International news

UK: Spate of deaths prompts HSE farm safety alert

More must be done to improve farm safety after four fatalities on farms in just over a fortnight, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has warned. The tragedies, between 27 July and 10 August, came in the wake of HSE’s latest statistics on fatal injuries in agriculture, forestry and fishing in Great Britain. These showed the number of deaths in the sector almost doubled year-on-year, up from 23 in 2019/20 to 41 in 2020/21. Agriculture has a fatality rate of about 20 times higher than the average five-year annual rate across all industries, HSE noted.

HSE’s acting head of agriculture Adrian Hodkinson said: “While we must respect the ongoing investigations following these tragic incidents, most injuries or deaths that we’ve historically seen on farms have been both predictable and preventable.” He added: “The fatality rate within the sector is high, but there are simple measures workers can take to reduce risk including making sure to switch off the power to vehicles or machinery before attempting to carry out repairs, keeping people away from moving vehicles; and ensuring dairy bulls, and cows with calves are not in fields with public footpaths. We are urging people who work on farms to make safety a priority and help us to reduce the number of deaths and injuries in the industry.” 
Read more: HSE news release. Fatal injuries in agriculture, forestry and fishing in Great Britain 2020/21, 19 July 2021. 

USA: Amazon loses bid to stop NY safety probe

A US federal judge has dismissed Amazon.com Inc's attempt to block New York’s attorney general from investigating the online retailer's ability to protect warehouse workers from Covid-19. In a 10 August ruling, US District Judge Brian Cogan rejected Amazon's lawsuit claiming attorney general Letitia James acted in bad faith by trying to police its pandemic response, and stop its alleged retaliation against workers who were unhappy the company wasn't doing more.

“The state has a legitimate interest in ensuring that employers are complying with state labour laws, are enforcing important health safety measures, and are sanctioned for illegal conduct that occurs within the state,” Cogan wrote. Amazon had argued that federal health and labour laws pre-empted the attorney general’s oversight. Amazon spokesperson Kelly Nantel said the company was “disappointed” with the procedural ruling.

The NY attorney general sued Amazon in February over its treatment of thousands of workers at a Staten Island fulfilment centre and a Queens distribution centre. James accused Amazon of prioritising profits over safety, and improperly disciplining two employees who complained about working conditions, one of whom was fired. The attorney general is seeking a court-appointed safety monitor for Amazon. Read more: Seattle Times. Commercial Observer. Reuters. Source: Risks 1010

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