Even under a system of communism, workplace accidents, sickness and disease can never be completely eliminated but, at the very least, part of the communist programme must be for a reduction of the widespread toll on the working class. In its search for profits, for the maximisation of its profits, capitalism kills, maims and injures on a vast scale. Just by showing up for work alone, the worker ‘lucky' enough to have a job is immediately put at risk, his or her health and safety compromised, and this from a mode of production whose main concern is the relentless drive for profits whatever the human cost.
On 1 April, largely overshadowed by the hoo-hah over the G20, a Super Puma helicopter, flying in good weather, crashed into the North Sea killing the sixteen workers on board. It came just a week or so after another Super Puma had ditched in the North Sea, east of Aberdeen when all eighteen were rescued. Scores of workers have been killed in helicopter crashes in the North Sea since the mid-70s involving all types of helicopters and all types of weather conditions and scores of workers have also been rescued in many close shaves. After the 1 April tragedy, many workers held back from expressing their concerns about helicopter safety, the way these machines are run day in day out with a minimum of maintenance, for fear of being blacklisted. Just as it emerged that many building workers, another industry that's notoriously dangerous, were blacklisted as ‘troublemakers' on a list provided to all the major building firms. After the North Sea Piper Alpha oil rig explosion in 1988 in which 167 workers were killed and no management faced the least prosecution, workers were reluctant to express themselves and a report to the Glasgow authorities ten years later was unable to find evidence of any significant improvement in safety procedures.
But it's not just the ‘dangerous' industries, oil rigs, construction, etc, that are a permanent danger to workers. The Health and Safety Executive has been accused of a major underestimation of deaths and injuries of workers in Britain. The HSE gives a figure of 241 workers killed in the UK 2006/7. The Hazards Campaign estimates between 1600 and 1700 killed each year with up to 50,000 dying from work-related illnesses. In 2007 a report prepared by the HSE "on the burden of occupational cancer in Britain", looking at six types of cancer, attributed over 6000 deaths of men and over 1000 deaths of women in 2004 to workplace environments, i.e., 4.9% of all cancer deaths. Researchers at Stirling University condemned the figures, putting the real cost of work related cancer each year of up to 24 thousand and accused the HSE of "failing to acknowledge or deal effectively with an epidemic of work-related cancers". Respiratory and heart figures can be added to these, without mentioning stress, neurotoxicity, Parkinson's, auto-immune diseases, asthma and the list goes on that the HSE doesn't take full account of. These cancers particularly, occurred in many industries from construction to manufacture, retail, transport, teaching, restaurants, hospitals, offices and hotels. Like the HSE, the Labour Force Survey ignores many illnesses and diseases to arrive at its figure of 2.2 million workers made ill each year by work.
The Labour Party dropped all its promises to improve workers' health and safety in 1997 and its Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2008, has been criticised by safety campaigners as weak. Figures published for 1994 in Britain covering 32 thousand deaths and injuries showed 1507 convictions and an average penalty of £3061.00. Union safety reps on workplace committees, as genuine as some of these are, are simply given the run around by management (and their unions).
Worldwide, for all the millions killed at work, millions more are killed by work-related diseases showing that capitalism is a ruthless killing machine in its drive for profit.