Setting standards for employers to meet isn’t an unreachable burden – London’s low emission zone
In an era when de-regulation and a laissez-faire attitude to health and safety laws and standards has been predominant there has been a success story that flies in the face of this. It is doubly important as we endure unhealthy air quality and power towards the crisis that is climate change as it is an example of how setting a standard for industry and employers to achieve can be met if the requirement to achieve it is set in stone rather than voluntary.
Air quality monitoring throughout London has been ongoing since the early 1990s. In 2007 The Green Party reported that nine sites in London exceeded EU limits for air pollution and Transport for London (TfL) estimated that there were 1,000 premature deaths and a further 1,000 hospital admissions annually due to poor air quality from all causes.
The congestion charge, which was introduced by the Greater London Authority (GLA) in 2003, was meant, at least in part, to address some of this but by the mid-2000s it became evident more action was needed on air pollution caused by road vehicles.
In 2007 the GLA started London’s Low Emissions Zone (LEZ) which required vehicles either meet a standard or pay a fee if they enter the zone. The size of the zone has since been expanded and the required emission standard was tightened 1 March 2021, now it is the Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ).
But here’s the untold story. With the advent of the London Low Emission Zone (LEZ) TfL required all contractors on its projects to meet the LEZ or they wouldn’t work for TfL. The contractors were not given the option of paying a charge if their vehicles didn’t meet the required standard. TfL were allowed to stipulate this requirement as it stems from the powers of the GLA and Mayor’s Office.
Whilst objections were raised by transport organisations the plans went ahead and TfL contractors’ vehicles and plant met the LEZ and ULEZ standards – in good time. In fact the project has gone so well that TfL report that as of 1 March 2021 90% of all heavy road vehicles entering the ULEZ were compliant with the new standard.
Whilst there is clearly still much more to do in cleaning the air we breathe and it is difficult at this time to evaluate what effect all this has had on the overall levels of air pollution in the ULEZ, especially given lockdowns etc. arising from the covid pandemic, cleaner heavy road vehicles and plant used on TfL projects are helping considerably to reduce the overall level of air pollution. This happened not because employers and businesses working on major infrastructure projects thought it would be a good thing but because the client did and the client was in a position to insist the standards were met – or there would be no work.
The end of the world didn’t happen. Maybe, just maybe, what happened was a shining example to our de-regulation mad, hands off government and those governments attending the climate COP in Glasgow in November that if we set our minds to actually achieve cleaner air and limit the effects of climate change we can.
The history of standards to be met in zones:
|Vehicle||Feb 2008||Jul 2008||Jan 2012||Mar 202|
|Lorries (over 12 tonnes)||Euro 3||Euro 4||Euro 6|
|Lorries (3.5–12 tonnes), buses and coaches||Euro 3||Euro 4||Euro 6|
|Minibuses and vans (1.205-tonnes)||n/a||Euro 3|
|Motor caravans and ambulances (2.5–
Emission standards for large goods vehicles
|Euro norm emissions for category N3, EDC, (2000 and up)|
|Standard||Date||CO (g/kWh)||NOx (g/kWh)||HC (g/kWh)||PM (g/kWh)|
PRESS RELEASE 16.12.20
TRADE UNION CLEAN AIR NETWORK (TUCAN)
TUCAN COMMENT FOLLOWING THE CONCLUSION OF THE INQUEST INTO THE TRAGIC DEATH OF ELLA KISSI-DEBRAH
Our thoughts are with Ella’s family and friends at the conclusion of this inquest’s ground breaking verdict and our congratulations go to Ella’s mother, Rosamund, for her determination with her prolonged campaign for the truth to be heard.
Commenting on the verdict, Graham Petersen, TUCAN, said: “The result of the inquest shows in an all too tragic way what we and many others have been saying for far too many years – the polluted air we have to breathe can and does kill and government must act to ensure the pollutants are reduced and removed. TUCAN says the Government must also focus on those employers and industries whose operations contribute to the polluted air of local communities and their own workforce. Key to all this are our trade unions and their representatives who are in an informed position to discuss and help implement positive actions at work. However, we feel the government must take the lead in this firstly by acknowledging the extent of the problem and then taking steps to ensure employers and the authorities act quickly and decisively to reduce the potential for ill health and further deaths.”
The ways in which air pollution can be an issue at your job have not been well discussed and part of TUCAN’s mission is to broaden that understanding. Whether someone is just commuting, working in an office or shop, working on a construction project, driving to and from work or on the road all day they are all going to be exposed to harmful emissions, notably nitrogen oxide and fine particulate matter, and that exposure does not have to be high for it to affect our health.
Hazards magazine on clearing the air:
Air pollution—a wicked problem: Professor Stephen Holgate, Royal College of Physicians Special Advisor on air quality and UKRI Clean Air Champion, University of Southampton.
Air Pollution:A Trade Union Issue Presentation by Hilda Palmer
Read the latest TUCAN news here
TUCAN Newsletter No:1
Read the very first TUCAN newsletter here.
Trade Union Clean Air Network – Guidance on Air Pollution for Union Reps
Air Pollution – all in a day’s work?
Having decent work means being able to breathe clean air at work. The reality for most workers is that the air they are exposed to at work and on the work journey is polluted. There is very little acknowledgement of this in most government and local authority clean air policies. Government strategy is essentially an exercise in kicking the can down the road by delaying vital measures or passing it over to local authorities to sort out.
Trade unions need a response to the public health emergency and also the occupational health emergency of air pollution. Over 40,000 people die each year in the UK where the outdoor air that they breathe is a major contributory factor. Thousands of people will also die because of occupational diseases caused by air pollution at work. Pollution arising from work and travel to work are health issues for which employers take little responsibility. There is hardly any recognition of this in national and local authority strategies. This is an issue for workers and their families at all stages from before birth to old age and particularly damaging the growth and development of babies and children. This charter provides a framework for unions to campaign for the health and environmental concerns of workers.