Health and Safety Reps Newsletter Spring 2024

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International Workers’ Memorial Day 28 April

International Workers’ Memorial Day (IWMD) takes place on 28th April each year; the idea of the day is to remember the dead – and fight like hell for the living. Each year the day has a different theme. The day is also used as an opportunity to get reps out and about into workplaces to raise the profile of workplace health and safety.

In relation to the latter, the TUC is encouraging safety reps to carry out an inspection during the week commencing 22nd April, to put pressure on employers and the government to tackle building safety issues including RAAC, asbestos, and fire safety.

you a RMT safety rep’s clip board and HV vest.

Climate risks for workers

Extreme weather and changing weather patterns are likely to affect the majority of RMT members in their daily work.

International Workers’ Memorial Day theme for 2024: ‘Climate risks for workers’

Any rep who signs up will be provided with information and resources to assist, including a building safety inspection check-list. They will also receive TUC Education accreditation.

Please tell the TUC if you want to get involved and carry out an inspection:

Whatever you do for IWMD, whether for it is an inspection or holding a workplace health and safety meeting, please let us know about this by emailing: and we will send

The impact of working in extreme weather is that it can cause fatigue, increase workplace injury and stress-related disease. It adds higher UV exposure, placing workers at risk of chronic health problems, including skin cancer and eye damage (macular degeneration). Yet despite this, there are no laws on maximum workplace temperatures.

The Hazards Campaign has joined forces with Heat Strike to organise a meeting on Wednesday 10th April at 6.30pm to campaign for maximum workplace temperature and heat furlough. Join with other trade unionists and be part of the campaign: REGISTER NOW!

Also, check from Hazards Campaign this great resource on Heat and Health & Safety

And see RMT advice on working in extreme weather:

Spring 2024

Covid 19

The repercussions of the Covid pandemic continue to reverberate – and indeed anyone who came down with it during the Christmas/New Year Covid spike will know that it hasn’t gone away.


Research came out in January which is shocking in its conclusion: that workers were faced with a system with “a capacity to kill in the interests of the economy.”

The study examined government Covid and employment policies in France and the UK. From this research the author was able to confirm that through the pandemic ‘essential’ workers in both countries were treated as disposable; the research refers to these workers as “necrolabour,” a category of worker whose labour value supersedes their right to life and who could be legitimately sacrificed in the interests of the economy.

The researcher explains that “statistical recording shows that internationally, death rates amongst lowincome essential workers were disproportionately high”.

The report calls for legislative changes to extend employment rights and social protections to all workers to reduce the risks of premature and avoidable death. and that governments must ensure

that occupational health risks become a central focus of public policy, so that the visibility given to workers’ deaths during Covid-19 becomes an enduring reality.

To read the report see: Pandemic Necrolabour and Essential Workers in the UK and France, (Global Labour Journal, volume 15, Number 1, January 2024, University of Leeds academic Sarah Waters).

Covid inquiry

RMT has contributed to both the UK Covid-19 inquiry (via TUC) and the Hazards Campaign’s Covid Workers Inquiry.

In RMT contributions we have explained that the profit motive – which is integral to our current day transport industry – has put staff in danger and possibly cost lives. This is because staff were pushed back into unsafe environments, and high levels of outsourcing meant that cleaners – who were praised to the heavens as vital workers during the pandemic – went into work while sick because they received no sick pay. Additionally, public policy was pushed through the transport industry (an essential service), which is a highly deregulated and fragmented system and full of contradictory incentives – meaning it was always going to be very difficult to make this work successfully.

RMT Health and Safety advisory conference 2024

The annual health and safety conference held in York in February was the biggest conference ever!

There were 191 reps, 18% of whom were women; 55 were from Network Rail, 18 from London Underground, several from the bus and maritime sector and the remainder from Train Operating Companies.

The Eurostar Passenger Service branch sent most reps – 9 in total – and the highest number of reps from single employer was 11 from South Eastern Trains.

On the main debate on the conference theme, “The Health and Safety at Work Act – 50 years on”. RMT President Alex Gordon introducing and chairing the debate said “The 1974 Health & Safety At Work Act (HASAWA) is the legislation from which all trade union health and safety representatives derive statutory recognition, powers, and legal rights in the workplace.

It is one of the last remaining vestiges of workers’ and trade union rights from the 1974 Labour government. Labour’s Secretary of State for Employment at that time, Michael Foot regarded it as his greatest achievement in government.

The HASAWA came from a period of heightened trade union militancy characterised by high levels of industrial action over wages and conditions, but also over questions of control of the workplace and work processes. The post-war period had seen a sharp rise in industrial accidents.

The HASAWA brought about a new system of health and safety management with workplace reps appointed by trade unions and responsible to the members who elect them. This did not come about due to the altruism of employers, or politicians. It came out of class struggle, which is the engine of history”.

Speakers in the debate included Professor Phil James, Professor of Employment Relations at Middlesex University and co-author of IER publication “Work and Health: 50 years of regulatory failure”. Phil explained a success of the Act, which is that injury and fatality had fallen significantly since the Act was introduced, but the failure of the Act is evident in the statistics – which are that 1.8 million people are estimated to be suffering work-related ill health, this amounts to 35.2 million working days lost, the total cost of which is £20.7 billion - a cost mostly met by the taxpayer.

In reaction to the shortfalls of the Act highlighted by the panel speakers, a woman safety rep delegate explained “I have worked in a closed shop. I don’t think we are going to get them back again unfortunately. But where you have strong unions, your protection is a lot stronger. We don’t feel as protected by the health and safety act as we don’t have closed shops. What we need is more union members, and then get rid of the antiunion laws.”

Hazards Appeal

Jawad Qasrawi, photographer and manager (see photo) for the Hazards magazine, made a financial appeal at the conference, and spoke about how this union-friendly magazine wins major international awards and provides the information and resources to make the union safety rep job easier.

Make sure your branch are subscribed to the

magazine; you can do this here

RMT recruitment campaign for young and women safety reps

We were able to use the conference as an opportunity to advertise these campaigns. As well as setting aside conference time to speak about the campaign we also distributed newly produced posters for the women’s campaign – and filmed young reps at the conference, which will be used on RMT social media to encourage other young members to take up the role.

Conference award for RMT safety rep of the year 2024

We had an excellent line up of candidates for the award – the second time it has been given. The winner was Neil Sutherland, RMT Network Rail Route Industrial and Health & Safety Rep, in accepting his award Neil made a powerful call to arms:

“Although I have received this award, it is for every single one of you that tries to make improvements to h&s in the workplace – keep on doing what you do best, go to your branch meetings, carry out investigations write your reports, attend safety conference and events, conduct safety inspections – and let your voices be heard.”


We received some excellent feedback on the conference and the conference training (which takes place the day before the conference), comments included the folllowing:

“Very good conference, very well organised”

“Very good training. It will help us a reps to be more aware of the whole h&s concept in our workplace!”

“Very informative. Thanks for the invitation. Very enjoyable, I learnt a lot!”

We received some suggestions from reps as to how the conference and conference training could be improved and these will be considered by the Health and Safety Advisory Committee when it starts planning for next year’s conference.

Make sure you keep dates in your diary for RMT Health and Safety Conference next year! - 18th and 19th February 2025

One year of historic union health and safety data

Dr Mike Esbester, Senior Lecturer in History at University of Portsmouth and Railway Work Lives and Death (RWLD) project lead, writes on its progress:

In March 2023, the Railway Work, Life & Death (RWLD) project released records of around 25,000 historic accidents to members of the RMT’s predecessor unions, the ASRS and NUR. They all

took place before 1921, and come from the RMT’s records, kept at the Modern Records Centre at the University of Warwick. Launched at Unity House by Mick Lynch and Alex Gordon, the records are available for everyone from the Railway Work, Life & Death project website

Since then, the records have been downloaded by people all over the world, over 4,000 times. The Railway Work, Life & Death project website has had over 50,000 views – this showing lots of people are interested in RMT history!

The records tell us how the union looked after its members after an accident, or as result of ill-health or old age. They show the dangers of railway work at the time – and the importance of Union membership.

These records are still very relevant today. Some of the same types of incidents are still occurring now, just as they were over 100 years ago.

The project team are keen to see current RMT members making use of the records and the wider project resources. They delivered a training session for health and safety reps at the RMT Health and Safety Conference and at the Station Grades Conference – and are looking at further training possibilities.

The project volunteers are working on transcribing another 25,000 cases from the RMT’s records – and want to hear from you on if you’re using the project’s work and database, or if you find one of your railway ancestors in the database.

RMT National Women’s Conference 2024

Jess Robinson, chair of RMT women’s committee, pictured standing alongside RMT ‘body’ pop up stand, following body mapping exercise in which delegates to the RMT women’s conference were asked to place stickers on the body where ‘work makes them hurt’.

Delegates explained that they get battered and bruised when doing their work as bus drivers, and as conductor guards and catering workers when pushing trollies through trains.
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