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.”
- Unreported deaths – A PIRC sector briefing: Food preparation, September 2020, Alice Martin, Pensions & Investment Research Consultants.
- Covid-19: statutory means of scrutinizing workers’ deaths and disease, 21 September 2020, Occupational Medicine, R.M. Agius.
- Abdication: HSE has been missing in action throughout the Covid-19 crisis, Hazards 150, 2020.
- 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).
- Studies undermine Williamson’s ‘little evidence’ claim on school risks, 10 August 2020, Hazards Campaign.
- We predicted an explosion in workplace Covid-19 outbreaks – two weeks later that’s exactly what we’ve got, 20 August 2020, Hazards Campaign
- 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
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.
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