Health and safety news round up for summer 2011 including national and local news, including the coalition Government cuts to the Health and Safety Executive and job cuts meaning more stress at work for those left behind.
Your Health and Safety news from Camden UNISON
Issue 44 – News round-up from summer 2011.
Welcome to the Health and Safety news round-up from Camden UNISON. If you find any of this mailing useful or interesting, please forward it to fellow union members or work colleagues.
RMT staff at King’s Cross station closed the entrance to the tube when they stopped work on health and safety grounds, preventing the majority of the EDL supporters gathered outside from travelling to the demonstration around Aldgate East tube for around half an hour.
PM’s riot act exposes his anti-safety obsession
The extent of David Cameron’s antipathy to rules protecting people from sometimes deadly injuries and diseases at work has been exposed. Campaigners have accused the prime minister of being ‘crass and insulting’ after he claimed ‘health and safety’ bore some of the responsibility for the August riots.
Mobiles ‘may cause brain cancer’
A United Nations agency has said mobile phone use is ‘possibly carcinogenic’.
Long work hours a heart attack risk
Clocking up extra hours at work can increase markedly the risk of heart disease, UK researchers have found. The research team from University College London warned people who work an 11-hour day compared with those who work a standard seven or eight hours increase their risk of heart disease by 67 per cent.
Employers are failing older workers
Older employees are missing out of training and most say employers are failing to make the adjustments necessary to help them do their jobs, according to a new survey. However, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) found workers of the age of 65 also reported better physical and mental health than their younger colleagues.
Government must not ignore dog dangers
The government must revise the ‘out-dated’ dangerous dogs law in England and Wales, a union backed coalition has said. The group of 20 animal charities, enforcement agencies and trade unions wants the government to include a Dog Control Bill in next year’s Queen’s Speech.
— Health and Safety de-regulation—
TUC warns that safety must not be undermined
The TUC has said it will ‘strongly oppose’ any government moves to undermine workplace health and safety protection. The statement comes in a written submission to the government commissioned Löfstedt review of workplace health and safety. Ministers have directed the review to concentrate on ‘easing unnecessary burdens on business’.
Union safety demands kill infections
Union members must ‘act now’ to protect workplace health and safety rights and standards from an unprecedented attack, UNISON has said. Its short guide on ‘The threat to health and safety’ says the system protecting workers ‘is under greater threat now than at any other time.’ In addition to cuts to the Health and Safety Executive’s funding and a significant reduction in official workplace safety inspections, it warns ‘hard-won health and safety legislation is on the chopping block and people are becoming more vulnerable to issues such as stress, bullying and violence.’
Deregulation is really a death wish
Strong and effective workplace regulations and inspection regimes are necessary to deliver decent employment and safety standards at work, according to new UK and international reports. But the UK-based Hazards magazine and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) both warn that this essential role is being undermined by an erosion of the funding and the function of enforcement agencies.
ITUC/Hazards green jobs blog, 30 May 2011. Labour administration and inspection key to good global governance, ILO, 31 May 2011.
‘Low risk’ strategy is seriously flawed
A government demand that local authorities undertake 65,000 fewer safety inspections each year is ‘seriously flawed’ and will mean ‘many employers will think they don’t need to bother’ with safety, retail union Usdaw has warned.
Hazards magazine. Joint guidance for reduced proactive inspections, Health and Safety Executive and the Local Government Group, May 2011 [pdf]. Advice/Guidance to Local Authorities on Priority Planning, Health and Safety Executive/Local Authorities Enforcement Liaison Committee (HELA), LA67/2 (rev2), March 2010.
HSE partnerships undermined by cuts
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) plan to replace inspections with ‘partnerships’ and other informal alternatives to enforcement has been thrown into doubt as the impact of swingeing cuts to its budget become apparent.
Unite takes on stress epidemic
Workers’ mental health is coming under increasing pressure as fears over jobs and cuts take their toll in the workplace, the union Unite has warned.
Bullying hits hard as cuts bite
Six in ten workers across the UK have been bullied, or witnessed bullying, over the past six months, a UNISON survey has found. The union is warning that government cuts are fuelling workplace bullying and silencing workers fearful for their jobs. One in four workers say staff cutbacks have led to workplace bullying – double the number from two years ago – and around half say they would be too scared to raise concerns during the period of cuts. The union is predicting the amount of workplace bullying ‘will rocket further’, as the cuts really start to bite.
Bullying is ‘rife’ at problem council
Almost 8 out of every 10 workers at Central Bedfordshire Council have been bullied or harassed at work, a union survey suggests, with the problem linked to an attempt to impose a new contract.
Schools guidance leaves staff at attack risk
Government advice on ‘use of reasonable force’ by school staff to deal with violent pupils is approaching the problem the wrong way and leaving staff at risk, the union GMB has warned. The union’s analysis of Department for Education figures shows in 2009/10 there were 156,320 cases of physical assault or verbal abuse by pupils against adults in schools in England which led to the exclusion of the pupils.
Unions call for action to cut asbestos deaths
Unions are calling on the government to introduce a requirement on local authorities to give parents and school workers an annual report on the asbestos risk in schools. UNISON news release.
Unions criticise change in school trip guidance
Teaching unions have warned that changes to official guidance on school trips could lead to more accidents. The unions were speaking out after the Department for Education published new guidance, cutting 150 pages of guidelines to eight.
Busy mums more stressed out by work commute
Commuting for work is a cause of stress in women not observed in men, even though men typically spend more time getting to and from work. Researchers, who studied data from the British Household Panel Survey, suggest the reason could be that women have more responsibility for day-to-day household tasks, such as childcare and domestic chores.
Bid to get more women safety reps
Safety enforcers have joined with unions to encourage more women to become workplace health and safety reps. ‘Help make your workplace safer’, a leaflet published by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and backed by rail safety regulator ORR, the TUC and individual unions, notes: ‘European research suggests that women are under-represented in the health and safety decision-making process. In particular, more women are needed to be safety representatives.’ Help make your workplace safer leaflet [pdf]. TUC safety reps webpages.
Germany: Presenteeism costs twice as sickness leave
Presenteeism, where the working wounded labour on despite being ill, costs twice as much as sickness related absence from work, a German study has found.
New TUC resources for safety reps
The TUC has published an online resource pack for health and safety representatives.
New HSE strain injuries tool
A new downloadable tool is now available that the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) says can help reduce the likelihood of employees suffering from musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) of the upper limbs associated with repetitive tasks.
Safety reps – your rights, official
A copy of the newly revised 1977 Safety Representatives and Consultation Regulations, the related Approved Code of Practice.
Hazards at work
‘Hazards at Work’ online.
Hazards at Work – the online hazards guide – click on the relevant subject heading.
If you found anything in this bulletin useful or would like more information please contact Camden UNISON Branch Health and Safety Officer, Sarah Friday on 0207 974 1635, 07557 563043, firstname.lastname@example.org