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.

3.   Prof Aigius report Covid-19: statutory means of scrutinizing workers’ deaths and disease
Further Information

For further information contact:
Janet Newsham

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