News bulletin for immediate release – 28 January 2022 No embargo
Delegates at the Friday 28 January meeting of the Hazards Campaign demand action, from the Government to enforce existing occupational safety law and prosecute employers that break the law, and to reverse their abandonment of occupational public health mitigation.
The latest statistics from Government show a huge number of workplace outbreaks. (1)
The Covid crisis in the UK has been led by a government that not only admits to breaking Covid law, but also abdicates all responsibility for controlling transmission of this deadly virus.
Janet Newsham of Hazards Campaign said: “The Hazards Campaign continues to support workers and trade union reps in untangling the confused, unscientific, unsafe and unlawful government guidance, apparently produced to force workers and others into unsafe and unhealthy workplaces, without adequate risk assessments and appropriate control measures. “
Newsham continued: “One example of this flawed approach can be found in the Department of Education operational guidance that tells employers to ignore Risk Assessments that call for remote working and allows the removal of face coverings/masks. This flies in the face of all reason and seriously jeopardises safety.” (2)
Enforcement through the pandemic has been woeful. There has been a complete absence of Covid-19 prosecutions by the HSE/Local Authority inspectors. Lots of employers have failed to prevent infections and the result has been the deaths and long-term ill health of workers. RIDDOR reports have been submitted in far too few cases of Covid-19 deaths, infections and for those workers who continue to suffer debilitating ill health, and no prosecutions have been made on the lack of RIDDOR reports either.
Therefore the Hazards Campaign calls for:
1. Full and proper enforcement of health and safety law as the paramount protective law at work.
2. The prosecution of employers putting workers lives at risk.
3. A reversal of the abdication of the Governments Covid-19 mitigation policy and the return of Plan B.
4. The development of an agreed plan with trade unions to provide safe workplaces for all workers through collective scientifically proven layered preventions.
No-one should be harmed or made ill simply going to work, especially when the mitigations to prevent infections are known.
Workers should not have to fight for their health, lives and livelihoods in a global viral pandemic when there are laws intended to protect them at work.
Over 300 union reps and safety activities will hear a powerful global line-up of speakers.
The conference is a must for anyone keen to know more about how to make work safer for everyone, keep health and safety failings in the spotlight and maintain a clear focus on fixing the broken system.
Workshop topics will include asbestos, organising, sex and gender sensitive safety, hybrid working, investigating accidents, workplace justice, surveillance and violence.
News bulletin for immediate release – 30 July 2021 – No embargo
On 31st July and 1st August, more than 300 trade union safety reps and health and safety campaigners, will participate in the online Hazards Conference under the banner of Fighting for the Fundamental Right to Safe and Healthy work. Sign up here.
Chair of the conference Doug Russell USDAW National Health and Safety officer said
“It is a great pleasure to be asked to chair the opening session. The organisers have made a virtue out of the need for a virtual conference by organising a powerful global line-up of speakers. The pandemic has exposed major problems with health and safety and has had a devastating impact on mental and physical health of workers. The afternoon sessions and workshops on Sunday offer practical insight into how safety representatives can organise to tackle these issues. A great reality check for reps in a world that has gone mad – don’t miss it.”
And Shelly Asquith TUC National Health and Safety officer said
“Hazards Campaign has for many years exposed the dangers of unsafe work. As the pandemic rages on, it is one of the most important campaigns of our time. This weekend’s conference is a must for anyone keen to know more about how we make work safer for everyone.”
Sharan Burrow, General Secretary of the global trade union confederation ITUC, is the keynote speaker at the opening session on Saturday and will spell out why health and safety must be recognised worldwide as an ILO Fundamental Right at Work. (1)
Richard Wagstaff, New Zealand Council of Trade Unions President will speak on the safety lessons learned recently in New Zealand with particular focus on Covid-19. (2)
Andy McDonald, Labour’s shadow Employment Secretary, is the keynote speaker at the Sunday session and will speak about how decent work supports safe and healthy working environments and lives. (3)
Also at the conference Shavanah Taj, Wales TUC General Secretary will say:
“Health and safety at work is a fundamental right. Yet the crisis over the last 16 months has repeatedly demonstrated that for many workers this right is a fiction.
“In Wales we have seen clear evidence that a decade of austerity and cuts has left us unable to enforce the most basic measures to keep workers safe.
“So it’s more vital than ever that we keep health and safety failings in the spotlight and maintain a clear focus on fixing our broken system”
Hazards Campaign is protesting HSE failures to ensure proper protection for workers against the airborne spread of Covid-19 on 27th July, 6pm at Health and Safety Executive, Bootle
HSE must mandate the provision of respiratory protective equipment to FFP3 standard for all NHS and social care staff.
A simultaneous protest has been organised by Doctors in Unite that is taking place at the Department of Health, London more details
News bulletin for immediate release – 27.7.21 – No embargo
The UK Hazards Campaign has organised a protest at the HSE offices in Bootle today Tuesday, 27th July over HSE’s failure to ensure proper protection against airborne transmission to health and social care staff and other workers during the continuing pandemic. A simultaneous protest has been organised by Doctors in Unite that is taking place at the Department of Health, London more details.
The Hazards Campaign is protesting at the continued refusal of the Health and Safety Executive to stand up for, and enforce workers’ health and safety, at its failing to insist Public Health England improve their guidance to mandate the provision of respiratory protective equipment to FFP3 standard for all NHS and social care staff, and other workers rather than claiming surgical masks are PPE which it knows is not true.
Janet Newsham UK Hazards Campaign chair says,
“With the disappearing Covid-19 public protection, workers need to be properly protected and their employers have a legal duty to ensure workers health and safety and anyone else affected by their work activity or in their work premises.
“The HSE has a legal duty to ensure safe working conditions for all workers, but they have largely failed to ensure that employers in all settings are controlling the infection risks to their staff through their duty to provide suitable and sufficient risk assessments and adequate controls of this airborne disease. By reacting too late hundreds of thousands of workers have been infected, many left with long-covid and some have sadly died.
“As long as employers fail to ensure adequate ventilation and a proper precautionary level of face masks, workers will continue to be exposed to Covid-19 virus.”
The socially distanced protest will take place at 6pm at the HSE offices on Merton Road, Bootle, L20 7HS
FACK Statement on the sentencing of Ruislip Plant Ltd for the offence that led to Ben Wylie’s death
Some justice for Ben Wylie’s family after seven years but much heartbreak
Mylene Bensley read her Victim Personal Statement to Reading Crown Court yesterday, before the sentencing of the company which pleaded guilty to a health and safety offence that led to the incident that killed her beloved son Ben on a construction site on 14 May 2014.
Ben was killed when stepping forward to help colleagues struggling to get a drilling rig functioning again after a part that had failed the day before had been repaired, altered and refitted, rather than replaced with a new part. When tested, the repair failed under pressure and Ben was hit by a jet of highly pressurised hydraulic oil. Ben suffered a severe chest injury which killed him but not immediately.
In her statement Mylene said:
“Ben was such a wonderful person full of life and he filled a room when he walked in everyone loved him. Ben had many friends and a few close friends. Rhys and Karah his brother and sister meant so much to Ben he always made the effort to be there for their birthdays and special occasions. and they loved him so much”
“Ben’s death was not immediate, and I will have the visions of my son standing up after being shot by oil and a piece of equipment and stumbling across a building site saying he felt sick and spewing out blood and then falling down forever etched into my mind, due to the inadequate provision for his safety.”
“The information started coming through in graphic minutia of detail of how Ben died. I took each blow of information because my son had taken the blow that killed him, and I wanted to be there in my mind in any way I could be because I couldn’t be there for his dying moments. Ben’s body was returned home on my birthday in a coffin.”
“We have suffered for seven years with no government assistance and a sham of justice we have to continue despite anger, Deep hurt and insecurity. I am so grateful that FACK and Hilda were so helpful because without Hilda’s help and support this whole horrible experience would have been so much worse.”
“I was asked to identify my son in Maidenhead and as I had no money, I had to rely on someone’s good will to get me there. Seeing my son lying there dead was the worst sight in the world to me. All the hopes and dreams of the future gone and now my son who experienced a terrible death just lying there. I didn’t want to leave him in that cold place and I had to be escorted out.”
There were several companies on site including Ben’s employer, but it took seven years to bring the case against only one, Ruislip Plant Ltd. Thomas Kearney, the sole director carried out the botched repair, but died in 2019. His son David, who bears no responsibility for the incident or charge, with some honour did not liquidate the company and so it had assets to stand trial and pay this fine.
Yesterday the company pleaded guilty to a charge under the Health and Safety at Work etc.
The Judge fined the company £99,000 plus £116,800 costs..
Hilda Palmer FACK facilitator said:
“Families Against Corporate Killers welcome the sentence but note that justice delayed so long is always to some extent justice denied. FACK has supported Mylene throughout the HSE investigation, the Inquest and the trial. There is no automatic statutory support for families of those killed by employer’s negligence, no free legal representation at Inquest, and no financial compensation for the family of a young man without dependents to offset the costs of pursuing justice or coping with the effects of grief on health and earning capacity. Families suffer terribly. Mothers like Mylene suffer the most and siblings also suffer badly. None of this is accounted for or deemed worthy of support and help by the authorities or employers who cause preventable deaths like Ben’s. And since work-related death is little acknowledged, publicised or understood, many employers and even friends and family have no idea of the trauma suffered, the callous cruelty of the process or its costs to individual’s harmed due to no fault of their own but an employer failing to comply with health and safety law. The harms caused included the lack of financial or mental health support immediately or over the very long period it affects those grieving a traumatic death, and long-term impact of bereavement on parents and siblings. FACK believes that many bereaved families suffer undiagnosed and untreated PTSD and we demand more help for families to alleviate their suffering. FACK commends Mylene for her bravery in pursuing justice for Ben, being his witness, while also being the bread winner, caring for his sister and brother and coping with her own grief. She is truly courageous and inspiring.
“Mylene spoke to the Court powerfully and eloquently about the terrible impact of Ben’s death and the effects on her and Ben’s brother and sister. This is a long-term effect, nearly eight years of severe grief and hardship to get this conviction and some justice, but a life-time of loss and heartbreak to endure. FACK has heard these words many times but we still weep and rage. We urge everyone to heed them and demand more help, support and understanding from the authorities and all concerned. We also demand that employers take health and safety seriously, do not cut corners for profit or bodge repairs to save money and time, but fully protect the lives and health of all workers and that the Health and Safety Executive enforces health and safety more stringently to prevent workers being killed. Employers do not bear the full cost, it is families who bear the burden of employers’ criminal acts.”
After the sentencing Mylene added
“It was good to give Hilda and FACK the recognition today, whilst reading my witness impact statement. The efforts and support Hilda, in particular, provided for me throughout these seven years since Ben was killed, have enabled me to pursue justice. As I sat in virtual Reading court, through the prosecution of Ruislip Ltd, I knew I was there due to Hilda’s support. Thank you Hilda and FACK.“
Contact Hilda Palmer 0161 792 1044 mobile 079298 00240 for more information
Notes for editors
The Charge: Ruislip Plant Ltd of Ruislip Middlesex on 13th May 2014 at West Street, Maidenhead being an employer within the meaning of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 (“the Act”), it failed to discharge the duty imposed on it by section 3(1) of the Act, in that it failed to conduct its undertaking, namely the maintenance of a high-pressure grease system, in such a way as to ensure, so far as was reasonably practicable, that persons not in its employment who may have been affected thereby, including Benjamin Wylie, were not thereby exposed to risks to their health or safety, namely hydraulic injection injury during maintenance, whereby it is guilty of an offence contrary to Section 33(1)(a) of the Act.
FACK – set up in 2006 by families bereaved by negligent employers to support families, campaign for justice and end preventable work-related deaths
“I turned to a group called Families Against Corporate Killers run by Greater Manchester Hazards Centre which supports the families of those killed at work. Through them I managed to obtain advice on the process, support and also free legal representation through Helen Clifford Solicitor for the whole of the Inquest, plus some funding to stay in Reading as I had no other means of ensuring I could even be there. There is no statutory help at all for people in my position. Thank you, Hilda, and FACK for your tireless efforts at gaining accountability for workers in unsafe corporate organisations. Without your support the whole terrible experience would have been so much more difficult.”
c/o GM Hazards Centre, Windrush Millennium Centre, 70 Alexandra Road,
GOVERNMENT – GUILTY! HSE – GUILTY! EMPLOYERS – GUILTY!
The jury at the on-line Workers’ Court, 11 March 2021, found the government, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and employers guilty of all charges that were brought over the Covid-19 pandemic, which has led to the preventable deaths of tens of thousands of workers and members of the public.
‘The jury has unanimously found the employers, enforcement authorities and the UK Governments, guilty of all the charges laid against them. Their collective criminal negligence will not be forgotten. You are the living record, yours is one of the many collective records of the lives of over 130,000 people callously ended, needlessly ended, up to this point in the pandemic. Not to mention millions more who have been emotionally, physically and financially scarred in many cases for the rest of their lives. As bearers of this record, those for whom you have spoken and about whom you have spoken, we are not going away. On behalf the Workers’ Court: we demand a public inquiry, we demand legal proceedings for corporate bodies and senior individuals within them; we demand truth, justice and accountability. We shall remember the dead but we will also fight for the living.’
The court was organised by the UK Hazards Campaign on 11 March 2021, one year after the declaration of the start of the Covid-19 pandemic by the World Health Organisation (WHO). One year on, 130,000 UK citizens have died, including many thousands of workers.
Evidence was taken from a broad base of witnesses, including trade union reps, specialist academics and campaigners covering different industrial sectors including: the NHS, public sector, construction, education, manufacturing, telecommunications and transport. As well as an ex HSE inspector an activist from the Black Workers network, retired GP, national and regional trade union officers.
In introducing the witnesses Janet Newsham of the UK Hazards Campaign said:
‘The witnesses provided a picture where workers are bullied and victimised, where trade union representatives are sacked and blacklisted, where employers deliberately fail to control the risks leaving workers exposed, infected, disabled and dead. These are serious allegations which need bringing to justice. We need employers to understand it is their legal duty to ensure the mental and physical health of their workers, that the enforcement authorities need to stand up and start protecting workers and Government inaction must be challenged to stop the continued deaths of their citizens.’
– how government refused to accept clear and obvious risks to workers throughout the pandemic, especially denying the airborne risk until too many people had died, and failed to act sufficiently to halt the progress of infections, illness and deaths;
– how the HSE abdicated their role as health based standard setter and enforcement agency, failed to recognise the clear and obvious serious nature of the disease and the risk of transmission at the UK’s workplaces, failed to enforce Health and Safety laws and protect workers health and safety in the workplace;
– how employers have failed to meet the legal standards enshrined in our criminal health and safety laws, failed to make “suitable and sufficient” risk assessments and put in place “safe systems of work”, failed to consult with union reps as required by the law, demanded workers who could have worked from home actually go in to the workplace etc.
A full list of the charges is in additional information, at the end of the document.
The Jury that heard the evidence were:
Joan McNulty – Unison NW Health and Safety Committee Chair
Helen McFarlane – Health Worker, Trade Union Rep, Unite NEC
Janet Farrar – UCU President elect, Manchester College Trade Union Education
Prof. Dave Whyte – Professor of Socio-legal Studies Sociology, Social Policy and Criminology, Uni of Liverpool
Prof. Andrew Watterson – Professor Andrew Watterson, Health Sciences, Faculty of Health Sciences and Sport at the University of Stirling
Phil Liptrott – Personal Injury specialist and solicitor at Thompsons Solicitors
Ian Tasker – Senior Advice Worker at Scottish Hazards
Andrea Oates – Labour Research Department, NUJ
Verdict and statement of the jury, which was read out by Helen McFarlane, following their consideration of the evidence:
“First and foremost, we find the Government guilty on all charges: We believe the Government sets the scene for the remaining charges So, deregulation, privatisation, slow reaction to lock down, herd immunity Regarding our black and ethnic minority brothers and sisters, the Govt has failed to acknowledge root causes, NOT in genetics but in structural institutional racism in the workplace and the dangerous cocktail of race and class came to the fore “That the Government had a wilful downgrading of the serious nature of this pandemic”
“We find the also found the Employers guilty on all charges: We believe that is was wilful, for example we were struck by the evidence, there was never an accidentally going over the top with PPE, within any risk assessment. Not utilising RIDDOR Exploitation of women workers, BAME workers Failed by the employers to improve on the guidance. So even if they were hiding behind the Government saying that it was just guidance, our employers have failed to improve on that guidance and have ignored TU reps, to put in place better arrangements. And there has been victimisation of workers, sacking of reps and workers for raising safety issues and particular horror to hear of the UNITE London Bus driver Moe Mahsin Manir and his sacking.”
“The HSE we also find guilty on all charges: Not the HSE workers but the HSE leadership Our reps rely on advice and back up from HSE and we recognise that so do good employers who are trying to do right thing. But the lack of intervention, not intervening on even the RIDDOR allegations. Not setting standards that could be measured. Signing off on undermining health and safety guidance led by big business, especially the Construction Leadership Council. Allowing themselves to hide behind Public Health. And where there have been fines of 40,000+ individuals ONLY 78 Improvement Notices and no prosecutions.”
“We agree with the witnesses that said they blame employers, but we blame all three for deaths as they put profit before people’ s lives”
“Our judgment is we have witnessed: Social murder. Social injury. Social illness, both physical and mental. We further find exonerated the brave workplace reps and we demand their reinstatement. And we also exonerate all those who protest and call out the guilt of all parties. And in particular we exonerate Mental Health Nurse, Unison activist Karen Reissmann for the brave move that she has taken.”
Hazards Campaign Workers Court 11th March 2021
I. To highlight, challenge, and change the negligent response of employers, enforcers and UK Governments to the Covid-19 pandemic at work.
II. To give grass root organisations, workers, trade union reps, trade union health and safety officers and other occupational health and safety activists the opportunity to register their concerns about the direct and indirect effects of COVID occupational health and safety failures on workers including economic and social impact.
III. To provide a living record of the issues workers have faced due to the UKs response to Covid-19.
Employers: During the pandemic many employers have:
Compelled employees to return to work during the pandemic when it was unsafe to do
Failed to provide ‘suitable and sufficient’ risk assessments, as required by law, that use a control hierarchy approach to controlling the risks of transmission via: direct, indirect, large droplets and aerosols and then monitor, review and implement effective Covid risk removal and risk reduction measures. (such as ventilation in indoor settings)
Failed to work with Safety Reps and Trade Unions to protect workers
Failed to provide sufficient pay for workers to allow them to stay off work when sick or having to isolate
Failed to provide adequate PPE at a precautionary level, when and where it was needed
Failed to record or RIDDOR report near-miss, infections and deaths from Covid-19
Failed to plan effectively for pandemics and act on international evidence of risks at an early stage.
During the pandemic the HSE:
Leadership has failed to enforce health and safety law compliance on employers who are not controlling the risks of transmission.
Leadership did not present the case to take the lead on workplace Covid outbreaks instead of public health agencies
Failed to carry out proactive inspections until transmission rates in communities are too high.
Failed to release information and detailed reports about infection outbreaks, workplace transmissions, failed to explain where/how transmissions have happened, failed to provide information about how these risks can be controlled and failed to inform how many workers have been infected, developed serious illness or who have died as a result of Covid-19.
Failed to prosecute employers for negligence and issued very few Improvement or Prohibition enforcement notices.
UK Governments failed to plan and prepare for the occupational health and safety risks of pandemics over several years when international agencies such as the ILO and WHO provided the necessary information
UK Governments failed to provide precautionary PPE, and
UK Government downgraded PPE standards (based on availability not health risk)
UK Government downgraded Covid-19 as ‘significant’ not ‘serious’ workplace infection
That the UK Governments failed to ensure that only workplaces that are controlling all the risks from Covid-19 transmission are permitted to open
UK Governments allowed non-essential workplaces to continue to operate during the lock-downs which has increased transmission rates in communities.
UK Governments have failed to provide transparent data on workplace outbreaks
UK Governments have failed to provide mitigation of the transmission risks in Government buildings, schools and other education facilities and health and social care settings.
UK Governments have provided guidance which does not meet the duties of employers under existing Health and Safety Law.
Contrary both historic and current evidence, UK Governments failed to acknowledge the true airborne transmission risk by continuing to only focus on hands, face, and space.
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
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
Protection from all public health risks, including biohazards which can lead to work-related infections, outbreaks, epidemics and pandemics.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Full participation and equity for employee representatives, on all health and safety regulator, industrial health and safety and workplace health and compensation bodies/agencies.
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.
TUCAN comment following the conclusion of the inquest into the tragic death of Ella Kissi-Debra
Our thoughts are with Ella’s family and friends at the conclusion of this inquest’s ground breaking verdict and our congratulations go to Ella’s mother, Rosamund, for her determination with her prolonged campaign for the truth to be heard.
Commenting on the verdict, Graham Petersen, TUCAN, said: “The result of the inquest shows in an all too tragic way what we and many others have been saying for far too many years – the polluted air we have to breathe can and does kill and government must act to ensure the pollutants are reduced and removed.
“TUCAN says the Government must also focus on those employers and industries whose operations contribute to the polluted air of local communities and their own workforce. Key to all this are our trade unions and their representatives who are in an informed position to discuss and help implement positive actions at work.
“However, we feel the government must take the lead in this firstly by acknowledging the extent of the problem and then taking steps to ensure employers and the authorities act quickly and decisively to reduce the potential for ill health and further deaths.”
The ways in which air pollution can be an issue at your job have not been well discussed and part of TUCAN’s mission is to broaden that understanding. Whether someone is just commuting, working in an office or shop, working on a construction project, driving to and from work or on the road all day they are all going to be exposed to harmful emissions, notably nitrogen oxide and fine particulate matter, and that exposure does not have to be very high for it to affect our health.
The Hazards Campaign is a founder member of the Trade Union Clean Air Network TUCAN
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.”