Warnings that the recession could lead to more dangerous working environments were issued at a service to mark Workers Memorial Day.
Kathy Gaffney, secretary of West Midlands Hazards Trust, said the credit crunch could lead to firms cutting corners and putting workers lives at risk as she remembered the thousands killed or injured at work.
About 100 people gathered at St Philip’s Cathedral in Birmingham yesterday to lay wreaths following a service by Cannon Liturgist Janet Chapman.
There were 229 people killed at work in the UK last year, of which more than 70 were in the construction industry and 18 were in the West Midlands.
But up to 12,000 people were killed as a result of accidents and illnesses caused by employment such as industrial disease mesothelioma.
Ms Gaffney said: “In a recession, the situation is that much worse.
“The National Accident Helpline survey found that 62 per cent of workers said their employers were cutting corners on health and safety. Workers are the ones who will suffer in a recession.
“If cuts are to be made, then those cuts should be from the payment perks of people at the top and not from worker’s health.”
Janet Keen, from Smiths Wood, Birmingham, whose husband Raymond died three weeks after being diagnosed with asbestos-related mesothelioma in April 2006, hoped the service would highlight important work safety issues.
The 69-year-old has now received a six-figure compensation settlement from insurers Zurich representing Mr Keen’s former employer, Unilock Limited, who ceased trading in August 2008.
She said: “There are so many tragedies and accidents at work and it is important to maintain awareness of the dangers.
“Ray became a shadow of his former self in the space of just a few months and died when he was 66 from such a terrible lung cancer caused by asbestos exposure.”