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The Irish Health and Safety Authority (HSA) published its annual report for 2009 today, which confirms figures released last December showing the lowest number of fatal accidents in the Authority’s 20-year history.
In 2009, there were 43 work-related deaths in the Irish Republic – down from 67 the previous year – and a drop of 20 per cent in the number of non-fatal accidents reported. Construction and agriculture were still the most dangerous industries in terms of numbers and rates of fatalities but the latter saw a reduction of almost 50 per cent in the number of deaths from 2008 to 2009, with 11 deaths recorded last year against 21 the previous year.
However, the downward trend in agriculture has not been sustained, with 12 work-related farming deaths already recorded in the first six months of 2010. The Irish Farming Association’s farm family chair, Margaret Healy, said: “The impact of any farm death or serious injury is devastating, not alone for the family involved but for their friends, neighbours and wider community. Often it is only after a serious or fatal accident that dangers are clearly identified, but by then it may be too late.”
Launching the HSA report, minister for labour affairs Dara Calleary TD acknowledged that further work is needed to reduce accidents, saying this can be achieved by “continuing to increase awareness and simplifying compliance”.
Inspection activity was up in 2009, with a total of 18,451 inspections carried out. This exceeded the target of 17,000 set in the Authority’s programme of work for the year. The construction industry accounted for just under a third of inspections, while just over 8 per cent were carried out in the agriculture sector. Enforcement powers were employed in 11 per cent of all cases and 38 prosecutions were completed.
These included the first successful conviction of a company director under section 80 of the Safety Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005. Property-firm director Sean Doyle was fined €50,000 in December 2009 in relation to an incident in which an employee was fatally injured (click here for our original report on the case).
The Authority’s chief executive, Martin O’Halloran (pictured), commented: “The main focus of our inspection is to help workplaces improve health and safety standards with the overall goal of reducing accidents. The vast majority of employers and employees want this.”
Other achievements during the year included the addition of a health and safety module to the school curriculum for which the HSA provided a range of educational resources, the development of six codes of practice and 13 guidance documents, and a series of ‘Work Positive’ initiatives to manage work-related stress in various industrial sectors.
The farming sector was a particular focus, with a number of initiatives and events set up under the Farm Safety Partnership Action Plan. The Authority had to remind farmers last year of the importance of completing the Farm Safety Code of Practice, after it discovered that almost two thirds of them had not done so.
The IFA’s Margaret Healy echoed the reminder, calling on farmers to “take extreme care during this busy season on farms, as the number of farm-related fatalities so far this year is deeply regrettable, despite constant promotion of the safety message. I urge all farm families to comply with the Farm Safety Code of Practice. It is also vital for all farmers to review their risk assessment statements to ensure risks to health and safety in relation to the work being done have been identified and appropriate corrective action taken.”