The four workers killed at Gleison Colliery in the Swansea Valley worked at a small “drift” mine, one of very few left in Wales. It appears that blasting at the mine caused catastrophic flooding and a roof fall, trapping those working nearest the coal face.
Most of us thought this kind of story was in the Britain of the past. It is not, and it is one of our jobs as socialists and trade unionists to remind people of the toll of injuries and death in workplaces today.
171 workers died in workplace accidents in the period from May 2010 to April 2011. The figure was up on the previous year .
On average, every hour of every day someone in Britain dies of “occupational”-related cancer . Most of these deaths go unreported by all but the local press. The national press prefer stories about health and safety “gone mad”.
The government has set out to attack health and safety regulations. David Cameron even mentioned “health and safety culture” as one of the causes of the riots over the summer.
Lord Young’s report recommended reducing inspections by the Heath and Safety Executive and a commission to look at reducing regulation on business. This commission is due to report soon.
The attack on legal aid will severely hamper workers’ attempts to seek legal redress for their bosses’ negligence and indifference.
Profit has always been more important to the capitalist system then the lives and well-being of workers. The history of our movement, from the struggle for the 10 Hours Act and then for an eight hour day, in the nineteenth century is also the history of the fight for the right to work without being maimed, killed or having our long term health destroyed.
We must make the unions and the Labour Party fight to defend those victories and to extend them. That is the way to ensure the obscenity of workers dying avoidably due to profit actually becomes history.