Workplace fatalities increased by 18% in 2019
The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) has reported an increase in workplace fatalities in 2019. The total number of workplace deaths in 2019 was 46 compared with a total of 39 fatalities in 2018 representing an 18% increase overall.
Harry Galvin, President, National Irish Safety Organisation, expressed concern at this increase in workplace fatalities in 2019. Commenting on the high number of farm fatalities in 2019 Mr. Galvin stated that “the safety message is not hitting home to our colleagues in agriculture”. Mr. Galvin also commented that it is worrying to see such a dramatic rise in construction sector fatalities adding that “employers and workers should not become complacent and should remember to always put safety first on every single job.”
Of particular concern is the stark rise in construction-related deaths which more than doubled from five fatalities in 2018 to 12 in 2019. Falls from heights are the leading cause of construction worker deaths.
HSA CEO, Dr. Sharon McGuinness, expressed concern at the increase in fatalities in the construction sector noting that the number of fatalities was the highest since they last spiked in 2015.
Commenting on the figures Dr. McGuinness said that, “While the message seems to have got through to big construction firms who have improved standards around worker safety, what we are seeing is self-employed and smaller building companies not realising their duty and responsibility to staff, and cutting corners when it comes to health and safety.”
Dr. McGuinness expressed the HSA’s plans to target working at height throughout their construction campaigns in 2020 and to also work directly with the sector to increase knowledge and application of risk assessment tools.
Speaking of the role that mindset and behaviour plays in safety, Dr. McGuinness said “Most deaths are preventable. Generally, incidents occur when safety shortcuts are taken. But the mentality of placing people’s lives in peril in the race to finish a job – or save money – needs to stop. Lives depend on it.”
The farming sector incurred the highest number of fatalities again in 2019 and remains the most dangerous industry to work in. There was a total of 18 farm fatalities in 2019, an increase of 3 fatalities on 2018. Of the 18 fatalities last year, 12 of the deceased were over 70 years of age. The deaths involved being strapped or crushed (7); struck by a vehicle (2); drowning (2); struck by a falling object (2) and other (5). Livestock were involved in six fatalities.
Dr. McGuinness urges people to “really take on board the dangers around farming whenever working with livestock, slurry or machinery.”
Ports and docks
Another point of concern is the high number of fatalities at Irish ports and docks with 6 workplace deaths in 2019, an increase of 1 on 2018. Dr. McGuinness commented that increased vigilance is needed as we face Brexit and increased activity in shipping and at ports.
In conclusion, Dr. McGuinness noted that “Although we have seen a downward trend between 2015 (56 fatalities) and 2018 (39 fatalities), action still needs to be taken to ensure that every worker goes home safely each and every evening. We must not become complacent as we continue our mission to prevent injury, death and ill health at work.”