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Workplace Deaths Prompt Irish Government to Focus on Occupational Safety

After the country experienced its deadliest January in a decade, a top government official in Ireland announced "we cannot take our foot off the pedal" when it comes to occupational safety enforcement and awareness.

On the heels of a January that saw eight workplace fatalities in Ireland, the Irish Health and Safety Authority on Feb. 2 unveiled its 2005 agenda, or Programme of Work. Among its key objectives are:

  • Continuing to put prevention at the top of the agenda through new initiatives, alliances and targeted programs;
  • Increasing the number of workplace inspections and establishing the Special Investigations Unit;
  • Assisting workplaces with the implementation of the new Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act when enacted later this year;
  • Developing a national strategy for occupational health;
  • Continuing with the restructuring of the Health and Safety Authority to facilitate more contact with workplaces both directly and indirectly; and
  • Launching a Health Audit Tool pilot project, which will result in a comprehensive and more effective integrated health, safety and clinic system within the Health Service.

"While the statistics for workplace fatalities showed a decline last year at 50 overall, the trend so far this year is alarming," Minister for Labour Affairs Tony Killeen said. "I am appealing to everyone in the workplace, whether as an employee or employer, to take care, be aware and prevent accidents."

The Chief Executive of the Health and Safety Authority, Tom Beegan, said he hopes this two-pronged preventative and enforcement strategy will help reduce deaths and injuries in the workplace.

"However, I am deeply concerned that 2005 has started out with eight fatalities so far, making it the worst January in a decade," Beegan said. "We need employers and workers to see health and safety as a vital part of their working requirements and not some optional extra. The costs of failure both in human and commercial terms are immense. It saves money in the long run to put health and safety at the core of companies' activities and we know it will save lives."

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