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Health and safety basics

Employers should:

  • Provide safe and healthy working conditions
  • Provide proper information and training for everyone in all types of workplaces
  • Draw up and circulate procedures for dealing with risks at work
  • Inform all workers of Health and Safety agreements, policies and practices before we start work

Health and safety in the workplace costs money and time and hits profits, so bosses inevitably try to avoid their legal responsibilities. By law, they have to provide health and safety for all workers in their employment. Remember, you have a legal right to walk off the job if you feel in imminent danger.

Casualisation Kills
Almost two million of us are now employed on a temporary basis. Hundreds of us die through work each year and many more are seriously injured. The vast majority of cases are easily preventable. Millions suffer crippling back pain, repetitive strain injuries and many other long-term injuries and illnesses simply because employers put profits first.

All workplaces are potentially dangerous and all work can kill – and the most vulnerable are temporary and agency workers.

The majority of temporary and agency workers are not self-employed but employees, with similar rights to other workers. However, our rights to basic Health and Safety are often neglected or totally ignored.

After only two hours on the job, Simon Jones, an agency worker in Brighton, was beheaded by a crane on Shoreham Docks. He had been sent to his death with no training or care for his life. This is just one shocking example among countless.

Recently, the courts fined a company just £6,000 for breaches of safety laws that led to a worker s death – so, £6,000 is the price of life at work in the UK today.

On average in the UK, 85 construction workers lose their lives in what the government say are mostly predictable and preventable incidents caused by some failure of management by employers (Tony O’Brien, Construction Safety Campaign).

For example: UK construction workers killed in 6 weeks in April/May 2003: 1 death each in Herefordshire, Bedford, Salisbury, Hillingdon, Staffordshire, Leicestershire & Leeds. 2 deaths each in Essex & Durham. 3 deaths in Wales. The youngest victim was aged just 17.

These are not just statistics, these are real people who met tragic and generally violent deaths, leaving families and friends going through the horror of bereavement.

Only by standing together can we prevent bosses from intimidating and victimising us. We cannot leave it to the Government, the bosses, political parties, or the established trade unions. The most effective way of defending our rights is by organising ourselves and taking collective direct action. By forming our own groups where everyone is equal, we can resist exploitation and enforce our rights at work effectively.

Defending our rights is just the start. Once we achieve this, we can start to take the initiative.

Last updated October 2008 and correct to the best of our knowledge.

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