Anniversary of the deaths of Mick Collings, Chris Huxtable, Ken Cresswell, and John Shaw in the collapse of Didcot boiler house on 23.2.16
Families Against Corporate Killers (FACK) would like to mark the first anniversary of the deaths of four workers Mick Collings, Chris Huxtable, Ken Cresswell, and John Shaw, today Thursday 23rd February 2017.
Mick, Chris, Ken and John were working for Coleman’s at Didcot power station on the demolition of boiler houses for RWE. The boiler houses were being prepared for demolition when something went terribly wrong and it collapsed upon them, burying them under tonnes of rubble.
The body of Mick Collings was found that day but Chris, Ken and John were not found until more than six months later.
The trauma of their deaths and the agonising time taken to recover the bodies of the three men they loved – partners, husbands, fathers – has been incredibly traumatising and added to the grief of all the families concerned.
“I am in awe of the courage and strength they have all shown and hope that the investigation will provide the answers they need.”
FACK has offered support to three of the families and wishes to pay tribute to their steadfast concern to get their men out, to find out what happened, why they died, to be the voices for their men and to bear witness to their lives however painful and traumatic that has been.
Hilda Palmer for FACK said: “We have never known of such a tragedy where workers were killed but not recovered for so long and the agony to the families is heartbreaking. The families now await the result of the Police and HSE investigation into the cause of the collapse and who, if anyone, is accountable. This will not bring back the men they loved, but the families are entitled to as much justice as possible. It is also vital that all lessons are learned as this must never happen again. Demolition workers doing their job should not be killed and remain under rubble for months adding immensely to the grief and trauma of their families. I am in awe of the courage and strength they have all shown and hope that the investigation will provide the answers they need. The FACK families send their love, strength and hopes to the families of Mick Collings, Chris Huxtable, Ken Cresswell and John Shaw and we are all thinking of you today especially, but always.”
For more information contact FACK Facilitator Hilda Palmer 0161 636 7557 079298 00240
Founder Members of FACK:
Dawn and Paul Adams – son Samuel Adams aged 6 killed at Trafford Centre,10th October 1998
Linzi Herbertson –husbandAndrew Herbertson 29, killed at work in January 1998
Mike and Lynne Hutin – son Andrew Hutin 20, killed at work on 8th Nov 2001
Mick & Bet Murphy – son Lewis Murphy 18, killed at work on 21st February 2004
Louise Taggart – brother Michael Adamson 26, killed at work on 4th August 2005
Linda Whelan – son Craig Whelan 23, (and Paul Wakefield) killed at work on 23rd May 2004
Dorothy & Douglas Wright – son Mark Wright 37, killed at work on 13th April 2005
Hazards 2016 conference 29-31th July 2016, Keele University
Building Resistance to Support Safety Reps
The Hazards conference is the largest conference in the northern hemisphere solely for Trade Union health and safety reps. This year’s was called ‘Building Resistance to Support Safety Reps. It was a packed weekend with 350 delegates, fantastic speakers, valuable workshops and inspiring meetings.
Hazards 2016 started with the Friday plenary session. Hilda Palmer of the Hazards Campaign welcomed delegates, explained what the Hazards Campaign is, listed useful website links, outlined #Haz2016 theme, the new format programme and arrangements, gave thanks to sponsors, and noted that a third to half of delegates are new to Hazards.
The Hazards Campaign’s blunt message to the new Prime Minister warns her not to neglect the effective regulation and strict enforcement of safety laws
Delegates were asked to sign a ‘Stop it you’re killing us’ postcard included in their delegate bag, to send one by e-mail , share it on Twitter and Facebook, and take it back to workplaces and branches. The introduction ended with a minute silence to remember all those workers – over 50,000 – who have died at, and by, work over the last year and especially Linda Whelan a founder member of FACK, Families Against Corporate Killers, and those killed in multi-fatality incidents such as the five migrant workers killed at Hawkeswood Metals, in Birmingham, the four killed at Bosley Wood Flour Mill, and the four killed at Didcot power station, of whom three were still buried under the rubble.
Aida Ponce Del from the European Trade Union Institute brought solidarity greetings and the message that ‘Despite Brexit ‘Occupational health and safety should REMAIN’.
Dr. Anne Raynal, an ex-HSE senior medical inspector described ‘HSE’s failure to enforce the duty to prevent occupational diseases’. Anne spoke about the lack of reporting from employers on workplace illness and the subsequent lack of prosecutions and enforcement. She said “On average there are only 1,600 disease notifications under RIDDOR per annum for the 516,000 new cases of work-related ill health that HSE estimate occurs every year, a staggeringly low 0.03% reported. Consequently there is little action, prosecution or active prevention taking place to stop workers being made ill by work.”
Professor Steve Tombs from the Open University and Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, spoke about his recent research: ‘Better regulation’ Better for whom? Steve talked about ‘dismantling a system of regulation – social protection – which was put into place from the 1830s onwards’, the privatisation of enforcement and the restrictive ‘Growth duty’ placed on enforcers. He detailed the reduction in the number of HSE and Local Authority inspections (fell by 69%, preventive inspection fell by 96% for Local Authority Environmental Health Officers, EHOs), prosecutions (fell by 35% for HSE and 60% for L.A. EHOs). Steve also raised concern about the Primary Authority Scheme which enables businesses across different local authorities to elect one authority to regulate all of its sites across all LAs. A copy of Steve’s briefing was provided in delegates’ bags and can also be found here.
Under the new format, there was no Saturday plenary, so delegates went straight from a hearty breakfast into a full-on programme of workshops, seminars and meetings that were broken down into three themes: 1. Workplace organisation, 2. Dealing with risks and 3. Employers offensive/Workplace tyranny.
Seminar 3Sharing experiences of prioritising action against employers offensive
Meeting 3UK and global threats to health and safety organisation
Ian Tasker of STUC spoke on Threats to health and safety in Scotland. He illustrated the higher rate of work harm than in England and Wales, the need for devolution of enforcement and regulation of health and safety; the Smith Commission, the Action Plan for Scotland and he linked workplace deaths, injuries and illnesses with austerity and poverty.
Hugh Robertson made clear that trade deals such as CETA and post Brexit trade deals are the biggest threat to health and safety See Global threats
Hugh also made the excellent point that the HSE boasts of GB having the ‘best health and safety in the world’ with low fatality and injury figures is only because our manufacturing is outsourced to Asia where making those same goods probably causes more deaths, injuries and ill-health now than when they were made in this country.
Omana George, Director of Asia Monitor Resource Centre, AMRC, spoke about the huge health and safety risk facing workers in almost all sectors in Asia – now the workshop of the world – and especially affecting informal, unorganised workers. She described the work of AMRC and of ANROEV, the Asian Network for the Rights of Occupational and Environmental Victims. She described how about ten years ago they began to focus more on occupational ill health thinking the worst disasters of factory fires were over… But then they started happening all over again. Omana George AMRC
One of the six campaign meetings to end the day was run by Sarah Wiktorski from the ‘Better than Zero’ campaign. It was very inspiring describing their work in Scotland with trade unions and the Scottish TUC. the actions were led by young people who used challenging and innovative activities against zero hours contracts and working practices which include having to pay multi millionaire restaurant owners a percentage of their earnings. (See YouTube clip below).
Another inspiring campaign meeting was run by Barry Faulkner of UNITE on the health and safety problems experienced by vulnerable workers at the Shirebrook depot of Sports Direct . He described how those workers fought back with the aid of union and community groups .
The final plenary on Sunday started with Sarah Wiktorski on the ‘Better than Zero’ campaign and was followed by David Hardman, UCU, who along with colleague Mark Campbell was victimised then sacked from London Metropolitan University. David for his activities on stress as a safety rep.
Sanjiv Pandita, ex Director of AMRC and now working with the Hazards Magazine and Campaign and activists round the world to set up a Global Occupational Safety and Health, GOSH, network to combat the global threats to our lives and health. Sanjiv talked about the huge manufacturing companies employing 50-80 thousand workers in enormous hangars who make our phones and trainers. He showed pictures of the slums they are forced to live in because of the poverty wages they are paid, reminiscent of the UK Victorian slums during the industrial revolution. Sanjiv reminded us of the way global capitalism pits us against each other, and exports hazards and ill health to other workers to make the products we buy and use and why we must work together globally to fight back, hence the need for GOSH. He talked about the lack of accurate reporting of deaths, injuries and illness caused by work in Asia, which means that India’s high work death rate appears, theoretically, comparable to that of Denmark! He showed a rough recalculation, using Hazards Magazine/Campaign estimates, that pointed to the the death toll in Asia being at least 4 million workers per year! PowerPoint presentation
We also heard from Blacklisting Support Group campaigner Royston Bentham on their great achievements and what must be done next. Royston praised and thanked John McDonnell for all the support he and Jeremy Corbyn have given the blacklisted workers and how they have fought alongside them every step on the way through Scottish enquiries and court cases. See the Hazards magazine feature Victory!
The Hazards Campaign demands were read out and voted upon before John McDonnell, shadow chancellor got up to speak and told us we would have all of those and more.
John McDonnell met his promise to speak to the conference, made months ago in less hectic times, and came early and stayed late, talking time to talk knowledgeably to delegates about their specific issues. As John had been criticised for not doing anything for workers, the irony of his commitment was not lost on the delegates. John’s speech promised that health and safety and trade union rights would be at the top of the agenda of the Labour opposition and any future government led by Jeremy Corbyn. he accepted our demands, added to them and invited us to send him a paper which he promised to put to the shadow cabinet for debate.
There were many highlights from the conference, plenty of networking and sharing of information including: the reps that talked about the lack of welfare-toilet facilities available to them because they were drivers or weren’t being released to be able to take toilet breaks; the terrible slum conditions people are working in in Asia who make phones and trainers; the lack of protection and enforcement for UK workers, and finally the inspirational speech by John McDonnell who offered the support of the Labour Party to Health and Safety reps and the Hazards Campaign.
Commenting on the 25 July 2016 Guardian interview with the soon to step down chief coroner Peter Thornton QC, Hazards Campaign spokesperson Hilda Palmer said:
“The Hazards Campaign and FACK have long called for ‘equality of arms’ for all families of those killed by work.
“While we welcome what the Chief Coroner says, we want the right to legal aid to ensure representation at inquests to be the right of all families of those killed by work, whether or not any arm/emanation of the state is directly involved. Otherwise more injustice, unfairness is created.
“Families up against the companies who killed their family members need to be legally represented but frequently are not. This means there is inadequate examination of the issues, the failings of the companies themselves, and of the state regulatory/enforcement system that is intended to keep work safe, hold employers to account and contribute to preventing future deaths.”
Chair Doug Russell, USDAW Speakers
Hugh Robertson, TUC, Protecting health and safety after Brexit
Aida Ponce del Castillo, ETUI, Post Brexit solidarity
Anne Raynal, ex-HSE senior medical inspector, HSE occupational failure Steve Tombs, Open University, Better regulation: Better for whom?
John McDonnell, Shadow Chancellor, will address Hazards 2016 Conference on 31st July
The Hazards Campaign annual conference, Hazards 2016, runs from Friday 29th to 31st July at Keele University. 350 safety reps from all unions from all over the UK, and from all types of workplace, will gather to listen to informed and inspirational speakers and to participate in workshops and meetings under the theme ‘Building the Hazards Resistance to support Safety Reps to defend our health and safety in post Brexit world’.
Hilda Palmer, acting chair of the Hazards Campaign and one of the organisers says:
“We are especially delighted this year to welcome John McDonnell to speak to our final plenary on Sunday 31st July. John has been an active and steadfast supporter of workers, trade unions, the Hazards Campaign and Hazards Magazine in campaigning for better health and safety for many, many years. Through the Trade Union Coordinating Group John has run successful parliamentary lobbies and hosted International Workers Memorial Day meetings in the House of Commons.
“He is a regular and popular speaker at trade union conferences as he understand the issues workers are facing far more clearly than many, and was one of the first to speak out against zero hours contracts, blacklisting, other abusive work practices, the need for a maximum temperature, and the effects of austerity and neoliberalism on workers terms and conditions, especially on our lives and health.
“John McDonnell was instrumental in the campaign against Blacklisting, helped to set up the Blacklist Support Group and has supported it through thick and thin. John is a great supporter of workers’ struggles and frequently visits picket lines to show solidarity with workers fighting for decent work. In Parliament he has been a great advocate for workers health and safety and rights generally.”
John McDonnell will speak at the final plenary of Hazards 2016, which is the largest health and safety conference for safety reps in UK, run by Hazards Campaign and Hazards Magazine. Speaking ahead of the conference John McDonnell said:
“After a long term decline I am very worried that workplace deaths and diseases are on the rise again. Workers deserve the protection of strong employment rights, trade union rights and a safety watchdog that is up to the job.
“Six years of Conservative-led government have allowed rogue bosses to exploit an increasingly insecure and abused workforce. Labour will protect people at work, rather than create a world where the likes of Sir Philip Green and Mike Ashley can get away with whatever they want.
“Working people earn this country’s wealth and run our public services; these are essential tasks for which no-one should pay with their life.”
Hilda Palmer adds:
“The Tories’ fanatical obsession with deregulation is bad for your health. After a long term decline workplace deaths are rising and workplace diseases are rising. Workers need a regulatory with sharp teeth but the HSE and Local Authority enforcement have been captured by business to the detriment of workers. Hazards 2016 will discuss the state we are in due to 6 years of Tory/Coalition deregulation and the threats from Brexit and new trade deals.
“Safety Reps will gain updated information, learn new organising and campaigning tools and set actions to defend workers lives and health in the coming year. Hazards 2016 will discuss the state we are in due to 6 years of Tory/Coalition deregulation and the threats from Brexit and new trade deals.”
More information: Hilda Palmer Tel 0161 636 7557 0079298 00240
For notifications of Hazards Campaign news and activities visit our sign-up page
In the last three years, the long term downward trend in UK work fatalities has reversed and is plateauing. HSE’s latest fatality statistics released on 7 July 2016 show a provisional total of 144 workers killed in work-related incidents which is slightly upon last year’s final total of 142 last year and 136 the year before. (1). There has been an increase in deaths in construction, up from 35 to 43.
Also, on 7 July 2016, five men were killed at a recycling plant in Birmingham: Saibo Sillahhe; Alimamo Jammeh; Ousman Jabbie; Bangaly Dukureh; Mohammed Jagana, all Spanish nationals from Gambia. This was the third work-related multiple fatality in less than a year in England. Derek Moore, Dorothy Bailey, Derek Barks and Jason Shingler were killed and many injured at Bosley Wood flour miIl explosion on 17th July 2015. Christopher Huxtable, Ken Cresswell, John Shaw and Michael Collings were killed in the collapse of a boiler house while being prepared for demolition at Didcot Power Station on 23rd February 2016. The body of Michael Collings was recovered but the other three workers still lie under the rubble nearly 20 weeks later to the horror and grief of their families.
A Hazards Campaign spokesperson said:
“The past 6 years of Coalition and Tory government have seen huge cuts to the enforcement of laws intended to protect workers, and a constant stream of lies about good health and safety being a ‘burden on business’ (2). There are of course unforeseeable, unpreventable accidents at work, however almost all deaths and injuries at work are due to the poor management of health and safety by employers. We will not know the cause of this latest multiple worker fatality incident until the result of the full investigation. But we would be concerned if there has been a fall in proactive, preventive inspections even in the few high risk industries such as waste and recycling where such inspections are currently still permitted.
“We believe that the stalling in the decline in deaths at work and an increase in ill-health due to work, is a direct result of government policies and the attack on HSE and Local Authorities as regulators and enforcers (3)
“We know, and the families of those killed at work know, that red tape is far better than bloody bandages. No-one died from too much regulation and enforcement but from quite the opposite. (4). We completely oppose any post-Brexit further slashing of workers’ health and safety. We demand that the government put an end to the constant denigration of health and safety regulations and enforcement, and reverse the attacks on budgets and policies at the HSE and Local Authorities, so that workers can be protected properly at work. The HSE’s latest strategy is little more than a business advice brochure and their hashtag, #helpgbworkwell, no more than wishful thinking (5).
“We also urge ministers to meet with us, with Families Against Corporate Killers (6), and the families of those killed at work in Birmingham, at Didcot and Bosley, and all across the country in much less noticed single worker incidents, to explain why their lives have less priority than the freedom of employers to make profits.”
The Hazards Campaign is backing a Europe-wide trade union push for better, more protective laws against occupational cancer.
Unions are to work throughout the Dutch Presidency of the European Union to develop a preventive approach to occupational cancer. During this presidency, which runs from January to June, the Dutch government has expressed a desire to update the EU Carcinogens and Mutagens Directive, a longstanding union objective.
A new report from the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) says the union objective is to “eliminate occupational cancer.” Promoting a six-point preventive charter, it urges unions to run a political and awareness campaign. This should include approaching embassies and consulates of the Netherlands to present the union campaign objectives, it notes.
The ETUC report, Why we need to focus on work-related cancer, notes: “At workplaces trade unions are demanding that dangerous substances and processes are eliminated or substituted with less dangerous ones. Likewise we are seeking to improve work organisation in order to avoid or minimise exposures to night and shift work. To reinforce this work we are calling for improvements to the legislative framework at EU level and we are seizing the opportunity created by the initiative of the Dutch Presidency.”
Welcoming the union initiative, the Hazards Campaign’s Hilda Palmer said: “Occupational cancer deaths in the UK occur at a rate of around two every hour, round the clock. They cause massive suffering and immeasurable heartache. And despite costing society considerably more than workplace injuries, they are an ignored epidemic. We want regulatory authorities to beef up the law and enforce the law.”
She said the UK’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE) was a ‘bad actor’ in Europe, resisting improvements in legal protection from carcinogens and blocking more protective exposure standards.
She points to a 2012 ‘Cancer costs’ article in Hazards magazine, which noted: “In 2012 an officially convened European Union Working Party on Chemicals (WPC) with representatives from four member states – France, Finland, Germany and the UK – attempted to agree binding occupational exposure limits (BOELs) for 26 workplace carcinogens. Only the UK, when presented with a choice, openly supported a number of proposals to introduce a less protective BOEL.”
Helen Lynn of the Alliance for Cancer Prevention said: “More people are exposed to harmful chemicals than at any time in history, in their workplaces, homes and in the wider environment. Polluting our bodies comes at a massive cost, both human and financial. There are better ways to work, starting with sunsetting the most deadly substances and introducing toxics use reduction policies to phase out others. Doing nothing is condemning another generation to a pointless, preventable early death.”