#IWMD17 – Looking after those who look after us

This Friday, the 28th April is International Workers’ Memorial Day and I will be attending the event at Bonnyrigg, Midlothian which is organised by the local Trades Council.

Recently,  I have been spending a bit of time going back and forward to hospital to visit my dad, thankfully he is now back home.

As an active trade unionist it was good to see that there were a number of UNISON posters dotted around the hospital, highlighting a number of issues including health & safety.

Whilst thankfully, the most recent statistics produced by the Health and Safety Executive for the period 2015/16 show that there were no fatalities in the health sector there are areas of concern for those working in the health sector.

The statistics state:-

Industries with ill health rates statistically significantly higher than the rate for all industries were Human Health and Social Work activities, Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing, Public Administration and Defence and Education.

Looking behind these figures we can see that there are an estimated 4.8 million working days lost each year due to work related illness in the health and social care sector.

There are 4 main categories for absence:-

  • 2.1 Million days through work related stress, depression and anxiety;
  • 1.2 Million days due to musculoskeletal disorders;
  • 0.6 million days through workplace injury;
  • 0.9 million days due to other workplace injuries.

There are also around 78,000 self-reported non-fatal accidents; 27% of these are for slips, trips and falls, 25% lifting and handling, the last category is 21% for physical assault.

At one time or another most of us will make use of the NHS.

It is in our interests to make sure that it is properly funded and run.

But it is also in our interests to make sure that those working in the NHS have a safe and secure environment which to work.

As trade unionists we know that this cannot just be left up to the employer.

Nor, can this be left up to a Health and Safety Executive which has seen its role changed and its funding cut.

The HSE’s Business Plan for 2016/17 shows that the funding the executive receives from central government will be over £100 million less in 2019/20 than it was in 2009/10, bringing the total reduction since 2009/10 to 46%. 

Once again, workers will need to organise themselves in the workplace to ensure that they are protected.

In February of this year UNISON  launched their sixth annual survey into NHS safe staffing.

This survey assess the nurse to patient ratios on wards and will support UNISON’s campaign to improve staffing levels.

The results of the survey in 2016 found that 63% of respondents felt that the number of staff on wards was not adequate enough to ensure safe, dignified and compassionate care.

This should concern not only staff,  but patients and their families.

Sometimes sections of the media try to portray the interests of the public and the interests of workers, being represented by their trade unions, as being inimical to each other.

When it comes to the NHS we need to Face it that it is in all of our interests that things are improved.


A list of International Workers Memorial Day Events and other information about #IWMD17 can be found here.





About bernardharkins

Involved in Labour Party politics and a trade union activist. I live in Musselburgh and I am a Community Councillor. I am interested in running, cycling, reading and music, especially from the 60's.
This entry was posted in Health and Safety, Trade Unions, Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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