Alarm bells as work tragedies strike

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.”

Notes:

  1. http://press.hse.gov.uk/2016/annual-workplace-fatality-statistics-published/
  2. Hazards Magazine: ‘Will we survive another Tory term?’ http://www.hazards.org/gallery/willwesurvive.htm
  3. Hazards Magazine: ‘Cuts to HSE hurts workers’: http://www.hazards.org/safetypimp/buyme.htm
    Steve Tombs: ‘Better Regulation- Better for Whom?’ Briefing on cuts to Local Authority enforcement of health and safety, pollution control  and food safety: https://www.crimeandjustice.org.uk/sites/crimeandjustice.org.uk/files/Better%20regulation%20briefing%2C%20April%202016_0.pdf
  4. Hazards Magazine:  ‘It’s your choice red tape or bloody bandages’; http://www.hazards.org/votetodie/citizensane.htm; ‘We Love red tape it’s better than bloody bandages’: http://www.hazards.org/gallery/weloveredtape.htm
  5. Hazards Magazine ‘HSE all talk’: http://www.hazards.org/votetodie/alltalk.htm
  6.  Families Against Corporate Killers, FACK, founded in July 2006 http://ww.fack.org.uk

Founder Members:

Dawn and Paul Adams son Samuel Adams aged 6 killed at Trafford Centre, 10th October 1998

Linzi Herbertsonhusband Andrew 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 Murphyson Lewis Murphy 18, killed at work on 21st February 2004

Louise Taggart brother Michael Adamson 26, killed at work on 4th August 2005

Linda Whelanson Craig Whelan 23, (and Paul Wakefield) killed at work on 23rd May 2002

Dorothy & Douglas Wrightson Mark Wright 37, killed at work on 13th April 2005

Hazards conference 2016: Booking form

Hazards 2016 Building resistance to support safety reps

29-31 July 2016 at Keele University, Stoke-on-Trent.

Download the booking form

Unions push for better laws on work cancers

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.”

Resource: Work cancer hazards blog.

 

Workers’ Memorial Day – this year, it’s the law

Every year more people are killed at work than in wars. Most don’t die of mystery ailments, or in tragic “accidents”. They die because an employer decided their safety just wasn’t that important a priority. Workers’ Memorial Day (WMD) commemorates those workers. The 28 April annual event is marked all over the world, as workers and their representatives conduct events, demonstrations, vigils and a plethora of other activities to mark the day.

As preparations begin for this year’s event, the TUC has announced the global campaign focus. “In 2016 the theme for the day is ‘Strong Laws – Strong enforcement – Strong Unions’ because across the world we are seeing growing attacks on health and safety protection, including in Britain where the government have removed protection from millions of self-employed workers, and across Europe where the European Commission is pursuing a dangerous deregulatory strategy,” the union body said.

“However strong laws are not enough if they are not going to be enforced. That is why we need proper inspections and enforcement action against those who break the laws.”

The TUC said that in UK the number of inspections has fallen dramatically in the past five years, while in many other countries enforcement is non-existent. “That is why we also need strong unions. Unionised workplaces are safer, yet the government is trying to stop unions protecting the health and safety of their members by restricting the right of health and safety representatives to take time off to keep the workplace safer, and also trying to reduce our right to strike when things go wrong.”

TUC news alert. TUC 2016 Workers’ Memorial Day activities listing. Add your 28 April event to the TUC listing . For tweeters, use the #iwmd16

ITUC/Hazards global events listing.

For Hazards Campaign Workers’ Memorial Day resources including ribbons and car stickers, contact the Greater Manchester Hazards Centre by email or phone 0161 636 7557.

14th EWHN conference, Rotterdam, 27-29 May 2016

The European Work Hazards Network conference is to be held on 27-29 May 2016 in Rotterdam.

The theme is Empowerment of workers and experts in Health and Safety at the shopfloor and Empowerment of workers and experts to neutralize deregulation and lack of precautions in an European context.

The programme includes workshops, infomeetings and workplace visits.

Conference flyer • conference website  • EWHN 2016 UK booking form

UK policy is to do sod all about killer chemicals

Despite being a major player in global chemicals production, the UK is showing little interest in efforts to control the most dangerous substances including carcinogens, a report suggests.

The report from the European Environment Bureau (EEB), A Roadmap to Revitalise REACH, notes “most Member States, including several with a strong chemicals industry, such as Italy or Ireland, are not contributing at all to the process, while others, like the UK and Spain, are only contributing marginally.”

The report reveals the UK government has only proposed two Substances of Very High Concern (SVHC), chemicals including carcinogens and reproductive toxins targeted for phase-out. Germany tops the table, with 44 chemicals proposed.

Dr Michael Warhurst, executive director of CHEM Trust, a UK-based charity that promotes safer alternatives to hazardous chemicals, said: “We are very concerned about the performance of the UK government, who seem to have a deliberate strategy of not identifying the chemicals of very high concern.”

CHEM Trust is critical of the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) approach to the identification and control of the “worst chemicals”. It points to an online HSE strategy document that states there must be “an overriding UK government policy need for the UK to take the initiative on a substance”.

CHEM Trust says “this shows a worrying lack of commitment to human health and the environment.”

UK asbestos giant spied and lied in attempt to discredit critics

Executives at the world’s biggest asbestos factory spied on journalists and  safety and environmental campaigners who exposed the killer dust’s dangers.

Secret industry documents reveal that the executives at Rochdale-based asbestos giant Turner and Newall (T&N) monitored people they considered to be “subversive” and kept a dossier on their activities at the height of the debate about the mineral’s safety in the 1980s.

The T&N documentation was unearthed from the company’s archives by Manchester Metropolitan University researcher Jason Addy as part of 12 years of research into the firm’s toxic legacy.

Those identified in the papers include the British Society for Social Responsibility in Science (BSSRS) – the organisation that set up what became Hazards magazine and whose Work Hazards Group was a precursor of the Hazards Campaign – Alan Dalton, the now deceased former union national safety officer and author of ‘Asbestos Killer Dust’, journalists working on an award-winning asbestos documentary and Friends of the Earth.

Also targeted was Nancy Tait, the founder of the world’s first asbestos victims’ advocacy group, an asbestos widow who died in 2009. The firm then used a media and political campaign in an attempt to discredit its critics.

Hazards 2016 sponsorship form

We are grateful for the generous support for Hazards 2015 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 2016.

Download the  Hazards 2016 Sponsorship form

Please consider our appeal positively. Cheques should be payable to Hazards 2016, and sent to: Hazards 2016, GMHC, Windrush Millennium Centre, 70 Alexandra Road, Manchester, M16 7WD. Telephone: 0161 636 7557, email: hazconf@gmhazards.org.uk

Parliamentary group calls for asbestos eradication

Hazards Campaign news release  
Parliamentary group calls for asbestos eradication

The Hazards Campaign supports the report published today, Friday 16th October, by the all-party parliamentary group on occupational safety and health calling for the safe removal of all asbestos in Britain as an answer to the asbestos crisis.

Hilda Palmer, acting chair of the Hazards Campaign said:

 “Asbestos is not a problem of the past, but a very real and present risk to many workers.  There are still millions of tonnes in about half a million workplaces and public buildings – schools, hospitals- across the UK.  Some of it in a poor state, poorly managed and shedding microscopic asbestos fibres into the air that people then breathe.  All types of asbestos are carcinogenic and exposure to asbestos at work continues to cause over 5,000 deaths every year from mesothelioma and lung cancer.  Over 15 years after the use of asbestos was banned, hundreds of thousands of workers, and children in schools and other public buildings, are still at risk of exposure every day.

“The Hazards Campaign wholeheartedly supports and endorses the proposal from the all-party group for the safe removal and disposal of asbestos from all workplaces and public buildings.  Beginning the removal of the carcinogenic hazard of asbestos from our buildings now, is the only way of ensuring the protection of future generations from the risk of a known and preventable cause of death.

“Failure of government to act now will be knowingly condemning future generations to death.”

NOTES TO EDITORS:  Hilda Palmer Tel 0161 636 7557

  1. The report – The asbestos crisis: Why Britain needs an eradication law – is available at www.ianlavery.org.uk/asbestos_eradication