MP WRITES: Safety first is a must

The MP for Hartlepool Iain Wright (left) with The Mayor of Hartlepool Stephen Akers-Belcher.
The MP for Hartlepool Iain Wright (left) with The Mayor of Hartlepool Stephen Akers-Belcher.
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WORK is an important part of human life.

It not only puts food on the table and should allow people to raise their standard of living, it also gives people a sense of purpose.

There are basic things about work that should be set in stone but far too often are not.

One is a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work. Another, arguably even more fundamental as a right, is safety at work.

Nobody should be expected to go to work and suffer illness or disease or, even worse, not return.

That is the purpose of Workers’ Memorial Day.

April 28 has been designated, around the world, as the day in which people come together to commemorate workers lost at work or who have suffered injury or disease as a result of their employment.

Hartlepool Trade Unions Council once again organised the event on Monday, which is the biggest Workers’ Memorial Day in the North-East.

I can give you statistics. I can say that, in the time it will take you to read this article, about 1,700 people around the world will have suffered a work-related accident.

Four people will have died because of being at work.

These statistics are important, but often lose their significance because of their faceless and impersonal nature.

Nobody who was at the event on Monday will forget Jason Burden.

Trevor, Jason’s dad, moved the room to tears when he told us of his story.

Jason was a promising apprentice engineer when a piece of metal machinery fell on him as he worked in Sunderland, in December 2011.

Jason was 19 years old – a good looking lad and the spitting image of his father. A video was played showing the enormous promise and potential – he had his whole life in front of him.

There were pictures of him on holiday, at parties, hugging his girlfriend.

He was a good DJ and goalkeeper.

In those pictures, you could sense what his life could achieve, making his family even more proud. Perhaps having a family of his own, working hard, getting on, making his community and British industry a little bit better because of who he was.

Jason’s death is tragic. Such a waste of a life, and all because his employer had not carried out a health and safety assessment.

Jason, who was still only an apprentice, had been left unsupervised and uninstructed in what was required.

Some people might like to complain that health and safety has gone mad. Kids are not allowed to run, conkers are not allowed to be played.

That is frankly ridiculous, blown out of all proportion and whipped up by some parts of the media to cause anger and consternation.

Health and safety legislation over many years has stopped kids from going up chimneys and kept people safe in the workforce.

Properly enforced and respected, effective legislation should prevent tragedies like Jason’s death from occurring.

In one of the videos shown on Monday, a very simple message was made.

It said: “At the very heart of everything we achieve, are working people.”

It was right. Those achievements shouldn’t be overlooked, and shouldn’t come at the cost of injury, accident, disease or, as in Jason’s case, a family losing their much-loved son, brother and grandson.

I hope everybody realises the importance of effective and enforceable legislation to keep people safe in the workplace, and use Workers Memorial Day as a means, as the global slogan states, to: “Remember the dead, fight for the living.”