Unions warn hard-won improvements in safety are in jeopardy ahead of International Workers Memorial Day

International Workers Memorial Day will be marked on construction sites and at events around the world tomorrow.

Construction’s largest union Ucatt has organised 21 memorial services and events across the UK and estimates countless other sites will mark the occasion with a minute’s silence at noon.

Unions argue the anniversary has an added significance this year, as cuts of 35% to the industry’s safety watchdog – the Health and Safety Executive – begin to bite.

They worry cuts in proactive safety inspections of up to a third and other mooted cost-cutting measures will put workers’ lives at risk.

George Guy, Ucatt’s acting general secretary, said: “The Conservative-led government’s attacks on the HSE, will make workplaces more dangerous and will lead to increased deaths and injuries of workers in future.”

Reports suggest the number of construction deaths is already on the rise, with site fatalities expected to increase for the first time in four years when figures are released in June.

Experts warn the increase may be down to increasing client demands and corner-cutting during the recession.

However, this forecasted increase comes against a backdrop of falling construction fatalities.

In 2009/10 there were 42 fatalities in construction – down from 52 the year before and 72 the year before that.

2006/07 was the last year which saw an increase in site deaths, when 79 people were killed.

Reported injuries on construction sites have also been falling over the past three years. 8266 injuries were reported in 2009/10, down almost a fifth on the previous year.

But Guy warns the industry is still the most dangerous in Britain and argues the sector’s significant strides forward are now being put at risk by government policies.

He describes tomorrow’s Memorial Day as “the most important day of the year for construction workers.”

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