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April 21, 2010

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Vote for your lives, pressure group urges the electorate

A group representing the families of people killed at work is calling on voters to ask their parliamentary candidates exactly what they, their party and their leader are going to do to improve health and safety and punish law-breaking by duty-holders.

Families Against Corporate Killers (FACK) issued the appeal in response to what it sees as a complete lack of positive commitments to health and safety by the three main parties. A spokesperson for the organisation explained: “None of the parties has anything positive to say, and the Conservatives’ negative, deregulatory, self-regulatory, ‘H&S is a burden on business’ nonsense is potentially deadly. The Liberal Democrats also propose cutting regulation [while] the Labour party has been disappointing in government, and recently rejected a legal duty on directors to be responsible for health and safety.€ᄄ €ᄄ

“We want to know that when members of our families go to work, they will be safer than the loved ones who were killed by employers’ negligence. We need to hear the party leaders address the evidence that contradicts the falsehoods of ‘burdens on business’ rather then the burden of employers’ negligence on us, and on the whole of society.”

FACK’s list of 10 election demands includes exhortations to publish the “real figures and facts” about the harm caused by work, introduce positive health and safety duties in law for company directors, increase enforcement, treat the families of those killed at work as victims of crime, and provide support for the work of union safety reps.

The organisation explained: “Deaths caused by work are much more common than the Government publicises, so workers are more at risk than they realise: it is estimated that between 1500 and 1600 people are killed in work-related incidents and up to 50,000 die from work-related illness each year – not the ‘180 killed by work’ announced by the HSE. That is only the small fraction that must be reported to the regulator.”

FACK believes that weak enforcement of the law, coupled with low fines and penalties, are a big part of the problem. It claims that only one in 13 major and fatal injuries is investigated, fewer still are prosecuted, and penalties for most deaths are “paltry”.

Said founder member, Dorothy Wright: “We bear the heartache of losing a father, a son, wife, mother, sister, husband, brother or partner, and we also bear a huge financial cost of losing a breadwinner. Society bears the burden of the majority of the cost of employers’ health and safety failures – an estimated £30 billion per year – as despite creating 100 per cent of the risks, they pay less than 25 per cent of the costs.€ᄄ

“This is unacceptable at any time but in this deep recession, caused by lack of regulation, it is totally unsustainable.”

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