Look back in anger? A brief guide to Worker Memorial Day

iStock_000002482727SmallEvery year at RoSPA, we come together to celebrate Worker Memorial Day, an occasion when the world unites to focus on emerging trends in the field of occupational Health and Safety, and to draw attention to work-related injuries, diseases and fatalities worldwide.  In this short post, Dr Karen McDonnell, our occupational safety and health policy adviser, explores the issues surrounding the day, and why it should matter to all businesses, big or small…

When is Worker Memorial Day?

The 28th April

What is Worker Memorial Day?

Worker Memorial Day provides an opportunity to reflect on the often unspoken impact of earning a living through remembering those workers killed, disabled, injured or made unwell by their work.

Are we doing enough?

Like ripples on the surface of a dark and stormy pond, the impact of accidents extends far beyond the immediate victim, affecting co-workers, friends and family. After all, we are all entitled to come home safe and healthy at the end of each working day, and when a loved one doesn’t, it’s entirely natural that we’re upset or angry – particularly following an accident that didn’t have to happen.shutterstock_126663773

I know we have come a long way here in the United Kingdom, and that our health and safety system is admired and indeed viewed as an aspirational target for countries around the globe. However if you take time to look back, there is for me a sense of frustration that new generations of workers are being exposed to workplace conditions which during 2013/14 resulted in 1.2 million working people suffering from a work-related illness.

Therefore, while it’s ok to slap ourselves on the back occasionally and reward ourselves for the huge leaps we’ve taken, there is simply no room for complacency. Every mum or dad who went to work last year and didn’t go home to their family last deserves more than that. So does every child who will wake up without a parent next year.

So this year, forget the talk of ‘plateaus’ and ‘improving statistic’ – even one workplace death a year is unacceptable.

Simply put, we need to do more.

Looking beyond the UK

As practitioners and campaigners, RoSPA’s role is to think about what we can do differently to encourage businesses in the wider world to give occupational health and safety its place.

Tragically, accidental injury is a part of public health that is neglected in many developing countries, where industrial activity is increasing, but the health and safety of workers is hardly discussed. We hardly have to turn on the news to see yet another tragic occupational disaster overseas.

Yet we all have a role to play in ensuring the developing world wakes up to the threat of accidents. We can do this by sharing our own individual stories and experiences. After all, it is only by spreading the word that we can we can wake the world up to a revolutionary idea… that accidents don’t have to happen!

For more interviews, insight vital health and safety guides, facts and advice, please sign up to SafetyMatters, RoSPA’s free newsletter, and receive our collection of free original e-books!

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