Workers’ Memorial Day – 28 April 2014 – Mourn for the Dead, Fight for the Living

On Friday I visited the National Mining Museum, Newtongrange to hear Shadow Secretary of State for Wales, Owen Smith MP speak.

The meeting took place in the Memorial Centre, an impressive building dedicated to the memory of those who had lost their lives in the mining industry.

David Hamilton, MP opened the Memorial Centre on the 7th September last year.

That date marked the anniversary of the Knockshinnoch Castle Colliery disaster of 1950, where 129 men were trapped underground for several days.

Although 116 men were rescued, 13 men did not survive.

Today those who have lost loved ones, trade unionists and political activists will gather together to remember all of those who have been killed through work.

I will be attending the Workers Memorial Day commemoration just a few miles away from the National Mining Museum in Bonnyrigg, Midlothian,

Similar gatherings are being held across Scotland, the rest of the UK and around the world.

These events also highlight that it is through campaigning and organising that we do our best to ensure that people are safe at work.

Workers’ Memorial Day was started by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) in 1984 and since then it has become an international event with it being officially recognised for the first time in the UK on 28 April 2010 by the then Labour Government.

I first became interested in Health and Safety through my role as a workplace union rep dealing with cases on behalf of members.

Initially I was supported by other reps and the excellent information provided by Hazards magazine.

I then attended the TUC Heath and Safety courses at Stevenson College, eventually completing the TUC Occupational Health and Safety Diploma.

On these courses I met reps from the Railways, Local Government, Post Office and Nuclear Industry.

The discussions that we had about the issues we faced in the workplace helped us to apply what we were learning to practical situations.

As we see further dilution of Health and Safety legislation the work of the TUC and union reps has never been more important.

You may not be able to attend an event today but please take a moment to remember those who went to work but never came back.

The Bonnyrigg commemoration takes place at 12.30pm at the IWMD Memorial, George V Park.

There will also be a ceremony in Edinburgh at 12.30pm at the IWMD Tree and memorial, West Princess Street Gardens.

UK Health and Safety Record 2012/13

  • 148 workers killed at work
  • 1.1 million working people were suffering from a work-related illness (2011/12)
  • 27 million working days were lost due to work-related illness and workplace injury (2011/12)
  • Workplace injuries and ill health (excluding cancer) cost an estimated £13.8 billion (2010/11)

(From Health and Safety Statistics: http://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics)

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