The largest number of fatalities occurred in Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing, where 18 of the victims were self-employed. Seven victims in Construction were self-employed, two victims in Wholesale and Retail Trade were self-employed, while one self-employed victim worked in Accommodation and Food Service Activities.
A third of all deaths involved people over the age of 65, five were under the age of 18 years, and 11 were aged between 45 and 54 years.
“Unfortunately, we have seen work-related fatalities happening to victims from all age groups,” said HSA Chief Executive Dr Sharon McGuinness. “Of the 13 non-workers to die in work-related fatalities in 2020, five were aged under 18 years old. This drives home the need for appropriate procedures to be put in place to protect everyone in a workplace, be they employees, customers or visitors.”
The most common triggers associated with work-related fatalities were loss of control of means of transport which led to 30% of the deaths, fall from height which was associated with 13% of deaths and fall of an object from above or the victim entering a dangerous area, both of which precipitated 11% of deaths.
Figures show that the number of people who died in work-related incidents last year rose 13% to 53, despite many workplaces being closed for long spells due to Covid-19 restrictions. There was however also a substantial decrease in the number of non-fatal incidents reported to the authority, a reduction it also attributes to the impact of the Covid-19 public health measures.
It also shows that last year 5,416 onsite Covid-19 inspections were carried out between 18 May and 31 December to check for compliance with the Government’s Work Safely Protocol.
The authority found a 92% compliance rate with the requirement to have control measures in place, but just 78% adherence to the need to have a response plan prepared. The site visits took place across a wide range of sectors, including the HSA’s priority sectors of healthcare and construction, with inspections also taking place in high-risk sectors such as manufacturing, retail and wholesale, based on public health advice.
The authority also supported public health experts with their management of outbreaks across a range of sectors and workplaces and carried out 9,135 inspections, and completed 1,160 investigations.
In 65% of cases where inspections and investigations took place, enforcement was also taken.
A total of 13 successful prosecutions were made and fines of €1.327m were imposed.
“More people are now aware of the importance of health and safety in the workplace. But health and safety must continue to be a top priority – as it can and will save lives,” said Dr McGuinness. “Proper risk assessments and health and safety considerations must be implemented in all workplaces to ensure everyone’s safety. No job is worth a loss of life, injury or illness.”
The HSA said more than 52,000 online and safety courses were taken last year while large increases were also recorded in users of the BeSmart and FarmSafely programmes – the highest level on record and up from 60% in 2019.