Cutbacks blamed for drop in HSA workplace inspections

Health and Safety Authority lost 12 inspectors between 2011 and 2015

There was a spike in farm deaths in 2014 when inspections were at their lowest.

There was a spike in farm deaths in 2014 when inspections were at their lowest.

 

The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) has blamed staff cutbacks for the falling numbers of workplace visits carried out by its inspectors in recent years.

Figures show the number of inspections and investigations fell considerably from 15,340 in 2011 to a low of 10,719 in 2014. There was a slight recovery last year when 10,880 inspections and investigations were completed, but it still represents a fall-off from the numbers recorded earlier in the decade.

Responding to a parliamentary question by Fianna Fáil’s Niall Collins, Minister of State for Employment and Small Business Pat Breen said the lower annual inspection totals could be attributed to fewer inspection staff, but that the HSA is on target to increase the number of inspections to 11,165 in 2016.

A HSA spokesman said it lost 12 inspectors between 2011 and 2014, which necessitated the transfer of some remaining staff to administrative duties. Figures show there are now 62 inspectors, down from 73 in 2011, and some are confined to office roles.

“The HSA, like all public sector bodies, has been subject to the embargo on recruitment in recent years,” said the spokesman. “As staff have left and not been replaced, remaining staff have been reassigned to high priority activities which can include administrative duties.”

There have been moderate fluctuations in the number of fatal workplace injuries between 2011, when 54 people died, and 2015, when 56 deaths were recorded. After a steady decline, the workplace fatality rate rose slightly between 2013 and 2015, and now stands at 2.5 deaths per 100,000 population.

There was a spike in farm deaths in 2014 when inspections were at their lowest, and the HSA says a diversion of greater resources towards farm inspections has contributed to the decrease in overall inspection numbers.

The Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation said the moratorium was necessary given the severe economic downturn. It said the HSA has maintained high standards by achieving efficiencies over recent years.