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Call for more employers to appoint safety representatives


The Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) and the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) are calling on more employers across all sectors to appoint safety representatives within their workplaces.

Companies are being urged to foster a culture of safety in a bid to prevent workplace injuries, illnesses and deaths.

The call comes ahead of an event in Dublin today to mark Workers’ Memorial Day, a day dedicated to remembering workers who have lost their lives, been injured or contracted illnesses at or because of work.

A special national commemorative ceremony will be held at the Garden of Remembrance this morning.

Families of victims will be joined by the Minister of State with responsibility for Business, Employment and Retail, Emer Higgins, as well as the representatives of the HSA, ICTU, Ibec and the Construction Industry Federation.

459 people died in work-related incidents in Ireland between 2014 and 2023.

Last year, 43 people were killed in workplace incidents.

Working with vehicles and falling from heights were the leading causes of work-related fatalities in 2023.

So far this year, nine people have lost their lives in workplace incidents.

‘I beg of you, make health and safety your top priority’

John McCann, 62, from Clondalkin, in Dublin lost his life when he fell from a height on a construction site in Ringsend in Dublin in 2019.

As part of today’s Workers’ Memorial Day ceremony, the McCann family will lay a wreath in honour of John and all workers killed in workplace incidents.

“When dad went out to work that morning, we could not have imagined he would never return,” said John’s daughter Denise McCann.

“But sadly, thousands of families across the country have suffered the same pain and loss we are going through as a result of a workplace incident, injury or illness. The vast majority of these incidents were preventable.

“For all employers listening, I beg of you, make health and safety your top priority.”

Safety representatives are workers who serve as liaisons between management and staff, advocating for effective safety protocols.

“Under the current legislation, employees are entitled to elect a safety representative to represent them on safety and health matters with their employer,” said Owen Reidy, ICTU General Secretary.

“On construction sites where there are more than 20 people employed at any one time, the project supervisor for the construction stage must facilitate the appointment of a safety representative.”

Despite the numbers in employment increasing, HSA records show an overall decrease in the rate of workplace fatalities per 100,000 workers in Ireland over the last ten years, from a rate of 2.8 in 2014 to 1.6 in 2023.

“We’ve made significant strides since the inception of the Health and Safety Authority in 1989, evident in the halving of the fatality rate,” said Conor O’Brien, Chief Executive Officer of the HSA.

“But there is still a huge amount of work to do and absolutely no room for complacency. As the economy continues to prosper and employment increases, it is vital that safety and health for all workers is prioritised.”

Of the 43 work-related fatalities recorded in 2023, agriculture, forestry and fishing accounted for 20 fatalities, while the construction sector accounted for the second highest fatalities, with 11 reported in 2023.

53% of all workplace fatalities recorded in 2023 were self-employed, while 51% were workers aged over 55.

“One death is one too many,” said Minister of State for Business, Employment and Retail, Emer Higgins.

“Every workplace should prioritise the health and safety of its employees and do all in its power to prevent workplace injuries, illnesses and deaths.”


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