Every year more people are killed at work than in wars. Most don’t die of mystery ailments, or in tragic “accidents”. They die because an employer decided their safety just wasn’t that important a priority. Workers’ Memorial Day (WMD) commemorates those workers. Workers’ Memorial Day is held on 28 April every year, all over the world workers and their representatives conduct events, demonstrations, vigils and a whole host of other activities to mark the day. The day is also intended to serve as a rallying cry to “remember the dead, but fight for the living”.
Workers' Memorial Day is an opportunity to highlight the preventable nature of most workplace incidents and ill health and to promote campaigns and union organisation in the fight for improvements in workplace safety. The slogan for the day is Remember the dead – Fight for the living. Although April 28 is used as the focal point for remembrance and a day of international solidarity, campaigning and other related activities continue throughout the year right around the world.
For years Workers' Memorial Day events have been organised in North America, and then worldwide. Since 1989, trade unions in North America, Asia, Europe and Africa have organised events on April 28. The late Hazards Campaigner Tommy Harte brought Workers' Memorial Day to the UK in 1992 as a day to ‘Remember the Dead: Fight for the Living’. In the UK the campaign for Workers’ Memorial Day has been championed by the Hazards Campaign and taken up by trade unions, adopted by Scotland's TUC in 1993, followed by the TUC in 1999 and the Health and Safety Commission and Health and Safety Executive in 2000. April 28 is recognised by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) as International Workers' Memorial Day. In 1996 the ICFTU commemorated Workers' Memorial Day and began to set annual 'themes'. For 2006 the ICFTU theme was Union workplaces: safer workplaces, focusing on a global ban on asbestos and increased awareness of HIV/AIDS. During 2001 the ILO, part of the United Nations, recognised Workers' Memorial Day and declared it World Day for Safety and Health at Work and in 2002 the ILO announced that April 28 should be an official day in the United Nations system.