incident found that a suitable and sufficient risk assessment had not been carried out for the collection route and there was a failure to adequately supervise the Daventry waste and recycling round.

Enterprise Managed Services Limited of the Chancery Exchange, Furnival Street, London pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974. They have been fined £1,020,000 and ordered to pay costs of £60,476.

More information:

TUC safe return report warns of infections ‘rebound’

The UK government and employers have been warned that “infections could rebound” if workplaces aren’t Covid-secure, the TUC has warned.

The alert from the union body came ahead of the reopening of hospitality and non-essential shops on 12 April. The TUC said the vaccine rollout and workplace testing must not be used as an excuse to relax safe working rules. Over 11,000 working age people have so far died during the pandemic, with thousands of reported outbreaks in workplaces and many more going unreported.

A new TUC report sets out the steps ministers and employers should take to keep people safe at work and to prevent another spike in workplace infections. It says all employers must update their risk assessments to take account of what we now know about the importance of ventilation. It points out that as the UK unlocked in Summer 2020, more emphasis was placed on surface disinfection – but we now know effective ventilation should be a higher priority. The TUC adds that any activity which can be conducted outside should be, and that employers should invest in ventilation systems, as well as continuing to enforce social distancing and the wearing of face coverings.

The union body wants decent sick pay for all and adds companies should seek to persuade staff to get the vaccine, but not make it a condition of employment. The TUC says that making vaccinations compulsory will damage employer-staff relations and could result in legal cases on the grounds of discrimination.

More information:

Self-isolation needs end to ‘poverty’ sick pay comments the GMB on a paper published in BMJ

The ‘low’ number of people with Covid symptoms who get a test or self-isolate won’t improve until the government raises significantly Statutory Sick Pay (SSP), the union GMB has said.

The union was commenting after a paper published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) suggested just 18 per cent of those with symptoms said they had requested a test, while only 43 per cent with symptoms in the previous seven days adhered to full self-isolation.

The authors, from King’s College London, UCL and Public Health England, concluded: “Our results indicate that about half of people know the symptoms of Covid-19, and that adherence to each stage of test, trace, and isolate is low but improving slowly. Policies that support people financially and practically, and improving communication about the testing system, will be key to increasing uptake both in the UK and internationally.”

GMB said the new rate for Statutory Sick Pay of £96.35 a week leaves low paid workers with symptoms the choice of doing the right thing or being able to feed their families.

More information:

UK National Health Service (NHS) reeling as long Covid hits tens of thousands of staff

Intense pressures on the already overstretched NHS are being exacerbated by the tens of thousands of health staff who are sick with long Covid, experts have warned.

At least 122,000 NHS personnel have the condition, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) disclosed in a detailed report that showed 1.1 million people in the UK were affected by the condition. That is more than any other occupational group and ahead of teachers, of whom 114,000 have it. Patient care is being hit because many of those struggling with long Covid are only able to work part-time, are too unwell to perform their usual duties, or often need time off because they are in pain, exhausted or have “brain fog”.

The ONS found about 30,000 social care workers also had long Covid, which could affect staffing levels in care homes and among services that provide at-home care. The study’s authors warned there needed to be greater awareness of the consequences of long Covid, and on measures to treat it.

More information:

Keeping face coverings is the right move, says UNISON

The government’s decision to require continued use of face coverings in secondary schools in England is the right move, education unions have said.

Education secretary Gavin Williamson said face masks would remain as a “precautionary measure”. Announcing the decision to retain masks in the classroom, at least until 17 May 2021, the Department for Education (DfE) said: “This cautious approach will help limit the risk of transmission and enable continued monitoring of the effect of school and college returns.” But the latest DfE guidance says: “It is expected that face coverings will no longer be required to be worn in classrooms, or by students in other communal areas, at step three of the roadmap, which will be no earlier than 17 May.”

More information:

University and College Union (UCU) statement on online learning at English universities

UCU said the UK government’s decision not to lift restrictions on in-person teaching at English universities as part of the 12 April 2021 reopening was the right call.

The union said ministers have belatedly listened to the union’s demand to keep the majority of learning online, but they must now be honest with staff and students and admit most courses will stay online until the end of the academic year.

More information:

USDAW urges customers to follow the rules and respect shopworkers

As non-essential retail stores opened in England on 12 April, retail union Usdaw has called on people to play their part in keeping shop workers safe.

The UK government published updated safety guidance ahead of reopening which made clear that all customers should continue to follow social distancing rules, shop alone or in small groups, queue or follow one-way signs where necessary, follow hygiene rules, and wear a face covering unless they have an exemption.

But Usdaw said the pandemic has seen a shocking rise in violence and abuse against shopworkers, with incidents often occurring when staff encourage customers to follow these rules. Shopworkers have been coughed on, attacked and threatened, just for doing their job, and the situation has been getting worse, the union said.

More information:

Eurofound Report: Working life in the COVID-19 pandemic 2020

This Eurofound publication includes individual country reports on working life during 2020 for 29 countries – the 27 EU Member States, Norway and the United Kingdom.

The country reports summarise first evidence on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on working life based on national research and survey results. It discusses the policy responses of governments and social partners in their efforts to cushion the socioeconomic effects and includes a focus on policy areas that have been accelerated or disrupted due to the crisis.

Topics include: Industrial relations; Industrial relations and social dialogue; Labour and social regulation; Pay and income; Social dialogue; Social partners; Working conditions; Working time.

Finally, the reports explore the impact of the pandemic on industrial action, working time and wages.

Full report:

In the next two decades, the world of work will look very different than it does today. Major forces are driving change: digital technologies, artificial intelligence, climate change, demographic shifts, and more. What does the future hold for people who already face barriers in the labour market? An IWH team led by Scientist Dr Arif Jetha lays out nine trends and what they may mean.

In 2020, a research team based at the Institute for Work & Health, using a method from the field of strategic foresight called horizon scanning, began exploring what the future may hold for workers and workplaces, with a focus on people who may be more likely to work in vulnerable conditions. These populations include youth and young adults, women, racialized groups, recent immigrants, people with disabilities, members of the LGBTQ2+ community, Indigenous peoples, and those with lower social and economic standing – that is, groups of people who are more likely to find themselves in lower-skilled jobs that require less education and offer lower income.

The findings of the horizon scan are shared in this report, Fragmentation in the future of work. It shares nine trends that may shape the future of work and how they may affect vulnerable workers, both positively and negatively.

Full report:

US Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) Deploying to Fatal Incident at Paint Plant

The U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) is deploying to the scene of a fatal explosion and fire at the Yenkin-Majestic Paints and OPC Polymers manufacturing site in Columbus, Ohio, USA.

According to initial reports, an explosion and two-alarm fire erupted at the paint plant around midnight on Thursday 8 April 2021. Approximately forty employees were believed to be working on site at the time of the incident – one of those employees was killed and eight were transported to area hospitals for injuries. The blast shook neighbouring buildings and at least one nearby business sustained damage.

The CSB’s core mission activities include conducting incident investigations; formulating preventive or mitigative recommendations based on investigation findings and advocating for their implementation; issuing reports containing the findings, conclusions, and recommendations arising from incident investigations; and conducting studies on chemical hazards.

More information:

Event: FIREX International

12-14 July 2021, Excel London, UK

FIREX International is getting ready to welcome you safely back to ExCeL London on the 12-14 July 2021. As the world’s leading events’ organiser, Informa has developed a detailed set of enhanced measures that provide the highest levels of hygiene and safety at its events. This gives everyone the reassurance and confidence they need to participate in a safe and controlled environment.

More information:

Event: Workplace Wellbeing Show 2021

12-14 July 2021, Excel, London, UK

Workplace Wellbeing Show 2021 returns to ExCeL London on 12-14 July 2021. Secure your ticket today to place yourself at the heart of the workplace wellbeing conversation. Discover new strategies for dealing with mental health, simple solutions for improving productivity and wellbeing, and methods for reducing drug and alcohol abuse. This show is an essential date on the calendar for HR professionals, helping them access the very latest thinking within wellbeing.

More information:

Employee wellbeing: Shifting the focus on employee benefits in a pandemic

The Guardian recently published a special feature on employee wellbeing, in collaboration with the Workplace Wellbeing Show.

The supplement contains a host of editorials from several influential figures from the world of HR, mental health and wellbeing.

Debi O’Donovan, Director & Co-Founder of the Reward & Employee Benefits Association, opens with a look at how a year of remote working has caused a shift in the way we incentivise staff, saying “social wellbeing strategies are on the rise as we recognise the vital role of work to create connection and human interaction.”

Due to be published in April, the article talks about a REBA/AXA Health Employee Wellbeing study, which shows that while 52% of employers believe that remote working has had a positive impact on employees, employers do have key concerns. Three quarters (76%) worry about the physical inactivity of staff, while 41% say the digital and screen overload is a high risk.

The article also highlights information from the study which says that the proportion of employers offering virtual GP access shot from 37% in January 2020 to 61% in 2021 (up from 12% five years ago).

More information:

Coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions in England – 31 March 2021

Coronavirus restrictions remain in place across the country. In England:

Find out the rules on what you can and cannot do:

UK Office of National Statistics (ONS) Survey on Prevalence of ongoing symptoms following coronavirus (COVID-19) infection in the UK – 1 April 2021

Estimates of the prevalence of self-reported “long COVID”, and the duration of ongoing symptoms following confirmed coronavirus infection, using UK Coronavirus (COVID-19) Infection Survey data to 6 March 2021.

Over the four-week period ending 6 March 2021, an estimated 1.1 million people in private households in the UK reported experiencing long COVID (symptoms persisting more than four weeks after the first suspected coronavirus (COVID-19) episode that are not explained by something else).

The estimates presented in this analysis relate to self-reported long COVID, as experienced by study participants, rather than clinically diagnosed ongoing symptomatic COVID-19 or post-COVID-19 syndrome. There is no universally agreed definition of long COVID, but it covers a broad range of symptoms such as fatigue, muscle pain, and difficulty concentrating.

Self-reported long COVID symptoms were adversely affecting the day-to-day activities of 674,000 people in private households in the UK, with 196,000 of these individuals reporting that their ability to undertake their day-to-day activities had been limited a lot.

Of people with self-reported long COVID, 697,000 first had (or suspected they had) COVID-19 at least 12 weeks previously, and 70,000 first had (or suspected they had) COVID-19 at least one year previously.

Prevalence rates of self-reported long COVID were greatest in people aged 35 to 69 years, females, those living in the most deprived areas, those working in health or social care, and those with a pre-existing, activity-limiting health condition; however, it is not possible to say whether these patterns are because of differences in the risk of coronavirus infection or susceptibility to experiencing long COVID following infection.

These estimates provide a measure of the prevalence of self-reported long COVID across the whole population, and reflect both the risk of being infected with coronavirus and the risk of developing long COVID following infection; to investigate the second of these components, we examined the duration of self-reported symptoms following confirmed infection.

Among a sample of over 20,000 study participants who tested positive for COVID-19 between 26 April 2020 and 6 March 2021, 13.7% continued to experience symptoms for at least 12 weeks. This was eight times higher than in a control group of participants who are unlikely to have had COVID-19, suggesting that the prevalence of ongoing symptoms following coronavirus infection is higher than in the general population.

Of study participants who tested positive for COVID-19, symptom prevalence at 12 weeks post-infection was higher for female participants (14.7%) than male participants (12.7%) and was highest among those aged 25 to 34 years (18.2%).

Full report:

UK TUC survey reveals widespread Covid-Secure failures

The TUC’s latest biennial survey of workplace safety representatives has found widespread workplace Covid failures. The 2020/21 survey of more than 2,100 workplace safety representatives reveals employer failures on risk assessments, social distancing and PPE during the pandemic.

More than threequarters of safety representatives (83 per cent) said employees had tested positive for Covid-19 in their workplace, while more than half (57 per cent) said their workplaces had seen a “significant” number of cases.

Almost one in ten (9 per cent) said their employer had not carried out a risk assessment, while 17 per cent said they did not know whether a risk assessment had taken place. Of those who said their employers had carried out a risk assessment, more than a fifth (23 per cent) said they felt the risk assessments were inadequate. A quarter (25 per cent) of representatives said their employer did not always implement physical distancing between staff. Just over a fifth (22 per cent) said their employer did not always implement appropriate physical distancing between employees and customers, clients or patients. More than a third (35 per cent) said adequate PPE was not always provided.

More information:

Pub vaccine passports ‘reckless’ warns UK union

Hospitality union GMB has warned any plan to demand vaccine certificates to enter pubs would be reckless and a fast track to undo the gains of the present lockdown.

The union said this type of scheme could lead to false certificates, potential violence for pub workers and even a black market for vaccine doses. The idea of asking pub goers to show a vaccine certificate was raised at last week’s House of Commons Liaison Committee hearing, when Conservative William Wragg asked Boris Johnson if vaccine certificates were “compatible with a free society such as ours.” The Prime Minister said the concept “should not be totally alien to us” as doctors already have to have hepatitis B jabs. When the Tory MP followed up with a question about vaccine certificates to enable “ordinary citizens going to the pub”, the prime minister replied: “That’s the kind of thing that may be up to individual publicans.”

More information:

Face coverings in UK schools make staff feel safer

The introduction of face coverings in schools have made school support staff feel safer – and taking them away when infection rates are still high and rising in some areas would be a mistake, UNISON has warned.

Seven in ten (71 per cent) teaching, learning and special needs assistants, administrators, lunchtime supervisors and facility staff in England believe face coverings in secondary schools are an important safety measure, the union’s survey found.

The union said is research had shown more than six in ten (63 per cent) say face coverings make them feel safer at work. It said these findings are being sent to the UK government to inform its review of face coverings as a safety measure in schools and to highlight the risk of removing them, particularly from classrooms. The survey also found 75 per cent of secondary school staff say their school has introduced face coverings for staff in class. An even higher proportion (84 per cent) said pupils were wearing them in classrooms.

More information:

UK NHS workers need ‘sensitive’ Covid mental health support

Unite has called for “maximum sensitivity” and full consultation with unions to deal with the mental health challenges health workers face as a result of the pandemic.

The union, which represents over 100,000 workers in the NHS, made its comments following a report from the NHS Confederation, which represents NHS organisations, calling for ‘local leaders’ to ensure staff have ‘decompression time’ to deal with the effects of the pandemic.

More information:

Warning on ‘huge gaps’ in British law over AI at work

The TUC and legal experts have warned that “huge gaps” in British law over the use of artificial intelligence (AI) at work could lead to “widespread” discrimination and unfair treatment at work.

A new report – carried out for the TUC by leading employment rights lawyers Robin Allen QC and Dee Masters from the AI Law Consultancy – says that employment law is failing to keep pace with the rapid expansion of AI at work. The report says unless urgent new legal protections are put in place, workers will become increasingly vulnerable and powerless to challenge “inhuman” forms of AI performance management. In what it described as an “unprecedented” move, the TUC issued a joint call to tech companies, employers and government to support a new set legal reforms for the ethical use of AI at work. The reforms would include a legal duty on employers to consult trade unions on the use of “high risk” and intrusive forms of AI in the workplace. There should also be a legal right for all workers to have a human review of decisions made by AI systems so they can challenge decisions that are unfair and discriminatory. And there should be a legal right to ‘switch off’ from work so workers can create “communication free” time in their lives.

More information:

Homeworking call centre staff to be monitored by webcam

Thousands of staff at one of the world’s biggest call centre companies face being monitored by webcams to check whether they are eating, looking at their phones or leaving their desks while working from home.

Teleperformance – which employs about 380,000 people in 34 countries and counts dozens of major UK companies and government departments among its clients – has told some staff that specialist webcams will be fitted to check for homeworking “infractions”.

The Guardian reports that if workers need to leave their desks, for example to have a drink, they will have to click “break mode” in an app to explain why – for example, “getting water” – to avoid being reported for a breach. Eating while on shift is not permitted, staff are told. “If the system detects no keyboard stroke and mouse click, it will show you as idle for that particular duration, and it will be reported to your supervisor. So please avoid hampering your productivity.”

More information:

Unite campaign for a ‘new deal’ for Amazon workers

A major newspaper and digital advertising campaign to alert Amazon workers to a new Unite confidential whistleblowing hotline has been launched by the union.

It says Amazon workers can blow the whistle and expose poor treatment free from reprisals by contacting the hotline Freefone or online. The hotline coincides with the launch of the campaign alliance ‘Action on Amazon’ that is demanding a ‘new deal’ for Amazon workers, including a union and a greater share of the firm’s enormous profits.

The world’s largest retailer increased its permanent workforce by one-third (10,000) in 2020 as well as taking on 20,000 additional seasonal staff. The company almost doubled its profit in 2020 compared to 2019 and Jeff Bezos is now ranked the world’s richest man. But Unite says Amazon stops any attempts by workers to gain a collective voice of their own. It has failed to join either the United Nations Global Compact or the Ethical Trading Initiative base code – agreements that recognise the right of all workers to a collective voice and that most of the biggest names on the high street have signed up to.

More information:

Survey exposes appalling abuse of shopworkers

Retail trade union Usdaw has again called for legislation to better protect retail staff.

The union was speaking out after new figures from the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) revealed that 89 per cent of those working in local shops have experienced some form of abuse, with over 1.2 million incidents recorded over the last year. ACS also found that two-thirds (65 per cent) of respondents have seen Covid-related threats to staff around face coverings, social distancing, queueing and age identification.

Paddy Lillis, Usdaw’s general secretary, said: “It has been a terrible year, with ACS and Usdaw both finding nearly 90 per cent of shopworkers suffering abuse and Covid safety measures becoming significant flashpoints. Over 104,000 people signed Usdaw’s parliamentary petition on the issue and we are saying loud and clear that enough is enough, abuse should never be part of the job.”

More information:

Covid-19 is an occupational disease: Campaign video and IIAC Position paper

Global unions BWI, UNI and PSI have produced a campaign video on the need to classify Covid-19 as an occupational disease.

They note: “It’s time that we declare Covid-19 an occupational disease. Such a classification will provide workers additional protection against the pandemic and make our workplaces safer and healthier. Workers who contract the virus while at work will be justly compensated and workplaces can implement more preventive measures based on the generation of national statistical analyses from the occupational disease situation of different countries.”

More information:

Is your workplace properly ventilated?

We’re all by now familiar with many of the ways we can help protect ourselves and prevent others from contracting Covid-19 – physical distancing, face masks or coverings, cleaning surfaces, washing hands, getting tested and self-isolating.

But safety advocacy group Scottish Hazards says, “we now know that an additional and crucial protection is good ventilation: and, by that, we mean taking measures to increase the amount of outside air entering a building.”

The group has produced a 7-minute YouTube video. “In this video, we explore means of improving ventilation, and the key questions workers can ask of their employers,” it says.

More information:

‘Fundamental’ health and safety moves a step closer

A significant step towards making occupational health and safety a fundamental workers’ right has been taken at the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Governing Body, an influential committee comprised government, employer and union delegates.

On 23 March 2021, governments at the governing body’s meeting overwhelmingly supported a call from worker members to move ahead with the process. It is expected that the decision will be formalised at the ILO Conference in 2022.

More information:

USA to seize PPE over labour and safety abuses

The US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency has ordered the seizure of disposable gloves made by Malaysia’s Top Glove company.

The order said CBP had sufficient information to believe that Top Glove uses forced labour in the production of disposable gloves. Top Glove is the world’s largest producer of latex gloves, and exports to 195 countries, including the UK.

The US had already banned products from two of Top Glove’s subsidiaries in July, but the new ban extends to all disposable gloves from Top Glove factories in Malaysia. Although Top Glove makes personal protective equipment, it was forced to shut more than half of its 28 factories in November 2020 after almost 2,500 employees tested positive for coronavirus. Top Glove had its strongest ever sales, with revenue of $1.3 billion in its most recent quarterly results.

More information:

Germany: Firms to face justice for safety violations abroad

Germany could force companies to take responsibility for any labour or environmental abuses in their global supply chains.

The law, which still needs approval from the country’s parliament, was spurred by a deadly fire in a textile factory in Pakistan and a devastating dam collapse at a Brazilian iron ore mine, both of which had links to German companies. In a bid to prevent repeats of such workplace disasters, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet agreed on the new rule which provides for companies with annual revenues of 400 million euros (£340 million) or more to be fined up to two per cent of that amount if their contractors abroad are found to breach human rights or environmental rules. Companies could also be excluded from public procurement processes in case of violations, the cabinet agreed.

More information:

TUC Hazards at Work – 6th Edition

This is the Sixth edition of the TUC’s best-selling guide to health and safety at work.

Used by reps, officers, employers, professionals in the field and even enforcement officers. This incredibly popular book is now even more informative at over 400 pages, an invaluable resource, which incorporates common hazards and cause of ill health at work, and how to assess and prevent them.

The book also contains HSE and other guidance, extensive checklists, case studies and web resources.

More information: