Student blinded working at SU

A female RHUL student was temporarily blinded in her left eye while working at the SU bar.

The specific details remain uncertain surrounding the incident, but it seems that the victim was not wearing correct Personal Protection Equipment, exposing them to a caustic and harmful product – supposedly bleach. However, the ‘faulty bottle’ containing the product was also blamed for the accident. These both fall under the remit of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, though it is currently impossible to say whether this was infringed.

Many students were angered following The Founder’s investigation of the conditions faced by the bar staff of SURHUL back in September (Volume 7, Issue 1), and at the subsequent General Meeting of the Students’ Union, a motion was passed (without opposition) which urged the promotions of standards for workers at the SU.

But four months on, it would appear that little has changed. Amidst the allegations of the female staff member’s injury, it may be concluded that the complaints raised in September have been largely ignored.

This most recent occurrence prompted an outburst on various social networks by numerous members of SU staff, many blaming inadequate training for the incident. Others cite unsatisfactory wages as a peripheral but continuing concern.

These are private forums, held between work colleagues for private discussion. Soon after these virtual discussions, however, an e-mail was sent to all members of bar staff reminding them of the ‘Social Networking Sites Guidance for Employees’.

This appendix to SURHUL’s ‘IT Facilities: Acceptable Use Policy’ presents some startling and seemingly hypocritical conditions. One clause states: ‘An individual is free to talk about the Students’ Union. However instances where the Students’ Union is brought into disrepute may constitute misconduct or gross misconduct under the Disciplinary & Appeals Policy and Procedure.’

This appears to suggest that one is free to say what they want regarding the Students’ Union, as long as it is nothing the SU perceives as bad. In this instance, it referred to the discussions taking place on private forums, which cannot be seen by the general public. Thus, the ‘Social Networking Sites Guidance for Employees’ has no legitimate application for this situation.

A further noteworthy point is that many of the employees claim they were not made aware of this document when they first started work, nor had it been brought to their attention during employment. The apparent coincidence of the SU referencing at this particular time has made it resemble no more than a gag order.

One employee stated that, following the sending of the email, Personal Protection Equipment was far more readily available and visible on the premises. If an incident as serious as this one (and all it entailed) was required for a greater awareness of PPE to be encouraged by SU management, then the implications are dire for the state of Health and Safety at the Students’ Union.

This will likely lend considerable momentum to VPComCam Jamie Green who, as an ex-staff member himself, has been building an internal SU campaign for workers’ rights.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed by the interviewees are not necessarily shared by The Founder. All information pertaining to working conditions was provided by accounts from anonymous employees of the Royal Holloway Students’ Union.

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