Health sector lost 524 days per 1,000 workers due to illness, finds report

Health sector workers are most likely to be off due to work-related illness, it has emerged.

It was blamed for the health sector losing 524 days per 1,000 workers between 2008 and 2014.

The number of days lost in health is ahead of the other sectors examined: Transport (507); agriculture, forestry and fishing (358); industry (351); and was lowest in construction (313).

The research from the Economic and Social Research Institute and Health and Safety Authority looked at work-related injuries and illness in sectors with persistently high risks.

The five sectors accounted for 41% of employment and 56% of work-related injury in 2014.

Researchers looked at nationally representative workforce surveys collected by the CSO between 2001 and 2014.

Injury rates in agriculture, construction, and industry fell during the recession (2008-11) compared to the boom (2001-07).

There is some evidence the injury rates started to increase again in the early recovery period.

The number of deaths is highest in the agriculture, forestry, and fishing sector, rising from 129 in 2001-07 to 151 in 2008-14.

There was a downward trend in the rate of fatalities in other sectors.

The number of deaths fell between the 2001-07 period and the 2008-14 period in industry (62 to 39), construction (104 to 49), and in transport and storage (38 to 26).

The combined fatalities in industry, construction, transport, and agriculture, forestry, and fishing accounted for 85% of all worker fatalities in Ireland in 2014.

The health sector had the highest number of days lost because of work-related injury during the 2008-14 period, at 92,000 days per year.

The transport sector, with 82,000 days lost per year, over the same period had the second-highest number in the same timescale.

However, the transport sector had the highest number of days lost per worker.

The average number of days lost to injury per 1,000 workers over the 2008-14 period was 766 in transport; 532 in construction; 413 in agriculture, 329 in health; and 282 in industry.

Night workers, shift workers and new recruits are also at a higher risk of injury. In all of the sectors examined except construction, night workers were at a higher risk.

And in all five sectors, new recruits were more likely to be injured compared to those who have worked longer.

Longer working weeks are also associated with an increased injury risk, particularly for those in construction, who work between 40 and 49 hours a week.

Part-time workers in the agriculture and transport sectors are at an increased injury risk, particularly those working long hours.

ESRI researcher Helen Russell said the recovery had resulted in strong employment but there were increased risks to employee health and safety too, such as longer working hours and an influx of new, inexperienced workers.

“There is a need for supervision, training and support to prevent rising injury and illness rates,” said Prof Russell.

Health and Safety Authority chief executive Martin O’Halloran said it is a valuable body of research.

“It confirms to us that we need to have a greater focus on health and that our overall strategic direction in the area of workplace health is correct,” he said.


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