TUC proposals on ensuring a safe return to work

In developing these proposals we note that a safe and effective return to work for all will first depend on the government acting to: 

  • Agree plans with unions for safe operation of public transport including comprehensive guidance to the public on safe public transport use.
  • Put in place national guidelines on the health and safety of those who have been advised to shield, are in a vulnerable group (including pregnant women) or who lives with and/or cares for someone who has been advised to shield or is in a vulnerable group. This should include continued protection from the Job Retention Scheme for those in this position.
  • Put in place a clear plan, agreed with unions, to safely re-open childminders, nurseries and schools on a phased basis. This should be accompanied by continued protection from the Job Retention Scheme for parents for whom continued school and childcare closures mean they cannot work. 

With work re-starting on a phased basis, and a new period of contract tracing and Covid-19 testing underway, further reform to the operation of the JRS to allow short-time working, alongside moves to increase the level and reach of Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) will also be necessary.

These points are discussed in full in the TUC’s wider earlier submission to BEIS.

Our proposals are also predicated upon government publishing consistent and high-quality sector specific workplace health and safety guidance, developed in consultation with unions and business, to support employers to undertake comprehensive health and safety risk assessments in advance of operations resuming. The TUC has been concerned to see the suggestion in some recent correspondence that the aim of sector specific guidance could be to ensure staff can be ‘made to feel sufficiently reassured on safe working practices without the provision of PPE‘ rather than focusing on which practices need to be put in place to secure safe working. 

Production of risk assessments

As the lockdown eases and staff return to work, the provisions of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 will require all employers with five or more employees to undertake a specific Covid-19 risk assessment. The TUC is concerned to ensure that this happens in every workplace across the country, and that all workers [1] are aware of their right to expect such an assessment to take place. Workers’ confidence in workplace safety will depend on comprehensive risk assessments being completed and complied with across every UK workplace and safe working systems being introduced as a result of those assessments. 

Employers are already legally required to consult with union health and safety representatives where a union is recognised. Health and safety reps are well-trained experts playing an important role in preventing illness, injury and death at work. Their role is recognised and protected under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, and they have special legal rights to investigate workplace hazards, represent their colleagues and be consulted on changes to working practices.

All risk assessments in unionised workplaces should be produced in consultation with union representatives and actions to guarantee safe working should be agreed with unions.

In non-unionised workplaces wider workforce involvement should be sought in conducting risk assessments and putting safe working arrangements in place.

Black and ethnic minority workers have suffered disproportionate harm from the impact of Covid-19 and the NHS now advises that risk assessments must give specific consideration to BME workers. This approach must also be followed across the economy

Publication of risk assessments

The government should require not only the production of risk assessments (as per existing legislation) but also their publication. Again, this requirement should apply to all employers of more than five employees. Assessments should be made available on employers’ own websites and submitted to a government portal. They should be proactively shared with the workforce and made available to all employees. Risk assessments should be completed and submitted to the government portal before staff are expected to return to work.

Enforcement of publication should be the responsibility of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), regardless of the sector of the employer and the workplace safety enforcement agency that usually applies.

This proposed process is comparable with that recently put in place for gender pay gap reporting, which is run by a relatively small team within the Government Equalities Office (GEO) and the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC).

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) already publishes guidance and risk assessment templates on its website for all sizes of employers. These could easily and quickly be updated and promoted to ensure they are specific to the health and safety risks of the Covid-19 pandemic and the sector specific guidance referenced above. 

Enforcement

Proactive enforcement of these requirements must be a priority.

Regulatory responsibility for enforcing health and safety at work is split mainly between the HSE and local authorities. Local authorities have primary responsibility for most retail outlets and warehousing and distribution, with the HSE covering most other workplaces covered by the current BEIS safe working sectoral groups.

Our regulatory bodies face significant resource pressures. The HSE budget has been cut by a third over the last decade and local authorities’ capacity is under severe strain. Enabling these bodies to fulfil their enforcement role effectively will require an immediate and meaningful increase in resources for the Health and Safety Executive and local authority inspection capacity. This relatively small investment is vital to secure safe working, build confidence and restore growth.

All workplaces should be subject to spot checks from the HSE or local authorities. Regulatory bodies should establish a risk-based hierarchy of priority employers for physical inspection visits rather than relying solely upon telephone advice.

Employers who do not comply should face strict sanctions, including fines and ultimately government action to prevent their businesses operating until appropriate health and safety measures are in place. Persistent offenders should be prosecuted.

National enforcement forum

A national enforcement forum should be established to oversee the operation of safe working practices nationally. The forum would maintain an overview of operations across the economy, advise on national challenges and review enforcement of the approach. It should include representatives of government, the Health and Safety Executive, local authorities, Public Health England, unions and business.

The forum should follow the approach in Northern Ireland where such a forum advises and supports government in protecting the safety of workers. In Northern Ireland the forum is attended by representatives from unions, business, local councils, government, the Public Health Agency and the Health and Safety Executive Northern Ireland.

The operation of the national forum should be practically supported by regional approaches involving government, unions and business along with regional Health and Safety Executive officers.

Informing the public

These measures must be supported by a fully-funded, high profile national information campaign that seeks to set out the public’s health and safety rights including the requirement that every employer produces and publishes a Covid-19 risk assessment in line with sector specific public health guidance. This must be supported by a single reporting route (online and a phone line), operated by the HSE. The HSE should triage all reports, including anonymous reports, and allocate them for investigation to the appropriate body. It must collate all reports and the action taken by all enforcement agencies into one report, available monthly, to inform the national enforcement forum’s work.

Workers and employers must also be reminded of the existing right of workers to refuse to work in situations that present serious and imminent danger to them, their colleagues or members of the public, and not to suffer detriment if they do so.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for workers and residents in Barnet

Survey of key workers living or working in Barnet

This is a short survey being carried out by the Chipping Barnet Labour Party to find out about the availability of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for key workers who live or work in Barnet.   The survey involves a maximum of 5 short questions and should take no more than 2 or 3 minutes of your time. All responses are completely anonymous. Your answers will help us to understand more about which workers do or do not have the PPE required for them to work safely. 
We know how very busy you all are so thank you for your help.   

Take survey.

Unite: Government must act immediately as construction sites face health emergency due to coronavirus crisis

Unite, the UK’s construction industry, has warned in the strongest possible terms that construction workers and their families are facing a public health emergency as the government has failed to ensure their safety at work.

Site safety

Unite believes that alongside urgent contingencies to enforce safety on sites, the government must introduce immediate measures to ensure that the self-employed (which comprises over 50 per cent of the construction industry) are covered by its wage assistance scheme, to the equivalent already announced for employees.

Health emergency

Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail said: “There is an immediate public health emergency on construction sites, due to a lack of social distancing.

“Construction workers are currently facing a stark choice arising from negligence. That means they risk their health, or face the prospect of job loss, hardship and hunger.

“By construction workers being compelled to work unprotected and travel, the lack of government safety coordination, is risking their health, the health of their families and the health of the general public.”

Social distancing

The policy of social distancing has collapsed on many construction sites with workers displaying pictures of overcrowded buses, queues to enter sites, packed canteens and workers working in close proximity. There are also major public health concerns about large number of construction workers travelling on the tube in London.

At the weekend Unite called on the government to extend its wage assistance scheme to cover the million plus workers who are currently paid via the Construction Industry Scheme (CIS); a stand alone tax scheme for the industry, where workers are considered to be self-employed but are taxed at source so easily identifiable by the HMRC.

Sub-contracting

The problems facing construction is made more complex as most major construction contractors employ few if any workers directly, with work being subcontracted and workers engaged by these sub-contractors and in some cases agencies.

The Department of Business Enterprise and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has established a coronavirus taskforce, but has so far failed to include a union voice on it to speak on behalf of the workers. Unite is lobbying for a seat on this body.

All construction work needs to be tightly controlled with strict risk assessments and social distance rules applied at all times.

Urgent action needed

Gail Cartmail added: “The government must announce they will take urgent action to ensure that construction sites will be safe and if not that displaced workers will have their jobs and income protected irrespective of being directly employed or self-employed

“Contractors also have a moral duty to ensure that all the workers on their sites are safe and financially protected.

“No worker should have to make a life or death decision arising from government or contractor negligence.”

Stop private companies suing the NHS

The 2012 Health and Social Care Act is a complete disaster for our NHS – particularly Section 75, which forces the NHS to let private companies compete to provide some services. Now, NHS England has recognised the harm that Section 75 has done, and are calling on the government to get rid of Section 75 as part of their ‘Long Term Plan’ for the NHS.

The Long Term Plan is the next step in dismantling our NHS, reducing care provision, and moving away from the original founding principles of universal healthcare, free at the point of use, and accessible to everyone.

SIGN HERE

NHS England are asking for your views – let’s tell them that we don’t just want to end Section 75. We want to end all NHS privatisation, and rebuild the NHS based on its founding principles.

Patients not Passports: Challenging Far Right Policies in the NHS

Through successive immigration acts, the Government has introduced a border regime into the National Health Service. Migrants are now charged upfront to use the NHS, denied care when they cannot prove their eligibility or pay, and are having their sensitive data shared with immigration officials, making many afraid of seeking care altogether.

Join Docs Not Cops, Migrants Organise, Medact, and supporting organisations for the launch of the Patients Not Passports toolkit and learn how together we can bring down the Hostile Environment in the NHS.

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The Windrush scandal, which revealed that British citizens were denied cancer care, is only the tip of the iceberg. Healthcare workers have reported elderly people being deported without adequate care, children with brain tumours being turned away, care being delayed until a condition is untreatable and countless examples of racial profiling, incorrect designations and other misapplications of the policy that prove its unworkability.

The charging regime is a manifestation of far right politics, now adopted and promoted by the Government. The Hostile Environment in the NHS constitutes a threat to migrant and BAME communities, as well as being a precursor to accelerated austerity. This makes the charging regime a key battle ground in the struggle against racism and austerity in Britain today.

Patients not Passports: Challenging Far Right Policies in the NHS will be an opportunity to learn about how the policies are affecting healthcare workers and migrant communities, the collective organising responses being formulated, and how you can get involved. The event will also publicly launch the Patients Not Passports campaigning toolkit which can be accessed online at www.patientsnotpassports.co.uk

Workers’ Memorial Day 2019

Workers’ Memorial Day has always been to “remember the dead: fight for the living” and unions are asked to focus on both areas, by considering events or memorial to remember all those killed through work but at the same time ensuring that such tragedies are not repeated. That can best be done by building trade union organisation, and campaigning for stricter enforcement with higher penalties for breaches of health & safety laws.

Workers Memorial Day is commemorated throughout the world and is officially recognised by the UK Government.

The theme for 2019

Theme for the day is: “dangerous substances – get them out of the workplace”. The focus will mainly be on carcinogens but you can adapt the theme to whatever is most relevant in your workplace or area, as many substances can also cause illnesses such as asthma or dermatitis.

Two important issues are of course asbestos and diesel exhaust, and the TUC has useful guides on both of them, but other ideas may be cleaning fluids or dust in general – Asbestos – time to get rid of it (pdf), Diesel exhaust in the workplace (pdf), Occupational cancer (pdf)

The TUC has a guide on workplace cancers.

 

Respond to the waste plan

Please add your name, below, in support of our response to the draft North London Waste Plan (NLWP). We’re calling for Pinkham Way to be removed.

This submission is the culmination of 8 years of work and your activism.

It documents in detail the disgraceful disregard that’s been shown for evidence and planning process, and for us as residents.

The councils and waste authority ignore our evidenced arguments, but soon we’ll have the attention of an independent Planning Inspector.

Make sure all you’ve done so far is followed through with maximum impact. Add your name, and, if you haven’t already, please help us pay for professional consultants.

Please sign by midnight on Wednesday 10 April. Every adult (18+) in your household can sign individually.

Your name will count as your submission to the NLWP; please do not make any additional individual submission. You can read an overview of our submission to the NLWP.

 

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