Raising awareness of work-related accidents and ill health on Workers’ Memorial Day

The UK will unite in quiet reflection on Sunday (April 28) - Workers’ Memorial Day - to remember thousands of lives lost or affected due to workplace accidents or ill health.

The day also coincides with the World Day for Safety and Health at Work, which is marked by the International Labour Organization to help raise awareness of occupational accidents and diseases around the world.

Workers’ Memorial Day is an internationally recognised event which 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 have been 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 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 173 in Britain in 2011/12 (not including an estimated 600 deaths due to work-related road accidents), there are many thousands of early deaths every 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 2011/12, 27million days were lost due to work-related illness and workplace injury, with the annual cost to society of workplace injuries and ill health (excluding cancer) estimated at £13.4billion in 2010/11.

Roger Bibbings MBE, RoSPA’s occupational safety adviser, said: “In 2011/12, more than 12,000 people died prematurely as a result of work-related health damage and a staggering 1.1million working people suffered from an illness caused or made worse by work. We should never forget the massive impact which these individual tragedies have on families who, as a result, suddenly find themselves grieving or having to care for an injured loved one.

“The list of memorials on our website is just a small step towards acknowledging this loss to society and a reminder that RoSPA still has much to do to deliver its mission, which is to ‘save lives and reduce injuries’. At a time when we are all under pressure, let us hope that Workers’ Memorial Day can provide the added impetus needed to ensure that good health and safety management is not just maintained, but extended to all workplaces throughout the UK.”

Sheila Pantry OBE, a member of RoSPA’s NOSHC and creator of the memorial website, said: “Accidents, incidents and ill health are sadly still everyday features in the workplace, so 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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