Unite union takes action against diesel fumes ‘time bomb’
major new initiative to protect workers from the ticking time bomb caused by
exposure to diesel fumes has been launched by Unite, the UK’s largest union.
The union which represents workers right across the economy has launched a
diesel emissions’ register so that members can record when they have been
exposed to excessive diesel fumes. The information will be used by Unite to
report accidents, force employers to clean up their workplaces and could be the
basis of future legal claims.
The register was launched following last Thursday’s (27 April) court case,
which forced the government to unveil plans to tackle illegal levels of
nitrogen dioxide after local elections held yesterday (Thursday, 4 May).
Unite’s register was
initially trialled across the transport sectors where the issue is a priority
and has already produced what are claimed to be “disturbing results” with
members reporting incidents including: “Many shifts have had dense fog through
diesel emissions, staff have coughed, had sore eyes, sore throats” and “I
regularly work in a building with diesel fumes from diesel engines”.
Unite’s study revealed that affected workers reported a series of
short-term health concerns including: wheezing (55%), other respiratory
problems (55%), eye irritation (45%), lightheadness (36%), chest tightness (36%),
headache (36%), nausea (27%) and heartburn (18%).
Long term problems recorded by Unite members included: effects on lung
capacity, breathlessness, asthma, being more prone to colds and flu and
Unite already has registers for members who are exposed in the workplace to
asbestos or fume events on board aircraft. Unite is currently pursuing 94 legal
case on behalf of cabin crew who have been exposed to toxic fumes on board
Unite assistant general secretary for transport Diana Holland said: “Unite is
acting to protect our members from the ticking time bomb of being needlessly
exposed to poisonous diesel fumes. We cannot take risks with health and safety
at work. We are deeply concerned the government is burying its head in the sand
and allowing people to become sick and even die due to its inaction
“In the meantime, where it is clear that employers are ignoring their legal
duties, information form the register will be used to force employers who are
making our members sick and ill to clean up their acts.
“If it can be proved that the health of workers has been damaged due to
exposure to diesel fumes, Unite will consider taking legal action on behalf of