Quarter of road deaths in Ireland shown to be work related

One in four road deaths in Ireland is work related, a new study shows.

Analysis of road accidents from 2008 to 2011 found truck drivers were involved in almost half of the 193 fatal accidents.

The report published by the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) is the first time the scale of work-related road accidents and the associated fatalities have been comprehensively identified.

Using coroners’ records, researchers from University College Dublin found only 15% of work-related deaths involved the workers themselves.

Of the 193 fatalities recorded, 29 were people who were working at the time of the collision; 45 were bystanders where work activity was a primary contributor to the collision, and 119 were of bystanders where work activity was not a direct contributor.

“The most striking depositions are those in which drivers of large vehicles were largely unaware of the collision with a pedestrian or a cyclist, until they were halted by a witness further on in their journey,” said Prof Anne Drummond from the UCD School of Public Health, Physiotherapy and Sports Science , who led the study team.

“These situations could almost certainly be reduced by introducing measures to increase visibility in and around sections of large working vehicles traditionally known as ‘blind spots’ and improving the awareness among pedestrians and cyclists of such blind spots.

“With increasing volumes of traffic, including work-related traffic, these findings should be of real concern to road safety, public health, occupational health, and regulatory authorities,” said Prof Drummond.

The results of the study provide a benchmark for both future recording of data on work-related road traffic fatalities and national and employer level strategies for prevention and intervention strategies, she said.

Kate Field, the head of information and intelligence at IOSH, said: “This research will hopefully lead to an improvement in the reporting of fatal work-related road traffic accident statistics, helping to highlight the importance of reliable sources of notification through coroners’, police or regulatory authorities’ records to avoid underreporting and misreporting practices.”

In response to the survey, the Road Safety Authority warned employers they are obliged to put measures in place to protect the safety, health, and welfare of staff.

The authority said it was concerned that many Irish businesses who have employees who drive in the course of their work do not have a driving for work policy as part of their health and safety management system.

Its own research shows one in five drivers involved in fatal collisions in 2015 were driving for work.

“Employers, managers, and supervisors must, by law, manage the risks that employees face and create when they drive for work,” said an RSA spokeswoman.

“Employers are also required to provide employees with relevant safety instruction, information, and training to protect their safety, health and welfare.

“At best in the event of a collision, an employer is risking their reputation as a fair and compliant employer — at worst they could have to live with the guilt of being responsible for someone’s serious injury or even death.”

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