13/03/2013

Workers' Memorial Day 2013

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One of the key messages that EU-OSHA communicates is that good health and safety is good business. An effective health and safety system saves businesses and States money.

This should not however obscure the fact that it is the injured or ill worker who pays the highest price for occupational accidents and ill health. 

There are various studies that consider the costs of accidents and ill-health, and EU-OSHA is examining the cost of "non-OSH" in 2013. In the United Kingdom, The Health and Safety Executive published Costs to Britain of workplace injuries and work-related ill health: 2010/11 update in which the total cost associated with workplace injuries and ill health (excluding occupational cancers) in Great Britain was estimated to be some 13.4 billion Pounds (about 15.5 billion Euro) of which "somewhat over half of the total cost in 2010/11 fell on individuals". Meanwhile, a Catalan study found that the cost to accident victims in 2007 was 10,415 euros per affected person - over 60% of the total cost of each accident.

The trouble with financial costings is that it fails to transmit the pain of each accident or incidence of ill-health. A more telling study comes from Hrymak and Perezgonzalez in Ireland in which they examined not only the costs but the "effects" of twenty accidents on the worker and the employer. 

For the workers affected, the psychological impact often seems greater than the physical harm suffered. As one of them said, "my wife and two kids suffered as well... I became a different person", or another who noted that "feelings of embarrassment have also affected me. After the accident, I didn't want to go out and socialise because I didn't want people looking at my hand."

This workers' memorial day should be day to consider the full impact of a work injury or ill-health and for all to act to reduce the risk of harm to those who work.