Book Defending Health and Safety Legislation

Spokesman also publish Safe at Work? Ramazzini versus the Attack on Health and Safety, by Dave Putson, with an introduction by Mark Serwotka. This is a defence of health and safety legislation against the attacks and derision with which it’s now regarded. Putson shows that such legislation comes from the real need to protect people against injury, illness or deaths at work. He also criticises Tories like David Cameron, who’d like to get rid of it all as a burden to private industry. The blurb for it on Spokesman’s website, taken from Serwotka’s introduction, runs

‘This is an important time to write the history of health and safety in the UK, given the near derision that the term now evokes in the media and from the Government. What Dave Putson demonstrates in writing this book is that health and safety, far from being the product of a more litigious society or the political agenda of overbearing bureaucrats, is rooted in human need, protecting people.

This book describes how, over the last 300 years, an evolving body of surveys, research, legal challenges and often tragic experiences led to an emergence of, at first, quite limited protections. Some of these histories will be familiar to the reader, like the match girls and ‘phossy jaw’, but others, like the seminal legal case of Priestley vs Fowler, are not. What the varied and fascinating histories indicate is that health and safety evolved to improve not only the workplace, but also our homes, our communities, our roads, our waterways, and public and environmental health …

Today, there are desperate attempts to reverse those gains. Our Prime Minister echoes the worst of the 19th century’s irresponsible industrialists when he says health and safety is an ‘albatross around the neck of British businesses’. The burden to take reasonable and practical steps to ensure workers can come home at night is what Cameron objects to when he says he wants to “kill off the health and safety culture for good”. Despite this supposedly rampant culture, the HSE records that around 175 people died in 2011/12 from injuries sustained at work while, according to the Hazards campaign, up to 50,000 die each year from work-related illnesses, including 6,000 from occupational cancers.

Workers only got these rights and protections because they organised and fought for them. It is a depressing but familiar tale of history that, today, we need to fight those same battles again. I hope you enjoy reading this detailed, fascinating and engaging history as much as I did. But most importantly, I hope it inspires you to think and to act.’

The situation is all the more urgent, with Theresa May’s government planning to scrap the European Human Rights legislation, and replace it with a British ‘Bill of Rights’, which will be far weaker in protecting British citizens from state surveillance, arrest and detention by the authorities, workers’ rights and so on.
Cameron and his fellow profiteers want to see a cheap labour force with no rights, who they can sack as they please, and force to work in appalling conditions without any legal protection. As an example of how terrible conditions were before the introduction of health and safety legislation, at the time of the First World War more people were killed at work in Britain than in the trenches. That’s the reality, which the Tories and papers like the Daily Fail won’t tell you when they bang on with scare stories about looney councils forcing children to wear goggles while playing conkers or whatever.

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