The Hazards Campaign has developed a safety campaigning document based around nine major organising demands. It is a working document intended to stimulate discussion, educate, agitate, organise and politicise health and safety.
“It is a living, working document.”
Please participate, contribute to improving it and use it to stop work killing, injuring and making us ill. If you have any comments or suggestions please add them to this post or contact us by email.
The nine major demands are:
Full enforcement and extension of the role and statutory functions of TU Safety Reps
Improvement and strengthening of Health, Safety and Welfare Regulations
Enforcement of Health, Safety and Welfare Regulations
Just treatment for victims of health and safety crime
Decent work (good pay and conditions) for all workers
Government to strengthen and promote good health, safety and welfare in communities and workplaces
Strongest level of International regulations and standards on occupational health, safety and welfare
Strengthen and increase participation in International Workers Memorial Day
Safety Reps @ 40: Still Vital to the Future of Safe and Healthy Work!
Hazards Conference 2018
The 29th Hazards Conference was held at Keele University, 27–29 July, 2018. It is the UK’s biggest and best educational and organising event for trade union safety reps and activists. It consisted of a mixture of plenary sessions, meetings and a comprehensive workshop programme. Delegates took the opportunity to exchange experience and information with, and learn from, safety reps
and activists from other unions, sectors and jobs across the UK. Hazards 2018 addressed some of the most important issues facing workers providing practical skills, improving knowledge and giving delegates a new confidence to conduct their roles in the workplace.
Find below a full report of the conference compiled by Janet Newsham and Hilda Palmer – it includes numerous links to course materials, presentations and resources.
The Hazards Conference opened with a great session on the Friday evening, when more than 320 delegates from all over the UK, from different industrial sectors, different workplaces and different trade unions registered and attended the first plenary at this year’s Hazards Conference.
Each delegate received a bag full of important and relevant information and the bag proudly proclaimed ‘You gotta fight for the right to safety!’ Included in the bag were the Hazards Campaign leaflets on supporting solidarity action with ‘Fast food workers’ and ‘Care workers’. Also a newly developed leaflet on SRSC Regs – a sort of mini brown book with information about key dates, links and contacts which reps can hang around their necks on lanyards and further copies can be ordered from GMHC – firstname.lastname@example.org or 0161 636 7558.
The Hazards Campaign is developing a charter and the first draft of the charter was shared with delegates for further comment.
Finally along with important information from campaign groups, trade unions, there was also the latest copy of Hazards Magazine.
This is one of the most important publications for health and safety reps to keep up with the latest developments, news and topics.
Finally, all delegates received a Hazards 2018 commemorative badge.
The Falling Tears stained glass window
The Friday plenary was chaired by Doug Russell USDAW National Health and Safety Officer; we were moved to tears by Louise Taggart whose brother sadly died as a result of being electrocuted at work. Louise is a founder member of Families Against Corporate Killing (FACK), an organisation set up in 2006 to fight for justice for all families and for safer workplaces for everyone. Louise’s brother Michael Adamson was killed at work in 2005 aged 26 years. She said she wanted to make his life count and to stop anyone else suffering the way her family had. Louise used the Hazards Campaign: The Whole Story and gave many examples of the deaths of people who are invisible in the HSE figures, because the HSE do not include them as workplace deaths in the records that they count. These include people who are killed in road traffic incidents, in air crashes, those killed at sea, those who die as a result of suicide which is workplace related. And the thousands who die as a result of illnesses because of their work or workplace. This was such a moving and powerful contribution and there were not many dry eyes in the hall at the end of her contribution.
Our international speaker was Asli Odman from Istanbul Workers’ Health and Work Safety Assembly. Because of the volatile political situation in Turkey, we were uncertain Asli would be able to leave Turkey to come to the UK to speak, so her contribution was even more valued and welcome. Asli spoke about the large numbers of workers dying at work and the work they are doing in Turkey to record deaths and investigate patterns and causes. She explained that there is a problem getting information from the Government and their organisation has to scan local and national press to find out about the work related deaths. They also actively support workers seeking justice. Everyday there are at least 20/30 deaths due to work related reasons which Asli described as being like a war in workplaces. They call their work related deaths ‘work related murders’! Last year 2006 people were murdered and this included 453 in the construction industry. She also explained that women are largely invisible in the figures because their work is often not registered as being done in a workplace and therefore injuries are not recorded. Asli said that one of the reasons for poor health and safety in the workplace is because of a decreasing number of trade union members. Membership of unions has dropped from 24% to 4% in the last 30 years. Annually they produce a book detailing the deaths of workers. Finally every month they hold a vigil to all those workers who have been killed. Asli explained that she has been inspired by Hazards Magazine, International Workers Memorial Day and Families Against Corporate Killing.
Steve Tombs our final speaker on Friday evening spoke passionately about why Grenfell Tower tragedy is social murder. He said that Grenfell is a symbol of the consequences of deregulation, austerity, cuts and capitalism’s contempt. Steve spoke about the convictions which have already taken place because of Grenfell. There have been 7 and are nothing to do with the fire. He spoke about the gap between rich and poor. The people still waiting to be rehoused despite promises, the physical, emotional, psychological, cultural and financial harm being done to those affected by the fire. He spoke about the long term systematic attack on regulation which Governments must have known would consequentially result in death. It was foreseeable and that therefore this is social murder.
Delegates at the Hazards 2018 conference stood united in solidarity with all the victims of the Grenfell Tower tragedy fighting for justice and also with the Fire Brigades Union members being scrutinised unfairly in the public inquiry. We demand that those who are responsible for the deaths, injuries and continued trauma of families, friends, neighbours and firefighters are held accountable. Those responsible for the deregulation of fire safety, the lack of enforcement of building regulations, those who treated residents of Grenfell Tower with total disregard for their safety and welfare and those whose inhumanity created the foreseen tragedy of the fire. We demand justice for Grenfell!
A day packed with workshops, meetings and campaign meetings with the evening free for network and discussion. The day began early with two workshops followed by a main meeting and then a campaign meeting.
Saturday – Workshops
(a) Reps Functions and employers duties, Julie Weekes (b) Reps Functions and employers duties, Michelle Marshall
Meeting 1: From menstruation to menopause! Why do we need a gender sensitive approach to occupational safety and health.
Chair: Tracey Harding – Meeting 1 – Links
Speakers: Lynsey Mann and Andrea Oates – more
Meeting 2: How do we challenge the consequences of privatisation, commercialisation and marketisation of the deregulation agenda and the selective enforcement of health and safety laws? Chair: Hilda Palmer – Meeting 2 Report
Speakers: Neil Hope-Collins and Steve Tombs
Meeting 3: Why is transparency in the supply chain necessary in advancing the health, safety and welfare of workers both nationally and internationally?
Chair: Sara Marsden
Speakers: Kathy Jenkins – Meeting 3 report, Stirling Smith – more and Asli Odman
Meeting 4: Is mental ill health a consequence of the intensification of working practices and bad management in our workplaces and what should we do about it?
Chair: Ian Tasker
Speakers: Dan Shears – more, Joan McNulty – more and Adam Lincoln – more
Meeting 1: From Menstruation To Menopause with the GMB
Saturday – Campaign Meetings
Campaign meeting 1: Climate Change and Air Pollution
Speakers: Adam Lincoln and Graham Petersen
Campaign meeting 2: Why should Trade Unions use health and safety as an organising tool? Chair: Janet Newsham – meeting report
Speakers: Neil Hope-Collins, Ian Hodson – YouTube and Ali Waqaar
Campaign meeting 3: International solidarity to combat attacks on workers: lives and health Speakers: Kathy Jenkins – meeting report, Sara Marsden and Asli Odman
Sunday was a ‘barn storming’ morning with inspirational, interesting and dynamic speakers.
Although on the face of it, 5 is a lot of speakers – they were all great to listen to, they held our attention and the two hours passed as though it had been just minutes. Each speaker received a standing ovation and the audience was mesmerised and listened intently to each individual contribution, laughing where appropriate, indignant where there was cause and overall inspired by the lessons, leaving ready to challenge and improve the health and safety in their workplaces and provide solidarity to those in other unions and other workplaces.
Sunday began with a presentation by Hilda Palmer to Ian Draper of the Hazards Campaign Silver badge in recognition of his work in the UK Stress Network and his work on behalf of the Hazards Campaign in the European Work Hazards Network. Ian then drew the raffle for the Leigh Day IPad.
Janet Newsham introduced the session by saying that the conference was more than any other trade union conference and that she hoped everyone felt that they belonged to the health and safety family of the Hazards Campaign. A family with a common aim of keeping our friends and colleagues safe at work and with a network that extends beyond borders to sister organisations in places like Turkey, beyond sectors, industries, companies and organisations and brings everyone together to keep us all safe at work. Janet referred to the speech Hilda Palmer had made previously when she said health and safety was all about love and that no one should suffer the heartache that Louise Taggart had so movingly spoken about at the Friday plenary session. No one should suffer never seeing their loved ones again because of the negligence and total disregard of workers safety. And also the safety of our friends and families as they sleep in their homes, eat out or enjoy their short period of leisure.
Kevin Rowan said that no one else does the role of health and safety reps. He said that if every rep carried out just one inspection a year that would be 100,000 inspections. The HSE carry out just 20,000 inspections. And of those they find 10,000 serious breaches! In a recent roadside inspection of lorries, 90% of the lorries inspected were not loaded correctly. Kevin said that Trade Unions have a legitimate voice and we need to champion our successes more.
Audrey White showed a clip from a film that was made about her with Glenda Jackson playing her part. It was about the sexual harassment of 4 women shop assistants when she was a manager at Lady at Lord John in Liverpool and her subsequent dismissal for challenging him. Audrey’s story is inspiring; she went on strike supported by local T&G trade union members from the docks and road transport. She picketed the store and eventually after escalating the action won her case. Audrey spoke about why sexual harassment is a health and safety issue and the continuing need to challenge it.
Ali Waqaar, a McDonalds McStriker spoke about the health and safety challenges for young workers and in particular the dire conditions that many fast food workers are facing in ‘warzone’ like conditions from overwhelming queues of people, violence, drunkenness, and the consequential burns, injuries and stress caused to the workers. He accused McDonalds of victimisation and the need for workers to join trade unions and challenge these unacceptable conditions. Ali described himself as a ‘warrior poet’ – he said working in McDonalds was like the current in the ocean – always moving, always asked to do something, lift something, orders flooding through.
Dave Smith spoke about the importance of collective action. Dave writes a regular column, Organising 101, in Hazards Magazine which illustrates collective and creative action that could be taken to challenge unsafe and unhealthy working practices. He spoke about some of the challenges he had faced in the construction industry where in the 70’s one construction worker died every day and now 38 deaths a year from incidents and we can celebrate our role in that decline in deaths. He emphasised the need to continue to hold these companies to account. He said it was never about one person but always about the collective and that we are on the side of the angels.
Ian Hodson gave a brilliant speech to end the conference. He spoke about the importance of not blaming migrant workers for deteriorating pay and conditions at work. He thanked the Hazards Campaign for keeping health and safety at the top of trade unions agendas when health and safety was being attacked, deregulated and undermined. Ian recognised the important role of health and safety reps and trade union activists and said that we will make a difference in our workplaces if we stand together and work collectively.
The conference closed at 12.00pm. There has been some great feedback: one or two issues to improve on for next year and some great suggestions to consider, but overall summed up by one new delegate as ‘First Hazards experience did not disappoint + would definitely return again. A must for safety reps!’
A final thanks to all the staff at Keele for their support, patience and response to our many requests and challenges. A big thanks to all the GMHC staff for organising, administrating and delivering the conference. Thanks to all the volunteers who run the registration desk, help, support people with access needs and generally run to respond to delegates needs. Thanks to the workshop, meeting and campaign meeting speakers and tutors and for the plenary speakers who have inspired and challenged us all. Thanks to our photographers, and video recorders: Jawad, Nick and Cath. A special thanks to all the Trade Unions – nationally, regionally, at branch and workplace, Trade Union Councils, Hazards Centres, Solicitors and other campaigning organisations and individuals for supporting and sponsoring the conference. Finally, thanks to the hundreds of delegates for attending, contributing, networking and sharing their knowledge, challenges and successes with other delegates.
YouTube and PowerPoint resources from the Sunday Plenary
The latest HSE provisional figures for workplace fatal injuries in Great Britain show 144 fatally injured between 1 April 2017 and 31 March 2018 which is nine more lives lost in preventable incidents than the year before 2016/17.
Coming a year after the Grenfell fire, and just before the 30th anniversary of the Piper Alpha fire which killed 167 workers, the upward trend is worrying. The Cullen Report into the Piper Alpha disaster led to tighter regulations and enforcement of fire safety offshore. Health and safety regulations written in the blood of the Piper Alpha workers undoubtedly saved many lives over the years but the lessons were not learned across all industries and could have prevented Grenfell .
In fact the need for strong fire safety laws, standards and enforcement has been totally rejected by governments intent on cutting regulations on fire safety to spare the ‘burden on business’. This obsession with deregulating has shifted the burden to us, to workers, and the residents of Grenfell and other high rise tower blocks
Work deaths were dropping steadily up to 2010 when the Tory/Lib Dem coalition turbo charged deregulation with the ‘Red Tape Challenge’ and attacks on HSE, but have plateaued since. Now the trend is going in wrong direction. Work deaths are going up while the government obsession with deregulation is just as strong and just as deadly. Anecdotal reports from offshore workers show they fear things are going backwards in terms of safety offshore, and fear that, as at Piper Alpha, profits are being put before workers’ lives.
Significantly HSE’s fatality figures show that 40% of the deaths were to workers aged 60 or over while this group only make up 10% of the workforce. The rate of fatal injury rises steeply from the 55-59 years age group, and is highest in the 65+ age group where it is almost five times the rate for all ages. This raises questions about the lack of management of risks to ageing workers, and also that the increase in state pension age means many more people will die at work. Agriculture which has the oldest workforce has the highest rate of fatalities at 18 times the average for all work.
Waste and recycling has a fatality rate 16 times the average, and has a low level of unionisation which is known to make work safer, and employs a larger proportion of more vulnerable migrant workers.
Construction still has a higher than average death rate at around four times the average and killed the largest number of workers at 38 for 2017/18.
But HSE official ‘144 killed by work’ is only the tip of the iceberg which we estimate at more like 140 a day dying from work! Hazards Campaign’s report The Whole Story explains that the 2017/18 144 worker deaths reported by the HSE plus another 100 members of the public is pretty horrifying but isn’t even the full total of those killed while working, let alone all those killed by work illnesses and dying often years later.
The HSE only counts those killed at work in incidents which are reportable to HSE and Local Authorities under RIDDOR . It excludes all those killed while at work on the roads, at sea and in the air – as their report makes clear in the Technical Note on page 13. It also excludes work-related suicides, which are not reportable under RIDDOR and are not even investigated. Although HSE records 100 members of the public killed, it does not add them to the total and report them. It does not include the 72 people killed at Grenfell arguably due to the work-activity of refurbishing which turned it into a death trap.
These HSE statistics only refer to fatalities in incidents at work, not due to illnesses, but they are frequently reported as a total death caused by work figure. To the totals of around 1,500 killed by work-related incidents, must be added the estimated 50,000 dying from disease caused by poor working conditions.
Evidence is piling up that shows what makes work safer and reduces deaths is strong unions, strict enforcement and strong, active unions . To reverse the upward trend in preventable deaths caused by work, the Hazards Campaign calls for the strict enforcement of laws and employers duties to workers, stronger laws, repealing of anti trade union laws and more rights for workers to know the risk they face, to enable participation in workplace health and safety, and the right to refuse dangerous work. The Hazards Campaign calls for an end to deregulation of the protective health and safety system which has been fully and publicly exposed as deadly by the Grenfell fire . We call for an end to the government enabled downward slide into a third world, informal precarious economy which is bad for workers, bad for the economy, everyone.
Every day this comes to about 140 people killed because of work.
Louise Taggart recently voted Most Influential Health and Safety Person at SHP Expo illustrates ‘ The Whole Story’ in a soap box talk.
28 April Hazards Campaign poster – Unions make work safer
Hazards Campaign has produced the two posters below to mark International Workers’ Memorial Day. A4 and A3 versions – ideal for demos, vigils, noticeboards and meetings – can be ordered here. Free to unions and campaigners (plus postage) .
As the nation watched in horror as fire ripped through Grenfell Tower, questions about government culpability were being asked. The Conservatives have discarded critical fire, building, product, environmental and workplace safety protections and shackled and starved regulators. A government with a criminal disregard for human life has now been left with blood on its hands.
The Hazards Campaign warned the government repeatedly that its ideological obsession with cutting red tape is a deadly mistake. After the Grenfell disaster the Hazards Campaign says: “Enough is enough. Stop undermining the laws that protect us.”
Choose and sign-up for ONE Saturday Campaign meeting at Registration Listed here.
17.00 – 19.30 Evening Meal
19.30 – 21.00 Opening Plenary in Westminster Theatre
Chair:Doug Russell, USDAW; opening remarks Speakers:Janet Newsham, Hazards Campaign: Welcome and Conference arrangements; Jessica Martinez, Director National COSH, USA; Dan Shears, GMB; Tracey Seward, FACK; Mick Lancaster GMB/FACK
Saturday 29th July
07.30 – 9.00 Registration for later arrivals/non-residential delegates
07.00 – 08.45 Breakfast
09.00 – 10.30 First Workshop Session
10.30– 11.00 Tea/Coffee Break
11.00 – 12.30 Second Workshop Session
12.30 – 14.00 Lunch
14.00 – 15.45Three Meetings
Challenging the individual therapy view versus collective action to prevent work causing mental ill-health Chair: Hugh Robertson, TUC; Speaker: Paul Maloney, Psychologist, author of ‘The Therapy Industry’
Towards zero work-related cancer Chair: Kathy Jenkins, Scottish Hazards; Speakers: Helen Lynn Alliance for Cancer Prevention; Susan Murray UNITE
Using new methods of organising on health and safety Chair: Janet Newsham, GM Hazards Centre; Speakers: Barry Faulkner, UNITE; Gareth Lane BFAWU; Michael Newman, Leigh Day; Bryan Simpson, Better than Zero.
15.45 – 16.00 Tea/Coffee Break
16.00 – 17.30 Campaign Meetings – Room allocation signs are displayed at Registration
19.00 – 20.30 Dinner
Sunday 30th July
07.30 – 09.15 Breakfast
Clear rooms- bring cases to secure room in registration area
10.00 – 12.00 Closing Plenary in Westminster theatre
Chair: Hazards Campaign: ‘Enough is Enough: End deregulation now !
Speakers: Matt Wrack, General Secretary, FBU, Hazards Campaign; Others tbc;
12.00 – 13.30 Packed Lunch – eat with us or take away & depart
Don’t forget to complete an evaluation form and leave it at registration.
27th to 29th July Hazards 2018 at Keele University
Leave a self-addressed envelope at registration to be kept informed.
Internnal solidarity to combat attacks on workers; lives and health
Main health and safety problems facing workers worldwide including Brexit, CETA and the alphabet soup of other toxic ‘free trade;’ treaties Developing Global Occupational Safety and Health Networks GOSH to fight back.
Chair: Kathy Jenkins, Scottish Hazards; Speakers: Jessica Martinez, USA National COSH
Campaigning against Asbestos in schools, in all workplaces, in UK and globally
Update on campaigning locally, nationally and globally to get asbestos banned globally, to get asbestos removed from schools and other workplaces and for better treatment and compensation for sufferers.
Chair: Philip Lewis LASAG and LHC; Speakers Sarah Lyons, Joint Union Asbestos Committee (JUAC)/NUT; Harminder Bains, Leigh Day Solicitors; Graham Dring, Chair of Asbestos Victims Support Groups
Update on the legal state of health and safety
Recent legal changes to legal aid, tribunals, personal injury/ work-death, stress cases, TU Bill, and their implications for workers and union safety reps.
Chair: tbc; Speakers: Satinder Bains and Keith Cundall, Irwin Mitchell
Dogs can be dangerous
Raising awareness of the hazards of dogs to workers who call or enter a premises, the preventative measures developed jointly CWU and Royal Mail to reduce the risk – prevent serious injuries or death. What union safety reps can do in discussions with their employers to improve policies or improve them to protect workers.
Chair: Lynsey Mann, GMB: Speakers Andrew Hickerman and Tony Pedal, CWU
Work-Related Death, supporting families and fighting back
What FACK does in supporting families after a work-death and advocating for them through the investigation, inquest and any prosecutions. Using our stories in campaigning and how supporting solicitors provide essential legal representation to ensure equality of arms at Inquests. Issues arising from Grenfell.
Chair: Hilda Palmer, FACK, Speakers: Tracey Seward, Michael Lancaster FACK members; Helen Clifford, McMillan Williams Solicitors. Families Against Corporate Killers , FACK, is supported by TU donations and sponsorship from Irwin Mitchell and McMillan Williams solicitors.
Whatever happened to welfare ?
Welfare at work – it’s the poor relation to Health and Safety these days. What happened to the lunch hour? Has your tea-break been sold? Do you eat lunch at your desk these days – where did staff common rooms or canteens go? Share our experience of reduced welfare facilities at work. What else should we demand from employers? Let’s make improved welfare provision a workplace campaign this year.
Chair Janet Newsham; Speaker John Bamford, GM Hazards Centre
Air pollution as a Workplace issue
Air pollution is a public health emergency and is linked to at least 40,000 deaths on the UK each year. It is a workplace issue taken up by the Greener Jobs Alliance, UCU and Hazards Campaign. What can we do about it as union safety reps?
Chair Caroline Bedale; Speaker Adam Lincoln, UCU Health, Safety and Sustainability Advisor
Hazards Campaign open letter to Commander Stuart Cundy in charge of the Grenfell fire investigation
Dear Commander Cundy,
The police investigation must investigate the Prime Ministers and ministers whose behaviour, actions and wilful disregard of warnings about the deadly consequences of their deregulation fetish that lead to decisions which caused the Grenfell fire.
We are pleased to hear you confirm that the starting point for your investigation into the Grenfell Tower investigation is ‘80 deaths by manslaughter.’ It is clear now that the overall model of regulation and enforcement of fire safety in buildings lies within a wider political context of government deregulatory initiatives that have undermined criminal health and safety law over a long period, and specifically accelerated since 2010. Therefore we seek assurance that your investigation will look not only at all those individuals, companies and organisations directly involved in Grenfell Tower, but will examine the wider and crucial role of the ministers and their advisers on the deregulation of all types of health and safety law, enforcement and scrutiny, which form the environment in which the decisions that led to the Grenfell disaster took place. This is a disaster which was foretold, that should never have happened and would not have done if the regulation and enforcement framework had been properly functioning to protect lives rather than serve business interests first.
Your investigation must seek to establish responsibility and culpability for this terrible tragedy that has taken many lives and damaged many more. It seems clear that Prime Ministers’ setting deregulatory agendas in their manifestos, their speeches and their government programmes, plus Ministers carrying out those programmes, plus those specifically responsible for Housing and Fire Safety must be interviewed under caution. Ministers who promised but failed to review the Building Regulations after the Laknal fire and failed to act after repeated warnings of potential disaster from fire experts and many letters from the All Party Parliamentary Group on Fire Safety and Rescue, about the use of materials in high rise buildings without adequate safe guards in all aspects of their use, from specification, to installation to subsequent building, fire approvals and inspections, must be investigated.
We specifically seek assurance that this would include interviewing under caution ex Prime Minster David Cameron who repeatedly and vociferously ‘waged war’ on health and safety as ‘a monster’, ‘an albatross’, a ‘burden on business’ and which he vowed in his new year’s resolution of 2012 to ‘Kill off health and safety culture for good’ David Cameron set the ‘lite-touch’ political context in which regulations were viewed and policed. Slashing the Health and Safety Executive, HSE, budget by a massive 33% in 2011 set the tone for the neutering of official policing of safety standards by the coalition government . He established a programme of biased health and safety reviews, ‘Red Tape’ cuts, scrapping laws and dumbing down of guidance, plus slashing the budgets, and restricting the enforcement activities of the HSE and the Local Authorities, while establishing business-oriented committees, advisory groups and programmes under the ‘Better Regulation’ agenda.
Others who must be interviewed under caution should include Prime Minister Theresa May who reaffirmed this deregulatory policy in 2016 and 2017, as ‘Cutting Red Tape’. and all ministers responsible for decisions on cutting health and safety in favour of reducing burdens on business, including, but not exclusively, ministers at the DWP, the DCLG, and those responsible for the Red Tape Challenge since 2010, those in charge of negotiating Brexit, plus any others who have made government sanctioned attacks on health and safety regulation and enforcement. Of particular note is Oliver Letwin chairing a meeting under Brexit and the Red Tape Challenge on the deregulation of health and safety law for construction materials on the very day of the Grenfell Fire.
You are reported as stating that the criminal investigation would bring whoever is to blame to justice: “You can’t listen to the accounts of the survivors, the families, and those that lost loved ones, and listen to the 999 calls, like our investigation has done, and not want to hold people to account for a fire that should not have happened.” We are pleased to hear this and insist that to honour this commitment, and to prevent other disasters, requires investigating and holding to account all those responsible for creating the deregulated health and safety environment including David Cameron and Theresa May and their ministers that have championed this model of corporate and governmental institutional neglect.
We will be pleased to provide more information on health and safety deregulation to your investigation team
FACK Statement on the suicide of George Arthur Cheese, apprentice at Audi Dealership, Reading
The Coroner Peter Bedford has concluded that Audi Reading management were not responsible for the death of apprentice George Cheese. 1
Stressing that there were other factors in play, Peter Bedford said he understood Cheese’s parents’ desire to blame the Audi dealership, but added that steps taken by the management following his death had succeeded in improving conditions there.
Families Against Corporate Killers has taken up this case as it highlights yet again the completely inadequate way in which work-related suicides are handled by the criminal justice system, and especially those relating to bullying of young people. We were not present at the Inquest and did not hear the evidence the Coroner took into account in making his conclusion. But whatever other factors were ‘in play’ in his death, the appalling bullying George suffered at work, as reported at the Inquest, must be addressed and those responsible held to account. This verdict only lets employers off the hook.
We are concerned that there does not seem to have been an investigation under the Joint Protocol on Work-Related Death; there may be no-one held to account for the bullying George suffered at his workplace, which as reported at the Inquest was known about and allowed to continue by management. We do not feel that steps taken by his employer after George took his own life in any way absolve them of their actions. The catalogue of bullying abuse George faced is heartbreaking and includes:
“His parents said George “over the moon” when he got the position at the Audi dealership, but he soon started coming home covered in bruises and had holes burned into his clothes
“George Cheese’s coworkers at the Reading garage locked him in a cage, doused him in brake fluid and set his clothes set on fire.
“The court heard of one occasion when four men held him down while a fifth punched his leg, leaving him with a long-lasting limp.
“Much of the abuse was dismissed as “banter” and “horseplay” by his then colleagues.
“After the police returned his belongings, his mother found 14 diary entries saved in the calendar app on his iPad, describing traumatic events from his workplace. One said: “My boss told me to hurry up and hang myself because I’m a useless piece of shit.”
“Cheese referred to a “PC” in his diary entries, writing: “PC tied me up, pressure-washed me. Thought it was hilarious. I couldn’t stand up afterwards. He called me a pussy and I had to walk home soaking wet.”
Another entry said “PC” had approached Cheese after his parents complained to the company and called him “a pussy who went telling tales to mummy”.
Work-Related suicides are on the rise and we estimate account for at least 300 deaths per year. 2 The HSE excludes suicides from being reported under the Reporting of injuries, death and dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR) 3 and they are not properly investigated under the Joint Protocol on Work Related Death 4.
Consequently the employers and managers who play a role in the bullying or other work conditions that lead to a death by suicide are not held to account, and there are rarely any prosecutions for the work-related actions such as bullying, or long hours, excessive workloads, low pay and insecurity, all of which are reported to drive workers to take their own lives.
The Inquest is not a place to determine or ascribe blame, but to ascertain who died, when, where and how. It is the authority responsible for enforcing health and safety in the workplace – the HSE or Local Authority in this case- and the police under the Joint Protocol for Work Related Death which should investigate, hold employers to account, take enforcement action to ensure future compliance, and if there is sufficient evidence take prosecutions for breaches in the law.
Work-related suicides are not counted by the HSE, therefore do not count and are not taken seriously. Even when there is a blatant link with work, such as taking of a life in a workplace and letters specific work causes. 5
In a similar case to that of George Cheese, in Manchester in 2003 , 18 year old Hannah Kirkham took an overdose and died because she was being bullied at KFC. Unlike in George’s case, the effect of the bullying was accepted as a major cause of her death. At the Inquest in 2005, the jury delivered a narrative verdict saying ‘she meant to kill herself by taking an overdose, was clinically depressed and this was “significantly influenced” by bullying at work.’ 6
However, as in George’s case, the Coroner ( Simon Nelson) , also noted favourably the employers’ action after her death: ‘KFC’s reaction to this inquiry in my view was appropriate, sensitive and proactive.” He added he hoped anti-bullying policies made by the firm would prevent “similar tragic incidents”.
In both George’s and Hannah’s case, management were aware of, or shamefully, participated in totally unacceptable behaviour towards a vulnerable young colleague yet are not held accountable for the tragic outcome. In both cases the Coroners referred approvingly to action taken after the death.
‘Lessons have been learned’ are often the cruellest words a family can hear after someone they love has been killed by an employer’s negligence. While everyone wants to ensure no-one else dies, it is surely only to be expected that improvements will be made? That an employee’s death would be a ‘wake up call’ for a negligent employer ? But changes put in place afterwards, which should by law have been there before to stop the person dying, are cold comfort and should not be used to absolve the employers’ failures or show them in a better light. It is not sufficient for justice that future deaths are prevented if employers are allowed to get away with the actions that contribute to a worker taking their life.
FACK are looking into work-related suicides generally and George Cheese’s death in particular. We feel that work related suicides cannot be left to Inquests alone as they cannot hold employers to account for actions they have taken, or failed to take, that contribute to the suicide. We are calling for
The HSE to change their policy and make it a duty under the Reporting of Injuries Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR) – http://www.hse.gov.uk/riddor/reportable-incidents.htm for employers to report suicide of employees when there is any suspicion it might be work-related.
The Local Authority with responsibility for enforcing health and safety legislation in George’s workplace to take action to ensure the employers are held to account for the failings that allowed George to be bullied and contributed to his death, and to take enforcement action to ensure future compliance.
Hazards Campaign comment on Prime Minster Theresa May’s announcement of a package of measures covering mental health support in our schools, workplaces and communities. 10 January 2017
Whilst the Hazards Campaign welcomes the discussion about how to help workers suffering from mental ill-health, Theresa May’s speech is woefully inadequate, full of empty words and it comes at a time when the Government is under considerable pressure because of the crisis in the NHS, yet she offers no new resources to handle the extra demands of her proposals.
The NHS crisis is based on political dogma of privatisation. A crisis which has seen children being sent hundreds of miles to find suitable mental health support. A crisis which has seen people waiting for days in general hospital beds whilst mental health beds and the support they desperately need, become available. This is being rolled out also at a time when there are funding cuts for our schools, a time when our teachers continue to be over worked, and there are excessive pressures on our children from continuous testing. Their mental health will not be improved unless all this is tackled and not by placing new demands on them.
The PM talks about a ‘shared society based on the values of citizenship, responsibility and fairness’ when in reality our society is more divided and unequal than it has ever been in recent history.
“Mental health first aid is like putting a sticking plaster over the festering sore. The injury needs to be prevented.”
The welfare system is broken and people are taking their own lives rather than face the misery of unbearably stressful work, poverty, debt and homelessness. Nowhere in the speech does the PM address this. Nowhere does she mention trade unions or safety reps who are in the front-line dealing with the mental health epidemic caused by government and employers actions.
We do not need another report, what we need is urgent action. Action which forces employers to ensure that their employees’ mental health is not made worse by their workplaces. That they are not having to do the same workload with fewer workers, or increased work on fewer hours. That at the end of their 12 hour shifts they are not ill from fatigue. That their employment is not based on a series of zero hours contracts leaving them unable to challenge injustices and unfairness or unsafe working conditions.
This is not just in precarious employment, not just in casual employment, but applies to workers in government departments, in universities, in colleges, who are all working in unacceptably stressful jobs because of the excessive demands made on them, the insecurity of their work, and often the low wages do not cover the bills.
Mental health first aid is like putting a sticking plaster over the festering sore. The injury needs to be prevented.
As there is so little done to help people with mental health problems at work at the moment, it would be hard to reject any real action to tackle this. We welcome the focus on the huge and growing epidemic of work-related stress illnesses and the way in which stress and mental ill-health have become endemic in most workplaces. However as a proposal ‘to transform mental health support’ this falls way short.
Government policies fostering inequality, injustice at work, lack of access to justice for resolutions, a culture that blames those who are ill and sick as shirkers and malingers, in-work poverty from low wages that do not pay the bills creating debt and insecurity exacerbated by zero hours and other insecure contracts, and the endlessly increasing pressures upon workers are all major causes of mental ill-health at work. There is no clear acknowledgement that these and the way work is organised, is making so many workers mentally ill.
Tackling the work factors that cause stress is essential to ‘drive work with business and the public sector to support mental health in the workplace’. Much of the proposal focuses on individuals already suffering and we welcome the promise to provide more help and support and to ‘review recommendations around discrimination in the workplace on the grounds of mental health’.
However, Government policies and workplace practices are driving this huge epidemic of work related depression, anxiety and other mental ill-health.
If Theresa May’s speech is not to just become a speech which at best mentions mental illness and at worst it is a deflection from the current NHS crisis, then we need mental health support to be treated more seriously, with more resources, achievable targets, support for trade union safety reps and for all actions by employers which make people ill, to be dealt with more severely.
John McDonnell says the Health and Safety Executive’s regulatory mission has been compromised by its new profit motive. Brexit threatens worse to come. But the shadow chancellor says your protection is a ‘red line’ issue for Labour – and that means delivering a strong safety regime underpinned by restored trade union rights.
Quoted in Hazards magazine, he said “the whole basis of health and safety protection in this country is bound up with the development of the trade unions and health and safety advances are bound up with the trade union movement and the organisation, representation and pressure they can bring to bear, on employers and government.
“Health and safety advances go hand in hand with trade union advances. We cannot establish an effective health and safety regime in this country unless we restore trade union rights as well.”