Every year more people are
killed at work than in wars. Most don’t die of mystery ailments, or in tragic
‘accidents’. They die because an employer decided their safety just wasn’t that
important a priority. Workers’ Memorial Day commemorates those workers.
Workers’ Memorial Day is held on
28 April every year. All over the world workers and their representatives
conduct events, demonstrations, vigils and a whole host of other activities to
mark the day.(1)
This year, in London, members of
the Islington Trades Council marched with about 100 others to the Health and
Safety Executive Headquarters (HSE) and then to City Hall where speakers from
the trade union movement, campaigners and the families of those killed at or by
work spoke to the gathered crowd.
Mike Hutin spoke about his son
Andrew, who was one of three steel workers killed when a furnace exploded at
the Corus plant in Port
|Mike Hutin – son killed at Corus furnace explosion|
Talbot, South Wales, in 2001. The explosion at the
number 5 furnace also injured 12 other workers. Mike said his son was a fourth
generation steel worker and some might say that, "steel is in our blood,
but he would add that now, our blood is in the steel." He went on to say
how no individual from Corus was ever penalized and he is still not sure if
another accident like it won’t happen again.
Liliana Alexa spoke about how
her son Michael was killed in a crane disaster in 2006. He was one of two young
men who tragically lost their lives when a crane, produced by the Falcon crane
company, collapsed in Battersea. Michael was innocently taking care of his car
when the crane, which was approximately 34 years old, crashed down on top of
him. The other young man who died was the crane driver. A nearby low-rise block
of flats was also badly damaged, resulting in the whole block being evacuated
for a week. Speaking about her uphill battle for justice, Liliana said
"The whole system is designed to make individuals feel powerless against
these powerful, impenetrable companies."
The mother of 24 year old Simon
Jones told us how her son was killed on his first day as a casual worker at
Euromin’s Shoreham dock – his head crushed by the grab of a crane. To save
time, the company failed to use the appropriate attachment for the job. Simon
got the job unloading ships at Euromin’s dock through an employment agency,
despite having no training or experience in this dangerous and skilled work.
Despite the fight by the family, the company was cleared of corporate
manslaughter charges in 2001. The bereaved mother also talked about how the
police are totally untrained about how to properly investigate corporate crime.
Other speakers included Labour
MP Jeremy Corbyn, Mick Holden from the Hazards Campaign, Tony O’Brian from the
Construction Safety Campaign and Pat Sikorsky from the RMT. Pat cited other
avoidable work disasters like the Clapham rail crash, the Hatfield crash that
killed 4, the fire at Kings Cross, and the Ladbroke Grove rail crash that
killed 31- to name a few.
|Matt Wrack, FBU Gen Sec, speaks to crowd|
Matt Wrack, the general
secretary of the Fire Brigades Union said how firefighters have had to attend
far too many funerals for their colleagues and that only by organising
together, can we enforce safety standards and accountability.
Recent statistics provided by
The Hazards Campaign state that 220 workers and 361 members of the public were
killed last year according to HSE work-related fatality figures. In addition
about 1,000 people are killed on the roads each year on work-related road
traffic accidents. The HSE says 70% of these deaths are due to management
failure. Breaking Health and Safety Law is a criminal act, but only about 11
employers have ever been jailed for killing people at work.