Health and Safety
Arc welding a hole in the fuel tank under a 2 ton truck held up with 2 sticks and chocked by a rock. Probably not the man from the AA

Health and Safety

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3 times as many people are killed worldwide by work relates accidents and industrial disease than because of wars. The biggest killer is asbestos. Industries with high death rates include mining in countries with poor health and safety records (such as China) and agriculture. In the UK nearly a third of work related accidental deaths occur when vehicles are reversing.

Health and safety is one of the key contributions trade unions can make to a company - but this is rarely recognised. Unionised workplces typically have half the injuries of non-union sites and save employers many thousands of pounds in insurance, legal claims, solicitors fees, work related absence and medical retirements. So why is it often difficult to get employers to act when poor safety is brought to their attention?

Heathrow has a pretty good record when it comes to major acidents, yet workers have still died, lost limbs or sustained life changing injuries while carrying out their duties. A single major accident to an individual is one too many - so all of us - not just health and safty reps need to do their bit to report unsafe working conditions and follow up those reports by making sure that the problems have been rectified.

A young cargo worker was killed by a lorry while she was walking in the cargo's horseshow area in September 2008, and this led to the HLC and cargo workers together with local MPs holding a minute's silence on Workers Memorial Day (April 28th) in 2009 and 2010. A single death is a tragedy that will certainly not be forgotten by one girl's family - and neither should the rest of us forget what happened to her or other Heathrow employees who have died or have been seriously injured in the course of their work. Thanks to sponsorship of the HLC by trade union solicitors O.H.Parsons, we have been able to arrange that a small memorial garden will be built at Unite's office next to the Marriot hotel on the Bath Road. But our goal must be that no avoidable accident ever again happens at this airport.

Where Heathrow really falls down is in the number of minor accidents - many of which go unreported. Some studies list civil aviation as having the highest number of strain injuries of any industry - five times the national average. Many of these injuries are from moving baggage, though not necessarily just to baggage handlers. Check in staff, bus and taxi drivers, porters, trolley staff, baggage system engineers, wheelchair assistants and the passengers themselves are all exposed to risks from the manual handling of bags. This is why the HLC and other unions across Europe and elsewhere are supporting the Pack Less campaign, which seeks to have a legal restriction on the weight of hold bags that substantially reduces the risk to our members. Our initial goal is for the existing IATA guideline of a maximum of 23 kilos per individual item of baggage to be made a legal requirement for all items moving through EU member states - whether departing, arriving or transferring. Our secondary objective is that this figure is further reduced until such time as strain injuries from baggage movements are eliminated as far as is possible.

Health and Safety News

Why we need Health and Safety Laws

Health and Safety Laws, Regulations and Codes of Practice

Accident Reporting and Investigation

O. H. Parsons

Free legal advice for union members if you have suffered an accident at work

Hazards Magazine

The award winning Health and Safety magazine


The Health and Safety newsletter from the TUC (February 2011 issue - please check TUC site for latest)