banner unionsafete

CWU's Dave Joyce Attends His Final Event Representing The Union

The Chelmsford IWMD 2024 Event

After attending his final CWU Conference this week, today's event is the final event for Dave as the CWU's Health, Safety, and Environment Officer as he is about to retire at the grand old age of 70 years!

In doing so, Dave reflects on the last 50 years of H&S legislation in the UK, and remembers those who have lost their lives due to the actions and decisions of businesses putting profit before the lives of their workforce.

Here he shares with unionsafety readers the IWMD 2024 speech he gave to those, including CWU Eastern No 5 branch members at Chelmsford Central Park:

2024 marks 50 years since the introduction of the Health & Safety at Work Act (1974) and three years after that Trade union safety reps received statutory recognition through the Safety Representatives and Safety Committees Regulations of 1977. For Trade Unions and Workers these are two of the most important pieces of legislation ever to be introduced in the UK.

That ground-breaking legislation which has influenced regulatory approaches around the world took work-related deaths in Britain from an undoubtedly underestimated figure of over 1,000 a year in the early 1970s, to around a fifth of that today based on the HSE's official figures.

That progress is welcomed but, however, as we know those figures don't tell the full story as there are many exclusions such work related road accidents and work related suicides.

Dave Joyce lays a wreath from the CWUAnd work-related death and injuries are still far too high.

On the HSE figures alone, 10,000 workers have dies since the 74 Act came into being.

A third of all road deaths and a fifth of all serious road accident injuries are sustained in accidents involving drivers and riders which would add a further 25,000 work-related deaths to the running total since the 74 Act came into force!

The most recent annual statistics from government and HSE in respect of work related ill health and workplace injuries reports:-

  • 875,000 workers suffering from a work related stress, depression or anxiety
  • 473,000 workers suffering from a work-related Musculo-skeletal injury
  • 2,300 mesothelioma deaths due to asbestos exposure
  • 135 killed last year.

With 561,000 working people sustaining an injury at work according to the Labour Force Survey.

Add to this the fact that HSE data shows that around 12,000 people die from lung diseases annually linked to past exposure from work, and there are an estimated 19,000 new cases of breathing and lung conditions a year, caused or made worse by work - The numbers aren't good they're frightening.
With 35 Million working days lost, the estimated cost of these injuries and ill health has reached £21 billion with the indications that this trend will continue.

Aside from the personal loss, pain and suffering, you would think that from the shear economic impact alone would draw more attention and effort from government to make work safer.

This year’s WMD theme is "Climate Crisis and Workers’ Health" focusing  on the impacts of climate change, heat stress, air pollution and that's a key area of concern for Postal and Telecommunication workers - CWU Members, the majority of whom have outside jobs in extreme weather conditions cold winters and hot summers and we in the CWU take seriously UV Sunlight exposure, skin cancer risks, heat stroke and dehydration from manual work.

In 2022, the hottest year on record in the UK, and first ever 'red-warning' temperatures, the CWU reached agreement to stop all outdoor work when temperatures hit 35C.

The UK Health Security Agency has claimed that Climate change will have deadly effects on physical and mental health if nations fail to take steps to mitigate the “emerging reality” of global warming.

According to the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine -In 2022 an estimated 4,507 deaths were associated with the hottest days in England.

According to estimates provided to the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), 80,800 people suffered injuries at work due to heat exposure in 2020 and 67 people died as a result of working in extreme heat. 

It means the EU has seen a 42% increase in heat-related workplace fatalities since 2000.

The European Environment Agency has also stated that heatwaves in Europe have already resulted in increased incidences of heat stroke and fatalities among outdoor workers.

The ETUC’s European election manifesto calls for EU legislation that establishes temperature limits for work to prevent workers from risk associated to climate change.

Since the early 1990s, melanoma skin cancer incidence rates have more than doubled - up 140% in the UK. Rates for Women have around doubled (106%), and rates in Men have almost tripled (186%).

It's easy to get caught up in facts and figures when thinking about workplace health and safety but we must always keep at the fore front of our minds that its real people and their families who are affected.

What is for sure is that Trade Unions and their army of Safety Representatives are the most effective tool for ensuring good health and safety in the workplace, fighting for employer compliance and for the enforcement of safer and healthier workplaces, challenging intransigent, irresponsible employers who put productivity and profit before safety. Our Safety Reps are more often than not, the first to raise issues that go on to become accepted problems such as work-stress, musculoskeletal manual handling issues and dust exposure for example.

image: Tory H&S Reports - click to go to the E-libraryInternational Workers’ Memorial Day was formally recognised by the Labour Government led by Gordon Brown in 2010. Since then we've had to tolerate anti-Union, anti Health and Safety Tory and Tory led Coalition Governments that have hollowed out the HSE, slashing the regulator's budget in half, reducing its ability to police health and safety, inspect workplaces and enforce the law - reducing it to a 'paper tiger'. 

The Tories also initiated the anti-health and safety 'Young Report' and 'Loftsted Report' which led amongst other things to Section 69 of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 which penalised workers by removing employers civil liability for statutory breaches of health and safety law so protecting bosses at the expense of workers - making it tougher to win personal injury damages from employers.

And don't forget the Grenfell Tower disaster. Only after 76 innocent people died because of totally inadequate fire safety law did the UK government introduce more stringent regulations to promote fire safety and introduce new a new Building Safety Regulator along with powers to impose harsher penalties for malpractice - this after neglecting and undermining safety laws for years.

The General Election later this year offers the prospect of returning Labour Government and the chance to turn the tide on regulating and policing health and safety and supporting Safety Reps.

We want to see a timetable from the government for the 6 million tons of Asbestos in 1.5 million UK Buildings to be removed and we want to see RAAC (reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete) that's endangering workplaces across the nation with the risk of structural deterioration and collapse dealt with urgently.

Postal Workers were heroes during the pandemic, with no furlough for any of them - they kept the country connected, kept companies in business, keep workers in jobs and kept the nation, government and the NHS served, delivering a 50% increase in parcel traffic and 1.25 million Test Kits delivered a day.

The CWU has written to Labour Leader Keir Starmer and his shadow cabinet with our demands and we want to see positive changes including further controls and better enforcement of dangerous dogs law and the overdue banning of low level letter boxes amongst many other work-safety improvements.

Remember, the vast majority of work-related accidents and ill health can be prevented. The challenge is to build and maintain a preventive safety and health culture that permeates all society. Such a culture must be based on the right to a healthy work environment and on the principle of prevention with employers help to account - because without accountability you don't get progress!

The most effective form of prevention is enforcement and that's where the new government comes in by shifting safety up the priority agenda. We'll fight for a situation where work-related injury, ill-health and death are seen as socially unacceptable.

We'll continue to face the challenges and ensure that health and safety remains at the top of the  trade union agenda.

Good pay, terms and conditions are diminished if we don't have our health and our lives to enjoy and we must all ensure this doesn't slip down the list of priorities.

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) reports that across the world, every day, people die as a result of occupational accidents or work-related diseases – with more than 2.8 million deaths a year plus some 374 million non-fatal work-related injuries.

The ILO aims to create worldwide awareness of the dimensions and consequences of work-related accidents, injuries and diseases and to place the health and safety of all workers on the international agenda to stimulate and support practical action at all levels  - let's today make that our mantra as we today remember the dead and continue our fight for the living.

Thank You.....

See also: Unionsafety's International Workers' Memorial Day Archive

Pic: click to go back to news

Designed, Hosted and Maintained by Union Safety Services