International News

Firefighters Union fighting for Safety 

Following on from the World Health Organisation’s declaration of Fire Fighting as a cancer-causing profession, the UK Fire Brigades Union has formally reported two fire and rescue services in relation to bringing in policy which would see firefighters sent into fires with their breathing equipment turned off.  

The policy change involves instructing firefighters to go beyond the point of safe air with their breathing apparatus turned off in high-rise building fires, in a move which the union says breaks health and safety law.  The policy in question has previously been struck down in London, by the fire service’s health and safety advisory panel due to being unsafe.  

The Fire Brigade Union National Officer said: 

“This procedure is unsafe, unlawful and unprofessional, and puts firefighters and the public at greater risk.  It tears up half a century of health and safety law, best practice guidance, manufactures’ instructions, and firefighter training. “ 

Under the policy firefighters are to turn on their breathing apparatus only if a gas monitor alarm is activated and return to ‘clean air’.  In their letter to the health and safety executive, the union says this is far too late, contradicts all expert advice and doesn’t allow firefighters time to put on their breathing apparatus or escape to safety. 

Source: Fire Brigades Union - Union reports fire brigades to Health and Safety Executive  

New York Bill increasing severity of fines targeting sham construction contractors 

In a move hoped to increase prosecutions under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, a new bill has been passed in New York which would allow courts to decide restitution from employers or supervisors with minimum fines of $300,000 for misdemeanours and $500,000 for felonies in criminal cases surrounding construction deaths.   

The bill, named after a 22-year-old construction worker Carlos Moncayo, a non-union, undocumented worker, who died in 2015 in a trench collapse, the trench was noted at the scene of the workplace incident have not been properly reinforced.  

In court prosecutors argued that supervisors ordered Moncayo into the trench because the project lagged behind schedule. Ultimately the general contractor was found guilty of manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide and reckless endangerment.  The sentence imposed was a $10,000 the state-imposed limit on corporate penalties, which the district attorney described as ‘monopoly money’. 

Safety Net readers may recognise a parallel with the tragic Delacombe trench collapse in March 2018. This prompted a powerful and successful industrial manslaughter campaign in Victoria, with the new industrial manslaughter laws introduced in July 2021. 

Source: Construction News – How much is a construction worker’s life worth? NY bill says at least $300,000 

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