Resources: Stress and mental ill health in the workplace

Challenging stress Work related stress and mental ill health are major work safety and health issues. These resources, produced by Hazards Campaign, are intended to assist trade unions in negotiating a comprehensive policy and strategy on mental health which includes a strategy for preventing work related stress and mental ill health, supporting individuals at work with mental ill health and providing a positive mental health work environment.

Documents for download

Fallen Tears – The unveiling of a new workers’ memorial stained glass window

As we begin organising for International Workers Memorial Day 2019, Greater Manchester Hazards Centre will be unveiling a memorial stained glass window on 23rd November at the People’s History Museum, Manchester, from 3pm to 5pm.

The window will be jointly  unveiled by Rebecca Long-Bailey, Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and founders of Families Against Corporate Killers, FACK,.

‘Fallen Tears’, and will be on permanent display in the Peoples History Museum, Left Bank, Spinningfields, Manchester M3 3ER

For more information about the unveiling and IWMD 2019 contact janet@gmhazards.org.uk or Tel: 0161 636 7558

Fallen Tears invitation

 

Hazards conference 2019 – sponsorship appeal

We are very grateful for the generous support for the  Hazards Conference 2018 by our sponsors in unions nationally, regionally, at branches, trades councils, individuals, and union-linked personal injury solicitors. We hope this vital support will continue for Hazards 2019.

Sponsorship is extremely important as it helps keep down the price of the conference to individuals and union branches. Please consider our appeal positively. Details for payment can be found in the Hazards conference 2019 sponsorship appeal PDF.

Feedback from Hazards 2018 was again excellent from the 320 safety reps and activists, around half of whom were new delegates, from all types of workplaces, all unions, and from all over the UK, coming together to discuss ‘Safety Reps @40: Vital to the future of safe and healthy work!’ You can read the Hazards 2018 cnference report here.

 

URGENT – we need more people at the ‘Breathless’ – Asbestos Film Premiere 27 Oct 2018 @ 4 pm

The UK premiere of an award-winning documentary called “Breathless” on the impact of asbestos in the developing world countries will take place on Saturday 27th October in Central London, followed by a discussion including the United Nations Rapporteur for toxics, Baskut Tuncak.

Breathless, which had its global premiere at the International Film Festival in Brussels in June this year, aims to show how asbestos companies cynically expanded to the less-developed world in order to perpetuate a dangerous industry for profit.

In India, the asbestos industry continues to expand which will cause asbestos-related deaths for decades to come according to the film makers.

The documentary from the Storyhouse production company, tells of Eric Jonckheere, whose mother, father and two brothers died from mesothelioma, who travels to the largest asbestos dump in India to find a community affected by the same Belgian company.

It is a story of profit over people, but also of how ordinary people can stand up to corporations.

Krishnendu Mukherjer, a dual qualified barrister from Doughty Street Chambers, travels to India with Eric and also explains how the asbestos industry spied on him and other campaigners who campaign against the asbestos industry and spread knowledge regarding dangers of asbestos to life.

As you know, I’m a partner at Leigh Day, and my father died of the asbestos-related cancer mesothelioma.  This documentary comes at a crucial time and will assist in highlighting to the world the asbestos industry’s continued threat to life by exposing men, women and children to asbestos.  The film shows children playing in the asbestos dump in India.

Breathless will be shown at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, The Mall, London on Saturday 27th October 2018 from 4 pm.

The trailer for the movie can be viewed here

Accordingly,  I suggest  you or some of your colleagues may wish to attend so that they become aware of the issues.  Many asbestos campaigners and some medics I know are already attending

The tickets are only £12 and can be purchased here: https://www.ica.art/on/films/breathless-discussion.

If anyone requires any further information, please do not hesitate to contact me on 0207 650 1166 / 07776 132718.

Please also tweet and/or insert on your website to spread the word.

Regards

Harminder

Harminder Bains, Partner

Leigh Day

Work Stress Conference 2018 (24-25 November)

The Work Stress Conference 2018 will focus on how we can best defend our hard-won Health and Safety protections in the face of Brexit.

Book your place HERE

Saturday 24 November 9.30 am to 5.30 pm)
Sunday 25 November (9.30 am – 12.30 pm)

The UK Work Stress Network campaigns to secure proper recognition of the damage caused by work-stress and to prevent work-related stress. Webpages

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ILO’s welcome of McDonald’s meaningless pledge is absurd and astonishing

ILO partners with indecent employers like McDonald’s in Global Initiative on Decent Jobs for Youth

McDonald’s has signed up to the Global Initiative on Decent Jobs for Youth joining ‘ 43 partners who have pledged to reduce barriers to decent employment for youth while boosting access to decent work around the globe’

ILO  welcomes McDonald’s “decision to pledge a commitment  towards Decent Jobs for Youth, which aims at positive change in young people’s lives through positive action.” This  will come as a great surprise to McDonald’s workers and the unions working with them globally  to achieve decent pay and  decent work conditions as McDonalds’ does nothing but put up barriers! 

This is McWhitewash of the worst kind, surprisingly promoted by ILO,  a tripartite organization which seems to ignore  the on-going global movement of workers and Trade Unions against McDonald’s –  the waves of strikes, the demands for $15 an hour in US and £10 an hour in the UK.

Allowing McDonalds the prestige of respectability in appearing to ‘tackle barriers’ for young people, when they could at a stroke remove the barriers in their own company and pay all workers living wages, is absurd at best. This would be ‘positive action’ but the meaningless pledge is not.

Ian Hodson  President of the Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union,  BFAWU which is organising young workers in McDonald’s and supporting the strike they held which won many concessions with more  planned soon said: 

We are disappointed to read of the tie up between the ILO and McDonalds who are global exploiters. For the ILO to give credibility to McDonalds a company that has championed zero hours contracts and low pay is not the type of employer whose support for this initiative should be welcomed – its employment practices are not a model to be praised.  McDonalds is currently under investigation across the EU and other parts of the world for its exploitative employment practices.

 McDonalds operates a fierce anti-union strategy which includes union busting tactics again in breach of what is expected of a decent employer. As we have witnessed in the UK, McDonalds has no hesitation in sacking young workers who join trade unions. In one instance they sacked workers for  raising genuine concerns for health and safety which we believe are contrary to the principles the ILO claims to champion on its website ‘Promoting Jobs Protecting people’.

We urge the ILO to withdraw from endorsing McDonalds’ as a reputable partner – and to scrutinise all other corporations signing up to this pledge- to protect young workers around the world from its low road policies  and to tell McDonalds to make good on its pledge by stopping exploitative employment practices, paying its workers a decent wage and recognising Trade Unions.”

Janet Newsham, GMHC and Hazards Campaign has been working with the BFAWU  and talking to workers about  the appalling health and safety issues in the fast food industry and in McDonalds’ especially, said:

I am astonished that the ILO has accepted McDonald’s as a partner in this Global Initiative on Decent Jobs for Youth when they are a world leader in creating barriers to decently paid work with decent health, safety and other conditions.   I have talked to many young graduates working at McDonald’s who have been treated badly, sacked  for raising genuine health and safety concerns, subject to the insecurity of zero hours contracts and wages so low they can’t afford housing and decent food.  You can recognize a McDonald’s  worker by the burn scars on their arms.  McDonald’s is  the barrier to decent employment . It has the money and power to solve this at a stroke by making wages in its stores and franchises £10 an hour immediately in the UK, $15 an hour in the US, and solving the burn problems along with all the other serious health and safety issues which make work indecent and bad for young people’s  lives and health. “

HSE report shows Mental Heath First Aid training not leading to workplace improvements

Artwork: Andy Vine

The Hazards Campaign notes that HSE’s Research Report RR1135 – Summary of the evidence on the effectiveness of Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training finds: ‘There is no evidence that the introduction of MHFA training in workplaces has resulted in sustained actions in those trained, or that it has improved the wider management of mental ill-health’.

This may be just a lack of research so far, but other reports also raise questions and Hugh Robertson, TUC, writing in Hazards Magazine questions whether MHFA is the right answer.

The Hazards Campaign has warned against employers adopting MHFA as a sticking plaster solution to the suppurating sore of anxiety, depression and worse caused by insecure work, low pay, excessive workloads, impossible targets, long hours, bullying, harassment and lack of support and respect at work.  Prevention of work-stress must be the first task for employers and union safety reps – to prevent work from making workers mentally ill.

We want all those suffering from mental ill-health caused by work (or unrelated) to get the proper, qualified, effective treatment and support they need. We support mental health awareness training to improve our understanding of mental-health.

“The Hazards Campaign has warned against employers adopting MHFA as a sticking plaster solution to the suppurating sore of anxiety, depression and worse caused by insecure work, low pay, excessive workloads, impossible targets, long hours, bullying, harassment and lack of support and respect at work.”

The Hazards Campaign supports and works with  union safety reps in working with employers, putting pressure on if needed, to assess for work-stress factors and remove them , and we want the HSE and Local Authorities to take enforcement action against employers who are failing in their legal duty to do this. This HSE Report makes clear there is no evidence so far that MHFA training achieves that or is effective in a workplace setting.

HSE’s Research Report: “The Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training programme was first developed to train the public in providing help to adults with mental ill-health problems. Recently there has been an increase in undertaking MHFA training in workplace settings. As the regulator for workplace health and safety, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) wishes to understand the strength of the available evidence on the effectiveness of MHFA in the workplace. A rapid scoping evidence review was undertaken that considered three research questions on the impact, influence and application of MHFA training in workplaces.

A number of knowledge gaps have been identified in this evidence review that mean it is not possible to state whether MHFA training is effective in a workplace setting. There is a lack of published occupationally-based studies, with limited evidence that the content of MHFA training has been considered for workplace settings. There is consistent evidence that MHFA training raises employees’ awareness of mental ill health conditions. There is no evidence that the introduction of MHFA training in workplaces has resulted in sustained actions in those trained, or that it has improved the wider management of mental ill-health.”

The Government is guilty of breaching human rights over Grenfell

Government guilty of breaching human rights over Grenfell cladding and protecting workers and citizen’s health and safety.

The Hazards Campaign welcomes and supports the statement by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, EHRC, that the  government is breaching its fundamental obligations to protect citizens’ right to life by failing to address the systemic problems of health and safety that led to the Grenfell tragedy.

The Commission expressed its concern that the consultation on the use of external cladding omits any reference to the government’s duty to protect lives under article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights and schedule 1 to the Human Rights Act 1998.

The EHRC has written to the Department for Housing, Communities and Local Government (DHCLG) outlining its concerns about the continued use of combustible cladding in existing buildings and advising the department of its responsibilities under human rights laws to protect lives.

This paramount duty requires the state to take appropriate steps within its power to effectively protect the lives of individuals and groups in situations where there is a known real risk to life, or where the authorities ought to have known that,” the commission said in its response to the consultation to combustible cladding”

The Hazards Campaign specifically agrees and welcomes the EHRC challenge to the government that their failure to address the risk to life posed by combustible external cladding, similar to that used on the Grenfell Tower, is a breach of human rights. We would argue this existed both before and after the tragedy, but we also argue there is a wider breach of the human rights of workers and citizens in the attack on health and safety regulation generally.

“On the issue of cladding, we call for much stricter building controls, clearer guidance and effective, independent not privatised, outsourced enforcement,” said Janet Newsham, acting Chair of the Hazards Campaign . “We also agree with the EHRC intervention’s wider view which supports our long-held and consistent argument that health and safety is a crucial underpinning of the human right to life and, as such,  the attacks upon it, ironically called Better Regulation but essentially deregulation and enforcement cutting, constitute an attack on workers’ and citizens’ right to life.

She added “ We have long argued that the government has failed to provide a strong and effective system of regulation and enforcement of health and safety at work, adequately funded and independent of concern for business interests which complies with the ILO minimum standards and this breaches workers’ human rights.  We believe that everyone has the right to go to work and come home from a shift alive and well, with their physical and mental health unimpaired in short or long term.

“Further we argue that the process of government attack on this already inadequate system, via un-evidenced,  ideologically biased notions of ‘bonfires of red tape’, ‘ removing the ‘burden on business’,  puts workers at more risk of losing their lives and health, and also led directly to the disaster at Grenfell which killed 72 citizens injured and traumatised hundreds more.

“ In our ‘We love Red tape better than bloody bandages’ campaign, 15,000- 20,000 postcards were sent to the Prime Minster demanding that Grenfell be the ‘enough is enough moment’ when the government deadly deregulation of health and safety was stopped.“

EHRC recognises, that the lack of a good health and safety protection continues to imperil tenants of blocks clad with similar combustible material and has published a paper ‘Following Grenfell: the right to life’ which develops the argument as to how the government is breaching human rights law..

Janet Newsham says: “ Deregulation, Better Regulation and slashing the funding for enforcement agencies – the Health and Safety Executive, Local Authorities, the Environment Agency, Building Control officers, etc – is a  direct attack on the human right to go to work, use products, eat, breath, drink, enjoy leisure activities,  and sleep safely in one’s home. It is a fundamental attack by government on our right to life.   We feel it clearly breaches the paramount duty under human rights law which ‘requires the state to take appropriate steps within its power to effectively protect the lives of individuals and groups in situations where there is a known real risk to life, or where the authorities ought to have known that.’

“Enough is enough, the government must stop destroying an already inadequate protection system which allows work to harm millions every year  killed 72 people at Grenfell, and puts workers and citizens at risk, and begin to develop a system that protects us all.”

The whole story: Work-related injuries, illness and deaths

The Hazards Campaign says the UK’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE) underestimates massively the true figures of workplace deaths and injuries focusing instead on only a part of the story.  Millions of workers are made ill and over 50,000 are killed by work yearly, rates significantly higher than HSE estimates.  In the briefing document The whole story: Work-related injuries, illness and deaths  the Hazards Campaign explains these shocking figures.

Offshore workers are at  risk from operators disregarding post Piper Alpha regulations

On the 6th July  2018 the names of all 167 workers killed in the Piper Alpha Explosion and fire 30 years again were read out in remembrance.

Thanks to Scottish Hazards for this list. We should know their names, speak their names, and while remembering them, fight like hell that others will never again be killed in similar way.  However, regulations and safety lessons written in the blood of those  167 men killed in the Piper Alpha explosion have already been weakened and are being ignored,  leaving current offshore workers at greater risk from hydrocarbon leaks, HCR.    And Martin Temple Chair of HSE also says failure of other sectors to learn the lessons led to the fire at Grenfell.

30 years ago Piper Alpha was the worst fire in peace time, resulting from the rush for profit from oil taking all precedence over oil workers’ lives without strong laws and enforcement in place to protect them. The direct consequence was that 167 were killed, 167 families devastated, 61 survivors and others were traumatised.

Image result for piper alpha memorial gardenFollowing the Piper Alpha fire, Lord Cullen headed an inquiry and recommended many broad changes to the regulation of offshore drilling which are well laid out in the Scottish Hazards blog

Removing a conflict of interest by making the Health and Safety Executive, HSE,  rather than the Department  of Energy responsible for health and safety offshore,  and the development of a ‘safety case regime’ similar to that in the nuclear industry were two chief recommendations of Lord Cullen.

The first Offshore Installation (Safety Case) Regulations came into force in 1992 but by 2005 the duty to review the safety case every 3 years was relaxed to leave the safety case applying over the life of the installation, in the Offshore Installation (Safety Case) Regulations 2005.  This weakening of the requirement was driven by oil industry leaders complaining of the myth of over-burdensome regulations and leaves offshore workers burdened by the risk of being killed on deteriorating rigs while oil prices decline and HCRs, with their risk of explosion and fire increase.  The Elgin blowout was one such release that came “perilously close to disaster”

Chris Flint, HSE’s Director of Energy Division, is so concerned he wrote in April this year to all offshore operators urging them to assess their operation and reflect on learning from incidents.

“Every HCR is a safety threat, as it represents a failure in an operator’s management of its risks. I recognise the steps the industry has taken to reduce the overall number of HCRs, however HCRs remain a concern, particularly major HCRs because of their greater potential to lead to fires, explosions and multiple losses of life.  There have been several such releases in recent years that have come perilously close to disaster.”

‘The letter requires operators to respond to HSE by 20 July 2018 with a summary of their improvement activities and plan arising from their self-assessment.  The HSE has also committed to feeding back significant findings from the exercise to the industry later in the year.’

We await developments but note with alarm the lack of enforcement action taken or threatened. When Barry Stott, an offshore worker who was 3 years old when his father died on Piper Alpha, read the HSE warning he told the BBC:

“How can that still be possible? I don’t think there would be any other industry in the world where 30 years on from such a seismic disaster we were on the verge of the same thing happening again? That’s not my opinion, that’s what I’m reading, from the HSE and others. It’s a growing concern for the whole city and the whole industry.” 

Scottish Hazards notes that the OffShore Installation (Safety Case ) Regulations 2015 put a duty on operators to consult with safety reps on the safety case and ‘to make arrangements to communicate national arrangements for anonymously  reporting health and safety concerns.’ While welcome, Scottish Hazards emphasises the reality that without clear evidence of strong enforcement by the HSE  to ensure adherence to safety cases by operators  and penalties  for those who don’t,  workers cannot  develop the confidence to report concerns.

But strong enforcement is exactly what we do not have.  Due to slashing HSE budget  by 50%,  cutting inspector numbers, plus commercialising,  business-friendly measures to ensure health and safety watchdogs consider the business case before workers lives and health since 2010, lack of enforcement  is rampant.  Deregulation known now as ‘Better regulation’ runs  across work sectors, offshore and onshore, covers everything from work, food, construction  materials, electrical and other home appliances, and environmental pollution

The fact that 29 years after the worst peace time fire at Piper Alpha, there was the second worst fire at Grenfell Tower is about far more than failing to learn or forgetting the lessons of Piper Alpha.  The lessons from the killing of 167 men have been deliberately attacked and undermined by the  demands by oil business leaders that health and safety regulation enacted after the disaster are  ‘only pointless red tape’ that is burdensome to their business and  must  be eradicated which has been acted upon by  successive neoliberal governments   as laid out in Hazards Magazine  We must name the causes and consequences of this deadly behaviour as Dave Whyte does in ‘The neoliberal bonanza from Piper Alpha to Grenfell.’

Hazards Campaigns calls for the reclaiming of regulation and enforcement to protect our health and lives as a  social good, the mark of a civilised society  and a complete rejection of deregulating for business interests,  We also call for more rights and powers for workers to organise for better health and safety to participate, to be informed and consulted  and the right to refuse work that put their lives and health at risk