12 children among 61 victims of workplace accidents this year
Twelve children lost their lives in workplace accidents during the past 12 months, one in five of the total work-related deaths for 2001 and a threefold increase on last year.
Seven children died in farm accidents, representing almost a third of agriculture-related fatalities during the year, according to provisional figures released by the Health and Safety Authority.
Agriculture and forestry accounted for 24 of the overall 61 deaths.
The latter figure is the lowest since 1997, but fatalities in agriculture show a dramatic increase on last year, when the sector accounted for 16 of the 69 fatalities.
The construction industry was responsible for 19 of this year's total, compared with 18 in both 1999 and 2000.
But there were five deaths in quarrying, almost double the recent average and an "alarming rise considering the relatively small numbers employed", according to the HSA.
Overall, the authority points out that the "traditionally high-risk sectors of construction and agriculture" together accounted for almost 70 per cent of this year's fatalites, compared with just under half last year's total.
The main construction industry union, BATU, said the continuing incidence of death and injury on building sites was "appalling and unacceptable", but that on the basis of current practices there was little prospect of any reduction.
The union's safety co-ordinator, Mr Denis Farrell, blamed the lack of controls over who worked on sites.
Too many site workers were deemed to be self-employed, and their relationships to the main contractors could be "very informal", he said.
Until this problem is addressed, death and injury will continue at an unacceptable level."
The Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association said it constantly sought to remind farmers of the dangers and to stress that farmyard safety was the responsibility of each individual.
Association president Mr Pat O'Rourke said no child should die in a farming accident in 2002 "because children should be kept away from the high-risk areas".
The deputy chief inspector of the Health and Safety Authority, Dr P.J. Claffey, said that 61 families had suffered "a tremendous and tragic loss this year".
He added: "Clearly, these statistics are a matter of great concern to us and I would urge employers to make safety their number one resolution in 2002.
"They can start by ensuring that their safety statement is specific to the workplace and is up to date as required by law."