Since 1992, Workers Memorial Day has been used to pay tribute to lost lives and raise awareness of the hundreds of avoidable fatalities which occur at workplaces each year.

This Monday, the family of Jason Burden will be joined at the Christ Church, Hartlepool, by their solicitors Thompsons, trade unionists, accident victims and other families of those killed in workplace accidents in order to “Mourn for the dead but fight for the living”.

Jason died in December 2011 while working as an apprentice at Tyne Slipway and Engineering Co Ltd at South Dock. He was working at a bench on a tunnel thruster, a part of a ship weighing almost a tonne, when it fell from the bench onto his torso and left leg causing fatal crush injuries. Jason was immediately taken by air ambulance to the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle but died en route.

Jason left behind his family and girlfriend, Rachel, who will attend the Workers’ Memorial Day Event in Hartlepool this Monday. Jason’s father, Trevor, will address attendees and call for employers and the government to make health and safety a top priority in the workplace.

“Perfect son”

Jason’s father, Trevor Burden said: “Jason was the perfect son in every way. He was hardworking, intelligent and dedicated and he was just six months shy of completing his BTEC qualification. We couldn’t have been more proud.

“Jason really was the most loving, caring and funny lad anybody could ever wish to meet. He had so much going for him and it was all taken away from him in one terrible and totally avoidable moment.

“Workers’ Memorial Day is one day every year when we can come together to pay our tributes to all those who have suffered the tragic loss of a loved one, and point the spotlight on the hundreds of needless deaths at work that occur each and every year.”

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation into Jason’s death, which concluded in January 2014, found that Tyne Slipway and Engineering Co Ltd had failed to take sufficient steps to ensure that the bow thruster was safe to work on or near. The HSE concluded that the accident could have easily been avoided had the firm taken simple steps to ensure that the thruster was safely secured to the workbench.

At the sentencing hearing at Newcastle Crown Court, the HSE fined Tyne Slipway and Engineering Co Ltd £75,000 and ordered them to pay almost £48,000 in costs for breaching their health and safety obligations to Jason.

At the event, campaigners will accuse the government of rolling back 100 years of progress in health and safety legislation which they say will reverse the decline of deaths and serious injuries in the UK. The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 repealed the provision put in place in 1898 which made employers automatically liable for breaches of health and safety regulations. By removing civil liability for health and safety breaches, the burden of what went wrong will now be on the injured worker or family of somebody killed, and not the employer.

Moreover, the Deregulation Bill, currently progressing through Parliament, will, if passed, abolish health and safety rules for self-employed workers in all but “high risk” prescribed sectors.

Devastating loss

Thompsons Solicitors’ Mick Laffey, representing Jason Burden’s family, said: “The UK has been, and remains one of the safest places to work thanks to a progressive and proactive approach to limiting risk in the workplace that has been in place since 1898.

“The government’s changes to health and safety legislation signals a reckless disregard for workplace safety and places the excellent progress made in this area in jeopardy. The loss of somebody as young as Jason in the workplace is absolutely devastating and should put paid to anybody who views health and safety as mere ‘red tape’.

“Protections to prevent us losing our loved ones to the nine-to-five must be high up the agenda every day - not just on Workers’ Memorial Day.”

Hilda Palmer, Facilitator of Families Against Corporate Killing (FACK) said: “When FACK was set up in 2006 we were lobbying to convince government to improve health and safety, but since 2010, we have been fighting a government hell bent on destroying vital safety provisions affecting workers under the shameful excuse that they are a burden on business. We would rather more ‘red tape’ than to see more workers like Jason needlessly killed at work.”