International Workers Memorial Day: Fighting for the right to health & safety in the workplace

Today marks International Workers Memorial Day (IWMD), a time when the international labour movement commemorates all those killed in workplace accidents or due to occupational diseases under the slogan: ‘Remember the Dead: Fight for the Living‘.

Jeff Smith, Labour MP for Manchester Withington, has backed USDAW’s call for the government to give the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) the powers and resources it needs to keep workers safe.

USDAW have highlighted that cuts to HSE must be reversed so it has the resources to strengthen work with unions and employers to ensure that ‘health and safety is a right not a privilege’ for workers; the theme for this year’s IWMD. This comes ahead of the International Labour Conference this June, as trade unions everywhere demand that long overdue steps are taken to make workplace safety a reality for everyone.

Since 2019, nine million workers worldwide have died due to occupational illnesses and injuries as a result of their work. The pandemic has further highlighted the need to reduce health risks in the workplace.

In May of last year, the TUC reported that employers had notified the HSE of 387 work-related Covid deaths since April 2020. The Office for National Statistics identified 15,263 people of working age who died from Covid over the same period. Employers were required to report work-related Covid cases and deaths within 10 days. The TUC, however, has claimed that this legislative obligation was regularly disregarded because firms were allowed to determine themselves whether diseases occurred inside or outside of the workplace.

Sharan Burrow the ITUC General Secretary has said:

‘We need workplace safety representatives, joint safety committees with employers and a five-fold increase in access to occupational health services so that everyone at work is protected.’

Jeff Smith MP said:

‘Making occupational health and safety a fundamental principle and right at work is not only in the best interests of workers, but also employers and governments. This International Workers Memorial Day we must redouble our efforts to end preventable deaths in the workplace.’

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