‘Shadow’ of Health and Safety? Fuck you, Cameron

My Granddad was a miner. When I knew him, he had half a finger missing on his right hand. He’d lost the rest of the finger in an accident down the mine.

My other Granddad was a butcher. He had half a finger missing too. An accident with a mincing machine.

Great Uncle Tom had a finger missing. An accident in the factory where he worked. Starting to see a pattern?

Basically, it was normal for working class men of that generation to be missing a finger, or a toe, or have some other minor disability, thanks to a workplace accident. Deaths and serious injuries were rarer, but still far more common than they are now.

These accidents were entirely preventable – with protective clothing, or safety guards on machinery, or different procedures. But safety equipment is expensive, workers’ rights were low, and profits were more important than the bodies of working class men.

Today, in the UK, the number of workplace fatal injuries is 0.6 per 100,000 workers. (2010/11 figures)

In the USA it is 3.5 per 100,000 workers. (2010 figures)

Yes, that’s right, nearly SIX TIMES higher. In the UK 171 people died in workplace accidents in 2010/11. If we had the USA’s rate of deaths it would have been 997 people.

Now this isn’t because knives are sharper in America. Or workers more clumsy. Or bones more breakable.

It’s because we have better regulation and more accountability in this country and a pretty effective Health and Safety executive.

So Cameron can fuck right off with his ‘shadow of health and safety’ nonsense in his party conference speech. I think a much bigger shadow is those 800+ extra people who’d die at work if we had US-style Health and Safety here. Of course they wouldn’t be Cameron’s sons or daughters, brothers or sisters, so maybe he doesn’t have to worry about it. But I think they are people who matter anyway, and I think they are worth protecting.

UPDATE: I’ve just been told about this petition, started by Deborah Orr, for a national memorial to workers who died in the service of industry. We’ve got plenty to the glorious war dead, why don’t we recognise those who’ve died at work?

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Comments

  • Jackie Potter (@jackpot73)  On October 5, 2011 at 5:50 pm

    My father out-law also has half a finger missing (after an accident with an inadequately guarded band saw at work). It’s amazing how common an injury that used to be. And it’s not even that long ago: in his case it happened early-to-mid seventies.

    So yes, I totally agree with you. Health & Safety legislation and enforcement saves lives (and digits)

  • Richard Badge  On October 6, 2011 at 8:08 am

    Seems likely that better legislation and more effective implementation is the main effect here, but was the analysis controlled for different patterns of workplace injuries? – I can imagine that there a few more gardeners / landscape contractors in California than Canterbury for example…

    • sophiacollins  On October 6, 2011 at 12:49 pm

      I’ve just taken the raw figures, I confess. I couldn’t easily find any analysis of why figures vary internationally. I’m sure there are also differences in how figures are calculated, so perhaps a simple comparison is a bit of a blunt instrument.
      I did do some more in-depth research on this a few years ago for an exhibition I was working on and one thing really stuck in my mind. In the UK the professions with the highest death rates were agriculture, building, and waste and recycling. In the USA *retail* was really high. Because people working in American convenience stores get shot during robberies.

  • Hilda Palmer  On January 9, 2012 at 2:44 pm

    I stumbled across this and agree of course, but you may be interested in other groups campaiging on these issues such as FACK – Families Against Corporate Killers- see http:// http://www.fack.org.uk and their Facebook group and DVD ‘Face the FACKS: the human cost of workplace killing’ to your members, mates, employers, £10 from mail@gmhazards.org.uk amd ther Hazards Campaign which has a We Didn’t Vote to Die at Work ’ Campaign against the Con Dem cuts, see: http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/group.php?gid=123746101003963;
    And Hazards magazine: http://www.hazards.org/votetodie/;
    The Hazards Campaign brought Workers Memorial, Day to UK in early 1990s and on 28th April every year there are hundreds of event across UK when we honour workers killed at and by work and ‘Remember the Dead’ and also Fight like Hell for the Living’. So a hell of a lot is going on already and memorial all over the county. I agree with Deborah Orr’s sentiments but wonder ikf sh eis vena wre of International Workers Meoari,Day thta ahs thodsands of events all over the world involving millions of people, and was in 2010 made an official day in UK too! FACK sent Cameron et al a ‘Sod You’ New Year’s card – before he came out with his New Year’s resolution ot kill off health and safety culture- as if we have one!- see http://www.hazards.org/gallery/sodyou.htm.
    On the figures, the 171 the HSE reports as having been killed in incidents at work last year , are only a fraction of those killed by work see . http://www.gmhazards.org.uk/Whole%20story%202009-10%20update.doc, and real number is nearer 1,400 in incidents and up to 50,000 each year due to work-related illness. Tabloid press with its ‘elf and safety’s gorn mad’ mantra, serves the corporate interest very well and most people do not realoise the toll work takes , the numbers harmed, that we all pay 75% of the £30 billion per year cost, and that individuals and their familes bear the real burden, not business. Let’s join together and fight back!

  • Hilda Palmer  On January 9, 2012 at 4:06 pm

    See: Workers Memorial Day – 28yth A[pril evry year- facebook Group http://www.facebook.com/#!/groups/170025585213/

  • Hilda Palmer  On January 9, 2012 at 4:13 pm

    • I stumbled across this and agree of course, but you may be interested in other groups campaiging on these issues such as FACK – Families Against Corporate Killers- see http:// http://www.fack.org.uk and their Facebook group and DVD ‘Face the FACKS: the human cost of workplace killing’ to your members, mates, employers, £10 from mail@gmhazards.org.uk and the Hazards Campaign which has a ‘We Didn’t Vote to Die at Work ’ Campaign against the Con Dem cuts, see: http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/group.php?gid=123746101003963;
    And Hazards magazine: http://www.hazards.org/votetodie/;

    • The Hazards Campaign brought Workers Memorial, Day to UK in early 1990s and on 28th April every year there are hundreds of event across UK when we honour workers killed at and by work and ‘Remember the Dead’ and also Fight like Hell for the Living’. So a hell of a lot is going on already and memorial all over the county. I agree with Deborah Orr’s sentiments but wonder if she is even aware of International Workers Memorial Day that has thousands of events all over the world involving millions of people, and was in 2010 made an official day in UK too!
    • FACK sent Cameron et al a ‘Sod You’ New Year’s card – before he came out with his New Year’s resolution to kill off health and safety culture- as if we have one!- see http://www.hazards.org/gallery/sodyou.htm.
    On the figures, the 171 the HSE reports as having been killed in incidents at work last year , are only a fraction of those killed by work see . http://www.gmhazards.org.uk/Whole%20story%202009-10%20update.doc, and real number is nearer 1,400 in incidents and up to 50,000 each year due to work-related illness. Tabloid press with its ‘elf and safety’s gorn mad’ mantra, serves the corporate interest very well and most people do not realise the toll work takes , the numbers harmed, that we all pay 75% of the £30 billion per year cost, and that individuals and their families bear the real burden, not business. Let’s join together and fight back!

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