Speaking on April 28 -- considered Workers Memorial Day in the United States and World Health and Safety Day in other parts of the world -- Health and Safety Authority Chief Executive Tom Beegan noted that the country's 23 workplace fatalities have made the first 4 months of 2005 one of the worst starts to a year this decade.
"I am very concerned that the lessons have not been learned and that people are dying needlessly simply because proper measures have not been taken to ensure workplace safety," Beegan said. "It is simply not acceptable that any worker could lose their life by just turning up for work and carrying out their job. It is time to accept that a proper health and safety management system will in the medium term make the workplace safer and reduce overall costs."
The fatality statistics show that construction and agriculture are the two "worst offenders," according to the Health and Safety Authority.
- The figures for the first 4 months are up 40 percent over the same period in 2004.
- Nine people have been killed in the construction sector -- up from seven in the same period last year.
- Seven people died in agriculture -- up from four in the first four months of 2004.
- The "black spots" this year are Cork, with four deaths, and Donegal, Dublin, Louth and Wexford, with 3 deaths in each.
- Louth, which recorded no work-related deaths in 2004, has reported three thus far in 2005.
- Cork, Donegal, Dublin and Louth all have either equaled or exceeded the level of work-related deaths recorded for all of last year.
"All those involved in construction and farming must face up to the safety issues," Beegan said. "Year-in, year-out, the same industries have the worst safety record and people keep getting injured and being killed. It must not continue and we will use every means at our disposal to ensure that it doesn't."
The warning came just days after a Clare farmer was convicted of safety violations when he failed to comply with enforcement notices served by a Health and Safety Authority inspector.
"We are not in the business of going to court for the sake of it, but neither are we in the business of paper-pushing, and non-compliance with enforcement notices is something we take very seriously," Beegan said. "When an organization receives an improvement notice, we mean business, and we will follow up to ensure it's acted upon."