Today is International Workers' Memorial Day, when the labour movement commemorates the workers who have died or been injured at work. Decent health and safety at work is like everything else - we only got what we were prepared to fight for. And in the UK health and safety is under threat.
The government believes that health and safety is a "burden" on business. It wants to: remove as many health and safety regulations as it can, cut inspections and enforcement of the law, and make it more difficult to win compensation.
Numerous reviews undertaken by or for the government, on the whole find that the health and safety system: is not a burden, is actually doing a good and much needed job, and where there is a problem, it tends to be one of perception only. However, the government ignores the reviews and continues to peddle the myths and nonsense.
Those who are injured, made ill, disabled, or even killed by poor health and safety at work deserve more respect. As do the families left behind.
The trade union movement needs to take health and safety seriously, fight government plans that will put lives at risk.
MORE DEAD, MORE ILL, MORE INJURED
Remember the Dead, Fight for the Living is the slogan for International Workers Memorial Day (IWMD). The purpose of the day is to not forget those who have been needlessly killed, injured, or made ill by their work. But perhaps more importantly, it is also about using this human tragedy to strengthen the campaign for safe and healthy work.
No one should be put at unnecessary risk at work. Work related deaths ill-health, and "accidents" are not acceptable. Your employer has a responsibility to ensure that your work does not cause you harm. Not only is it the right thing to do - it's the law!
The demand for safe and healthy work is all the more important as employers continue to implement spending cuts, and the true cost of these become clearer over time.
Staff who remain in post are being expected to do more work increasing the risk of various hazards including: workplace bullying, lone working, manual handling, repetitive strain injuries (RSI), and stress. Other work is not being done, which at first may not be missed, but will lead to greater risks including: worse and increasingly dangerous or unhealthy workplaces, including increased exposure risks to asbestos as building maintenance is neglected.
And at a time when health and safety is set to get worse, the spending cuts are also reducing the ability of the enforcement authorities to inspect and enforce on health and safety. The Health and Safety Executives (HSE's) budget has been cut, as has the money from central to local government (who employ environmental health officers, many of whom are UNISON members). On average, a workplace will, even as things stand, only be subject to a proactive HSE inspection once every 38 years.
The government campaign to undermine health and safety is part of the general deregulation drive, of which attacks on employment tribunal rights and trade union facility are other aspects. They are being helped by the tabloids, who peddle myths and made-up stories to create a perception that we are "overregulated" and being "wrapped in cotton wool". As the graphic shows, overregulation is the real myth.
Remember the Dead, Fight for the Living