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June 27, 2012

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Irish health and safety regulator issues annual report

Last year was one of challenge and achievement in the Irish health and safety sector, according to the regulator’s annual report for 2011.

Martin O’Halloran, chief executive of the Health and Safety Authority (HSA), in his foreword to the report, published yesterday (26 June), emphasised the results of the regulator’s advisory approach, its myriad efforts to help small businesses understand and comply with their health and safety duties, and the level of enforcement action taken by inspectors.

While the regulatory focus in the Republic of Ireland – as in the UK – has shifted from proactive inspection and enforcement to advice and support, the number of work-related deaths in the country rose last year by 15 per cent, to 55 – the second annual increase in a row (as reported by SHP earlier this year). Agriculture and construction accounted for more than half of this total, with 22 and six fatalities, respectively.

Enforcement activity was correspondingly greatest in these sectors – in line with the HSA’s objective to focus on high-risk areas. Of the total 15,340 investigations and inspections carried out in 2011 (an 8-per-cent drop on the previous year), 4409 (29 per cent) were in construction, and 3222 (21 per cent) were in the farming sector. Other sectors where enforcement activity was high include wholesale and retail trade, motor-vehicle repair, manufacturing, and transportation and storage.

In all, 535 Improvement Notices and 436 Prohibition Notices were served (of the latter, 77 per cent were issued in the construction and agriculture sectors) and 32 prosecutions were brought for health and safety breaches by duty-holders. Fines totalling €819,700 (£656,500) were levied, and prison sentences (suspended) were handed down to four individuals.

Inspectors reported a good level of health and safety management in general across all sectors, observing that 69 per cent of employers had a safety statement prepared and available at the workplace, 88 per cent of senior managers were aware of their duties under health and safety legislation, and 90 per cent of workplaces – where relevant – had systems for safety consultation.

Mr O’Halloran paid tribute to the Authority’s staff in achieving their targets against a background of budgetary and resource cuts. A HSA spokesperson told SHP that while there were no “huge drops” evident in this year’s report, in the coming years numbers will “drastically reduce”. The spokesperson added: “These are cuts across the public sector as a whole – it is completely a numbers game. It is not done by reducing inspections, or inspectors in particular sectors.”

The full report can be found on the HSA website, here.

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11 years ago

The increase of 15% is worrying when you consider that the construction industry at this moment in time is tiny towards what it was a few years ago.
Agriculture is always high and I think that there seems to be a dearth of education and responsibility in this sector.