SIPTU’S Dublin construction branch secretary, Eric Fleming, claimed the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) had been forced to cut the number of site inspections from a projected 8,000 per year to 4,500 because of reduced funding.
Just before Christmas last year, four building workers died in quick succession as a result of building site accidents.
More than 100 people have died in work place accidents in the past five years - nine in the last year.
Mr Fleming told the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) conference, in Tralee, Co Kerry, that Ireland had only one safety inspector for every 33,000 building workers. This, he said, compared to one for every 15,000 in the Netherlands and 25,000 in Britain.
“All the wrong signals are being sent out to building workers and will this will demoralise those in the industry who depend on their employers and the State to ensure their safety,” he said.
Mr Fleming said last February Minister Frank Fahey said he would take on board a trade union call for the introduction of the crime of corporate manslaughter.
Now, however, he was saying he did not see the need to bring it in here because other countries did not have it.
Mr Fleming also claimed the high incidence of deaths on building sites would continue until much more was done to change what he termed the ‘reactionary culture’ that pervades the industry.
As well as more involvement by the HSA, he believed workers themselves should become more active in safety matters.
With increased powers and in co-operation with management safety personnel on sites, safety representatives could make a huge contribution to eliminating unsafe practices.