Health & Safety

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Workers' Memorial Day 2015

9 April 2015

Workers Memorial Day is commemorated throughout the world and since 2010 has been officially recognised by the UK Government. It takes place on 28 April each year. This year the theme is: removing exposure to hazardous substances in the workplace.

bottles of chemicals

Over 20,000 people die every year because of their work. Most of these deaths are because of exposure to dangerous substances

The International Trade Union Council chose this theme to "allow us to highlight the need for addressing chemical-related hazards, asbestos as well as the Ebola virus and other potentially hazardous biological exposures".

The purpose behind Workers' Memorial Day has always been to "remember the dead: fight for the living" to remember all those killed through work but at the same time ensuring that such tragedies are not repeated. That can best be done by building trade union organisation, and campaigning for stricter enforcement with higher penalties for breaches of health and safety laws.

The TUC say that given that the day occurs a few days before the election we also want to focus on the Government's attacks on health and safety, in addition to the wider theme.

Hazards Magazine


The CWU along with other unions had half and full-page messages/ads included In the Special Workers Memorial Day Edition of Hazards Magazine.

The CWU contribution emphasised that along with the TUC and other major unions the CWU has campaigned on dangerous substances and fought legal cases on behalf of our members injured, made ill and even killed by such substances like Asbestos in the workplace.

The official, global work-related statistics from the TUC have just been published, although international union organisations think that the real figures are in reality much higher:

  • 4,000 dying from work-related chronic obstructive airways disease each year.
  • 8,000 die from Cancer each year.
  • 13,000 new cases of Cancer each year.
  • 600,000 killed or injured at work or developing a new work related disease each year.
  • 2,000,000 people suffering a health problem related to their work.

We strive for a world where work doesn't kill, injure or make workers sick - this is possible and employers must stop it!

In the aftermath of the outgoing Tory/Lib Dem Government, leaving a decimated, deregulated and toothless HSE enforcement body, we must continue our fight to reclaim the health and safety agenda. Health and safety enforcement in Britain is "withering away". The number of people employed by the HSE has continued to fall year on year and has dropped by around 15% in the five years under the Tory/Lib Dem Coalition Government. Frontline HSE inspectors are down by even more following Government orders to cut Safety Inspections and give companies an easy time. It's not just the numbers of inspectors that's crucial. It's what those inspectors are allowed to do - HSE is a watchdog whose teeth have been pulled. The Coalition Government and in particular Prime Minister David Cameron made clear their intentions, prior to the 2010 election and they carried them out. The Government has embraced every successive business-friendly recommendation to reduce inspections and take a more advisory light-touch role, yet ignored repeated warnings from UK Select Committees that there is a desperate need for greater enforcement and harsher penalties for health and safety offences.

Union workplaces are safer workplaces. CWU health and safety reps are there protecting and representing CWU members every day and they deserve great credit each and every one of them. We need union organised workplaces, active Union Safety Reps, strong safety laws and regulations, strictly enforced by a reinvigorated HSE - to end preventable harm at work.

Hazards Magazine Number 129 cover

Hazards Magazine is an editorially independent health and safety magazine published by Hazards Publications Ltd. Hazards is the only independent, union-friendly magazine to win major international awards.

The Magazine promotes the clear message that workplace unions are the best hope for better, safer work - and Hazards provides the information and resources to make the Union job easier. Hazards looks behind the company safety hype, and gives union answers to workplace problems.

Using a global network of union safety correspondents, Hazards makes sure unions have the best health and safety news and information available anywhere.

Although the key aim of good health and safety management is preventing people from being killed or injured in the first place, it is an inescapable fact that every day across the world scores of people die in workplace accidents and many thousands more are seriously injured or made ill - often as a direct result of their employer's negligence. It is vitally important that these people - and the terrible fates that have befallen them - are remembered, not just because we should always commemorate the dead in some way, but also because the very act of commemorating people who have been killed at work provides a sharp reminder to us all to strive to make every workplace - and every job - safer and healthier.