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26 April 2013

April 28: health and safety at work threatened by workers’ lack of voice

“We receive reports of workers dead, injured or suffering from diseases contracted at their workplaces every day – and even if chronically underreported in official statistics, experts estimate that around a million workers get injured every day! What are governments looking at? Don’t they realise that there is a systemic failure when working people have to choose between their own lives and their families’ bread on a daily basis?” asked Sharan Burrow, the General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation, on the eve of the International Commemoration Day for Dead and Injured Workers which is celebrated every year on April 28.

2013 is giving us a shameful death toll in workplace fatalities and accidents. No later than Tuesday we had to deplore the deaths of over 200 Bangladeshi garment workers following the collapse of their workshop in Savar on the outskirts of Dhaka.

“When workers in Savar this week tried not to go back to their workplace, arguing about the risks they incurred, their claims were ignored, their voices fell on deaf ears, and this workplace became the graveyard of hundreds of their fellow colleagues,” said Burrow. “Proper union representation, training, respect and independence for occupational health and safety committees, on-the-ground knowledge of workers – these are all key for these events not to occur in the 21st century.”

In addition to the hundreds of thousands of deaths associated with workplace accidents, we must also remember those who die from occupational diseases such as work-related cancers. The World Health Organisation estimates the annual death toll from asbestos-related diseases at 107,000 each year.

ITUC press release

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