Posts Tagged ‘HIlda Palmer’

The Tory Attacks on Health and Safety Legislation Is Causing Carnage

January 21, 2020

Since almost as long as I can remember, the Tories and their lackeys in the press have been attacking health and safety legislation. The common reasons trotted out are that it is an unnecessary burden to employers, binding them with complicated red tape and costs. More recently the authors of Britannia Unchained and similar works have demanded that such legislation protecting people at work should be rolled back in order to make Britain more competitive against countries in the Developing World, whose workers don’t benefit by such protection. The Tories have tried to make this assault popular by making health and safety legislation seem not only cumbrous, interfering and bureaucratic, but also massively overprotective and silly. Remember all those stories from the Heil years ago claiming that, thanks to the ‘Nanny state’, schools were having to make children wear goggles before playing conkers?

The truth is that when health and safety legislation was introduced in the ’70s, it massively cut down on deaths and injuries among working people – and that’s basically why the Tories would like to get rid of it. They want labour to be cheap and easily disposable, and health and safety laws are an obstacle to that. And the chapter by Hilda Palmer and David Whyte in The Violence of Austerity by Whyte and Vickie Cooper shows exactly how devastating in terms of lives and injuries their attacks on the legislation has been. The government watchdog in charge of overseeing the implementation of the legislation, the Health and Safety Executive, has had its funding cut by 47 per cent. The Tories have also threatened to close it down altogether. In 2013 the government launched a review in order to see whether there was still a need for its functions and if it complied with good governance. The number of staff employed at the executive fell from 3,702 in April 2010 to 2,706 in December 2013. Since the Tories came to power, the number of inspections by the Executive has fallen by a third.

These cuts have resulted in an increase in work-related accidents and injuries, although the authors warn that the government’s figures are almost certainly too low. The real figures are almost certainly higher. They write

Typically, the official ‘headline figure’ published by the HSE records between 140 and 240 deaths per year resulting from sudden injury and 13,000 deaths caused by occupational diseases and illnesses. Those figures, however, only reflect a small proportion of total deaths caused by work. The first figure does not include key categories of deaths cause by work. The Hazards Campaign estimates that seven times more deaths are caused by work incidents than the figure official cited by the HSE. HSE figures exclude work-related road traffic deaths, the workplace deaths recorded in other industries that the HSE does not have formal responsibility for, like the maritime and civil aviation industries, or deaths to members of the public killed by a work activity, such as scaffold collapses or train crashes. A more complete estimate would also include suicides attributed to work related stress. There are approximately 6,000 suicides involving working-age people in the UK each year, and a number of those involve workers driven to despair by work-related stress. In Japan, where work-related suicides are officially recognised and compensated, it is estimated that 5 per cent of suicides are work-related. This estimate, if applied to the UK, would amount to roughly 300 people killed through work related strees.

In sum, a more complete figure of workplace deaths caused by sudden injury, which takes into account all of the above exclusions, would amount to between 1,000 and 1,400 deaths every year, or 3-4 deaths per day. (p. 142).

They also argue that the estimated number of deaths from occupational diseases are also probably grossly underestimated once recent academic studies are taken into account. For example, a 2005 study of the causes of occupational and environmental cancer by Richard Clapp estimated that about 8-16 per cent of all cancer deaths came from occupational cancer. If the mid-range figure of 12 per cent is taken as the number of occupational deaths from cancer, the number of people dying through work-related cancer is 18,000 per year.

A 2005 paper in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine estimated tath 15-20 per cent of all cases of COPD – chronic obstructive pulmonary disease – could be work related. Which means 6,000 deaths per year. There is also evidence that up to 20 per cent of all deaths from heart disease are related to conditions at work. This figure adds up to 20,000 deaths per year.

A further conservative estimate that diseases in which work can be a contributory cause, such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, rheumatoid arthritis and so on comprise a further 6,000 deaths per annum.

They state

All of this adds up to an overall estimate by the Hazards Campaign of up to 50,000 deaths from work-related illness every year – four times the typical HSE estimate of around 13,000 per year. Our contention then, is that the HSE figures grossly underestimate the number of workers whose current working conditions expose them to both the well-known and the newer risk factors, that will produce the workers deaths of the future. (p. 143).

They also make the point that the death toll is still rising, because of toxins to which people may have been exposed to as much as 40 years previously, such as some carcinogens. The EU has estimated that in the 1990s five million workers, or 22 per cent of the working population, were exposed to cancer-causing substances.

They also argue that, thanks to austerity, more workers are suffering under poor working conditions that are damaging their health. These include bullying and harassment, long hours, and the zero hours contracts imposed on 5.5 million workers. The insecurity these contracts cause are linked to stress, heart and circulatory diseases. Workers are also still exposed to dusts and chemicals that cause or contribute to respiratory and heart diseases. They also point to the connection between low paid work and poor safety standards

Low paid work guarantees more than hardship: low pay goes hand in hand with low safety standards. Occupational injuries and diseases such as diabetes and cancer are directly linked to low paid jobs. (p. 144).

They also make the point that the ‘compensation culture’ the Tories have claimed exists is actually a myth. In fact, many workers don’t receive the compensation to which they’re entitled. They write

One of the first moves of the Coalition government, in October 2010, was to appoint Lord Young, a former Cabinet minister under Margaret Thatcher, to deliver ‘a Whitehall-wide review of the operation of health and safety laws and the growth of the compensation culture.’ He found absolutely no evidence of this ‘compensation culture’, citing figures which actually showed a downward trend to legal claims, but still demanded action to deal with ‘red tape’. Indeed, figures obtained by Hazards Magazine show that fewer than one in seven people suffering an occupational injury or disease ever receive compensation. For occupational diseases alone, this drops to just one in twenty-six. For most occupational cancers, there is barely any prospect of compensation at all.¬† (p. 145).

They also show that the government’s division of work into high and low risk is also highly dubious and has resulted in an increase in deaths at work. It was done by Cameron’s government in order to restrict HSE inspections to those jobs considered high risk. But the low risk category is wide, and includes textiles, clothing, footwear, light engineering, road and air transport and docks, electricity generation and the postal and courier services. Hazards Magazine¬†found that 53 per cent of all deaths at work caused by sudden injury were in the low risk sector. Palmer and Whyte state ‘In other words, the government’s fiscal purge of health and safety enforcement has meant abandoning scrutiny of the workplaces where the majority of deaths occur’. (p. 145).

Palmer and Whyte state that this death toll should be a ‘call to arms. to any government, regardless of its political stance. But instead, despite the ‘glaring’ evidence that the red tape is good for workers, employers and the economy, governments have doubled down and insisted that such legislation is an intolerable nuisance. This has reached the point where the HSE doesn’t even both to ask ‘what’s so wrong with red tape anyway?’ The government’s ideological obsession with red tape means that ‘there is no room for argument or evidence that health and safety legislation doesn’t burden business, while its absence carries a high cost to business, workers and the public purse.’

This means that when some rag like the Heil, the Depress, or the Scum claims that health and safety legislation is unnecessary, costly and stifling business, they are lying. And lying to defend an attitude to workplace safety that is murderously dangerous to working people.

But then, as the disabled have found, Tory responsibility for mass injury and death is nothing new.

 

 

Book on Austerity as State Violence

December 21, 2019

The Violence of Austerity, Vickie Cooper and David Whyte, eds. (London: Pluto Press 2017).

Okay, I realise that this isn’t the kind of book most of us would choose to read at Christmas. We’d rather have something a bit more full of seasonal good cheer. I also realise that as it published nearly three years ago in 2017, it’s somewhat dated. But it, and books like it, are needed and still extremely topical now than 14 million people have been duped into electing Old Etonian Tory Boris Johnson.

I found the book in one of the many excellent secondhand bookshops in Cheltenham. I was particularly drawn to it because of its title, and the titles of the chapters it contains. It’s a collection of papers describing the Tories’ attack on the poor, the disabled, the marginalised, the unemployed, homeless and BAME communities, and particularly women of colour, as forms of violence. This isn’t mere hyperbole. The book discusses real instances of violence by the state and its officials, as well as landlords and private corporations and individuals. Mike in his articles on the Tories’ wretched benefits sanctions has argued time and again that this is a form of state violence against the disabled, and that it constitutes genocide through the sheer scale of the deaths it has caused: 130,000 at a conservative estimate. It’s therefore extremely interesting that others attacking and campaigning against austerity share the same view. The blurb for the book runs

Austerity, the government’s response to the aftermath of the financial crisis, continues to devastate contemporary Britain. Thius books brings together campaigners and writers including Danny Dorling, Mary O’Hara and Rizwaan Sabir to show that austerity is a form of systematic violence.

Covering notorious cases of institutional violence, including workfare, fracking and mental health scandals, the book argues that police attacks on the homeless, violent evictions in the rented sector, community violence and cuts to the regulation of the social protection are all being driven by reductions in public sector funding. The result is a shocking exposes of the ways in which austerity policies harm people in Britain.

One of the editors, Vickie Cooper, is a lecturer in Social Policy and Criminology at the Open University, while the other, David Whyte, is professor of Socio-Legal Studies at the University of Liverpool. He is also the editor of How Corrupt Is Britain, another scathing look at the UK under the Tories.

The book’s introduction by the editors is on the violence of austerity. After that it is divided into four sections, each on different aspects of austerity and its maltreatment of the poor.

Part 1, ‘Deadly Welfare’, contains the following chapters

  1. Mental Health and Suicide, by Mary O’Hara
  2. Austerity and Mortality, by Danny Dorling
  3. Welfare Reforms and the Attack on Disabled People, by John Pring
  4. The Violence of Workfare by Jon Burnett and David Whyte
  5. The Multiple Forms of Violence in the Asylum System by Victoria Canning
  6. The Degradation and Humiliation of Young People, by Emma Bond and Simon Hallsworth.

Part II, ‘Poverty Amplification’, has these

7. Child Maltreatment and Child Mortality, by Joanna Mack
8. Hunger and Food Poverty, by Rebecca O’Connell and Laura Hamilton
9. The Deadly Impact of Fuel Poverty, by Ruth London
10. The Violence of the Debtfare State, by David Ellis
11. Women of Colour’s Anti-Austerity Activism, by Akwugo Emejulu and Leah Bassel
12. Dismantling the Irish Peace Process, by Daniel Holder

Part III, ‘State Regulation’, includes

13. Undoing State Protection, by Steve Tombs
14. Health and Safety at the Frontline of Austerity, by Hilda Palmer and David Whyte
15. Environmental Degradation, by Charlotte Burns and Paul Tobin
16. Fracking and State Violence, by Will Jackson, Helen Monk and Joanna Gilmore
17. Domicide, Eviction and Repossession, by Kirsteen Paton and Vickie Cooper
18. Austerity’s Impact on Rough Sleeping and Violence, by Daniel McCulloch.

Part IV, ‘State Control’, has these chapters

19. Legalising the Violence of Austerity, by Robert Knox
20. The Failure to Protect Women in the Criminal Justice System, by Maureen Mansfield and Vickie Cooper
21. Austerity, Violence and Prisons, by Joe Sim
22. Evicting Manchester’s Street Homeless, by Steven Speed
23. Policing Anti-Austerity through the ‘War on Terror’ by Rizwaan Sabir
24. Austerity and the Production of Hate, by Jon Burnett.

These are all subjects that left-wing blogs like Vox Political, Another Angry Voice, Pride’s Purge have all covered and discussed. The last chapter, ‘Austerity and the Production of Hate’, is on a subject that Mike’s discussed several times in Vox Political: the way the Tory press and media justifies the savage attacks on the poor and disabled through stirring up hatred against them. Mike has published several articles on the way Tory propaganda has resulted in vicious attacks on the poor, particularly the homeless.

This violence and campaign of hatred isn’t going to stop after Boris’ victory, and his appeal for healing after the election is just rhetoric. He doesn’t want healing, he wants compliance and complacency. He doesn’t deserve them, and should not be given any, because from now on he and his party will only step up the attacks.

Don’t be taken in by establishment lies. Keep working to get him out!