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Remember the dead, fight for the living

HARD hats and craypots sat on the steps to Parliament House in Hobart on Sunday, International Workers’ Memorial Day.

These markers represented workplace deaths in Tasmania over the last 12 months:

  •  Construction road worker – killed when a truck came through his site and struck him while he was at work on the roads
  •  Cray fishermen – one body was recovered, the other was never found.
  •  A construction worker who was working on a roof, fell and died at the scene
  • A construction worker working at McRobies Gully tip who was hit by a steel beam
  • A construction road worker struck by a vehicle coming through the site; and
  • Just last week 43-year old man was crushed at a Northern workplace.

Unions Tasmania Secretary Kevin Harkins said every item represented a dead worker, someone that was killed at work that could have been avoided. What we need to do is stop thinking about them as a number and that “it will never happen to me”, “it’s not my family member”.

“What we want to do next year is come back here and have no deaths to report to you. “That’s the aim – not to reduce it by half or three quarters but to reduce it to nothing.”

Event spokesman Brian Mitchell said “in the three minutes that I’ll stand here talking to you 12 people will die as a result of their work somewhere in the world. That’s four a minute, 6000 a day, 230,040,000 people each year”.

“That’s just those who die, 317 million will suffer work related accidents this year, 160 million will be diagnosed with work-related diseases this year. These numbers are truly staggering. More people die at work than fighting in wars. Yet the resources that go into preventing death and injury in the workplace are minuscule in comparison.”

He said days like International Workers’ Memorial Day aim to redress the balance.

“Just like week two hundred workers died in Bangladesh when their illegally constructed factory crumbled around them crushing them to death. They were making cheap t-shirts for Walmart. Well, cheap – if you don’t count the cost of their blood.

“Make no mistake workplace health and safety did not appear out of thin air nor from some sense of altruism from employers. Every workplace health and safety standard we enjoy in Australia today has been hard fought for. They simply would not exist without unions.”

“On this day, we remember seven Tasmanians who have died this year as a result of work-related deaths but we continue to fight for the living.”

Workplace Relations Minister David O’Byrne spoke at the event and said workplace health and safety was a challenge on both ends of the political spectrum.

He said work health and safety laws came about from workers organising in their unions.

“Workers in their unions standing up for workers’ rights will always maintain these laws. So today is not only a day of remembrance, it’s a clarion call to maintain the struggle, maintain the fight for occupational health and safety and safety at work,” Mr O’Byrne said.

A minute silence was held to remember those Tasmanian workers who died. Events for International Workers’Memorial Day were held around Australia and the world on April 28.

You can take a look at the photos from the day here.

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