WP comment on Health & Safety stats

Decline in workplace deaths welcome but more inspections and follow-up action required says Finnegan

The Workers’ Party has welcomed the decline in the number of people killed in workforce accidents last year but the party says that the loss of 43 workers’ lives is still totally unacceptable.

Welcoming the statistics published today (Tuesday) by the Health & Safety Authority, Workers Party President Michael Finnegan said that much of the decline could unfortunately be put down to the state of economic activity rather than increasing safety awareness.

Mr. Finnegan said that it was incredible that in spite of more than 18,000 workplace inspections of the HSA last year, a mere 11% had been followed up with some form of action being demanded by the authority and less than quarter of one percent of inspections had resulted in legal prosecutions.

“While any decrease in the number of accidents and deaths at work is to be welcomed, it beggars belief that less than 3 in every thousand visits by Health  & Safety Authority inspectors results in a prosecution especially since some of  these visits resulted from complaints rather than random workplace inspections. The HSA still do not have enough inspectors to cover the thousands of workplaces they must visit each year and in many cases do not have the time to follow up on all but the most flagrant of breaches of Health & Safety legislation”, said Mr. Finnegan.

The Workers Party said another problem was that penalties for breaches of Health & Safety laws are still far too low.   “Fines of up to €100,000 may seem large but what price can be put on a human life?  It must also be borne in mind that to many of the larger employers such fines are meaningless.    Some of the largest employers can lose millions if production stops for a few hours. Writing a cheque for  €100,000 and forgetting that a man or woman’s life has been lost or their health destroyed is not the type of penalty that will make them think twice”, he said.

Issued 23rd June 2010

Peace, Work, Democracy & Class Politics