The grainy world of black and white television left vivid memories for those who watched the reporting of the Aberfan disaster. A pre-social media world of news print, no colour was needed to convey the devastating loss of 116 children and 28 adults engulfed in fast flowing slurry from colliery waste tip no.7, as the Merthyr Vale Colliery produced coal. It has cast a shadow over the community for 50 years.
An accident that didn’t have to happen. Nearly six-years-old at the time, I recall my mum being really upset, wondering how people would ever recover from losing their children. Fifty years on you can try to understand the impact and ‘hear’ the voices but the gaps left in families and the community perpetuate, robbed of growing up and growing old, a generation of new lives drowned in a black tidal wave.
The aftermath was a turbulent time, grief mixed with anger and a need to understand what went wrong and how to prevent it happening again. There has been a shift over time from a reactive to proactive health and safety legislation, and the requirement for employers "to conduct his undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that persons not in his employment who may be affected thereby are not thereby exposed to risks to their health or safety”.
One life, 50 lives, 144 lives – accidents are the principal cause of premature, preventable death for most of a person’s life. So tomorrow, Friday October 21, at 9.15am, take time out to reflect on Aberfan.
Karen McDonnell, occupational safety and health policy adviser
Posted: 10/20/2016 3:42:03 PM