Workers' Memorial Day 2014
The human cost of failing to protect workers is terrible. The ILO estimates that about 2 300 000 people - men, women, and children - die every year from work-related accidents and diseases. In Europe, more than 5 500 people lose their lives as a result of workplace accidents and a further 159,000 die as a result of work-related illnesses.
The victims of poor working conditions extend beyond the workers themselves, They include the families of the workers lost, who not only suffer emotional trauma but also may be left in a precarious financial position due to the loss of income.
An assessment-based practical approach to workplace prevention, with management showing commitment and leadership to running their business safely and healthily, and with workers engaged in the prevention process can lead to better business, reduced costs to society - and a lower death toll.
On Workers' Memorial Day, commemorated every 28 April since it was started in Canada in 1984, workers' organisations campaign with the slogan "remember the dead, fight for the living" to ensure safe and healthy work for all.
Work by the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work shows that worker involvement is essential for effective prevention. It is often the workers who really know what is dangerous about a task. It is the workers who know how a job is really done, so can inform on how prevention measures can be best put in place.
Workers representatives do not just help communicate this essential information to the employer. The ESENER survey carried out by EU-OSHA shows a clear correlation between the existence of health and safety management measures and the existence of formal employee representation.
Where there is good worker involvement and leadership on occupational safety and health by management, there is a "win-win-win" situation: The workers win by having safer and healthier working conditions. The employer wins through reduced losses. And society wins by not having to pay out social insurance or ill-health costs.
Today, we should not just remember those who have lost their lives, but strive to improve working conditions and ensure decent work for all. By doing this we create a healthier, safer, and richer Europe.