Click on the arrows to view over a decade’s worth of
Hazards Campaign commissioned Workers’ Memorial Day posters
All across this country and the world millions of people will come together on 28 April to mark International Workers Memorial Day (IWMD) at tens of thousands of events (1)
What killed 140 people a day, 6 per hour last year in Great Britain? War? Murder?
Work kills more than war every year: 2.3 million worldwide. As Jukka Takala of the ILO said
“If terrorism took such a toll, just imagine what would be said and done?”
In Great Britain, work killed 1,400 killed in work-related incidents and up to 50,000 due to work-related illnesses- cancer, heart and lung disease in 2011/12. Work also made over 2 million ill, injured 111,000 – 22,000 very seriously – and led to 27 million days off work. Compare this with about 600 murders per year and 641 GB service personnel killed in Iraq and Afghanistan in 11 years (2)
Workers, their families and their unions will say on IWMD that we need more health and safety protection at work not less, as avoidable deaths every day and disasters such as the recent massive explosion of a fertilizer factory in Texas show all too tragically. “Deregulation kills, we want action not reaction” said Hazards Campaign spokesperson, adding “Any idiot can ‘learn lessons’ after a disaster, after people have been killed and lives ruined, it takes intelligent foresight and a commitment to people’s lives, to prevent work from causing harm.”
You would never guess work caused such death and misery, if all you know is what the government says and how workers safety and health is reported – as one big joke! Almost all cases of work related death, injury and ill health are preventable, if employers obeyed the law and government and enforcement agencies made them. But they didn’t and people were killed and families’ lives ruined. Many families now know this, but didn’t know when they sent their sons and daughters, partners and parents to work, expecting them to be safe, but they never came home. Lack of health and safety is no joke when it happens to you. (3)
Cameron Minshull, 16, from Bury, was killed in January 2013, only weeks after starting his engineering apprenticeship. He died only days after David Cameron told business leaders in Preston that silly health and safety rules must be scrapped to allow more children to get work experience. In fact his government has already several times reduced the rules on health and safety protection for young apprentices like Cameron Minshull, who’s mum said “I thought he was safe at work on a government apprenticeship scheme” (4)
What is the UK government doing to stop this avoidable death toll? Well not strengthening health and safety law but deregulating it; not increasing preventative inspections but banning them in workplaces where the majority of recorded deaths occur; and slashing enforcement activity to shreds!
Since 2010 government has consistently rubbished health and safety, blamed it for ‘broken Britain’, the riots, and now for the lack of jobs and economic growth! The biggest lie they have perpetuated is that good safety and health is a burden on business. NO! The burden is on us, in heart ache and also on us in terms of economic cost. The poor management of safety and health that leads to 80 per cent of deaths, injuries and illness, costs the economy over £30 billion a year (2). Of this amount, the individuals harmed pay the largest cost, 55 per cent, the public purse pays 24 per cent, and the employers who caused the problems pay around one fifth. Hazards added: “On IWMD, we will all be telling this government: that we didn’t vote to die at Work, so stop deregulating and slashing enforcement, it’s killing us! Whether it is hazards in your workplace, horsemeat in your beefburger or Legionnaires’ in your neighbourhood, it is becoming evident that stringent regulation is not a burden, it is a necessity” (5)
For more information contact Hilda Palmer 0161 636 7557, mobile: 079 298 00240
International Workers’ Memorial Day 28 April resources:
3. Families Against Corporate Killers (FACK) Statement on death of Cameron Minshull
4. FACK statement on International Workers’ Memorial Day 2013
5. Hazards Magazine: The high cost of neutering watchdogs
It’s great news Workers Memorial Day will now be officially recognised by the government – now they must admit the true extent of workplace ill-health, accidents and death AND enforce the law as vigorously as they do parking offences to reduce the damage done !
The Hazards Campaign welcomes the decision of the government to formally recognise Workers Memorial Day. We also welcome the comments from Yvette Cooper, Work and Pensions Secretary of State, who said: “This is a tribute to all those who have campaigned long and hard, including bereaved families, trade unions, campaign groups, and many other organisations and individuals.”
But it is not enough for the government to commemorate the day without also recognising their role in underestimating the true extent of the damage work does in the UK, how their inaction perpetuates this myth and lets employers get away with murder. Parking offences in the UK are enforced by thousands more enforcement officers on the street and parking offences are enforced with far more vigour than workplace health and safety offences ever are – and this must change NOW.
Government, through their agency the Health and Safety Executive, give a very skewed and limited picture of the damage done by work every year. They say 180 people die in workplace incidents and 8,000 die from workplace cancers when the true figures are much higher and the overall picture much grimmer.
Hilda Palmer of the Hazards Campaign said: “A more realistic estimate, which includes work-related road-traffic deaths and suicides attributed to work-related stress, is 1500-1600 in so called accidents, per year. But even these figures are the tip of the iceberg; if we include the many thousands who die from illnesses caused by their working conditions the total could be as high as 50,000 a year! Government has long been criticised for under-estimating deaths from work- related cancers which even the most conservative estimate by global experts is about 18,000 each year.” (1).
The Hazards Campaign, alongside the Construction Safety Campaign and trade unions, started recognising Workers Memorial Day in the UK over twenty years ago with events around the country on every April 28th. These events were supported by many families whose loved ones were killed at or by work and this led to the formation of Families Against Corporate Killers who also support the day every year. Other campaigns, such as the Simon Jones Memorial Campaign, also supported and campaigned on WMD.
Hilda Palmer – 0161 636 7557
(1) More detailed information about the true extent of workplace ill-health, accident and deaths in The Whole Story