During last weekend’s Workers Memorial Day service at St John’s Church, dedicated to health and safety at work I was reminded of the award winning Titanic Museum in Belfast.
In the dock where Titanic was built there are the names of those who died or were injured, the empty spaces left for day labourers whose names were never known or recorded. Nearer to home we have the memorial in Earsdon Churchyard to the 204 men and boys killed in the New Hartley pit disaster. Health and safety has of course come a long way since then but there is never room for complacency. Construction and fishing, to name but two, remain dangerous occupations, there’s the danger of asbestos in the work place and a relatively new awareness of mental, as well as physical, health at work.
Parliament is currently considering a raft of statutory instruments seeking to retain high standards at work when we exit the European Union and retention of worker’s rights are one of the areas Government is to try to win support for the Prime Minister’s deal. The problem the Government has is that any deal wouldn’t bind future Governments and wouldn’t be worth the paper they were printed on. Furthermore some free market Brexiteers regard health and safety rules as burdens imposed by the EU. For them economic competition need not inevitably mean low wages and dangerous workplaces. Unfortunately our graveyards show otherwise.