Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Spare a thought ...

Today is International Workers Memorial Day: a time for remembering all the men and women who have died at or as a direct result of their work.

The figures make sobering reading.

According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), across the world:

  • each year, more than 2 million women and men die as a result of work-related accidents and diseases;

  • workers suffer approximately 270 million occupational accidents each year and fall victim to some 160 million incidents of work-related illnesses;

  • hazardous substances kill 440,000 workers annually – asbestos alone claims 100,000 lives;

  • one worker dies every 15 seconds worldwide; 6,000 workers die every day. More people die at work than die fighting in wars.

  • So today is partly about raising awareness of that hidden toll.

    In the UK, there is a belief among some people that health and safety is bad – usually because it's used as an excuse by organisations that don't want to or cannot afford to do something, or are terrified of potential litigation: there is no ban on children playing conkers, for instance.

    But some companies still try to claim that health and safety costs too much – as if pounds, shillings and pence, and a perceived inconvenience of implementation) are more important than human lives – and some companies are simply sloppy in their implementation of health and safety.

    An acquaintance of mine was injured at work three years ago. Sent to clean a wall, he was given the wrong ladder for the job. It slipped. He went with it, crashing down onto his back and head. There was no trained first aider on site: a manager gave his back a rub and told him to go home – driving himself, after hitting his head.

    His back gives him almost constant pain. He's fighting for compensation – but it won't actually take away the pain or the prospect of major spinal surgery that doctors are discussing.

    And all because some small, basic precautions were not taken. This was not a small company either, but one of the biggest in the UK.

    I was on a construction site, photographing today's ceremony – the first year in which it has been an officially recognised day in the UK. Kitted out in proper safety boots, visibility jacket and hard hat, I was escorted up several floors by one of the site managers. He explained that, not only is smoking not allowed on site (they have a special area set aside), but neither are mobile phones. If that sounds petty, then think about how concentrating on a phone call could quite easily make you lose concentration on what you were doing, where you were walking etc. And on a construction site, that has the potential for serious problems – not just for the individual on the phone, but for their colleagues too.

    Health and safety exists for a reason.

    So today, wear your purple ribbon with pride: remember the dead – and fight for the living.

    No comments:

    Post a Comment