Category Archives: media

Hazards Campaign Thursday talk: Breast cancer awareness is not enough

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and every year thousands of people don pink outfits and collect money for a variety of breast cancer charities.  But this doesn’t get to the heart of the problem. This session will highlight some of the preventable occupational risks to breast cancer and what we should be doing in our workplaces and trade unions to challenge those risks.

Join the Hazards Campaign Thursday Talk on Thursday 29 October with speakers:

Jane McArthur – Work and Prevention SSHRC, University of Windsor, Canada

Helen Lynn – Alliance for Cancer prevention , Health and Environment Researcher

Jane Stewart – TUC General Council, Unite NEC and Chair Womens Committee, Unite Convener at Unilever Port sunlight

To book a place and receive the link to the meeting please go visit the Eventbrite page

Hazards Campaign

twitter @hazardscampaign

If you need more information please email:
or 07734 317 158

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.

If you would like to get more involved or make a donation to our organisation please email:

Hazards Campaign Thursday talk – The challenges of long-covid

On Thursday 15 October 2020 the Hazards Campaign Thursday Talk concentrated on the challenges of Long-Covid from a health, occupational health, legal and trade union organising perspective.

We were joined by speakers:

– Clare Rayner – ex clinician and member of several Long-Covid support groups
– Professor Raymond Agius who until recently was the  Director of the Centre for Occupational and Environmental Health at the University of Manchester
Phillip Liptrot – Senior personal injury specialist and a national lead for Thompsons solicitors in the North West
– Paul Holleran – GMB Regional education and health and safety officer for North West and Ireland

The event was organised on the basis that workplaces are a major transmission source and that any workplaces open should be certified as safe.  The topic for the event was about the chronic conditions of Covid-19, how it will impact in our workplaces, what employers should be doing to support workers, and what are the implications of defining it as an occupational disease and the legalities involved in ensuring employers support workers properly and how trade unions can tackle the issues.

Please follow the links for  presentations by Clare Rayner and Raymond Agius.

You can view a recording of the event here.

For further information relevant to the speakers and subject:

twitter @hazardscampaign

If you need more information please email:
or 07734 317 158

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.

If you would like to get more involved or make a donation to our organisation please email:

News Release – Grounding our grannies while white-washing workplace infections!

Hazards Campaign – News Release,

14th October 2020 (No embargo)

Grounding Grannies while white-washing workplace infections
The government’s new three tier system risks penalising the general public while leaving crammed schools, colleges and workplaces packed to the gills without the necessary support and oversight to maintain Covid safety, a campaign group has warned.

There is a recurring narrative by politicians and the media, that the transmissions of Covid-19,  is fuelled by misbehaving families and students shirking their responsibilities to our communities.  This ignores the evidence that workplaces are the major sites of infection and transmission, and this includes thousands of schools that have had to isolate children and staff.  Deaths and infections of workers  in working environments where the risks weren’t controlled are being ignored.

We are continually bombarded with images of students partying, families hugging and kissing but when there is an outbreak in a workplace it is said to be the workers fault because they shared cars or they celebrated together.  Individuals are scapegoated rather than the workplaces that are the cause.

The images of young people in bars, in restaurants, in clubs, in gyms weren’t intended to show the absurdity of opening up these venues or the transmission risks of being indoors without adequate ventilation or a lack of public awareness of aerosol risks, but to add to the narrative that out of control young people were spreading the virus.

All these places, including schools, colleges, universities, sandwich bars, fast food outlets, buses, trains are workplaces.  Workplaces with employers who have a legal responsibility to control the risks to their employees and anyone else who comes into their working environment. (1)

If people have contracted the virus on their premises or as part of their work activities then the employer has not carried out their duty of controlling the risks.  The legislation does say ‘as far as reasonably practicable’ which some say is a get out clause for employers, but they still have a legal duty to identify and assess those risks and put in place suitable and sufficient controls to prevent them and then to inform everyone of the controls that are in place and monitor them.

On the 15/10/20 the Hazards Campaign are organising a zoom on ‘the challenges of Long-Covid’. (2)  They will discuss the long-term ill health that is caused by Covid-19.  Janet Newsham Chair of the Hazards Campaign will say ‘everyone focuses on the deaths caused by Covid-19 but the long-term ill health is just as devastating for many people.  And if these infections were caused in workplaces where the risks of infection were not controlled, then employers are negligent in that duty, liable to compensate and support chronically sick workers and subject to reporting and investigation by the health and safety enforcement authorities.’(3)

‘The local authority and HSE enforcement teams have failed to ensure our workplaces are Covid-Safe (4) which means they have also failed to control the risks for workers and the public.  We need Covid-Safe workplaces.  We need Zero-Covid strategy (5) in place and we need ‘no return to workplaces until this happens’  No-one should be in workplaces where the risks aren’t controlled because Workers Health is Public Health and workplace infections will be transmitted back into our communities and other workplaces – spiralling infections out of control, as has happened.

‘Stop grounding our grannies, demonising our children, and white-washing the infections in our workplaces.’

As the mixed messaging from Government increases, we now know that the Government failed to follow their own scientific committee advice that SAGE gave weeks ago about the need for a National Lock-down and even the Labour Party have now joined the call for clearer rules and a Covid-circuit break to get track and trace in place and functioning.  Workers and others have been repeatedly promised rapid testing and tracing. In the last week or so further failings in this system have been graphically revealed and workers and their families remain at high risk because of these failings.

The Hazards Campaign are clear about the steps necessary to halt the exponential spread of the virus. There should be no return to workplaces, no opening up of workplaces, no workplaces operating where the risks aren’t being controlled and this should be certified by our enforcement authorities who have the regulatory powers to inspect and serve enforcement notices on employers who aren’t carrying out their duties. But this will take more resources, (6) and it needs a Government who are determined to stop the transmission of the virus.

3.   Prof Aigius report Covid-19: statutory means of scrutinizing workers’ deaths and disease
Further Information

For further information contact:
Janet Newsham

Hazards Campaign Thursday Talk – The Challenges of Long-Covid

Thursday Zoom Talk – 15th October,  6.00-7.30pm

The Challenges of Long-Covid – How we recognise it, public health and occupational health consequences, legal and workplace challenges.

Join the latest Hazards Campaign Thursday Zoom Talk with speakers including: …..

  • Clare Rayner – retired Clinician and involved with many long-covid groups
  • Professor Raymond Agius – Covid as an Occupational Illness
  • Phil Liptrott – Thompsons Solicitors
  • Paul Holleran –  NW GMB Health and Safety Officer

We have plenty to discuss and lots to campaign about  – especially on what we need to be doing in the workplace to support workers.

To book a place and receive the link to the meeting please go to  Eventbrite

For further information relevant to the speakers and subject:

twitter @hazardscampaign

If you need more information please email:
or 07734 317 158

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.

If you would like to get more involved or make a donation to our organisation please email:

‘We’ll be policed all the way to the factory gates’

Hazards Campaign news release, 30 September 2020

The Government has introduced new Covid-19 penalties aimed at individuals, which it blames for the increased transmission rates.

The National Hazards Campaign Chair Janet Newsham said “At a time when money should be spent preventing the spread of infections in schools, care homes, hospitals, meat processing plants, offices etc. the Government has chosen to set aside £60m for police and local authorities to enforce the new laws.  However, when workers are inside their factories, offices and other premises, there is little money being spent on enforcing safe control of the transmission risks and ensuring their health, safety and welfare.  Again, it seems like workers health is being regarded as different to public health. ”

At the 29 September 2020 zoom conference ‘Who is regulating the Regulators?’ Janet said that “Workplaces are not being inspected and many reports made to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) are being dealt with by phone calls to employers and with no physical inspection taking place.”

Employers are also failing in their legal duty to report work-related cases as a new report issued by Pirc found in the food sector (1).  There were just 47 notifications of Covid-19 workplace infections and no deaths were reported when the real number is at least 1,461 infections and 6 deaths in the food manufacturing sector.  But there are other sectors that are also suffering from spiralling infection rates including the health and social care sector, education and other high-risk employment.

A new report (2) by Professor Agius showed ‘many thousands’ of UK work-related cases and hundreds of deaths were being missed by the RIDDOR occupational accident and disease reporting system, backed up by a June warning from Hazards Magazine (3) of an ‘intelligence failure’ at the HSE, with the regulator ‘having little idea what was going on’.

Janet Newsham Hazards Campaign said “The Covid-safe charter that Independent Sage and Hazards Campaign produced (4) weeks ago, to ensure the safety and health of workers in all workplace settings has been ignored.   Rushing people back to unsafe workplaces at a time when transmission rates don’t even match the Governments own measurements for reopening society, never mind not following the science!  Instead they are blaming individuals rather than targeting the real culprits which are employers not controlling the risks.”

Within hours of opening schools, many were sending children back home to isolate.  Children were simply shooed back home and the stop, start education we feared began to happen.  Two weeks later, thousands of children and young people are back at home, staff infected, children infected, family members infected and the spiralling upwards of transmission rates, has hit our communities.  Their risks never controlled in their schools and education environments, which are of course also workplaces. (5)

The Governments demonising of young people at Universities is shameful.  Young people sent to live in shared flats with strangers from different communities (with different transmission rates) across the UK, where social distancing is impossible.  And the subsequent return of workers into non-essential workplaces was always going to be problematic on top of the workers who have continually worked throughout the pandemic.

The Hazards Campaign criticisms of the lack of enforcement and inadequate investigations into the cause of workplace clusters are public record. (6)   Public Health England (PHE), HSE and others have failed to ensure employers are controlling the risks for workers.  Leaving many infected, with long term ill health and some have sadly died. They have failed to investigate transmission risks, failed to enforce health and safety law and failed to hold employers to account for their negligence.  The TUC has recently polled workers (7) and have said that ‘many workplaces are still not taking adequate measures to protect employees from coronavirus’.

And this on the back of the chronic underfunding of the HSE and Local Authority (LA) enforcement bodies over decades, they are now facing the further threat and humiliation of privatisation of part of their roles.  A role that would place enforcement authority with compromised independence, and firmly in the hands of private sector.

Campaign Chair Janet Newsham continued: “If the transmission rates are to be reduced then we need health and safety law enforced and a Covid-19 safe workplace strategy in place, alongside a zero-Covid19 strategy that includes a high functioning and supportive test, track, trace, and isolate. If workplaces aren’t recognised as a source for transmission, then the UK transmission rates will continue to rise.  Policing of Covid-19 prevention, must not stop at the factory gates.”

  1. Unreported deaths – A PIRC sector briefing: Food preparation, September 2020, Alice Martin, Pensions & Investment Research Consultants.
  2. Covid-19: statutory means of scrutinizing workers’ deaths and disease, 21 September 2020, Occupational Medicine, R.M. Agius.
  3. Abdication:  HSE has been missing in action throughout the Covid-19 crisis, Hazards 150, 2020.
  4. The COVID-19 Safe Workplace Charter and briefing document on ending work lockdowns in GB, The Independent SAGE Report 10, 27 August 2020, The Independent Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE).
  5. Studies undermine Williamson’s ‘little evidence’ claim on school risks, 10 August 2020, Hazards Campaign.
  6. We predicted an explosion in workplace Covid-19 outbreaks – two weeks later that’s exactly what we’ve got, 20 August 2020, Hazards Campaign
  7. Many UK workplaces still not ‘Covid-Secure’, 16 September 2020, Risks 965, TUC.

Notes for Editors:
For more information, press only: W
Contact: Janet Newsham

Tel: 07734317158

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.

The Hazards Campaign
c/o Greater Manchester Hazards Centre
Windrush Millennium Centre
70 Alexandra Road
M16 7WD

twitter @hazardscampaign

The UK Government response is like a car skidding uncontrollably towards a brick wall

Hazards Campaign – News Release,

22nd September 2020 (No embargo)

At this week’s Hazards Campaign Thursday zoom ‘Where are the sirens?’, Janet Newsham chair of the Hazards Campaign will say “‘Applying the brakes?’ This is like the horrific images of the tsunami relentlessly and effortlessly swamping the beach town properties engulfing everything and anyone in their way . Or a car skidding uncontrollably towards the brick wall with the inevitable deadly consequences.  Brakes applied too little too late.  Warning sirens were not pressed before the wave of death swamps the population.” (1)

Early in May the Hazards Campaign said ‘there is no conflict between economic recovery and health because a healthy economic recovery requires healthy workers and people’, but to achieve it then we warned there should be no easing of the lock-down until seven preconditions were met.(2)  These preconditions remain just as valid today.  This Government has learnt no lessons from the deaths, disabilities, and ill health it has failed to control.

Some individuals and workplaces have taken precautions over and above what has been announced by Government.  Whilst others following Government mixed messaging, have carried on their business and put lives at risk without any caution.  It has led to workplace, school and community clusters.  Clusters that have led to the deaths of workers and increased the infection rate in local communities.

Our Government has been the sheep dragged kicking and screaming towards measures that will save some lives, but their sights have been firmly and continue to be firmly on the target of keeping the economy going and the result will be devastating financially for many businesses who will see extended economic disruption as our communities are awash with the virus.

In June, the Hazards Campaign challenged the Government’s easing of conditions that workers would be safe to return to workplaces under.  When the Government reduced the 2m distance to 1m or hardly any physical distancing between workers, we challenged this based on the scientific evidence available.  It was clear that there needed to be a precautionary approach to physical distancing, as aerosols were a far greater transmission risk of spreading the virus, especially inside buildings. (3)  We also called on the Government to adopt a zero Covid-19 policy. (4)

‘Staying Alert! what a nonsense.  Our Government hasn’t been alert to any of the advice until much of it is too late.  They locked down too late, they didn’t lock down all non-essential businesses.  Too preoccupied with the economy they went on to release the lock down again too early, they forced children back to unsafe schools and then workers back to unsafe workplaces.  They have blamed young people and families for spreading the virus, when their messages of go back to the pub, eat out and return to public transport and unsafe workplaces should have been the real focus of concern and stringent action.’

At the beginning of August the Hazards Campaign warned about the risks in schools and that it would drive up Covid-19 cases if the Government ignored the outbreak risks. (5) Then at the end of August we again challenged the Governments failure to acknowledge and act on workplace cluster warnings by forcing children back to school so that parents could return to work and as a consequence workplace cluster outbreaks were increasing. (6)

The Hazards Campaign followed that up with a joint report with the scientist group Independent Sage and called for ‘No workers to return to workplaces unless Covid safety plans are in place’. (7)
All these warnings and predictions about what would happen if they were ignored are unfortunately being proved right.  The Government has chosen to carry on regardless.

As the science has firmly moved from better hygiene to aerosol risks, the Government has been silent, even complicit in their lack of instruction to workplaces to ensure that the transmission of the virus in aerosols is controlled via low occupation, better ventilation and face mask/PPE wearing.  While Independent Sage and Hazards Campaign document of three weeks ago said that workplaces (which include schools, pubs, cafes etc) all workplaces needed to be Covid-safe and certified before opening, the Government ignored such advice.

Throughout the pandemic the Hazards Campaign have argued that a precautionary approach was needed to ensure the control of the transmission of the virus, that the Government had to break the cycle of transmission with full lock down of non-essential business and that they needed to follow a Zero-Covid strategy.

‘We have proof now that we need that Zero-Covid strategy,  we need Covid-safe workplaces and we need a fresh Government with their eyes wide open to proper defence of the population and away from a knee jerked, back of the fag packet after a pint down the local pub analysis and inaction.’

Notes to editors:

News release: Hazards Campaign and Independent SAGE call for no workers to return to workplaces unless Covid safety plans are in place

Hazards Campaign and Independent Sage call for no workers to return to workplaces unless Covid Safety Plans are in place and enforcement bodies have agreed them.

Press statement for immediate release

1st September 2020
Hazards campaign news release,1st September 2020 (No embargo)

The Hazards Campaign accurately predicted that the forced return to unsafe workplaces would fuel an explosion in workplace COVID19 outbreaks1. These continue to grow, now affecting hundreds more workers and their families in existing outbreaks with more new workplace clusters across the UK.

Another tranche of workplaces, schools, are due to open in England and Wales starting this week and the experience of Scotland with several serious school outbreaks highlights the dangers. The existing health and safety system is failing to protect workers communities and the economy.

The Hazards Campaign jointly presented a paper with Independent SAGE on how workers can safely return to workplaces on 28th August 2.  The paper calls for government investment in a tougher regulatory system to check up on employers, with more inspections and control by  the HSE and LA enforcement authorities to certify Covid-Safe workplaces before they open to ensure workers and communities are safe.

The Chair of the Hazards Campaign Janet Newsham said “Thousands of workers have become ill and hundreds have died because risks of Covid-19 infection and transmission haven’t been controlled in the workplace. As hundreds of thousands of workers are urged to travel and return to indoor workplaces with colleagues, after a period of working alone from home, unless there is external verification that employers have properly assessed and controlled all the risk of infection and transmission, including from aerosols 3, there will be more outbreaks and  start local restrictions.

“The joint report includes a Covid-19 safe workplace charter which concentrates on three main areas: Employers responsibilities, Regulators responsibilities and Central Government responsibilities.  In addition to certification of workplaces, the charter calls on Government to legislate for ‘Roving Safety Reps’, increased funding and resources for enforcement, and sufficient financial support for workers to be able to self-isolate or take sick leave without loss of earnings.

“For weeks now we have been recording clusters of workers who have tested positive, become ill or died from Covid-19 and the numbers involved clearly indicate they have become infected in workplaces.  The reasons are because workplaces have failed to provide the necessary control of transmission risks -physical distancing, increased cleaning and control of aerosol transmission by increased and improved ventilation with fewer workers in confined indoor spaces.  They are also because workers have no safe travel to work or they are unable to isolate or take sick leave when they are unwell or have been in contact with an infected person because they do not get full pay either having to rely on Statutory Sick Pay or not entitled to even that pittance. Rapid spread of workplace infections is also caused by the ineffective national privatised  Find, Track, Trace and Isolate system in place, and the local much more effective systems are starved of cash and resources.

“If these incidents are not recorded, investigated and acted on then improvements to working conditions that spread the disease will not be implemented fast enough to stop the spread and more workplaces will have to lock-down.  This isn’t good for the health of workers or the economy.

“Many employers have worked hard to ensure the mental and physical health of their workers during this pandemic, many working closely with their union safety reps but unless all employers control the risks then the virus will spread into the community and into other workplaces.

“The charter has the support of trade unions, the Society of Occupational Medicine and the Collegium Ramazzini and has been welcomed by the TUC.

“This is an important report and it is welcomed by the TUC.  Health and Safety is a paramount concern and employers, government and its agencies all need to take the right and necessary actions to minimise risk and prevent further coronavirus infections, support the economy and rebuild confidence.”

For more information, press only:
Contact: Janet Newsham
Tel: 0773 431 7158

Notes for Editors:
1. We predicted an explosion in workplace Covid-19 outbreaks- 2 weeks later that’s exactly what we’ve got
2 .Youtube recording of the presentation:
Joint Independent Sage and Hazards Campaign Report:
3. KEEP YOUR DISTANCE: Is two metres too far or not far enough to protect from COVID-19 and who benefits and who loses if it is reduced ? Hazards Campaign, 22nd June 2020

For more 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 details:

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


We predicted an explosion in workplace Covid-19 outbreaks – two weeks later that’s exactly what we’ve got

We predicted an explosion in workplace outbreaks, as workers were forced back to work – two weeks later that is exactly what we’ve got

Hazards campaign news release, 20th August 2020 (No embargo)

The workplace is emerging as the new frontline for Covid-19 spread, after the UK government and health agencies ignored warnings on the dangers of a rush back to work, occupational health experts have warned.

Janet Newsham, the chair of the national Hazards Campaign says: ‘We’ve got an unprecedented abdication of responsibility by HSE, which has never before eschewed its enforcement responsibility this way, or denied oversight to protect workers in workplaces where deadly disease risks, carcinogens and major accident hazards can be encountered. They have been AWOL throughout the pandemic and as a result workers have died and many more have been left with long term serious ill health’.

The Hazards Campaign has raised concerns about the unsafe opening of workplaces, including schools. ‘While the community transmission is so high reopening of schools will massively increase contacts between potentially infected individuals and will lead to pressure for more people to return to workplaces, greatly increasing risks.’

Over the last four weeks, Public Health England (PHE) figures (1) show the ‘workplace’ has emerged as the second most common site of Covid-19 ‘situations/incidents’, trailing only care homes. PHE’s definition of workplaces does not include work-related Covid incidents in hospitals, schools or prisons, so under-estimates the real extent of occupationally-related cases.

Evidence elsewhere, including France (2) and Germany (3), show workplaces are the new frontline for virus spread. Without adequate protection, rights and oversight, we are going to give the pandemic a whole new lease of life and the economy will continue to be decimated. A recent report ‘COVID-19 clusters and outbreaks in occupational settings in the EU/EEA and the UK’ published on the 11th August, 2020 details some of the occupational outbreaks across Europe. (3)

The Hazards Campaign has been tracking workplace outbreaks and its dossier shows food production remains a major hotspot for outbreaks, but there is a clear indication that the problem is wider, with multiple clusters also occurring in factories, schools, hospitality and other sectors.

At the start of the outbreak we were promised a ‘Covid-Secure’ return to work. What we have got instead is government-driven stampede back into workplaces, without the necessary oversight or support for workers or for businesses. The Government are forcing children back into unsafe schools, so that parents can return to unsafe workplaces and the chaotic and irresponsible opening of pubs, clubs and gyms during a high transmission of a potentially fatal disease is madness. The Government must also ensure that all workers are able to access statutory sick pay and there is an extension of the furlough programme to restrict the transmission of the virus (4).

The Covid-19 workplace clusters that are now appearing all over the country, are being put down to individuals breaking the rules, but when that coincides with workplaces closing down, mass testing of workers and mass positive results of the same workers, then this is uncontrolled transmission of the virus in workplaces, especially where workers are working inside buildings with an aerosol risk of transmission. (5)

If our society is to open schools then the transmission must be low, and track, trace and isolate must be fully functioning at a high level of contact and all the risks in that workplace must be controlled at a precautionary level. The enforcement authorities must act now to ensure that employers can demonstrate that they are carrying out their health and safety legal duties. This cant be based on ‘suck it and see’, or on the body bags that pile up, where risks are not controlled. It has to be right first time, and it has to include the full control of all the known risks.

There is a lot more evidence to show the extent of transmission of the virus on surfaces, and by aerosols. (6) This means new ways of working, new facilities and more resources to keep work safe. It means working from home as far as possible, not using public transport unless essential, it means remote teaching and learning, it means utilising new and existing premises to spread people out, it means shift working and shift management, it means controlling and increasing ventilation, it means less people at a time in workplaces, it may mean more people working less hours or different hours and it means working with trade unions and safety representatives to identify and control all the risks.

We need a community, collective and carefully controlled response to stopping the transmission of the virus, so that we can eventually reduce the controls necessary, return to normal working and hopefully a vaccination is found.

Notes to editors

1. PHE Weekly Report, Week 33, released 14 August 2020
2. Workplaces – not parties – ‘the biggest source of coronavirus contagion in France’ The Local FR,  3rd August 2020
3. COVID-19 clusters and outbreaks in occupational settings in the EU/EEA and the UK, 11 August 2020,  European Centre for Diseases and Protection
4. Economic Aspects of the COVID-19 Crisis in the UK, The DELVE Initiative, 14 August 2020.
5. Recognizing and controlling airborne transmission of SARS‐CoV‐2 in indoor environments, Joseph G. Allen and Linsey C. Marr, Indoor Air, 19 June 2020.
6. KEEP YOUR DISTANCE: Is two metres too far or not far enough to protect from COVID-19 and who benefits and who loses if it is reduced ? Hazards Campaign, 22nd June 2020

Further information

Media enquiries

Janet Newsham
Tel: 07734 317 158


Studies undermine Williamson’s ‘little evidence’ claim on school risks

Hazards campaign news release, 11 August 2020 (No embargo)

A series of studies, including two in recent days from UK experts, discredit claims by education secretary Gavin Williamson that there is ‘little evidence’ of a Covid-19 transmission risk in schools, workplace safety advocates have warned.

The safe-to-return claim by Gavin Williamson is patently untrue and could drive an upturn in Covid-19 cases.

“The safe-to-return claim by Gavin Williamson is patently untrue and could drive an upturn in Covid-19 cases,” said Janet Newsham, the chair of the national Hazards Campaign. “The education secretary is either ignorant of or choosing to ignore considerable evidence of outbreak risks in schools.  He is also failing to acknowledge the detrimental consequences of a ‘stop-start’ disruption to schooling and the economy as local flare-ups continue.”

The campaigners point to a study1 published on 24 July that concluded there is “evidence of robust spread of SARS-CoV-2 in high schools, and more limited spread in primary schools. Some countries with relatively large class sizes in primary schools (eg. Chile and Israel) reported sizeable outbreaks in some of those schools.” The paper, co-authored by Muge Cevik from the NHS Lothian Infection Service and the University of St Andrews, noted “these reports suggest that classroom crowding and other factors related to social distancing in classrooms/schools may play a role in the spread of SARS-CoV-2 in primary schools. Those findings should have implications for school openings in different age groups of children, and they suggest the need to better protect adults over the age of 60 during the community spread of SARS-CoV-2.”

A second study2 published on 3 August by scientists from University College London (UCL) and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine found current testing and contact tracing levels are not sufficient to prevent a second wave of coronavirus after schools reopen. The researchers, who found the track-trace-isolate system was not up to the task, warned: “Without sufficient coverage of a test-trace-isolate strategy the UK risks a serious second epidemic peak either in December or February.”

The Hazards Campaign is also concerned the move will coincide with a relaxation of lockdown rules and government pressure for a reduction in working from home. “The government is failing to take adequate account of a simultaneous wider return to work, which our tracking of UK workplace clusters indicates could be the focus for increasing local outbreaks in offices, factories and other workplaces,” Newsham said. “We have the double jeopardy of return to schools without the essential trace-trace-isolate system in place and a return to work with oversight by workplace safety regulators at a virtual standstill.”

Newsham concluded: “Education in the UK is being damaged by neglected and dangerous infrastructure, poorly resourced classrooms and education staff stressed-out through understaffing and overwork,” said Newsham. “Crowding kids back into these schools is a unnecessary gamble and could be counterproductive, setting back Covid-19 prevent efforts and lead to further shutdowns.”

Latest Public Health England figures3 show workplace cases are an increasing proportion of overall Covid-19 infections and the great majority of cases are in working age people.

Notes to editors

Hazards Campaign coronavirus hub:

  1. Edward Goldstein, Marc Lipsitch, Muge Cevik, On the effect of age on the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in households, schools and the community, medRxiv preprint, 24 July 2020. doi:
  2. Jasmina Panovska-Griffiths and others, Determining the optimal strategy for reopening schools, the impact of test and trace interventions, and the risk of occurrence of a second COVID-19 epidemic wave in the UK: a modelling study, Lancet Child and Adolescent Health, Online first 3 August 2020. DOI:
  3. Weekly Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Surveillance Report, Week 32, PHE, 7 August 2020

The Hazards Campaign calls for the government to adopt immediately a zero-Covid19 policy

Hazards Campaign calls for  the UK government to adopt immediately a zero-Covid19 policy with prevention of work-related infection and transmission a priority – or the resignation of the Prime Minster

Press Statement For Immediate Release 31/7/20

Hazards Campaign demands the Government implements a policy of zero Covid-19 transmission to drive down infection rate, save health and lives and ends it’s knee jerk reactionary responses to the transmission which blames individuals rather than its own incompetence.

The Government has created a chaotic and irrational response to the continuing transmission of the virus, ignoring work as a major site of infection and transmission, which will inevitably lead to deaths and more people left with debilitating health conditions. It will also prevent any return to normal life.

Last night’s 11th hour announcement in Greater Manchester, parts of Lancashire and Yorkshire, for a partial return to lock-down is causing community mistrust and anger as it comes just a few hours before Eid and affects many Asian communities. It shows panic and lack of consultation and planning, and will lead to confusion about the rules and mistrust of following them.

The government lockdown came too late, and eased restrictions too early in a race to return to work when it had not met even its own five tests, let alone Hazards Campaign and teaching union more stringent requirements. Government failures on test, track and trace left local councils and public health authorities without sufficient information such as where people work. It has deprived them of the tools needed to stop outbreaks fast and to communicate concerns with their communities about the continuing track to returning to restricted living.

For Government policies to work, they have to have the trust and confidence of the population but this Government has failed to gain that support. In fact through actions like the ‘Cummingsgate’ saga, they have destroyed and sabotaged the support they need to protect lives. Stupid announcements that accuse ordinary people of failings while at the same time exonerating officials and ministers who fail to act in accordance with their own laws, is putting the return to work and lives at great risk .

The UK and in particular England has one of the worst death and transmission statistics in the world. This isn’t because we are unlucky but because the Government has failed to act, failed to protect and failed in its job to put the health of its people before profits. Workers health is public health. The Government failed to prevent transmission and spread of Covid-19 at work. By not providing good information, support and enforcement action for workers it is creating environments for the virus to spread at work, amongst workers’ families and into the whole community. This is nothing less than ‘social murder’.

The Hazards Campaign calls for Government to immediately adopt a zero-Covid19 policy with prevention of work-related infection and transmission a priority or the resignation of the Prime Minister if he refuses to do this. We call for financial resources and support to involve workers, their unions, health and safety authorities and local public health in stamping out the pandemic at work.

Janet Newsham, Chair of Hazards Campaign said:

“We are calling for the resignation of the PM because he has lost the trust and confidence of the population and with that the ability to drive the virus out of our country which is essential for the future mental and physical health of its people”

‘The North of England is in chaos, following closely behind the Leicester saga and hundreds of workplace outbreaks across the country since the unplanned chaotic return to work started. People are angry that pubs and restaurants will stay open when visits to family are stopped. It makes no sense and will not protect and save people’s lives, nor will it regenerate the economy, it will only extend the misery that this Government has inflicted on its people.’

‘Much of the current mess is because of failed enforcement in workplaces, failed lock-downs and controls of the risks, none of which has been mentioned but the Government chooses to blame individuals and not their own incompetence.’

For more information, press only
Contact: Janet Newsham
Tel: 07734317158