Tag Archives: risk assessment

Apprentice death could have been prevented – but government couldn’t be bothered

The late Cameron Minshull: This 16-year-old was killed when he was dragged into a lathe due to poor health and safety measures.

The late Cameron Minshull: This 16-year-old was killed when he was dragged into a lathe due to poor health and safety measures [Image: Daily Mirror].

Work placement providers’ duty of care for people on apprenticeships and other government-sponsored work placements is being questioned after a factory boss was jailed over the death of a 16-year-old youngster.

Cameron Minshull was dragged into a lathe because he was wearing ‘unsuitable’ ill-fitting overalls which hung from his wrists and had not been trained to use the machine, Manchester Crown Court was told.

At the time, he was being paid just £3 an hour, after being rushed into a placement by recruitment agency Lime People Training Solutions – which puts people into apprenticeships in order to get public money from the Conservative Government’s Skills Funding Agency, according to the Daily Mirror.

The factory owner was jailed for eight months and his son received a suspended four-month prison sentence after admitting health and safety offences.

But Lime People Training Solutions was let off with a £75,000 fine – equivalent to its for putting around 17 youngsters in work placements – after denying any such breaches.

This happened because the government isn’t interested in health and safety. It considers calls for proper monitoring to be over-bureaucratic and burdensome.

On the Health and Safety Executive’s website, in the page dealing with work experience, HSE chair Judith Hackett states: “Work placement arrangements are too often seen as over-bureaucratic and burdensome, putting off potential employers.”

She continues: “Employers should already be managing the risks in their workplaces and are best placed to assess whether or not they need to do anything additional for a new young person joining them.”

And she states: “Schools and colleges… should not be second-guessing employers’ risk assessments or requiring additional paperwork.”

This next part is absolutely appalling: “An appreciation of risk and how to deal with it can be one of the biggest benefits offered by a placement.”

Is this appreciation to be gained through the death of an apprentice?

Work placement organiser companies are told: “If you are advised that a particular placement is not possible due to health and safety, the person giving you that advice may well be wrong – there are very few work activities a student cannot do due to health and safety law.

“Remember that the placement provider (employer) has primary responsibility for the health and safety of the student and should be managing any significant risks.” The only step the organiser is advised to take is to talk through the work required of the apprentice/person on the work placement, and discuss relevant precautions. There is no requirement to ensure those precautions are in place.

So that’s all right then. There’s no need to worry about health and safety concerns; they are somebody else’s problem.

Employers are told: “Under health and safety law, work experience students are your employees. You treat them no differently to other young people you employ.

“Simply use your existing arrangements for assessments and management of risks to young people.”

There you have it.

There is no legal requirement for extra measures to ensure the health and safety of young people placed with employers – and nobody checks an employer’s practices to ensure they conform with legal requirements.

The death of Cameron Minshull could have been prevented – but the government couldn’t be bothered.

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Goodbye to Britain’s National Health Service, Hello Tory Dystopia

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Here’s an article from US website Global Comment on what America clearly understood to be the privatisation of the National Health Service in England. It was published in March 2012, about a month after the Health and Social Care Act was passed – and seems much more perceptive in its evaluation than – for example – the BBC!

The article states: “The level of health care privatization being implemented by the British government via the Health and Social Care Bill (and experts agree it amounts to privatization and will lead to more, even as ministers known to love the private sector deny it) is seen by many as essentially the end of the National Health Service (NHS). The editor of the respected medical journal The Lancet has described the impact of this “coming disaster” very bluntly: ‘People will die thanks to the government’s decision to focus on competition rather than quality in healthcare.'”

It continues: “A hatchet is being taken to the NHS without a mandate, which explains the lack of transparency and authoritarianism of the process. The government doesn’t want a risk assessment for their “reforms” published, and meanwhile protests that have been held with the aim of quite literally conserving a beloved British institution, a pillar of the welfare state, have been policed as if they were radical demonstrations aiming to smash the state.

“The Conservatives very explicitly lied about their intentions: a famous and frequently parodied campaign poster featured Tory leader and now Prime Minister David Cameron promising that he wouldn’t cut the NHS.”

Moving on to other policies, it states: “In place of free healthcare for UK citizens, the government is providing free labor for corporations: “Jobseekers have been made to do compulsory unpaid work for up to four weeks after refusing to take part in the voluntary work experience scheme,” reports The Guardian.

“And there are all kinds of other nasty Tory plans in motion to make Britain a more grim, awful place. They plan to kick out immigrants from outside the European Union who earn less than £35,000, which is to say almost half the country’s nurses. Cameron’s cuts to disability benefits are so severe as to have even prompted the departure of long-term members of his party – appalled by the “endless attacks on disabled people and their right to independence and full equality” – and fierce opposition from columnists for The Daily Mail, usually a bastion of right-wing meanness.

“How did things get so bad, so fast?”

Well worth reading.

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Government descends into inter-departmental squabbling over Universal Credit

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It seems there has been an argument between Iain Duncan Smith’s DWP and Francis Maude’s Cabinet Office, and now the much-troubled Universal Credit project has no IT experts working on it.

Good. It’s a terrible idea, designed to remove money from the people who need it most.

The project aims to update benefit claimants’ entitlements in ‘real time’, ensuring that they only ever receive what government regulations say they should. Sadly, there is no commitment to update the entitlement amounts in ‘real time’, so people will always be getting less than they need, as inflation boosts prices beyond their range.

Minutes of a Universal Credit ‘board meeting’, leaked to The Guardian, show that IT experts from the Cabinet Office are pulling out of the project and the DWP must now search for somebody else with the skills needed to take on the work.

This means more delays and an even greater cost. This is unlikely to bother Iain Duncan Smith, who sees the project as his legacy to the nation and will pay any amount to see it through – in sharp contrast to his attitude towards the benefit claimants for whose livelihoods his department is responsible.

It seems the argument arose because of Mr… Smith’s vanity – he insisted on a “twin-track” approach to the project, keeping current work going in order to make it possible for claimants to use Universal Credit before the 2015 election while also funnelling money and time into a purely web-based system that will not require Job Centre staff to fill in claimants’ details. One may presume that he will happily sack the excess Job Centre staff after that system is complete.

Those on the current version will be tranferred onto the digital system when it is ready, we are told.

A separately-leaked document made it clear that the withdrawal of the Cabinet Office expertise is one of the most serious problems facing the project because the DWP will now have to try to find people with the necessary skills in the market, and may not be able to afford the cost.

It is interesting that this document is a risk assessment. Does anybody remember the furore over the NHS risk assessment, when the Health and Social Care Act was working its way through Parliament like an unhappy bowel movement? Even though these documents are almost always publicly available, that one was jealously guarded by Andrew Lansley and still has not seen the light of day.

Of course the different government departments are claiming that nothing is wrong and all is going according to plan, and this might be true – if we’re discussing the kind of plan that changes with the wind.

Meanwhile, Universal Credit is increasingly becoming a symbol of the government creating it – not only is it monstrously expensive but it also doesn’t work.

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Are you going to let David Cameron abolish your rights without a fight?

Skewed view: This image (not mine) provides a startlingly accurate representation of the way British Conservatives see Europe. Do you honestly think they can be trusted to honour the human rights that European laws have granted us?

Skewed view: This image (not mine) provides a startlingly accurate representation of the way British Conservatives see Europe. Do you honestly think they can be trusted to honour the human rights that European laws have granted us?

You do realise what David Cameron means when he says he wants to re-negotiate our membership of the European Union, don’t you?

For a start, he means he wants to abolish laws that protect the human rights your ancestors fought tooth and nail to win for you.

He won’t make any deals in your interest. That’s not in his nature.

If he gets his way, you could lose the right to:

  • Written terms and conditions of work, and a job description – and the right to the same terms and conditions if transferred to a different employer.
  • Four weeks’ paid leave from work per year.
  • Not be sacked for being pregnant, or for taking time off for ante-natal appointments.
  • Come back to work after maternity leave, on the same pay, terms and conditions as before the leave started.
  • Health and safety protection for pregnant women, new and breastfeeding mothers.
  • Parental leave.
  • Equal treatment for workers employed through an agency.
  • Tea and lunch breaks during the working day for anyone working six hours or more
  • One day off per week.
  • Time off for urgent family reasons.

In addition, Cameron could relieve employeers of the legal obligation to ensure the health and safety of their workers, including undertaking risk assessments, acting to minimise risks, informing workers of risks, and consulting on health and safety with employees and their representatives. In his cost-cutting brave new Britain you’d just have to take your chances.

Health and safety representatives from trade unions could lose the right to ask employers to make changes in order to protect workers’ health and safety, and they would lose their protection against unfair treatment by their employer for carrying out their duties in relation to this.

The ban on forcing children less than 13 years of age into work could be lost, along with the limit on the hours children aged 13 or more and young people can work.

Children who could then be forced into work, regardless of the effect on their education, would have no rules protecting their health and safety, and the rules that say they can only be employed doing “light work” could also be abolished.

Protection from discrimination or harassment at work on grounds of gender, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation – direct or indirect – could be dropped.

And the right of disabled people to expect their employers to make reasonable adjustments for them at work could also be abolished.

These are just your rights at work!

Cameron himself has said, as leader of the Opposition: “I do not believe it is appropriate for social and employment legislation to be dealt with at the European level. It will be a top priority for the next Conservative government to restore social and employment legislation to national control.”

And as Prime Minister: “Complex rules restricting our labour markets are not some naturally occurring phenomenon. Just as excessive regulation is not some external plague that’s been visited on our businesses.”

To find out what he meant by those words, we must turn to the former leader of the British Conservative MEPs, Martin Callanan, who said: “One of the best ways for the EU to speed up growth is to … scrap the Working Time Directive, the Agency Workers Directive, the Pregnant Workers Directive and all of the other barriers to actually employing people if we really want to create jobs in Europe.”

Of course, they distort the facts. These rules aren’t barriers to employing people at all; they are structures within which people may be employed responsibly.

The Tories want to ban responsibility in the workplace. They want a return to dangerous employment conditions, abuse of workers and the removal of any legal protection from such abuse that they may have.

They will tear apart your rights at work.

So, if you are living in the UK and you’ve got a job, please take a moment to consider what this means for you. You might agree with the Coalition on its benefits policy that has led to thousands of deaths of sick and disabled people; you might agree with its bedroom tax and too-low benefit cap that has led to a rapid rise in debt and homelessness among the unemployed and those on low wages.

But now you know they’re coming for you, too.

What are you going to do about it?

Are you going to sit on your thumbs and do nothing – just meekly wait for them to rock up and tell you they’ve abolished all your rights at work and you can now go and slave for them in appalling conditions with absolutely no legal protection at all?

In other words, when it’s you that’s threatened, are you going to let it happen, just like you let it happen to the sick, disabled, unemployed and low-waged?

Or are you going to take action and make a difference?

It doesn’t take much. You could write to David Cameron and to your MP at the House of Commons. You could email them – just look up the addresses on They Work For You, or you could add your name to the letter being created by Unions Together. Yes, I know Mr Cameron says the unions are a bad thing, but in this case the enemy of your enemy is your friend.

As the leader of the European Parliamentary Labour Party, Glenis Willmott MEP, says: “Our rights at work are not ‘red tape’ to be slashed away. Don’t let Cameron and the Tories get away with this great European scam.”

IDS and too many other ministers are having their way by playing ‘fast and loose’ with the facts

Hoban lies: And this is just a taste of the many ways the Conservative-led government has been trying to hoodwink you and me since 2010.

Hoban lies: And this is just a taste of the many ways the Conservative-led government has been trying to hoodwink you and me since 2010.

It seems the Conservative Party is doing exactly as many of us feared, and using the attack in Woolwich on Wednesday to revive its proposals for laws to snoop on the emails and social media communications of law-abiding citizens.

Make no mistake – these powers would not be used for the good of the country, but for repression. And bear in mind that, for a Tory, the law is something that they set, and the poor obey. They think it doesn’t apply to them.

Let’s all remember that these new calls have been prompted by the actions of two men who were already known to – and monitored by – the security services. Monitoring your internet communications would not have made any difference to what happened in such a situation.

You cannot trust the Tories with the facts – all we have to do to prove that is look at Iain Duncan Smith.

Here is a man who will say anything to get his own way – which is to impoverish people who are already poor, pushing them beyond breaking-point with ridiculous ‘directions’ and unreasonable decisions in the hope, one presumes, that they will sign off benefits. The reality is that many of them go on to die from aggravation of their illnesses (if they are sick or disabled) or commit suicide.

He will be dragged before the Work and Pensions Committee within the next few weeks to answer for some of these transgressions, including his claim that 8,000 people who would have been affected by the benefit cap had moved into jobs instead, which the UK Statistics Authority rubbished by pointing out that the report from which he drew the figures “explicitly states that the figures are ‘not intended to show the additional numbers entering work as a direct result of the contact'”.

Worse than that was the claim, taken up by fellow Tory truth-fiddler Grant Shapps (if that’s his name today), that 878,300 people people decided not to pursue their claims for Employment and Support Allowance because a change in the benefits system meant that they’d have to be assessed for their level of disability – and that this showed how necessary this government’s attack on disabled people is. In fact, the figures represented nothing more than ‘churn’ – a turnover of claims withdrawn because of perfectly normal things like people getting better, or finding a job they can do even if they’re ill. After the government intensified its scrutiny of disabled people, the number in receipt of the benefit increased.

Iain Duncan Smith isn’t the only one making mockery of the facts. Look at George Osborne, who made unsupportable claims about the value of another DWP effort – Workfare – a few weeks ago.

Osborne also talks tough on tax avoidance, but he himself is known to have taken part in a legal tax avoidance scheme; he advocated one to a caller on a TV politics show; he re-wrote the law to make it easier for firms in the UK to stash their cash in offshore subsidiaries, putting their profits into tax havens rather than the British tax system; and he allowed tax lawyers from the so-called ‘Big Four’ accountancy firms into his department, where they re-wrote tax laws to make it easier for their clients to dodge high tax bills.

David Cameron said the amount of money available to the NHS was rising, when in fact it had fallen.

Cameron also claimed – on a party political broadcast! – that the national debt was falling under his Conservative Party. In fact, it has risen massively during the course of this Parliament, due primarily to the poor decisions made by the comedy Prime Minister and his allies.

It seems Cameron is a serial exaggerator of the truth. On April 15 he tweeted that the benefit cap is equal to the average wage. His claim was, therefore, that this is £26,000. Average family income, when benefits are taken into account: £31,500.

The government also lied that disability benefits were not affected by the benefit cap. Employment and Support Allowance is a disability benefit and is counted when considering whether a claimant’s income is to be capped.

On March 19 this year, Tory employment minister Mark Hoban lied to Parliament that there were no league tables in place showing which Job Centres had applied the most sanctions on jobseekers. Just one week later, those league tables were leaked to the press. Like his boss, Iain Duncan Smith, Hoban should have been expelled from Parliament under Parliamentary convention. Both are still in office. Why?

Fellow DWP minister Esther McVey has also misled Parliament and the public, this time with regard to Disability Living Allowance.

And, if you want proof that Tories like to play ‘fast and loose’ with the law:

Smith’s department has been forcing people to take rubbish ‘psychometric’ tests that have been rigged to produce set results, as part of an illegal experiment by Downing Street’s so-called ‘nudge unit’ (such experiments require the willing consent of the participants and none has ever been given).

The test itself was stolen by the ‘nudge unit’ from an organisation in the USA, and the UK government has been facing legal action from those people as a result.

The DWP lost a judicial review earlier this week, when a tribunal found that the ‘work capability assessment’, a so-called medical test (in reality nothing of the sort) designed to make it easy to push people off of the sickness and disability benefit Employment and Support Allowance, discriminates against the mentally ill.

Worst of all was the moment in March this year when Iain Duncan Smith decided to actually change the law, because his policies had been found to be illegal. Think about that! If you or I did something illegal, we would pay a penalty ranging from a fine right up to imprisonment for an indefinite period of time; if Mr Smith does it, he changes the law so he can be whitewashed. Tories think the law doesn’t apply to them. His department had been found to have breached human rights laws with the regulations it had been using to sanction people who refused to take part in Mandatory Work Activity or Workfare schemes. Utterly despicable – and worsened by the fact that the Labour Party colluded with the Conservatives to change the law, with no meaningful concessions to show for it.

Come to think of it, if you can remember far enough into this Parliament’s useless history, you might recall that the Department of Health, under Andrew Lansley, started implementing changes to the structure of the National Health Service – illegally – before his Health and Social Care Act was passed by a misguided and misled government.

The Information Commissioner had repeatedly ordered Lansley to publish a risk assessment which had been compiled by civil servants, and which is believed to have explicitly warned that the financial viability of the Tory NHS Bill was seriously questionable, predicting “deteriorations in the financial positions of one or more NHS organisations”. Practices could go bust or require central intervention to prop up their financial position. The Risk Report also warned of economic ‘slippage’ and ‘cost pressures’ arising. The London NHS risk report – which was made public – categorically stated that commissioning groups run by GPs may “not be able to secure [services] […] within the running cost range”.

As Mark McGowan pointed out on his blog, the entire top-down reorganisation of the NHS was done “without a mandate, having concealed their health policy”.

All of the above examples either occurred, or were referenced, within the last two months alone.

With a record like that, how could we possibly believe the ‘snoopers’ charter’ will be a blow for freedom?

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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