NHS Highland porters yesterday carried out their duties as normal after threatening to down tools due to ongoing health and safety concerns, as four staff are said to have sustained needle wound injuries when handling clinical waste.
The allegations came to light after NHS Highland, along with other health boards across the country, cut ties with Healthcare Environmental Services in mid-December after concerns were raised over the firm’s ability to carry out waste disposal works.
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The job has been undertaken by the health board’s own porters since.
Despite no major disruptive action taking place yesterday, union chiefs remain adamant that change must occur in order to protect the health and safety of staff.
GMB Scotland regional officer Liz Gordon said: “GMB are horrified that NHS Highland is refusing to recognise the health and safety risks, despite four out of 19 porters having been injured.
“Staff have been threatened with dismissal in relation to breach of contract if they do not continue to work as before. At what point is the injury of four members of staff considered important? This is a health and safety issue – not a contractual one.
“Sections 44 and 100 of the Employment Rights Act 1996, deal specifically with health and safety cases. Within it tells us an employee should not suffer a detriment or be dismissed or made redundant for….leaving or refusing to return to a place of work in circumstances of serious or imminent danger or taking steps to protect themselves.
“We do not believe any additional measures have been put in place to prevent further incidents and our advice to members remains the same.”
An NHS Highland spokeswoman said: “The porters carried out their duties as normal today and work is carrying on as expected.”