Category Archives: Blog

The Working Dead! Hazards Campaign demands the Government take tougher action on preventing transmission of the virus

News release – 16 December 2020 – No embargo

The Working Dead! Hazards Campaign demands the Government take tougher action on preventing transmission of the virus

The 16 December 2020 Manchester TUC meeting  (1) on Zero-Covid to save lives and livelihoods heard from Janet Newsham on why the Hazards Campaign is demanding the Government take tougher action on preventing transmission of the virus. She said:

“The number of workers who have died because of Covid-19 is in the thousands. (2)  They are infected in their homes by those they live with who have become infected in schools or in their workplaces , in their communities when they do their weekly shop, on their way to and from work when they use public transport but they are also infected in their workplaces or doing their work activities.  Among the thousands who have died, just 189 Covid deaths were reported in six months to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).  (3)

“These were reported to the HSE despite them discouraging employers from reporting through their RIDDOR system. (4)  However, 189 workers deaths were reported through RIDDOR in six months, compared to 111 fatalities in the previous year.  This is a huge increase and highlights the risks that workers are facing in the pandemic and the lack of controls on their health and safety.

“Occupational risks of becoming infected with Covid-19 highlights the lack of information available about how transmission risks can be controlled in all working environments, and that only Covid-safe workplaces should be open, it highlights the lack of enforcement in ensuring employers are controlling the risks, it highlights the failure of Government to take a precautionary approach to transmission especially of airborne aerosol risks in our workplaces (5) and availability of a preventative standard of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), it highlights the lack of priority in all our Nations to the health of their citizens over opening non-essential businesses and it highlights a lack of Zero-Covid strategy by Nation Governments to removing the virus transmission from our society.

“Occupational risks could and should have been controlled.  Infection control is a standard risk control in many workplaces.  If other workplaces had needed educating in how this could be done, the expertise is out there and available.

“The UK Government from early in the pandemic misrepresented the risks to health and the controls needed to protect people.  They didn’t put in place strict infection control procedures in workplaces or broadcast the risks people were facing.  They did not make available financial support to workplaces to ensure they are Covid-safe (6) but rather put in place short term solutions like some lock-downs which only partially impacted on the spread of the virus and as a result we are on a roller-coaster of partial lock-down based on how many dead bodies are piling up!

“Our loved ones have become collateral damage in the pursuit of profit and privatisation by our incompetent and inept Government.

“The HSE has been like a secret society, operating in the shadows. (7) They have based most of their assumptions of how safe our workplaces are, on telephone conversations with the people that are supposed to be ensuring the safe workplaces!  In normal times HSE / Local Authority (LA) inspectors would also have conversations with Trade Union Safety reps which checks that the information provided by employers is accurate but during one of the most dangerous times for many workers, the HSE thought it fit to believe and talk only to the people who have caused the deaths of hundreds of workers by not controlling the risks.

“We know where the risks to workers health are.  We know how these risks should be controlled.  The controls needed are just the same in care homes, hospitals, buses, work vans, offices, restaurants, pubs, shops, schools, universities, factories etc.  All these working environments are transmitting the virus to our families, communities and other workplaces.

“This isn’t rocket science it is simple message to control the transmission risks and if you cant, shut down until you can. And for the Government to provide additional funding and resources to ensure there is more space, fewer people, greater ventilation, precautionary level PPE, more cleaning, improved hygiene and welfare and greater education of transmission risks.

“On top of this, the Government has a UK wide remit to work with other Nations in the UK to stop transmission from those entering the countries, to ensure test, track, trace and isolate is working to a high level of contact and isolation and that payments are made to workers unable to work because of lock-downs, workers who are sick and workers who need to isolate.

“To achieve it we need a circuit break at Christmas to ensure these Government actions are in place and are working effectively.  A Zero-Covid strategy (8) (9) to end transmission of the virus is the only solution that will save lives and livelihoods, will stop deaths, stop infections and disabilities caused by the infection and lead us on a path back to a healthy future until the vaccine is established in our communities.”

1. Manchester Trades Council Event
2. Covid deaths by occupation – ONS
3. Covid Fatalities reported to HSE
4. RIDDOR reporting of COVID-19 – HSE
5. Aerosol transmission – Hazards Campaign and Reel News video
6.Hazards Campaign and Independent SAGE call for no workers to return to workplaces unless Covid safety plans are in place, 1 September 2020
7. Laid Bare: The scandal of expendable workers before, during and after Covid, Hazards Magazine,
8.Hazards Campaign calls for Zero-Covid strategy by all the Governments in the UK, 27 November 2020
9. Zero Covid campaign webpages

Hazards Campaign details
website www.hazardscampaign.org.uk
twitter @hazardscampaign
facebook www.facebook.com/groups/123746101003963
If you need more information please email: janet@gmhazards.org.uk
or call Janet 07734 317 158
The Hazards Campaign is a UK-wide network of resource centres and campaigners. The Hazards Campaign supports those organising and campaigning for justice and safety at work

Hazards Campaign Thursday talk report and video – Racism and worker safety

Hazards Campaign Thursday Talk – 1 December 2020

Racism and the disproportionate impact on health and safety:  Organising to protect workers

The talk featured:
– Wilf Sullivan, TUC Race Equality Officer,
– Moe Manir, Unite Union London bus worker and
– Ameen Hadi, Chair of NW Unison black members committee and Salford Unison branch officer

The speakers discussed:
1. Why is health and safety an equality issue?
2. Why have black workers been impacted more (infected and died) by Covid-19 and were they disproportionately at risk from injuries, ill health and work related deaths before Covid-19?
3. What has managements response been to the increased risks faced by black workers?
4. How can workers respond to the workplace risks?

View the meeting on YouTube here or below:

In addition we shared information about two NEU safety reps who have been dismissed and need support to be reinstated.  There are links below:

Louise Lewis Louise was carrying out her role as a NEU H&S Rep,  please sign this petition and share widely. We cannot let her employer get away with this!

Action Network petition • Model motion for branches  • change.org petition

Please send message of support for Louise to: hazel.danson@neu.org.uk or melanie.griffiths@neu.org.uk

Sharon Morgan Another NEU rep who is in East London, Sharon Morgan, has also been dismissed, without a hearing or an investigation for raising health and safety issues about Covid.  Members at her school, London Design Engineering UTC, have been on strike today.

A petition has been launched calling on Sharon to be reinstated and the link is: https://actionnetwork.org/petitions/sharon

Finally, Wilf Sullivan shared information from the TUC: Dying on the job – Racism and risk at work

Hazards Campaign Thursday Talk: Racism and the Disproportionate impact on health and safety

Join the Hazards Campaign Thursday Talk with an expert panel of speakers from the Trade Union and Health and Safety movement on Thursday 10th December, 6.00-7.30pm – On ZOOM

The speakers will lead a discussion and address the following issues:

  1. Why is health and safety an equality issue?
  2. Why have black workers been impacted more (infected and died) by Covid-19 and were they disproportionately at risk from injuries, ill health and work related death before Covid-19?
  3. What has managements response been to the increased risks faced by black workers?
  4. How can workers respond to the workplace risks?

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

For further information relevant to the speakers and subject:

website www.hazardscampaign.org.uk
twitter @hazardscampaign
facebook www.facebook.com/groups/123746101003963

If you need more information please email: janet@gmhazards.org.uk
07734 317 158

The Hazards Campaign is a UK-wide network of resource centres and campaigners. The Hazards Campaign supports those organising and campaigning for justice and safety at work.

If you would like to get more involved or make a donation to our organisation please email: janet@gmhazards.org.uk

Hazards Campaign calls for Zero-Covid strategy by all the Governments in the UK

News release, 27 November 2020
Covid day of action 5 December, across the UK and online

News bulletin for immediate release 

The Hazards Campaign accuses the belligerent UK Government of driving up workplace infections and deaths  and calls on all its members to demonstrate safely  in favour of a Zero-Covid strategy by all the Governments in the UK on  5th December.  There will be socially distanced demonstrations, and other actions including online events held across the UK to demand that the Nation Governments follow a Zero-Covid strategy to protect the health of the people of all nations. (1)(2)

Next week the UK Government change the National Lockdown criteria in England to local tier groups.  Governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are also implementing varying tiers and controls to limit individual movement and contacts.  This has left the UK in chaos. With different standards depending on the country, county and even city you live in, but for many workers there has been no reduction in the  risks that they face at work.

Workplaces like schools, public transport, construction sites, food processing plants, offices etc where transmission risks  continue to be ignored by their employers, the enforcement authorities and the Government.  With a rising incidents of workplace Covid-19 clusters, Janet Newsham the chair of the Hazards Campaign  demands that workplace risks of infections are properly controlled.

his means properly assessing and then preventing or controlling all the risks, from when the worker leaves their house to attending their workplace, to navigating safe places to have their lunch breaks, to returning home afterwards.

Janet says:  ‘This daily risk roulette makes workers anxious.  Many are contracting the virus because their workplaces simply are not controlling all the risks of transmission especially from airborne aerosols in poorly ventilated buildings.  Infected workers then take the virus back to their homes, to their families and into their communities.  Through no fault of their own, simply because their employer is not ensuring all risks are controlled, workers and their families are at great risk .’  (3)(4)

Two weeks ago, the HSE released figures about the number of people who have died in incidents that are reported to the RIDDOR system which Janet says:  ‘is a fraction of the actual numbers of people who had died over the previous year because of their work.

‘More than 50,000 have died because they had been exposed to dangerous substances, toxic chemicals, stressful working conditions and other life shortening working conditions that affect their health and leaves them with chronic conditions.  Workers are dying in their thousands because of all these and the additional fatalities not recorded on the RIDDOR system which includes workers who die at sea, in air crashes, on the railways, in road incidents and by suicide because of uncontrolled pressures at work.  This year there have been thousands killed because they were exposed to Covid-19.

‘Many working on the frontline, many essential workers have died because PPE wasn’t at the right standard or wasn’t available for them.  Black workers have been disproportionally affected and the inequalities they face in society means that they were overrepresented in some of the most dangerous jobs and in the fatalities.’ (5)

‘Many workers will be left with Long-Covid which encompasses many different chronic  physical and mental health conditions that will impact on their quality of life and life expectancy. ’ (6)

‘The Prime Minister is under pressure from his back benchers and business owners to ease all restrictions on businesses in England, just as other nation Governments have been keen to prioritise business interests above public health.  This constant battle of wills serves no purpose in establishing a strategy for reducing the transmission of the virus, especially when private companies have been bequeathed lucrative deals on services and support, which they had no or little experience of before the pandemic.  Deals which have given them £ms but left thousands dead because they couldn’t and haven’t delivered what was needed to combat the virus.

‘Any easing of the lockdown before other controls are working properly will land us all back in enforced lockdown after Christmas and a prolonged state of anxiety and risk of becoming infected.  If the Governments don’t respond with stricter measures, many more people will die.  People have already said they would rather have a quiet Christmas than following their parents and Grandparents to the crematorium in January.  We need a different approach.’

On December 5th the Hazards Campaign joins others in putting pressure on the Governments across the UK to follow a Zero-Covid strategy.  This includes only relaxing Lockdown when:

  • Employers can  ensure  they are only open for business if they are certified are Covid-safe from all methods of transmission by enforcement authorities,
  • Find Track, Trace Isolate with Support system is funded under local control, working effectively with a high contact level and financial support, to ensure everyone is able to isolate and is financially supported when they are sick.
  • Support and resources, more space and improved ventilation is provided in our schools, colleges and universities.
  • Governments are prepared to work with the collective voice of workers in different sectors, to work with trade unions to control the risks to their members health.
  • The UK is made up of islands and therefore restrictions on entry into the islands must be controlled to stop importing new cases and this can easily be achieved through quarantine and testing.

‘Finally, we call on  the UK Governments to follow the Zero-Covid strategy, communicate clearly with the public and introduce transparency and simple messaging so that everyone understands what needs to happen and why, to ensure the health of the people in all its nations until a vaccine is available for everyone.’

For further information relevant to the speakers and subject:

  1. Zero Covid Campaign
  2. A Better Way To Go: towards to a Zero COVID UK,   Independent Sage Zero-Covid Strategy
  3. Hazards Campaign and Independent SAGE call for no workers to return to workplaces unless Covid safety plans are in place
  4. The COVID-19 Safe Workplace Charter and briefing document on ending work lockdowns in GB, Joint Independent Sage and Hazards Charter and document
  5. http://www.hazardscampaign.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/thewholestory.pdf
  6. https://www.hazardscampaign.org.uk/blog/hazards-campaign-thursday-talk-the-challenges-of-long-covid-2

Hazards Campaign News Releases

Hazards Campaign details
website www.hazardscampaign.org.uk
twitter @hazardscampaign
facebook www.facebook.com/groups/123746101003963
If you need more information please email: janet@gmhazards.org.uk
or call Janet 07734 317 158

The Hazards Campaign is a UK-wide network of resource centres and campaigners. The Hazards Campaign supports those organising and campaigning for justice and safety at work.

Hazards Campaign Thursday Talk: Covid Transmission and Killer Workplaces

Covid Transmission and Killer Workplaces

Join the Hazards Campaign Thursday Talk (19th November 2020 6.00-7.30pm on Zoom) featuring speakers including trade union health and safety officers, reps and activists.

We will be discussing how we can end the lockdown using a Zero-Covid strategy and keep people safe at work in Covid-safe workplaces.

Book a place and receive the link to the meeting via  Eventbrite

We will also be launching the film ‘COVID Transmission and Killer Workplaces’.

For further information relevant to the speakers and subject:

Hazards Campaign News Releases

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

The COVID-19 Safe Workplace Charter and briefing document on
ending work lockdowns in GB, Joint Independent Sage and Hazards Charter and document

A Better Way To Go: towards to a Zero COVID UK,   Independent Sage Zero-Covid Strategy

Zero Covid Campaign

Hazards Campaign details
website www.hazardscampaign.org.uk
twitter @hazardscampaign
facebook www.facebook.com/groups/123746101003963

If you need more information please email: janet@gmhazards.org.uk
07734 317 158

The Hazards Campaign is a UK-wide network of resource centres and campaigners. The Hazards Campaign supports those organising and campaigning for justice and safety at work.

If you would like to get more involved or make a donation to our organisation please email: janet@gmhazards.org.uk

Hazards Campaign Thursday Talk: Breast Cancer Awareness is not enough! [Video and resources]

Hazards Campaign Thursday Talk: Breast Cancer Awareness is not enough! [Thursday 29 October]

 October is Breast Cancer Awareness month and every year thousands of people don pink outfits and collect money for a variety of breast cancer charities. The session highlighted some of the preventable occupational and environmental risks to women and why they develop breast cancer. We had a line up of fantastic speakers including:

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

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

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

Video

A link to a recording of the event can be found here or viewed below:

A copy of Helen Lynn and Jane McArthur’s presentation can be found here.

Resources

Negotiators’ guide: Women’s health and safety at work, Unite

Cancer prevalence among flight attendants compared to the general population, NCBI

Study Examines Cancer Rates Among Flight Attendants, American Cancer Society

Breast Cancer Prevention Partners

Hazards Magazine Cancer resources and tools

Work cancer hazards A continually-updated, annotated bibliography of occupational cancer research produced by Hazards, the Alliance for Cancer Prevention and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC).

Fact sheet on COSHH and Stopping deadly exposure at work

Jane E. McArthur wins the 2019 Barbara Rosenblum
Cancer Dissertation Scholarship

Linking breast cancer and our environment, Helen Lynn

Breast cancer exposure among Windsor-Detroit border workers needs to be taken more seriously, says researcher, 23 June 2020, CBC News

 

A Government void of reality and enforcers avoiding reality!

Hazards Campaign – News Release 2nd November, 2020

A Government void of reality and enforcers avoiding reality!

This week the national Hazards Campaign will endorse a call for action to force the Government to take a Zero-Covid strategy to suppress the virus to save lives and livelihoods (1).  Throughout the pandemic the Hazards Campaign has argued that unsafe workplaces are infecting workers who transmit it on to families and communities driving up the overall infection rates.  The Government and its authorities continue to focus on demonising individuals, ignoring the role of the workplace as a source of infection and transmission and failing to enforce health and safety law that should ensure employers in every setting are controlling the risks.  Government failure to protect workers has also failed to protect communities.

Janet Newsham of the Hazards Campaign will say that “any Covid circuit-breaker must be part of a Zero-Covid strategy which includes high numbers of people tested, a high percentage of those positive cases traced, contacted, and people supported financially to isolate.  Anything less would be an abdication of government responsibility and a waste of valuable time to get the virus under control .  A circuit break must also ensure that all essential workplaces remaining open are Covid-safe (2).

On the 5th November we are going into a second national lockdown that will fail to reduce the transmission rate significantly if it leaves many unsafe workplaces open without adequate enforcement of the controls of risks, and if it doesn’t rebuild  a publicly owned Test, Trace and Isolate  with support system integrated in local public health and the NHS.”

In the North of England many people have been in almost continual restrictions throughout the pandemic and since forced return to unsafe workplaces including schools and universities  the transmission rates have continued to rise.  Unless this lockdown makes significant changes, it will causes much hardship for little benefit.

As we move to a second national lock-down, we should reflect on why we have got here and ensure lessons are learned.

  • Our first lock-down was too little, and came too late and (the second one is also too little, and far too late) (3)
  • Non-essential workplace continued to work during first lock down and unsafe workplaces have continued to work throughout the pandemic (4)
  • Testing was inadequate, not available for many people
  • Tracing was privatised and did not function at a high level of contact tracing
  • People couldn’t afford to isolate without financial assistance and employers of precarious contracted workers threatened workers from isolating or stopped wages and hours
  • Self employed workers were not financially supported (note many construction workers are self-employed)
  • Thousands of jobs have been lost due to Government mishandling, leaving people with huge debts and extreme anxiety
  • The NHS has been starved of resources and staff because of Government policies and Brexit
  • The HSE and LA enforcers. starved of resources and staff over ten years, haven’t been able to inspect or enforce health and safety law (5)
  • The Govt has lost credibility and squandered trust  – mixed messaging, confusing tiers/lockdowns, allowing one rule for us and another more lenient rule for the elite  ‘Cummingsgate’ (6)
  • Schools, colleges, universities opened up for face to face teaching against the advice of scientists and trade unions and transmission rose dramatically  as forewarned (7)
  • Public Health England scapegoated and disbanded in the middle of the current crisis

The Government were advised by their own SAGE  scientific experts to lock-down on 21st September instead they opted for local lockdowns with confusing rules that couldn’t possibly work. (8)

For the circuit break to succeed, it must be on the basis of:

Closure of all non-essential workplaces;

Schools, colleges and universities closed to face to face teaching but supported to provide on-line teaching; support for in-school provision for key workers and vulnerable and deprived children;

Rebuilding a locally based, publicly run,  high contact and efficient test, track and isolate system is in place, with speedy results available for anyone that needs a test, and people supported financially to isolate.  This must be integrated with public health, the NHS and occupational health and safety.

Workplaces remaining open must be Covid-safe and not endanger the workers, their families and communities. Anyone is potentially infectious whether they show symptoms or not so all risks of transmission of the virus by any route must be controlled and enforced in all essential workplaces. This must include transmission by airborne aerosols which requires good ventilation, filtration and mask and PPE wearing. (9)

Workplaces that are closed must prepare to reopen safely as above.

Workers who have to be in work, need access to safe public transport and workers on public transport need their employers to ensure their safety and health and that of their customers.  The same applies to health and social care, retail staff, teachers, transport workers, postal workers and others in essential work.

For a zero-covid strategy to work it has to be done in conjunction with Covid-Safe Workplaces.  PHE and the HSE and local authority enforcers must be resourced to be able to carry out their primary functions.  Outbreaks must be result in on-site testing centres to open up immediately, and occupational health enforcement officers must be on hand to determine transmission routes.

Janet will say “Government advice must improve and change to take account of updated risks on transmission.  It is pointless regurgitating hollow rhetoric about school children and young people needing education to justify unsafe schools remaining open, if it is exposing them to the virus which they take back to their families and communities.  What is going to harm a child more, a few weeks out of education or the death of their parents, siblings or grandparents, that they involuntarily infected?  If education is open it has to be safe and the risks of aerosol transmission must be controlled.”(9)

  1. A Better Way To Go: towards to a Zero COVID UK – 7 July 2020 Independent SAGE
  2. Hazards Campaign and Independent SAGE call for no workers to return to workplaces unless Covid safety plans are in place – 2 September 2020, Hazards Campaign and Independent SAGE
  3. The Hazards Campaign calls for the government to adopt immediately a zero-Covid19 policy– 31 July 2020, Hazards Campaign
  4. No going back to work unless workers say it is safe!– 7 May 2020, Hazards Campaign
  5. Deadly failures have placed millions of workers at unnecessary coronavirus exposure risk – 8 April 2020, Hazards Campaign
  6. The UK Government response is like a car skidding uncontrollably towards a brick wall – 23 September 2020, Hazards Campaign
  7. ‘We’ll be policed all the way to the factory gates’ – 30 September 2020, Hazards Campaign
  8. Summary of the effectiveness and harms of different non-pharmaceutical interventions, SAGE minutes 21 st Sept 2020
  9. Is two metre physical distancing enough? Aerosol transmission and other emerging issues – 14 September 2020, Hazards Campaign

Further Information

Hazards Campaign Twitter: @hazardscampaign
Facebook: We didn’t vote to die at work
email:  info@hazardscampaign.org.uk

For further information contact:
Janet Newsham
janet@gmhazards.org.uk
07734317158

Hazards Campaign Thursday talk: Breast cancer awareness is not enough

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hazards Campaign

website www.hazardscampaign.org.uk
twitter @hazardscampaign
facebook www.facebook.com/groups/123746101003963

If you need more information please email: janet@gmhazards.org.uk
or 07734 317 158

The Hazards Campaign is a UK-wide network of resource centres and campaigners. The Hazards Campaign supports those organising and campaigning for justice and safety at work.

If you would like to get more involved or make a donation to our organisation please email: janet@gmhazards.org.uk

Hazards Campaign Thursday talk – The challenges of long-covid

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

We were joined by speakers:

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

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

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

You can view a recording of the event here.

For further information relevant to the speakers and subject:

website www.hazardscampaign.org.uk
twitter @hazardscampaign
facebook www.facebook.com/groups/123746101003963

If you need more information please email: janet@gmhazards.org.uk
or 07734 317 158

The Hazards Campaign is a UK-wide network of resource centres and campaigners. The Hazards Campaign supports those organising and campaigning for justice and safety at work.

If you would like to get more involved or make a donation to our organisation please email: janet@gmhazards.org.uk

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

Hazards Campaign – News Release,

14th October 2020 (No embargo)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. https://www.hazardscampaign.org.uk/blog/well-be-policed-all-the-way-to-the-factory-gates
2. https://www.hazardscampaign.org.uk/blog/hazards-campaign-thursday-talk-the-challenges-of-long-covid
3. https://academic.oup.com/occmed/advance-article/doi/10.1093/occmed/kqaa165/5909155   Prof Aigius report Covid-19: statutory means of scrutinizing workers’ deaths and disease
4. http://www.hazardscampaign.org.uk/blog/new-release-hazards-campaign-and-independent-sage-call-for-no-workers-to-return-to-workplaces-unless-covid-safety-plans-are-in-place
5. https://www.independentsage.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/20200717-A-Better-Way-To-Go.pdf
6. https://www.hazards.org/coronavirus/abdication.htm
Further Information

For further information contact:
Janet Newsham
janet@gmhazards.org.uk
07734317158