The following letter has been circulated to all Secretaries of Regional Health & Safety Forums throughout the UK containing a comprehensive report and update on current contingency plans, and detailing the broad range of inter-agency activity in the UK, involving the CWU, Consignia Post Office, Health & Safety Executive, Department of Trade & Industry, Government Scientists and Emergency Services to ensure that lessons are learnt for the future.
Our Ref: E1/GH/kt
7th November 2002
TO: ALL REGIONAL HEALTH & SAFETY FORUM SECRETARIES
Since the Anthrax outbreaks in the US last year and following the Anthrax scares in the UK postal service, there has been a great deal of inter-agency activity in the UK with the CWU playing an important role.
This matter was raised at the CWU Annual Conference 2002 in the Health & Safety section 7 at General Conference proposition 97 was supported by the NEC. Whilst this matter is subject to on-going research and developments, it seems an appropriate time to update Forums and Branches and provide relevant background information outlining the work undertaken to date. This matter will also be reported in the forthcoming issue of the Branch Official Bulletin.
Attached for information is a report drawn up by the Health, Safety & Environment Department and it would be useful if this update was reported to all Forums throughout the country. Should Branches and ASRs require copies of this report and attachments, please advise them to write into this department.
Dave Joyce, Assistant Secretary Health & Safety Department
It was important to bring this to the direct attention of Branches and should they require copies of this report and attachments, please write into this Department quoting ref: E1.
Since the Anthrax outbreaks in the US last year and following the Anthrax scares in the UK postal service, there has been a great deal of inter-agency activity in the UK involving the CWU, Consignia/Post Office, Health & Safety Executive, Department of Trade & Industry, Government Scientists and Emergency Services to ensure that lessons are learnt for the future.
A Steering Group was established involving these agencies which meets regularly. There has also been close liaison with the US and Canada governments, health authorities and trade unions.
This matter was also raised at the CWU Annual Conference 2002 in the Health & Safety section 7 at General Conference proposition 97 was supported by the NEC:-
"Following the Anthrax scares of 2001, Conference is concerned regarding the application by the business of their current procedures to deal with chemical/biological outbreaks. Therefore the NEC is instructed to reach agreement with all businesses detailing clear and precise arrangements which will be applied and strictly adhered to in the event of a perceived threat to any workplace. In addition, a report to branches should be given no later than 31 December 2002".
Whilst this matter is subject to on-going research and developments, it seems an appropriate time to update Forums and Branches and provide relevant background information outlining the work undertaken to date.
Attached are documents providing an update and background information:-
Work Programme of Steering Group
- The Steering Group, set up to look at chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear attack contingency plans, has met regularly. This Group includes Consignia, CWU, DTI, HSE, Government Scientists, and others. There is an on-going Work Programme and a recent meeting was held on 10 September 2002. Documentation attached entitled 'CBRN Postal Contingency Work Programme'.
Health & Safety Executive Tests at Mail Centres and Related Research
- Attached is a Summary of the work done at Mail Centres by Health & Safety Executive to determine the potential for release and spread of biological material through machine mail sorting. The attached HSE report refers, including a letter from principal HSE Inspector, Steve Caterall, dated 18 June 2002. The HSE has also produced a video detailing their research and the attached correspondence outlines the nature of this research and the up-to-date position. The HSE tests at Sheffield, Nottingham and Mount Pleasant London Mail Centres were carried out with the full co-operation of CWU, local Branches and Area Safety Representatives. On-going Precautions against Biological Attack through the Postal System
- The attached documentation was drawn up by Chris Babbs, Head of Network Service Delivery and was produced for the Consignia/Post Office Board earlier this year. It outlines the current position given the background and detailing the key issues for the future.
Exercise Vectura - A Partnership Exercise with Government Agencies, Emergency Services and Emergency Planning Bio Terrorism held at the Phoenix Centre, Mount Pleasant Mail Centre on 29 May 2002.
- This exercise was a 'table top' walk through with key agencies and emergency services looking at contingency plans for a joint response to a scenario of a biological terrorist attack using the postal system specifically through the Mount Pleasant Mail Centre and London SW1 Delivery Office. Details of the event attached. CWU Headquarters and CWU ASRs from Liverpool (the first high profile Anthrax scare at a mail centre in the UK) and Mount Pleasant in London were in attendance.
Antrax Swab Testing at Offices of Exchange
- As part of the ongoing contingency plans, Government Scientists from Porton Down will carry out swab tests at Offices of Exchange. Tests at Mount Pleasant, Manchester, Reading, Glasgow and Dover will be undertaken to find out what are the naturally occurring levels of Antrax in these environments. The tests will be carried out by specialists. The results of the tests will be analysed by the Government Scientists at Porton Down. The tests commence at Mount Pleasant in early October, with dates to start at the other sites to be finalised. The tests are part of on-going work to find out more about Anthrax, in case there was ever an attack affecting the UK. The tests are purely precautionary. The tests will only be carried out at Offices of Exchange since this is where all the mail coming into the UK from abroad is sorted and this is where the security authorities advise us that the risk would be greatest - since Anthrax is more endemic overseas than in the UK. At the moment there are no plans to carry out the tests at other sites, but should it prove necessary then these will be undertaken. CWU ASRs in these locations would be fully informed, involved and consulted.
Anthrax Multi-Agency Meeting - 18th October 2002, Mount Pleasant, London
- As part of the on-going review process with all relevant agencies including HSE, DTR, Police and Emergency Services, a meeting was convened in Mount Pleasant outlining how Consignia/Post Office will manage the interface with external agencies, as well as looking at current procedures in the case of any future out-break and the need to highlight co-ordination and effective response plan. This includes the establishment of Crisis Management Committee at both local and national level involving CWU Headquarters' representatives and the CWU ASRs at local level. An Agenda is attached.
It is important to keep the Forums and Branches updated on what is an important and very much an on-going matter.
Health & Safety Officer
Health, Safety & Environment Department
Ref: E1/GH/kt: 21st October 2002
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