Remembering the importance of at-work safety on Workers’ Memorial Day

People from across the UK will pause for thought tomorrow (April 28) on Workers’ Memorial Day to mark the many thousands of lives lost due to workplace accidents or ill health.

The internationally recognised annual event gives people across the world the chance to remember those who were killed or seriously injured while doing their job or who suffered work-related ill health, such as asbestos-related conditions.

There are dozens of permanent memorials to lost workers around the UK, some commemorating high-profile disasters which claimed the lives of many workers and others remembering lesser-known accidents in which a few people were killed. There are many more accidents that are not officially marked and are only remembered by grieving families, colleagues and employers.

To raise awareness of the memorial sites, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents’ National Occupational Safety and Health Committee (NOSHC) initiated the creation of a website to provide comprehensive information about them. The site, which was launched in 2010, can be accessed via http://www.rospa.com/occupationalsafety/memorial/. It includes details of the locations of memorials from plaques to pillars, as well as photographs, details of temporary commemorative sites, links to other sources of information and a diary of events.

In addition to work-related fatalities due to accidents, of which there were 171 in Britain in 2010/11 (not including an estimated 600 deaths due to work-related road accidents), there are many thousands of early deaths a year due to past exposure to hazardous working conditions. Millions of working days are also lost each year due to work-related injury and ill health. For example, in Britain in 2010/11, 22.1million days were lost due to work-related ill health and 4.4million due to workplace injury, with the annual cost to society of workplace injuries and ill health (excluding cancer) estimated at £14billion in 2009/10.

Roger Bibbings MBE, RoSPA’s occupational safety adviser, said: “The price of a workplace accident is enormous, with each fatal accident costing society about £1.5million and each reportable injury costing £17,400. Yet money is irrelevant when placed next to the heart-breaking pain of personal tragedy. The list of memorials on our website is just the tip of the iceberg. Over the years, many thousands of families have had their lives shattered due to workplace accidents and ill health. This is why the case for maintaining sensible measures to control health and safety risks is so important and must not be undermined by silly stories that suggest ‘elf ‘n’ safety’ has gone mad.”

Sheila Pantry OBE, a member of RoSPA’s NOSHC and creator of the memorial website, said: “The importance of continuously repeating the health and safety message cannot be overstated. Workers’ Memorial Day and this website are important ways of communicating that message.”

To have a memorial listed, email Sheila Pantry at sp@sheilapantry.com.



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