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Risks bulletin (PDF download)


  • pg 1
									Number 551– 14 April 2012

Risks is the TUC's weekly online bulletin for safety reps and others, read each
week0020by over 23,000 subscribers. To receive this bulletin every week, click here.
Past issues are available. This edition contains Useful links TUC courses for safety
reps Disclaimer and Privacy

Editor: Rory O'Neill of Hazards magazine. Comments to the TUC at

Union News
  Action call after another rail runaway
  Teachers blast ‘reckless’ safety cuts
  Work pressure makes school staff sick
  Overheated schools cause lethargy
  Bullies and cyberbullies blight schools
  Border Force falls down on footwear
  Hospital injury shows need for proper staffing
  Train door slamming caused tinnitus
  Signal box fumes caused disabling chronic fatigue
Other News
  Daily Mail insane crowing on seagull rescue
  HSE confirms docks rules are for the chop
  Controversy over accident reporting changes
  Shiftworkers face diabetes and obesity risk
  Another seven figure fine for Network Rail
  Firm fined after driver impaled on steel tube
  Bangladesh: Dangerous work campaigner is brutally killed
  India: Taking education into the stone quarries
  USA: Amazon warehouse jobs push workers to the limit
  USA: Regulatory axe aims to speed up chicken plants
Events and Courses
  The world is gearing up for 28 April…
  TUC courses for safety reps
Useful Links
Union News
Action call after another rail runaway

Rail union RMT has renewed its call for secondary protection to
prevent rail runaways after another potentially fatal incident late
last month. The incident came the day after RMT held another
round of talks on the issue with Network Rail. A road-rail dumper
truck ran free for a quarter of a mile before hitting buffers at
Bradford Interchange station on 25 March. The operator of the
vehicle jumped clear before the impact and suffered minor bruising.
RMT said the incident had “echoes of the tragedy at Tebay in
February 2004, in which four RMT members were killed by a
runaway trolley” (Risks 543). An investigation by the Rail Accident
Investigation Branch (RAIB) into the latest runaway is under way,
but the union says the incident brings into sharp focus its demand
for the introduction of a secondary protection mechanism to prevent
further deaths and injuries. RMT general secretary Bob Crow said:
“Eight years after four of our members were killed at Tebay the
relentless stream of runaways has still not stopped, and it is time
that the secondary protection we are seeking was put in place. The
Bradford incident took place the day after our latest round of talks
and it underlines that this remains a serious problem and that it is
deeds, not words, that will prevent further unnecessary loss of life.”
He added: “We are supposed to be working with Network Rail to
develop a suitable mechanism but progress is still painfully slow and
NR is not treating this issue with the urgency it deserves. Our
members put their lives on the line to maintain the railway and they
need action now – not after the next tragedy.”

   RMT news release.

   RAIB investigation notice.

   ITV News.

Teachers blast ‘reckless’ safety cuts

The government’s ‘reckless’ and ‘simplistic’ attitude to health and
safety threatens to put the lives of children and adults in schools
and colleges at risk, a teaching union has warned. Delegates at last
week’s annual conference of NASUWT condemned the removal of
‘vital’ health and safety protections in the workplace. Chris Keates,
NASUWT general secretary, said: “NASUWT research has shown
time and time again that teachers are facing serious health and
safety risks in schools as a result of high levels of stress, school
buildings which are outdated and not fit for purpose, the presence
of asbestos and excessive classroom temperatures. Despite the
weight of this evidence, since coming to power the government has
slashed the budget of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and
announced plans to axe or reform 84 per cent of health and safety
laws.” She said the government axe had already fallen on
‘important’ school safety rules. “Over 140 pages of health and
safety guidance for schools, including robust and detailed advice on
protecting pupils on school trips, have been scrapped. This guidance
provided schools and teachers with an important safeguard if things
went wrong.” The union leader added: “The coalition government’s
decision to sweep away this advice could make teachers more
vulnerable. Parents will continue to expect schools to act in
children’s best interests. Parents should be extremely worried that
the coalition government’s cost-cutting measures could endanger
their children and damage their education.” A government
consultation on reducing regulations covering school premises
closed in January. NASUWT’s response warned the government’s
moves to deregulate safety are endangering the “quality of the
educational environment and the health, safety and welfare of
children, young people and staff.”

   NASUWT news release.

Work pressure makes school staff sick

School workers are falling ill as a result of the pressure of their
jobs, teaching unions have warned. ATL has said in the current
academic year four in ten education staff have visited the doctor
and a quarter taken sick leave because of job pressure. And NUT
said excessive working hours are taking a toll on teachers’ mental
health. A survey by ATL found staff felt overwhelmingly that their
job has a negative impact on their health and well-being (73 per
cent). The main contributing factors were their workload (84 per
cent), working long hours (69 per cent), the pressure of inspections
(47 per cent), and the pressure of observations (40 per cent). The
ATL survey found 43 per cent of all staff believed their workload has
increased over the last two years, and for 36 per cent it has
increased significantly. Half of all those surveyed said they usually
work more than 50 hours a week. Just over 80 per cent of staff
rated their current workload as high to extremely high. ATL general
secretary, Dr Mary Bousted, said: “The government doesn't seem to
care about teachers’ workload or their mental health and is showing
a callous disregard for teachers’ well-being in many of its policies.
Schools and the government must work together to ensure the
introduction of well-being programmes and better policies to look
after the health of their staff.” NUT general secretary Christine
Blower, whose union conference last week passed a motion warning
of the impact on staff of spiralling workloads, said: “Despite the
government’s supposed commitment to ensure that the pressure on
teachers to work excessive hours is reduced there is no evidence to
show that this is happening. Many classroom teachers, heads and
deputies work in excess of 50 hours a week, which inevitably takes
its toll not only on home life but also on teachers’ mental health.”

   NUT news release. ATL news release.

Overheated schools cause lethargy

Many classrooms are so overheated that sweltering pupils are
finding it impossible to study, a union survey suggests. NASUWT
said its survey shows that one in three teachers have had to give
lessons in temperatures that are over 30 degrees Celsius. Modern
building design, with much more use of glass, was making the
problem worse, the survey indicated. The union's general secretary,
Chris Keates, said stifling conditions made pupils' behaviour more
difficult. The survey, published last week at the union’s conference
in Birmingham, also found more than three quarters of teachers
had faced classroom conditions above 24 degrees Celsius. A large
majority of teachers said that such temperatures had an adverse
impact on pupils' ability to learn. The reason that this was becoming
a more urgent problem, said Ms Keates, was a combination of new
school design and old buildings. There were new buildings where
glass was used extensively in the design - but she said these did
not always have sufficient ways to reduce the heat, such as blinds
that could be pulled down by teachers. There were also problems
with older buildings, including windows that could not be opened
because of worries about security. These classrooms faced a build-
up of heat that made it impossible to study. Teachers in the survey
talked about both staff and pupils becoming lethargic and light-
headed because of the temperatures. NASUWT believes there
should be a legal maximum temperature for the workplace. The
TUC (Risks 421) and unions including USDAW, Unite and BFAWU
(Risks 523) have also pressed for a legal maximum temperature.

                                  The case for a legally
    NASUWT news release. BBC News Online.
    enforceable maximum workplace temperature, TUC, 2009 [pdf].

Bullies and cyberbullies blight schools

Over two-thirds of teachers have experienced or witnessed
workplace bullying in the last 12 months and one in five teachers
have left their job because of bullying from colleagues or managers,
a survey by teaching union NASUWT has found. Over 3,000
teachers responded to the union’s online survey. Over half of
teachers who had been bullied said they experienced persistent,
unjustified criticism and 45 per cent reported intimidatory use of
discipline and competence procedures against them. Chris Keates,
general secretary of NASUWT, said: “Unfortunately the culture of
macho management and punitive accountability created by this
government is enabling bullying to flourish. One of the first acts of
the coalition was to abandon plans to record all incidents of bullying
of staff and pupils. Concern for the health and welfare of the
workforce is not high on the coalition’s list of priorities. Indeed, it
doesn’t seem to appear at all.” NASUWT research also found many
pupils are routinely using social media to abuse teachers online.

   NASUWT news releases on the bullying epidemic and use of social
    media to bully.

   The Guardian news reports on schools bullying and cyberbullying.
   BBC News Online.

Border Force falls down on footwear

A UK Border Force worker slipped and suffered a catalogue of
injuries because he hadn’t been provided with the replacement
work boots he had requested. Just a week before the incident the
PCS member, whose name has not been released, had written to
bosses saying he needed the new boots as a matter of urgency. It
was the second time he had raised the issue but his requests were
ignored. His fears that the seriously worn soles on his old boots
would cause him to slip were realised in July 2011, when he fell
from a foot high walkway at Dover Docks whilst he was monitoring
lorries as part of his duties as an executive officer for the Border
Force. The 47-year-old suffered a fractured elbow, jarring to his
neck and exacerbated a previous knee injury. Eight months on and
despite physiotherapy he is still not back to full duties. Lawyers
brought in by PCS settled a compensation case out of court for
£10,000. UK Border Force did not admit liability. PCS national
officer Paul O'Connor commented: “Our member had twice asked
for a new pair of work boots but this simple request was ignored.
For the cost of listening to its employees and a new pair of work
boots the Border Force has paid out thousands of pounds and our
member has gone through agony.” Gwen Wylie at Thompsons
Solicitors, the law firm brought in by PCS to represent the injured
worker, said: “Having the correct footwear in the workplace may
seem trivial – the government may call it health and safety
madness - but as this accident shows, wearing work boots which
are fit for purpose can mean the difference between being able to
get on with your job or ending up in accident and emergency.”

   Thompsons Solicitors news release.

   Working feet and footwear, TUC guide, 2008 [pdf].

Hospital injury shows need for proper staffing

A hospital worker needed two operations on her shoulder and had
to take over a year off work after she was injured helping a 20-
stone patient. The 53-year-old, whose name has not been released,
has been left unable to lift heavy items with her left arm after the
incident at Alcester Community Hospital in Warwickshire. The
technical instructor in physiotherapy and a colleague were helping
the patient to lean on a pulpit frame as part of his rehabilitation.
Without warning he flung himself backwards onto a chair. The
physiotherapy worker was catapulted with him, suffering a tear to
the rotator cuff and bicep which needed two operations to repair.
She has been told her shoulder is unlikely to improve. As a result
she can no longer lift, cannot undertake certain job functions and in
total has had to take 17 months off work. She has been able to
return to work, but is now employed in the community with
Warwickshire Primary Care Trust (PCT). Lawyers brought in by her
union, the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP), argued that
Warwickshire PCT should have made sure there was adequate
staffing to move a very large patient. The patient’s care plan
required two members of staff to be present but union solicitors
argued that this was clearly not enough. The PCT admitted liability
and settled the claim out of court for £25,000. Jess Belmonte,
national officer at the CSP, said: “Care plans should be written to
take into account each patient’s unique needs. It is clear that this
care plan was flawed and that more members of staff were needed
to help move a patient of this weight. As a result our member has
suffered a painful injury which has had an impact on her home and
work life.”

   Thompsons Solicitors news release.

Train door slamming caused tinnitus

A train driver was left unable to carry out his job for a year after his
hearing was damaged by an explosion-like bang of a faulty door.
The ASLEF member, who is employed by Northern Rail Ltd and was
driving a train from Manchester Oxford Road station to Liverpool
Lime Street at the time of the incident, was left with tinnitus in his
right ear which meant he was unable to drive trains for almost a
year. The tinnitus – noises in the ear which can be extremely
stressful - started when the gangway door leading from the driver’s
cab to the main part of the train burst open as he approached a
station at 60mph. The driver, whose name has not been released,
tried to secure the door and lock it at the next station but the door’s
lock was faulty and it slammed open again at another station,
exposing him to another loud bang. Afterwards he noticed buzzing
in his ear which became so bad he sought advice from a doctor. He
was diagnosed with tinnitus which means he hears a constant
ringing in his ear. It affects his sleep and means he is unable to
concentrate on reading. As a result of the condition, company policy
meant that he was unable to drive trains for a year and was put on
light duties for six months. After receiving specialist treatment for
his tinnitus he has been able to return to his job full-time. Lawyers
brought in by ASLEF to act in the case negotiated an undisclosed
out-of-court settlement after Northern Rail admitted liability. ASLEF
general secretary Mick Whelan said: “Our member has been left
with a permanent condition because this door hadn’t been correctly
checked for faults or properly maintained. Being unable to do your
job for almost a full year is in itself both a financial strain and
frustrating - but having to live with constant ringing in your ear for
the rest of your life is very difficult to endure.”

   Thompsons Solicitors news release.

Signal box fumes caused disabling chronic fatigue

A railway worker who was exposed to chemical fumes at work went
onto to develop Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). It is not known if
the 44-year-old, from Liskeard in Cornwall, will ever recover from
the debilitating condition which has already seen him lose his job as
a signalman for Network Rail. The RMT member, whose name has
not been released, was exposed to the unidentified fumes escaping
from a faulty electrical box whilst working at Lostwithiel signal box.
The fumes caused him to become unwell immediately. Initially he
suffered from a burning sensation in his chest and nose, dizziness
and pain in his limbs. Over the following weeks and months his
symptoms worsened. Now on some days he is in so much pain he
cannot get out of bed. He suffers from poor memory and at times
finds it difficult to breathe. He has been diagnosed with chemically
induced CFS with a 60 per cent disability and can no longer work.
Following the incident he attempted to return to his job but in the
end was signed off on long term sick and eventually had his
contract terminated. In a compensation case brought with support
from union lawyers, Network Rail admitted liability and settled the
claim out of court for £37,000. Bob Crow, general secretary at RMT,
commented: “Signalmen play an important role in ensuring the
railways run smoothly and are responsible for ensuring that millions
of passengers reach their destinations on time. It isn't a lot to ask
that Network Rail provide its employees with a safe environment to
allow them to continue to do their job as best they can.” Kevin
Digby from Thompsons Solicitors, the law firm brought in by RMT to
act in the case, added: “Our client’s life has been turned upside
down by this accident which could have been avoided had this
antiquated electrical box been updated and maintained properly.
We hope this compensation will help him as he learns to adapt and
cope with this debilitating condition.”
   Thompsons Solicitors news release.

Other News
Daily Mail insane crowing on seagull rescue

A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) myth busting challenge panel
launched this week to counter the ‘health and safety gone mad’
stories that appear routinely in the press has had an inauspicious
start. The Daily Mail, which has a history of running myth-
propagating stories about health and safety ‘jobsworths’ and
killjoys, was near the front of the queue with a referral to the panel.
The paper wanted HSE’s view on an incident last week when 25
fire-fighters called by RSPCA to rescue a gull decided it wasn’t a
justified use of resources, but stuck around in case a member of the
public got in to difficulty in their own rescue bid. When HSE said it
would take five days to get a response from the panel, the Daily
Mail had got its headline: “The Mail contacted the new health and
safety Myth Buster panel and were told... Give us five days and
we'll say if the firemen did the right thing.” However Judith Hackitt,
the Chair of HSE, said on the day the mail story appeared "We have
now had chance to examine the facts in this case and it is clear that
it was not about health and safety at all. The fire service itself has
made clear that their decisions at Carshalton were not based on
health and safety factors. We endorse this view.” ” The panel’s high
profile launch a day earlier had been welcomed by health and safety
minister Chris Grayling. He said: “Common sense is the key to
successful health and safety. The Myth Busters Challenge Panel will
advise people where they think local authorities, insurance
companies or schools have got it wrong.” But the Hazards
Campaign had warned the panel was addressing the wrong
problem. Before the gull left HSE’s panel pondering its position,
spokesperson Hilda Palmer had warned: “The HSE is in danger of
creating its own myths by wasting time and resources on this myth-
busting exercise.” She called on HSE to “get its priorities right and
bust the real pernicious myths” around health and safety such as
“only 171 people were killed at work last year when the figure is
nearer 50,000.” She added the government and HSE were
promoting deadly myths of their own, including “that the docks,
quarries, agriculture, manufacturing and transport are all so 'low
hazard' that preventive lifesaving inspections are banned despite
the fact that the death rates are well above average.”

   DWP news release.

   HSE Myth Busters Challenge Panel.

   Morning Star.

   Daily Mail   and related story

HSE confirms docks rules are for the chop

A union prediction that essential safety rules protecting
dockworkers were to be targeted as part of the government’s drive
to cull or revise 84 per cent of workplace safety regulations (Risks
549) has been confirmed by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
The Docks Regulations 1988 are included in the latest list of
regulations HSE has lined up for the axe, despite a union warning
this will lead to the removal of safeguards in an industry with a
fatality rate at least five times and possibly over 20 times the
national average (Risks 547). Importantly, removing the regulations
will mean an Approved Code of Practice (ACoP), which dock unions
believe provides important industry-specific rules, would also go, to
be replaced by guidance. The HSE consultation document published
last week seeks views on the axing of one Act, 12 sets of
Regulations and one Order, as well as the withdrawal of approval
for one ACoP – all of which, according to the HSE, are either
redundant or have been superseded by more up-to-date legislation,
or they have not delivered anticipated benefits. Most of the targeted
laws are archaic, but more recent regulations including the docks
regulations, the Construction (Head Protection) Regulations 1989
and the Notification of Conventional Tower Cranes Regulations 2010
are likely to prove more contentious candidates. A consultation on
the first seven statutory instruments lined up for the chop closed on
12 March (Risks 540).

   Proposals to remove fourteen legislative measures,   CD239. Consultation
    closes 4 July 2012.

Controversy over accident reporting changes

A dramatic reduction in the number of workplace injuries required
to be reported by employers will deliver scant savings to business
but could mean early warnings of problems are missed. Since 6
April, employers have not been required to report to the Health and
Safety Executive injuries that keep workers off normal duties for
seven or fewer days. Previously three day plus injuries were
reportable. Employers will also be given 15 days, rather than 10, to
report an incident. The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP)
says the changes to the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and
Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR) 1995 will see a fall
of around 30 per cent in the number of incidents that must be
reported by law – an average of around 30,000 fewer reports a
year. It estimates the move could save businesses 10,000 hours a
year. Health and safety minister Chris Grayling said: “We want less
red tape for business, and these measures should save companies
thousands of hours a year. We are freeing them from the burdens
of unnecessary bureaucracy, while making sure serious incidents
are properly investigated.” But Paul Kenny, general secretary of the
GMB, commented: “This will do absolutely nothing to improve the
health and safety record of UK employers or make workplaces
safer. There will be 30,000 fewer accidents reported, which is not
the same as 30,000 fewer accidents.” Unions believe records of less
serious incidents could provide valuable intelligence which could
help prevent future more serious problems. The plans were also
ridiculed by the business lobby. John Longworth, director-general of
the British Chambers of Commerce, said “the government’s own
figures show that this will only save firms £240,000 annually, which
in the grand scheme of things, is tiny.” The saving equates to 5p
per business per year. In 2008, the Health and Safety Executive
estimated the cost of a single workplace fatality was £1.5m. Each
occupational cancer prevented would save society considerably
more than this, government estimates suggest. Unions argue this
shows protective, preventive regulation backed up by enforcement
easily and quickly pays for itself – delivering benefits to business
and society as a whole.
   DWP news release.

   HSE news release.

   BCC news release.

   BBC News Online.

   The Telegraph.

Shiftworkers face diabetes and obesity risk

Shiftworkers getting too little sleep at the wrong time of day may
be increasing their risk of diabetes and obesity, according to a new
study. The researchers are calling for more measures to reduce the
impact of shiftworking. In the study, the team from Brigham and
Women's Hospital in the US controlled the lives of 21 people,
including meal and bedtimes. The results, published this week in
Science Translational Medicine, showed changes to normal sleep
meant the body struggled to control sugar levels. Some participants
even developed early symptoms of diabetes within weeks. The 21
health-trial participants started with 10 hours' sleep at night. This
was followed by three weeks of disruption to their sleep and body
clocks. The length of the day was extended to 28 hours, creating an
effect similar to a full-time flyer constantly getting jet lag.
Participants were allowed only 6.5 hours' sleep in the new 28-hour
day, equivalent to 5.6 hours in a normal day. They also lived in dim
light to prevent normal light resetting the body clock. Sugar levels
and insulin control were disrupted, with three of the participants
showing sugar levels which stayed so high after their meals they
were classified as “pre-diabetic.” The study also highlighted a risk of
putting on weight as the body slowed down. “The 8 per cent drop in
resting metabolic rate that we measured in our participants...
translates into a 12.5-pound increase in weight over a single year,”
the authors noted. Lead researcher Dr Orfeu Buxton said: “We think
these results support the findings from studies showing that, in
people with a pre-diabetic condition, shiftworkers who stay awake
at night are much more likely to progress to full-on diabetes than
day workers. Since night workers often have a hard time sleeping
during the day, they can face both circadian [body clock] disruption
working at night and insufficient sleep during the day. The evidence
is clear that getting enough sleep is important for health, and that
sleep should be at night for best effect.” A study last year found
women working certain shifts had an increased risk of developing
type 2 diabetes (Risks 535).

   OM Buxton and others. Adverse metabolic consequences in
    humans of prolonged sleep restriction combined with circadian
    disruption, Science Translational Medicine, volume 4, number
    129, 11 April 2012 [abstract and related news release].
   BBC News Online.

   The Huffington Post.

Another seven figure fine for Network Rail

Network Rail has been fined £4m over the Grayrigg crash in
Cumbria in which an 84-year-old woman died and 88 people were
injured. Margaret Masson died after the Virgin train derailed on the
West Coast Main Line in February 2007, after going over a
“degraded” set of points. At an earlier hearing in the prosecution
brought by the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR), Network Rail
Infrastructure Ltd had admitted criminal health and safety breaches
(Risks 546). Mick Whelan, general secretary of the train drivers’ union
ASLEF, commented: “As predicted, Network Rail received a
meaningless fine and no one is truly being held accountable. Even
though Network Rail pleaded guilty and admitted health and safety
breaches, the senior managers still walk away without sanction or a
stain on their name.” He added: “Company bosses ignore health
and safety laws and simply hide behind a faceless company when
things go wrong… They should be held personally responsible for
the breaches that lead to passenger injury and death.” Speaking
ahead of the sentencing, RMT general secretary Bob Crow said:
“The harsh reality is that any financial penalty on Network Rail as a
result of this action will simply come out of the budget for
maintenance increasing the likelihood of another Grayrigg in the
future.” He added: “The ORR which has brought the prosecution has
also been demanding the cuts that led to Grayrigg in the first place
as it is both financial controller and safety regulator in the insane
world of rail privatisation. RMT will not let them off the hook for
their responsibility for the cuts programme that results from their
dual role.” Mrs Masson's family said they found it “offensive” that as
taxpayers they would be contributing to the fine. The prosecution
comes less than a month after Network Rail was fined £1m for
criminal safety offences related to the death of two schoolgirls on a
level crossing. The judge said the firm was guilty of “culpable
corporate blindness” (Risks 548).

   ORR news release.

   Network Rail statement.

   ASLEF news release.

   RMT news release.

   BBC News Online

Firm fined after driver impaled on steel tube

A Darlington engineering firm has faced a criminal prosecution after
a delivery driver was seriously injured when a 6cm diameter steel
bar passed through his chest. Jason Ripley, 42, was delivering
timber to Henry Williams Group Limited when the incident
happened on 19 August 2008. Darlington Magistrates' Court was
told a horizontal swing barrier on the site, which consisted of a six
metre long, 60mm diameter steel tube, had been left open by a
Henry Williams Group employee to allow Mr Ripley access to the
unloading point. Mr Ripley had reversed his flat bed lorry through
the open barrier so that timber on the left side could be unloaded.
However, the court was told that as he drove toward the open
barrier on his way through, the end of the horizontal bar was not
visible. It had partially swung back into the carriage way and the
surrounding foliage and its face-on position made it difficult to see.
The bar hit the bonnet, breaking through the windscreen of the
lorry and impaling Mr Ripley through the chest. The tube entered
his chest on the right side, smashing three ribs and causing damage
to one lung. The pole caused a 3-4 inch diameter exit wound in his
back. He raised the alarm himself, calling his employer on his
mobile phone. After being cut free by fire-fighters, he was airlifted
to hospital with part of the barrier still embedded in his chest. Mr
Ripley was off work for 10 weeks but has since made a full
recovery. A Health and Safety Executive investigation found Henry
Williams Group Ltd had failed to assess the risks involved with
vehicles driving on and off the site and there was no means of
securing the swing barrier in the open position. Henry Williams
Group Limited pleaded guilty to a criminal breach of safety law was
fined £8,000 and ordered to pay costs of £7,424.80.

   HSE news release.

   Report in The Sun, 16 November 2009.

Bangladesh: Dangerous work campaigner is brutally killed

A Bangladeshi union rights activist and former garment worker was
tortured and murdered last week in the country’s capital Dhaka,
according to authorities. Aminul Islam's body was dumped outside
of the city and was found by local police on 5 April. According to the
police report, the body bore signs of brutal torture. Workers’ rights
organisations in Bangladesh and the United States believe the
killing is associated with Aminul's work on behalf of garment
workers employed by suppliers to major US retailers and brands.
Aminul had worked for several years as a labour rights organiser.
His organisation, the Bangladeshi Center for Worker Solidarity
(BCWS), was featured in a recent ABC TV News story exposing the
relationship of US brands to a sweatshop factory fire in Dhaka that
killed 29 workers last year (Risks 487). US-based campaign groups
the Worker Rights Consortium and the International Labor Rights
Forum say BCWS and its staff have been the target of a campaign
of harassment by the Bangladeshi government and apparel factory
owners for two years. The organisation's licence to operate was
revoked and Aminul and two of his colleagues were jailed in 2010.
Their release was secured only after international pressure. On the
evening of 4 April this year, Aminul received a call from a worker
urgently seeking assistance. He left home to meet the worker and
was never heard from again. Earlier in the day he had closed the
BCWS office early, after noticing a police van parked outside the
premises. Labour rights organisations in the US and Bangladesh are
calling for a full investigation of the murder and for those
responsible to be brought to justice.

   ILRF news release.

   Worker Rights Consortium memo regarding the murder.

   ABC News.

   Sign up to the ILRF letter to the prime minister of Bangladesh calling for a
    thorough and impartial investigation.

India: Taking education into the stone quarries

A union-backed mobile school is providing education for children in
India who might otherwise be employed in some of the most
hazardous industries around. The school-on-wheels is based in
Jodhpur in the Western State of Rajasthan, and will serve families
working in the stone quarrying industry. It will educate 118 children
aged between 6 and 14 years old at two settlements supplying
labour to several stone quarries. It will also provide transportation
to hospital for injured or sick workers in emergency situations. The
Jodhpur Jila Patthar Khan Mazdoor Sangathan union (JJPKMS), an
affiliate of the global union federation BWI, will be responsible for
the CHILD LEARN school’s operation. Kalu Ram Bhati, the union’s
general secretary, said “these settlements of stone quarry workers
do not exist on government records, hence they are deprived of
schooling, medical and other facilities.” The CHILD LEARN board is
investigating ways of extending the education initiative to
communities working in brick kilns and forestry, including migrant
workers. Mobile health units could also be developed.

   BWI news release.

USA: Amazon warehouse jobs push workers to the limit

Claims by web retail giant Amazon that it has an industry beating
safety record have been called into question. The company ships
merchandise to consumers from 69 warehouses - known as
"fulfilment centres" - in the United States, Europe and Asia. The
network has expanded rapidly with 17 centres opened in the past
year. But a federal lawsuit filed in Pennsylvania and interviews by
The Seattle Times with a physician and more than 40 current and
former warehouse workers in Washington and Kentucky suggest
that the impressive injury figures Amazon is reporting may not tell
the whole story. In the lawsuit, settled in July last year, Amazon
warehouse worker Paul Grady said a warehouse safety worker in
Allentown, Pennsylvania, instructed him to tell emergency workers
that his hip injury was not work-related, even though he says it
was. Three former workers at another Amazon warehouse told The
Seattle Times there was pressure to manage work-related injuries
so they would not have to be reported to OSHA, the federal safety
watchdog, such as attributing injuries to pre-existing conditions or
treating wounds in a way that did not trigger federal reports. A
former warehouse safety official said in-house medical staff were
asked to treat wounds, when possible, with bandages rather than
refer workers to a doctor for stitches, a treatment that could require
federal reports. And warehouse officials tried to advise doctors on
how to treat injured workers. “We had doctors who refused to work
with us because they would have managers call and argue with
them,” he said. Dave Clark, Amazon's vice president for global
customer fulfilment, says the company offers its workers financial
incentives tied to safety. Those payments can be affected by the
number of injuries at the facility, and also by individual tasks - such
as whether an employee follows the rules for using and properly
storing equipment, employees said.

   The Seattle Times.

USA: Regulatory axe aims to speed up chicken plants
A plan to privatise meat inspection in the US linked to a
government assault on regulation has been criticised widely for
putting public health at risk. But the “despicable plan” will have
other casualties, primarily workers in the already notoriously
hazardous sector. According to law professor Rena Steinzor,
president of the Center for Progressive Reform: “The proposed
rollback would make corporate owners rather than federal
inspectors responsible for scrutinising slaughtered carcasses to
ensure they are free of blood, guts, and (euphemistically) ‘faecal
matter.’ The new rule would save the federal government about $39
million annually - a small amount that accounts for the savings at
USDA when a few hundred inspectors are offloaded. But the
proposal would save the poultry industry an estimated $259 million
annually.” Steinzor explains how workers will lose out as the
companies cash in. “Because without federal inspectors checking
individual carcasses as they flash by on an already back-breaking
assembly line, multi-billion dollar companies like Pilgrim’s Pride,
Perdue, and Tyson’s will be able speed up those lines considerably,
requiring workers to process as many as 175 birds per minute or
three birds per second while still checking for faecal matter and
other nasty detritus. Or, in other words, the existing workforce,
with a smattering of additions (about one position for each of the
219 covered plants) - no big job development here! - will be put in
the insufferable position of working that much faster, with the
added responsibility of safeguarding public health.” Unions, food
safety and public health groups are opposing the changes, part of a
government move to reduce regulation on business.

   CPR blog.

   Working in These Times.

   USDA proposal.

Events and Courses
The world is gearing up for 28 April…

Unions and campaigners are gearing up for 28 April, Workers’
Memorial Day – the largest annual health and safety event
anywhere in the world. This year looks set to top last year’s record
number of activities in over 70 countries, when hundreds of
thousands of workers participated everywhere from Angola to
Vietnam. Global union federation ITUC and UK-based Hazards
magazine are tracking the events, resources and strategies unions
and safety campaign groups are employing worldwide to publicise
workers’ rights to a safe workplace and to expose efforts by
governments to deregulate safety. There’s a Google map which will
pinpoint events worldwide and constantly updated ITUC/Hazards
facebook and webpages. In the UK, the TUC has called a Day of
Action on 28 April. It says with safety facing an unprecedented
attack from the government, the national action will “make it clear
that we want clear commitments and action from those who should
be protecting us.” It adds: “Join any events in your area on that day
and demonstrate that we will not give up our right to a safe

   Check out the newly revamped ITUC/Hazards Workers' Memorial Day
    webpages, including a worldwide list of events and resources and the
    ITUC/Hazards 28 April facebook page. See what happened worldwide on 28
    April 2011.

   TUC resources: 28 April webpage, Infographic, guides to dealing with
    the press [pdf] and lobbying MPs [pdf] and 2012 Workers' Memorial
    Day and TUC Day of Action list of activities.

   Other resources: Get kitted out with Hazards Campaign forget-me-
    knot ribbons, posters, lapel/stationery stickers [pdf order form], window
    stickers and t-shirts [pdf order form] - the perfect attire for a 28 April
    event. Further information from the Hazards Campaign, telephone
    0161 636 7557.

TUC courses for safety reps


   Northern, North West, Southern & Eastern, Yorkshire & Humber,
    South West, Midlands, Scotland, Wales

Useful Links
   Visit the TUC website pages on health
    and safety. See what's on offer from TUC Publications and
    What's On in health and safety.
   Subscribe to Hazards magazine, supported by the TUC as a key
    source of information for union safety reps.
   What's new in the HSC/E and the European Agency.
   HSE Books, PO Box 1999, Sudbury, Suffolk CO10 2WA. Tel:
    01787 881165; fax: 01787 313995

The person responsible for the Risks e-bulletin is Hugh Robertson

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