Tomorrow, my friend Helen and I will join others for a moment of remembrance at a cherry tree planted a few years ago in Penlee Park with the kind permission and support of Penzance Town Council. Helen’s husband, Denis, was killed in an accident at work, and I took his funeral service. We will be remembering Helen’s husband, but we will also be remembering the many others who went to work one day and didn’t come home. “Every year more people are killed at work than in wars. Most don’t die of mystery ailments, or in tragic ‘accidents’. They die because an employer decided their safety just wasn’t that important a priority.” (TUC)
Workers’ Memorial Day (WMD), held on the 28th April annually, commemorates those workers. Not in Penzance alone, but all over the world workers, their representatives and others will conduct events, demonstrations, vigils and a range of other activities to mark a day when we “remember the dead, but (also) fight for the living”.
The TUC says, “In 2015 the theme for the day is “removing exposure to hazardous substances in the workplace“ Hazardous substances are found in almost every workplace in the UK and many workers have no protection against the possible effects, despite the fact that tens of thousands of workers have their health destroyed by asthma, dermatitis, lung disorders and cancers because of exposures.”
It has become commonplace to denigrate “Health and Safety” as just one more example of “political correctness gone mad”, one more burden on employers caught in a quagmire of red-tape. It has become acceptable to make jokes about some of the more outlandish, and usually apocryphal, examples of health and safety taken to extremes. By falling for such thinking, however, we make it easier to dismiss moves to ensure workplace safety as unnecessary. But they are necessary. No-one should die at work because we didn’t care enough about their safety to ensure they returned at the end of the day, at the end of their shift to their families and friends.
Remember the Dead – Fight for the Living.
Work place regulation matters because workers matter.