Union Improvement Notice served on British Museum

30 Oct 2020

Since the British Museum reopened following the lockdown PCS has been raising safety issues relating to overcrowding and people's ability to socially distance in the women's locker room area at 1/1A Montague Street.

Despite these repeated representations to the Museum there has been a failure to implement measures that will keep members safe. As a result PCS has been left with no alternative but to issue a Union Improvement Notice (UIN) on 30 October.

 A UIN is a formal notice from a union accredited Health and Safety Rep to an employer highlighting breaches of the Health and Safety at Work act 1974. The notice sets out what has been breached and what measures need to be put in place to correct this. A copy of the UIN will be sent to all members and posted visibly on walls in the affected areas.

PCS Safety Reps have been raising a number of ongoing concerns about the VS female locker rooms. Whilst Covid infection rates are on the rise, VS staff have been forced into overcrowded changing rooms, often with little to no ventilation. No measures have been taken, such as opening up the Second Floor space to provide more locker room space. Other effective control measures which Management has refused to consider would be the staggering of shift times to allow for a controlled system to minimise congestion.

By refusing to act on the concerns our Safety Reps have raised, we have now served an official notice on the Museum to resolve these issues. We have given them until Friday ​6 November to respond. Failure to act will result in the Branch, assisted by the National Union, to formally raise these issues at a higher level.

The UIN reads as follows:

I,  xxxx appointed as a Safety Representative by PCS under the Safety Representative & Safety Committee Regulations 1977 (SRSC), believe that you, as an employer, are occasioning a serious and imminent danger to our members and/or contravening the following statutory provision(s):

  • Health & Safety at Work Act 1974: ss.2(1), (2)(a)(b)(c)(d)(e)

The contravention is occurring at:

1/1A Montague Street Temporary VSS Locker Space

The reason(s) for my opinion is/are as follows:

Following an H&S inspection and reports from members of the building occupied by staff I found:

  • No clear markings or signage to implement social distancing or for safe access or egress to and from the locker room space
  • No instructions to keep to one side when going up or down (2-way system) on stairs leading to rooms on upper floors
  • No measures in place to avoid overcrowding in female VS locker room at end of shift for both part-time and full-time staff (from 14:55 and 17:08)
  • No lockers in any room are spaced out to allow more personal space whilst changing
  • No measures in place to avoid congestion and lack of social distancing caused by staff being released all at the same time from Great Court along East Road and through main entrance to 1/1A
  • Adequate information not provided to staff and Safety Representatives about assessments or measures in place to comply with government and HSE guidelines on Covid-safe working in good time due to issues with delivery method of RA and other information (not enough access or training available to check work email on site or remotely)
  • No measures in place to ensure adequate ventilation in VS female locker room – some are being left closed to keep the rooms warm
  • Individual radios to be issued to each member of staff to be stored in lockers have not been given to all staff yet

The said contravention(s) or, as the case may be, the matters occasioning them, should be remedied by:

  • Staggering of shift end times for all VS staff (Welcome and Safety Teams) in consultation with Trade Union Safety Representatives.
  • Re-arranging the lockers and moving some of them from the Ground Floor VS female room to the vacant room on the Second Floor.
  • Signage for maximum occupancy for each locker room to be produced and displayed
  • Signage for windows to be left open for ventilation to be produced and displayed
  • One-way up/down signage to be produced and displayed on stairs
  • Heaters to be supplied
  • Individual radios to be issued to each member of VS staff

The following action should be taken:

  • Maximum occupancy signs to be prominently displayed on each locker room door on every floor
  • Staff to be released in ‘batches’ to go to 1/1A to reduce congestion on the route through the East Road and narrow doorways
  • Full information, including Risk Assessments on Museum plans before works on ERB are completed and how locker/mess areas will be managed to be Covid-safe must be shared and properly consulted on in good time with PCS H&S Reps (at least 3 weeks before works are complete) and to allow time for union inspections to take place.

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