Workers' Memorial Day Honoured Across the UK

Following a government consultation last year, the first official Workers’ Memorial Day will be held today in venues across the UK. The Workers’ Memorial Day aims to honour all those who have died in accidents at work or as a result of illness or injury caused by employment. A secondary aim of the Workers’ Memorial Day involves raising awareness of health and safety issues in the workplace in a bid to reduce the number of accident claims brought by workers.

On the subject of personal injury claims and instances in which companies have been prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive, a number of organisations have recently come forward to claim that official statistics on fatalities and injuries sustained in the workplace are inaccurate and misleading.

Earlier this week, the Families Against Corporate Killers (FACK), a pressure group lobbying for health and safety reform ahead of the UK General Election, claimed that official governmental bodies do not report all injuries and illnesses sustained by workers. A statement released by FACK urged voters to question political candidates on their health and safety policies and claimed that “deaths caused by work are much more common than the Government publicises”, before suggesting that “workers are more at risk than they realise”.

Following this, Tony Woodley, the joint General Secretary of Britain’s largest union, Unite, said: “Published statistics underestimate the true picture. Health and safety would be taken far more seriously if the public were fully aware of the real scale of deaths and injuries. Safety and health standards are far higher within union organised workplaces than those that have no union influence”.

The IOSH, meanwhile, has requested that the Workers’ Memorial Day focuses on fatalities involving young workers. According to the IOSH, the lives of 61 workers aged under 19 years have been lost in accidents at work during the last 10 years in the UK. Clearly, the Workers’ Memorial Day is as much about saving lives as it is commemorating those that have already been lost due to negligent employers.

The Workers’ Memorial Day will be marked throughout the country but key services will be held in London, Birmingham, Liverpool, Edinburgh, Wolverhampton and Guernsey. Wreath-laying ceremonies and church services will feature prominently and representatives of UCATT and the Health and Safety Executive will speak at the UCATT memorial in Liverpool. A balloon release will also mark the day in Wolverhampton.

In London, workers developing the Olympics site are scheduled to stop work at 11.30am in order to join a protest march with the families of two workers killed on the Olympics project. The march will end in a commemorative event to be held at the Westfield Olympic site. Tony O’Brien, the National Secretary of the Construction Safety Campaign, which has organised the march, said: “The legacy of the London Olympics must not be that of even more construction workers having lost their lives. There is far too much sub-contracting and employment through agencies on the Olympics project and this raises real concerns over health and safety. The original employment agreement was meant to ensure direct employment for the majority and this should be the standard form of employment there from now on”. The Workers’ Memorial Day has been unofficially recognised for a number of years, but it is now hoped that official status will lead to improvements in health and safety for workers all over Britain.

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