The British Occupational Hygiene Society (BOHS), once more urges employers to mark International Workers’ Memorial Day this year on 28 April, by focusing on the issues of worker health protection.

This year, the theme for Workers’ Memorial Day on Friday 28 April 2017 is ‘Good health and safety for all workers whoever they are’. Workers’ Memorial Day is officially recognised by the UK government, and is widely acknowledged each year by health and safety campaigners, including trade unions, practitioners, government and charities.

Workers’ Memorial Day is also recognised as an official day by the United Nations’ International Labour Organization (ILO), as World Day for Safety and Health at Work.  In advance, the ILO shared the following key statistics:

  • Every 15 seconds, a worker dies from a work-related accident or disease
  • Every day, 6,300 people die as a result of occupational accidents or work-related diseases – more than 2.3 million deaths per year, but the majority of this burden – a massive 2 million or 86% – is the result of work-related diseases, with 14% due to workplace accidents
  • The human cost of this daily toll is immeasurable, whilst the economic burden of poor occupational safety and health practices is estimated at 4% of global gross domestic product each year

Clearly these statistics remain unacceptably high, and emphasise the continuing need for employers to concentrate on protecting the health of their workers, by treating ‘health’ more like ‘safety’. Yet, by focusing on a few key steps i.e. by recognising, evaluating and controlling workplace health risks – a business can develop cost-effective solutions to control both obvious and hidden risks to health. And if businesses feel they lack experience or expertise around the subject of occupational health, then help is at hand from qualified professionals, via BOHS.

In addition, BOHS’ five year strategy is actively delivering resources to assist employers in managing occupational health risks, and to help simplify the subject of health.

In 2015, BOHS launched its Breathe Freely  initiative on Workers’ Memorial Day: this initiative is specifically aimed at helping employers and employees to control exposures to prevent occupational lung disease in the construction industry. This year, on 25th May, BOHS will launch a second phase of the Breathe Freely campaign, which will focus on preventing occupational lung disease in the manufacturing sector. With the aim of maximising improvements in respiratory health protection at work, BOHS has confirmed the initial focus of the new initiative will be on the key area of welding activities in manufacturing.

The first phase of the Breathe Freely campaign has received unprecedented levels of support, and will continue to run alongside this latest initiative for the manufacturing industry.

As a consequence of BOHS’ focus on reducing ill health in the construction sector, it became obvious there was a need for specific training in this area.  As a direct result of this, BOHS recently announced the launch of a new one day course: the Certificate in Controlling Health Risks in Construction. This course, specifically designed to upskill supervisors in the basics of health risk management and control, is the only one of its type.

The course is expected to be available from the end of May 2017: to register your interest, please email

Commenting on Workers’ Memorial Day 2017, Steve Perkins, CEO of BOHS, said, “Every year, globally, more people are killed by occupational diseases than wars, yet managing health risks at work can feel overwhelming for many businesses. Too often, in the past, occupational hygiene and work-related health has been filed away in the ‘too difficult’ folder, in favour of controlling noisier, more visible and more immediately apparent safety-related risks. As the Chartered Society for Worker Health Protection, we are fully aware of these challenges, and this is why we have designed a comprehensive suite of resources as part of our Breathe Freely initiative. These resources, in addition to our unique qualifications, help demystify worker health protection, and support employers in getting to grips with these critical issues.”