Workers’ Memorial Day, 28.4.16: Remember the Dead, Fight Like Hell for the Living!
Posted on 27th April 2016
Our work as industrial disease lawyers makes us acutely aware of the consequences of employers’ disregard for the health and safety of their workers as we represent those who, through no fault of their own, develop serious and sometimes fatal illnesses, caused by their working conditions.
For example, according to the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) there were 2,538 deaths in the UK, in 2013, from the asbestos-related cancer mesothelioma alone. Each year around 13,000 deaths from occupational lung disease and cancer are estimated to have been caused by past exposure, primarily to chemicals and dusts, at work (this estimate includes the mesothelioma deaths mentioned above).
Many of our clients’ cases relate to historical negligence, sometimes decades ago, but UK workers continue to be exposed to grave hazards at work.
International Workers’ Memorial Day is held on 28th April each year, the aim being to remember all those killed through work whilst at the same time ensuring that such tragedies are not repeated. The trade union movement say this can best be done by building trade union organisation, and campaigning for stricter enforcement with higher penalties for breaches of health & safety laws.
In 2016 the theme for the day is “Strong Laws – Strong enforcement – Strong Unions” because across the world we are seeing growing attacks on health and safety protection. In Britain, the Government continues to promote a “health & safety = red tape for businesses” agenda whilst the European Commission are pursuing a dangerous de-regulatory strategy as the 13th round of talks on the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership progresses.
However, strong laws are not enough if they are not backed by an effective system of inspections followed up with enforcement action against those who break the laws. Here in the UK the number of inspections has fallen dramatically in the past five years due to reductions in funding from Central Government, so whilst laws exist which are meant to protect us from breaches of health and safety at work, the UK’s enforcement agency sadly lacks “teeth” due to lack of resources. In other countries, of course, there is little regulation at all.
We need to act now to prevent the current trend of further erosion of workplace health and safety regulation, in order to prevent future deaths at work. On 28th April, we will be showing our support. What will you be doing?