Category Archives: Blog

Hazards Campaign open letter to HSE: Registering extreme concern about HSE’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic

Sarah Newton Chair of HSE Board and Sarah Albon CEO
Health and Safety Executive
Redgrave Court
Merton Road
Bootle
Merseyside
L20 7HS

15 February 2021

Dear Sarah Newton, Sarah Albon,

The Hazards Campaign is extremely concerned about the HSE’s response to the COVID pandemic in the workplace generally, and more specifically about recent published revelations that the HSE designated Covid-19 not as a ‘serious’ workplace risk but rather as a ‘significant’ risk.

Employment Minister Mims Davies said last week that Covid had been classified as a “significant” rather than “serious” risk as this best supports inspectors making “sensible, proportionate” decisions.  The Minister also described Covid-19 as having effects on workers generally that were “non-permanent” and “temporary”. 1

The Hazards Campaign find it odd how a disease that is ‘highly contagious’, the consequences of becoming infected are, in the words of the Prime Minister, ‘deadly’, which can leave infected workers with long-term life-changing and life-shortening ill health, leads to thousands of deaths, thousands of sick days and disabilities, can be classified as ‘not serious’ just a ‘significant workplace risk’. We do not recognise Covid-19 as described by Employment Minister Mims Davies, as having  effects on workers generally that were “non-permanent” and “temporary”.

A disease that is prevalent in our communities cannot be described as anything but a significant risk, and given the role of workplaces in spreading the infection, we believe it must be regarded as a ‘Serious workplace risk’. The thousands of known workplace outbreaks which have led to the deaths and infection of workers, their families and consequently spread to people in their communities, supports such a demand for extra action at work.

Specific questions we would like answered

Please provide details as to:

  1. How was the decision to downgrade Covid -19 from ‘Serious’ to ‘Significant’ workplace risk made?
  2. Who made the decision – which individuals/group(s) of people?
  3. What are the qualifications/experience of the people who made the decision?
  4. Based on what specific scientific and occupational health data was the decision made?
  5. Was government advice/guidance sought or given?
  6. What specific differences does a classification of ‘Significant’ as opposed to ‘Serious workplace risk’ have on the way the HSE regulates and enforces health and safety law and COVID guidance in workplaces?
  7. What role did economic/financial issues play in this decision as regards HSE’s operational work and  the effects on the businesses it regulates?
  8. Employment Minister Mims Davies described Covid-19 as having effects on workers generally that were “non-permanent” and “temporary”.  If the HSE provided this information to the Employment Minister can you provide the data to support this assertion?

As a major Health and Safety organisation the Hazards Campaign requests an immediate review and resolution of this absurd situation.  Employers look to the HSE to provide a lead in the advice they provide on safe and healthy work activities and this decision provides an excuse for bad employers not put in place preventative mitigations of the risks.

As an organisation Hazards Campaign is contacted daily for advice and support  by frightened and anxious workers being exposed to infection risks because their employer is failing to control them.  We feel that this mixed messaging from the HSE is contributing to these failures.  At this time we need strong enforcement not excuses being made available to employers by the inaction and seemingly collaboration with weakened enforcement by reducing the standards of employers legal duties.

We also call on the HSE to be more transparent on workplace outbreaks, so that workers can be informed properly about where the risks are in their workplaces, including the transmission risks and how their employers are mitigating against those risks.

We will all be judged how we have responded to the pandemic.  This is a time when the HSE needs to take a lead in providing strong messages about the duties on employers to ensure the mental and physical health of workers.

Yours Sincerely,

Janet Newsham

On behalf of the UK Hazards Campaign
c/o GMHC, Windrush Millennium Centre
70 Alexandra Rd.,
Manchester
M16 7WD
janet@gmhazards.org.uk
Tel: 07734 317158
www.hazardscampaign.org.uk

  1. Government’s admission Covid is not categorised as a ‘serious’ workplace risk is ‘beyond belief’ | Morning Star (morningstaronline.co.uk) https://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/article/b/decision-against-classifying-covid-serious-workplace-risk-has-endangered-public

Hazards Campaign Thursday Talk – Challenging bad air inside and outside the workplace

Hazards Campaign Thursday Talk –
Challenging bad air inside and outside the workplace

Thursday 18th February, 6.00-7.30pm

Please register here to get the link for the event

The discussion will be led by:

  • Reducing Toxic Substances at Work – Hilda Palmer, Greater Manchester Hazards Centre
  • Campaigning on Pesticides – Paul Holleran , GMB Officer
  • Air Quality Campaign update – Graham Petersen, Greener Jobs Alliance

Ventilation survey: What is your employer doing to improve ventilation at work?

The Hazards Campaign is collecting information about what employers are doing to improve ventilation at work.

Please share the link below and encourage as many people as possible to complete it.

The survey can be found at: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/52HNK5H

There are only six questions so it should only take a couple of minutes to complete.  Thank you

Thursday talk: Precaution, prevention and controlling the risks -resources and recording

Hazards Campaign Thursday Talk – 4 February 2021
Precaution, prevention and controlling the risks

Please find below  the recording of the Thursday Talk on YouTube, plus two links to the presentation notes. Thank you for your contributions and interest.

Please let the Hazards Campaign know if you have any comments or suggestions for future events.

Presentation 1, Janet Newsham:
Precaution, Prevention and Controlling the Risks

Presentation 2, Hilda Palmer:
Ventilation, vaccine and variants

Greater Manchester Hazards Centre
70 Alexandra Road,
Manchester
M16 7WD
Tel: 07734 317 158
Email janet@gmhazards.org.uk
Web: www.hazardscampaign.org.uk 

Hazards Campaign Thursday Talk: Precaution, prevention and controlling the risks – 4 February 6.00pm

Hazards Campaign Thursday Talk – Precaution, Prevention and Controlling the Risks

Thursday 4th February 6-7pm
Register here to get your link to the event

Join our discussion and listen to presentations about the precautionary approach to occupational health and safety and what employers should be doing to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in our workplaces.

Background resources

Thursday Talk: Picking up the Threads! Recording and resources

Employers and Government have signally failed to deal with Covid 19 transmission risks with the disease running rampant through UK workplaces. The Hazards Campaign Thursday talk on 21 January 2021 Picking up the Threads! explored and discussed measures safety reps, unions and activists can take to protect workers. Below can view a recording of the event and see a selection of the supporting resources posted to the Zoom chat.

Resources listed in the Talk’s Zoom Chat

90% of retail workers suffered abuse at work last year, union finds   https://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/article/90-of-retail-workers-suffered-abuse-at-work-last-year-union-finds

Phil Taylor Homeworking survey: https://wfh-survey.uk/

For 28 April, ITUC has named the campaign for health and safety to be recognised by ILO as a ‘fundamental right at work’. Our related briefing uses Covid-19 to illustrate the reasons why. https://www.ituc-csi.org/IMG/pdf/ituc_campaign_brief_osh_en.pdf

VENTING | Coronavirus risks are mostly up in the air – Hazards magazine https://www.hazards.org/infections/venting.htm 

Reel News Coronavirus Killer Workplaces  https://reelnews.co.uk/2020/11/04/coronavirus/covid-transmission-and-killer-workplaces/

Hazards Campaign Thursday talk. Where are the sirens? Can the tsunami of work clusters be stopped? Hazards Campaign http://www.hazardscampaign.org.uk/blog/hazards-campaign-thursday-talk-where-are-the-sirens-can-the-tsunami-of-work-clusters-be-stopped

Teacher Covid rates up to 333% above average https://www.tes.com/news/exclusive-coronavirus-schools-teacher-covid-rates-333-above-average

Comment: “I’m extrapolating from the post infection immunity to vaccine immunity, which may not be reliable. However it is not a naspharyngeal vaccine, so it isn’t too big a reach. Here is the related paper/ Do antibody positive healthcare workers have lower SARS-CoV-2 infection rates than antibody negative healthcare workers? Large multi-centre prospective cohort study (the SIREN study), England: June to November 2020

TUC Risks story on the BFAWU award – Union wins ‘unsung hero’ award for Covid fight

BSI Standards for Face Coverings 

Further details and support

Supporting our work
If you would like to get involved in the work of the Hazards Campaign and/or would like to donate. Then please send an email and/or any donations to Hazards Campaign c/o:
info@hazardscampaign.org.uk

Account Greater Manchester Hazards Centre Ltd
Sort Code 60 83 01
Account Number 20090443
Ref Name/organisation
Or by cheque to Hazards Campaign c/o Janet Newsham
177 Watling Street Road, Fulwood, Preston PR2 8AE

For more information
janet@gmhazards.org.uk
07734 317 158

Managing ventilation as a Covid safety measure webinar – recording and resources

The TUC webinar ‘Managing ventilation as a Covid safety measure’, 27 January 2021, attracted over a thousand attendees.  The Hazards Campaign’s Hilda Palmer addressed the seminar. You can find HIlda’s updated explanatory notes here, jump to the beginning of her presentation here.

Below you can view the YouTube recording of the whole seminar.

Resources from the seminar

Hilda’s presentation can be viewed here:

Hazards Campaign Thursday Talk – Picking up the threads!

Thursday Talk: Picking up the Threads!
21st January, 6-7.30pm

Register for the online event here

Across the UK, transmission of the virus is out of control and workers are dying or being left with Long-Covid because their employers haven’t controlled the transmission risks. What can we do to ensure all our workplaces are Covid-Safe and what does this mean?

We will be joined by experts from different trade unions, sectors and industries, who will lead a discussion in how to keep workers safe and prevent infection risks.

If you have any specific questions you would like to put to the panel, email them in advance or post in the chat on the night.

Links to Information
View a film about workplace Covid-19 transmission in the Hazards magazine Venting article

Register for the online event here

Supporting our work
If you would like to get involved in the work of the Hazards Campaign and/or would like to donate. Then please send an email and/or any donations to Hazards Campaign c/o:
info@hazardscampaign.org.uk

Account Greater Manchester Hazards Centre Ltd
Sort Code 60 83 01
Account Number 20090443
Ref Name/organisation
Or by cheque to Hazards Campaign c/o Janet Newsham
177 Watling Street Road, Fulwood, Preston PR2 8AE

For more information
janet@gmhazards.org.uk
07734 317 158

16 January 2021 – Online conference: Organising for Zero Covid

Please circulate details of this event to members and networks. The Hazards Campaign is part of the Zero Covid organising group  has provided speakers and chairs for sessions in this event. 

2021 must be the year of #ZeroCovid

England’s four-tier system is a failure. Test and Trace is not doing its job. The Westminster government is battling to keep schools open against educators and medical experts’ advice. There is no plan to get us out of this cycle of restrictions. In Scotland too, despite Holyrood steering a different course at times, infection rates are rising rapidly.

What’s the alternative?

Zero Covid is the alternative. It’s a strategy to eliminate the virus, which means a working Test and Trace system, financial and material support for people to enable them to isolate, and ensuring all workplaces which are open are certified Covid-Safe. Restrictions on our lives can be lifted once these elements are in place and as new cases drop off to a level which can be managed by public health teams.

Find out more at the Organising for Zero Covid conference! Register for the online conference

Morning plenary:

  • Professor Michael Baker (New Zealand Ministry of Health’s Pandemic Influenza Technical Advisory Group, pc)
  • Professor Susan Michie (Independent SAGE, pc)
  • Hector Wesley (Black Activists Rising Against Cuts)
  • Janet Newsham (Hazards Campaign for workplace safety)
  • Diane Abbott MP

Breakout groups

Afternoon plenary

  • Richard Burgon MP
  • Disability rights campaigner TBC
  • Workplace activist TBC
  • Helen McFarlane (NHS worker, Scotland)
  • Kevin Courtney (Joint General Secretary, National Education Union)

Workshops

  • Schools (staff, parents and students)
  • Campuses (staff and students)
  • Workplace organising around safety
  • Building a local Zero Covid group
  • Defend Our NHS
  • Poverty, benefit and cuts
  • Scotland
  • Wales
  • Zero Covid in the Labour Party
A full timetable is available here

Hazards Campaign 2021 – 10 Organising Priorities

Healthy and Safe Work centred on Precaution, Prevention and Participation

Too many people work in unsafe, unhealthy, precarious working environments.  This has to change.  We will collectively campaign for:

  1. The fundamental human right to safe and healthy work, a safe and healthy working environment for all workers regardless of employment status, that is enforced and protected in law.
  2. A society that prioritises health, safety and dignity of its workers and provides just treatment for the victims of health and safety crime and ensures fair treatment for all workers harmed by work, including compensation and job protection.
  3. The right to safe, decent and secure work with preventive and not purely reactive enforcement including: the entitlement of all workers to minimum living wage, regular and contracted hours, paid holidays, and sick pay regardless of employment status.
  4. Protection from all public health risks, including biohazards which can lead to work-related infections, outbreaks, epidemics and pandemics.
  5. Protection from global risks to workers health and safety including trade deals and a ‘due diligence’ requirement on companies with a  responsibility for safety and working conditions throughout their supply chains.
  6. Continuous assessment and improvement of health, safety and employment legislation, to ensure that prevention of harm from all risks, are increased to the highest practicable standards.
  7. A precautionary approach to be taken to health and safety risks in all employment settings.  All workplaces to be covered by Trade Union Safety reps regardless of recognition agreements, through Roving Reps and the full enforcement of upgraded Safety Reps and Safety Committees Regulations, to cover all workers.
  8. Independence from political and commercial interference in the authorities enforcing health and safety at work and in those enforcing public health and environment protection; with ring fenced funding and resources to ensure these bodies can function independently to ensure the highest preventative and protective standards for workers and public/environmental health.
  9. Full participation and equity for employee representatives, on all health and safety regulator, industrial health and safety and workplace health and compensation bodies/agencies.
  10. Development of a Toxic Use Reduction programme including legislation, financial resources, scientific research and support to enable the elimination of toxic substances used at work and their substitution with safer alternatives to improve workers health, reduce toxic substances in form of plastic and other waste, air pollution and contribution to climate change.

Links:
https://www.hazardscampaign.org.uk/manifesto
https://www.hazards.org/deadlybusiness/manifesto.htm