Construction deaths increased by 140% in a year when 46 people died in workplace incidents – HSA
Construction workplace deaths have more than doubled in 2019 from five to 12, with falls from heights are the leading cause of construction worker deaths.
The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) is also reporting that fatalities are more common in smaller construction companies with fewer than 10 employees.
Agriculture remains the most dangerous sector in which to work with 18 deaths, and older farmers are most at risk. Vehicles, falls from heights, drowning, and getting trapped or crushed, were the leading cause of fatal injuries.
Wexford had the highest number of fatalities with seven deaths in 2019, while Cavan, Longford, Leitrim, Laois, Meath, Offaly, Sligo and Westmeath had no workplace deaths. April was the most dangerous month with six deaths, while November had no fatalities reported.
Construction fatalities more than doubled in 2019
Construction fatalities have more than doubled in the past year, it has emerged, as the latest figures released by the HSA show that there were 46 deaths in the workplace in 2019. Provisional data shows an 18% rise from the previous year when 39 people died.
Dr Sharon McGuinness, Chief Executive Officer, HSA, expressed concern that construction deaths had increased from five in 2018 to 12 in 2019, with 75% of all fatal injuries taking place in the last six months. With falls from heights the leading cause of all construction worker deaths last year, she highlighted the Authority’s concern that many of the fatalities involved small companies and self-employed tradespeople.
“The figures show that the number of construction deaths has increased to levels not seen since they last spiked in 2015, when falls from a height were also the biggest trigger in fatal injuries.
“This is a worrying trend and shows that without proper risk assessments and health and safety considerations, ultimately a worker may pay the price with their life,” Dr McGuinness warned.
She said that the HSA’s provisional statistics show that the rate of construction fatalities has increased considerably in the last year from 3.5 per 100,000 people employed to approximately 8.2 per 100,000.
“Construction workers engage in many activities that may expose them to hazards, such as falling from a height, unguarded machinery, or being struck by construction equipment.
“Our provisional data also shows that 940 non-fatal incidents and dangerous occurrences were reported to the HSA from the construction sector in 2019.
“While the message seems to have got through to big construction firms who have improved standards around worker safety, what we are seeing is self-employed and smaller building companies not realising their duty and responsibility to staff, and cutting corners when it comes to health and safety.
“We plan to target working at heights throughout our construction safety campaigns this year, and will also engage directly with the sector to increase knowledge and application of risk assessment tools to be used on all sites, “ she said.
Tom Parlon, Director General, CIF, responding to the HSA statistics, said, “The increase in construction fatalities is a grave reminder to companies to keep focussed on safety every day. The CIF is reiterating its call to construction companies to continue to build on the significant investment in safety on sites over the past two decades. There’s been a consistent fall in fatalities from 2015 until this year’s spike. In 2020, we’ll be redoubling our efforts to continue the long-term downward trend in fatalities.
“Our focus must continue to be keeping the 150,000 employees in our 47,000 enterprises safe, reducing fatalities to zero and minimising accidents on site. Construction activity is growing at around 10% per annum since the recovery started in 2013. One thousand people have entered the construction industry workforce per month since mid-2013. An estimated 3,000 new companies have also set up in that period. It’s vital that new entrants, as well as existing companies, continue to prioritise safety on-site.
“Over the past few years, the highest proportion of fatalities occur within the micro-enterprise and sole-trader cohorts of industry. The CIF and its members have devoted huge resources attempting to get the safety message to these cohorts and are asking companies to ensure they are compliant, avail of training and ensure their employees are constantly engaged in developing a safety culture.
“We’ll continue to work with unions and the Health and Safety Authority within the Construction Safety Partnership to bring all the stakeholders together on this critical issue and improve safety in construction,” he concluded.