FACK Says: ‘Don’t be fooled by government lies on health and safety’

7th June 2013
Save Our Safety
Lobby of Parliament on 11th June
Organised by UCATT and UNITE (1)
11am photo call on College Green, Houses of Parliament
Post Lobby Meeting in Committee Room 14,  1pm to 3pm

UCATT and UNITE have called this lobby of Parliament at a time when the government is dismantling one of our fundamental human rights: the right to safe and healthy work (2)

“Don’t be fooled by government lies on health and safety, it isn’t a joke and isn’t a burden, an albatross or a millstone round employers necks, but lack of it is a massive burden on all of us!”  said Linda Whelan, founder member of Families Against Corporate Killers, who is speaking at the meeting. She added:

“By cutting health and safety regulations, inspections and inspectors, the government is putting the lives and safety of so many workers at risk. This is  true not only in construction but also in workplaces that they have wrongly classified as ‘low risk’ such as quarries, farming, docks, the whole of the manufacturing sector, road and air transport, the public sector and more!  FACK knows that health and safety isn’t a joke, it’s about life and death. But many people do not realise that, until someone they love goes to work and never comes home. People aren’t killed because of too much regulation and enforcement, but because of not enough! The only people who benefit from removing laws and scrutiny are unscrupulous employers. Employers will not necessarily look after workers health, safety and welfare unless the law says they have to, and inspectors check-up to make sure they do. Many people laugh about health and safety and think getting rid of it will be good for us all.  This is not true. We want the public and MPs to learn from our bitter experience that health and safety is not meaningless red tape but a vital safety net that protects all the people you love at work. We don’t want you crying later when it’s gone.

“Deaths at work will only increase if we let Cameron get away with trashing health and safety. Instead of cuts to the regulation, enforcement and inspection system, the government should value and respecting workers and strengthening their protection at work. The government is lying about the burden on business, lack of health and safety is a massive burden on us, in heartache and lifelong loss, but it also cost the public purse far more than good health and safety does.(3)

FACK wants to make sure a message goes out loud and clear to negligent employers that if you put someone’s life or safety at risk, then the punishment will fit the crime.
No-one voted for this government so they could help bad employers kill us in our work place. On behalf of FACK, my message to the government today is:

Regulations don’t  kill jobs but lack of regulation does kills workers,  so ‘Stop deregulating, you are killing us’“

For more information contact FACK 0161 636 7557 or 079298 00240; Linda Whelan 07919334793

Notes for editors

1. For information on the Save Our Safety Lobby see UNITE and UCATT websites:

http://www.unitetheunion.org/campaigning/events/saveoursafety/ ;
https://www.ucatt.org.uk/saveoursafety.html

2. We Didn’t Vote to Die at Work Campaign : Stop it You’re KiIling us! leaflet summarizing government attacks, lies and the truth: http://gmhazards.files.wordpress.com/2011/06/updated-wdvtdaw-leaflet-september-2012.pdf

Hazards Magazine:  http://www.hazards.org/votetodie
Hazards Magazine http://www.hazards.org/lowlife

3. Cost of the harm caused by poor workplace health and safety

The HSE records the costs of poor health and safety i.e. deaths, injuries and illnesses (over 70% caused by poor management according to the HSE) as £13.4 billion per year, but this does not include the long latency illnesses like cancers. Each incident fatality costs £1.5 million and each occupational cancer costs £2.5 million (DEFRA costing). So even taking HSE’s gross under estimate of 8,000 work cancer deaths per year would add £20 billion to this total making it nearer £40 billion per year.  Taking Hazards figures would make it nearer £60 billion.

Of this cost, according to the HSE, individuals and families pay 55%, the state – us, tax payers!- pay 24%, and employers whose criminal negligence caused the harm, pay only 22%
See HSE Annual Statistics Report  2011/12: http://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/overall/hssh1112.pdf

Who bears the burden? We do: Real Burdens:http://www.hazards.org/images/h112laurieswift1200px.jpg

 

FACK was established in July 2006, by and for families of people killed by the gross negligence of business employers, see www.fack.org.uk .

Founder Members of FACK:
Dawn and Paul Adams – son Samuel Adams aged 6 killed at Trafford Centre,10th October 1998
Linzi Herbertson -husband Andrew Herbertson 29, killed at work in January 1998
Mike and Lynne Hutin – son Andrew Hutin 20, killed at work on 8th Nov 2001
Mick & Bet Murphy – son Lewis Murphy 18, killed at work on 21st February 2004
Louise Taggart – brother Michael Adamson 26, killed at work on 4th August 2005
Linda Whelan – son Craig Whelan 23, (and Paul Wakefield) killed at work on 23rd May 2002
Dorothy & Douglas Wright – son Mark Wright 37, killed at work on 13th April 2005

See http://www.fack.org.uk/aboutus  for the stories above.

Cutting health and safety laws is hurting us all, so “Stop it: You’re Killing us!”

All across this country and the world millions of people will come together on 28 April to mark International Workers Memorial Day (IWMD) at tens of thousands of events (1)

What killed 140 people a day, 6 per hour last year in Great Britain?  War? Murder?

No, WORK!

Work kills more than war every year: 2.3 million worldwide.  As Jukka Takala of the ILO said
“If terrorism took such a toll, just imagine what would be said and done?”

In Great Britain, work killed 1,400 killed in work-related incidents and up to 50,000 due to work-related illnesses- cancer, heart and lung disease in 2011/12.  Work also made over 2 million ill, injured 111,000 – 22,000 very seriously – and led to 27 million days off work.  Compare this with about 600 murders per year and 641 GB service personnel killed in Iraq and Afghanistan in 11 years (2)

Workers, their families and their unions will say on IWMD that we need more health and safety protection at work not less, as avoidable deaths every day and disasters such as the recent massive explosion of a fertilizer factory in Texas show all too tragically. “Deregulation kills, we want action not reaction” said Hazards Campaign spokesperson, adding “Any idiot can ‘learn lessons’ after a disaster, after people have been killed and lives ruined, it takes intelligent foresight and a commitment to people’s lives, to prevent work from causing harm.”

You would never guess work caused such death and misery, if all you know is what the government says and how workers safety and health is reported – as one big joke!  Almost all cases of work related death, injury and ill health are preventable, if employers obeyed the law and government and enforcement agencies made them.  But they didn’t and people were killed and families’ lives ruined. Many families now know this, but didn’t know when they sent their sons and daughters, partners and parents to work, expecting them to be safe, but they never came home.  Lack of health and safety is no joke when it happens to you. (3)

Cameron Minshull, 16, from Bury, was killed in January 2013, only weeks after starting his engineering apprenticeship. He died only days after David Cameron told business leaders in Preston that silly health and safety rules must be scrapped to allow more children to get work experience.  In fact his government has already several times reduced the rules on health and safety protection for young apprentices like Cameron Minshull, who’s mum said “I thought he was safe at work on a government apprenticeship scheme” (4)

What is the UK government doing to stop this avoidable death toll? Well not strengthening health and safety law but deregulating it; not increasing preventative inspections but banning them in workplaces where the majority of recorded deaths occur; and slashing enforcement activity to shreds!

Since 2010 government has consistently rubbished health and safety, blamed it for ‘broken Britain’, the riots, and now for the lack of jobs and economic growth! The biggest lie they have perpetuated is that good safety and health is a burden on business. NO! The burden is on us, in heart ache and also on us in terms of economic cost. The poor management of safety and health that leads to 80 per cent of deaths, injuries and illness, costs the economy over £30 billion a year (2).  Of this amount, the individuals harmed pay the largest cost, 55 per cent, the public purse pays 24 per cent, and the employers who caused the problems pay around one fifth.   Hazards added: “On IWMD, we will all be telling this government: that we didn’t vote to die at Work, so stop deregulating and slashing enforcement, it’s killing us! Whether it is hazards in your workplace, horsemeat in your beefburger or Legionnaires’ in your neighbourhood, it is becoming evident that stringent regulation is not a burden, it is a necessity” (5)

For more information contact Hilda Palmer 0161 636 7557,   mobile:  079 298 00240

International Workers’ Memorial Day 28 April resources:

1. Hazards/ITUC global country listing of IWMD events TUC listing of GB eventsNW England Listing:

2. Work-Related Statistics for 2011/12

3. Families Against Corporate Killers (FACK)  Statement on death of Cameron Minshull

4. FACK statement on International Workers’ Memorial Day 2013

5. Hazards Magazine: The high cost of neutering watchdogs

 

MPs urged to reject removal of civil liability in health and safety law

MPs urged to reject removal of civil liability in health and safety law in the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act in Common today.

“The Hazards Campaign urges MPs to follow the Lords and reject the clause inserted into the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act that removes civil liability from the Health and Safety at Work Act, when it comes back to the Commons for debate today. This clause was inserted into the Act at the last minute, by the Department of Business Industry and Skills, without any consultation or supporting evidence. It will make it far harder for workers to gain compensation to which they are entitled when through no fault of their own; they are injured or made ill by their work, as the bar of proof will be set unfeasibly high. Instead of being able to rely on breach of a statutory duty by their employer as some evidence of negligence, workers will have to prove forseeability, a tough task at a time exacerbated by cuts in legal aid.   It must also be remembered that less than 10% of workers who are injured or made ill actually receive any form of compensation, so there is no actual compensation culture, just employers’ misperception, and a bad reason to change the law.  This is not redressing the balance but penalising workers and giving unscrupulous employers free rein by removing access to justice. It is a scoundrel’s charter that will harm more workers and shift more cost to the public purse by letting bad employers get away with it.” Said a Hazards Campaign spokesperson.

The arguments for removal of civil liability from health and safety regulations are not based on evidence or reality, but according to Lofstedt Report, on ‘the belief of employers in a ‘compensation culture’ has an impact in driving over-compliance with health and safety regulations’. The government’s claim that this clause is implementing Lofstedt’s recommendation on ‘strict liability’ is also false as it covers all civil liability: In his report assessing how the Government was implementing the findings of his review, published in February 2013, Professor Lofstedt stated that the Government had gone much further than he proposed. His report said “My understanding is that the proposed amendment to the Health and Safety at Work Act reverses the current position on civil liability. This means that, unless exceptions apply, claims for compensation in relation to breaches of health and safety legislation will need to prove that the employer has been negligent. The approach being taken is more far-reaching than I anticipated in my recommendation.”

There has always been a widely accepted fair balance in health and safety regulation between different types of obligation, and the majority are qualified by reasonable practicability but including some that are strict, since the Factories Act 1937.  In fact there are very few cases where compensation cases are taken on the basis of strict liability which is why the Lofstedt report had difficulty in identifying any. It also explains why the Government has introduced an amendment that goes beyond strict liability and would, as it stands, apply to civil cases involving breaches of statutory duty under workplace regulations.

Lords calling for the removal of the clause labelled it ‘ugly’. Lord Stevenson said “The requirement to prove forseeability is a very high bar of proof for an individual injured, or killed through no fault of their own. There has been no consultation on this proposal, and what is being proposed goes further than the recommendations made in this area by Professor Lofstedt”.

Lord MacKenzie agreed adding that the changes will “ assist the unscrupulous to ignore health and safety law by reducing the chances of successful civil action. That is going to lead to more workplace injury in the future”. Lord MacKenzie also said that an injured worker is highly unlikely to know about the history of work equipment or be able to investigate whether the employer was at fault. He added that this change in the law would not only shift the balance of power dramatically against employees, but that litigation would become more costly, time consuming for everyone,  and employers would not benefit.”

For more information contact the Hilda Palmer, acting Chair of Hazards Campaign 0161 636 7557

 

 

Tackling occupational cancer should mean preventing it, not taking a ‘3 monkeys’ approach

Tackling occupational cancer should mean preventing it, not taking a ‘3 monkeys’ approach

Photo-op 8.30am Thursday 14th March, British Library, Gate No 5 Midland Road.

Campaigners against occupational and environmental cancer will hold a photo op outside the British Library, HSE conference on Tackling Occupational Diseases.  Women’s work-cancer is almost totally ignored by the HSE so campaigners will leave bras behind as a protest against the denial, delay and dithering that will kill more women from breast cancer especially.

Government, employers and the Health and Safety Executive are consigning thousands of workers to occupational cancer by their ‘3 monkeys’ approach to ‘tackling’ occupational disease.  Occupational cancer kills up to 18,000 men and women each year (1) yet action on prevention has been side-lined in favour of yet more research, and still work-related cancer in women is virtually ignored condemning more women to suffer and die.

HSE’s old fashioned, outdated approaches miss many modern workplace risks but especially ignore women’s cancers, specifically breast cancer, as researchers have recently shown (2, 3).  Campaigners will reinforce this point by leaving their bras outside the British Library as a protest against this approach.

“The Hazards Campaign has accused the HSE of dithering, denying and delaying over occupational cancer, and employers and government are also guilty of doing almost nothing on prevention for all work-cancers.  But this ‘3 monkeys’ approach is especially deadly for work-related cancer in women which has been completely ignored, under-researched and so much less likely to be targeted for preventative action.”  Said Hilda Palmer of the Hazards Campaign.

 “Occupational and environmental breast cancer is largely preventable and we hope this strategic meeting organised by the HSE will call for that.  For female cancers, specifically breast cancer, not to act now in a precautionary way, applying existing knowledge to reduce the occupational and environmental risk factors could be viewed as an act of wilful neglect.”  Said Helen Lynn from the Alliance for Cancer Prevention.

Traditional approaches to try and regulate the amount of exposure to certain chemicals in occupational and environmental settings are unworkable in light of what we know about chemicals which interfere with our endocrine systems (the body’s messenger system).  These endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) are intrinsically linked with cancer and act singularly and in combination to increase the risk of breast and other cancers.

WHO estimates that as much as 24% of human diseases and disorders are at least partly due to environmental factors including chemical exposures. The report states: “Many endocrine diseases and disorders are on the rise and the speed at which they are increasing rules out genetic factors as the sole plausible explanation” (4)

Recent research highlighting excesses of breast cancer in occupations such as agricultural, automotive plastics, and food canning industries found women workers had elevated breast cancer risk, up to 5 times higher than the controls in certain sectors such as automotive plastics (3)

And yet another paper on the issue stated: “Primary prevention of cancer of environmental and occupational origin reduces cancer incidence and mortality, and is highly cost effective; in fact, it is not just socially beneficial because it reduces medical and other costs, but because it avoids many human beings suffering from cancer.” (5)

The United Steelworkers union in the US has acted immediately on this research by alerting their members and calling for substitution, chemical law reform and health and safety improvements.(6)

Yet the UK cancer establishment continued to assure women there is no need to worry and falls back on the archaic and limited risk reduction strategy of better diet, more exercise and limiting alcohol. (7)
Hilda Palmer of the Hazards campaign says: “We want this HSE meeting to make publicly explicit the extent, and preventable nature, of all occupational cancers; that prevention must be prioritised by government, employers and the HSE; that exposure to all cancer risks must be eliminated or reduced to as low a level as possible, and that women’s cancer risks must now be targeted for prevention”

Helen Lynn. Alliance for Cancer Prevention 07960033687
www.allianceforcancerprevention.org.uk

Hilda Palmer. Hazards Campaign: 079298 00240
www.hazardscampaign.org.uk


Notes to Editor:
1. Burying the evidence, Hazards Magazine.
2.  This man knows all about cancer Article on the work of Simon Pickvance. Hazards 117, Rory O’Neill
3.  J. T. Brophy et al., Breast Cancer Risk in Relation to Occupations with Exposure to Carcinogens and Endocrine Disruptors: A Canadian Case-Control Study, Environmental Health 11(87) (2012): 1-17, doi: 10.1186/1476-069X-11-87
4.  WHO/UNEP report on the State of the Science for Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals Report.
5.  Espina C, Porta M, et al. Environmental and Occupational Interventions for Primary Prevention of Cancer: A Cross-Sectorial Policy Framework. Environ Health Perspect. Advanced publication here
6.  United Steelworkers Hazards Alert on occupational breast cancer
7.  Does your job increase your breast cancer risk? Breakthrough comments on the recent researchpublished in Canada that links occupation to an increased risk of developing breast cancer. Here

For more information contact:
Hazards Campaign – 0161 636 7557

 

You don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone

UK National Hazards Campaign warns that you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone as Cameron obeys business buddies in race to slash red tape that puts everyone at risk!

Hazards Campaign spokesperson said today:  “Cameron is blindly following the demented business daleks demanding ‘deregulate, deregulate, deregulate’ (1).  Supporting their friends in the FSB who believe that the USA is a better business model is hardly reassuring when USA workplace death rate is six times higher than the UK!

No-one supports pointless bureaucracy or rules for their own sake.  But much of the ‘red tape’ Cameron is slashing and trashing is not imposed by mindless bureaucrats but carefully thought out, devised, evaluated and agreed by the HSE with industry and unions, to protect not only workers but the public and the environment.  Sending out signal that employers will not be liable for the abuse of workers by customers, will not make them protect

“Cameron prefers to concoct policy in the saloon bar with his corporate cronies on the back of beer mats.  Cameron’s populist lie about health and safety being a ‘burden on business’, ‘an albatross/millstone round neck of business’ and vowing to ‘kill off health and safety culture’ gets short shrift from those who know the truth.  Families of people killed, injured and made sick to death by employers, know that existing rules and enforcement are far too weak, say:

“No-one we love died due to too much regulation and enforcement but due to far too little.  Deregulation and slashing enforcement won’t make workers safer, or protect ordinary people, it’s designed to let corporations and business off the hook.  Don’t be fooled and let regulations go, it’s your choice ‘Red Tape or more bloody bandages’!” (2)  Said Louise Taggart, Families Against Corporate Killers  (FACK) Spokesperson (3)

“Cameron at the behest of his corporate mates has enrolled us in a race to the bottom, to compete with countries with appalling health and safety records such as Bangladesh.  Last year’s garment factory fires and building collapse clearly showed the world that a lack of health and safety  regulation and enforcement brings death and destruction.  Amongst the government’s crazy deregulations , exempting the self-employed, making more exemptions for SMEs, reducing the protections for young people in training placements, and banning preventative inspections in falsely called ‘low risk’ workplaces , are creating two/three tier workforce with so many holes in the once universal health and safety net. It will allow the very many unscrupulous employers to get away with injurying and making ill, the most vulnerable workers. And we will all pay the cost in the end.

“Failure to manage workplace safety and health costs the UK economy between £20 and 40 billion a year (3).  All the evidence from across the world shows that good regulation and strict enforcement lead to economically more successful countries; more innovation that serves ordinary people, saves lives, saves money for businesses, improves health, and builds the economy.  Cameron’s strategy is to serve the interest of the rich and powerful against those of workers based on fairy tales such as the Emperor’s new clothes.  Some of us can see the nakedness of this strategy and the deadly dangers of such a stupid race to the bottom, but others are still seeing invisible posh clothes.

For more information contact Hilda Palmer, Acting Chair of UK National Hazards Campaign:
Tel: 0161 636 7 557 ,  Louise Taggart, Families Against Corporate Killers  Tel : 0781 278 2534

Notes to editors

1.       Hazards Magazine  ‘Business  says Deregulate: the government will obey’http://www.hazards.org/votetodie/deregulate.htm

2   It’s your choice: ‘ Red Tape or more bloody bandages’http://www.hazards.org/images/h123posterlarge.jpg
Hazards blueprint for saner Health and Safety Executivehttp://www.hazards.org/votetodie/citizensane
Plus interview with Rory O’Neil, Hazards Magazine Editor,  by Health and Safety Bulletin:
http://www.healthandsafetyatwork.com/hsw/hsb/citizen-sane-and-hse

3.       Families Aganst Corporate  Killers  set up in 2006 by families of people killed by employers negligence  http://www.fack.org.uk  Founder Members of FACK:
Dawn and Paul Adams – son Samuel Adams aged 6 killed at Trafford Centre, 10th October 1998
Linzi Herbertson -husband Andrew Herbertson 29, killed at work in January 1998
Mike and Lynne Hutin – son Andrew Hutin 20, killed at work on 8th Nov 2001
Mick & Bet Murphy – son Lewis Murphy 18, killed at work on 21st February 2004
Louise Taggart – brother Michael Adamson 26, killed at work on 4th August 2005
Linda Whelan – son Craig Whelan 23, (and Paul Wakefield) killed at work on 23rd May 2004
Dorothy & Douglas Wright – son Mark Wright 37, killed at work on 13th April 2005

4.       Good health and safety is not a ‘burden on business’ it’s a burden on us!
The HSE records the costs of poor health and safety i.e. deaths, injuries and illnesses (over 70% caused by poor management according to the HSE) as £13.8 billion per year at 2010/11 prices. But this does not include the long latency illnesses like cancers.  Each incident fatality costs £1.5 million and each occupational cancer costs over £2.5 million (DEFRA costing). So, even taking HSE’s gross under-estimate of 8,000 work cancer deaths per year would add £20 billion to this total making it nearer £40 billion per year.   Taking Hazards figures of  18,000  occupational cancer deaths p.a.  would make it nearer £60 billion.  Of this cost, according to the HSE: individuals and families harmed pay 57%, the state – us, tax payers, the public purse! – pays 22%, and employers, whose criminal negligence caused the harm, pay only 21% HSE Annual Statistics Report 2012/13: http://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/overall/hssh1213.pdf

Hazards Campaign statement on the Government response to ‘Health at work- an independent review of sickness absence’

Hazards Campaign statement on the Government response to
‘Health at work- an independent review of sickness absence’

The government’s response (http://dwp.gov.uk/docs/health-at-work-gov-response.pdf), like the Black/Frost report itself, is based on false notions of ‘sick note culture’, a punitive ‘all work is good for you and if you are sick, work will make you better’ approach.  There is no evidence to support this, much research shows that ‘presenteeism’ costs more than ‘absenteeism’, and workers suffering from bugs have recently been warned by the NHS Alliance not to spread colds and ‘flu by going to work!

The government response completely fails to acknowledge that work can and does make over a million workers sick each year, and that far more effort needs to be put into preventing this in order to reduce sickness absence, and also to provide new occupational health therapies and rehabilitation accessible via GPs, so that workers are helped to recover fully before returning to work.

The government response will do nothing at all to prevent workers from becoming ill, or deal with presenteeism, or to ensure that sick workers actually get any early rehabilitation, only offering the insecurity and fear of assessment by a private company whose aim and profit depend on forcing sick workers back to work as quickly as possible.  It is also marketising workers’ sickness so it can be sold to private sector companies to profit from, as for example ATOS profits from the widely criticised operation of the Employment and Support Allowance assessments.

Setting up ‘a state funded health and work assessment and advisory service to make occupational health advice available to employers and employees’ sounds good but it appears to be a call centre based system, with sign posting and advice, but no detail of how it will be run and managed, of any occupational medical input or advocacy for workers, nor does it include development of any new rehabilitation and therapies essential for workers’ recovery.  Referral of workers for independent assessment after 4 weeks sick leave risks increasing the stress and insecurity of already sick people.  The idea that 4 weeks off sick is ‘long term’ is ridiculous as many workers suffering work-related stress or musculo-skeletal disorders only go off sick when they are absolutely unable to carry on, and in 4 weeks they will barely have had time to recover from the acute phase of their illness, let alone be fit to return to work, or even to face assessment.  By-passing the workers’ own GP, risks repeating all the errors of the ATOS WCA assessments for ESA, risk conflicts, and may breach patient confidentiality.  It is also cruel, as GPs are often the only protection sick and injured workers have from unhealthy work, punitive sickness absence management and the threat of job loss.

There are some areas where the government has backed away from the wilder aspects of the Black/Frost recommendations.  Such as deciding not to reconsider the ban on pre-employment health questionnaires.  But the proposal to remove the requirement to keep sick pay records is a step backwards as employers cannot manage sickness absence without record keeping (Chapter 3 paras 20-23).  But there is no proposal for tax relief for GPs and employers to provide good occupational health diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation to workers.  80% of large employers provide occupational health services, but only 10% of small employers do, and the Hazards Campaign fears many employers will now use the proposed state funded service as a substitute for proper occupational health care undermining any current good practice, in a race to the bottom.

The Hazards Campaign deplores the  recommendation to publish tribunal award information to show employers that they are lower than they think as it is encourages employers to break the law by sacking workers who are off sick  (Chapter 3 paras 32-34).

For more information contact the Hazards Campaign 0161 636 7557

Hilda Palmer
Hazards Campaign Secretariat

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

Simon Pickvance 1949-2012

Simon Pickvance, our friend, brilliant colleague and consummate internationalist and networker, died on 23 November 2012 from the asbestos cancer mesothelioma. Obituary.

Safety police cuts will make more unhealthy and unsafe – despite denial ofHSE chief executive

Following a letter from Mr G Podger, Chief Exec Health and Safety Executive (HSE), responding to an article in the Daily Mirror (see below) on the likely effects of cuts to our safety police, the HSE, the Hazards Campaign wishes to point out Mr Podger’s points just do not stand up to scrutiny as is shown in a very recent report by Professors from the University of Stirling in a report which is linked below. While the report’s title is about Scotland the content of the report covers the issue in the UK. The Executive Summary can be found here.

Further information: Mick Holder, Hazards Campaign or telephone 0161 636 7557.

Daily Mirror article: Health and Safety Executive Will work be the death of you? Workers exposed to dangers because of savage health inspectors cuts

G Podger, HSE’s response:

University of Stirling: Regulating Scotland: What works and what does not in occupational and environmental health and what the future may hold

Related information: Hazards magazine

HSE’s dithering, denial and delay on workplace cancer is deadly!

Workers enquiry needed to identify and eliminate all exposures to carcinogens

The Hazards Campaign says the HSE intervention paper on occupational cancer to be presented to the HSE Board meeting on 22nd August in Bootle, while more detailed than the original rejected paper, “fails to acknowledge the actual scale of cancer caused by work ¹. The paper is based on a fairy tale unrealistic view of the world of work today, ignores many known carcinogens, shows little interest in finding unknown exposures, underestimates the numbers of workers exposed and shows no sense of urgency to tackle this massive but preventable workplace epidemic. Because of the lack of action now, more people will develop occupational cancers and die from them in the future.

Hazards Campaign spokesperson says:

“Rushton estimates that work cancer kills 8,000 (5per cent of all cancers) or at least seven times as many workers as are killed by work injuries every year, and affects a further 14,000.  Hazards estimates, based on work by international cancer specialists, place the toil even higher at 12 per cent of all cancers.  That is 18,000 deaths and over 30,000 cases of cancers related to work each year in GB ².

Occupational cancer researcher Simon Pickvance warns: “The HSE has been in denial about work cancer for over three decades, depending far too heavily on epidemiology which is only capable of seeing widespread, long-established problems amongst large numbers of workers, employed for long periods of time, in large workplaces such as mines, mills and manufacturing. This is totally unsuitable for today’s, smaller and fast evolving workplaces with more complex, and diverse exposures.  It is incapable of picking up high risk exposures affecting smaller groups of workers.

“We welcome HSE’s response to the detection of hazardous exposure to azo dyes in the engineering industry by members of Hazards Campaign, but this is just one of many such high risk groups that can be identified using mass participatory methods of relating workers’ exposures to case reports.  A fully participatory approach towards identifying exposure scenarios and methods for toxic use reduction must be the way forward. The Rushton estimates for the HSE continue to under count the number of workers exposed. On  diesel fumes exposure alone, it is simply incomprehensible that the well over a million workers who have a raised risk of a cancer because they work in diesel-exposed jobs become ‘over 10,000’ in HSE’s estimation – and a million is just a fraction of the total diesel-exposed workforce”.

Simon goes on to explain: “The HSE’s target organ approach is also very damaging as most carcinogens have a very broad spectrum but epidemiology is not clever enough to see it.  Real life workers’ bodies do not play by epidemiologists rules so that even quite large increases in common cancers are entirely and irretrievably invisible to traditional epidemiological number-crunching ³

The Hazards Campaign joins occupational cancer campaigners in demanding a workers inquiry to identify all workplace exposure to carcinogens and urgent action to enforce their elimination;  a spokesperson said: “We need proactive enforcement of existing legislation , and in the absence of reliable figures on numbers of people exposed (the underestimation of diesel-exposed workers is only the latest in a series of HSE blunders in calculating exposed populations) the over-dependence on the Rushton burden calculation (how much cancer is work-related ?),in setting priorities for action must stop.

Helen Lynn spokesperson for the Alliance for Cancer Prevention said: “The HSE approach to occupational cancer ensures thousands more people will develop the disease through exposures at work. Delaying action on better shift work patterns is just condemning more women to greater risk of breast cancer while there is action that could be taken immediately. Although the word ‘action’ is mention exclusively by the HSE in relation to naturally occurring carcinogens such as radon, there is no action on promoting substitution to known or suspected carcinogens when there are safer alternatives available as applies to the chemicals used in dry cleaning. The HSE scope for carcinogens should be widened to include all carcinogenic, mutagenic and reprotoxic chemicals and substances (CMR’s), and encompass those not only addressed in REACH but also listed on the SIN list. www.sinlist.org

Campaigners argue that the response outlined in the HSE paper is based on a combination of
dithering, denial, and delay. Their ‘wait and see’ approach and leaving the job up to other agencies, while they continue to do a little bit more of what is currently ineffective, is completely inadequate to the task of preventing work related cancers.

Simon Pickvance concludes:  “We are sick to death of being treated as second class workers in Europe, who can wait for preventative action till research is carried out, for example on shiftwork, when other member states have adopted a precautionary, pro active approach.  It is not more science that is required before more humane shift patterns can be introduced. HSE’s intervention strategy is based on ignorance, denial and a false view of work today, and its response to the biggest workplace killer is utterly pathetic. It is hard to see what will be achieved by more of the same without the active involvement of workers themselves in finding out where the main problems lie. What is needed is a picture of the risks we face in the jobs we do today via a Trade Union backed workers inquiry to identify all workplace cancer exposures. Plus a massive preventive proactive enforcement of elimination, and an abandonment of the use of cost-benefit analysis in setting exposure limit for carcinogens in EU, as there are no safe levels of exposure to carcinogens”

For more information

Simon Pickvance Tel: 0114 268 4197
Hilda Palmer, Hazards Campaign  Tel: 0161 636 7557
Helen Lynn, Alliance for Cancer Prevention: Tel: 0207 274 2577, mobile 07960033687

Images

Print quality images of Simon Pickvance and Hazards magazine117 cover ‘This man knows all about cancert are available from:

Jawad Qasrawi, Hazards magazine, sub@hazards.org 0114 201 4265

Note for editors:

1. HSE supplementary paper on occupation cancer: Occupational cancer, priorities for future intervention – supplementary paper The initial paper was rejected by the HSE board in May 2012.

2. Hazards Magazine work cancer pages, also see Burying the evidence

3. This Man Knows all about Cancer Hazards magazine issue 117 details Simon Pickvance’s criticisms of the HSE strategy on work-related cancer.  His criticism of the HSE supplementary paper includes:

  • Silica Dust – No evidence for the HSE technical innovations on control.
  • Welding and Painting – no active involvement of workers in finding where the main problems lie.
  • Shift work – no action on safer working patterns only a call for yet more research.
  • Dry cleaning – no interventions on safer substitutes, only low cost ‘awareness raising initiatives’.
  • Epidemiology – focus from HSE is on widespread, long established problems while ignoring high risk exposures affecting smaller groups of workers.
  • Lack of participatory approach to risk detection – HSE fails to engage workers in identifying risk in their work places.
  • Lack of Toxic Use reduction methods – HSE ignores reducing exposure to existing and known carcinogens and setting targets for elimination.

4.COSHH- Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations http://www.hse.gov.uk/coshh/

5. The Alliance for Cancer Prevention http://allianceforcancerprevention.org.uk/

6. Workers Inquiry : The inquiry should be trade union backed, and involve workers in mounting an all-out search for carcinogens at work.  It must identify high risk groups within occupations/workplaces; and look at case studies, industrial hygiene and toxicological studies.  What is needed is a true picture of the risks we face in the jobs we do today, not something based on an out of date, fairytale world of work.