All posts by Jawad

The government’s attack on health and safety will kill – not save lives!

We didn’t vote to die at work! The government’s attack on health and safety will kill – not save lives!

David Cameron’s ill informed ” ‘elf and safety gorn mad” attack dog, Lord Young, will set out his plans for the future of health and safety in the next few days – and the Hazards Campaign fears it won’t be good news based on what we know already and says: ‘We didn’t vote to die at work.’

The Hazards Campaign claims the evidence shows the whole basis for Lord Young’s attack is false. Lord Young’s ‘review’ is based on the argument there has been a massive rise in compensation cases – the facts say there hasn’t been. He says businesses have to spend a day a month on health and safety – workers dream of employers paying even that small level of attention to the issue.

Lord Young has persistently argued less hazardous workplaces should be exempt from inspections. He has targeted office work saying it’s not dangerous and doesn’t need any enforcement oversight. However, many thousands of office workers face work-related ill-health caused by long hours of work, excessive workloads and bullying management practices leading to stress-related illness such as heart disease and depression, plus musculo-skeletal problems from computer work. All of which can make the office a very unhealthy place to work. Even so, offices are currently unlikely to see in an inspector in a lifetime unless something goes drastically wrong.

The Hazards Campaign has previously criticised government estimates of the costs of complying with health and safety law to business as failing to take into account the positive effects of compliance – the enormous cost to workers and their families, and the fact that the state picks up the majority of the bill for the death injury and illnesses caused by employers in NHS treatment, benefits and so on. The HSE estimate this cost to UK society at a minimum of £30 billion every year, of which the employers who caused it, pay less than 25%.

During his review Lord Young has spoken to people who have presented him with facts which undermine his basic argument that over-zealous activity on health and safety at work is the root of all our problems. We fear he may not heed what he has been told – that enforcement has declined massively over the last ten years, there are more traffic wardens in London than there are HSE inspectors in the whole of the country, and no-one ever died, or was injured or made ill by an over zealous risk assessment – but plenty have been by the lack of one. The Hazards Campaign fears the “consultation” is a sham to legitimise the forthcoming attacks by the coalition government on the regulation and enforcement of workplace safety and health.

Following the publication of Lord Young’s report the ConDem government will decide how to implement it, which presents a severe challenge to the Lib Dems. The Lord Young review was a pre-election Conservative Party policy and they are only in government as result of coalition with the Liberal Democrats who did not sign up to this, and it does not feature in the joint agreement between the parties. Vince Cable, now the coalition Business Secretary, has previously spoken out in defence of health and safety and the funding of the HSE. In May 2003, Vince Cable, then the Lib Dem shadow trade secretary, criticised government plans to cut HSE’s budget because of the impact this will have on prosecution levels. He warned that it was “critical that the HSE invest in a sufficient, effective, properly trained resource to investigate and prosecute where negligence has occurred.” He also said: “The time has come to invest seriously in saving people’s lives and to call cavalier killers to account”. The Hazards Campaign says it is time for the Lib Dems to stand up and be counted, as none of us voted for the current onslaught on health and safety protection and cuts in its enforcement.

Rather than cut the protection to any workers, the Hazards Campaign calls for:

Strengthening the enforcement role of the HSE and Local Authority inspectors to prevent employers killing, disabling, maiming and making people unwell at work, and bringing Vince Cables ‘Cavalier killers to account’.

No businesses should be exempt from the enforcement regime, such as by “earned autonomy”, as these are failed models and evidence from the HSE’s own prosecution database shows that many employers are serial offenders, some are even serial killers, so we cannot trust business with workers lives and health.

Laws placing explicit health and safety duties on company directors who make the decisions which lead to disasters like Buncefield, ICL/Stockline, and serial killing of employers like BP and Corus, to make them individually accountable, having to face the full force of the law for their actions.

More individual employers who make the decisions which cause widespread ill-health, deaths and disasters, should face jail. Only a handful of employers has ever been jailed for negligently killing workers while dozens who mistreat animals go to prison every year.

Workers should be given more rights to defend themselves against hazardous employers. Trade union safety reps save lives and do it voluntarily, often in difficult circumstances which risk their job and career. Yet they are officially recognised for reducing accidents and ill-health at work via the union safety effect. They need more support and enforcement resources to do their jobs even more effectively

Hazards Campaign Chair adds: “No-one voted to die at work in the last election, but the coalition government policies so far, through the Lord Young review, other deregulatory policies, plus the planned cuts in public services, threaten the regulation and enforcement of workplace safety and health. They risk condemning more workers to death injury and ill-health.”

For more information contact:

Hilda Palmer, Hazards Campaign – 0161636 7557

For more information:

We didn’t vote to die at work: http://www.hazards.org/votetodie/

The case for health and safety (TUC):http://www.tuc.org.uk/extras/the_case_for_health_and_safety.pdf

A neutered watchdog (an analysis of HSE’s collapsing enforcement performance):http://www.hazards.org/votetodie/neutered.htm

Trade union safety effect: http://www.tuc.org.uk/workplace/tuc-8382-f0.cfm

Hazards Campaign: http://www.hazardscampaign.org.uk/

Call for action following another Corus death

“Following yet another worker death on a Corus site we ask again – When will senior directors of companies such as Corus be held personally accountable for their serial killing and injuring workers?”

Following the news of another death at Corus, Scunthorpe on Saturday, which itself follows the death there in April of 26 year old Thomas Standerline – The Hazards Campaign again asks: “When will senior directors of companies such as Corus be held personally accountable for their serial killing and injuring workers? We also want to know what plans Lord Young and David Cameron will announce to stop this ever happening again in their forthcoming review of health and safety?”

The Hazards Campaign says given the history of repeated criminality of the company (see below) and the deadly nature of their crimes – why hasn’t any senior director been called to account in the courts for causing all this death, disability and injury?

Corus’s abysmal health and safety record is illustrated by the 16 separate entries in the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE’s) prosecutions database which relate to death and injury, AND……… the 24 separate entries in the HSE’s notices database, including many stop work notices, since 2001. These incidents include the Port Talbot furnace explosion where Stephen Galsworthy, 25, Andrew Hutin, 20, and Len Radford, 53 were all killed in 2001.

The Hazards Campaign calls upon the government and other parties to explain where they stand on this issue of the failure of the existing legal system to change the behaviour of a company,  what they will do about it and why those individuals who ran this deadly company at the time have not been personally called to answer in court.

The Hazards Campaign believes the evidence shows that directors of companies with a similar record will get away with it too, unless a positive legal duty to be responsible for the health and safety of their organisation is imposed on all directors.

Corus has faced several ‘large fines’ for killing and injuring workers.  While the fine of £1.3 million, plus £1.7 million costs imposed on Corus in December 2006 for the killing of three workers in the Port Talbot furnace explosion, was heralded as exemplary, may seem large, it has not stopped them from committing more offences and injuring and killing more workers. It should also be noted that after that large fine Corus took delivery of a new £75 million blast furnace courtesy of their insurance.  Fines  may look large but are a drop in the ocean of the company’s turnover and profits and act as no real deterrent as Corus has shown. Again and again.

The Hazards Campaign says company directors and employers will not give due regard to preventing workplace death, disability, injury and ill-health until they are held personally liable.

Contacts:
Mick Holder – 020 8223 0712
Hilda Palmer – 0161 636 7557

Hazards Campaign:
http://www.hazardscampaign.org.uk/

 

Corus’s recent prosecution history:

April 2010 – Corus (UK) Ltd fined £240,000 after a lorry driver Ross Beddow was crushed to death at its site in Staffordshire.

March 2010 – Corus UK Ltd fined £10,000 following an explosion in a 75-metre-tall steel chimney in Scunthorpe.

March 2010 – Corus UK Ltd fined £100,000 after a worker at Rotherham luckily escaped with only minor injuries after the crane he was operating overturned.

March 2010 – Corus UK Limited, trading as Corus Special Profiles, fined £5,000 after a worker was injured while clearing a jam in the production line at a factory in Skinningrove, East Cleveland.

Sept 2008 – Corus UK Ltd, trading as Corus Tubes in Hartlepool, was fined £15,000 after worker was hit by falling beam.

April 2008 – Corus UK Ltd fined £170,000 after Shane Eastwood was killed when he was crushed while working at Rotherham.

Feb 2008 – Corus UK Ltd, trading as Corus Packaging Plus fined £250,000 following the death of Francis Coles in Llanelli.

Aug 2007 – Corus UK Ltd fined £125,000 after an employee received life-threatening burns at their Appleby site.

And that’s not all…….There’s loads more prosecutions of Corus UK Ltd companies recorded on the HSE enforcement databases here:

http://www.hse.gov.uk/enforce/prosecutions.htm

For even more information see:

http://www.hazards.org/corus/

Hazards conference 2010

21st National Hazards conference 2010, 9-11 July
University of Keele

Booking form [pdf]

Sponsorship appeal [pdf]

The Alan award nomination form [pdf]

Miniscule fines and no jail for those guilty Buncefield explosion

Prosecuted for running a filthy pizza restaurant – get a suspended jail sentence and banned from running a food business; Blow up an oil depot in the biggest mainland explosion in 60 years and miraculously avoid killing hundreds – miniscule fines for the five companies responsible compared to their profits, with no senior manager held personally responsible and no jail!

Hilda Palmer, spokesperson for the Hazards Campaign said: “We have campaigned for bigger fines and for holding directors accountable for their actions for many years, so the miniscule, inadequate fines levied on those responsible for the Buncefield explosion is no surprise and will, yet again, act as no deterrent (1).

“The fines are also far too low to reflect in any way the immense damage caused to the 43 people injured, to the local community and environment but we see yet again how corporations behaving badly externalise the costs of their crimes – in this case at least £1 billion! – on to the community and the rest of society and are allowed to get away with it again and again. On the same day a Birmingham restaurant owner was given a 36 week suspended prison sentence for a dirty pizzeria and banned from running a food business (2). As none of the directors of the three companies that caused the massive Buncefield explosion was held accountable in court, such a penalty was not available.

“The fact that the local MP also thinks the fines are far too small (3) is surprising as his Conservative party, now part of the coalition government, is a vehement supporter of the deregulation of health and safety law and its enforcement as unnecessary red tape. They continue with their mantra that safety laws are a huge and untenable burden on business, with Lord Young currently reviewing health and safety with a view to cutting this so-called burden. The Buncefield explosion shows that even in extremely hazardous industries, employers fail on a monumental scale to comply with the most basic and common sense of procedures, apparently untroubled by threats of being caught or of penalties they may suffer which amount to hundredths of one percent of their profits, as in this case. The fact that no-one was killed and more were not injured was pure luck, but many hundreds of people have had their lives and livelihoods immeasurably damaged by the criminal behaviour of these three companies. No worker and no one living anywhere near a large corporation can feel any safer as a result of the fines on these companies.

“It is time to be clear that the current enforcement of health and safety, and punishment of those guilty of breaking the law, is not working and needs strengthening, not weakening with more funding and support or we are all in danger. It is also time to be clear that tiny fractions of one percent of a large company’s profits will not harm them much, and that those who make the decisions which lead to such horrendous breaches of very basic health and safety precautions must be held accountable. It is simply not justice that the owner of a dirty pizza shop faces jail and is banned, but causing the biggest explosion in peace time results in miniscule fines. The directors of Total, Hertfordshire Oil Storage Ltd and British Pipeline Agency Ltd, TAV Engineering Ltd and Motherwell Control Systems should face the consequences of their actions and inactions, via legal duties on directors, and face jail for their crimes, or we will see more incidents like this.

“It must be very clear now to the local MP and everyone else, but especially the Tories and Lord Young (,) that deregulation of health and safety and cuts in its enforcement are not going to prevent another incident like this, and that deregulation has been blown-to smithereens in the Buncefield explosion – We did not vote to die at work and we expect MPs to stand up for our lives, not make them more hazardous.”

More information Hilda Palmer 0161 636 7557

Notes

1.http://www.hse.gov.uk/press/2010/hse-buncefieldsentencing.htm

2. http://www.cieh.org/ehn/ehn3.aspx?id=31842

3. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/mp-calls-buncefield-blast-fines-an-insult-2028409.html

No-one should die simply for going to work but HSE figures are not the whole story

The Hazards Campaign very much welcomes any reduction in the number of people being killed simply for going to work –HSE PR ‘Worker deaths fall to new low’ – but remembers far too many families devastated as a result of someone never coming home from work.

Hazards Campaign spokesperson, Hilda Palmer said: “No-one should die because they went to work to earn a living, except in rare, freak and unavoidable accidents. But yet again we must point out that the HSE figures – 151 compared to 178 the year before(1)- are NOT the total national figures for those killed by work and should not be reported as such. The UK Statistics Authority in its assessment of the HSE’s compliance with the code of practice for official statistics, May 2010, states that the ‘HSE does not produce an overall figure for work-related fatalities in Great Britain.’ and makes recommendations that they ‘investigate the feasibility of producing statistics on the total number of work-related injuries and fatalities’ (2)

“HSE reports only those killed whose deaths must be reported under RIDDOR, while we include all worker-related incident deaths and estimate this to be up to 1,500 a year even in the recession. Almost all work-related deaths are not accidents, and could and should have been prevented but workers do not only die in incidents due to a lack of safety, many tens of thousands more die of illnesses such as occupational cancers, heart disease and lung diseases caused by poor working condition, up to 50,000 per year we estimate (3).

“It is vital that the ill wind of a recession, which in this case has delivered at least part of this reduction in some workplace deaths, is not overestimated or taken as justification by the Lord Young Review or the forthcoming cuts in the public sector, for an assault on health and safety laws or their enforcement. Every worker, wherever they work, in an office, a hospital, a school, on a building site, a farm, in recycling, on an oil rig, or as an emergency worker, is at risk of injury or ill-health caused by their employer’s non-compliance. All workers are entitled to have not only their safety but their immediate and long term health protected while they are working. All workers lives are precious: a fire-fighter’s life is just as precious as a construction worker; an office worker should be protected from risks to their health and safety just like any other worker. Over zealous health and safety, or refusing to accept risks, or too much health and safety law, did not kill these people, but non-existent compliance and weak enforcement did contribute to their avoidable deaths. This is unacceptable at any time but especially now when we are all being told we must work harder, for less money and for many years longer.”

For more information contact Hilda Palmer 0161 636 7557

Notes

1. Worker deaths fall to new low HSE PR 30.06.10:

2. The UK Statistics Authority in their Report 42 on Assessments of compliance with Code of Practice for official statistics – Statistics on Health and Safety at Work (produced by the HSE) Published May 2010

Para 1.3.4: ‘Statistics on work-related injuries and fatalities exclude those injuries that take place on the roads, in the air, at sea and exclude the armed forces. Although this is clearly acknowledged on HSE’s website, it is not always made clear in the presentation of the statistics- for example, when addressing the organisation’s targets in the compendium for publication. HSE does not produce an overall figure for work-related fatalities in Great Britain.’

Para 1.2 Under Decision concerning designation as National Statistics HSE stats on work-related ill-health and injury and on enforcement can be designated as National Statistics subject to HSE implementing the enhancements listed in section 1.5 and reporting them to the Authority by September 2010.

Section 1.5 lists 15 Requirement for designation as National Statistics Requirement 8: ‘Investigate the feasibility of producing statistics on the total number of work-related injuries and fatalities, including those not reportable under RIDDOR

3. ‘The Whole Story’ published in Safety and Health Practitioner December 2008

The Hazards Campaign says: “Vote to save your life at work”

The Hazards Campaign says: “Vote to save your life at work. Lobby your parliamentary candidates and party leaders on the demands listed below which would improve health and safety, save lives and money. Reject deregulation and cuts in enforcement which are based on false information and failed models, and will endanger even more lives, demand big improvements.”

While there isn’t anything positive for workplace health and safety activists in the Labour, Tory or Liberal Democrat manifesto’s there is the worrying commitment to reduce regulation in the Tory one. Given the Tory’s persistent and corrupt attacks on health and safety laws, including those in recent weeks, this must be an issue for those considering which way to vote in the forthcoming election.

Acknowledge the real harm caused by work and publicise the real risk to workers.More are killed at work than in war or from knife crime every year.

Publicise the evidence about who pays and refute burdens on business myths. ‘Who Pays? You do!’ Employers pay for less than 25% of the harm they cause.

Increase enforcement activity to end the current enforcement crisis. Only 1 in 13 major and fatal injuries are investigated and no action at all is taken in 98% of cases.

No deregulation of health and safety. There is less regulation now than when the Tories were in power 15 years ago.

End employer accountability deficit by giving directors legal duties for health & safety. Fining businesses does not stop them killing again like serial killers, or liquidating the company and escaping scot free, unless directors are held to account.

Support the union safety effect – increase enforcement of SRSC Regs and extend the union safety effect. Union workplaces are twice as safe and healthy, all workers should benefit from the union safety effect.

Contact: 0161 636 7557 http://www.hazardscampaign.org.uk/

For more detailed information on the Hazards Campaign demands – electiondemands 

Artwork in the report is copyright Andy Vine. See:

When will senior directors of companies be held personally accountable for workplace killings?

When will senior directors of companies such as Biffa Waste Services Ltd. be held personally accountable for their serial killing and putting workers health and safety at risk?

The Hazards Campaign asks the leaders of the political parties to tell us where they stand on employers who kill and injure their workers, and especially those who do it again and again:

“When will senior directors of companies such as Biffa be held personally accountable for their serial killing and injuring workers?”

Following the latest fine of £280,000.00 against Biffa Waste Services Ltd for not preventing the death of Dennis Krauesslar at its waste disposal site in Newbury in 2007, the Hazards Campaign says given the history of repeated criminality of the company (see below) and the deadly nature of their crimes – why hasn’t any senior director been called to account in the courts for causing these deaths and many other potentially lethal breaches of safety and environmental laws?

Biffa’s abysmal health and safety record is illustrated by the five separate entries in the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE’s) prosecutions database which relate to death and potential injury, AND……… the 16 separate entries in the HSE’s notices database, including many stop work notices, since 2001. These incidents include:

• the death of Charlie Smith, run over by a mechanical shovel loader at Biffa’s Eversley Depot, Hampshire in 2006, for which they were fined £190,000.00.
• the death of employee Ronald Trow who was crushed by the tailgate of a lorry at their Walsall landfill site in 2001 for which they were fined £30,000.00.
• the death of eleven year old Gavin Reed who fell at Houghton Quarry landfill in October 200 for which Biffa was fined £2,000.00.

Biffa was also prosecuted by the Environment Agency (EA) and fined £40,000.00 for not managing asbestos in the correct manner at their landfill in Derbyshire in 2007. Biffa was again prosecuted by the EA and fined £60,000.00 for breaching an EA permit, poor storage of containerised hazardous wastes and inadequate management of third party contractors at their Wednesbury hazardous waste installation in 2006 & 2007.

The Hazards Campaign calls upon the leaders of political parties to explain where they stand on this issue of the failure of the existing legal system to change the behaviour of a company, what they would do about it and why those individuals who ran this deadly company at the time have not been personally called to answer in court.

The Hazards Campaign believes the evidence shows that directors of companies with a similar record will get away with it too, unless a positive legal duty to be responsible for the health and safety of their organisation is imposed on all directors. This does not feature in the manifesto of any of the political parties and we wonder why?

While the fines mentioned above look substantial they are but are a drop in the ocean of the company’s turnover and profits and act as no real deterrent as Biffa has shown. Again and again.

The Hazards Campaign says company directors and employers will not give due regard to preventing workplace death, disability, injury and ill-health until they are held personally liable and we want to know which political party will act to put a stop to this corporate crime wave.

Prosecutions of Biffa Waste Services Ltd are recorded on the HSE enforcement databases here:HSE enforcement databases

For more information on the deadly record of the waste industry see Hazards magazine’s Green jobs blog

Hazards Campaign: www.hazardscampaign.org.uk/index.htm

Ends

Hazards Campaign comment on the election manifestos

Commenting after the publication of the Labour and Conservative party’s manifestos, Mick Holder of the Hazards Campaign said: “While there isn’t anything positive for workplace health and safety activists in either the Labour or Tory manifesto’s there is the worrying commitment to reduce regulation in the Tory one. Given the Tory’s persistent and corrupt attacks on health and safety laws, including those in recent weeks, this must be an issue for those considering which way to vote in the forthcoming election.

“A huge concern for the Hazards Campaign is that cuts to the public sector will further weaken the inspection, enforcement and prosecution role of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and local authority enforcers who are already falling down on the job because of understaffing and a timid enforcement regime.

“Most disappointing is no commitment to place full legal duties for health and safety on all company directors as recommended by Rita Donaghy, author of the government’s report on the appalling safety record of the construction industry, “One death is too many”. Another major disappointment is the failure to recognise the fantastic work of trade union safety representatives in reducing the number of injuries, disablements and deaths at work, which is all done voluntarily, and the need to strengthen their role in prevention.”

Ends

Mick Holder 020 8223 0712

Hazards Campaign: www.hazardscampaign.org.uk/index.htm

The government must admit the true extent of workplace ill-health, accidents and death

It’s great news Workers Memorial Day will now be officially recognised by the government – now they must admit the true extent of workplace ill-health, accidents and death AND enforce the law as vigorously as they do parking offences to reduce the damage done !

The Hazards Campaign welcomes the decision of the government to formally recognise Workers Memorial Day. We also welcome the comments from Yvette Cooper, Work and Pensions Secretary of State, who said: “This is a tribute to all those who have campaigned long and hard, including bereaved families, trade unions, campaign groups, and many other organisations and individuals.”

But it is not enough for the government to commemorate the day without also recognising their role in underestimating the true extent of the damage work does in the UK, how their inaction perpetuates this myth and lets employers get away with murder. Parking offences in the UK are enforced by thousands more enforcement officers on the street and parking offences are enforced with far more vigour than workplace health and safety offences ever are – and this must change NOW.

Government, through their agency the Health and Safety Executive, give a very skewed and limited picture of the damage done by work every year. They say 180 people die in workplace incidents and 8,000 die from workplace cancers when the true figures are much higher and the overall picture much grimmer.

Hilda Palmer of the Hazards Campaign said: “A more realistic estimate, which includes work-related road-traffic deaths and suicides attributed to work-related stress, is 1500-1600 in so called accidents, per year. But even these figures are the tip of the iceberg; if we include the many thousands who die from illnesses caused by their working conditions the total could be as high as 50,000 a year! Government has long been criticised for under-estimating deaths from work- related cancers which even the most conservative estimate by global experts is about 18,000 each year.” (1).

The Hazards Campaign, alongside the Construction Safety Campaign and trade unions, started recognising Workers Memorial Day in the UK over twenty years ago with events around the country on every April 28th. These events were supported by many families whose loved ones were killed at or by work and this led to the formation of Families Against Corporate Killers who also support the day every year. Other campaigns, such as the Simon Jones Memorial Campaign, also supported and campaigned on WMD.

Contact:

Hilda Palmer – 0161 636 7557

(1) More detailed information about the true extent of workplace ill-health, accident and deaths in The Whole Story

Why are we waiting ? Campaign groups calls on government to stop talking and ACT to stop deaths in the construction industry !

Why are we waiting ? Campaign groups calls on government to stop talking and ACT to stop deaths in the construction industry !

Following reports that the government is to again consult the killer construction industry about how to improve their dreadful safety record rather than act on the recommendations of it’s own DWP commissioned report, the Hazards Campaign said: “It beggars belief the government is again dodging action on construction safety by talking to the construction employers who are concerned about Rita Donaghy’s recommendations. We have been waiting for what seems like forever for the government to stop talking and act. If Yvette Cooper plans to talk to the employers who create the risks and cause the deaths, then she must explain why she is stalling to those who have to take the risks and pay the costs:  injured workers and families of those killed. We call on the government – again – to accept the recommendations of the Donaghy report supported by the Work and Pensions Select Committee, and implement them now to start reducing the damage being done to construction workers.”

Background:
The government gave the task of looking at ways of improving safety in the construction industry to DWP which commissioned  Rita Donaghy to carry out a review.  She consulted extensively with industry before reporting earlier this year in a report called  ‘One Death is Too Many’. This report received the backing of the Work and Pensions Select Committee.  Since then workers, industry, unions and campaigners including Families Against Corporate Killers, have been waiting for government to act.

The Hazards Campaign welcomed Rita Doneghy’s report which called for:

  • Positive legal duties on all company directors for health and safety, as many are not covered and are currently able to evade the full strength of the law.
  • Greater involvement of trade unions and especially union safety representatives.
  • Bring construction under the remit of the Gangmasters Licencing Authority.
  • Emphasising health and safety requirements in publicly funded construction projects.

One death is too many – Rita Donaghy’s report:

http://www.official-documents.gov.uk/document/cm76/7657/7657.pdf

For further comment contact: Mick Holder

020 8223 0712