According to the TUC, every hour someone dies in the UK from a work-related disease. This weekend the TUC marked International Workers’ Memorial Day today (Sunday) with the largest ever number of local events around the UK, which aimed to promote better occupational health services.
The TUC’s figures say that half of those dying from occupational diseases are suffering from asbestos-related diseases, and the others are dying from cancers caused by chemicals, lung conditions caused by dusts, heart disease caused by stress and so on. In addition, thousands of people every year are killed in work-related accidents, and tens of thousands suffer serious injuries and illnesses.
TUC General Secretary John Monks said: “Every hour of every day, a family in Britain loses someone they love. Those personal tragedies mask a public disgrace – because only a third of British workers have access to the sort of occupational health service that could save their lives. Around the world, work kills more people than war. Workers’ Memorial Day is when workers around the world mourn those deaths, and renew our commitment to create decent work at decent wages, not something that kills you.”
The TUC is calling for access to occupational health services for all workers (through a mixture of internal provision by their employers and provision through the NHS); a duty on employers to have a rehabilitation policy for when workers are injured or made ill; more resources for the Health and Safety Executive; and more rights for workplace union safety reps to work in partnership with employers to prevent injuries and illness.
This year Workers’ Memorial Day is for the first time ever being marked officially by the United Nations, whose International Labour Organisation (ILO) in Geneva is organising a series of events worldwide including a memorial event at its Geneva-based headquarters where fire fighters’ unions from New York and around the world (including the FBU in Britain) will commemorate the trade union members and other workers killed on 11 September (a fifth of whom were from the emergency services). Four countries have made it an official day of mourning (Canada, Spain, Taiwan and Thailand).
More information on work-related illnesses and occupational health services.