Your browser isn't supported
It looks like you're using an old web browser. To get the most out of the site and to ensure guides display correctly, we suggest upgrading your browser now. Download the latest:

Welcome to the MSE Forums

We're home to a fantastic community of MoneySavers but anyone can post. Please exercise caution & report spam, illegal, offensive or libellous posts/messages: click "report" or email forumteam@. Skimlinks & other affiliated links are turned on

Search
  • FIRST POST
    • andygb
    • By andygb 13th Sep 17, 10:41 PM
    • 11,878Posts
    • 25,624Thanks
    andygb
    A mate's H&S problem
    • #1
    • 13th Sep 17, 10:41 PM
    A mate's H&S problem 13th Sep 17 at 10:41 PM
    Last weekend, one of my mates from way back came to visit us. He had been through a rough time over the past few years,splitting up from his OH, then being made redundant.
    He was out of work for about six months, then got a job with a biotech company as a boffin. He was happy at first (delighted to get a job), but then got worried about the attitude of the youngsters around him. They are working with pretty hazardous materials most of the time, and a lot of the younger staff were employed cheap straight from school, with no science degrees.
    To cut a long story short, they take all kinds of short cuts, which my mate has flagged up with the senior scientist. However, the SC said that they are under pressure to get the testing done and they can't do it working normally.
    One of the pieces of equipment they use is one of these.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fume_hood

    The cabinet has a flume hood, which protects people against all kinds of nasty (potentially life threatening) vapours/gases/poisons.
    He has noticed that nearly all of the younger staff do not bother with the protective hood when they are working, so are inhaling all the toxic gases.
    Other staff members have criticised him for being a wimp, and told him that he will be sacked if he cannot do the job quickly enough (bearing in mind that he uses the safety hood at all times).
    He doesn't know what to do about this, because he really wanted this job, doesn't want to lose it, but thinks that he is working with a load of idiots.
    He is working in an area (East Midlands) where there are so many companies in this sector, but the still doesn't think it would be easy to get a job if he walked out.
    I have suggested taking notes of everything and emailing people in charge to make them aware.
    He isn't in a union (I don't think many people in that sector are).
    Any advice would be welcome.

    He has considered the whistleblowing route, because this is so potentially life threatening.
Page 1
    • TELLIT01
    • By TELLIT01 14th Sep 17, 8:11 AM
    • 4,120 Posts
    • 4,249 Thanks
    TELLIT01
    • #2
    • 14th Sep 17, 8:11 AM
    • #2
    • 14th Sep 17, 8:11 AM
    If things are as bad as you state he really does need to report it, presumably to the Health and Safety Executive. http://www.hse.gov.uk/contact/concerns.htm
    • LadyDee
    • By LadyDee 14th Sep 17, 8:45 AM
    • 2,531 Posts
    • 2,622 Thanks
    LadyDee
    • #3
    • 14th Sep 17, 8:45 AM
    • #3
    • 14th Sep 17, 8:45 AM
    He will definitely find it difficult to get another job if he just walks out, so why doesn't he look for another one and then hand in his notice?

    After leaving this job he could write to the appropriate Govt. dept. to report his H&S concerns and then let them deal with it.
    • bugslet
    • By bugslet 14th Sep 17, 8:53 AM
    • 5,693 Posts
    • 27,978 Thanks
    bugslet
    • #4
    • 14th Sep 17, 8:53 AM
    • #4
    • 14th Sep 17, 8:53 AM
    Has he discussed this with H&S Officer/HR? Doesn't have to go in heavy, just point out that if an accident occured then the firm would be at risk of prosecution by HSE and of course he is worried about the health of the younger workers.

    If he has done that, then I'd just try for another job where they take things more seriously.
    • ScorpiondeRooftrouser
    • By ScorpiondeRooftrouser 14th Sep 17, 9:27 AM
    • 2,041 Posts
    • 3,068 Thanks
    ScorpiondeRooftrouser
    • #5
    • 14th Sep 17, 9:27 AM
    • #5
    • 14th Sep 17, 9:27 AM
    This is actually one of the areas where HR could genuinely be helpful. if management are allowing the staff to operate in a way that could lay the company open to massive lawsuits and terrible publicity due to breaches of health and safety laws, that's where HR come in. The company could be damaged by this as well as the individuals; so they should, and probably will, be interested. It depends how big the company is.
    • andygb
    • By andygb 14th Sep 17, 9:31 AM
    • 11,878 Posts
    • 25,624 Thanks
    andygb
    • #6
    • 14th Sep 17, 9:31 AM
    • #6
    • 14th Sep 17, 9:31 AM
    Has he discussed this with H&S Officer/HR? Doesn't have to go in heavy, just point out that if an accident occured then the firm would be at risk of prosecution by HSE and of course he is worried about the health of the younger workers.

    If he has done that, then I'd just try for another job where they take things more seriously.
    Originally posted by bugslet

    The senior scientist is the top dog on their site, and it is a multi national organisation. The only time he has had any contact with HR was at his interview.
    I did suggest to him, that his best bet is to look for another job, keep his head down, keep safe by the standards he is familar with, and be aware of what the other people are doing.
    I work in finance, and I have to keep to rules/regulations for my industry, so I would have thought science/research would be even more strict.
    At the end of the day, it sounds like extreme costcutting (most of the techinicians apparently do not have a science degree, and are paid around £14K a year), over targets and staff.
    He says he has never worked in a place like it.
    I hope that he will be able to get out soon.
    I would be tempted to whistleblow in his situation, but I am not sure what the safeguards/security/legal aspects of that would be.
    • ohreally
    • By ohreally 14th Sep 17, 10:43 AM
    • 6,320 Posts
    • 4,842 Thanks
    ohreally
    • #7
    • 14th Sep 17, 10:43 AM
    • #7
    • 14th Sep 17, 10:43 AM
    In a culture like this he may be best keeping quiet and not highlight further as the outcome will be a target on his back and an exit out the door.

    He's made to much of the situation now to report to the enforcing authority for it not to bring recrimination.
    • trailingspouse
    • By trailingspouse 14th Sep 17, 12:02 PM
    • 2,374 Posts
    • 3,376 Thanks
    trailingspouse
    • #8
    • 14th Sep 17, 12:02 PM
    • #8
    • 14th Sep 17, 12:02 PM
    As he's kind of committed now, he should make it clearer to the management. Spell out exactly what is/is not being done, and the possible side effects on the youngsters who are doing it.

    As he is a 'boffin', he is in fuller possession of the facts than his colleagues - apart from anything else I think he had a duty of care simply as a human being to ensure that they don't do themselves any permanent harm.

    Are there regular health checks? (for example, people who work in pharma environments where they could be exposed to hormones, eg making the contraceptive pill, need to have regular blood tests). What happens when the place is being audited? Do they still carry on without the fume hoods, or do they do it 'properly'. And finally, what does the SOP say? He should find it, read it, and stick to it.

    Where does he fit into the hierarchy? I think he needs to go to senior management saying 'How do we stop these kids ruining their health' rather than blaming anyone in particular. If the senior scientist isn't listening, then he needs to go over his head.
    • andygb
    • By andygb 14th Sep 17, 12:21 PM
    • 11,878 Posts
    • 25,624 Thanks
    andygb
    • #9
    • 14th Sep 17, 12:21 PM
    • #9
    • 14th Sep 17, 12:21 PM
    As he's kind of committed now, he should make it clearer to the management. Spell out exactly what is/is not being done, and the possible side effects on the youngsters who are doing it.

    As he is a 'boffin', he is in fuller possession of the facts than his colleagues - apart from anything else I think he had a duty of care simply as a human being to ensure that they don't do themselves any permanent harm.

    Are there regular health checks? (for example, people who work in pharma environments where they could be exposed to hormones, eg making the contraceptive pill, need to have regular blood tests). What happens when the place is being audited? Do they still carry on without the fume hoods, or do they do it 'properly'. And finally, what does the SOP say? He should find it, read it, and stick to it.

    Where does he fit into the hierarchy? I think he needs to go to senior management saying 'How do we stop these kids ruining their health' rather than blaming anyone in particular. If the senior scientist isn't listening, then he needs to go over his head.
    Originally posted by trailingspouse

    There are a lot of unknowns here as far as I am concerned.
    He didn't say anything about regular health checks or audits.
    He did say that the SOP for the cabinet does say that it must only be used with the hood down/activated (I haven't used one, so apart from the pictures I am not 100% clear how it works), and that he follows this, but he has seen everyone else (apart from one technician who seems to have previous biotech experience) ignoring this.
    He is next in line to the senior scientist, and then the people senior to the SC are all based at head office. My mate doesn't have an office as such, because he is doing all lab based work, and he hasn't got access to a landline.
    I think he is in a pretty difficult position TBH, because I think from what he has told me, he needs to consult someone much higher in the chain of command.
    • ohreally
    • By ohreally 14th Sep 17, 2:14 PM
    • 6,320 Posts
    • 4,842 Thanks
    ohreally
    Is there an occupational health dept he can involve?
    • TBagpuss
    • By TBagpuss 14th Sep 17, 2:30 PM
    • 6,038 Posts
    • 7,787 Thanks
    TBagpuss
    I think he need to look up who the Health and Safety officer is and make a formal report to them.
    If he doesn't know who the H&S person is, (although it's often displayed on the HSE poster), Either report it to his own direct boss, with a request that it s passed on to the H&S officer, if if he doesn't want to do that, or does not feel comfortable doing it, then send it to HR with a request that they pass it to the HSO.

    Keep a copy of the letter or e-mail (at home, not on a work computer)
    • trailingspouse
    • By trailingspouse 14th Sep 17, 5:30 PM
    • 2,374 Posts
    • 3,376 Thanks
    trailingspouse
    So he's basically second in command on site??

    Who's telling him he'll get the sack? Surely he should be the one doing the telling?

    It's not whistle blowing if you're the boss (or deputy boss) - it's your job! What's his job title? Maybe he needs to step up to the mark and insist that they do it properly - for the sake of their health, and for the sake of the company (they won't want to be getting sued down the line if people start suffering health problems).

    He might not have access to a landline - but there are emails and mobile phones and a gazillion other ways of making contact, so no excuse.
    • andygb
    • By andygb 14th Sep 17, 10:50 PM
    • 11,878 Posts
    • 25,624 Thanks
    andygb
    So he's basically second in command on site??

    Who's telling him he'll get the sack? Surely he should be the one doing the telling?


    It's not whistle blowing if you're the boss (or deputy boss) - it's your job! What's his job title? Maybe he needs to step up to the mark and insist that they do it properly - for the sake of their health, and for the sake of the company (they won't want to be getting sued down the line if people start suffering health problems).

    He might not have access to a landline - but there are emails and mobile phones and a gazillion other ways of making contact, so no excuse.
    Originally posted by trailingspouse

    The SC is doing the comapny bidding - difficult situation.
    • Savvy_Sue
    • By Savvy_Sue 15th Sep 17, 1:38 AM
    • 37,823 Posts
    • 34,216 Thanks
    Savvy_Sue
    And just because others in the company sector are not in a union, it doesn't mean he can't join, and IMO he should, as soon as he can. Union Finder.
    Still knitting!
    Completed: 1 adult cardigan, 3 baby jumpers, 2 shawls, 3 pairs baby bootees,
    1 Wise Man Knitivity figure + 1 sheep, 2 pairs socks, 1 seaman's hat ...
    Current projects: 1 shawl, another seaman's hat
    • andygb
    • By andygb 15th Sep 17, 8:11 AM
    • 11,878 Posts
    • 25,624 Thanks
    andygb
    And just because others in the company sector are not in a union, it doesn't mean he can't join, and IMO he should, as soon as he can. Union Finder.
    Originally posted by Savvy_Sue

    The problem is, that many unions will not represent you until you have been a member for a year, I know this from past experience.
    • andygb
    • By andygb 15th Sep 17, 8:17 AM
    • 11,878 Posts
    • 25,624 Thanks
    andygb
    So he's basically second in command on site??

    Who's telling him he'll get the sack? Surely he should be the one doing the telling?

    It's not whistle blowing if you're the boss (or deputy boss) - it's your job! What's his job title? Maybe he needs to step up to the mark and insist that they do it properly - for the sake of their health, and for the sake of the company (they won't want to be getting sued down the line if people start suffering health problems).

    He might not have access to a landline - but there are emails and mobile phones and a gazillion other ways of making contact, so no excuse.
    Originally posted by trailingspouse

    The "get the sack" comments were off the cuff remarks made by other staff members.
    He is not second in command at all, he is simply more experienced than the majority of the people on the site.
    From what he says, the SC is just letting them do what they want, as long as they get the work done quickly.
    If it was me, I would be putting everything down in one email, keeping copies and then sending it to head office.
    My mate is worried that if he does this, they might just let him go (He hasn't been there longer than a year, let alone two years).
    • ohreally
    • By ohreally 15th Sep 17, 11:40 AM
    • 6,320 Posts
    • 4,842 Thanks
    ohreally
    The problem is, that many unions will not represent you until you have been a member for a year, I know this from past experience.
    Originally posted by andygb
    The TU appointed health and safety rep can pick this up.

    He may find Inite organises within this sector.
    • Savvy_Sue
    • By Savvy_Sue 15th Sep 17, 11:41 AM
    • 37,823 Posts
    • 34,216 Thanks
    Savvy_Sue
    The problem is, that many unions will not represent you until you have been a member for a year, I know this from past experience.
    Originally posted by andygb
    Yup. But if he's not planning to walk, then joining a union NOW rather than when he's sacked gets him closer to that magic year. And even if they will not represent you - which in a case like this they MIGHT do early - there is a certain amount of advice and information available before it comes to representation.

    Plus the employer needn't know how long he's been a member. And I can't tell you how much better I felt when I could finish a letter saying "If you insist on pushing these changes through I shall have to consult my union." Maybe his employer won't care. I think mine would have changed their minds anyway - because I made a good case for them doing so - but I do not think it had occurred to them that I might have a union behind me!
    Still knitting!
    Completed: 1 adult cardigan, 3 baby jumpers, 2 shawls, 3 pairs baby bootees,
    1 Wise Man Knitivity figure + 1 sheep, 2 pairs socks, 1 seaman's hat ...
    Current projects: 1 shawl, another seaman's hat
    • andygb
    • By andygb 15th Sep 17, 12:25 PM
    • 11,878 Posts
    • 25,624 Thanks
    andygb
    Yup. But if he's not planning to walk, then joining a union NOW rather than when he's sacked gets him closer to that magic year. And even if they will not represent you - which in a case like this they MIGHT do early - there is a certain amount of advice and information available before it comes to representation.

    Plus the employer needn't know how long he's been a member. And I can't tell you how much better I felt when I could finish a letter saying "If you insist on pushing these changes through I shall have to consult my union." Maybe his employer won't care. I think mine would have changed their minds anyway - because I made a good case for them doing so - but I do not think it had occurred to them that I might have a union behind me!
    Originally posted by Savvy_Sue

    Good points
    • mynameisclare
    • By mynameisclare 16th Sep 17, 10:11 AM
    • 237 Posts
    • 267 Thanks
    mynameisclare
    Prospect may be a suitable union for this line of work, and there is no minimum qualifiying time.

    https://www.prospect.org.uk/
Welcome to our new Forum!

Our aim is to save you money quickly and easily. We hope you like it!

Forum Team Contact us

Live Stats

3,141Posts Today

8,435Users online

Martin's Twitter