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December 20, 2005

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Work still to do, says minister

The Irish Minister for Labour Affairs, Tony Killeen TD, recently told members of the Ireland Branch Southern District that although improvements had been made in health and safety, Ireland still has some way to go.

Speaking at the district’s Annual Conference, held at the Rochestown Park Hotel in Cork, Mr Killeen said that the safety of workers, employers, contractors and all stakeholders is in the hands of those attending the conference, and that the new Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act (SH&WWA) is going to be key to reducing the toll of death and ill-health in Irish workplaces.

Mr Killeen said: “We have made a huge leap forward with the signing into law of this new Act — the most modern and progressive piece of health and safety legislation in Europe. We now have to work hard to get the message out.

“So far this year 62 people in this country have gone out to work and not come home,” Mr Killeen said, adding that it is a statistic he is not happy with. He said that the construction sector, in particular, has work to do, as 29 per cent of these workplace fatalities had occurred in that sector.

“Most accidents are preventable, most involve simple incidents which could be avoided. Yet the human and economic costs are high. It should be common sense to have a prevention culture,” Mr Killeen added.

“An often overlooked statistic but one which carries profound implications for our changing workforce is the high number of workplace fatalities among non-nationals. To date, nine non-nationals have died in work-related accidents in this country. What is clear is that this is totally out of proportion to their involvement in the workforce. We cannot accept that situation.”

Looking to the future, Mr Killeen said that getting the Construction Regulations and the General Application Regulations into law are the immediate priorities as these will bring the construction industry into line with the requirements of the new Act. The General Application Regulations will deal with health and safety issues around areas like signage, worker protective equipment, first aid, night and shift work, pregnant employees and young persons.

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