Safe at work?


184 pages

ISBN: 978 0 85124 8226


Ramazzini versus the attack on health and safety

By Dave Putson
With an introduction by Mark Serwotka

‘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.’

Mark Serwotka, General Secretary of the Public and Commercial Services Union, from his introduction

Dave Putson is a trade union health and safety representative in the London Courts.

WEA London Region Newsletter – Issue 4

A review by the Bookmarks Socialist Bookshop

ASLEF Journal – June 2013

Seeing the increasing attacks on health and safety and “red tape” by this Tory led government and the support from the right wing media, I would like to recommend a book recently published by Spokesman titled Safe at work? written by Dave Putson who is a union health and safety representative in the London Courts.This details theuphill struggle over the last 300 hundred years for safer practices in the workplace. I believe this is essential reading for all health and safety representatives and indeed anyone interested in their own and other peoples well being. We should all be aware that health and safety regulations and so called “red tape” were hard won rights and should not be surrendered.’
Mr J. Randall, Bexley, Kent (UNITE member, who sent this letter to his union journal)

‘I’m enjoying this book so much. I suggest you make sure it’s on the stall at the Tolpuddle Rally 21st July. Salam, Shalom, Peace.’
Rev. Hazel Barkham