FACK Statement On International Workers' Memorial Day 28 April 2014
We have come here today to collectively remember the dead and fight for the living.
These precious memories of our loved ones are what fuel our fight for the living.
Now, it has been very clearly recognised in recent years that light touch regulation plus risk taking equals economic disaster. In the health and safety arena, light touch regulation plus risk taking equals not deficits, but deaths! It is the very falsest of economies.
All too often, health and safety is described as a “burden on business”. If you hear someone say it, tell them about the real burdens. Tell them about 19-yr-old apprentice Jason Burden.
He was fatally crushed during the repair of a near one-tonne ship’s tunnel thruster which toppled on top of him. The HSE inspector who investigated said that Jason’s “…death could easily have been avoided if his employer had properly considered the risks associated with the repair...”
His dad’s speech for today poignantly notes that the government “waters down its commitment to health and safety with our tears”. And these are tears shed by far far too many. But sadly there are those for whom these tears could be said to be of the crocodile variety.
Following the tragic death of 12-year-old Keane Wallis-Bennett at Liberton High School in Edinburgh, David Cameron said “This was an absolutely shocking accident which people will have seen across the country and their hearts will go out to her family and friends. Lessons will have to be learned to make sure such tragic accidents won’t happen again.”
In the wake of her funeral, his government then issued a press release to schools and local authorities which dealt not with the serious health and safety risks, but with the fripperies of bans on frilly socks, Help for Heroes wristbands, and the bringing of chicks to school.
So, the Prime Minister is correct, lessons must be learned. Most urgently they must be learned by him and his government, whose approach to health and safety matters is deeply and dangerously flawed.
Lessons should be learned by employers and others before innocent lives are lost. But much of the 'red tape' Cameron is slashing and trashing is not imposed by mindless bureaucrats but carefully thought out, devised, evaluated and agreed by HSE plus industry and unions, to protect not only workers but also members of the public and the environment.
He would do well to note the tale of another Cameron, 16-yr-old Cameron Minshull. He was only a few weeks into an apprenticeship when he suffered horrific head injuries after being pulled into an industrial lathe. The HSE Director whose desk this came across thought he was reading a tale from Victorian times. Tragically, this was a modern day horror. And, though this case has yet to come to court, the prohibition notices issued after the death tell their own story, with work ordered to be stopped immediately on very many of his employer’s machines whose guard mechanisms had been “defeated”.
While the deaths of our loved ones often leaves us drained of energy, we refuse to feel defeated. Because no-one we love died due to too much regulation and enforcement but due to far too little.
23-year old Steven Allen was killed by a block grab being used to move cement bags – a purpose expressly forbidden by the manufacturer’s manual. On the morning of going to court to hear the verdict, his mum’s Facebook status said: “In my bag I’ve got Steven’s name tags from when he was born and when he died and I’ve got his first and last locks of hair, a photo of him that I love and lots of tissues...this is it, this is the last time I can fight for you my beautiful son, you deserved so much better in life.”
That is true of all those who lose their lives in work-related incidents. They deserved SO much better from life, from their employers, the enforcement authorities, from politicians. So many children denied their dads or mums as they grow up. All those young people denied the very opportunity to become dads or mums. That is the brutal reality.
Deregulation and slashing enforcement won't make workers safer, or protect ordinary people, it's designed to let corporations and business off the hook. That is why we say “We love red tape, it’s better than bloody bandages!"
FACK was established in July 2006, by and for families of people killed by the gross negligence of business employers.Visit their website here
Trevor Burden's Workers' Memorial Speech is available here
Founder Members of FACK:
Dawn and Paul Adams – son Samuel Adams aged 6 killed at Trafford Centre,10th October 1998
For more information contact Hilda Palmer, Facilitator for FACK: Tel 0161 636 7557 079298 00240