The number of deaths in the workplace increased last year, particularly in the agricultural sector, according the Health and Safety Authority (HSA)’s annual report, released today.
Last year saw the highest number of farm deaths reported in more than 20 years, with 30 of the 56 workplace fatalities in 2014 occurring in the agricultural sector.
The fatality rate in the farming sector is almost ten times that of the rate in other sectors, at 22.9 per 100,000, compared with the average fatality rate of 2.5 per 100,000.
The HSA has said it is working on an approach to prevent agricultural fatalities, including prosecuting farmers when specific hazards are identified, such as unguarded shafts on machinery, unsecured slurry tanks, and children under the age of seven travelling in tractors.
The HSA said: “While this policy decision has met with some resistance in the sector, we believe we have a responsibility to explore more stringent measures that might be effective in reducing fatal accidents in the future.”
Minister for Business and Employment Ged Nash said that the increase in accident rates in 2014 is a cause for concern as awareness of the risks in relation to farming has never been higher.
“It is time now to convert that awareness into action, the carnage and tragedy that we see on our farms every year must stop,” the Minister said.
The number of non-fatal injuries also increased to 7,431, with a third of cases occurring as a result of manual handling, particularly in the health, social work and manufacturing sectors.
The HSA annual report shows that more than 10,700 inspections and investigations were carried out across all sectors last year.
Written advice was given in 38 per cent of cases and enforcement action was required in 9 per cent, resulting in 32 prosecutions for serious health and safety breaches and the imposition of fines totalling €293,000.
Mr Nash warned that the economic recovery must not come at the expense of health and safety standards.
“It is our goal to increase employment opportunities, but it concerns me that as the number of people at work increases the rate of non-fatal accidents has also risen,” the Minister said.
“New workers and people returning to the labour market must be protected.”
The report also shows that more than 5,000 new businesses registered with the HSA’s online safety tool, BeSMART.ie, bringing the number of small businesses using the resource to more than 23,000.