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Workers' Memorial Day, International Workers' Memorial Day or International Commemoration Day (ICD) for Dead and Injured takes place annually around the world on April 28, an international day of remembrance and action for workers killed, disabled, injured or made unwell by their work.


According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), across the world:

  • Each year, more than two million women and men die as a result of work-related accidents and diseases
  • Workers suffer approximately 270 million occupational accidents each year, and fall victim to some 160 million incidents of work-related illnesses
  • Hazardous substances kill 440,000 workers annually – asbestos claims 100,000 lives
  • One worker dies every 15 seconds worldwide. 6,000 workers die every day. Work kills more people than wars.

Workers' Memorial Day

In a world where, on occasion, death, injury, and illness at work are hidden away and taken for granted, Workers' Memorial Day is an opportunity to highlight the preventable nature of most workplace accidents and ill health and to promote campaigns and union organisation in the fight for improvements in workplace safety. The slogan for the day is Remember the dead - Fight for the living.

Although the 28 April is used as the focal point for remembrance and a day of International solidarity; campaigning and other related activities continue throughout the year right around the world.

Origins and Why April 28th?

Workers' Memorial Day was started by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) in 1984, the Canadian Labour Congress declared an annual day of remembrance in 1985 on April 28, which is the anniversary of a comprehensive Workers Compensation Act, passed in 1914. In 1991, the Canadian Parliamentmarker passed an Act respecting a National Day of Mourning for persons killed or injured in the workplace; making April 28, an official Workers’ Mourning Day.April 28 is also the day that the Occupational Safety and Health Act went into effect in the United States, which might have something to do with the decision to have the day on April 28 .

International Recognition

For years Workers Memorial Day events have been organised in Canadamarker and the U.S.marker and then worldwide. In the USA it has been recognised since 1989. Since 1989 trade unions in the North America, Asia, Europe and Africa have organised events on the 28th April. The late Hazards Campaigner Tommy Harte brought Workers Memorial Day to the UK in 1992 as a day to ‘Remember the Dead: Fight for the Living’. In the UK the campaign for Workers’ Memorial Day has been championed by the Hazards Campaign and taken-up by trade unions, adopted by the Scottish TUC in 1993, followed by the TUC in 1999 and the Health and Safety Commission and Health and Safety Executive in 2000.

The 28th April is recognised by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) as International Workers' Memorial Day. In 1996 the ICFTU commemorated Workers' Memorial Day and began to set annual 'themes'. For 2006 the ICFTU theme was Union workplaces: safer workplaces plus a Global Ban on Asbestos and HIV/ Aids. During 2001 the ILO, part of the United Nations, recognised Workers' Memorial Day and declared it Global Health and Safety Day and in 2002 the ILO announced that 28 April should be an official day in the United Nations system.

Workers' Memorial Day is recognised as a national day in many countries including: Argentinamarker, Belgiummarker, Bermudamarker, Brazilmarker, Canadamarker, Dominican Republicmarker, Luxembourgmarker, Panamamarker, Perumarker, Portugalmarker, Spainmarker, Thailandmarker, Taiwanmarker and the United Statesmarker. Trade Unions in other countries including Beninmarker, Czech Republicmarker, Finlandmarker, Hungarymarker, Maltamarker, Nepalmarker, New Zealandmarker, Romaniamarker, Singaporemarker and the UKmarker are pursuing government recognition.

Workers’ Memorial Day is now an International day of remembrance of workers killed in incidents at work, or by diseases caused by work and annually on the 28th April, Workers' Memorial Day events are held throughout the world some examples include: – active campaigning, workplace awareness events, public events including: – speeches, multi faith religious services, laying wreathes, planting trees, unveiling monuments, balloon releases, raising public awareness of issues and laying out empty shoes to symbolise those who have died at work.


  1. Greater Manchester Hazards Centre Fact Sheet 28 April 2006 (GMHC is part of the Hazards Campaign recognised and affiliated to the UK Trades Union Congress) Author Hilda Palmer, (no ISBN); available at Also Safety Express' March/ April 2006 Page 5 'April 28th is...Workers' Memorial Day' (no ISBN); published by The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (ROSPA) UK registered charity No. 207823
  2. Trades Union Congress (UK) 'Hazards at Work: Organising for Safe and Healthy Workplaces' ISBN 1-85006-754-6. Also ILO fact sheet 'Facts on Safety at Work' published by the ILO April 2005 (no ISBN); available at
  3. TUC Certificate in Occupational Health & Safety course notes 2004/5 Section C page 69 (no ISBN); more info available at

External links and references

Example Memorial Tree, UK

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