Fighting for the fundamental right to safe and healthy work Hazards Conference is online again this year. Saturday 31 July 2021: 10am-3.30pm – register
Sunday 1 August 2021: 10am-1.00pm – register
You will need to sign up to Saturday and Sunday separately
The Hazards Conference is the UK’s largest educational and organising event for trade union safety reps and activists. Safety reps make a huge difference in supporting and extending workers’ basic rights and conditions. The conference will look at innovative and practical solutions to many of the issues facing workers and provide opportunities to network, exchange experience and information and learn from safety reps and activists from other unions, sectors and jobs across the UK.
A stellar line of speakers includes:
Sharan Burrow, general secretary of the global trade union confederation ITUC, is thekeynote speaker at the opening session on Saturday and will spell out why health and safety must be recognised worldwide as an ILO Fundamental Right at Work.
Richard Wagstaff, NZCTU President will speak on recent safety lessons learned recently in New Zealand with particular focus on Covidd-19.
Andy McDonald, Labour’s shadow employment secretary, is the keynote speaker at the Sunday session.
Saturday 31 July 2021: 10am-3.30pm – register 10.00 – 11.30 Opening Plenary – with national and international speakers on the Fundamental Right to safe and healthy work
11.45– 12.45 Challenging work surveillance, micro-management and other draconian working practices
13.15– 14.15 Supporting Workers and their families seeking justice and health and safety enforcement
14.30 – 15.30 Challenging increased violence and abuse at work
Sunday 1 August 2021: 10am-1.00pm – register Plenary 10.00 – 10.30 Two Workshops: 10.30 – 11.30 and 11.45- 12.45
(make your selection using the registration form) 1. Safety Reps organising creatively
2. Investigating incidents and injuries in the workplace
3. Risk Assessment and the control hierarchy
4. Work related stress and mental health harm
5. Addressing the air pollution in our working environments
6. Sex and gender sensitive health and safety
7. Asbestos at work
8. Hybrid Working Closing Plenary 12.45 – 13.00
News release, 27 November 2020
Covid day of action 5 December, across the UK and online
News bulletin for immediate release
The Hazards Campaign accuses the belligerent UK Government of driving up workplace infections and deaths and calls on all its members to demonstrate safely in favour of a Zero-Covid strategy by all the Governments in the UK on 5th December. There will be socially distanced demonstrations, and other actions including online events held across the UK to demand that the Nation Governments follow a Zero-Covid strategy to protect the health of the people of all nations. (1)(2)
Next week the UK Government change the National Lockdown criteria in England to local tier groups. Governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are also implementing varying tiers and controls to limit individual movement and contacts. This has left the UK in chaos. With different standards depending on the country, county and even city you live in, but for many workers there has been no reduction in the risks that they face at work.
Workplaces like schools, public transport, construction sites, food processing plants, offices etc where transmission risks continue to be ignored by their employers, the enforcement authorities and the Government. With a rising incidents of workplace Covid-19 clusters, Janet Newsham the chair of the Hazards Campaign demands that workplace risks of infections are properly controlled.
his means properly assessing and then preventing or controlling all the risks, from when the worker leaves their house to attending their workplace, to navigating safe places to have their lunch breaks, to returning home afterwards.
Janet says: ‘This daily risk roulette makes workers anxious. Many are contracting the virus because their workplaces simply are not controlling all the risks of transmission especially from airborne aerosols in poorly ventilated buildings. Infected workers then take the virus back to their homes, to their families and into their communities. Through no fault of their own, simply because their employer is not ensuring all risks are controlled, workers and their families are at great risk .’ (3)(4)
Two weeks ago, the HSE released figures about the number of people who have died in incidents that are reported to the RIDDOR system which Janet says: ‘is a fraction of the actual numbers of people who had died over the previous year because of their work.
‘More than 50,000 have died because they had been exposed to dangerous substances, toxic chemicals, stressful working conditions and other life shortening working conditions that affect their health and leaves them with chronic conditions. Workers are dying in their thousands because of all these and the additional fatalities not recorded on the RIDDOR system which includes workers who die at sea, in air crashes, on the railways, in road incidents and by suicide because of uncontrolled pressures at work. This year there have been thousands killed because they were exposed to Covid-19.
‘Many working on the frontline, many essential workers have died because PPE wasn’t at the right standard or wasn’t available for them. Black workers have been disproportionally affected and the inequalities they face in society means that they were overrepresented in some of the most dangerous jobs and in the fatalities.’ (5)
‘Many workers will be left with Long-Covid which encompasses many different chronic physical and mental health conditions that will impact on their quality of life and life expectancy. ’ (6)
‘The Prime Minister is under pressure from his back benchers and business owners to ease all restrictions on businesses in England, just as other nation Governments have been keen to prioritise business interests above public health. This constant battle of wills serves no purpose in establishing a strategy for reducing the transmission of the virus, especially when private companies have been bequeathed lucrative deals on services and support, which they had no or little experience of before the pandemic. Deals which have given them £ms but left thousands dead because they couldn’t and haven’t delivered what was needed to combat the virus.
‘Any easing of the lockdown before other controls are working properly will land us all back in enforced lockdown after Christmas and a prolonged state of anxiety and risk of becoming infected. If the Governments don’t respond with stricter measures, many more people will die. People have already said they would rather have a quiet Christmas than following their parents and Grandparents to the crematorium in January. We need a different approach.’
On December 5th the Hazards Campaign joins others in putting pressure on the Governments across the UK to follow a Zero-Covid strategy. This includes only relaxing Lockdown when:
Employers can ensure they are only open for business if they are certified are Covid-safe from all methods of transmission by enforcement authorities,
Find Track, Trace Isolate with Support system is funded under local control, working effectively with a high contact level and financial support, to ensure everyone is able to isolate and is financially supported when they are sick.
Support and resources, more space and improved ventilation is provided in our schools, colleges and universities.
Governments are prepared to work with the collective voice of workers in different sectors, to work with trade unions to control the risks to their members health.
The UK is made up of islands and therefore restrictions on entry into the islands must be controlled to stop importing new cases and this can easily be achieved through quarantine and testing.
‘Finally, we call on the UK Governments to follow the Zero-Covid strategy, communicate clearly with the public and introduce transparency and simple messaging so that everyone understands what needs to happen and why, to ensure the health of the people in all its nations until a vaccine is available for everyone.’
For further information relevant to the speakers and subject:
Join us for the Hazards 2020 Conference online on 1st August!
Sign up , circulate to safety reps and activists and let’s get a great turn out for the first ever Hazards Conference online via Zoom!
Workers health and safety is paramount now and must be central to organising safe and healthy workplaces to create the decent jobs for decent lives for all as we rebuild a better future, no going back to neoliberal deadly business as usual normal.
This unique Zoom based online conference starts with an international plenary and is followed by four specific subject workshops with brilliant speakers and experts throughout the day.
Each Zoom workshop will start at the advertised time and will provide an opportunity to join in the discussions and together help formulate action plans to direct Hazards Campaign work priorities for the next 12 months.
10.00 – 11.30 Plenary – with international speakers on Covid-19 and the impact on workers
12.00 – 13.00 Safety reps taking the lead! – during and after Covid-19
13.30– 14.30 Fighting inequality in health and safety
15.00 – 16.00 Mental Health and Covid-19
16.30- 17.30 Toxics Out! Air pollution, just transition after Covid-19
The conference is free of charge but if you, or your branch/organisation, would like to donate to the Hazards Campaign please pay by bank transfer to:
Name: Hazards 2020
Account number: 20090430
Sort Code: 608301
Bank: Unity Trust Bank, Four Brindleyplace, Birmingham, B1 2JB. Ref: Your organisation/name
Normal public events for April 28th won’t be possible because of measures to contain Coronavirus/Covid-19. But marking International Workers’ Memorial Day has never been more important for workers’ lives and health and those of our families and communities.
Some workplace events may still go ahead but we are taking #IWMD20 online, developing a social media campaign that we want everyone to join in. This will keep the day and its perennial aims on the public and political agenda with the twin slogans to ‘Remember the Dead and Fight for the Living’. This year’s international theme has been changed by ITUC to ‘Stop the Pandemic at work’.
The Hazards Campaign is going ahead with: ‘Unions fighting for hearts and minds’ incorporating the fight against Coronavirus.
HAZARDS FILM Watch and send out the Hazards Campaign Film for #IWMD20 ‘Fighting for Hearts and Minds – forthcoming.
LIGHT A CANDLE Light a candle in the window on 28th at 9pm to remember all workers killed by #COVID and other work hazards – but be safe.
MEMORIALS ONLINE Online memorials—post photos and details of those killed at and by work to us or direct to Twitter and Facebook.
GLOBAL SOLIDARITY Use the #IWMD20 for national and international solidarity with our union colleagues all across the world. And check out the ITUC/Hazards magazine global hub for international activities.
The Hazards Campaign believes the British health and safety system
is broken. Workers are harmed daily just for going to work to earn a living,
and many now have no realistic prospect of enforcement of their basic human
right to go to work and come home alive and well.
“Work contributes to a huge amount of public ill-health, to health inequality, lower life expectancy, less years of healthy lifekills over 50,000 people in the UK each year, makes millions ill, injures over half a million and the quality of jobs contributes to poverty and ill-health. But all of this is preventable with the right framework of strong laws, strict enforcement and support for active worker and union participation will have massive payback for workers, employers and whole economy. The current political situation has given us an opportunity to place health and safety firmly back on the political agenda,” says the campaign’s Janet Newsham. “An opportunity to address our concerns, to discuss what we want from regulation, enforcement, to support trade union safety reps and how workers should be treated with more dignity and be able to organise and respond collectively.”
“We are launching our Manifesto for health and safety fit for
workers, decent jobs and decent lives for all with three clear demands on the
current and future governments. To ensure decent jobs and lives for all, and to
fix the broken health and safety system, government must by do three key
End deregulation and restore regulation and enforcement as a social good
Develop a health and safety system based on prevention, precaution and participation of strong active unions.
Provide real, enforceable employment and safety rights to ensure good health and safety in low paid and precarious work by enforcement agencies working together.
“The Manifesto is a clear guide to action that must be taken to
protect all workers by restoring good regulation and enforcement, revamping the
independence, funding and action of the HSE and Local Authority enforcement
agencies, empowering trade unions and safety reps who have the biggest impact
on making work safer and healthier, and ensuring links between health and
safety and employment inspections to deal with the exploitation of workers in
the low paid, precarious economy.
“We call for
increased enforcement with more resources, and more, more accessible
inspectors, employment rights with collective representation from day one on
the job, and an end to zero hours, precarious work. An end to all the lying,
dishonest, unevidenced rhetoric used to justify the deregulation of health
“We want the purpose and mission of HSE to be one sole aim – to prevent injury, ill-health and death caused by work, no constraints of having to consider business interests, and to use its teeth to enforce that strictly and be effective and active in the new precarious 21st Century workplace. The HSE must be made a real champion of workers’ lives and health and the whole health and safety system a proactive, preventive, precautionary, workers’ participatory project with ambitious aims to make work safer and healthier.”
“We want workers to
be given much greater control over the circumstances under which they work and
rights from day one. Give workers and union safety reps more power to take
action in the workplace by abolishing all anti-trade union legislation,
enforcing the Safety Representatives and Safety Committee Regulations and
extending and enhancing them with, for example, the right to stop the job.”
Janet added “We want the current government to take heed of
where they have gone wrong, how deadly deregulation must end now, and to use
our Manifesto to fix the broken system. If they won’t do
this, they must explain why. We want other political parties to
adopt the Manifesto and set out their plans to make this happen ready for the
next General Election. We want trade unions to adopt it, support it and
campaign with us to make a health and safety system fit for all workers, for
decent jobs and decent lives for all”
For more information contact Janet Newsham and Hilda Palmer, Hazards Campaign Secretariat c/o Greater Manchester Hazards Centre 0161 636 7557/8 email@example.com
The Hazards Campaign, established in 1987, is a network of worker oriented health and safety centres, individual activists & groups working with workers, trade union safety reps, families & communities on all aspects of work-related safety & ill-health. It includes the Scottish Hazards Campaign, Greater Manchester & London Hazards Centres, the Asbestos Victims Support Groups, Construction Safety Campaign, Families Against Corporate Killers, trade unions safety reps and specialists and award-winning Hazards Magazine. The Hazards Campaign brought International Workers Memorial Day to the UK in the 1990s, and runs the annual Hazards Conference , attracting 350 – 400 safety reps. The 9th Hazards Conference, Hazards 2018, was held 27-29th July at Keele University with 350 union safety reps and activists participating #Haz2018
CONTACT Hazards Campaign Secretariat c/o GMHC, Windrush Millennium Centre, 70 Alexandra Road, Manchester M16 7WD email: Tel: 0161 636 7557
The Hazards Campaign has developed a safety campaigning document based around nine major organising demands. It is a working document intended to stimulate discussion, educate, agitate, organise and politicise health and safety.
“It is a living, working document.”
Please participate, contribute to improving it and use it to stop work killing, injuring and making us ill. If you have any comments or suggestions please add them to this post or contact us by email.
The nine major demands are:
Full enforcement and extension of the role and statutory functions of TU Safety Reps
Improvement and strengthening of Health, Safety and Welfare Regulations
Enforcement of Health, Safety and Welfare Regulations
Just treatment for victims of health and safety crime
Decent work (good pay and conditions) for all workers
Government to strengthen and promote good health, safety and welfare in communities and workplaces
Strongest level of International regulations and standards on occupational health, safety and welfare
Strengthen and increase participation in International Workers Memorial Day
Safety Reps @ 40: Still Vital to the Future of Safe and Healthy Work!
Hazards Conference 2018
The 29th Hazards Conference was held at Keele University, 27–29 July, 2018. It is the UK’s biggest and best educational and organising event for trade union safety reps and activists. It consisted of a mixture of plenary sessions, meetings and a comprehensive workshop programme. Delegates took the opportunity to exchange experience and information with, and learn from, safety reps
and activists from other unions, sectors and jobs across the UK. Hazards 2018 addressed some of the most important issues facing workers providing practical skills, improving knowledge and giving delegates a new confidence to conduct their roles in the workplace.
Find below a full report of the conference compiled by Janet Newsham and Hilda Palmer – it includes numerous links to course materials, presentations and resources.
The Hazards Conference opened with a great session on the Friday evening, when more than 320 delegates from all over the UK, from different industrial sectors, different workplaces and different trade unions registered and attended the first plenary at this year’s Hazards Conference.
Each delegate received a bag full of important and relevant information and the bag proudly proclaimed ‘You gotta fight for the right to safety!’ Included in the bag were the Hazards Campaign leaflets on supporting solidarity action with ‘Fast food workers’ and ‘Care workers’. Also a newly developed leaflet on SRSC Regs – a sort of mini brown book with information about key dates, links and contacts which reps can hang around their necks on lanyards and further copies can be ordered from GMHC – firstname.lastname@example.org or 0161 636 7558.
The Hazards Campaign is developing a charter and the first draft of the charter was shared with delegates for further comment.
Finally along with important information from campaign groups, trade unions, there was also the latest copy of Hazards Magazine.
This is one of the most important publications for health and safety reps to keep up with the latest developments, news and topics.
Finally, all delegates received a Hazards 2018 commemorative badge.
The Falling Tears stained glass window
The Friday plenary was chaired by Doug Russell USDAW National Health and Safety Officer; we were moved to tears by Louise Taggart whose brother sadly died as a result of being electrocuted at work. Louise is a founder member of Families Against Corporate Killing (FACK), an organisation set up in 2006 to fight for justice for all families and for safer workplaces for everyone. Louise’s brother Michael Adamson was killed at work in 2005 aged 26 years. She said she wanted to make his life count and to stop anyone else suffering the way her family had. Louise used the Hazards Campaign: The Whole Story and gave many examples of the deaths of people who are invisible in the HSE figures, because the HSE do not include them as workplace deaths in the records that they count. These include people who are killed in road traffic incidents, in air crashes, those killed at sea, those who die as a result of suicide which is workplace related. And the thousands who die as a result of illnesses because of their work or workplace. This was such a moving and powerful contribution and there were not many dry eyes in the hall at the end of her contribution.
Our international speaker was Asli Odman from Istanbul Workers’ Health and Work Safety Assembly. Because of the volatile political situation in Turkey, we were uncertain Asli would be able to leave Turkey to come to the UK to speak, so her contribution was even more valued and welcome. Asli spoke about the large numbers of workers dying at work and the work they are doing in Turkey to record deaths and investigate patterns and causes. She explained that there is a problem getting information from the Government and their organisation has to scan local and national press to find out about the work related deaths. They also actively support workers seeking justice. Everyday there are at least 20/30 deaths due to work related reasons which Asli described as being like a war in workplaces. They call their work related deaths ‘work related murders’! Last year 2006 people were murdered and this included 453 in the construction industry. She also explained that women are largely invisible in the figures because their work is often not registered as being done in a workplace and therefore injuries are not recorded. Asli said that one of the reasons for poor health and safety in the workplace is because of a decreasing number of trade union members. Membership of unions has dropped from 24% to 4% in the last 30 years. Annually they produce a book detailing the deaths of workers. Finally every month they hold a vigil to all those workers who have been killed. Asli explained that she has been inspired by Hazards Magazine, International Workers Memorial Day and Families Against Corporate Killing.
Steve Tombs our final speaker on Friday evening spoke passionately about why Grenfell Tower tragedy is social murder. He said that Grenfell is a symbol of the consequences of deregulation, austerity, cuts and capitalism’s contempt. Steve spoke about the convictions which have already taken place because of Grenfell. There have been 7 and are nothing to do with the fire. He spoke about the gap between rich and poor. The people still waiting to be rehoused despite promises, the physical, emotional, psychological, cultural and financial harm being done to those affected by the fire. He spoke about the long term systematic attack on regulation which Governments must have known would consequentially result in death. It was foreseeable and that therefore this is social murder.
Delegates at the Hazards 2018 conference stood united in solidarity with all the victims of the Grenfell Tower tragedy fighting for justice and also with the Fire Brigades Union members being scrutinised unfairly in the public inquiry. We demand that those who are responsible for the deaths, injuries and continued trauma of families, friends, neighbours and firefighters are held accountable. Those responsible for the deregulation of fire safety, the lack of enforcement of building regulations, those who treated residents of Grenfell Tower with total disregard for their safety and welfare and those whose inhumanity created the foreseen tragedy of the fire. We demand justice for Grenfell!
A day packed with workshops, meetings and campaign meetings with the evening free for network and discussion. The day began early with two workshops followed by a main meeting and then a campaign meeting.
Saturday – Workshops
(a) Reps Functions and employers duties, Julie Weekes (b) Reps Functions and employers duties, Michelle Marshall
Meeting 1: From menstruation to menopause! Why do we need a gender sensitive approach to occupational safety and health.
Chair: Tracey Harding – Meeting 1 – Links
Speakers: Lynsey Mann and Andrea Oates – more
Meeting 2: How do we challenge the consequences of privatisation, commercialisation and marketisation of the deregulation agenda and the selective enforcement of health and safety laws? Chair: Hilda Palmer – Meeting 2 Report
Speakers: Neil Hope-Collins and Steve Tombs
Meeting 3: Why is transparency in the supply chain necessary in advancing the health, safety and welfare of workers both nationally and internationally?
Chair: Sara Marsden
Speakers: Kathy Jenkins – Meeting 3 report, Stirling Smith – more and Asli Odman
Meeting 4: Is mental ill health a consequence of the intensification of working practices and bad management in our workplaces and what should we do about it?
Chair: Ian Tasker
Speakers: Dan Shears – more, Joan McNulty – more and Adam Lincoln – more
Meeting 1: From Menstruation To Menopause with the GMB
Saturday – Campaign Meetings
Campaign meeting 1: Climate Change and Air Pollution
Speakers: Adam Lincoln and Graham Petersen
Campaign meeting 2: Why should Trade Unions use health and safety as an organising tool? Chair: Janet Newsham – meeting report
Speakers: Neil Hope-Collins, Ian Hodson – YouTube and Ali Waqaar
Campaign meeting 3: International solidarity to combat attacks on workers: lives and health Speakers: Kathy Jenkins – meeting report, Sara Marsden and Asli Odman
Sunday was a ‘barn storming’ morning with inspirational, interesting and dynamic speakers.
Although on the face of it, 5 is a lot of speakers – they were all great to listen to, they held our attention and the two hours passed as though it had been just minutes. Each speaker received a standing ovation and the audience was mesmerised and listened intently to each individual contribution, laughing where appropriate, indignant where there was cause and overall inspired by the lessons, leaving ready to challenge and improve the health and safety in their workplaces and provide solidarity to those in other unions and other workplaces.
Sunday began with a presentation by Hilda Palmer to Ian Draper of the Hazards Campaign Silver badge in recognition of his work in the UK Stress Network and his work on behalf of the Hazards Campaign in the European Work Hazards Network. Ian then drew the raffle for the Leigh Day IPad.
Janet Newsham introduced the session by saying that the conference was more than any other trade union conference and that she hoped everyone felt that they belonged to the health and safety family of the Hazards Campaign. A family with a common aim of keeping our friends and colleagues safe at work and with a network that extends beyond borders to sister organisations in places like Turkey, beyond sectors, industries, companies and organisations and brings everyone together to keep us all safe at work. Janet referred to the speech Hilda Palmer had made previously when she said health and safety was all about love and that no one should suffer the heartache that Louise Taggart had so movingly spoken about at the Friday plenary session. No one should suffer never seeing their loved ones again because of the negligence and total disregard of workers safety. And also the safety of our friends and families as they sleep in their homes, eat out or enjoy their short period of leisure.
Kevin Rowan said that no one else does the role of health and safety reps. He said that if every rep carried out just one inspection a year that would be 100,000 inspections. The HSE carry out just 20,000 inspections. And of those they find 10,000 serious breaches! In a recent roadside inspection of lorries, 90% of the lorries inspected were not loaded correctly. Kevin said that Trade Unions have a legitimate voice and we need to champion our successes more.
Audrey White showed a clip from a film that was made about her with Glenda Jackson playing her part. It was about the sexual harassment of 4 women shop assistants when she was a manager at Lady at Lord John in Liverpool and her subsequent dismissal for challenging him. Audrey’s story is inspiring; she went on strike supported by local T&G trade union members from the docks and road transport. She picketed the store and eventually after escalating the action won her case. Audrey spoke about why sexual harassment is a health and safety issue and the continuing need to challenge it.
Ali Waqaar, a McDonalds McStriker spoke about the health and safety challenges for young workers and in particular the dire conditions that many fast food workers are facing in ‘warzone’ like conditions from overwhelming queues of people, violence, drunkenness, and the consequential burns, injuries and stress caused to the workers. He accused McDonalds of victimisation and the need for workers to join trade unions and challenge these unacceptable conditions. Ali described himself as a ‘warrior poet’ – he said working in McDonalds was like the current in the ocean – always moving, always asked to do something, lift something, orders flooding through.
Dave Smith spoke about the importance of collective action. Dave writes a regular column, Organising 101, in Hazards Magazine which illustrates collective and creative action that could be taken to challenge unsafe and unhealthy working practices. He spoke about some of the challenges he had faced in the construction industry where in the 70’s one construction worker died every day and now 38 deaths a year from incidents and we can celebrate our role in that decline in deaths. He emphasised the need to continue to hold these companies to account. He said it was never about one person but always about the collective and that we are on the side of the angels.
Ian Hodson gave a brilliant speech to end the conference. He spoke about the importance of not blaming migrant workers for deteriorating pay and conditions at work. He thanked the Hazards Campaign for keeping health and safety at the top of trade unions agendas when health and safety was being attacked, deregulated and undermined. Ian recognised the important role of health and safety reps and trade union activists and said that we will make a difference in our workplaces if we stand together and work collectively.
The conference closed at 12.00pm. There has been some great feedback: one or two issues to improve on for next year and some great suggestions to consider, but overall summed up by one new delegate as ‘First Hazards experience did not disappoint + would definitely return again. A must for safety reps!’
A final thanks to all the staff at Keele for their support, patience and response to our many requests and challenges. A big thanks to all the GMHC staff for organising, administrating and delivering the conference. Thanks to all the volunteers who run the registration desk, help, support people with access needs and generally run to respond to delegates needs. Thanks to the workshop, meeting and campaign meeting speakers and tutors and for the plenary speakers who have inspired and challenged us all. Thanks to our photographers, and video recorders: Jawad, Nick and Cath. A special thanks to all the Trade Unions – nationally, regionally, at branch and workplace, Trade Union Councils, Hazards Centres, Solicitors and other campaigning organisations and individuals for supporting and sponsoring the conference. Finally, thanks to the hundreds of delegates for attending, contributing, networking and sharing their knowledge, challenges and successes with other delegates.
YouTube and PowerPoint resources from the Sunday Plenary
The latest HSE provisional figures for workplace fatal injuries in Great Britain show 144 fatally injured between 1 April 2017 and 31 March 2018 which is nine more lives lost in preventable incidents than the year before 2016/17.
Coming a year after the Grenfell fire, and just before the 30th anniversary of the Piper Alpha fire which killed 167 workers, the upward trend is worrying. The Cullen Report into the Piper Alpha disaster led to tighter regulations and enforcement of fire safety offshore. Health and safety regulations written in the blood of the Piper Alpha workers undoubtedly saved many lives over the years but the lessons were not learned across all industries and could have prevented Grenfell .
In fact the need for strong fire safety laws, standards and enforcement has been totally rejected by governments intent on cutting regulations on fire safety to spare the ‘burden on business’. This obsession with deregulating has shifted the burden to us, to workers, and the residents of Grenfell and other high rise tower blocks
Work deaths were dropping steadily up to 2010 when the Tory/Lib Dem coalition turbo charged deregulation with the ‘Red Tape Challenge’ and attacks on HSE, but have plateaued since. Now the trend is going in wrong direction. Work deaths are going up while the government obsession with deregulation is just as strong and just as deadly. Anecdotal reports from offshore workers show they fear things are going backwards in terms of safety offshore, and fear that, as at Piper Alpha, profits are being put before workers’ lives.
Significantly HSE’s fatality figures show that 40% of the deaths were to workers aged 60 or over while this group only make up 10% of the workforce. The rate of fatal injury rises steeply from the 55-59 years age group, and is highest in the 65+ age group where it is almost five times the rate for all ages. This raises questions about the lack of management of risks to ageing workers, and also that the increase in state pension age means many more people will die at work. Agriculture which has the oldest workforce has the highest rate of fatalities at 18 times the average for all work.
Waste and recycling has a fatality rate 16 times the average, and has a low level of unionisation which is known to make work safer, and employs a larger proportion of more vulnerable migrant workers.
Construction still has a higher than average death rate at around four times the average and killed the largest number of workers at 38 for 2017/18.
But HSE official ‘144 killed by work’ is only the tip of the iceberg which we estimate at more like 140 a day dying from work! Hazards Campaign’s report The Whole Story explains that the 2017/18 144 worker deaths reported by the HSE plus another 100 members of the public is pretty horrifying but isn’t even the full total of those killed while working, let alone all those killed by work illnesses and dying often years later.
The HSE only counts those killed at work in incidents which are reportable to HSE and Local Authorities under RIDDOR . It excludes all those killed while at work on the roads, at sea and in the air – as their report makes clear in the Technical Note on page 13. It also excludes work-related suicides, which are not reportable under RIDDOR and are not even investigated. Although HSE records 100 members of the public killed, it does not add them to the total and report them. It does not include the 72 people killed at Grenfell arguably due to the work-activity of refurbishing which turned it into a death trap.
These HSE statistics only refer to fatalities in incidents at work, not due to illnesses, but they are frequently reported as a total death caused by work figure. To the totals of around 1,500 killed by work-related incidents, must be added the estimated 50,000 dying from disease caused by poor working conditions.
Evidence is piling up that shows what makes work safer and reduces deaths is strong unions, strict enforcement and strong, active unions . To reverse the upward trend in preventable deaths caused by work, the Hazards Campaign calls for the strict enforcement of laws and employers duties to workers, stronger laws, repealing of anti trade union laws and more rights for workers to know the risk they face, to enable participation in workplace health and safety, and the right to refuse dangerous work. The Hazards Campaign calls for an end to deregulation of the protective health and safety system which has been fully and publicly exposed as deadly by the Grenfell fire . We call for an end to the government enabled downward slide into a third world, informal precarious economy which is bad for workers, bad for the economy, everyone.
Every day this comes to about 140 people killed because of work.
Louise Taggart recently voted Most Influential Health and Safety Person at SHP Expo illustrates ‘ The Whole Story’ in a soap box talk.
28 April Hazards Campaign poster – Unions make work safer
Hazards Campaign has produced the two posters below to mark International Workers’ Memorial Day. A4 and A3 versions – ideal for demos, vigils, noticeboards and meetings – can be ordered here. Free to unions and campaigners (plus postage) .
As the nation watched in horror as fire ripped through Grenfell Tower, questions about government culpability were being asked. The Conservatives have discarded critical fire, building, product, environmental and workplace safety protections and shackled and starved regulators. A government with a criminal disregard for human life has now been left with blood on its hands.
The Hazards Campaign warned the government repeatedly that its ideological obsession with cutting red tape is a deadly mistake. After the Grenfell disaster the Hazards Campaign says: “Enough is enough. Stop undermining the laws that protect us.”