International Workers’ Memorial Day

On 28 April each year, International Workers’ Memorial Day (IWMD) is a time to remember those who have died either because of a workplace accident, ill health or diseases as a result of work.

Why we ‘remember the dead and fight for the living’

Health and Safety Executive (HSE) annual statistics show on average that 135 workers are killed in work related accidents each year. They also estimate that there are around 13,000 deaths each year from occupational lung disease and cancer caused by past exposure at work to chemicals and dust (such as asbestos or silica).

However, safety campaigners estimate that the true figure for all work-related deaths is closer to 50,000 each year.

Although it is rare for a UNISON member to die in a workplace incident, unfortunately some do suffer serious injuries and work-related ill health, including musculoskeletal disorders, stress, anxiety and depression. This can significantly affect them, their family, friends and other work colleagues.

UNISON knows that the key to providing safe and healthy workplaces is effective risk management, eliminating or reducing the risk of  harm and having safe systems of work, including training and access to protective equipment.

Additionally, UNISON health safety representatives play a vital role in keeping workplaces safe and healthy by working with employers and raising members’ concerns about working condition, as well as undertaking inspections of workplaces to check all steps are being taking to keep workers safe.

As an international day, each year a theme is chosen by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) to help unions worldwide focus on a campaign for change. This year’s theme is

Animated image of workers' sweating

Climate risks for workers’.                           


How can members and Branches get involved ?

Carry out workplace inspections

This year as well as supporting the theme of how climate change has an impact on safety and health. We are also highlighting the riskes posed by the very buildings we work in.

In the week leading up to IWMD (22 – 28 April), we are joining with the TUC and inviting safety reps to carry out a building safety inspection to shin a light on what needs improving, and how unions are best placed to understand and advocate for safer workplaces.

Find out more via the link below

TUC Building Safety Inspections – Week of Action

Hold an event to mark IWMD

Branches can hold an in person or virtual workplace event inviting others to join them and holding a minute’s silence. The resources below can be used to support this.




Download PowerPoint Presentation here

Download MS Teams and Zoom background here

Image of a Purple Ribbon worn to mark International Workers' Memorial Day

Branches can also purchase other items including purple ribbons worn as a mark of remembrance, from Greater Manchester Hazards Centre

(Funds raised from the sales of the ribbons supports Families Against Corporate Killers – FACK) 

Joining in with others marking the day

Your branch may also wish to send representatives to any local events organised by the TUC, Trades Councils and others which can be found via the link below.

A list of advertised events can be found or registered via the TUC website

You can also show your support via social media on the day using #IWMD24

It is not just trades unions who mark the day

The International Labour Organization (ILO) which is the only tripartite United Nations (U.N.) agency, brings together governments, employers and workers of 187 Member States, to set labour standards, develop policies and devise programmes promoting decent work for all women and men

The ILO has said it will commemorate World Day for Safety and Health at Work on 28 April, by following the theme adopted by ITUC and unions worldwide, saying

      “This year, the theme will focus on exploring the impacts of climate change on occupational safety and health.”

     “Changing weather patterns have notable impacts on the world of work, particularly affecting workers safety and health. Examples of occupational risks exacerbated by climate change include heat stress, UV radiation, air pollution, major industrial accidents, extreme weather events, an increase in vector-borne diseases and increased exposure to chemicals.”

ILO World Day for Safety and Health at Work poster

More than just one day a year

UNISON provides support and training for members to become a Safety Representative.

You can help play a vital role in keeping your workplace safe and healthy, by working together with other members’ to help raise concerns about working conditions and practices with your employer.

Additional resources

ITUC climate change webpages

ITUC global shifts – just transition webpages.

Hazards climate and workers’ health webpages

ILO World Day for Safety and Health at Work 2024 page