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Making a killing

Nearly twice as many people die from fatal injuries at work than are victims of homicide, a new report has revealed. At least 1,300 people died as a result of fatal occupational injuries in 2005-06 in England and Wales, compared with 765 homicide deaths. It was also found that non-fatal workplace injuries requiring hospitalisation were far higher than those needing treatment following a violent crime.

Yet at a time when crime, especially violent crime, takes centre stage and any working class youth who likes wearing a hood is stigmatized as a potential mass murderer, the violent crime and murder taking place in the workplace everyday is never reported. Moreover, while Labour responds to every Daily Mail hang-and-flog-them headline by throwing yet more people into already overcrowded jails the perpetrators of crime in the workplace get off virtually scot-free

The trend towards ‘light touch’ regulation of business has in effect ‘decriminalised’ death and injury at work. While sentences for violent crime rocket, the Health and Safety Executive’s enforcement notices fell by 40% and prosecutions fell by 49% between 2001/02 and 2005/06. The collapse in HSE enforcement and prosecution sends a clear message that the government is prepared to let employers kill and maim with impunity.

No better example of this occurred at North West Aerosols Ltd where an accident killed one worker and seriously injured several others. Though the judge described conditions in the factory as “an accident waiting to happen” the directors of the company, who didn’t even bother to show up at any of the hearings, were fined £2 and £1 costs as the company had conveniently been put into receivership after the accident occurred.

The HSE expressed satisfaction at the outcome stating that the trial “would act as a deterrent to other companies.” The sister of the dead man stated “It’s just a joke. There is no justice. I will not let this rest and I intend to fight on, not just for the sake of Christopher but for all the other employees who are put at risk by results like this.”

The reality is that you’re far safer walking alone at night than you are going to work. As hundreds of thousands of workers and their families know, it is the violence associated with working for a living that is most likely to kill and hospitalise. But you will never hear that mentioned in the media or by politicians; it’s far more important to concentrate on the crime committed by working class youth and leave the bosses to quietly get on with maiming and killing their workers in the quest for ever higher profits.

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