Growing concern over workplace safety

A leading health and safety expert has expressed “grave concerns” over reduced Health and Safety Authority (HSA) funding and ongoing curbs on the number of safety inspections. In an interview with the respected journal Health & Safety Review, Pauric Corrigan, president of the National Irish Safety Organisation (NISO), questioned whether the Government was planning adequately for an expected upturn in the construction sector, where there are plans to create 60,000 new jobs this year.

The HSA plans to carry out 11,520 inspections in 2014, compared to over 16,000 five years ago. The reduction reflects a 27% cut in the HSA’s budget over the same period.

Health and Safety Review editor Herbert Mulligan says the cut in the HSA’s budget and inspection programme is double the reduction in the number of employees during the recession. “It is not that the authority is not performing its functions. Rather it is being limited in its ability to do so,” he wrote.

There are commercial considerations too. Last year, HSA chairman Michael Horgan told an Oireachtas committee that his agency was struggling to maintain its support to high tech industries that earn more than €50 billion in exports. He said production could be moved to other countries as a direct result.

IMPACT’s HSA branch reports that its members see health and safety compliance slipping, with reductions in inspections exacerbating the trend.