All across this country and the world millions of people will come together on 28 April to mark International Workers Memorial Day (IWMD) at tens of thousands of events (1)
What killed 140 people a day, 6 per hour last year in Great Britain? War? Murder?
Work kills more than war every year: 2.3 million worldwide. As Jukka Takala of the ILO said
“If terrorism took such a toll, just imagine what would be said and done?”
In Great Britain, work killed 1,400 killed in work-related incidents and up to 50,000 due to work-related illnesses- cancer, heart and lung disease in 2011/12. Work also made over 2 million ill, injured 111,000 – 22,000 very seriously – and led to 27 million days off work. Compare this with about 600 murders per year and 641 GB service personnel killed in Iraq and Afghanistan in 11 years (2)
Workers, their families and their unions will say on IWMD that we need more health and safety protection at work not less, as avoidable deaths every day and disasters such as the recent massive explosion of a fertilizer factory in Texas show all too tragically. “Deregulation kills, we want action not reaction” said Hazards Campaign spokesperson, adding “Any idiot can ‘learn lessons’ after a disaster, after people have been killed and lives ruined, it takes intelligent foresight and a commitment to people’s lives, to prevent work from causing harm.”
You would never guess work caused such death and misery, if all you know is what the government says and how workers safety and health is reported – as one big joke! Almost all cases of work related death, injury and ill health are preventable, if employers obeyed the law and government and enforcement agencies made them. But they didn’t and people were killed and families’ lives ruined. Many families now know this, but didn’t know when they sent their sons and daughters, partners and parents to work, expecting them to be safe, but they never came home. Lack of health and safety is no joke when it happens to you. (3)
Cameron Minshull, 16, from Bury, was killed in January 2013, only weeks after starting his engineering apprenticeship. He died only days after David Cameron told business leaders in Preston that silly health and safety rules must be scrapped to allow more children to get work experience. In fact his government has already several times reduced the rules on health and safety protection for young apprentices like Cameron Minshull, who’s mum said “I thought he was safe at work on a government apprenticeship scheme” (4)
What is the UK government doing to stop this avoidable death toll? Well not strengthening health and safety law but deregulating it; not increasing preventative inspections but banning them in workplaces where the majority of recorded deaths occur; and slashing enforcement activity to shreds!
Since 2010 government has consistently rubbished health and safety, blamed it for ‘broken Britain’, the riots, and now for the lack of jobs and economic growth! The biggest lie they have perpetuated is that good safety and health is a burden on business. NO! The burden is on us, in heart ache and also on us in terms of economic cost. The poor management of safety and health that leads to 80 per cent of deaths, injuries and illness, costs the economy over £30 billion a year (2). Of this amount, the individuals harmed pay the largest cost, 55 per cent, the public purse pays 24 per cent, and the employers who caused the problems pay around one fifth. Hazards added: “On IWMD, we will all be telling this government: that we didn’t vote to die at Work, so stop deregulating and slashing enforcement, it’s killing us! Whether it is hazards in your workplace, horsemeat in your beefburger or Legionnaires’ in your neighbourhood, it is becoming evident that stringent regulation is not a burden, it is a necessity” (5)
For more information contact Hilda Palmer 0161 636 7557, mobile: 079 298 00240
International Workers’ Memorial Day 28 April resources:
3. Families Against Corporate Killers (FACK) Statement on death of Cameron Minshull
4. FACK statement on International Workers’ Memorial Day 2013
5. Hazards Magazine: The high cost of neutering watchdogs
MPs urged to reject removal of civil liability in health and safety law in the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act in Common today.
“The Hazards Campaign urges MPs to follow the Lords and reject the clause inserted into the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act that removes civil liability from the Health and Safety at Work Act, when it comes back to the Commons for debate today. This clause was inserted into the Act at the last minute, by the Department of Business Industry and Skills, without any consultation or supporting evidence. It will make it far harder for workers to gain compensation to which they are entitled when through no fault of their own; they are injured or made ill by their work, as the bar of proof will be set unfeasibly high. Instead of being able to rely on breach of a statutory duty by their employer as some evidence of negligence, workers will have to prove forseeability, a tough task at a time exacerbated by cuts in legal aid. It must also be remembered that less than 10% of workers who are injured or made ill actually receive any form of compensation, so there is no actual compensation culture, just employers’ misperception, and a bad reason to change the law. This is not redressing the balance but penalising workers and giving unscrupulous employers free rein by removing access to justice. It is a scoundrel’s charter that will harm more workers and shift more cost to the public purse by letting bad employers get away with it.” Said a Hazards Campaign spokesperson.
The arguments for removal of civil liability from health and safety regulations are not based on evidence or reality, but according to Lofstedt Report, on ‘the belief of employers in a ‘compensation culture’ has an impact in driving over-compliance with health and safety regulations’. The government’s claim that this clause is implementing Lofstedt’s recommendation on ‘strict liability’ is also false as it covers all civil liability: In his report assessing how the Government was implementing the findings of his review, published in February 2013, Professor Lofstedt stated that the Government had gone much further than he proposed. His report said “My understanding is that the proposed amendment to the Health and Safety at Work Act reverses the current position on civil liability. This means that, unless exceptions apply, claims for compensation in relation to breaches of health and safety legislation will need to prove that the employer has been negligent. The approach being taken is more far-reaching than I anticipated in my recommendation.”
There has always been a widely accepted fair balance in health and safety regulation between different types of obligation, and the majority are qualified by reasonable practicability but including some that are strict, since the Factories Act 1937. In fact there are very few cases where compensation cases are taken on the basis of strict liability which is why the Lofstedt report had difficulty in identifying any. It also explains why the Government has introduced an amendment that goes beyond strict liability and would, as it stands, apply to civil cases involving breaches of statutory duty under workplace regulations.
Lords calling for the removal of the clause labelled it ‘ugly’. Lord Stevenson said “The requirement to prove forseeability is a very high bar of proof for an individual injured, or killed through no fault of their own. There has been no consultation on this proposal, and what is being proposed goes further than the recommendations made in this area by Professor Lofstedt”.
Lord MacKenzie agreed adding that the changes will “ assist the unscrupulous to ignore health and safety law by reducing the chances of successful civil action. That is going to lead to more workplace injury in the future”. Lord MacKenzie also said that an injured worker is highly unlikely to know about the history of work equipment or be able to investigate whether the employer was at fault. He added that this change in the law would not only shift the balance of power dramatically against employees, but that litigation would become more costly, time consuming for everyone, and employers would not benefit.”
For more information contact the Hilda Palmer, acting Chair of Hazards Campaign 0161 636 7557
UK National Hazards Campaign warns that you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone as Cameron obeys business buddies in race to slash red tape that puts everyone at risk!
Hazards Campaign spokesperson said today: “Cameron is blindly following the demented business daleks demanding ‘deregulate, deregulate, deregulate’ (1). Supporting their friends in the FSB who believe that the USA is a better business model is hardly reassuring when USA workplace death rate is six times higher than the UK!
No-one supports pointless bureaucracy or rules for their own sake. But much of the ‘red tape’ Cameron is slashing and trashing is not imposed by mindless bureaucrats but carefully thought out, devised, evaluated and agreed by the HSE with industry and unions, to protect not only workers but the public and the environment. Sending out signal that employers will not be liable for the abuse of workers by customers, will not make them protect
“Cameron prefers to concoct policy in the saloon bar with his corporate cronies on the back of beer mats. Cameron’s populist lie about health and safety being a ‘burden on business’, ‘an albatross/millstone round neck of business’ and vowing to ‘kill off health and safety culture’ gets short shrift from those who know the truth. Families of people killed, injured and made sick to death by employers, know that existing rules and enforcement are far too weak, say:
“No-one we love died due to too much regulation and enforcement but due to far too little. Deregulation and slashing enforcement won’t make workers safer, or protect ordinary people, it’s designed to let corporations and business off the hook. Don’t be fooled and let regulations go, it’s your choice ‘Red Tape or more bloody bandages’!” (2) Said Louise Taggart, Families Against Corporate Killers (FACK) Spokesperson (3)
“Cameron at the behest of his corporate mates has enrolled us in a race to the bottom, to compete with countries with appalling health and safety records such as Bangladesh. Last year’s garment factory fires and building collapse clearly showed the world that a lack of health and safety regulation and enforcement brings death and destruction. Amongst the government’s crazy deregulations , exempting the self-employed, making more exemptions for SMEs, reducing the protections for young people in training placements, and banning preventative inspections in falsely called ‘low risk’ workplaces , are creating two/three tier workforce with so many holes in the once universal health and safety net. It will allow the very many unscrupulous employers to get away with injurying and making ill, the most vulnerable workers. And we will all pay the cost in the end.
“Failure to manage workplace safety and health costs the UK economy between £20 and 40 billion a year (3). All the evidence from across the world shows that good regulation and strict enforcement lead to economically more successful countries; more innovation that serves ordinary people, saves lives, saves money for businesses, improves health, and builds the economy. Cameron’s strategy is to serve the interest of the rich and powerful against those of workers based on fairy tales such as the Emperor’s new clothes. Some of us can see the nakedness of this strategy and the deadly dangers of such a stupid race to the bottom, but others are still seeing invisible posh clothes.
For more information contact Hilda Palmer, Acting Chair of UK National Hazards Campaign:
Tel: 0161 636 7 557 , Louise Taggart, Families Against Corporate Killers Tel : 0781 278 2534
Notes to editors
1. Hazards Magazine ‘Business says Deregulate: the government will obey’http://www.hazards.org/votetodie/deregulate.htm
2 It’s your choice: ‘ Red Tape or more bloody bandages’http://www.hazards.org/images/h123posterlarge.jpg
Hazards blueprint for saner Health and Safety Executivehttp://www.hazards.org/votetodie/citizensane
Plus interview with Rory O’Neil, Hazards Magazine Editor, by Health and Safety Bulletin:
3. Families Aganst Corporate Killers set up in 2006 by families of people killed by employers negligence http://www.fack.org.uk Founder Members of FACK:
Dawn and Paul Adams – son Samuel Adams aged 6 killed at Trafford Centre, 10th October 1998
Linzi Herbertson -husband 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 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
4. Good health and safety is not a ‘burden on business’ it’s a burden on us!
The HSE records the costs of poor health and safety i.e. deaths, injuries and illnesses (over 70% caused by poor management according to the HSE) as £13.8 billion per year at 2010/11 prices. But this does not include the long latency illnesses like cancers. Each incident fatality costs £1.5 million and each occupational cancer costs over £2.5 million (DEFRA costing). So, even taking HSE’s gross under-estimate of 8,000 work cancer deaths per year would add £20 billion to this total making it nearer £40 billion per year. Taking Hazards figures of 18,000 occupational cancer deaths p.a. would make it nearer £60 billion. Of this cost, according to the HSE: individuals and families harmed pay 57%, the state – us, tax payers, the public purse! – pays 22%, and employers, whose criminal negligence caused the harm, pay only 21% HSE Annual Statistics Report 2012/13: http://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/overall/hssh1213.pdf
Hazards Campaign statement on the Government response to
‘Health at work- an independent review of sickness absence’
The government’s response (http://dwp.gov.uk/docs/health-at-work-gov-response.pdf), like the Black/Frost report itself, is based on false notions of ‘sick note culture’, a punitive ‘all work is good for you and if you are sick, work will make you better’ approach. There is no evidence to support this, much research shows that ‘presenteeism’ costs more than ‘absenteeism’, and workers suffering from bugs have recently been warned by the NHS Alliance not to spread colds and ‘flu by going to work!
The government response completely fails to acknowledge that work can and does make over a million workers sick each year, and that far more effort needs to be put into preventing this in order to reduce sickness absence, and also to provide new occupational health therapies and rehabilitation accessible via GPs, so that workers are helped to recover fully before returning to work.
The government response will do nothing at all to prevent workers from becoming ill, or deal with presenteeism, or to ensure that sick workers actually get any early rehabilitation, only offering the insecurity and fear of assessment by a private company whose aim and profit depend on forcing sick workers back to work as quickly as possible. It is also marketising workers’ sickness so it can be sold to private sector companies to profit from, as for example ATOS profits from the widely criticised operation of the Employment and Support Allowance assessments.
Setting up ‘a state funded health and work assessment and advisory service to make occupational health advice available to employers and employees’ sounds good but it appears to be a call centre based system, with sign posting and advice, but no detail of how it will be run and managed, of any occupational medical input or advocacy for workers, nor does it include development of any new rehabilitation and therapies essential for workers’ recovery. Referral of workers for independent assessment after 4 weeks sick leave risks increasing the stress and insecurity of already sick people. The idea that 4 weeks off sick is ‘long term’ is ridiculous as many workers suffering work-related stress or musculo-skeletal disorders only go off sick when they are absolutely unable to carry on, and in 4 weeks they will barely have had time to recover from the acute phase of their illness, let alone be fit to return to work, or even to face assessment. By-passing the workers’ own GP, risks repeating all the errors of the ATOS WCA assessments for ESA, risk conflicts, and may breach patient confidentiality. It is also cruel, as GPs are often the only protection sick and injured workers have from unhealthy work, punitive sickness absence management and the threat of job loss.
There are some areas where the government has backed away from the wilder aspects of the Black/Frost recommendations. Such as deciding not to reconsider the ban on pre-employment health questionnaires. But the proposal to remove the requirement to keep sick pay records is a step backwards as employers cannot manage sickness absence without record keeping (Chapter 3 paras 20-23). But there is no proposal for tax relief for GPs and employers to provide good occupational health diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation to workers. 80% of large employers provide occupational health services, but only 10% of small employers do, and the Hazards Campaign fears many employers will now use the proposed state funded service as a substitute for proper occupational health care undermining any current good practice, in a race to the bottom.
The Hazards Campaign deplores the recommendation to publish tribunal award information to show employers that they are lower than they think as it is encourages employers to break the law by sacking workers who are off sick (Chapter 3 paras 32-34).
For more information contact the Hazards Campaign 0161 636 7557
Hazards Campaign Secretariat
c/o Greater Manchester Hazards Centre
Windrush Millennium Centre
70 Alexandra Road
Manchester M16 7WD
Simon Pickvance, our friend, brilliant colleague and consummate internationalist and networker, died on 23 November 2012 from the asbestos cancer mesothelioma. Obituary.
Following a letter from Mr G Podger, Chief Exec Health and Safety Executive (HSE), responding to an article in the Daily Mirror (see below) on the likely effects of cuts to our safety police, the HSE, the Hazards Campaign wishes to point out Mr Podger’s points just do not stand up to scrutiny as is shown in a very recent report by Professors from the University of Stirling in a report which is linked below. While the report’s title is about Scotland the content of the report covers the issue in the UK. The Executive Summary can be found here.
Further information: Mick Holder, Hazards Campaign or telephone 0161 636 7557.
G Podger, HSE’s response:
Related information: Hazards magazine
Workers enquiry needed to identify and eliminate all exposures to carcinogens
The Hazards Campaign says the HSE intervention paper on occupational cancer to be presented to the HSE Board meeting on 22nd August in Bootle, while more detailed than the original rejected paper, “fails to acknowledge the actual scale of cancer caused by work ¹. The paper is based on a fairy tale unrealistic view of the world of work today, ignores many known carcinogens, shows little interest in finding unknown exposures, underestimates the numbers of workers exposed and shows no sense of urgency to tackle this massive but preventable workplace epidemic. Because of the lack of action now, more people will develop occupational cancers and die from them in the future.
Hazards Campaign spokesperson says:
“Rushton estimates that work cancer kills 8,000 (5per cent of all cancers) or at least seven times as many workers as are killed by work injuries every year, and affects a further 14,000. Hazards estimates, based on work by international cancer specialists, place the toil even higher at 12 per cent of all cancers. That is 18,000 deaths and over 30,000 cases of cancers related to work each year in GB ².
Occupational cancer researcher Simon Pickvance warns: “The HSE has been in denial about work cancer for over three decades, depending far too heavily on epidemiology which is only capable of seeing widespread, long-established problems amongst large numbers of workers, employed for long periods of time, in large workplaces such as mines, mills and manufacturing. This is totally unsuitable for today’s, smaller and fast evolving workplaces with more complex, and diverse exposures. It is incapable of picking up high risk exposures affecting smaller groups of workers.
“We welcome HSE’s response to the detection of hazardous exposure to azo dyes in the engineering industry by members of Hazards Campaign, but this is just one of many such high risk groups that can be identified using mass participatory methods of relating workers’ exposures to case reports. A fully participatory approach towards identifying exposure scenarios and methods for toxic use reduction must be the way forward. The Rushton estimates for the HSE continue to under count the number of workers exposed. On diesel fumes exposure alone, it is simply incomprehensible that the well over a million workers who have a raised risk of a cancer because they work in diesel-exposed jobs become ‘over 10,000’ in HSE’s estimation – and a million is just a fraction of the total diesel-exposed workforce”.
Simon goes on to explain: “The HSE’s target organ approach is also very damaging as most carcinogens have a very broad spectrum but epidemiology is not clever enough to see it. Real life workers’ bodies do not play by epidemiologists rules so that even quite large increases in common cancers are entirely and irretrievably invisible to traditional epidemiological number-crunching ³
The Hazards Campaign joins occupational cancer campaigners in demanding a workers inquiry to identify all workplace exposure to carcinogens and urgent action to enforce their elimination; a spokesperson said: “We need proactive enforcement of existing legislation ⁴, and in the absence of reliable figures on numbers of people exposed (the underestimation of diesel-exposed workers is only the latest in a series of HSE blunders in calculating exposed populations) the over-dependence on the Rushton burden calculation (how much cancer is work-related ?),in setting priorities for action must stop.
Helen Lynn spokesperson for the Alliance for Cancer Prevention said: “The HSE approach to occupational cancer ensures thousands more people will develop the disease through exposures at work. Delaying action on better shift work patterns is just condemning more women to greater risk of breast cancer while there is action that could be taken immediately. Although the word ‘action’ is mention exclusively by the HSE in relation to naturally occurring carcinogens such as radon, there is no action on promoting substitution to known or suspected carcinogens when there are safer alternatives available as applies to the chemicals used in dry cleaning. The HSE scope for carcinogens should be widened to include all carcinogenic, mutagenic and reprotoxic chemicals and substances (CMR’s), and encompass those not only addressed in REACH but also listed on the SIN list. www.sinlist.org” ⁵
Campaigners argue that the response outlined in the HSE paper is based on a combination of
dithering, denial, and delay. Their ‘wait and see’ approach and leaving the job up to other agencies, while they continue to do a little bit more of what is currently ineffective, is completely inadequate to the task of preventing work related cancers.
Simon Pickvance concludes: “We are sick to death of being treated as second class workers in Europe, who can wait for preventative action till research is carried out, for example on shiftwork, when other member states have adopted a precautionary, pro active approach. It is not more science that is required before more humane shift patterns can be introduced. HSE’s intervention strategy is based on ignorance, denial and a false view of work today, and its response to the biggest workplace killer is utterly pathetic. It is hard to see what will be achieved by more of the same without the active involvement of workers themselves in finding out where the main problems lie. What is needed is a picture of the risks we face in the jobs we do today via a Trade Union backed workers inquiry ⁶ to identify all workplace cancer exposures. Plus a massive preventive proactive enforcement of elimination, and an abandonment of the use of cost-benefit analysis in setting exposure limit for carcinogens in EU, as there are no safe levels of exposure to carcinogens”
For more information
Simon Pickvance Tel: 0114 268 4197
Hilda Palmer, Hazards Campaign Tel: 0161 636 7557
Helen Lynn, Alliance for Cancer Prevention: Tel: 0207 274 2577, mobile 07960033687
Jawad Qasrawi, Hazards magazine, firstname.lastname@example.org 0114 201 4265
1. HSE supplementary paper on occupation cancer: Occupational cancer, priorities for future intervention – supplementary paper The initial paper was rejected by the HSE board in May 2012.
3. This Man Knows all about Cancer Hazards magazine issue 117 details Simon Pickvance’s criticisms of the HSE strategy on work-related cancer. His criticism of the HSE supplementary paper includes:
- Silica Dust – No evidence for the HSE technical innovations on control.
- Welding and Painting – no active involvement of workers in finding where the main problems lie.
- Shift work – no action on safer working patterns only a call for yet more research.
- Dry cleaning – no interventions on safer substitutes, only low cost ‘awareness raising initiatives’.
- Epidemiology – focus from HSE is on widespread, long established problems while ignoring high risk exposures affecting smaller groups of workers.
- Lack of participatory approach to risk detection – HSE fails to engage workers in identifying risk in their work places.
- Lack of Toxic Use reduction methods – HSE ignores reducing exposure to existing and known carcinogens and setting targets for elimination.
4.COSHH- Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations http://www.hse.gov.uk/coshh/
5. The Alliance for Cancer Prevention http://allianceforcancerprevention.org.uk/
6. Workers Inquiry : The inquiry should be trade union backed, and involve workers in mounting an all-out search for carcinogens at work. It must identify high risk groups within occupations/workplaces; and look at case studies, industrial hygiene and toxicological studies. What is needed is a true picture of the risks we face in the jobs we do today, not something based on an out of date, fairytale world of work.
29 May 2012 – No embargo
Breast cancer – Hazards Campaign letter to The Guardian
The article seems to suggest the HSE leaping into action (Breast tumour risk increased 40% among night workers, shows study triggering HSE investigation into impact on HSE workers, 28 May 2012 ) which is the opposite of its lack of action over the past years on all work-related cancers including breast cancer. The cancer establishment aids and abets this by claiming to know better than International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), and slyly blames women by emphasising ‘lifestyle’ issue such as diet and exercise over work-related factors. About 400,000 women in the UK are involved in night work (night work, continental shift and three shift working), and we urgently need more preventative action and research on how to reduce their risk of breast cancer, rather than this paralysis by demanding yet more research on the link with night work.
The most serious health effects related to shift and night work are cancer, heart disease and metabolic diseases such as diabetes. Five years ago, in 2007 the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) reported that “shiftwork involving circadian disruption is probably carcinogenic to humans” and classified shift work as a category 2A carcinogen. Melatonin production is suppressed by the presence of light at night. Dr Vincent Cogliano of IARC said this was based on a wide range of studies involving both humans and animals and that there was evidence to support the hypothesis that alterations in sleep patterns, suppressed the production of melatonin in the body. “Melatonin has some beneficial effects in preventing some of the steps leading too cancer. The level of evidence is really no different than it might be for industrial chemicals”. Danish and other studies had begun to link this with the risk of breast cancer for women working prolonged night shifts in the 1990s.
Since 2009, the Danish Government has, paid workers’ compensation to a number of women workers, some of whom worked as flight attendants, who had been diagnosed with breast cancer and who had no known risk factors other than working night shifts at least once a week for the past 20 years. Over recent years Danish scientists and others have been researching evidence-based options for preventative action on night work and breast cancer. The UK has failed to act. According to the HSE in its 2003 research report Shift Work and Breast Cancer: a Critical Review of the Epidemiological Evidence “Overall, the evidence for an association of breast cancer risk with shift work is appreciable but not definitive. Further epidemiological research is needed to clarify the relationship”. In March 2010, Dr Rushton reported in her HSE commissioned study on the ‘Burden of Occupational Cancer’, that an estimated 2,000 breast cancer cases, and around 550 breast cancer deaths a year could be attributable to shift work,.http://www.hse.gov.uk/research/rrpdf/rr595main.pdf. The HSE response was to commission the University of Oxford research, to which your article refers, to undertake an extensive study on the relationship between shift work and chronic disease, with a focus on shift working patterns in relation to cancer and other chronic conditions in men and women. The study will be completed by December 2015 by which time, according to Rushton’s estimates, over 2,000 more women will have died of breast cancer related to night work. More avoidable deaths due to a lack of a preventative and precautionary approach to work-related cancers. .
Hilda Palmer Acting Chair of Hazards Campaign
For more information contact:
Hazards Campaign – 0161 636 7557