Increase in work-related deaths last year

Construction-related deaths more than doubled
  • Deborah Condon

Almost 50 people died in work-related accidents last year, with a major jump in construction-related deaths recorded.

According to the latest figures from the Health and Safety Authority (HSA), 46 people lost their lives in workplace accidents last year, an 18% increase on 2018's figure of 39.

Construction fatalities more than doubled, from five in 2018 to 12 in 2019. Falls from heights were the leading cause of death in this sector.

The HSE noted that construction-related fatalities were more common in smaller companies with fewer than 10 employees.

"Construction workers engage in many activities that may expose them to hazards, such as falling from a height, unguarded machinery or being struck by construction equipment.

"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," explained HSA chief executive, Dr Sharon McGuinness.

Overall, agriculture remains the most dangerous sector to work in, with 18 deaths recorded last year, up from 15 in 2018.

The HSE said that older farmers are more at risk, with 13 of last year's victims over the age of 60, and 10 of these over the age of 70. Causes of agriculture-related deaths included being trapped or crushed, such as by cattle or bales, being struck by a vehicle, and being struck by a falling object.

"As farmers get older, they must adjust their work practices to make sure that they avoid injury. I would urge people to really take on board the dangers around farming whenever working with livestock, slurry or machinery.

"Farmers think it'll never happen to them, but sadly as we have seen, all it takes is a few seconds for a serious injury or death to occur," Dr McGuinness said.

She also expressed concern about safety in the country's ports and docks, where five deaths were recorded in 2019, one more than in 2018.

"Employers must demonstrate from the top that no job is worth a loss of life, injury or illness. This message is especially important as we face into Brexit with more activity expected in shipping and ports," she commented.

The HSA figures show that overall, Wexford had the highest number of workplace deaths last year (7), followed by Dublin (6) and Cork (5).

"Although, we did see 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," Dr McGuinness added.


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