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Ceremonies were held at memorial sites across the country last week (April 28) to remember all those who went out to work but never came home because they were killed in accidents.

Workers’ Memorial Day also provides opportunities to reflect on the thousands of early deaths that happen each year as a result of work-related ill health, such as asbestos-related conditions and other cancers and lung diseases.

There are dozens of permanent memorials to lost workers around the UK, and many people will be attending them to take part in ceremonies today. Some of the memorials commemorate high-profile disasters that claimed the lives of many workers while others remember lesser-known accidents in which one or two people were killed while doing their jobs. RoSPA's National Occupational Safety and Health Committee initiated the creation of a website to provide comprehensive information about the memorial sites, which was launched in time for last year’s awareness day. The website has been updated for this year’s event. See
www.rospa.com/occupationalsafety/memorial/ for details.

Roger Bibbings, occupational safety adviser at the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), said: “Workers’ Memorial Day provides a poignant reminder of lives lost or changed forever because of work-related accidents and ill health. In recent years, the number of fatal accidents at work has reduced significantly, but many thousands of people - estimated conservatively at 20,000 - die early every year due to the long-term effects of occupational injury or disease. Hundreds of people are also killed each year in work-related road accidents.

“In addition to fatalities, we know that millions of working days are lost each year due to work-related injury and ill health. For example, in 2009/10, 23.4million days were lost due to work-related ill health and 5.1million due to workplace injury, with the annual cost to society estimated at close to £30billion - or nearly three per cent of Gross Domestic Product.

“And, we should not forget that the human costs of accidents and ill health extend beyond the victims to their families, for whom grief can last a lifetime or the strain of caring for an injured loved one can take an immense toll over time.

“There have been loud calls to reduce red tape and clamp down on over-the-top decisions made in the name of health and safety. Moves to achieve this are important and they confirm that good and sensible health and safety management does not have to be complicated.

“However, we must avoid down-playing health and safety and suggesting that, in some industries, it is a ‘job done’ and little more effort is needed. There are still major issues to tackle and events like Workers’ Memorial Day provide added impetus for action.”

International Workers’ Memorial Day is recognised around the world and, for the second consecutive year, it has official Government recognition in the UK. Visit
www.direct.gov.uk/en/Nl1/Newsroom/DG_196896 for more information

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