This week I’ve backed demands to make occupational health and safety a fundamental right at work. The campaign was launched by the International Labour Organisation and was the theme for this year’s International Workers Memorial Day yesterday.

At an event to mark International Workers Memorial Day, I spoke to trade unionists who gathered to lay wreathes at the memorial tree outside Sheffield Town Hall in remembrance of those who have died at work.

As a steel city in a coal region, we know the risks of work. They are risks that lead to injury and death when employers don’t prioritise safety, which is why the theme of this year’s event is so important.

It’s 3 years since the ILO agreed, at its centenary conference, agreed the objective and in those three years an estimated 8m people worldwide have died in the workplace. The pandemic has brought it into focus with the risks facing so many front-line workers.

It’s been almost 50 years since a Labour Government introduced the Health and Safety at Work Act, but unfortunately it feels now like we’re moving backwards.

This week, as the Cabinet met to discuss the cost of living crisis, with people struggling to pay energy bills and facing the choice between heating their homes and feeding their families, what were their big ideas? Making MOTs on vehicles less regular and weakening staff/child ratios in nurseries.

Health and safety is top of their hit list, and it’s against a background of employers like P&O willing to break any law and stop at nothing to drive down labour costs at the expense of working people.

We need a renewed commitment to campaign for safe workplaces, to protect physical and mental health, through making health and safety a fundamental right at work.


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