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The government must admit the true extent of workplace ill-health, accidents and death

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

Why are we waiting ? Campaign groups calls on government to stop talking and ACT to stop deaths in the construction industry !

Why are we waiting ? Campaign groups calls on government to stop talking and ACT to stop deaths in the construction industry !

Following reports that the government is to again consult the killer construction industry about how to improve their dreadful safety record rather than act on the recommendations of it’s own DWP commissioned report, the Hazards Campaign said: “It beggars belief the government is again dodging action on construction safety by talking to the construction employers who are concerned about Rita Donaghy’s recommendations. We have been waiting for what seems like forever for the government to stop talking and act. If Yvette Cooper plans to talk to the employers who create the risks and cause the deaths, then she must explain why she is stalling to those who have to take the risks and pay the costs:  injured workers and families of those killed. We call on the government – again – to accept the recommendations of the Donaghy report supported by the Work and Pensions Select Committee, and implement them now to start reducing the damage being done to construction workers.”

The government gave the task of looking at ways of improving safety in the construction industry to DWP which commissioned  Rita Donaghy to carry out a review.  She consulted extensively with industry before reporting earlier this year in a report called  ‘One Death is Too Many’. This report received the backing of the Work and Pensions Select Committee.  Since then workers, industry, unions and campaigners including Families Against Corporate Killers, have been waiting for government to act.

The Hazards Campaign welcomed Rita Doneghy’s report which called for:

  • Positive legal duties on all company directors for health and safety, as many are not covered and are currently able to evade the full strength of the law.
  • Greater involvement of trade unions and especially union safety representatives.
  • Bring construction under the remit of the Gangmasters Licencing Authority.
  • Emphasising health and safety requirements in publicly funded construction projects.

One death is too many – Rita Donaghy’s report:

For further comment contact: Mick Holder

020 8223 0712

Hazards campaign says Government must accept construction deaths report recommendations

Following the publication of the report on fatalities in the UK construction industry written by Rita Donaghy for the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), Mick Holder of the Hazards Campaign said: “There are many ideas in the report that, if implemented, will help to secure a far safer industry. It is now down to government to accept the report and act rather than ignoring the recommendations as they have in the past when some of the same ideas that are in this report came out of their own Select Committee. We now need a properly resourced Health and Safety Executive (HSE) so they are capable of making these good ideas workable ideas and for government to stop their obsession with pandering to irresponsible elements in business that believe operating safely is a “burden”.”

Hazards Campaign contact: 0161 636 7557

The Hazards Campaign tells the government to get on with it!

Mick Holder of the Hazards Campaign said: “Following the publication of two government reports in the past week calling for legal safety duties on company directors, the Hazards Campaign says ministers must act to make named bosses answerable for corporate safety crimes. Government must urgently agree to the recommendations of both these reports and get on with it !”

The comment follows the publication of a DWP report on construction fatalities and a follow up report by the government’s Work and Pensions Committee.

The DWP inquiry into the underlying causes of fatal incidents in construction was chaired by Rita Donaghy who made 29 recommendations including: “positive duties on directors to ensure good health and safety management through a framework of planning, delivering, monitoring and reviewing.”

This has been backed by the Work and Pensions Committee who said: “The Committee has endorsed the recommendation for positive duties on directors in Rita Donaghy’s recent report. “ The committee also gives support to the DWP’s construction report.

There are other areas where the two reports agree. Increasing worker involvement in health and safety issues, holding negligent employers to account and an end to blacklisting. The DWP report explicitly calls for more resources for the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in construction and higher fines in the courts.

The Hazards Campaign has been calling for these initiatives for very many years.

Contact the Hazards Campaign:
0161 636 7557

For further information about the Hazards Campaign:

Workplace health and safety: follow-up report – Work and Pensions Committee

DWP inquiry into the underlying causes of construction fatal accidents:

Hazards Campaign welcomes reduction in workplaces deaths but calls for action on the true extent of deaths, disability and injury

Speaking after the announcement yesterday by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), our workplace health and safety police, that there has been a reduction from 233 workers killed in 2007/8 down to 180 in 2008/9 with the previous lowest recorded in 2005/6 at 217.

Mick Holder of the Hazards Campaign said: “The reduction in deaths is very good news indeed. However, it must be taken in the context that very many more people lose their lives because of work activity who are not recorded by the HSE, such as the huge number of people killed on the roads who are at work at the time or the thousands that die from asbestos diseases from contact at work. There are also still worrying areas, such as the increasingly poor record of the waste and recycling industry.”

The HSE estimate the cost to the UK economy of workplace injury, disability and ill-health to be possibly as high as £30billion every year.

To reduce this, the Hazards Campaign continues to call for:

  • More resources for the HSE and a reversal in the decline of their enforcement activity.
  • Full legal responsibilities for health and safety to be placed on company directors.
  • Stronger legal rights for trade union safety reps in support of their work in making work safer and healthier.
  • Workers to be given the right to refuse dangerous work without the fear of victimisation.

Contact: 020 8223 0712 or 0161 636 7557

Further information

Hazards Campaign on the true extent of workplace injury

HSE Press Release on fatalities

The Hazards Campaign is a national campaign on occupational and environmental health and safety issues that has been in existence since 1988.

Hazards Campaign says HSE’s ‘Be part of the solution’ is a damp squib

Hazards Campaign says HSE’s ‘Be part of the solution’ is a damp squib and the state of H&S at work is much worse then they think!

The HSE’s ‘Be part of the solution’ strategy adopts some stronger language on the effects of bad health and safety on workers, the need for more justice and accountability, health and safety as a right not  a privilege, and the role of the HSE as an enforcer which we welcome.  However, it completely fails to put any power behind those words.  It also fails to take on board the criticisms of the Hazards Campaign and Familes Against Corporate Killers, who had to force the HSE to make the consultation real by inviting us to the meetings to give our views not just sign up to the strategy. (1)

HSE’s strategy speaks of ‘The need for strong leadership’, but does not call for legal H&S duties on directors, just more exhortation to champion H&S and the current ineffective voluntary guidance.  It speaks of ‘Involving the workforce’ but does not recommend new rights for safety reps or more enforcement of existing rights and the employers duties towards safety reps and workers generally, the effect of this is to undermine the practical mechanism of resolving problem at source and creating good H&S at workplace level.  The strategy merely appeals to everyone to sign up to doing better but offers no more severe sanctions to employers and business if they carry on in the same abysmal way   It does not make clear that in its current enfeebled state the HSE is not capable for delivering the drastic improvement that is essential as it needs more resources and political will to enable it to act as the effective enforcement agency we desperately need it to be to create a better H&S culture. The featuring of Corus on the promotional video as signing up to the strategy without any explanation that Corus has killed a large number of workers and therefore has very serious problems to address, undermines their case.

The strategy states that most people underestimate the number of people killed and injured by work, but then underestimates the figures itself!  It fails to mention the millions made ill and the tens of thousands dying of occupational illness every year (2)  It does not make clear that the burden of this poor health and safety is mostly borne by workers and their families in heartbreak and distress, or that of the up to £30 billion per year cost to society the employers, who create the risks that cause this horrendous toll, pay less than 25%  of this cost (3) We simply cannot afford employers lack of compliance and outright criminal negligence at the best of times, let alone in a recession which threatens to put more workers at even greater risk. 

The strategy does not refer to the damaging impact of deregulation and soft touch regulation on health and safety which when it was applied to the financial sector is almost universally blamed for causing the recession that now threatens workers lives even more.  The HSE should reject deregulation and act as the workers’ H&S champion.

Hazards Campaign spokesperson, Hilda Palmer says:

’HSE’s ‘Be part of the solution’ fails to shows the leadership and intention to get tough on the employers who create the risks that make people sick, injure them and kill them that a real enforcement agency should exhibit. It is not what employers say that is important but what they do, and the majority are not consulting workers, not complying with basic risk prevention and are not fully accountable for their actions or omissions.

Without a massive injection of resources and real political will to tackle the many noncompliant and criminally negligent employers, it is hard to see how more voluntarism can have any real impact. The HSE has already gone soft on enforcement and there is a massive lack of deterrence as inspections, investigations of injuries, enforcement notices and prosecutions are all down.

Lack of enforcement of safety reps rights and of employers’ duties towards them undermines the massive and well accepted union safety effect in the workplace and is mere lip service to worker involvement.

Failure to implement positive legal duties on directors for health and safety, rather than the voluntary guidance currently in place, prevents employers being held properly accountable.’

For more information contact Hilda Palmer 0161 636 7557 mobile 07298 00240

Notes to editors

HSE Strategy Launch : Be part of the Solution

1 ‘Credit Crunch Recession and Reforms and a reeling regulator leave workers at risk
Hazards 105 pages 6-7

The Hazards Campaign, a coalition of union and health and safety campaign groups, has spelled out key issues to be raised in response to HSE’s strategy consultation.

Real burden – Stop worrying about the health and safety “burden” on business; HSE must recognise the real burden is borne by those made ill, injured and killed and their families.

True toll – When HSE talks about the harm caused by work, it should acknowledge the real toll – the tens of thousands killed by work cancers and occupational diseases every year, the hundreds dying on the roads while working and the thousands of other deaths not including in HSE fatality statistics.

Credible threat -Existing enforcement practice is not good enough. There must be more HSE investigations, inspections and enforcement action.

Regulation -HSE must reject explicitly any deregulatory rules or pressures that would affect its ability to do its job.

Widespread problem -Safety law-breaking is not a minority matter – lots are at it but go unseen because of HSE’s failure to inspect. HSE must demand the resources to do its job right.

Safety reps – Lip service to safety reps is not good enough. There must be vigorous enforcement of safety reps’ rights and involvement of safety reps by HSE. A high level safety reps’ rights champion must be appointed by HSE to ensure this is given a top priority.

Roving reps – HSE must support roving safety reps to carry the union safety effect into small firms and throughout the supply chain, with special emphasis on high risk industries including construction and agriculture.

Justice at work – The HSE consultation document acknowledges securing justice is a key goal. HSE should acknowledge this can only be achieved by giving individual directors explicit legal duties and accountability for health and safety. Tell HSE what to do

2..’It’s a great deal worse than the HSE admit in the PR – the real numbers
killed made sick or injured at work 1,500-1,600 in incidents at work, more
than murders, and up to 50,000 due to occupational illness each year.
The Whole Story’ published in Safety and Health Practitioner in December 2008 –

3. Who pays?  You do  Lead article in Hazards 106 

Photographic exhibition:  An asbestos timebomb in the Indian Subcontinent

Asbestos bag image

Paul Kenny general secretary of the GMB will be opening this photographic exhibition on Monday 1st December at 5.30pm.The photos graphically illustrate the gruesome reality of the immense expansion of the asbestos hazard as it is experienced by workers and the public in the Indian subcontinent.

Open December 1-5, at the TUC headquarters from 9.30am – 7.00pm,
Congress House, Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3LS.

Please pass this information on to any contacts you have who may want to view or hire the exhibition.

The London premier of this travelling collection supplements the September 2008 publication: India’s Asbestos Time Bomb.

For more information on this event or on hiring this exhibition which consists of 15 photos 40x50cm each, plus one sheet supplying some information on the terrible risk run by workers in the Indian subcontinent, please contact the exhibition organizer: Eve Barker:

Hazards Campaign says HSE statistics drastically misrepresent cost of work

H&S statistics for 20-07/08 published yesterday by the HSE claimed they ‘reveal a reduction in number of people killed, injured or made ill by work during 2007/08’ and claim ‘229 people were killed by work.’ 1

The Hazards Campaign challenges these figures claiming they drastically undercount the numbers killed in work-related incidents, do not include those killed by occupational illness, and grossly underestimate the numbers suffering from work-related ill-health 2

Hazards Campaign spokesperson Hilda Palmer said:

“This annual misrepresentation of the numbers killed by work could be called the ‘HSE myth of the year ‘. It contributes to the undermining of worker and public safety and the case for policies and resources to be allocated to tackling what is a massive cause of public ill-health, and masks the huge number of personal tragedies occurring every day. It also allows encourages a false sense of security by underestimating the real risk faced by workers and members of the public, and feeds into the nonsensical ‘elf and safety gorn mad’ media hype, and demands from business for deregulation, light touch regulation and cuts in the enforcement burden.

“As we head for global economic meltdown largely due to an uncritical acceptance that financial business could be trusted to do the right thing, we can see that deregulation and light touch regulation has brought us to the brink of disaster. We urgently need to learn those lessons from the financial sector and look far more critically at what’s really going on in our workplaces where more workers are being killed, injured and made ill, than the HSE headline figures suggest and we need more health and safety law and enforcement rather than less.”

The headline fatality figure quoted in HSE press release ‘229 people were killed at work’ fails to make clear that this refers only the workers killed in workplace incidents whose deaths were reportable to the HSE or local authorities, not those reportable to other enforcement authorities such as the police, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency or the Civil Aviation Authority.

The HSE 229 fatalities do not include:

  • the estimated 1,000 who are killed in road traffic incidents involving ‘at work’ vehicles 3
  • the 95 members of the public killed by work activities 1
  • an estimated 30 killed in coastal waters or in aircraft incidents
  • the 100-250 suicides attributed to work-related stress 4
The Hazards Campaign estimates the total number of people killed in work-related incidents last year as about 1,454 -1,606 which is 6-7 times the HSE headline figure, and more than the number of murders each year (5)!

But the iceberg of work-related ill-health is as always, the number dying each year due to occupational illnesses which the Hazards Campaign estimate as up to 50,000.

The HSE statistics state that ‘every year thousands of people die from work-related diseases’ and itemise these as work-related cancer deaths in excess of 6,000, of which about 4,000 are due to asbestos cancers, plus 111 deaths from asbestosis, 182 from pneumoconiosis, and around 15% of COPD that may be work-related, which is about 4,000 deaths. Adding this up gives an HSE estimate of deaths due to work-related diseases each year of 10,293. 6

The Hazards Campaign estimates that each year:

12% of all cancer deaths are work-related which suggests 18,000 deaths, compared to the HSE’s 6,000;
15-20% of obstructive lung disease deaths are work related, which is about 6,000 deaths;
20% of heart disease deaths are work-related, which is about 20,000;
plus 6,000 for deaths from all other work-related causes including restrictive respiratory diseases.

Which gives a possible estimate of up to 50,000 dying from occupational disease each year. 7

For more information contact Hilda Palmer 0161 636 7557

Notes to Editors

1. Health and Safety statistics 2007/08
2. Burying the evidence Hazards 92 Oct/Dec 2005 and;
Environmental and occupational causes of cancer: A review of recent scientific literature, Richard Clapp et al UMASS Lowell September 2005,
3. RoSPA Occupational Safety,
4. Crying Shame? Hazards 101 Jan/March 2007 and
5. A crisis of enforcement: the decriminalisation of death and injury at work by Prof Steve Tombs and Dr David Whyte, Centre for Criminal Justice Briefing 6 June 2008
6. Health and Safety statistics 2007/08 page 8
7. A Job to Die for? Hazards 92 Oct/Dec 2005

Hazards Campaign rejects BERR Report – 9 August 2008

Hazards Campaign rejects BERR Report ‘Improving Outcomes from Health and Safety’ as it is not about making workers lives safer or healthier, but is part of the government’s deregulation promise to business – to reduce regulation by 25%, have a moratorium on new regulation and save alleged millions of pounds for employers. This is despite the fact that the number of H&S regulations have halved in the last 13 years. The report and associated documents is an example of the dumbing down health and safety.

A spokesperson said: “The Hazards Campaign would welcome with open arms a report which really did what it said on the title page -improving H&S outcomes. But this BERR report ‘Improving Outcomes from Health and Safety’, is so far from what is urgently needed from the government to address the appalling state of health and safety that many workers experience daily, that we feel it is a waste of time and money.

The idea that the ’average firm spending 20 hour a year and over £350 a year on meeting the administration costs of compliance with the Management of Health and Safety regulations’ is being over burdened when this equates to less than 4 minutes per day, is so ludicrously stupid it can only come from a pro-business zealot more interested in urban myths than the hard evidence of workers bearing the burden of illness and injury.

“As we are all being squeezed by the global recession due largely to the unregulated dealings of the financial business sectors, to call for more deregulation sounds amazingly reckless! For this to come shortly after the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee report stated that the Better Regulation Task Force has vastly overestimated claims of savings from cutting regulations, this call for yet more deregulation of H&S to save employers time and money seems to comes from a government bizarrely unable or unwilling to put people’s lives and health before the perceived needs of business, and which prefers to fiddle while the country burns. There is no corresponding calculation to illustrate the cost of non-compliance for example the cost to an SME of making one worker ill with MSDs from incorrect manual handling, or working badly at a computer. This call for yet more deregulation of H&S to save employers time and money seems to comes from a government bizarrely unable or unwilling to put people’s lives and health before the perceived needs of business, and which prefers to fiddle while the country burns.

The Report purports to concentrate on low risk SMEs where the risk of illness or injury is low, but in fact many of the sectors covered have a high risk of musculo-skeletal disorders such as Hotels and Restaurants, Wholesale, Retail and Repair and office work in the Finance and Business sector; the Education sector has a high risk of work-related stress. The report is also utterly silent on almost other types of occupational illness, especially long latency diseases such as asbestos related disease, cancers, respiratory and circulatory diseases.

Using only HSE official figures of accidents at work, the report ignores all those work-related deaths on the roads and also the huge burden of occupational illness which accounts for up to 50,000 deaths a year. An amazing burden on working people the government seems only to keen to add to while making it easier for non-compliant to criminal employers to continue getting away with it.

‘The Perceptions of the H&S Regime’ report conducted by Vanilla Research shows how businesses often report feeling over- burdened but mistakenly conflate H&S with other regulations, rely on second, third hand or hearsay information, rarely seeking out definitive facts themselves from well publicised sources, and apparently not intending to ensure they are complying with basic laws anyway! Yet this whole process aims to normalise the process by which health and safety is downgraded and treated as nothing more that common sense. Would that it were so, but understating how to work safely at a computer to avoid developing MSDs, or that work that creates silica dust can cause cancer, isn’t just common sense. We doubt that companies openly saying 100% compliance with taxation laws was impossible would be acceptable. The truth is we cannot afford employers lack of compliance with H&S that costs workers so dearly, the whole economy possibly up to £60 billion per year yet the cost to an employer for record keeping is a measly £350 a year and less than 4 mins a day.

“Asking the HSE to provide more advice and information to SMEs, may be a fine idea but as the HSE cannot cope with existing workloads and there is no mention of the essential role of enforcement in gaining compliance, or the need for massive injection of extra resources to do both roles, this is fairly meaningless. The report purports to be about improving H&S but is fairly clearly being promoted as a way to save employers time and money and as such is unlikely to make anyone safer or healthier at work, but will reassure employers than applying so called ‘common sense’ with no need to find out what their legal duties are, is actually perfectly acceptable behaviour. As many tragic examples show, common sense by employers is frequently in very short supply and did not protect workers from death – Steven Burke, Daniel Dennis, Andrew Herbertson, Craig Whelan and Paul Wakefield, Mark Wright, Andrew Hutin, Lewis Murphy, Samuel Adams, the nine people killed in the ICL explosion, Christopher Knoop, to name but a few see and

“Just like we are all paying now for the unregulated antics of the financial sector, if this deregulatory approach wins the day, we will all be paying with our health and safety “

“The Reports main findings include that coverage of H&S in the media is often negative but seem unaware that the report itself contributes to this by portraying H&S as ‘only common sense’, and as a burden, allegedly costing employers £millions, and which must be removed! It recommends (recommendation 3) developing a more active media strategy to show the benefits of good H&S and consequences of poor H&S but fails to suggest learning from Families Against Corporate Killers (FACK) the Asbestos and other victim support groups and Hazards magazine as successful proponents of this approach.

“Recommendation 1 includes a long term Hazards Campaign demand by suggesting the HSE considers making more of its guidance free to download.

For more information Hilda Palmer 0161 636 7557

Hazards Magazine: business
Hazards Campaign: www.hazardscampaign/
Families Against Corporate Killers:

For more information Hilda Palmer 0161 636 7557