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Workers’ Memorial Day

Friday 28th April was Workers’ Memorial Day, which is an annual international event that provides an opportunity to reflect on the many people who are killed, seriously injured or made ill while simply doing their jobs.


Health and Safety at Work Matters

Everyone’s health and safety at work matters – for workers, his or her family and loved ones, and for employers.

Figures released by the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) to mark this important day show that across Europe over 168,000 people die every year from work-related accidents and diseases, and there are over three million reported accidents at work (those resulting in at least four days’ absence from work).

These figures show clearly that health and safety at work should be a very serious issue for everyone, however the ETUC highlights that some workers and risks are still overlooked. It claims that:

  • Workers in precarious jobs, in small and medium sized enterprises, young workers, migrant workers and domestic workers are more at risk than permanent employees in larger workplaces. This is partly due to less training, information, and representation by safety reps for such workers, and in smaller companies. 
  • About one third of building workers are exposed to very dangerous substances like carcinogens, mutagens and reprotoxins. Among all occupations, building workers have the highest probability of premature death.
  • Concentrated in unskilled and risky jobs, migrant workers have more musculoskeletal diseases, skin diseases and accidents at work.
  • Young workers aged 15-24 are at particularly high risk of injury, suggesting the need for health and safety in education and training courses.
  • Hairdressers, traditionally in small businesses and small workplaces, represent about 1% of the entire workforce, but 20 % of women affected by work-related asthma are hairdressers.
  • There is still too little recognition of the risk of exposure for pregnant women to certain workplace conditions (e.g. exposure to chemical agents, ionising radiation, electromagnetic waves, stress, excessive heat, lifting heavy weights, noise etc).
  • Smoke and other pollution from fires greatly increases the risk of cancer, and firefighters urgently need better protection against exposure to cancer risks, and regular health check-ups throughout their lives.

Asbestos Crackdown

“Everyone’s health and safety matters,” said Esther Lynch, Confederal Secretary at the European Trade Union Confederation. “Every worker has the right to a safe and healthy work environment; no one should have to choose between their job and their health.”

The ETUC is also backing calls for a crackdown on international trade in killer asbestos, specifically demanding that the parties to the Rotterdam Convention on trade in hazardous substances, meeting in Geneva, add asbestos to the list of substances subject to tough trade restrictions.

RoSPA Marks Workers’ Memorial Day

Workers’ Memorial Day was marked by several UK safety organisations, including RoSPA.

“Workers’ Memorial Day is commemorated throughout the world and is officially recognised by the UK Government,” commented Sheila Pantry, of RoSPA’s National Occupational Safety and Health Committee. “The purpose behind it has always been to remember all those killed or injured in the workplace or suffering from an occupational disease.”

“We can look back at history and see the improvements that have been made, but everyone – directors, managers, safety representatives and workers – must continue to strive to ensure that such tragedies are not repeated,” she added.

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