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February 1, 2011

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Irish regulator to focus on farms and small businesses in 2011

The number of safety inspections on Irish farms will more than double this year in response to the “horrific” total of deaths recorded in 2010.

Publishing its Programme of Work for 2011 yesterday (31 January) the Irish Health and Safety Authority (HSA) pledged to “refocus its resources to reflect changes in accident numbers and levels of activity” such that the farming sector will see 3000 visits – up from 1250 last year – while construction, where activity has slowed considerably, will receive 3500 visits – down from 5000 in 2010.

Overall, the Authority intends to carry out 14,500 workplace safety visits – a drop of 12 per cent on the previous year’s total. It aims to prioritise inspection activity towards sectors and individual employers where “the highest levels of non-compliance are expected, based on evidence involving indicators such as complaints, accident rates, and failure to provide required notifications”.

There will be a particular focus on the implementation of control measures to address the risks from manual handling, slips, trips and falls, work-related transport, and chemicals use. A greater emphasis will also be placed on occupational health, with a new awareness-raising campaign to be developed on the importance of effectively managing work-related ill health.

Small businesses are also highlighted in the strategy. Launching the Programme of Work, the Irish minister for labour affairs, Dara Calleary, said: “I believe that the vast majority of employers care about the welfare of their employees and see the benefits of having a safe and healthy workforce. We must assist enterprises with limited resources, and make workplace health and safety legislation easier to understand and comply with. I believe making compliance simpler and less costly means more compliance and better compliance.”

To this end, the Authority has also launched its ‘Taking Care of Business’ initiative, which, explained chief executive, Martin O’Halloran, “is designed to assist SMEs implement health and safety systems in a very straightforward way”.

As part of the initiative, a free, one-day health and safety ‘expo’ will be held on 16 February at Dublin’s new Convention Centre, featuring a range of workshops, demonstrations and speakers to help small businesses understand how effective management of worker health and safety can benefit the bottom line. A free online tool to help SMEs plan their health and safety activity themselves, without the need for specialist expertise, will be launched at the event.

To find out more, visit

The HSA’s full Programme of Work for 2011 can be downloaded from here.

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