Workplace – the true figures

First published in Comment

HOW ironic that Cllr Martyn Cox’s letter (March 29), in which he makes light of workplace Health and Safety issues, should appear a few days before The Bolton News revealed that a cleaning company had been fined £175,000 after a hospital porter was killed by an industrial waste compactor in Bolton. Whilst Cllr Cox’s statistics might be technically correct, they fail to take in the whole picture.

The figure of 171 people dying at work in the last year refers only to workers killed in workplace accidents. These were often grisly deaths, taking wage-earning people from their families. Tragically, many of these deaths could have been avoided if their employers had paid more attention to health and safety.

The overall workplace picture is much worse, however. When people who died from work- related diseases, such as cancer and lung disease, are taken into account, the true figure for last year is more than 20,000 work- related deaths.

In addition, nearly two million people are suffering ill health caused by poor working conditions. Official figures show that work accidents and health problems cost the country more than £12 billion in 2009/10.

Cllr Cox will doubtless be pleased that the Tory-led Government’s response to this is to cut Health and Safety enforcement and inspection, to threaten the laws which help to protect workers and to make it harder for ordinary working people to claim compensation when they are injured at work. On April 28 every year, International Workers’ Memorial Day is supported by workers and unions across the world to remember those killed by work and to fight for the rights of the living. This year the TUC wants it to be a day of action on health and safety and is urging people to write to their MPs in support of it.

The true figures should make even the likes of Cllr Cox accept that this subject is no joke and that we need to take health and safety matters at work seriously.

Cllr Mike Francis Lupin Avenue Farnworth

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