Today is International Workers Memorial Day (28 April) and trade unionists across Scotland are marking the day at a range of events.
The appalling toll of death and injuries from the collapsed clothes factory in Bangladesh highlights the vital importance of strong health and safety laws. A lesson entirely lost on the UK Government that is making unprecedented attacks on health and safety at work. This week the House of Lords backed a legislative amendment that puts safety laws back more than 100 years, making it much harder for people to gain compensation for personal injury.
This comes on top of budgets for enforcement at HSE and councils being slashed. Employers need report fewer of the injuries to their workers and unannounced inspections of so-called ‘low-risk’ workplaces have been stopped.
In the UK alone 173 people die every year at work as a direct result of employers breaching health and safety regulations, with a further 20,000 dying prematurely following an injury sustained at work. More than 2 million die worldwide – more than are killed in wars.
The majority of these are not tragic accidents, but are avoidable deaths - the result of an employer not making safety a priority. Or worse actively blacklisting safety representatives. When safety drops down the priority list the essential safety culture is lost. That it is a road that leads to the tragedy in Bangladesh.
So today, let’s remember the dead, but also fight for the living.