Media highlights: 1 – 4 September 2015

By Steven Fifer, PR Manager for the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) 

Newspaper stack 

Following the bank holiday weekend and stories of how to serve rare burgers, spending cuts were back on the agenda following an article in the Guardian which focused on a report by the Local Government Association. In this report, the LGA warned the Treasury that councils in England and Wales cannot cope with further funding cuts because government policies have already left with them with a black hole of almost £10bn.

Spending cuts to local authorities is an important issue and is something the CIEH looked at in our Environmental Health Workforce Survey report, which found the resilience of vital environmental health services designed to protect businesses and the public are close to or already at a ‘tipping point’.  

Since Public Health England released their report on the use of e-cigarettes, Nottinghamshire County Council released details that they will discipline workers who are caught smoking at any time during their paid working hours and the rules will apply to any authority-owned buildings, land or vehicles. This is a very topical issue and we’ll be monitoring the news to see how the county council get on with their new policy.

Sadly a week doesn’t go by where we don’t see a health and safety story hit the headlines. The most high-profile story last week being the news that designer brand Hugo Boss is facing a hefty fine for health and safety breaches relating to the death of a four-year-old boy, who was crushed to death by an 18-stone (250lb) mirror. There was unfortunately another health and safety story featuring a child being hurt last week, following news that Doncaster Council has been fined after an 8-year-old girl suffered multiple injuries when a wooden hoarding was blown onto the pavement during high winds.

Further health and safety stories included a recycling firm fined after employee falls into baler, as well as a report that a food worker was seriously injured after being trapped between a fork lift and a lorry at a factory.

The CIEH believes that everyone should be protected from ill health and accidents arising from work activities and robust health and safety policies will not only protect workers but also external people visiting the workplace.

Shelter is one of the UK’s most influential housing charities and last week they warned the public there are thousands of private tenants who have suffered abuse at the hands of landlords, including harassment, threats and assaults, which could have resulted in legal action. In some cases, Shelter said it had heard from renters whose landlords had cut off utilities, entered their homes without permission and, in some cases, even burned their possessions. Safe and healthy accommodation for private renters is a serious issue for the CIEH and while the vast majority of landlords provide fit and proper accommodation, the CIEH would be concerned with any landlords whose actions led to accidents and the ill health of their residents.

In other news during the first week of September, Jamie Oliver declared an 'absolute war' on sugar and wants a 'sugar tax' but almost immediately faced calls from campaigners to publish the sugar content of dishes on the menu at his restaurants. It also looks like United Utilities faces a possible £15m compensation bill after Lancashire homes were affected by the outbreak of a parasitic bug in supplies.

Lastly, noise tends not to make the headlines but is an important issue for CIEH under the environmental protection agenda as it is the job of the environmental health practitioner to ensure that the degree of noise in the environment around us remains at a level that is not harmful to health, both for industrial operations and amongst local communities. This is topical because last week there were two interesting stories on the subject, the first being about how a bar owner in Shrewsbury has agreed to put noise restrictions in place after receiving complaints and then there was a story about how a couple in York were fined following complaints about their barking dogs.