GMB union Health & Safety in the workplace

This month of April we remember deaths at work across the world on International Workers Memorial Day (April 28)

15 April 2021

Workers continue to die at work in 2021 as we mark Workers Memorial Day in April

The Health & Safety At Work Act was introduced in 1974, after decades of campaigning by trade unions to bring better protection to working people.

One of the highlights of this important legislation, was that it not only addressed dangerous conditions in factories, mines and mills for workers, but demanded employers take on responsibility for anyone affected by their actions. Following the Aberfan disaster where a slag heap of coal, slurry and chemicals slid down a Welsh valley colliding with the local school and killing 116 children and 28 teachers, the law needed to ensure protection to communities as well as the workers.

So employers who dump chemical waste or damage the environment in other ways are culpable. Endangering members of the public are dealt with in the HASAWA 1974, duties to protect the physical and mental health of anyone affected by their production or actions were introduced. Aimed at providing guidance to employers on welfare, health and safety issues, holding them to account for failing to act responsibly was welcomed by the labour movement, while upsetting many of the establishment and those who wielded the power. It meant the changes required investment in safer equipment and processes. It meant increased financial costs to employers and boards of directors pocketing less profits.

Importantly from our point of view, it meant less costs for working people in respect of injuries and deaths, although we still have to commemorate tragedies caused by the ignoring health and safety rules and regulations. This month of April we remember deaths at work across the world on International Workers Memorial Day (April 28) where thousands are still dying, including over 100 every single day in this country alone. Many deaths caused by accidents which could and should have been avoided. Many families devastated because of lack of action, some workers killed on the spot others dying slowly of poisoning by materials such as asbestosis or diesel fumes fatalities like COPD.

Here on Merseyside and around the world we remember the 96 Liverpool fans who died at Hillsborough. Killed through incompetence and the ignoring health and safety laws. Inadequate risk assessments on the state of the ground and lack of safety procedures all combined to destroy many lives and leave a lasting legacy of a tragedy driven by an absence of doing the right thing. Let us not forget the dead and their friends and families, but we also must never tire of telling the world about why health and safety regulations need to be in place and followed to the word., that is to save lives and protect people from injury.

Paul Holleran

Health & Safety Officer

GMB trade union

North West & Irish Region