Workers' Memorial Day - April 28

Workers Memorial Day

Each year, April 28 is designated as Workers' Memorial Day, providing the opportunity to reflect on the many people who are killed, seriously injured or made ill while doing their jobs.

There are dozens of permanent memorials to lost workers around the UK, and many of them host ceremonies on April 28.

Some of the memorials commemorate high-profile disasters that claimed the lives of many workers and others remember lesser-known accidents in which one or two workers were killed.

In 2010, RoSPA's National Occupational Safety and Health Committee initiated the creation of a website - www.sheilapantry.com/memorial/ - to provide comprehensive information about the memorial sites.

The website, put together by health and safety information expert Sheila Pantry, is updated regularly. It includes location information about a variety of memorials, as well as photographs, details of temporary commemorative sites, links to other sources of information and a diary of events.

Among the many permanent memorials listed on the website are those dedicated to victims of disasters at the Piper Alpha oilrig near Aberdeen, the Flixborough chemical plant in Lincolnshire and the Senghenydd mine in Wales.

Memorials added to the site include: the Six Bells Colliery Disaster Memorial near Aberdeeg in South Wales, which remembers 45 workers killed in a gas and dust explosion in 1960; Postman's Park in the City of London, which remembers men and women who gave their lives while attempting to save others; and two memorials to Mathew Gilbert, who was killed during the construction of Heathrow Terminal 5 in 2005.

But it must be remembered that for every catastrophe involving multiple fatalities, there are hundreds more accidents for which there is no public memorial. Grieving families, colleagues and employers mark these accidents quietly.

A memorial day for workers - now observed in 19 countries - was first recognised in Canada in 1984.

Since 1989, trade unions across the world have organised events on or near April 28, which is the anniversary of the Occupational Health and Safety Act in the USA. In 2001, the International Labour Organisation also declared April 28 as International Day of Action for Safety and Health at Work.

Workers' Memorial Day was officially recognised in the UK for the first time in 2010.

To have a memorial listed on the website, email Sheila Pantry at sp@sheilapantry.com.

Workers Memorial Day

A hundred years safer

Ian McMillan
Photograph by
Adrian Mealing

In 2017, RoSPA commissioned acclaimed poet Ian McMillan to write a poem to commemorate Workers’ Memorial Day. The poem – A hundred years safer – explores common workplace health and safety themes and relates them to the human cost of safety failings, while the title is a reference to 2016/17 being RoSPA’s centenary year.

A HUNDRED YEARS SAFER
Do not trip or fall
Into this poem. Do not get
Entangled in these lines.
Let’s all come home smiling
In the evening.
Let’s sit in the garden’s
Soft sunshine;
Do not bend to lift
These rhyming verses:
Take a moment, think
And look around.
Gravity and carelessness
Can do for you,
Send you tumbling
To the stony ground.
Keeping safe’s a gift
We all should open:
Hard hats, hi-vis jackets
Do their job. Do not leave
Your safety to the others:
Laughter is more welcome
Than a sob. Loved ones
Watching for the headlights
Turning on the corner
Of the street: seat belt on
And driving to the limit.
You’ve returned,
The poem is complete.
A hundred years safer,
no small feat.
© Ian McMillan | @IMcMillan

Audio version read by Ian McMillan


Further Information

Wolverhampton Workers' Memorial Day

TUC - http://www.tuc.org.uk/workplace-issues/health-and-safety/workers-memorial-day

International Workers' Memorial Day - http://www.hazards.org/wmd/


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