New reporting requirements aimed at making employers come clean on the scale of non-fatal accidents and other mishaps in the workplace, have seen the number of reported risky incidents rise by almost a third but the level of under-reporting remains a cause for concern.
The new regulations, overseen by the Health and Safety Authority (HSA), came into effect in November 2016 and while the number of non-fatal accidents rose only modestly — from 7,357 in the previous 12 months to 7,528 in the year to last November, the number of reported “dangerous occurrences” jumped from 209 to 292.
New emphasis has been placed on documenting dangerous occurrences which is described as where no-one was hurt but the potential existed for injuries. This was an effort to make employers more aware of the hazards at their premises and in their work practices.
The list of incidents that come under the description of dangerous occurrence has expanded and includes a specific section on wind turbines to reflect the growth in wind energy technology around the country.
The list covers buildings, other structures, vehicles, equipment, containers and pipelines and incidents including collapses, explosions, leakages, uncontrolled movements and contacts with overhead power lines which led to a risk of personal injury.
The HSA is encouraging employers and managers to report incidents even where they can not be sure how dangerous the incident was rather than delay waiting for internal investigations to assess injury potential.
“Such a delay could lead to the loss of valuable information,” it warns.
A new 10-day deadline on reporting dangerous occurrences also applies where previous reports were sought as soon as practicable which in reality could mean a gap of many months before details were submitted, if at all.
Fatal accidents are subject to a five-day reporting deadline while non-fatal accidents where injuries occurred must be reported within 10 days. Breaches can mean a prosecution and a fine of up to €5,000.
By early December, the HSA was notified of 47 fatalities at work during 2017, with 24 of them in farming- related accidents while there were six in construction and six in transportation.
That is believed to be an accurate reflection of the death toll in workplaces during the year but comparisons with Central Statistic Office data on the number of people out of work due to workplace accidents suggests up to half of all non-fatal accidents may go unreported.
The HSA said that it was not reading much into the new reporting figures at this stage.
“Any increase would have to be evident for a number of years before we could begin to conclude that it was related to the new reporting regulations,” said a spokesman.
However, he said the HSA was hopeful the changes would encourage workers and employers to improve their reporting habits which in turn would help improve workplace safety. “While we are confident that the vast majority of fatal work-related accidents are reported to us, we do believe that there is significant under-reporting of non-fatal accidents,” he said.
“Developing successful prevention policies requires an understanding of the prevalence and trends of certain accident types, and such understanding is based on up-to-date and reliable information.”
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