20,000 deaths 'smash workplace safety myth'
Morning Star: 06 September 2010 by Paddy McGuffin
More than 20,000 people are dying from work-related incidents and illness each year, figures published by the TUC have shown.
The figure is far higher than the official government estimate but this fails to take into account many deaths while others remain unreported, the union organisation said.
The TUC claimed its research "smashes the myth" of Britain being a safe place to work and called for the appointment of a "health and safety tsar."
Its research highlights the fact that thousands of workers die through conditions such as occupational cancers and lung disorders or exposure to fumes and chemicals, as well as from traffic accidents, each year.
TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: "Despite the way that health and safety is often pilloried, for those who are made ill or injured at work and for the relatives of those who have died as a result of their work, health and safety is no joke.
"Every one of the 20,000 annual workplace-related deaths could have been prevented and if the level of Health and Safety Executive and local authority funding is cut, the effects will be even more catastrophic."
The TUC called on the government to ignore calls from the business lobby to reduce health and safety legislation before the publication later this month of a review by Lord Young.
Campaigners fear that the review has drastically underestimated the extent of the problem and may favour de-regulation of health and safety inspections.
The TUC report was welcomed by Hazards Campaign spokeswoman Hilda Palmer.
"As the report shows, the vast majority of the fatal and serious injuries, plus the work-related illnesses, are caused by employers failing to obey health and safety law, failing to protect workers' lives and health," she said.
"We fear that unless Lord Young heeds the evidence in the TUC report his findings will condemn more workers to death, injury and ill-health.
"We remind him and the coalition government, that no-one voted to die at work and they have no mandate for wholesale slashing and burning of the health and safety regulation and enforcement system."
Lord Young is expected to publish his report as early as next week.