Health and Safety Authority publishes its Annual Review of Workplace Injury, Illness and Fatality Statistics

by Alison Fanagan, Consultant, Jason Milne, Partner, Mark Thuillier, Associate at A&L Goodbody.

In December 2020, the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) published its Annual Review of Workplace Injury, Illness and Fatality Statistics for 2018-2019. This report details the causes and characteristics of injuries, illnesses and fatalities in the workplace. This is caveated on the basis that the HSA’s database in respect of non-fatal accidents is limited due to under-reporting, a point acknowledged in its report.

Key points include:

Fatal Accidents:

  • 47 fatal work-related accidents were reported to the HSA in 2019, with agriculture accounting for 19 of these deaths. The total number of fatalities is up from 39 in 2018, but is comparable to the five year average for 2015-2019 of 47.6 fatal accidents.
  • Construction is the second highest sector for fatal accidents, after agriculture. One in four fatal accidents occurred in Construction (12 fatalities). It is noteworthy that in the past 20 years, the rate of fatal accidents in the Construction sector has fallen significantly, from 17.4 per 100,000 workers in 1998 to 8.2 per 100,000 workers in 2019.
  • The most common cause of an accident leading to a fatal injury was falling from height. This occurred in 11 (23%) fatal accidents. Other important triggers included the loss of control of vehicles (9), loss of control of animals (7), falls of objects onto victims (6), and victims entering dangerous areas such as the path of vehicles (6).
  • All but two of the 47 victims of fatal accidents were male.

Non-Fatal Accidents:

  • Work-related non-fatal injuries also increased in 2019, with 9,335 reported to the HSA. Manual handling leading to personal injury was the most common cause of workplace accident in 2019, representing almost a third (29%) of all non-fatal accidents reported to the Authority. Slips or falls were the second most common, at 24%.
  • Manual handling and falls were also the two most prevalent causes of non-fatal accidents in each of the five years from 2015 to 2019, with back injuries being reported in 20% of worker accidents.
  • The three economic sectors with the highest rates of non-fatal injury leading to four or more days absence from work were (i) Construction (16.7 per 1,000 workers); followed by (ii) Health and Social Work (13.4 per 1,000 workers); and (iii) Transportation and Storage (13.2 per 1,000 workers).
  • One area that saw improvements in 2018 was the number of work days lost to work-related non-fatal injuries. This decreased by 13%, from 709,544 in the five year average for 2014-2018 to 620,800 in 2018, with men more likely to be absent from work as a result of injury compared to women.

The HSA’s report underscores the importance of ensuring that risk assessments are implemented, and reviewed as necessary to ensure employee safety. Effective supervision is seen as a key factor in reducing incidents. Particular care is needed where any incremental changes to work practices are planned: as the risk profile evolves, so must the corresponding assessment of that risk.

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