Health & Safety

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Workers' Memorial Day – Wednesday 28 April 2010

23 March 2010

Following the Department for Work and Pensions consultation in 2009, Workers' Memorial Day will now officially recognised by the Government for the first time on 28 April 2010.

Workers' Memorial Day poster 2010

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said official recognition would both reinforce the significance of the day and raise awareness of the number of people killed, injured or made ill at work each year. It is also a spur to greater efforts to improve health and safety for the working population, now and in the future.

For the first time, the UK will join countries across the globe in remembrance of all those killed at work and for the families they have left behind, and the many more who have been harmed.

Every year more people are killed at work than in wars. Most do not die of mystery ailments, or in tragic "accidents".

They die because an employer decided their safety just was not that important a priority. Workers’ Memorial Day commemorates those workers. All over the world Workers' and their representatives conduct events, demonstrations, vigils and a whole host of other activities to mark the day.

The DWP said the Government will help to support and promote commemorations led by individuals, employers, unions and community organisations across the UK, and will encourage people to hold such events on the day itself.

Prime Minister Praises Union Safety Representatives

In a message released to mark Workers' Memorial Day the Prime Minister praised the role that trade unions and safety representatives play in promoting health and safety. Gordon Brown said:

"The British trade union movement has led the way in protecting the lives of people at work through Health and Safety Representatives. Their dedication has protected countless Workers' and their families from the consequences of deaths and injuries at work and I pay tribute to their tireless efforts on behalf of us all."

The message also reiterated that Workers' Memorial Day is an important day in the calendar each year. He stated:

"It gives us a chance to commemorate those who have died as a result of their work and to think of the families and friends that have been left behind. We also think of those who have been seriously injured or made ill through work and reaffirm our commitment to supporting and protecting them. The theme of this year's Workers' Memorial Day is "Good Occupational Health for All Workers", and the Government is committed to achieving that. We must never be complacent and that is why we are committed to improving occupational health support. So let us remember those who have sadly lost their lives and renew our commitment to improving safety at work in the future."

History of Workers' Memorial Day

Workers' Memorial Day, which originated in Canada in 1984, has been informally commemorated in the UK since 1992. It is now recognised as a national day in 19 countries. In 2001 the International Labour Organisation recognised the day and announced April 28 as an International Day of Action for Safety and Health at Work.

Forthcoming General Election and Workers' Memorial Day

This year more than ever we need to fight for our lives as the recession caused threatens to make our health and safety an easy touch for Government cuts and an even lower priority. There will be an election in the UK in a few months and already the Tory Partiy has plans to attack, water-down and destroy health and safety laws and enforcement.

We need to use Workers' Memorial Day to put workplace safety and health on the election agenda by making our case:

  • safe and healthy work is a human right not a privilege,
  • work causes a massive amount of harm for which employers pay a tiny proportion,
  • whatever Government is elected it must not deregulate health and safety, nor reduce enforcement and compliance, must not allow employers to audit and regulate their own Health and Safety and be allowed to keep HSE Inspectors out (Tory Party Policy).

We must ensure positive health and safety legal duties are introduced for company directors. We need a well funded preventative HSE with tough, deterrent penalties from the Courts and just compensation for all Workers' and their families harmed by work.