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February 3, 2012

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Rise in Irish work deaths prompts targeted regulatory action

The Irish Health and Safety Authority is to focus on high-risk sectors this year, after the number of work-related deaths in the country in 2011 went up for the second year in a row.

Launching the regulator’s programme of work for the coming year, the Minister for Jobs Enterprise and Innovation, Richard Bruton TD, welcomed the fact that the HSA will target sectors that have a high rate of deaths and injuries, such as farming and construction.

With 22 fatalities, the former accounted for 40 per cent of the 55 workplace deaths in the Republic of Ireland last year. Six people died in construction – the same number as the previous year – while eight lost their lives in the transport and storage sector. Overall, the number of deaths went up by 15 per cent, from 48 in 2010.

The minister said: “The Authority [will deploy] its resources in a targeted and focused manner, using risk-based enforcement, and engaging with the various stakeholders and representative bodies to influence change.”

The regulator’s chief executive, Martin O’Halloran, explained further: “We will carry out inspections in the traditional high-risk sectors but also in areas where we are seeing worrying trends emerging, such as the waste-management sector, where there has been a number of fatalities over the last couple of years.”

He continued: “We will endeavour to motivate employers and employees to work together to improve safety and health in all workplaces. We will provide tools, such as our free online risk assessment for small businesses, BeSMART, and information through various campaigns that will raise awareness and help reduce injury, death and illness in the workplace.”

However, the Authority also announced that its overall enforcement level will go down in 2012, with the number of workplace safety inspections set to decrease by 9 per cent – from 14,500 last year to 13,250. The number of farm inspections, though, will stay the same, at 3000.

Other high-priority topics to be addressed in 2012 include work-related vehicle safety, manual handling, maintenance of plant and machinery, bullying, and chemicals.

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