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September 12, 2010

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Drop in fatal accidents coincides with jobs growth in Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland has seen a dramatic fall in the number of work-related deaths.

The HSENI’s latest annual report shows that fatal incidents tumbled from 19 in the previous year to six in 2009/10 – amounting to a fall in the fatal-injury incident rate from 1.24 in 2008/09 to 0.39 in 2009/10. Overall reported injuries are also down by more than a third since 1999, despite employment levels having grown by more than a quarter over the same period.

This 2009/10 fatal-injury incident rate not only puts Northern Ireland on a par with the rest of Great Britain, where the comparable figure in 2009/10 is 0.4 – but also means the region has outperformed Wales and Scotland, where the provisional figures for this period are 0.5 and 0.9, respectively.

This is all the more striking given the region’s performance over the last decade, during which its average fatal-injury incident rate has been 1.19 compared with an average of 0.7 for Britain as a whole.

The generally higher proportion of fatalities in Northern Ireland compared with Britain as a whole is highlighted in a review of the HSENI’s work over the last decade by the Northern Ireland Audit Office.

Published hot on the heels of the HSENI’s annual report, the NIAO review, which did not cover 2009/10, concluded that the health and safety regulator should review research conducted elsewhere on fatal-injury incident rates to inform its own thinking.

The review praised the success of target-driven initiatives on farm safety and construction but underlined the need for the HSENI to set targets in other areas. It also found a lack of clarity among employers on the roles and responsibilities of the Executive and district councils with regard to incident reporting.

On this issue, the NIAO recommends that the HSENI establish a single point where employers can report all work-related injuries, and liaise more closely with district councils to promote opportunities for joint working.

An HSENI spokesperson told SHP it would be “inappropriate to comment [on the NIAO review] in detail, in advance of a potential Public Accounts Committee hearing”.

However, responding to the 2009/10 fatality figures, the Executive’s chair, Professor Peter McKie, said: “While we must always remain cautious against reading too much into statistics, this is, yet again, a very significant reduction, and I see the continuing downward trend as a clear endorsement of the innovative and challenging approach that has been adopted by HSENI since its establishment in 1999.”

According to Prof McKie, the approach is based on three complementary strands: the provision of advice and assistance, particularly for small businesses; the recognition of good practice in both the private and public sectors; and the pursuit of those who blatantly flout the law and put at risk the lives of their employees and the general public.

The annual report can be downloaded at while the NIAO report is at

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