€2.1m fines for deaths at work last year

Companies flouting health and safety standards have been hit with one of the highest ever total annual fines issued in this country, after 47 deaths occurred in Irish workplaces last year.

The Health and Safety Authority penalised companies €2.1m for serious breaches last year, one of the biggest penalties since it was set up in 1989.

Details outlined in the State body’s latest annual report, published last night, show 28 firms were fined the eye-catching sum in 2013, which far exceeds the €425,000 and €819,700 worth of penalties in 2012 and 2011, and is the highest rate in a decade.

While the actual number of deaths and serious injuries remained relatively static compared with previous years, a HSA spokesman said the cost of fines in 2013 surged due to the resolution of a number of high-profile cases last year.

These include:

- A €500,000 fine issued against the HSE after paramedic Simon Sexton, a 43-year-old father of six, died in June 2010 when he fell through a rear-hinged side-door of the vehicle.

The HSA said the HSE “failed to have a written risk assessment and failed to provide information, instruction and training” in how to use the equipment.

- A €355,000 fine issued against Wicklow County Council over the death of Bray fire brigade workers Brian Murray, 46, and Mark O’Shaughnessy, 25.

The HSA said the council “failed to ensure, as far as was reasonably practicable, the safety, health and welfare at work of employees”.

- A €125,000 fine issued against Drummonds Ltd after two of its workers died while using a grain elevator pit. The HSA said the company “failed to provide a system of work in relation to working in an elevator pit that was planned, organised, performed, maintained or revised… without risk to health”.

During 2013, a total of 47 people died and 6,598 were seriously injured in their workplace — in line with the 48 deaths and 6,804 injuries reported in 2012.

Agriculture continues to be the most lethal workplace, accounting for 16 of the 47 deaths in workplaces last year, followed by construction (11 deaths), fishing (five) and transportation/storage (four).

In terms of non-fatal serious workplace injuries, construction (16.7 injuries per 1,000 workers) continues to pose the most danger to workers; followed by health and social work (15.9); and agriculture (14.2).

Jobs Minister Richard Bruton said that, despite key public safety campaigns by the HSA, every workplace fatality “is avoidable and represents a terrible tragedy for a family and a community”.

“Our mission is clear,” added HSA chairman Michael Horgan. “We want to create a culture of safety that benefits all.

“It’s in nobody’s interest to facilitate a culture where accidents are seen as part and parcel of the job. Everyone is entitled to go to work and come home safe and sound. Everyone benefits from a safe and healthy workplace the business and the workers.”

The full report can be read here.


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