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No Going back to work unless workers say it is safe! – Hazards Campaign press statement

Press Statement immediate release 6.5.20

No Going back to work unless workers say it is safe!

Janet Newsham, Hazards Campaign spokesperson says:

It is clear we cannot trust the UK Government, Public Health England or the Health and Safety Executive, HSE, to protect workers and also public health in a safe return to work.  It’s only collective action by workers and their unions that will keep us safe and we need Government to make this explicit in their conditions for relaxing the lockdown. They must make it an enforceable goal that employers’ legal duty is to prevent work-related Covid 19 infections, that employers must consult workers and their representatives who must sign off on  risk assessments and safe systems of work, and for the HSE and L.A.s to be funded and empowered to police employers to do this. The most important point is that there should be no return to workplaces unless workers agree it really can be made safe to do so, and all the checks we lay out are put in place and enacted.”

The Hazards Campaign accuses the UK Government of having:

  • misled the UK to the highest number of deaths from COVID-19 of any country in Europe, second only to USA in world and astonishingly high rates of deaths amongst workers in NHS, Social Care, Transport and other essential and public-facing jobs, and amongst BAME and women workers;
  • failed to prevent the spread of the virus by locking down late and incompletely, encouraging non-essential work in construction, manufacturing, distribution and call-centres to continue to put workers and public at greater risk of virus transmission;
  • failed to ensure the provision of sufficient PPE for all NHS, Social Care and other essential workers who need it;
  • failed to provide the highest level of health protective PPE by allowing Public Health England to downgrade guidance to fit supply not WHO health-based specifications;
  • failed to make prevention of work-related Covid infections and deaths a specific and enforceable aim;
  • broken the UK health and system by deregulation, slashing budgets and powers of HSE and Local Authorities and
  • abandoned workers to their fate by failing to enforce their legal and human rights to safe healthy workplaces free from risks, including of exposure to COVID-19.

Janet Newsham, adds: “Now the Government publishes proposals on relaxing the lockdown and allowing a return to work outside of the home. These are weak, ineffective and reproduce all the bad working conditions that helped to spread the virus in the first place. They do not inspire trust amongst workers who are justifiably afraid for their own, their families, and their community’s health. Covid-19 has exposed the failures of austerity, of inequality, insecurity and low pay alongside poor health and safety conditions at work, and made clear the connection between workers’ health and public health which show that unless the workforce is protected public health cannot be protected.

“The Hazards Campaign sets out seven preconditions which must all be met before any relaxation of lockdown can be contemplated, and 12 more detailed requirements to be fulfilled at work before workers and their union representatives say it is safe to return. The Seven pre-conditions:

  1. Proven sustained low level of COVID-19 infections and deaths.
  2. Testing, Tracing, Isolating via a demonstrably effective intelligence gathering system for infection rates.
  3. Hospital, Care and Residential settings have proven capacity and ability to cope with normal demand of all illnesses and injuries plus COVID-19 infections without being under excessive pressure.
  4. Strict maintenance of social/physical distancing rules of 2 metres minimum in public spaces backed up by hand washing, sanitisers and cleaning of surfaces.
  5. Safe for workers to use public transport and public spaces including:
  6. In all workplaces the prevention of work-related COVID-19 infections must be the enforced goal.
  7. Complete closure of all non-essential workplaces for at least 3 weeks before easing of the lockdown

Requirements for employers to fulfil:

  1. Ensure consultation and involvement of trade unions safety reps, workers’ reps, trade union officers and where possible HSE inspectors or LA EHOs and health and safety officers, to ensure the safety and health of the workforce and of the public.
  2. Review all risk assessments in light of the continuing health risks of the COVID-19, make new risk assessments and develop safety systems of work which are fully consulted upon and agreed, approved by health and safety regulators, and for which training and monitoring are organised. Pay specific attention to risk for those groups of workers who are disproportionately represented in illness and deaths figures such as BAME and women workers.
  3. Review safety of premises and equipment.
  4. Deep clean work premises before work is reopened and then maintain high standards of cleanliness and hygiene.
  5. Review staffing levels and work-loads.
  6. Review safe travel to and from work.
  7. Support for the mental health for all workers.
  8. Provide supportive occupational health services and health surveillance.
  9. Ensure no disciplinary consequence or detriment for taking sick/caring leave/self-isolation.
  10. Provide mental and physical disability/ill health support.
  11. Provide additional measures in higher risk essential workplaces to ensure the safety, health and welfare of workers in specific essential occupations arising from risk of COVID-19 exposure.
  12. Wider worker protections must be ensured.

More information contact Janet Newsham Tel: 07734317158

Notes

Hazards Campaign: We go back to work safely or not at all  http://www.hazardscampaign.org.uk/blog/hazards-campaign-we-go-back-to-work-safely-or-not-at-all

Professor Andrew Watterson Covid19 in the UK and occupational health and safety. Predictable but not inevitable failures  what can we do now: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/340502136_COVID_19_in_the_UK_and_occupational_health_and_safety_-_predictable_but_not_inevitable_failures_what_can_we_do_now_updated

Hazards Magazine: http://www.hazards.org/index.htm  Exposed Coronavirus issue 149

Hazards Campaign: http://www.hazardscampaign.org.uk/ Briefings, statements on CV19

Hazards Campaign Detailed briefing on Risk Assessments for CV19 coming soon.

TUC Risk Assessment: https://www.tuc.org.uk/research-analysis/reports/risk-assessment-guide-safety-reps

TUC Preparing for return to work outside the home https://www.tuc.org.uk/research-analysis/reports/preparing-return-work-outside-home-trade-union-approach

Hazards Campaign Twitter: @hazardscampaign
Facebook: We didn’t vote to die at work
email:  info@hazardscampign.org.uk

 

 

 

 

Hazards Campaign: We go back to work safely, or not at all

Hazards Campaign – Going Back to work safely or not at all!
No easing of the Lockdown until seven pre-conditions are met
What we need at work to Go Back and Move Forward!

There is no conflict between economic recovery and health because a healthy economic recovery requires healthy workers and people.  The SARS-CoV-2 Virus causes the disease Covid -19.

“ The COVID-19 pandemic has made the links between occupational health and safety and wider public health very stark indeed. Workers Health is Public Health. It has also highlighted the fact that not only the health and safety of health, social and emergency workers is critical to fighting the pandemic but so too is the health and safety of key workers in the service, retail , transport, distribution and manufacturing etc sectors. If you do not protect the workforce in a pandemic you do not protect the public.” Professor A. Watterson

Relaxing the lockdown and going back to work must follow the Precaution, Prevention, Protection and Participation approach.

Precaution is needed as we still do not know enough about the virus or its transmission in various built and open environments. Recent research shows that airborne spread may be important not just droplet contamination of surfaces, and that people can spread the virus although asymptomatic or even pre-symptomatic.

Prevention of work-related COVID-19 infections must be the aim and top priority for employers, regulators and government in all workplaces, essential and non-essential, and it must be enforced rigorously by a properly funded and empowered Health and Safety Executive and Local Authority Environmental Health Officers, EHOs. The Hazards Campaign supports the ILO call for COVID-19 to be recognised as an occupational disease

Protection of all workers must be achieved using the health and safety law control hierarchy, the highest standards of occupational health, safety and hygiene at work, and measures to protect workers from infection by the public.

Participation of workers and trade unions all levels – not safe unless workers say it is.

It is essential that relaxation of lockdown is done safely so it prevents an immediate and exponential rise in the COVID-19 infection rate that would create a second peak of illnesses and deaths and risk of overwhelming the NHS, which would lead to emergency lockdown again. To avoid this requires national testing, tracing, isolation, with reports and records of infections and deaths provided in an open, transparent regionally and locally accountable manner, capable of rapid alerts to identify local and workplace hotspots which can be acted upon swiftly.

No easing of Lockdown until these Seven Pre-conditions are met:

1. Proven sustained low level of COVID-19 infections and deaths.
This must use all available national and regional data for infections, illnesses and deaths in all setting, such as ONS figures, including excess death comparisons with previous 5 year averages.

2. Testing, Tracing, Isolating via a demonstrably effective intelligence gathering system for infection rates. An open and transparent, locally situated public health system of testing, tracing and isolating for those with COVID-19 infection, with all results made public. This must include:

  • easily accessible testing facilities – drive through and mobile testing for all who need it
  • providing test results rapidly and directly to individuals tested, publicly and to national and local health services
  • ensuring COVID-19 infections and deaths of workers are fully recorded by occupation and workplace in the national testing scheme, and also recorded by employers, reported as notifiable diseases, and reported to HSE through RIDDOR for tracing of transmission and infection mechanisms related to work
  • baseline testing available to all workers before they return to work, and a rapid response to increases in infection rate geographically, sectorally and by workplaces. For example when cases start to rise or cases are reported in workplaces, then there should be an automatic ‘stop’ work’ step until the reasons for the rise are explained and action taken. National lockdown should be resumed if widespread infection rate appears to be increasing exponentially again.
  • All testing results and statistics relating to COVID-19 must be dis-aggregated by sex, ethnicity and occupation

3 . Hospital, Care and Residential settings have proven capacity and ability to cope with normal demand of all illnesses and injuries plus COVID-19 infections without being under excessive pressure

4. Strict maintenance of social/physical distancing rules of 2 metres minimum in public spaces backed up by hand washing, sanitisers and cleaning of surfaces

5.  Safe for workers to use public transport and public spaces including:

  • highest level of shielding, screens and distancing protection for workers in places of public congregation like public transport, shops, schools, hospitality etc., plus appropriate PPE where 2 metre physical distance cannot be guaranteed at all times. On public transport there is a need for screens, shields, gloves, alternative payment methods such as cashless cards for protection of workers as passengers and as operators.
  • PPE for the public to protect workers, based on the latest research on airborne droplets and transmission, alongside information and training plus provision of specific sourcing of PPE for the public which does not compete with health care and other essential workers

 6.  In all workplaces the prevention of work-related COVID-19 infections must be the enforced goal.

  • This must be top priority for employers, regulators and government, explicitly stated in health and safety policies and practices, and rigorously enforced by the HSE and Local Authorities.
  • The 2 metre rule should apply unless it has been demonstrated the work is essential and there is no alternative. Then high-level engineering controls, systems of work, appropriate PPE and other alternative measures must be used and approved by the workers and regulators.
  • All health and safety measures must be backed up by employers showing demonstrable safe systems of adapted work organisation and workplaces to ensure safe and healthy working is practical, possible and will be enforced.
  • All risk assessments reviewed to a precautionary level of control to prevent all exposure to COVID-19 with specific attention to risk for those groups of workers who are disproportionately represented in illness and deaths figures. Although men are more at risk of death from COVID19 in every age group, black and minority ethnic and women workers are becoming ill and dying at a disproportionate rate and reducing their risks at work must be specifically taken into account.

7. Complete closure of all non-essential workplaces for at least 3 weeks before easing of the lockdown

  • to enable employers to plan, consult with union reps, workers’ reps and health and safety regulators, to develop and implement plans to ensure their workplaces and job organisation meet the highest level of ordinary health and safety plus compliance with additional public health guidance, and
  • to give the gradual easing of lockdown the best chance of success.
Going back to work– Moving forward

Workplaces must be demonstrably safe or remain closed. Prevention of work-related COVID-19 infections must be the explicit top priority for all employers, regulators and government, stated in health and safety policies and practices and rigorously enforced. If the workforce is not protected then the public will not be protected.

All employers must demonstrate that in consultation with union safety reps or workers representatives, union officers or health and safety inspectors, that they have reviewed existing risk assessments including generic pandemic planning and made new COSHH  risk assessments, then established safe systems of work, training for workers and constant monitoring. They must use the COSHH hierarchy of control to prevent exposure to SARS CoV-2 by adapting work organisation and workplaces to ensure safe and healthy working is practical, possible in all circumstances, and will be enforced. If it is impossible to adapt workplace to meet health and safety requirements including the additional public health guidance for COVID-19 then workplaces cannot reopen.

 Employers must:

1. Ensure consultation and involvement of trade unions safety reps, workers’ reps, trade union officers and where possible HSE inspectors or LA EHOs and health and safety officers, to ensure the safety and health of the workforce and of the public. 

2. Review all risk assessments in light of the continuing health risks of the COVID-19, make new risk assessments and develop safety systems of work which are fully consulted on and agreed, approved by health and safety regulators, and for which training and monitoring are organised. Pay specific attention to risk for those groups of workers who are disproportionately represented in illness and deaths figures such as  BAME and women workers. Although men are more at risk of death from COVID19 in every age group,  BAME and women workers are becoming ill and dying at a disproportionate rate and reducing their risks must be specifically taken into account.

3. Review safety of premises and equipment, checking ventilation, electrical, mechanical, structural, fire and other relevant safety issues after weeks of lack of use and daily checks during ‘lockdown’ and their appropriateness to be used with the COVID-19 threat.

4. Deep clean work premises before work is reopened and then maintain high standards of cleanliness and hygiene Full COSHH risk assessments for cleaning staff provided with highest level of PPE, safe products and methods of cleaning. After this to maintain high standards of cleanliness of accommodation, safe working with others including public and personal hygiene to be maintained.

5.  Review staffing levels and work-loads
These cannot return to normal as fewer workers will be permitted in given workspace to achieve 2m minimum physical distancing. This means lower workloads, targets and work rates which need to be assessed to ensure this is manageable, and that sufficient numbers of staff are available to support work safely. Consider staggered or alternating shifts with no hot desking.  Temporarily replace people who are sick or self-isolating

6. Review safe travel to and from work
The safe use of public and private transport needs to be considered includes varying hours, length of days, PPE required for travel including safe disposal of and changing facilities for clothes and welfare provision for cleaning/showering at the beginning and end of shift

7. Support for the mental health for all workers
Review stress risk assessments and take account of new work-stress factors – fear of catching COVID-19 at work or on commute, fear of infecting the family, increased anxiety due to the pandemic, grief in workers who have experienced bereavement from COVID-19 etc which will be exacerbated by returning to work.  All workers and especially new workers must be provided with more support, supportive supervision and mentors.  Training will need to be regularly reviewed.

8. Provide supportive occupational health services and health surveillance.
 This should include access to health and medical surveillance, temperature and other observations.  All COVID-19 sickness and deaths of workers need to be recorded by employers, reported to public health authorities as notifiable illness, reported to HSE under RIDDOR, and investigated to establish work-related causes. Immediate action must be taken in the workplace to protect workers and public where cases occur or  start to rise locally. If cases are reported in workplaces, then there should be an automatic ‘stop’ work’ until the reasons for the rise are explained and action taken.

9. Ensure no disciplinary consequence or detriment for taking sick/caring leave/self-isolation 

10. Provide mental and physical disability/ill health support

Risks assessments must take account of workers with underlying conditions, including pregnancy. These and workers returning from sick leave will need reviews to support reasonable adjustments where necessary, including phased return to work.

11. Provide additional measures in higher risk essential workplaces to ensure the safety, health and welfare of workers in specific essential occupations arising from risk of COVID-19 exposure:

  • Health Setting Workers – review of control measures to risks including sufficient quantities and precautionary approach to highest protective levels of PPE
  • Teachers and teaching settings –is it possible to maintain social distance, use of PPE and safe systems of work, reduction of pupil/student numbers
  • Retail Distribution – welfare provisions, cleanliness
  • Transport – protection from of contact with public, 2 metre social distancing and PPE for workers and public
  • Retail – strict maintenance of 2 metre social distancing and PPE for workers and public
  • Cleaners – review of COSHH assessments for all cleaning chemicals and appropriate PPE
  • Social care – review of safe systems of working with several clients, in care homes. This needs to include minimum wages and sickness conditions, safety of sleep overs, public transport, access to and disposal of PPE
  • Postal workers – availability of PPE and safe systems of work

12. Wider worker protections that must be ensured:

  • Income protection for those who are sick or self-isolating at regular level of income
  • All workers must be made aware of their legal rights to refuse work they feel exposes them to danger. This right should be made an enforceable explicit right to refuse work, return to work, or continue to work where safety and health are felt to be at risk, without any immediate or deferred detriment..
  • Protection from victimisation and unfair dismissal where workers or reps have been whistle-blowers, carried out inspections of the workplace, raised issues about concerns with enforcing bodies, or taken sick/caring or self-isolation leave.
  • Direct access to enforcement officers by safety reps via a help- line to raise concerns, obtain advice and help from HSE Inspectors or Local Authority EHOs
  • All COVID-19 sickness and deaths of workers must be reported under RIDDOR to provide intelligence of patterns of exposure at work and possible negligence
  • COVID-19 to be recognised as an occupational disease

Useful Information and sources

Hazards Magazine: http://www.hazards.org/index.htm  Exposed Coronavirus issue 149

Hazards Campaign: http://www.hazardscampaign.org.uk/ Briefings, statements on CV19

Hazards Campaign Detailed briefing on Risk Assessments for CV19 (coming soon).

TUC Risk Assessment: https://www.tuc.org.uk/research-analysis/reports/risk-assessment-guide-safety-reps

TUC Preparing for return to work outside the home https://www.tuc.org.uk/research-analysis/reports/preparing-return-work-outside-home-trade-union-approach

HSE https://www.hse.gov.uk   and special email for union safety and other reps to report concerns at work about Covid19: Union.Covidconcerns@hse.gov.uk

Hazards Campaign Twitter: @hazardscampaign
Facebook: We didn’t vote to die at work                                                                 email:  info@hazardscampign.org.uk

28 April: Remember the dead fight for the living – Hazards Campaign

Hazards Campaign news release 27 April 2020

Tuesday 28 April is International Workers Memorial Day #IWMD20

Remember the Dead Fight for the Living

Fighting for hearts and minds of all workers

Every year on 28 April all over the world trade unions, workers, families mark International Workers Memorial Day because work still hurts, makes ill and kills millions globally every year, and over 50,000 in this country, 140 a day before the pandemic arrived to make things worse. Bad jobs can break your heart, leaving us HEARTBROKEN. Whether the threat at work is another new virus, dangerous substances or heart-breaking demands, your life should not be on the line. Unions can make it better.

The Hazards Campaign brought Workers Memorial Day to the UK in 1990s with twin aims, to Remember the Dead but also to Fight for the Living and has marked it every year since then. This year as Coronavirus rages through the world it is more necessary than ever to honour both those aims so no more workers will die needlessly.

We will remember all those low paid, insecure and exploited workers who are now recognised as essential: NHS workers, social care workers, cleaners, bus drivers, delivery drivers, taxi uber and other transport workers, food chain workers, cleaners, supermarket and other shop workers, postal, education, civil servants, border and prison guards, social & call centre workers etc.

Unions and workers are organising, fighting back and winning sick pay, site closures, pay for all laid off workers and PPE.

There will be action all across the UK, online meetings and physically distanced outdoor meetings and demos in essential workplaces, and #CoronavirusWalkouts in the UK and across the world

Hazards Campaign supports the 11am one minutes silence

to Remember the Dead – those dying from Covid19 and all work hazards.   At home hold up a Heartbroken poster, stand by your door, gate or in the street. At work hold a safe physically distanced outdoor vigil.

In Fighting for the Living, we call for Government and employers to ‘Stop the pandemic at work’ by:

Closing all non-essential workplaces

Paying every worker living wage, liveable sick pay from day 1 to #StayHomeSaveNHSSaveLives

Providing correct PPE for all essential workers #PPENow #NoKitNoCare

No release from ‘lockdown’ or any return to work unless based on highest level of precaution, prevention and protection of all workers.

Testing, tracing and quarantining

The Covid pandemic has made clear that workers health is public health. Workers health is public health, if the workforce is not protected then the public cannot be protected in a pandemic. We need good workplace health and safety to prevent work-related Covid infections, deaths or transmission, and any other preventable work-related illnesses, injuries or deaths either.  See Hazards Campaign Full #IWMD20 Briefing  FACK Statement for #IWMD20

The Hazards Campaign has worked with Greater Manchester Hazards Centre and Families Against Corporate Killers to produce three  new #IWMD20 films: Lean on Me – Families against corporate killers supporting families of those killed at work, and.

Hazards Campaigner talking about IWMD means to them. Fallen tears https://youtu.be/HdXlCUM9IBI

Manchester IWMD20 Zoom Meeting 12 noon https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10222588758448393&set=gm.3224181100960432&type=3&theater&ifg=1

For more information contact Janet Newsham 077343 17158  or Hilda Palmer 0161 792 1044  079298 0024,

Notes:

Hazard Campaign Call to Action, Posters, Social media graphics and full Briefing: http://www.hazardscampaign.org.uk/

The Whole Story – real figures on total deaths at work  http://www.hazardscampaign.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/thewholestory.pdf

TUC RISKs newsletter summary of Trade Union Action on IWMD 28 April
https://www..tuc.org.uk/news/risks-944-22-april-2020

Hazards Magazine Issue 149 Exposed  http://www.hazards.org/index.htm

FACK Statement for #IWMD20 http://www.hazardscampaign.org.uk/blog/28-april-fack-statement-if-you-do-not-protect-the-workforce-in-a-pandemic-you-do-not-protect-the-public

Hazards Campaign Windrush Millennium Centre 70 Alexandra Road Manchester M16 7WD

content/uploads/2018/08/thewholestory.pdf

TUC RISKs newsletter summary of Trade Union Action on IWMD 28 April
https://www..tuc.org.uk/news/risks-944-22-april-2020

Hazards Magazine Issue 149 Exposed  http://www.hazards.org/index.htm

FACK Statement for #IWMD20 http://www.hazardscampaign.org.uk/blog/28-april-fack-statement-if-you-do-not-protect-the-workforce-in-a-pandemic-you-do-not-protect-the-public

Hazards Campaign Windrush Millennium Centre 70 Alexandra Road Manchester M16 7WD

28 April: Hazards Campaign call to action

Workers’ Memorial Day 2020

Normal public events for April 28th won’t be possible because of measures to contain Coronavirus/Covid-19. But marking International Workers’ Memorial Day has never been more important for workers’ lives and health and those of our families and communities.

Some workplace events may still go ahead but we are taking #IWMD20 online, developing a social media campaign that we want everyone to join in. This will keep the day and its perennial aims on the public and political agenda with the twin slogans to ‘Remember the Dead and Fight for the Living’. This year’s international theme has been changed by ITUC to ‘Stop the Pandemic at work’.

The Hazards Campaign is going ahead with: ‘Unions fighting for hearts and minds’ incorporating the fight against Coronavirus.

Hazards Campaign – Final briefing and call to action document

  1. WINDOW DISPLAYS Put up a Heartbroken poster – order or print one off- make a window display! See below.
  2. POST SELFIES Post a selfie with Heartbroken poster, or your window poster display, add a message, post on social media #IWMD20 or send to us
  3. ORGANISE A MEETING Organise a meeting – on-line or in the workplace if it can be done safely.
  4. USE OUR FIGURES NOT HSE’S Use ‘The Whole Story’ on death caused by work not HSE partial statistics [Updated April 2020]
  5. MAPPING ACTION Mapping #IWMD20: tell us what you are doing and about workers memorials near you and we will map them.
  6. CAMPAIGN ON SOCIAL MEDIA Create a huge wave of #IWMD20 tweets and posts on social media – download sample graphics here
  7. HAZARDS FILM Watch and send out the Hazards Campaign Film for #IWMD20 ‘Fighting for Hearts and Minds – forthcoming.
  8. LIGHT A CANDLE Light a candle in the window on 28th at 9pm to remember all workers killed by #COVID and other work hazards – but be safe.
  9. MEMORIALS ONLINE Online memorials—post photos and details of those killed at and by work to us or direct to Twitter and Facebook.
  10. GLOBAL SOLIDARITY Use the #IWMD20 for national and international solidarity with our union colleagues all across the world. And check out the ITUC/Hazards magazine global hub for international activities.

Resources to print out for your window display 

Hazards Campaign: 28 April social media campaigning graphics

As a part of our International Workers’ Memorial Day 2020 call to action the Hazards Campaign has produced a series of social media graphics (below) for you to share in your networks. Flood Twitter, Facebook  and the other social networks with these images and remember to include the hashtag #iwmd20, #covid19 and @hazardscampaign

Sample graphics scaled for Facebook

 

Sample graphics scaled for Twitter

Deadly failures have placed millions of workers at unnecessary coronavirus exposure risk

Deadly failures have placed millions of workers at unnecessary coronavirus exposure risk 
[Hazards Cmapaign, News release, 7 April 2020]

A fatal combination of missed opportunities, ignored warning signs and a failure to stop non-essential work have made the Covid-19 a bigger and more deadly epidemic in the UK, a new analysis prepared for the Hazards Campaign by top public health academic Professor Andrew Watterson of Stirling University  has revealed.  The government’s serial failures are summarised in an infographic prepared by Hazards Magazine.

Calling for an end to non-essential work, Hazards Campaign spokesperson Janet Newsham said:

“For all our sake, stop this madness.”

For all our sake, stop this madness.  We have workers side-by-side building luxury hotels when almost every hotel in the land is shutdown and in crisis, and building power stations that won’t go on line for years. How can these jobs have been considered ‘essential’?”

She added: “To control the spread of this virus we need a Government to make rational decisions and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to enforce safety or stop the work.   

“We are weeks into the pandemic and frontline staff are dying from a negligent Government who are failing to provide basic PPE”

“We are weeks into the pandemic and frontline staff are dying from a negligent Government who are failing to provide basic PPE never mind a standard of PPE that would keep all health and care workers and all essential workers safe.   

“We need a precautionary approach to this new risk and one that provides workers with the best chance of avoiding being infected by it.  It needs to be a robust approach using the best possible research and international evidence available. 

“Continually over the last few weeks, Government officials, have said that testing is coming.  And weeks before, international experts declared that the only way to win the battle against the virus spread was to test and track.  Only this will save the lives of both the front-line workers and the rest of society.  We have to attack the spread of the virus and test, track and quarantine, is the only way proven way to achieve this.  There shouldn’t need to be a debate about who is going to receive treatment or not, we should have in place a health care system alongside a strategy that protects our most vulnerable.   

“The Hazards Campaign calls on the HSE to step up and enforce the legal duty on employers to ensure workers health and safety.”

“The Hazards Campaign calls on the HSE to step up and enforce the legal duty on employers to ensure workers health and safety.  All workers including vulnerable zero hours, the bogus self- employed need reassurance and access to information and support in the workplace.  This means they need a health and safety enforcer to listen to their concerns, raise their issues and challenge negligent employers.  We need them to close down employers who are putting people’s lives at risk. 

“Everyone needs to stand together in the fight to protect workers”

“Everyone needs to stand together in the fight to protect workers, not simply because it’s the right thing to do but because it affects us all. Workers health is public health.  When companies subject workers to dangerous conditions and cheat them out of wages, it’s taxpayers who foot the bill.  The worst offenders will only change their behaviour when the cost of failing to protect workers outweighs the benefits. If we truly want to show our essential workers how much we appreciate their contributions, we need to do more than just applaud them. We must have the courage to stand and support them, using every resource we have. It will be for the good of public health too.

“We echo the statement put out by the STUC condemning the UKs Government approach on social distancing and welcoming the new Scottish Government guidance.  All risks in the workplace must be controlled and the very least employers should do to protect all workers is to provide the highest level of PPE available in these circumstances. (http://www.stuc.org.uk/media-centre/news/1432/scottish-government-guidance-on-social-distancing).

“We support the Statement by the Society of Occupational Medicine!  (https://www.som.org.uk/work-related-fatalities-due-covid-19-exposure-not-given) that the UK should have aimed for a target of zero work-related fatalities in this pandemic within the NHS, essential services and UK business.  Finally, there has been a failure by the HSE to enforce Health and Safety Law and ensure workers are protected from all the risks in the workplace.  This must change!”

A Hazards Campaign meeting yesterday agreed the following statement .

Links

COVID 19 in the UK and occupational health and safety – predictable but not inevitable failures: what can we do now? [updated]

INFOGRAPHIC COVID-19: The coronavirus lessons the UK government chose to ignore

STUC welcomes Scottish Government Guidance on social distancing and condemns UK Government’s approach

Work related fatalities due to COVID-19 exposure is not a given

Further information

Janet Newsham
Chair of Hazards Campaign
Tel: 07734 317 158
Email: janet@gmhazards.org.uk

Hazards Campaign Statement – Deadly failures have placed millions of workers at unnecessary coronavirus exposure risk

Hazards Campaign Statement – 6 April 2020

Deadly failures have placed millions of workers at unnecessary coronavirus exposure risk

The National Hazards Campaign believes that the government, HSE and public health organisation across the four nations should be striving to ensure no more workers die of work-related Covid-19.

To control the spread of this virus and protect workers from contracting Covid-19, we need the Government to make rational, science based decisions and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), to enforce safety in all workplaces, and stop all non-essential work, if it can’t be done at home.  This can be achieved by:

    1. A precautionary approach to this new Covid-19 virus risk, that provides workers with the best chance to avoid becoming infected by it. Employers need to eliminate the risk of catching or spreading Covid-19 at work by following health and safety risk-based control measures:

a) Closure of all non-essential work that is not supporting essential workers, with workers laid off with full pay so they can stay home and keep safe
b) Preventing exposure in essential work/supporting essential work by:

          • Enforcing social/physical distancing
          • Provision of physical barriers and safe systems of work
          • Provision of the highest most protective level of PPE (including training, cleaning and maintenance) for all workers who have to work within the 2 metre zone with people/patients as everyone may be potentially infected. In particular:
            > For Essential Workers (for example care workers, cleaners, prison officers etc.) this must include disposable gloves, aprons, masks, goggles or face visors
            >For NHS medical staff treating known Covid-19 patients this means the highest WHO standards of respiratory, goggles or visors, disposal suits, gloves etc

c) Government (HSE and public health organisations) must immediately issue new PPE guidance for all workers as latest updates only meet minimum standards not the highest required to fully protect essential workers.

  1. To attack the spread of the virus using tried and tested public health methods to test and track, then quarantine.
  2. A health care system alongside a strategy that protects our most vulnerable, not one that leaves health workers having to choose who has the best chance of survival.
  3. The HSE to step up and enforce the duty on employers to ensure workers health and safety.  All workers, need reassurance and access to information and support in the workplace, without artificial communication barriers.  The HSE to investigate quickly and close down employers who are putting peoples lives at risk. HSE must engage with workers via new technology and social media too ensure they get real-time information about hazards and risk on site and can respond rapidly.

A fatal combination of missed opportunities, ignored warning signs and a failure to stop non-essential work have made the Covid-19 a bigger and more deadly epidemic in the UK, a new analysis by Prof. A Watterson has revealed.   Additionally, there is a failure by the HSE to enforce Health and Safety Law and ensure workers are protected from all the risks in the workplace. This must change!

COVID 19 in the UK and occupational health and safety – predictable but not inevitable failures: what can we do now?

News release: Hazards Campaign demands action to save workers’ lives

Press statement for immediate release, 3 April 2020

Hazards Campaign demands action to save workers’ lives

The Hazards Campaign has written to MPs and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) calling for the HSE to close down organisations which continue to place profits before people by exposing workers to unacceptable risks.

Workers are being forced to face foreseeable and preventable risk of exposure to Covid-19 at work and it is the HSE’s duty to intervene to protect them, when employers are breaching their legal health and safety duties to prevent those risks.

The Government’s contradictory policy on preventing transmission and spread of Covid-19 at work is causing deaths and is nothing less than ‘social murder’.

The Government states ‘stay at home; if you go out, stay 2 metres (6ft) away from other people at all times; wash your hands as soon as you get home; do not meet others, even friends or family; you can spread the virus even if you don’t have symptoms’ and at the same time say ‘only go outside for food, health reasons or work (but only if you cannot work from home)’   (https:www.gov.uk/coronavirus)  The Government is keeping non-essential businesses open. This leaves workers being forced to go out to work,  in conditions which place them in close contact with other workers, without the handwashing and cleaning hygiene precautions stated in Public Health Guidance  and exposed to this deadly virus.  Covid-19 is killing people of all ages, many of whom were previously healthy as well as those with underlying health risks.

As workers who develop Covid-19 will die at home or in hospital, there is a need to ensure their deaths are recorded at work, reported to HSE, Local Authorities under RIDDOR, and investigated later for work-related causes. This is essential information for future assessment of the effectiveness of workplace and government strategies on protecting workers and reducing Covid-19 transmission at work and will be essential in preventing deaths in future pandemics.

In addition, the HSE and Local Authority inspectors must be available to be contacted by concerned workers being threatened or forced to work in dangerous conditions, to be able to report negligent employers.

Janet Newsham, Chair of Hazards Campaign said:

These workers have to travel to work on public transport further exposing themselves and other more essential critical workers to contracting the virus.  Essential workplaces need to keep running for safety reasons or because they are producing critically needed equipment or supporting critical services.   The health of these essential workers, including health care workers, must be protected while commuting to and from work but their ability to maintain safe, physical distance is made impossible by the many non-essential workers also commuting.

“Workers themselves are having to force employers to ‘do the right thing’ when it should be the Government and its health and safety enforcement agencies, taking the lead.  The HSE must make clear unambiguous statements, that if employers in non-essential work cannot maintain conditions to meet public health guidance, then the workplace is unsafe and demand and follow that up with enforcement action to halt production, until the spread of the virus has been controlled.  Government must provide a decent living wage for all workers in this situation.

“The Hazards Campaign also demand that, unless PPE is available at the correct standard, essential critical workers should limit their interventions to the protective level of their PPE, so that these workers are not exposed to the virus.  In Spain there has been an estimated 14% of health workers diagnosed with the virus.  (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-spain-cases/health-workers-make-up-nearly-14-of-spains-coronavirus-cases-idUSKBN21B1MF)  We must not run an underfunded, under-resourced health service with ‘expendable workers’.  We need every health care worker to survive to help increase the chance of survival of all citizens.”

She added:

“We are witnessing Government reducing PPE standards to meet the levels of PPE available and NOT producing quickly the safest levels of PPE to protect all workers.  Critical health workers need and deserve the best standards and no compromise.  In the UK we still have some of the most advanced manufacturing facilities, we have the expertise and capability to produce all the PPE and equipment we need and we demand that the Government steps up its efforts to provide what is necessary. 

“The HSE’s mission is ‘to prevent death, injury and ill-health in Great Britain’s workplaces – by becoming part of the solution’.  (https://www.hse.gov.uk/aboutus/insidehse.htm ) Hazards Campaign demand that the HSE does just that – it’s duty – to enforce employers legal duty to prevent illness, injury and death at work!”

Further information, press only
Contact: Janet Newsham
Email: janet@gmhazards.org.uk
Tel: 07734317158
Notes for Editors
Further information

The Hazards Campaign is a UK-wide network of resource centres and campaigners. The Hazards Campaign supports those organising and campaigning for justice and safety at work.

Contact

The Hazards Campaign
c/o Greater Manchester Hazards Centre
Windrush Millennium Centre
70 Alexandra Road
Manchester,
M16 7WD
ENGLAND
websitetwitter @hazardscampaign • facebook

Hazards Campaign reply to HSE: Our Covid 19 concerns remain unanswered

Health and Safety Executive
HSE Head of Strategy, Media and Campaign
Redgrave Court,
Merton Road, Bootle,
Merseyside
L20 8HS

2/4/20

Dear Jason,

Thank you for your response to my letter on behalf of the Hazards Campaign dated 30.3.20.

I am encouraged that you state ‘HSE will consider a range of actions to improve control of workplace risks’, ranging from the provision of specific advice to employers through to issuing enforcement notices’.

However, our concern about ‘non-essential’ organisations which are still working and unable to comply with social distancing remains unanswered.  Surely the risks associated with this far outweighs the ‘indeed it is important for business to carry on’ message in your ‘Social distancing, keeping businesses open and in-work activities during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak’ document?

In addition, many of the organisations which struggle to comply with social distancing also fail to comply with enhanced cleaning of tools and equipment, personal welfare facilities and even in offices, warehouses and manufacturing there is a lack of appreciation about the spread of the virus.

This seems to be in direct conflict with the government Public Health Guidance for trying to control the spread of COVID-19, and with the HSE’s Mission statement – HSE’s mission is to prevent death, injury and ill-health in Great Britain’s workplaces.

The government document says that if a ‘member of staff has helped someone who was taken unwell with a new, continuous cough or a high temperature, they do not need to go home unless they develop symptoms themselves’ and that the advice is for them ‘wash their hands’.  This is totally ridiculous, will continue the spread of the virus, put more workers at risk and again appears to be in conflict with government Public Health Guidance about self-isolating to reduce risk of transmission of COVID-19.

As previously stated, we continue to receive reports from workers – those who have insufficient PPE, are not trained in the use of the PPE or have the incorrect PPE in essential and non-essential work.  This can be the difference between being protected from a deadly virus or not and therefore there needs to be greater emphasis on the importance of PPE – its specification for different jobs and risks, and the quantity required to fully protect workers.

The HSE document ‘Research: review of personal protective equipment provided in health care settings to manage risk during coronavirus outbreak (COVID-19) is contradictory at best.  Surely if FFP3 respirators are required, FFP2 respirators will be inadequate for AGP work with known or suspected patients, when exposure to high viral load is great, or at the very least should only be used only for a short period of time with strict guidance?  And what evidence is being collected about ‘passed a face fit test’ and when will this be audited.  We would also say that eye protection is essential in all settings, where workers have to be closer than the minimum guidelines of 2m.

There has got to be a recognition that many of the workers who will have the most concerns, will be in workplaces where they are on precarious contracts and not in a trade union organised and supported workplace.  In these workplaces it will be impossible for them to resolve issues ‘through speaking with their employer or trade union’ first.  They risk losing their jobs.  There must be an alternative approach available.  The HSE helpline or an alternative option must be available for worried exposed workers.

We welcome your statement about looking to provide a ‘clear message about what you expect employers to do in the current situation’ and that must include reviewing and assessing the risks of the job, controlling them effectively and the consequences to workers health if they fail to do this.  When deciding on control measures where possible, this must include the option of work being carried out at home and providing workers with the equipment and tools to do it.  After also consulting with safety reps.

We conclude:

  • If the work cannot be carried out safely within the public health rules, then it should stop. No-one should be being placed at risk in non-essential workplaces and the HSE must be able to close down unsafe workplaces to protect workers, their families and the wider public health.
  • There must be a recognition that vulnerable workers need to be able to contact the HSE regardless of having reported it to their employer first.
  • In critical essential employment, workers must have the appropriate PPE, in adequate supplies, necessary to keep them safe and healthy and if not, they must be able to stop work until it is available.

We recognise these are unprecedented times, but all the risks workers are facing, are foreseeable and preventable and we believe it is the HSE’s duty, more than ever in such times, to ‘prevent death, injury and ill-health in Great Britain’s workplaces’ by taking a far more proactive role.

With best wishes

Janet Newsham
On behalf of Hazards Campaign
Chair of Hazards Campaign/ Coordinator of GMHC

Covid-19: Hazards Campaign – Request for action from HSE

Letter to the HSE

Martin Temple Chair of HSE Board and Sarah Albon CEO
Health and Safety Executive
Redgrave Court
Merton Road
Bootle
Merseyside
L20 7HS
30 March 2020

Dear Martin Temple, Sarah Albon,

We are weeks into the COVID19 pandemic and reports continue to arrive in our inbox of workers being exposed to unnecessary risks. This includes being left without any protection or controls of exposure to this dangerous virus. The messages from the Government have been confused at best and ignorant of the reality of working practices to the point of negligence to individual workers:

  • Stay at home
    • Only go outside for food, health reasons or work (but only if you cannot work from home)
    • If you go out, stay 2 metres (6ft) away from other people at all times
    • Wash your hands as soon as you get home
    • Do not meet others, even friends or family.
    • You can spread the virus even if you don’t have symptoms.
    https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus
  • When am I allowed to leave the house?
    o You should only leave the house for very limited purposes:
    o shopping for basic necessities, for example food and medicine, which must be as infrequent as possible
    o one form of exercise a day, for example a run, walk, or cycle – alone or with members of your household
    o any medical need, including to donate blood, avoid or escape risk of injury or harm, or to provide care or to help a vulnerable person
    o travelling for work purposes, but only where you cannot work from home• Should I stay at home or go to work?
    o You may travel for work purposes, but only where you cannot work from home.
    o Certain jobs require people to travel to their place of work – for instance if they operate machinery, work in construction or manufacturing, or are delivering front line services such as train and bus drivers.
    o Employers and employees should discuss their working arrangements, and employers should take every possible step to facilitate their employees working from home, including providing suitable IT and equipment to enable remote working.• I’m not a critical worker and I can’t work from home. What should I do?
    o If you cannot work from home then you can still travel to work. This is consistent with the Chief Medical Officer’s advice.
    o Critical workers are those who can still take their children to school or childcare. This critical worker definition does not affect whether or not you can travel to work – if you are not a critical worker, you may still travel to work provided you cannot work from home.
    o Anyone who has symptoms or is in a household where someone has symptoms should not go to work and should self-isolate.

    How can I find out if my work is essential or not?
    o The government is not saying only people doing “essential” work can go to work. Anyone who cannot work from home can still go to work.
    o Separately, there is a list of critical workers who can still take their children to school or childcare. Provision has been prioritised for these workers.
    o Every worker – whether critical or not – should work from home if they can but may otherwise travel to work.
    o We have also asked certain businesses where people gather, such as pubs and most shops, to close. Separate guidance has been published on this.

    Can I see my friends?
    o We must all stay away from each other to stop spreading the virus, and that means you should not be meeting friends unless you live in the same household.
    o Instead, you could keep in touch with your friends using phone or video calls.

    My boss is forcing me to go to work but I’m scared of coronavirus. What should I do?
    o Employers must make all efforts to help people to work from home where possible, as this will help limit the spread of the virus by reducing the amount of contact between people.
    o In some circumstances this may be impossible – this would apply to those working for a business or organisation that we have not asked to close and requires them to travel and be at work, such as train or bus drivers, construction workers, restaurant workers handling deliveries or those on the frontline like NHS workers.
    o For these workers who need to be at work, do not have symptoms or live with anyone who has symptoms, and are not vulnerable people, we have outlined clear guidance for employers to help protect workers.

    I can’t go to work because I need to look after my child, but my boss is threatening to sack me if I don’t. What should I do?
    o We would urge employers to take socially responsible decisions and listen to the concerns of their workforce – particularly when they have childcare responsibilities.
    o Employers and employees should come to an agreement about these arrangements.
    o If individuals need advice they should approach ACAS where they can get impartial advice about in-work disputes.

    What will happen to me if I break the rules?
    o We appreciate all the effort people are putting into containing the spread of coronavirus which will help protect our NHS and save lives.
    o However, if you leave your home or gather in public for any reason other than those specified, the police may:
    o instruct you to go home, leave an area or disperse
    o instruct you to take steps to stop your children breaking these rules if they have already done so
    o take you home – or arrest you – if you do not follow their instructions or where they deem it necessary
    o issue a fine (fixed penalty notice) of £60, which will be lowered to £30 if paid within 14 days.
    o issue a fine (fixed penalty notice) of £120 for second time offenders, doubling on each further repeat offence
    o Individuals who do not pay their fine could be taken to court, with magistrates able to impose unlimited fines.
    https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-outbreak-faqs-what-you-can-and-cant-do/coronavirus-outbreak-faqs-what-you-can-and-cant-do

     

  • Employers who have people in their offices or onsite should ensure that employees are able to follow Public Health England guidelines including, where possible, maintaining a 2 metre distance from others, and washing their hands with soap and water often, for at least 20 seconds (or using hand sanitiser gel if soap and water is not available).
    https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/further-businesses-and-premises-to-close/further-businesses-and-premises-to-close-guidance

But it is impossible to keep safe distance apart in some workplaces and on some jobs. An example of this are the thousands of construction workers on non-essential projects who are still working. Reducing the spread of Covid -19 is not just about social/physical distancing but about touch. Most work which cannot be done at home – 2/3 of workers are unable to work at home – in manufacturing, construction and warehousing for example, involves a lot of touching and handling of materials. In many there will be touch pad security systems, touched by all workers and uncleaned between. In most workplaces complying with the hand washing, cleaning surfaces and materials guidance will be completely impossible and thus breaches the general duty in S2 of Health and Safety at Work Act.

In our opinion those workplaces which are non-essential at this time and cannot guarantee the safety and health of their workers or the public they travel amongst on their way to and from work, or the families they go home to , and should be suspending operations, if the spread of the virus is to be slowed down. This is the only social distancing that will work. The law now potentially allows workers travelling to non-essential work to be stopped and fined, but does not seem to allow unsafe non-essential workplaces to be closed.

The Government has laid out which agencies who will monitor and enforce the new regulations which support their Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) Regulations 2020 and further advice has been issued:

5. Compliance
Everyone is instructed to comply with the rules issued by the government in relation to coronavirus, in order to protect both themselves and others.

As of 1pm on 26 March 2020 new Regulations extending the restrictions are now enforceable by law in England due to the threat to public health. These supersede Regulations that came into force at 2pm on 21 March 2020. They are enforceable in Wales from 4pm on 26 March 2020 and Scotland from 7.15pm on 26 March 2020.

Where an owner, proprietor or manager carrying out a business (or a person responsible for other premises) contravenes the Regulations, that person commits an offence.

In England, Environmental Health and Trading Standards officers will monitor compliance with these regulations, with police support provided if appropriate. Businesses and venues that breach them will be subject to prohibition notices, and fixed penalties. With the support of the police, prohibition notices can be used to require compliance with the Regulations including requiring that an activity ceases.

If prohibition notices are not followed, or fixed penalty notice not paid, you may also be taken to court with magistrates able to impose potentially unlimited fines.
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/further-businesses-and-premises-to-close/further-businesses-and-premises-to-close-guidance

Although this says Environmental Health, Trading Standards and Police will monitor compliance with these regulations this only applies to those workplaces specifically closed down by government regulations. It does not apply to construction, manufacturing and other non-essential work not listed. But this does not negate the responsibility of the HSE and LA Health and Safety Inspectors to continue to regulate and enforce Health and Safety Regulations in all workplaces both essential and non-essential workplaces. And in this case it will be around PPE – provision, appropriateness and quantity -, managing risks and introducing safe systems of work and control measures.

If the HSE and LA health and safety officers do not act, employers will continue to take advantage and place their workers at risk. Trade Unions are continuing to highlight many examples of bad employment practices and negligent employers and through collective action have forced employers to improve their practices, but we still need the enforcement bodies to act as well.
Workers are justifiably feeling abandoned, anxious and their physical and mental health is deteriorating leaving them more likely to be at risk from contracting the virus.

Please will you tell us what action the HSE is taking to protect workers in this unprecedented situation, so that we can pass this on to the thousands of workers currently feeling abandoned and unnecessarily exposed to life threatening risks. We specifically want to know what action the HSE is taking to:

1. Remind all employers in essential and non-essential workplaces that workers health and safety is paramount at all times, that normal health and safety duties and regulations apply and that #Covid19 means extra risks must be assessed and prevented in usual way – by elimination, collective control and appropriate and sufficient PPE as last resort.

2. Issue strong warnings to employers to review all Risk Assessments for the new Covid 19 risk and to introduce safe systems of work to protect workers.

3. Advise employers that if suitable and sufficient Risk Assessments show the risk of exposure to COVID19 cannot be reasonable prevented they must stop work.

4. Provide workers with information about risks to their health and what their employers should be doing. Closure of HSE Infoline in2011 has left workers without a lifeline and employers without advice. Surely at this time with inspectors working from home, the HSE helpline could be reintroduced to support these workers?

5. Respond to the ‘Report a Concern’ online form by next day with enforcement action to support workers health against employers who are breaching health and safety regulations. Will you accept photographic evidence available which is date stamped? This could be used to instruct employers to either improve the situation in workplaces or face Prohibition and Improvement Notices.

6. Enforce strongly the need for appropriate PPE in sufficient quantities to protect the health of all NHS, Care and other health and essential workers who are at greatest risk of exposure to Covid19.

We look forward to your speedy response as we need to advise workers now on what HSE is doing to protect them and by extension all of society.

Yours sincerely,

Janet Newsham
On behalf of the Hazards Campaign
Chair of Hazards Campaign / Coordinator of GMHC

c/o GMHC
Windrush Millennium Centre,
70 Alexandra Rd,
Manchester M16 7WD
janet@gmhazards.org.uk
Tel: 07734 317158