Workers’ Memorial Day

5 05 2013

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Below are selected photos from our Workers’ Memorial Day Ceremony last Sunday. Many thanks to Councillor Shaun Pender (CWU Political Secretary for CWU Midlands No7 Branch); Andy Hickerman (Area Health and Safety Rep for CWU Midlands No7 Branch); Jason Hill (NUT and Musicians’ Union); and Dave Lydon (Keele UCU) for their thoughtful and moving contributions.

Workers’ Memorial Day 2013

Andy Hickerman, Area Health and Safety Rep for CWU Midlands No7 Branch; North Staffs TUC delegate

As I mentioned at last years Workers Memorial Day, Royal Mail has been placed in the LOW RISK category by the Government.

This is how low risk we are :-

Nationally.

  • 4000 – 5000 post people are attacked by dogs every year.
  • On average 12 Postmen/Women per day are attacked per day.
  • In 2012 – Total Accidents = 20,000   Lost days = 100,000
  • 5 Fatalities.

In this region of the company, on average, every worker will suffer 1.5 accidents in their working life for Royal Mail according to Royal Mail!

In the wider context, According to Hazards Campaign, 1000 people are killed in work related incidents. HSE Estimate 70% of deaths and Major injuries are due to poor management of Health and Safety by employers. There is a 1 in 100 real risk of dying because of work illness or incident!

There were 1.9 Million suffering work related Ill Health in 2010/11

According to the Government H & S is a burden on business but the real truth is that the biggest cost burden of poor H & S is with workers and their families.

I CHOSE TO LOOK THE OTHER WAY

Don Merrell

I COULD HAVE SAVED A LIFE THAT DAY

BUT I CHOSE TO LOOK THE OTHER WAY.

IT WASN’T THAT I DIDN’T CARE;

I HAD THE TIME, AND I WAS THERE.

 

BUT I DIDN’T WANT TO SEEM A FOOL,

OR ARGUE OVER A SAFETY RULE.

I KNEW HE’D DONE THE JOB BEFORE;

IF I SPOKE UP HE MIGHT GET SORE.

 

HIS CHANCES DIDN’T SEEM THAT BAD;

I’D DONE THE SAME, HE KNEW I HAD.

SO I SHOOK MY HEAD AND WALKED ON BY;

HE KNEW THE RISKS AS WELL AS I

 

HE TOOK THE CHANCE, I CLOSED AN EYE;

AND WITH THAT ACT, I LET HIM DIE.

I COULD HAVE SAVED A LIFE THAT DAY.

BUT I CHOSE TO LOOK THE OTHER WAY.

 

NOW EVERY TIME I SEE HIS WIFE.

I KNOW I COULD HAVE SAVED HIS LIFE.

THAT GUILT IS SOMETHING I MUST BEAR;

BUT IT ISN’T SOMETHING YOU NEED SHARE.

 

IF YOU SEE A RISK THAT OTHERS TAKE

THAT PUTS THEIR HEALTH OR LIFE AT STAKE.

THE QUESTION ASKED OR THING YOU SAY;

COULD HELP THEM LIVE ANOTHER DAY.

 

IF YOU SEE A RISK AND WALK AWAY.

THEN HOPE YOU NEVER HAVE TO SAY.

“I COULD HAVE SAVED A LIFE THAT DAY.

BUT I CHOSE TO LOOK THE OTHER WAY.”

 Although the key aim of good health and safety management is preventing people from being killed or injured in the first place, it is an inescapable fact that every day across the world scores of people die in workplace accidents and many thousands more are seriously injured or made ill – often as a direct result of their employers negligence.

It is vitally important that these people – and the terrible fates that have befallen them –are remembered, not just because we should always commemorate the dead in some way, but also because the very act of commemorating people who have been killed at work provides a sharp reminder to us all to strive to make every workplace – and every job safer and healthier.

Workers’ Memorial Day, 28 April 2013, Stoke-on-Trent

Dave Lyddon, UCU, Keele University; North Staffs TUC delegate

Workers’ Memorial Day started in Canada in 1984. The Hazards Campaign brought it to Britain in 1992 and the TUC adopted it in 1999. It is a genuinely international day.

The International Labour Organization estimate that, across the world, just over 2 million people die each year from work-related diseases and another 321,000 from occupational accidents. This week’s tragedy in Bangladesh with hundreds, possibly thousands, of workers dead or injured, having been forced to work in an unsafe building, is a stark reminder of what can happen when regulation is weak or non-existent and workers are not strong enough to resist.

Since we stood here on 28 April last year there have been several court cases against local employers for breaches of health and safety law. Almost all of these have been a result of injuries sustained by employees – at Longton, Leek, Fenton, Rugeley, Stone, Tamworth, Burton, Cannock and two firms at Chesterton – involving fingers and arms trapped in machinery, two cases of an amputated finger, another with a finger tip amputated and a fracture, a broken thumb cut to the bone, burns (one case requiring skin grafts on both arms; another involving a 16-year-old work-experience schoolboy who had toxic paint stripper splash on his eyes and face), and crush injuries (one involving two crushed vertebrae and surgery to remove part of the bowel).

Yet only three of these employers were fined more than £5,000, despite the maximum fine at magistrates’ courts for all health and safety offences having been increased in 2009 to £20,000.

No cases of fines locally seem to have resulted from routine inspections by the Health and Safety Executive, HSE. A shop-fitting company was fined after a member of the public photographed roof repairs on a building in Cannock and reported it. The workers had had no training and there were no measures to prevent falls, endangering both the workers and the public. Fines were also unavoidable for a demolition company and a scaffolding subcontractor, undertaking work for Stoke City Council, when seventy metres length of sheeted scaffolding collapsed in Hanley through a combination of strong wind and insufficient anchor ties to the fifteen houses being demolished; by chance no workers or members of the public were on or near the scaffold at the time.

A landscape gardener received a suspended sentence and community service at Stafford Crown Court for a fatality in Keele village in 2010 when 39-year-old Leeson Lavender from Bentilee had his skull crushed by a nine-foot oak gate post, weighing a quarter of a ton.

A number of immediate prohibition notices have been served by HSE inspectors on employers in the last year, forcing them to stop work and deal with a dangerous situation. Several of these were against builders, usually concerning scaffolding or unsecured work on roofs, such as at Stoke, Biddulph Moor, Newcastle, Denstone (near Uttoxeter) and Tunstall, the last of which was subject to another prohibition notice on the same site a few months later. A groundworks contractor, working on a new ride at Alton Towers, was stopped for not supporting a trench properly – and then stopped again the next day. Other prohibition notices were for inadequately guarded machinery (at Swynnerton, Alsager and Scholar Green), dangerously faulty equipment at two garages in Stafford, and on a farm at Gnosall.

There were several prohibition notices due to breach of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012. A builder working in Stone had a notice for such a breach, while one working in Burslem and another in Stoke had multiple breaches, breaking almost every single rule. Even a specialist waste contractor was stopped while working in Tunstall.

When a former brewery in Burton was renovated by a contractor employing Polish workers, who had makeshift sleeping accommodation on site, twenty-seven tons of asbestos-contaminated rubble were taken to the basement and bricked up there, rather than removed safely. As well as exposure to asbestos and other unsafe working conditions, one worker contracted Legionnaires’s Disease from the building’s stagnant water system. All this only came to light when a worker contacted the HSE. The company received several fines but the site foreman got away with a suspended prison sentence, a fine and community service. Such a criminal attitude to asbestos was also exhibited by the fly-tippers who dumped a pile of white asbestos yards from the entrance to a Burslem scout hut.

As the global figures show, many more die from work-related health problems than from safety failures. After pneumoconiosis and related coalmining lung diseases, the biggest killer in the UK in recent years has been mesothelioma, a rare incurable cancer whose only known industrial cause is exposure to asbestos fibres. It can take thirty, forty or even fifty years before any symptoms show. Some 2,347 people died in the UK from mesothelioma in 2010, the latest figures available. 412 died of asbestosis and an estimated further 2,000 of asbestos-related lung cancer. Total asbestos-related deaths are still rising in the UK.

In the first 10 months of 2012, North Staffordshire Coroner’s Court alone dealt with 20 inquests into deaths caused by exposure to asbestos. One was David Key, aged 57 of Meir, exposed to asbestos for just four weeks in 1986 on a temporary contract to knock down a kiln for Beswick Pottery in Longton. Typically he was not provided with adequate protection or warned about the dangers.

As the legacy of asbestos is stripped out of buildings, wider sections of the public become at risk. Staffordshire County Council and a contractor were fined for exposing a nursery class in Cheslyn Hay, Cannock, along with school staff and two joiners, to asbestos fibres. More than 140 schoolteachers alone have died of mesothelioma in the last ten years.

The outbreak of Legionnaires’ Disease, most likely from a hot tub at a discount warehouse in Fenton last July and August, led to two deaths – 64-year-old delivery driver Richard Griffin, of Westbury Park, and 79-year-old William Hammersley of Chesterton – and a further 19 people becoming hospitalized.

Returning to safety, according to HSE figures 4 workers lost their lives at work in Staffordshire in 2011–12, though there are 6 employees and self-employed listed on its database of fatalities. A lot more suffered major injuries. Under RIDDOR 1995, a major injury is one involving any fracture, other than fingers, thumbs or toes; any amputation; dislocations of shoulder, hip, knee or spine, loss of sight (temporary or permanent); chemical or hot metal burns to the eye or any penetrating injury to the eye; certain electric shock or electrical burns injuries; and a list including acute illness or loss of consciousness from absorption of, or exposure to, substances by inhalation, ingestion or through the skin. In Staffordshire in 2011–12 there were 453 recorded major injuries including 59 allocated to the borough of Newcastle and 122 to the city of Stoke-on-Trent. These are, what have been called, ‘the wounded soldiers of industry’. Those victims whose employers are actually prosecuted are not even the tip of the iceberg.

Under the cloak of austerity, there has been a significant cut in resources to the HSE, which has led to a collapse in the number of unannounced inspections: so much so that the HSE is now stopping doing this in most sectors, including quarries, docks and agriculture, which are clearly dangerous industries. Shops, offices and pubs, currently the responsibility of local authority inspectors, are going the same way.

At the same time we now face a legislative assault on compensation for workplace injury. Since 1898, yes 1898, workers (usually through their union) have been able to sue for compensation for industrial injury on grounds of the employer’s breach of a strict liability duty. This, for example, was written into section 47 of the 1974 Health and Safety at Work Act. The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill, which became law just this week, has removed that route. In future claimants will have only one route, that is to prove negligence by the employer; this will reduce the number of successful claims. The part of the Bill containing this change is headed ‘Reduction of Legislative Burdens’, which means an increase in burdens for us. Further, other changes made by the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act will mean cuts in the compensation awarded to any remaining successful claimants.

In conclusion, not only do we need to bolster trade-union organization for health and safety within workplaces to counter the weakening presence of the HSE but to campaign in the wider community against the Con-Dem government’s relentless and ideologically-driven assault on the limited protections that workers still retain.

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3 responses

25 03 2015
Workers’ Memorial Day, 28th April | North Staffs TUC Blog

[…] behind the international day is to mourn for the dead and fight for the living. You can view our 2013 and 2014 commemorations to read previous speeches and see photos from the day. Visit the TUC […]

30 03 2016
North Staffs TUC Blog

[…] Staffs Trades Council for Workers’ Memorial Day on Thurssday 28th April 2016. You can view our 2013 and 2014 commemorations to read previous speeches and see photos from the day. Visit the TUC […]

30 03 2016
Workers’ Memorial Day 2016 | North Staffs TUC Blog

[…] Staffs Trades Council for Workers’ Memorial Day on Thurssday 28th April 2016. You can view our 2013 and 2014 commemorations to read previous speeches and see photos from the day. Visit the TUC […]

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