Deaths at work remembered by UK trade unionists

By agency reporter
May 1, 2011

In the run up to May Day, Britain's trade unionists have been taking part in International Workers' Memorial Day, to remember thousands who have died at work.

Every year around the globe more people are killed at work than in wars and conflict. In the UK alone, 152 workers were killed in 2009-2010 according to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) says it believes most die because employers have not made safety and well-being at work enough of a priority.

IWMD - held on 28 April every year - commemorates those people who have been killed whilst at work, and all over the world workers organise events, demonstrations and vigils to mark the day.

Events organised by the TUC and unions this year include:

* A march to the Peace Gardens in Manchester, followed by one minute's silence, a rally, and speeches from union safety reps and families of those killed at work.
* A memorial candle will be lit at the Town Hall, Katharine Street, Croydon.
* A wreath-laying ceremony at the workers' memorial plaque in Castle Park, Bristol.
* In Wolverhampton the 20th annual commemoration at the Cenotaph in front of the Civic Centre and St Peter's Church, with union speakers, wreath laying and a reading by the Rev Sellick, Industrial Chaplain of the Black Country Urban Industrial Mission.
* A ceremony at the Workers' Memorial Tree, in front of the Sheffield Town Hall.

TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber commented: "Workers' Memorial Day, when we commemorate the dead and focus on protecting the living, has become a major day in the calendar of many workplaces.

"Thursday saw services, rallies or wreath-laying in most major towns and cities up and down the country. The most common way of marking the day has been the holding of a simple minute's silence in the workplace.

"This year the TUC is aware of more events than ever before, due partly to increasing awareness of the day - which was officially recognised by the government for the first time last year - but also due to growing concern of the impact that cuts in inspection and enforcement activity will have on the number of deaths caused through work," said Barber.

Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) Chief Executive Rob Strange added: "On 28 April we remember those who have been injured at work and those who failed to return home."

He continued: "Most accidents which take place in the workplace are preventable. Bosses need to take a serious look at health and safety and continue to protect their staff's health, safety and well-being in the workplace - especially at this time when we are all feeling the pinch."

"The UK has one of the best health and safety records, but with the government review of legislation looming and continued economic uncertainty, we need to ensure standards don't slip," said Strange.

The TUC has been encouraging unions to use IWMD to campaign against the cuts in Health and Safety Executive and local authority funding and enforcement activity.


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