Every year, on 28th April, workers across the world mark ‘Workers Memorial Day’. This is time set aside to remember those injured, made sick or killed by hazards in their workplaces. The Health and Safety Executive report 144 worker deaths in their 2017/18 figures, with 1.4 million people suffering from a work-related illness. This year, the date falls on a Sunday, so UNISON branches are marking the event in the week before and after the date.
The slogan for Workers Memorial Day is “remember the dead; fight for the living.” UNISON believe that one way to make our workplaces safer – to “fight for the living” – is to build a strong trade union, one that treats health and safety as a priority. To do this, UNISON has a network of Health and Safety representatives whose focus is investigating potential hazards, consulting members on working conditions and lobbying employers to improve safety.
Workers Memorial Day is a great opportunity to raise the profile of this important work. Sometimes the work involved in keeping our work places safe isn’t always high profile, as UNISON Hampshire Health branch Health and Safety Officer Helen Sanders explains:
“Every year people are killed and suffer accidents or ill health at work, simply because their employers have decided that health and safety is not a priority. Unison believes that health and safety is an issue for everyone, which is why we continue to campaign to make workplaces safer, tackling seemingly harmless working practices which can lead to serious injury, illness or even threaten your life.”
That’s why at the NHS England/Improvement in Southampton, Helen joined local Health and Safety rep Trevor Gardiner for a special risk inspection of the Oakley Road workplace. Both wore hi-vis vests to make them stand out and flyered staff on their way to work, letting them know UNISON were checking the site later that day. After all, what better way to mark the date than by making sure that the union role in reducing working injuries was clearly visible? Trevor outlined:
“Attention to health and safety is not just about being socially responsible. It also makes good operational sense and you should regard it as just as important as the achievement of any other key objective. We work in services that the public reply on and it is incumbent on everyone to ensure that we are able to provide efficient and continuing support for their needs.”
It is the responsibility of all staff to report any health and safety concerns they have in their workplace. If you are concerned about risks where you work or want to find out more about the role of unions in keeping workers safe, please contact your branch.