Our Ref: HSR/1/5
Head Office Circular: NP/060/19
27th March 2019
To: The Secretary
LU – POLLUTION LEVELS
London Transport Regional Council submitted a resolution detailing concerns to workers health from pollution levels both on trains and on stations:
This region is incredibly concerned about the potential health risks to members from the very high dust levels on London Underground.
At a recent branch meeting we heard reports from both stations and train members about the issues
they have faced and health concerns they have:
- A number of members suffering with respiratory problems.
- Station staff and drivers having high incidents of chest colds.
- Notable levels of dirt when washing hands and face during or after a shift.
- SATs having to be suspended at Canada Water due to high dust levels.
- Equipment failing at London Bridge due to high dust levels.
- Reports of ongoing dust problems at Waterloo which bosses eventually admitted were due to track works.
- High levels of dust and dirt in underground facilities across the line.
Our members are driving through or standing in this dust for several hours a day, over a number of years.
Recent reports in the media have shown that dust 'pollution particulate' levels on the tube can be many times higher than the most polluted roads in London. These reports came from surveys which were carried out due to RMT pressure on tube bosses.
The Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollutants reportedly told TfL that,
“Given that there is strong evidence that both long- and short-term exposure to particulate pollutants in ambient air are harmful to health, it is likely that there is some health risk [on the Tube].”
The report shows that the pollution particulates found in just two locations on the tube included 'health significant levels' of particulates including arsenic, nickel, vanadium and zinc amongst several others.
We believe the RMT should ensure this continues to be a priority issue and consider the following actions:
- ask other London Underground branches to discuss the issue or survey RMT tube members about health issues and concerns.
- carry out our own research into health issues caused by tube dust, and ensure the questions asked are relevant to the risks faced by somebody working in a dusty area for hours a day for years on end.
- Demand that tube bosses clean up the tube tracks which are the source of much of the dust.
- Demand that London Underground review and clean facilities across the Tube, prioritising those that are underground.
- Explain to members their rights in work to ensure their health, such as the use of face masks and 'refusal to work' rights.
The resolution was considered by the National Executive Committee who noted and adopted the following report of their Health and Safety Sub-committee:
That we note and support the sentiments and issues raised in the resolution. The General Secretary is therefore instructed to write to LU placing this matter on the agenda of the next LU Health and Safety Forum and demanding that LU creates a programme of actions to address the issues raised in the resolution as a matter of urgency. Responses to be placed before this NEC.
Branches and Regional councils to be informed.
I am acting in accordance with these instructions.
Please make the contents of this circular available to all appropriate members.