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Remembering the importance of at-work safety

Workers’ Memorial Day took place on Saturday 28th April, to mark the many thousands of lives lost due to workplace accidents or ill health.

The internationally recognised annual event gives people across the world the chance to remember those who were killed or seriously injured while doing their job or who suffered work-related ill health, such as asbestos-related conditions.

In addition to work-related fatalities due to accidents, of which there were 171 in Britain in 2010/11 (not including an estimated 600 deaths due to work-related road accidents), there are many thousands of early deaths a year due to past exposure to hazardous working conditions.

Millions of working days are also lost each year due to work-related injury and ill health. For example, in Britain in 2010/11, 22.1 million days were lost due to work-related ill health and 4.4 million due to workplace injury, with the annual cost to society of workplace injuries and ill health (excluding cancer) estimated at £14 billion in 2009/10.

“The price of a workplace accident is enormous, with each fatal accident costing society about £1.5million and each reportable injury costing £17,400,” said Roger Bibbings MBE, RoSPA’s occupational safety adviser.

“Yet money is irrelevant when placed next to the heart-breaking pain of personal tragedy. The list of memorials on our website is just the tip of the iceberg. Over the years, many thousands of families have had their lives shattered due to workplace accidents and ill health. This is why the case for maintaining sensible measures to control health and safety risks is so important and must not be undermined by silly stories that suggest ‘elf ‘n’ safety’ has gone mad.”