The Hazards Campaign says the UK’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE) underestimates massively the true figures of workplace deaths and injuries focusing instead on only a part of the story. Millions of workers are made ill and over 50,000 are killed by work yearly, rates significantly higher than HSE estimates. In the briefing document The whole story: Work-related injuries, illness and deaths the Hazards Campaign explains these shocking figures.
On the 6th July 2018 the names of all 167 workers killed in the Piper Alpha Explosion and fire 30 years again were read out in remembrance.
Thanks to Scottish Hazards for this list. We should know their names, speak their names, and while remembering them, fight like hell that others will never again be killed in similar way. However, regulations and safety lessons written in the blood of those 167 men killed in the Piper Alpha explosion have already been weakened and are being ignored, leaving current offshore workers at greater risk from hydrocarbon leaks, HCR. And Martin Temple Chair of HSE also says failure of other sectors to learn the lessons led to the fire at Grenfell.
30 years ago Piper Alpha was the worst fire in peace time, resulting from the rush for profit from oil taking all precedence over oil workers’ lives without strong laws and enforcement in place to protect them. The direct consequence was that 167 were killed, 167 families devastated, 61 survivors and others were traumatised.
Following the Piper Alpha fire, Lord Cullen headed an inquiry and recommended many broad changes to the regulation of offshore drilling which are well laid out in the Scottish Hazards blog
Removing a conflict of interest by making the Health and Safety Executive, HSE, rather than the Department of Energy responsible for health and safety offshore, and the development of a ‘safety case regime’ similar to that in the nuclear industry were two chief recommendations of Lord Cullen.
The first Offshore Installation (Safety Case) Regulations came into force in 1992 but by 2005 the duty to review the safety case every 3 years was relaxed to leave the safety case applying over the life of the installation, in the Offshore Installation (Safety Case) Regulations 2005. This weakening of the requirement was driven by oil industry leaders complaining of the myth of over-burdensome regulations and leaves offshore workers burdened by the risk of being killed on deteriorating rigs while oil prices decline and HCRs, with their risk of explosion and fire increase. The Elgin blowout was one such release that came “perilously close to disaster”
Chris Flint, HSE’s Director of Energy Division, is so concerned he wrote in April this year to all offshore operators urging them to assess their operation and reflect on learning from incidents.
“Every HCR is a safety threat, as it represents a failure in an operator’s management of its risks. I recognise the steps the industry has taken to reduce the overall number of HCRs, however HCRs remain a concern, particularly major HCRs because of their greater potential to lead to fires, explosions and multiple losses of life. There have been several such releases in recent years that have come perilously close to disaster.”
‘The letter requires operators to respond to HSE by 20 July 2018 with a summary of their improvement activities and plan arising from their self-assessment. The HSE has also committed to feeding back significant findings from the exercise to the industry later in the year.’
We await developments but note with alarm the lack of enforcement action taken or threatened. When Barry Stott, an offshore worker who was 3 years old when his father died on Piper Alpha, read the HSE warning he told the BBC:
“How can that still be possible? I don’t think there would be any other industry in the world where 30 years on from such a seismic disaster we were on the verge of the same thing happening again? That’s not my opinion, that’s what I’m reading, from the HSE and others. It’s a growing concern for the whole city and the whole industry.”
Scottish Hazards notes that the OffShore Installation (Safety Case ) Regulations 2015 put a duty on operators to consult with safety reps on the safety case and ‘to make arrangements to communicate national arrangements for anonymously reporting health and safety concerns.’ While welcome, Scottish Hazards emphasises the reality that without clear evidence of strong enforcement by the HSE to ensure adherence to safety cases by operators and penalties for those who don’t, workers cannot develop the confidence to report concerns.
But strong enforcement is exactly what we do not have. Due to slashing HSE budget by 50%, cutting inspector numbers, plus commercialising, business-friendly measures to ensure health and safety watchdogs consider the business case before workers lives and health since 2010, lack of enforcement is rampant. Deregulation known now as ‘Better regulation’ runs across work sectors, offshore and onshore, covers everything from work, food, construction materials, electrical and other home appliances, and environmental pollution
The fact that 29 years after the worst peace time fire at Piper Alpha, there was the second worst fire at Grenfell Tower is about far more than failing to learn or forgetting the lessons of Piper Alpha. The lessons from the killing of 167 men have been deliberately attacked and undermined by the demands by oil business leaders that health and safety regulation enacted after the disaster are ‘only pointless red tape’ that is burdensome to their business and must be eradicated which has been acted upon by successive neoliberal governments as laid out in Hazards Magazine We must name the causes and consequences of this deadly behaviour as Dave Whyte does in ‘The neoliberal bonanza from Piper Alpha to Grenfell.’
Hazards Campaigns calls for the reclaiming of regulation and enforcement to protect our health and lives as a social good, the mark of a civilised society and a complete rejection of deregulating for business interests, We also call for more rights and powers for workers to organise for better health and safety to participate, to be informed and consulted and the right to refuse work that put their lives and health at risk
The Hazards Campaign is launching a drive to reclaim regulation and stop the deadly ‘better regulation’ that caused Grenfell and so many other deaths at work, at home, from unsafe food and from environmental pollution.
One year on, the Hazards Campaign renews the call that the Grenfell Tower fire must be the ‘Enough is Enough’ moment when deregulation of health and safety is officially acknowledged as deadly and dangerous, the Tory fetish with deregulation ended, and a system of strong laws, strictly enforced intended solely to protect us at work, at home and in the environment is restored and reinvigorated.
Getting truth and justice for Grenfell, workers and citizens means reclaiming strong regulation, strictly enforced, as a social good!
We want an end to the lies and denigration of health and safety as ‘pointless ‘red tape’ and a ‘burden on business’ are banished for good. 6th July is also the 30th anniversary of the Piper Alpha fire which was the worst fire in UK in peace time, killing 167 people.
The Grenfell fire was no accident, but an atrocity graphically foretold by tenants and rightly called social murder as the state permitted this to happen. It is also about austerity, poverty, inequality, housing policies , gentrification, social cleansing, and racism about which Profs. Dave Whyte, Steve Tombs, and many eminent people have written.
The root cause of the Grenfell fire is that the system of laws and enforcement on fire and building safety which most people thought was keeping them safe in their homes, became so bad that it allowed flammable material to be wrapped around a previously fire-safe tower block turning it into a death trap, causing an inferno, that firefighters could not put out, killing 72, injuring 70 and traumatising survivors and countless others in the local community.
It was weakening of the laws and enforcement around fire safety to benefit profit making by construction, manufacturers of material and property businesses that enabled the unsafe refurbishment to Grenfell Tower. This lax system allowed the use of flammable materials in cladding and insulation, the privatisation of building control safety allowing non- fire experts to inspect premises and building works, and sign off safety, refusal by government ministers since 2010 to review and change Part B of the Building Regulations recommended by the Coroner after the Laknal fire in 2009, and repeated many times by many fire experts. The cuts to fire and rescue services made the job of fighting the fire so much harder.
Hazards Magazine ‘Blue Murder’ shows the dismantling fire safety is part of the wider political attacks on workers and public health and safety over the last 40 years, From Thatcher’s ‘bonfire of regulations’, through Blair/Brown’s ‘better regulation’, ‘ light touch, limited touch’ regulations up to 2010 and then turbo charged by David Cameron vowing to ‘kill of health and safety culture for good’ and calling for ‘bonfire of red tape’, continued by Tory government s including using trade deals and Brexit as a way to cut protection of citizens and the environment even more
Grenfell was the real life ‘bonfire of red tape’ David Cameron had demanded. Hazards Campaign immediately relaunched the ‘We Love Red Tape it’s better than bloody bandages’ campaign as a postcard and ecard to Theresa May:
“When you tear up critical fire, building, product, environmental and workplace safety laws, you are not removing red tape you are removing the protection necessary to keep us safe. The Grenfell Tower fire is one shocking example of the consequences of your government’s ‘bonfire of health and safety regulations’. Enough is enough, stop undermining safety laws at work in our homes and our communities- instead keep improve and enforce and uphold the laws that protect us.”
15,000 postcards and ecards were sent to Theresa May.
In the immediate aftermath of the fire, deregulation and the war on red tape was publicly identified by many as the chief culprit Even usually health and safety-hating tabloids accepted that the fire itself showed that fire safety law had failed..
The Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, IOSH, wrote a letter to the Prime Minister calling for an end to deregulation.
Architecture and fire experts including Arnold Tarling , Sam Webb and the Fire Brigades, had warned of refurbishment compromising the built-in fire safety containment of tower blocks. There were warnings from the 1980s and especially since the Laknal House Fire in 2009 and the Coroner’s recommendations for a review of the Building Regulations.
All warnings, even via the All Party Parliamentary Group on Fire and Rescue were disregarded, often with extreme contempt, especially since 2010, by Tory ministers hell bent on removing ‘red tape and burdens’ from business and ignoring clearly warned of consequences for fire safety and lives of those in tower blocks. The Scottish Government did change their Building Regulations in 2005 after a fire in a 14 storey tower block in Irvine, Ayrshire that killed one person, showing it could be done.
For many years Hazards Campaign and Hazards Magazine have fought for better health and safety at work and especially since 2010 via ‘We didn’t vote to die at Work’ campaign. We warned again and again of the consequences of deregulation of workplace safety
Even though around 140 people die due to preventable incidents and illnesses caused by work each day – the equivalent of two Grenfell fires every single day – these worker deaths are spread across the country, happen in ones and twos in incidents which may not even make the local news, or years later as people die in their beds of lung, heart disease and cancers due to work. link to http://www.hazardscampaign.org.uk/blog/death-at-work-trend-going-upwards-yet-deadly-deregulation-still-remains-government-obsession
Work deaths are not as horrifyingly public as the Grenfell fire. We hoped the Grenfell atrocity was so terrible it would be the moment that changed everything, when deregulation could be stopped, reversed, and a formal recognition that protective laws like fire safety are necessary, a civilised, social good, not bureaucratic ‘red tape or a burden on business’. However we expected a backlash, a blaming everyone lower down, the victims, a retreat from the real causes and attempts to cover things up and a complete lack of urgent tightening of laws to make tower blocks safer. And so it has proved with deregulation falling off the agenda .
The blame is still not focused on the real culprits, governments and ministers responsible for the deadly deregulation of laws and enforcement meant to keep us safe at work, in the environment and in our own homes, and the businesses that took advantage and profited from it.. Government and ministers should be held to account for Grenfell deaths, not the firefighters who came to save lives in an impossible fire they did not create.
The fire itself showed that the Building Regulations were ‘not fit for purpose’ and that combustible/flammable materials should not be permitted on the outside – or inside – of tower blocks. Yet Dame Judith Hackitt’s Building Regulations Review did not suggest immediate changes to Approved Document B of Building Regulations, or a ban on flammable cladding/insulation (or retro fitting sprinklers, or second means of egress). While the government has said flammable cladding will be banned, there is likely to be the sort of ‘Red tape’ consultation which may give equal or more weight to the corporate bodies who make, sell, buy and install this material and who are already lobbying against any ban .
The response of the national and local state at the time of the fire, and since, has been widely acknowledged as abysmal, with victories only being won due to local community organising effectively for practical relief, and for justice and truth. Theresa May has ruled outside the terms of reference of the Public Inquiry (PI) any scrutiny of government policies or questioning of ministers who took decisions that rejected warnings which could have prevented the Grenfell fire. The criminal investigation by the Metropolitan Police has also ruled government policies outside of its remit.
This rigging of the PI and criminal investigation shields and protects those at the top who are not held to account for their action, their culpability hidden, and we have seen the usual victim blaming fall to new lows at the PI. From the man whose fridge caught fire – though not the fridge manufacturers whose faulty appliances are responsible for 60 house fires a week – Grenfell residents have been blamed and demonised as being ‘migrants and scroungers’, and recently at the PI the obscene spectacle of lawyers grilling firefighters like Mike Dowden instead of the ex London Mayor, Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea leaders, the KC Tenant Management Organisation, and Fire Service bosses, who had the power and made decisions about fire safety in Grenfell Tower, firefighting policy, and cuts to services, resources and training. Mike Dowden, a brave and dedicated junior fire officer was questioned as if personally responsible for the ‘Stay Put’ advice and decisions that turned a safe tower block into deadly inferno by cladding it in flammable plastic products equivalent to 32,000 litres of petrol as a new low. Matt Wrack, General Secretary of the FBU said “The Stay Put decision was redundant the minute anyone was permitted to slap flammable materials on the outside of tower blocks.”
The PI has a long way to run, but the bizarre chronology of putting fire fighters in line for scrutiny before those who created the inferno, has led to a nasty feeling. We hope that the manufacturers of the cladding, insulation and all who specified, bought, installed and inspected it and passed t as safe, will come in for just as rigorous questioning and scrutiny when their turn comes.
On the first anniversary of Grenfell, all around the country directed by the community at Grenfell, moving memorials were held to both remember and mourn all those killed but also to support their families and the community in their fight for justice and truth. In an event organised by Salford Trades Council, held in the shadow of some of the tower blocks clad in similar material to that at Grenfell, Hilda Palmer of Greater Manchester Hazards Centre, Families Against Corporate Killers and the Hazards Campaign read out the names of the 72 who were killed, in a heart-breaking testimony to their legalised social murder.
For justice, for those killed and hurt, and for the truth, the Hazards Campaign is launching a drive to reclaim regulation and stop the deadly ‘better regulation’ that caused Grenfell and so many other deaths at work, at home, from unsafe food and from environmental pollution, the Hazards Campaign demands:
- An end to health and safety deregulation and reclamation of the philosophy that regulation as good for all of us and is what a civilised state should provide for its citizens.
- Establishing that the primary and sole purpose of health and safety regulatory watchdogs shall be the prevention of harm to the lives, health, safety and welfare of workers, citizens and the environment, not the protection of business interests first.
- Provision of adequate funding, resources and independence to health and safety regulatory watchdogs the HSE, Local Authorities etc – given real teeth and power to enforce their primary and sole purpose.
- Restoration of proactive, preventative inspections to check on employers’ compliance, and far more prosecutions and enforcement actions against non-compliant and criminal employers and businesses.
- Dismantling of the apparatus of ‘Better Regulation’ which is the mechanism by which deregulation operates, including an immediate end to: Business Impact Targets – considering only business costs not health consequences; the One in Three out approach -no new law unless three laws of equivalent cost are repealed; the ‘Growth duty’ on health and safety enforcement authorities meaning they must consider first the impact of regulating on the business interests; the Primary Authority scheme allowing national companies to shop around for a Local Authority regulator and enter into a commercialised relationship.
- An end to the dishonest rhetoric denigrating health, safety and fire safety regulation and the start of honest assessment of the value of regulation, the cost of poor regulation and enforcement, who it falls upon, and the collection and publication of statistic that reveal the true harm caused by employer and business full
Louise Taggart’s love for her brother who was killed at work has won her ‘Most Inspirational Health and Safety Person in 2018’
“Health and safety is all about love.”
Yesterday Louise Taggart was announced at SHP Expo as the most inspirational health and safety person of year in their poll, winning by a large margin. Louise is trustee at Scottish Hazards, a member of the Hazards Campaign and became a founder member of Families Against Corporate Killers, FACK, after her brother Michael was killed at work on 4th August 2005.
“The Hazards Campaign and Families Against Corporate killers congratulate Louise on a well-deserved award as she is making a huge difference, influencing employers and managers, and inspiring workers to make work safer.
“In the Hazards Campaign and Families Against Corporate Killers, we know that health and safety is all about love and the terrible grief that come from having a loved one killed at work in a preventable incident. Health and safety is about the love we have for our families, for our friends and workmates, and for our own lives. It’s about how we only want the best for each other, and for those we kiss goodbye to come home safe and well, uninjured, and with their physical and mental health unimpaired at the end of their shift every day. No one should die or be injured or made ill simply for going to work to earn a living. But every day in Britain around 140 people do die because of work. The equivalent to two Grenfell Towers every day are killed in incidents or due to illnesses caused by work. And almost every single death could have been, and should have been, prevented. Louise is key player in the fight to stop preventable death at work and spoke about ‘The Whole Story’, the real numbers killed by work, at the SHExpo after hearing she had won.
“Louise Taggart exemplifies that love for others in telling her brother Michael’s story to thousands of people at work, to make it clear how and why Michael died, the enormous impact on her and her parents, and what must be done by employers to make sure workers are not at risk of death or injury. Louise speaks from the heart, through the fire of grief, loss and anger tempered by extensive knowledge of the law and of the safety procedures which, if followed would have saved Michael’s life. She starkly reminds employers and managers and health and safety professionals of their legal and moral duties, the tragedy their negligence can lead to, and inspires workers to be clear about their rights and to challenge poor health and safety. Some have gone on to be safety representatives after hearing her eloquent speeches.
“Louise Taggart is one of the most moving speakers on the need for better health and safety, that it is never ‘pointless red tape’ or a ‘burden on business’ to follow the law, that it must be strictly enforced as it is there for a reason: to stop anyone being killed by at work by their negligent employers
Founder members of Families Against Corporate Killers, FACK: “Congratulate Louise and thank her for speaking up for all of us, telling our stories too. Louise’s brother Michael was killed at work on 4th August 2005 and she joined us bereaved by work families to set up FACK in July 2006. We wanted to provide help, to support, advocate for and represent families of others killed at work, as we had found little help ourselves. Louise has been a lifeline for many families in Scotland especially comments. She is a ferociously intelligent and eloquent advocate, bringing her knowledge and understanding of the law and her own personal experiences together in a unique, forceful and deeply moving way and most of us still cry when we hear her speak. She speaks for us all and tells our stories with love and anger, especially on International Workers Memorial 28 April every year, when we remember all those killed at work and fight for the living . “Like all of us Louise did not chose to below to this FACK club, but after her brother was electrocuted she turned her grief and anger into action on behalf of others, to stop others dying needlessly and we love her for it.
More information Hilda Palmer 0161 636 7557 07929800240
Founder Members of FACK:
Dawn and Paul Adams – son Samuel Adams aged 6 killed at Trafford Centre, 10th October 1998
Linzi Herbertson –husband Andrew Herbertson 29, killed at work in Oldham, January 1998
Mike and Lynne Hutin – son Andrew Hutin 20, killed at work at Corus, Port Talbot on 8th Nov 2001
Mick & Bet Murphy – son Lewis Murphy 18, killed at work in Brighton on 21st February 2004
Louise Taggart – brother Michael Adamson 26, killed at work in Aberdeen, on 4th August 2005
Linda Whelan – son Craig Whelan 23, (and Paul Wakefield) killed at work in Bolton on 23rd May 2002
Dorothy & Douglas Wright – son Mark Wright 37, killed at work in Deeside on 13th April 2005
17.5.18 Immediate use Hazards Campaign Statement on Hackitt Report
Building a Safer Future- Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety – Dame Judith Hackitt’s report is not enough to halt the race to the bottom in terms of health and safety.
We needed a report that would state clearly ‘enough is enough’ in terms of the deregulation that led to Grenfell, an end to deadly business-led attacks on safety laws and cuts to enforcement. We also needed a report that would honour those killed and ensure such a fire could never happen again so that everyone, including the most vulnerable and poorest are also protected especially in their own homes.
Hackitt calls for ‘simpler and more effective’ new regulatory framework. What can be simpler or clearer than ‘No Hazard: No risk’? Banning all combustible building materials must be part of any new regulatory system if it is to be effective and safe
We agree with Judith Hackitt that the system of Building Regulations is broken. But this is just a symptom of the whole broken system of hard won regulations and enforcement of all aspects of health, safety and welfare set up to protect us at work, in the environment, using products, services, and at home, in our beds, as at Grenfell.
This system no longer works, as it has been systematically destroyed by waves of ‘deregulation’, ‘better regulation’ presided over by governments over past 40 years but especially turbo charged since 2010, and that led to the ‘Race to The Bottom’ which Judith Hackitt describes in her report, and of which as Chair of the HSE she was part of driving.
Deregulation was driven by a change in culture that included David Cameron as Prime Minister vowing to ‘kill off health and safety culture’, deriding it as an ‘albatross’ or ‘millstone round the necks of business’ and talking of a ‘bonfire of red tape’, using the lie that good health and safety is a ‘burden on business’ to slash laws but more importantly to draw the teeth of health and safety watchdogs by massive cuts in funding and changing the nature of enforcement by commercialisation, privatisation, outsourcing and making business financial interests come before lives and health. The inferno at Grenfell Tower was the real life ‘ bonfire of red tape/regulations’ Cameron and Tory/Lib Dems demanded but it has not been the ‘enough is enough’ moment for deregulation that it should have been.
There are some good points in Hackitt’s report but she fails to correctly identify or analyse the effects of ‘Deregulation’ on building and other safety, and how the deadly culture that led to Grenfell was enabled and driven by the state and enforcing authorities and it is not at all clear that her recommendations can drive a change of culture in the industry of putting safety first. As the Chair of HSE, Hackitt presided over the slashing on inspection, changing the nature of enforcement, and helping to develop the very culture that led to Grenfell. Since she left HSE she works with the Engineering Employers Federation which represents key actors in this industry.
Judith Hackitt makes clear the need for simplification and clarity in building regulation, but then she fails to take the most obvious step which would provide absolute clarity, and some restoration of trust in the protective system of regulation for high rise buildings, in refusing to ban combustible building materials.
She calls for more regulation and enforcement and stronger penalties to hold duty holders accountable through a structure called the Joint Competent Authority. The devil will be in the detail, and we will examine the whole report carefully, but it is not clear how this Tory government with its fetish for deregulation and putting business interests first and foremost before our lives and health would fund, resource or provide the required political will, for a strong regulatory system with sufficient powers to hold the whole construction industry and individual duty holders to account.
For more information
- Hilda Palmer 0161 636 7557 mobile 07929 800 240
- Building a Safer Future- Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety
- We love red tape because it’s better than bloody bandages
- Blue murder: Tower block inferno must mean an end to the Tory deregulation fetish, Hazards magazine online report, June 2017
28 April International Workers Memorial Day #IWMD18
A large body of evidence shows that Unionised Workplaces are Safer Workplaces .
Through workers organising together in unions they can fight for safer, healthier and decent work for all. Collective action and elected safety reps create the proven ‘Union Safety Effect’ making workplaces twice as safe.1 In 2018 we are celebrating 40 years of the Safety Representatives and Safety Committee Regulations, SRSCR, which give elected union safety reps the powers and functions to hold employers to account, challenge them and work with them to make work safe and healthier.
Under the SRSCR, Safety Reps have the right to as much paid time to do their job as necessary – not facility time. Their role includes carrying out inspections and surveys; talking to members, mapping the workplace; investigating incidents; making reports, and representations to management; being consulted in good time about anything that affects health and safety-chemicals, stress, jobs design, work changes, pay, shifts, staffing levels -to be involved in risk assessments, represent members and act collectively to make the workplaces better for all workers. It works:
Safety reps save lives, save health and save money. Unions make workplaces twice as safe as non organised workplaces
Hazards Campaigner Tommy Harte brought International Workers’ Memorial Day (IWMD) to the UK in the 1990s from Canada and USA, with two aims: to “Remember the Dead” and to “Fight for the Living. The Hazards Campaign promotes and resources IWMD which is now commemorated in hundreds of events across the UK from Aberdeen to Penzance. We focus on both aims by holding events or memorials to remember all those killed through work and at the same time to campaign against the causes of these preventable tragedies to stop workers being killed in future. International Workers Memorial Day, IWMD, is now commemorated throughout the world, in thousands of events involving millions of people and is recognised by dozens of countries including the UK Government in 2009. The #IWMD18 theme agreed by ITUC and Trade Unions internationally is:
Unionised Workplaces are Safer Workplaces No-one should ever die just for going to work . Millions do every year, not in freak accidents or of rare illnesses, but because employers did not comply with the law, and governments let them get away with it Almost ALL workplace death, injury and illness is PREVENTABLE
In GB, Health and Safety Executive, HSE, annual figures of 137 deaths at work in 2016/17 only covers those reported to HSE and Local Authorities. It excludes members of the public killed in work incidents, workers killed on roads, at sea, in air and by work-suicide. The figure also excludes those dying because of bad work conditions from cancers, heart, lung and other diseases. Using expert research, the Hazards Campaign estimates a more realistic figure for those killed in work-related incidents is 1,477 and those dying of work illnesses as 50,000 per year.
That is around 140 people dying from work per day or one person every 10 minutes in GB.
The UN ILO estimates 2.78 million people worldwide dying from work every year up from 2.3 million in 2014. One person killed by work every 11 seconds worldwide.
Safety Reps saving lives at work for 40 years! This year we celebrate the birth of the TUC, established at the Mechanics Institute at a meeting called by Salford and Manchester Trades Union Councils 150 years ago, as well as the 40th anniversary of the Safety Representatives and Safety C/te Regulations, one of the most important laws for workers’ lives and health but one that has been almost totally unenforced.
Workers began organising in Trade Unions 150—200 years ago, to improve health and safety in their own workplaces and through political action to win wider legal changes and protections. By educating agitating and organising and acting collectively, unions gained a shorter working day, more time off work, reduction in exposure to chemicals, dangerous machinery, an end to child labour and exploitation, and won stronger social protection laws and stricter enforcement, as well as fighting for higher wages.
It’s not about asking for improvements but having the collective voice and industrial power to demand them.
Union action also led to the Health and Safety at Work Act in 1974 and the Safety Representatives and Safety C/te Regulations in 1977 which enabled unions and safety reps to be even more effective in cutting the death rate in work incidents and making a major impact on work-related illnesses. Everyone should come home safe and well after their shift. But we still have too many workplaces that kill, injure and make workers very sick, often to death . Injuries and death at work may have fallen but problems including work cancers, insecurity and the despair of work stress related to low pay, insecurity, overwork and a lack of respect are rocketing and “only informed collective action will really make work better” 5
The TUC has collected Safety Rep success stories 6 which add to the massive body of evidence shows that union organisation and safety reps do make work safer, save lives, save health, and save money for employers and the economy—up to £700 million per year proving that good health and safety is not a burden on business, or a job killer but a positive contribution to our human rights. Poor health and safety costs, on Hazards estimates, between £30 and 60 billion per year.
Sharan Burrow ITUC: “Health is a human right and does not stop at the factory gates. Our strategy will use all the trade union instruments – namely, representation, negotiation and action – for the organization for decent, safe and healthy work”
Despite all of this evidence, since 2010 government has attacked health and safety law and enforcement as ‘red tape’, employers ride rough shod over laws and fail to comply, and the Trade Union Act makes it harder for unions to protect and defend workers health. A big cut in funding enforcement led to far fewer preventative inspections and enforcement actions on non-compliant, criminal employers, so increasingly it is down to Safety Reps!
Hugh Robertson, TUC says ” It is clear that we need trade unions more than ever before. The case has been proven that safety reps are good for workers, good for the economy and good for business….The only people who fear us are employers who want to cut corners and take risks with our lives. Good employers are already working with unions, we need the rest to start recognising the benefits and we need the government to stop attacking unions and instead do more to ensure that employers are consulting with union so that everyone can get the benefits unions bring”
Use #IWMD to fight for our lives and join together in unions to make work safer !
Hazards Campaign c/o GMHC. Windrush Millennium Centre, 70 Alexandre Road, Manchester, M16 7WD email@example.com @hazardscampaign
UNION Workplaces are Safer & Healthier #IWMD18 Wear a purple forget-me-knot ribbon Put a sticker in your car TAKE ACTION on 28 April #IWMD18
In GB there are around 1,500 deaths from incidents and 50,000 from work illnesses, over 621,000 injuries and millions made ill by work every year. Almost all work deaths, injuries and illness are due to employers’ mismanagement. Inequality and discrimination at work mean that the most vulnerable workers—the poorest, women, young, ethnic minority, migrant, LBGT and non unionised workers— are at more risk of being made ill, injured or killed by work.
What you can do on #iwmd18 Big Up Unions! Use the Resources to shout loud and proud that UNIONS MAKE WORK SAFER and take action to strengthen your union organisation or create a union at work.
- Find out what is happening in your area on 28 April, see TUC list of events email details or your event to firstname.lastname@example.org & own union
- If nothing is happening then get together with workmates and organise – a commemorative rally, a minutes silence; a workplace inspection, a meeting to discuss health and safety and celebrate the positive impact of unions and Safety Reps @40 , use the Safety Rep Box to discuss what you can do
- Ask your local council, or any other public body, to fly official flags at half-mast on the day. Remember that the day is officially recognised by the UK government;
- Arrange an event such as planting a memorial tree in a public place, putting up a plaque, dedicating a sculpture, a piece of art, or a bench, to remember workers who have been killed at the workplace or in the community;
- Workers’ Memorial Day is on 28 April, consider how you can best use local media both before & on the day.
- If you are planning any event for the day, or you want to raise awareness: distribute and wear purple ‘forget-me-not’ ribbons, put up posters, and remember to let people know about anything that happens in your area on the day. Order resources: http://www.hazardscampaign.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/iwmd18resources.pdf
- Send ecard to Prime Minister demanding end to attacks on laws that protect our lives & health because as Grenfell fire & all work deaths show: ‘Red Tape is better than bloody bandages’:
- Tweet about your workplace union health and safety successes use internationally unifying hashtag #IWMD18 and check it for new resources and retweet.
#IWMD18 Resources and Information
The Whole Story: Our estimates of the real toll of deaths and illnesses caused by work which are far greater than HSE publishes or press/media report
Louise Taggart’s blog about her brother Michael who went to work & was killed by employer’s negligence-
Carol Harte’s film of Tommy Harte bringing IWMD to the UK
Thompson’s Solicitors: Industrial injury, compensation, the Government and the Law
Families Against Corporate Killers, FACK work with families of those killed by work: BellyflopTV
See also Facebook: Families Against Corporate Killers
FACKers tell their stories: ‘Face the FACKs: the Human Face of Corporate Killing’
Hazards Campaign c/o GMHC, Windrush Millennium Centre, 70 Alexandre Road, Manchester, M16 7WD email@example.com @hazardscampaign
Face Book: We Didn’t Vote to Die at Work
FACK Statement – International Workers’ Memorial Day 28 April 2018 #IWMD18
“I don’t know where to begin. So I’ll start by saying I refuse to forget you. I refuse to be silenced. I refuse to neglect you.”
These words are “for every last soul” who perished at Grenfell, and are spoken by Stormzy at the start of the Artists for Grenfell single. They could just as easily have been spoken by FACK families.
We will never forget our lost loved ones and ask that you don’t either. Instead, in their memories, devote your energies to fighting for the living.
We continue to refuse to be silenced. Instead we use our voices to increase a chorus of disapproval aimed at seeking an end to this era of de-regulation, in which health and safety protections have been undermined and preventative enforcement has been slashed. 1
We want the chorus of disapproval to reach a crescendo.
Because each and every day here in the UK a lack of good health and safety continues to lead to the deaths of 140 people in work-related incidents or because of work-related illness. The equivalent of 2 Grenfell towers…daily. 2
Let that sink in for a moment.
Opening and closing with the vision of the charred tower block, the music video which accompanies the Grenfell single can’t fail to touch hearts.
And all too often, it is music which evokes memories to tear at a FACK family’s heart, just as a line from the Verve’s “The Drugs Don’t Work” does for Samuel Adams’ mum: “But I know I will see your face again”. Sam was 6-yrs-old when he went for a family day out to the Trafford Shopping Centre and his face was only to continue to be seen in photos and preciously held memories.
Frankie Miller singing “Let me tell you that I love you, that I think about you all time” transports 26-yr-old Michael Adamson’s family and friends back to the devastation of the walk from the crematorium.
Welsh hymn Gwahoddiad is the one guaranteed to reduce Andrew Hutin’s parents to tears, the one that raised the roof of the chapel at the funeral of a young man who had only recently turned 20 when a tidal wave of molten metal exploded from a blast furnace.
How do you begin to choose the songs for your 18 year old son’s funeral? FACK families’ intention is that you never have to. But Mick and Bet Murphy did, guided by those that were among Lewis’ favourites at the time of his death. A song called “Crossroads” taking on particular poignancy, containing lyrics such as: “Hey, can somebody anybody tell me why we die, we die? I don’t wanna die. Ohhh so wrong.”
Fundamentally wrong that these young men were taken from their families, denied the opportunity to live their lives. And why? Because still far too often health and safety is wrongly seen as a burden, red tape, a tiresome impediment to getting a job done, or a costly barrier to making a profit.
There are those whose praises FACK families sing. Among them:
- The firefighters whose emotions overwhelmed them on being clapped and cheered by the local community at Grenfell – that community knowing they had done all they could, and more, to save lives.
- Those who have had the courage to speak out about perils faced by themselves and their colleagues, finding themselves blacklisted as a result.
- Those who work in our Hazards Centres – in Manchester, London and Glasgow – seeking to prevent work-related harm, committed to improving workplace health and safety.
- And trade unions safety reps whose life-saving work often goes unnoticed, but whose work needs to be celebrated and built upon. Because, let’s be clear: a union workplace is a safer workplace.
These are the people who prevent injury, illness and death; who prevent suffering and the consequent need for a soundtrack to tears. They are the ones with whom we must ensure chords are struck.
Because, yes, perhaps a song brings into firm focus a happy moment caught in time…running bare foot from a tent at a bike rally in Edinburgh on hearing Born Slippy by Underworld, Graham and Karen to be the only ones dancing and grinning in the rain.
But Natalie, Dionne, Sharon…they are among those who’d “love, love, love to dance with their fathers again”, who are destined to do so only in dreams.
The dreams and the plans that had been hatched by Linzi and Herbie during long nights spent listening to The Rock from The Who’s Quadrophenia, were not to become reality.
Instead, in the aftermath, songs that filled the void “at the dimming of the day” bring into dark focus the utter desolation.
Just what would Dorothy and Douglas give to hear Mark belting out again: “I gotta take a little time…In case I need it when I’m older”. He wasn’t to get any older than the age of 37.
Another of his favourites was “I want to live forever”.
We know that no-one lives forever. But, work should be life-changing in a positive way. It should never ever be life-ending.
So we intend to continue to build a legacy for our loved ones, that will live on forever through improved protections that keep your family members safe and healthy
FACK facilitator Hilda Palmer has quite rightly described Grenfell as an “Enough is Enough” moment. And the death of each of our loved ones was our own personal enough is enough moment.
Let us repeat: lack of good health and safety leads to loss of life equivalent to two Grenfell towers each and every day in this country.
Enough is surely enough! By Louise Taggart Founder FACK member, sister of Michael Adamson.
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
Linzi Herbertson –husband Andrew Herbertson 29, killed at work in January 1998
Mike and Lynne Hutin – son Andrew Hutin 20, killed at work on 8th Nov 2001
Mick & Bet Murphy – son Lewis Murphy 18, killed at work on 21st February 2004
Louise Taggart – brother Michael Adamson 26, killed at work on 4th August 2005
Linda Whelan – son Craig Whelan 23, (and Paul Wakefield) killed at work on 23rd May 2002
Dorothy & Douglas Wright – son Mark Wright 37, killed at work on 13th April 2005
For more information and to support FACK, contact Hilda Palmer, Facilitator for FACK: Tel 0161 636 7557
Hazards Campaign and the Greener Jobs Alliance have organised two additional regional training sessions on air pollution in Birmingham and Southampton.
Workers are exposed to and create pollution to fulfill contractual
obligations to employers. It is an occupational health issue that
employers take little responsibility for.
The course will help you:
• Examine why air pollution is both a workplace issue and a public
• Find out about air pollution busting Citizen Science techniques
• Create action plans to deal with workplace exposures
• Create action plans to meaningfully engage in
air pollution with local councils
• Share experience, knowledge and ideas
Although both courses are free of charge, registration is necessary.
Further information and registration
0161 636 7558
Southern Region at the UNITE offices in Southampton on Friday May 11th, 2018 from 1.00 – 4.00 pm more info
Midlands Region at the UCU Offices in Birmingham on Friday June 8th, 2018 from 1.00 – 4.00 pm more info
The booking form for the Hazards 2018 conference can be downloaded here.
Hazards Conference is the UK’s biggest and best educational and organising event for trade union safety reps and activists. It consists of a mixture of plenary sessions, meetings and a comprehensive workshop programme. Delegates have the opportunity to exchange experience and information with, and learn from, safety reps and activists from other unions, sectors and jobs across the UK. It’s great craic too!
Safety Reps @ 40: Vital to the Future of Safe and Healthy Work!
27th to 29th July 2018, Keele University, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire.
Unions can help make this event an even bigger success by joining our sponsorship program.
What are the health, safety and welfare issues that workers at fast food premises and drive-thrus face? What can we do to support these workers in challenging their unsafe and unhealthy working conditions?
Hazards Campaign and food industry union BFAWU has produced a leaflet to answer these questions.