Workplace injuries and fatalities up

10th July 2012

For the second year in a row, the Health and Safety Authority’s (HSA) 2011 annual report paints a worrying picture of increasing workplace fatalities and injuries. Fifty-four people lost their lives at work last year compared to 43 in 2009.

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) said the increase called into question the effectiveness of fines, however large, in deterring companies with poor health and safety practices. ICTU has called for new laws to recognise corporate manslaughter in order to hold those at the top, including board members, accountable. Its legislation and legal affairs officer Esther Lynch expressed fears that workplace safety was getting less priority in the recession.

“Too often businesses mistakenly see health and safety as a cost or red tape and ask for weaker protections using the logic that regulation is bad for jobs and the economy. But workers and their families bear the costs of inadequate regulation, and the ultimate price is lost lives,” she said.

Seven per cent of the 15,340 HSA inspections and investigations carried out last year resulted in formal enforcement action. Loss of control of vehicles or machinery was the most common cause of workplace deaths (15 in 2011).

Manual handling (heavy lifting) injuries continue to account for about a third of the 6,956 non-fatal injuries reported, with slips, trips and falls being the next most common at 17%.  There were 32 prosecutions for health and safety breaches in 2011 and penalties included five suspended sentences and a total of €819,700 in fines.