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Article from Hilda Palmer Hazards campaign post-election 

No health, no safety and no justice at work?’ 

Our health and safety will not survive another five years If we don’t fight back, reclaim the health and safety agenda, educate, organise and agitate to make work safe. If we don’t there will be no health, no safety, and no justice at work, for us, our children and their children. Another five years of Tory misrule risk setting in stone the rowing back of all that was hard fought for and won by generations of workers and their unions fighting together for the good of all workers.


Hazards Magazine asks ‘Will we survive another five years? In just one term, the Tories abandoned routine, proactive, preventative safety inspections; slashed HSE budget by up to 44%, pimped out HSE to commercial interests; killed off HSE’s medical division; stacked HSE board with industry stooges; pulled the teeth of gangmasters’ watchdog, priced sick and injured workers out of compensation claims; made employment tribunals pay per go; removed key legal safety provisions by scrapping regulations, ACoPs and dumbing down guidance; told business that health and safety was a burden they shouldn’t be bothered with.’

They have worse in store, promising to attack health and safety even more. After five years even the official HSE statistics show a significant increase in injuries, ill-health and working days lost over the past two years. Work- related stress and musculoskeletal injuries have increased as most workers are working far harder, for longer hours, under more intense scrutiny, with impossible targets, excessive accountability and scrutiny, performance management schemes and punitive sickness absence policies. The increase in zero hours contracts, on top of poverty pay and in-work benefit cuts, add another layer of insecurity and injustice and has pushed many more workers into the precariat. Health and safety about life or death, health or injury and illness, it’s about our lives and workers are paying for lack of good compliance and prevention with their health and lives.

The General Election campaign debate was conspicuously silent on health and safety. The Labour manifesto promised action on zero hours contracts, a blacklisting inquiry and extending the Gangmasters Licensing Authority and support for improving health and safety but gave no details and there was no enthusiasm for the Hazards Campaign 13 step plan for a renewed health and safety system. No-one mentioned that every year in this country work makes 2 million people ill, that 50,000 die of illnesses, and over 1,000 are killed in incidents every year. What work is doing to our lives and health is not even on the political agenda. The business-friendly statements of candidates for the Labour Party leadership threaten to offer no challenge to Tory government action as our capacity to defend ourselves will be even more constrained.


The secret negotiation of the anti-democratic Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, TTIP, between EU and USA also went unmentioned but if agreed, it will have major damaging effects on our whole lives including workplace safety and health. TTIP is fast track deregulation, privatisation and the transfer of power and wealth from workers to capital, from nation to transnational corporations. In 2013, the EU embarked on a deregulatory programme called REFIT and immediately stopped laws on cancers, endocrine disrupting chemicals, nanotechnology and musculo-skeletal disorders (MSDs) , which can perhaps now be seen as due to forthcoming TTIP negotiations and lobbying by trans- national corporations. TTIP proposes ‘Regulatory coherence’ means making higher EU and lower US standards and law the same and this would be a race to the bottom for health and safety, chemicals, and all other protective regulation on food, health and the environment. A Regulatory Cooperation Council will sit above current EU, nation states and US regulatory systems, and allow ‘stakeholders’/corporations to attack existing laws and prevent new ones if they are a barrier to trade and corporate profits. The UN’s top official on trade said, TTIP will produce “a dystopian future in which corporations and not democratically elected governments call the shots.”


What are we going to do? Well not sit back and take it! Work shouldn’t be hell, shouldn’t hurt and certainly shouldn’t kill. Work should be fulfilling, safe and worthwhile, Union organisation can make this happen by working together we can make work healthier and safer and better. We need to regroup, reorganise and defend our lives and health in side our workplaces and outside we must work with others to defend the need for a system of good laws and strict enforcement that is good for us. We are fighting for our lives and those of our children and grandchildren. We must go back to basic organisation as well as being more creative and innovative to reclaim the trade union agenda by showing how health and safety is good for us, good for employers and also whole community, to increase support against attacks and for better regulation and enforcement.


We need to reclaim the health and safety agenda from the lie that it is a ‘burden on business’ and for the lack of HSE and Local Authority enforcement that has allowed commercialised occupational health services to proliferate and peddle non-preventative, individual lifestyle-blaming programmes that circumvent union organisation. These including wellbeing, resilience, engagement and mindfulness, instead of removing the workplace hazards that are making us ill in the first place!


We must put health and safety at the heart of the fight for decent jobs and lives for all. We need to rebuild our workplace organisation, recruit more workers to the union, recruit more safety reps, create and use more effective Safety Committees. We need to use more fully the statutory functions in the Safety Representatives and Safety Committees Regulations – the Brown Book- . to make work safer and healthier.


Families Against Corporate Killers, FACK, tells the stories of how and why their loved ones died- not from too much regulation and enforcement but for far too little! FACK says there is no burden on business but lack of H&S is a huge burden on us. We also need to tell our stories about how zero hours contracts, long hours, impossible workloads, stress bullying, low pay, toxic chemicals are injurying us, making us ill, and often sick to death. 2 million people are made ill by work every year, over 1,000 killed in incidents and up to 50,000 die from past poor working conditions. This horrendous death toll, 140 a day, is invisible to the public mainly as the government lies about ‘burdens on business’ and corporate press collude.

Come to the Hazards 2015 and discuss how we can reclaim the agenda and fight back for our lives.

     Hazards Conference is the UK’s biggest and best educational and organising event for trade union safety  

    reps and activists. Conference activities are a mixture of plenary sessions, debates, meetings and a    

     comprehensive workshop programme. Conference provides delegates with the opportunity to exchange

    experience and information with, and learn from, experts and delegates from other unions, sectors and jobs

    across the UK.


The Hazards Campaign organises this annual conference and campaigns all year round. Hazards 2015 theme is ‘Safety Reps: reclaiming the health and safety agenda’. It runs from 4th to 6th September at Keele University.

     Sponsorship appeal:

     Booking form:


The Hazards Campaign plan for a better health and safety system It’s time to step up and act up for workers health and safety: Hey! Whatcha gonna do? was published in Hazards Magazine a plan for the first 100 days of the new government:

Hazards magazine: the best and most authoritative source of information and analysis on workers’ health and safety. 



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This entry was posted on July 10, 2015 by .
Work cancer hazards

A continually-updated, annotated bibliography of occupational cancer research produced by Hazards magazine, the Alliance for Cancer Prevention and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC).

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