A POIGNANT service to commemorate workers killed or injured while doing their jobs has been held in Hartlepool.
Around 200 people gathered inside Christ Church, in Hartlepool’s Church Square, for the Workers’ Memorial Day remembrance service which has been held in town every year since 1999.
The aim of the event, which is organised by Hartlepool Trades Union Council, is to raise awareness among employers of the importance of effective health and safety procedures.
Edwin Jeffries, president of Hartlepool TUC, said: “Even with all of the health and safety legislation, 152 people died at work last year in the UK and that is 152 people too many.
“These are avoidable deaths. When people go to work on a morning they should expect to come home at night.”
Lone Scottish piper Derek Millmoor piped the guests into the church and a minute’s silence was held ahead of the service.
Guest speakers included GMB General Secretary Paul Kenny, Macmillan clinical nurse specialist Jason Black and Samantha Helmsley, a partner with Thompsons Solicitors.
Among the guests was Linda Whelan, 54, whose son Craig, 23, a steeple jack, died as he worked on the demolition of a 180ft-high chimney in the Bolton area nine years ago.
Ms Whelan, who runs her own domiciliary care company and lives in Willington, is a founder member of FACK (Families Against Corporate Killers) which campaigns to improve work place health and safety.
Ms Whelan, who warned that national funding cuts to the Health and Safety Executive would lead to more accidents at work, said: “These events are very important for people to remember their loved ones that have been killed or injured at work and also the devastation for the loved ones left behind.
“Craig would have been very proud of what we are doing. It is good that something positive has come out of something that should never have happened and could have been prevented.
“It is his lasting legacy.”
Hartlepool MP Iain Wright, who gave a reading, said: “This event gets stronger and stronger each year and it is because of the hard work and dedication of the Hartlepool Trades Union Council that this is the prime workers’ memorial day event in the North-East.
“Health and safety gets a bad press but it saves lives and prevents tragedies.”
Labour councillor Carl Richardson, chairman of Hartlepool Borough Council, said: “We have to remember the dead and fight for the living. Everybody needs to be vigilant.”
After the service representatives from a range of organisations including the GMB Union, Cleveland Police and Fire Authorities, Hartlepool College of Further Education, Unison, Hartlepool Borough Council and neighbouring local authorities, laid wreaths outside of the Hartlepool Tourist Information Centre and Art Gallery.
Paul Kenny, general secretary of the GMB Union, said there was “no price for a human life” and urged people to renew their determination to protect people at work.