Every 28th April marks International Workers’ Memorial Day – a global day of commemoration for those who have lost their lives at work, or from work-related injury and diseases.
The simple fact is that more people die every year at work than at war. For workers across the UK, being injured or dying at work has always been a possibility they have to face.
However, there will no doubt be many who would previously have thought that getting injured or dying at work is not something that would impact workers here in the UK – that our existing workplace protections are a sufficient safeguard against employers who do not properly value the safety of their employees.
The last year will have served to shatter that illusion and bring home the stark reality that many of us have our safety risked at work, sometimes without even realising.
As I write this, official figures for Coronavirus deaths in the UK exceed 120,000. An analysis by the ONS (Office of National Statistics) have shown that some groups of occupations continued to have higher rates of death than others, including health and social care workers, construction workers and cleaners as well as those operating machinery in factories and transport drivers such as taxi or bus drivers.
Reasons for this are complicated, with factors like the level of exposure to others before and during lockdown, the ability to work from home, whether an occupation was furloughed, and where someone lives all playing a role.
The theme for International Workers’ Memorial Day this year is ‘Health and Safety is a fundamental workers’ right’. For Community, the safety of our members at work is paramount. We are determined to make sure that the experiences of the pandemic are not forgotten, and that a renewed conversation happens around health and safety at work.
No one should have to work in an unsafe environment. That doesn’t just mean physical safety, but also protection from bullying, harassment, stress and substance misuse. Through our training and front-line support we’re working towards a safer Britain, and there are multiple ways in which your union can support you with your health and safety at work.
If you’re a Community member and are concerned about health and safety in your workplace, our expert advisors are on hand and able to talk you through your options. If it is a particularly complicated problem, such as one related to bullying or harassment, a workplace rep can attend meetings with you to make sure change is implemented.
If you’re a member of Community in a recognised workplace, find out who your health and safety rep is so you know who to go to with any concerns. Reps carry out health and safety inspections in the workplace, investigate complaints on behalf of members, and make sure their employer is providing a safe and healthy working environment.
Everybody should be able to go to work with the peace of mind that their health isn’t being put at risk. For anyone who doesn’t, I’d say: your union is here for you.