Illness a big issue for health sector workers

New research on five high-risk sectors
  • Deborah Condon

A study of five high-risk sectors has found that health sector workers are most likely to miss work as a result of work-related illness.

The findings have been published by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) and the Health and Safety Authority (HSA). They focused on work-related illnesses and injuries in five sectors which are seen as high risk - health, construction, transport and storage, industry (manufacturing and utilities) and agriculture, forestry and fishing.

The research looks at the period 2001-2014. In 2014, these five sectors accounted for 41% of all employment and 56% of all work-related injuries.

According to the findings, the health sector had the highest number of days lost per worker due to work-related illness. Some 524 days were lost annually per 1,000 workers. This was followed by transport (507 days), agriculture, forestry and fishing (358), industry (351) and construction (313).

The health sector also had the highest total number of days lost to work-related injury. However, the transport sector had the highest number of days lost per worker due to work-related injury.

In the 2008-2014 period, the highest annual average number of days lost to injury per 1,000 transport workers was 766. The average for all other sectors outside of the five studied was 216 days per 1,000 workers.

Night workers, shift workers and new recruits had a higher risk of injury overall, as did those working longer hours and part-time workers.

Meanwhile, the rate of fatalities was highest in the agriculture, forestry and fishing sector.

"The recovery is leading to strong employment growth, which is to be welcomed. However, employment growth can bring with it increased risks to employee health and safety, such as longer working hours and an influx of new inexperienced workers.

"Our research shows that new recruits in construction, health, agriculture and transport have a significantly higher risk of occupational injury. Hence, there is need for supervision, training, and support to prevent rising injury and illness rates," commented ESRI research professor, Helen Russell.


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