Eine Kleine Nichtmusik

Witty and pertinent observations on matters of great significance OR Incoherent jottings on total irrelevancies OR Something else altogether OR All of the above

Friday, April 29, 2011

Corporate Killers and the Politicians who Let Them Get Away With It

A propos my post yesterday on Workers' Memorial Day, here is an excellent piece from Wednesday's Independent by Johann Hari on the evisceration of Britain's Health & Safety inspectorate, begun by Blair and enthusiastically continued by Brown and Cameron.

It has become a cliche to lay the blame for dead British soldiers in Afghanistan or Iraq at the feet of Tony Blair, and he deserves it, or much of it. But once we finally remove our troops from those unnecessary entanglements, the deaths will end. Blair's gutting of the HSE is the gift that keeps on giving: every time a British worker is killed, disfigured or maimed in an industrial accident that could have been prevented had the law been enforced, the grieving family can console themselves with the knowledge that Tony Blair not only reduced the burden on British industry of having to comply with the law so as to stop negligent homicide by corrupt employers, he made it cool to do so and encouraged his acolytes such as Cameron to follow suit.

The highest-profile industrial accident during the Blair years was probably (in Scotland undoubtedly) the Stockline explosion. (As the somewhat outdated Wikipedia entry points out, the name is misleading: while Stockline's name was on the signage - and still is - they didn't run the factory that was destroyed.) Here is a report from the Times. Sadly the lady at the end with the 18-month-old granddaughter was to be unlucky: her daughter Tracy McErlane was among those killed. (Her memorial is the one at the far right in my first photograph below.)

Here is a report from the Scotsman in which the "soft touch" approach to inspections by the Health and Safety Executive was criticised by the Gill inquiry into the accident. While it is clear that the root cause of the accident lay many years earlier, the fact remains that under Blair the HSE's ability to do its job was severely restricted. This report by the Universities of Strathclyde and Stirling into working conditions at the ICL Plastics factory makes sobering reading. In March 2010 Yvette Cooper announced that there would be a new safety drive. Sadly, in May 2010 we got a new government instead, which brings us back to Cameron's promise of further cuts.

Here are some photographs I took about a year ago at the memorial garden for the victims. It's easy to overlook: had I not been returning to my car after a discussion on industrial accidents, and had the present Stockline office not had such prominent signage, I might never have realised what I was walking past. It's a peaceful place: while it's right next to a few streets there's never much traffic.


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