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FACK Statement for International Workers' Memorial Day 28 April 2013
International Workers' Memorial Day is an opportunity for us FACK families to tell the stories of our lives, which changed irrevocably and beyond measure when our loved ones’ lives were cut far too short.
These are loved ones like Cameron Minshull, a 16-year old lad, only a few weeks into his first job, killed in an incident involving an industrial lathe. The HSE Director whose desk this came across has said he thought he was reading a tale from Victorian times. But this was no tale of a bygone era, it is a modern day horror story.
For his family “it still does not seem real, it’s like a bad dream”. But this is no work of fiction. Because, once upon a time our loved ones left for work, and for them – and therefore us - there will be no living happily ever after.
Yet this ConDem government continues to push a narrative through which they attempt to convince the public that health and safety legislation amounts to a burden on business, or is a barrier to our young people gaining work experience.
The truth of it is that lack of good health and safety often proves an ultimate and deadly barrier to young people gaining work experience, just as it did for 17 year-old Steven Burke who fell 30ft to his death while working at a water treatment plant or 18 year-old Lewis Murphy who died after suffering 60% burns when he was engulfed in a massive fireball at the garage he started working at on leaving school. His mum and dad found out in court that, as their son was being taken to hospital, he had asked the paramedic if he was going to die. That is a real and enduring burden.
Those of us whose lives are far emptier for the loss of our parents, children, siblings or partners, we bear the burden.
But proactive, preventative inspections have been dramatically cut and are now banned in the majority of workplaces which are wrongly called "low risk" as over half of all recorded deaths occur in these sectors. Legislation is being slashed. Approved Codes of Practice are being scrapped and replaced with toothless guidance. Blacklisting for raising health and safety concerns is still rife and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is ordered by the government to consider the economy before safety and lives.
Well we FACKers will not have health and safety portrayed by politicians and the media as some sort of Jekyll and Hyde character: the villain of the piece in some quarters or the figure of fun deployed for comedic effect in others. Health and safety is not about the fun police, triangular flapjacks or bonkers conkers. It is about a young man who should have celebrated his 7th wedding anniversary this month who was robbed of the opportunity to walk up the aisle. It is about those who are robbed of the opportunity to see children grow up or grandchildren be born. It is about young boys like Samuel Adams, aged 6, who are robbed of the opportunity to even dream of what they might be when they grow up.
So it is no wonder we FACKers feel upset and angry at repeatedly reading that a death “could and should have been prevented had the employer ensured”: that proper risk assessments were undertaken; or that adequate training was provided; or that machinery was properly guarded; or that its own written procedures were adhered to; or that a safe system of work was being followed. But, because health and safety is portrayed as a meddlesome intrusion or tiresome impediment to getting the job done, these fundamentals are far too often ignored and loved ones pay the ultimate price.
Understand that these are very rarely “accidents at work”, because an accident waiting to happen is no accident. And appreciate that deaths caused by work are far more common than HSE figures would have you believe. Do not be duped into thinking the HSE’s headline-grabbing 173 workers killed last year is anything like the whole story. The Hazards Campaign counts the real cost of work in death, injury and illness: around 1400 killed in work-related incidents (not accidents); and up to 50,000 who die as a result of work-related illness. That’s a total of around 140 work-related deaths a day, 6 an hour.
FACK was established in July 2006, by and for families of people killed by the gross negligence of business employers, see www.fack.org.uk
Founder Members of FACK:
Dawn and Paul Adams – son Samuel Adams aged 6 killed at Trafford Centre,10th October 1998
For more information contact Hilda Palmer, Facilitator for FACK: Tel 0161 636 7557