Derby News Comment

Workers Memorial Day : Are more accidents waiting to happen?

6X4A2203A short service took place at Derby Cathedral today marking the International Workers Memorial Day. This was established to remember those who died in their work place, and to continue to press for improvements which ensure that workers are protected from hazards.

The slogan that the event uses is “Remember the Dead, Fight for the Living”.

The service was a collaboration between Derby Cathedral and UNISON Derby branch. It was led by the Reverend Andy Trenier.

The statistics are staggering with an estimated 54 people dying each day from work-related accidents and occupational diseases. James Cotes spoke of his experience of sustaining severe injuries to his hand as a result of his employer trying to improve productivity through the removal of guarding. His situation was exacerbated by the company encouraging fellow employees to sign affidavits stating that Mr Cotes had taken unilateral action to remove the health and safety protection.

Craig Stuart, the Health and Safety Officer for the GMB union introduced the theme of the service and was concerned that some of the rhetoric from the Government implied that they were looking to reduce the demands of H&S on business. This is a populist statement by the Government to appeal to the belief that H&S has gone too far, and is unnecessarily intrusive. Some of that is undoubtedly true – but if the pressure is removed then more disreputable employers will see this as an opportunity to takes risks and cut back on costs.

I spoke to Mr Stuart afterwards to seek his views on the legality of the local factories using non-English speaking migrant workers and how that met with the requirements of Health and Safety. His view was that it didn’t. Unfortunately those companies who have a high percentage of migrant workers, on minimum wage, whose alternative is to be on benefits ( or possibly not these days) will be working in non-unionised factories – and were gambling on Health and Safety. As most workers are unlikely to be able to speak the language the question is, how does the company discharge its accountability to ensure that all workers are fully briefed on Health and Safety to minimise the risk of injury, or death. Or is this just another “accident waiting to happen?”

I will endeavour to report more in future articles when I invite the companies, in question, to comment.


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