The death of a college lecturer who died after contracting Covid-19 is being investigated by the government’s agency that polices workplace safety.
Donna Coleman, who worked with vulnerable students at Burnley College according to the University and College Union of which she was a member, passed away last month aged 42.
In a press release to the media today, the UCU said it was “investigating the circumstances that led to Donna’s death, including whether she contracted Covid through her work at Burnley College”. The union claims that prior to Coleman’s death they had “rejected the college’s risk assessments because of their poor Covid controls”.
The union says it also raised its health and safety concerns with the government’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and has lodged a formal complaint with the agency since Coleman’s death.
HSE told FE Week that it has been “working with the college regarding Covid measures on campus and safety with regard to events such as open evenings” and will now be “liaising further with the college in relation to this fatality and will make further enquiries”.
Burnley College has not responded to requests for comment.
The UCU confirmed this was the first time it has publicly raised concerns about a college staff member’s death.
According to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics, 10 “further education teaching professionals” have died from Covid-19 to date.
Donna’s death is an appalling tragedy
UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: “We are all angry and devastated about the loss of Donna. Her passing will be deeply felt by her family, her students and her wider community.
“Too many workers, including those in post-16 education, have lost their lives to Covid. These deaths are not inevitable. UCU will continue to fight to keep our members safe, and for employers and the government to protect their health and safety.”
UCU regional official Martyn Moss added: “Donna’s death is an appalling tragedy and we are supporting her family at this difficult time.
“UCU is investigating the circumstances that led to Donna’s death, including whether she contracted Covid through her work at Burnley College.
“Unfortunately, the college is refusing to disclose whether it knows if it has had any Covid outbreaks. Prior to Donna’s death we had rejected the college’s risk assessments because of their poor Covid controls.
“We have also raised our health and safety concerns with the college and with the Health and Safety Executive, the government body that polices workplace safety.”