24th October 2022
- 38 fatalities reported in 2021 is the lowest number recorded since the foundation of the HSA in 1989
- However, the number of non-fatal incidents remain high with 8,279 reported in 2021
- The most common work-related illnesses are bone, joint or muscle problems followed by stress, depression or anxiety
- 597,000 work days were lost due to work-related injuries and 1,053,000 days were lost due to work-related illnesses in 2020
- Clear evidence that older self-employed males undertaking manual work are over-represented in injury and fatality statistics
Today, Monday 24th October, as European Week for Safety, Health and Work commences, the Health and Safety Authority has published its Annual Review of Workplace Injuries, Illnesses and Fatalities 2020-2021.
While a 30% reduction in work-related fatalities in 2021 is to be welcomed, the fact remains that 38 people lost their lives last year in work-related incidents. This is compared to 54 in 2020 and represents the lowest figure recorded since the Authority was established over 30 years ago.
The most common causes leading to deaths in workplace settings were the loss of control of a vehicle or its attachments (11) and falling from a height (11), which between them accounted for over half of all fatalities (58%).
According to Dr Sharon McGuinness, Chief Executive Officer of the Health and Safety Authority, “I welcome the fact that 38 fatalities in 2021 is the lowest number on record, however, our view is that all of these fatalities are foreseeable and preventable. Much progress has been made but there is still a lot of work to be done. There have been improvements, but unfortunately the farming and construction sectors are still over-represented in our fatality figures accounting for half of all work-related fatalities between them. Both sectors will continue to be key priorities for us.”
Commenting on the disparity of how workplace incidents affect men and women differently, Dr McGuinness added, “Bearing in mind that more fatal incidents occurred to self-employed people than employees in seven of the ten years from 2012 to 2021, it is clear that there is a worrying trend of serious injuries and fatalities in older, self-employed men involved in manual work. Anecdotal evidence suggests that this cohort may consider health and safety as ‘not necessary’ or that they ‘know what they’re doing’, but there is a clear issue here that needs to be addressed.”
Despite the upheaval of the normal course of work and life throughout 2020 and 2021, the numbers of non-fatal incidents related to work activity has remained high. A total of 8,279 non-fatal incidents were reported to the HSA in 2021, an 8% increase on the figure for 2020, which is likely to be due in part to revived economic activity in 2021.
Today also sees the beginning of European Week for Safety and Health at Work focusing on work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). The most common work-related MSDs relate to back injury and upper limb disorders. Although MSDs are preventable, they remain the most common work-related health problem in Europe.
MSDs can be highly detrimental to an individual’s quality of life and ability to work, and are one of the key causes of disability, sick leave and early retirement across Europe. This is a cause for concern not only because of their effects on the health of individual workers, but also because of their detrimental impact on businesses and national economies.
According to Frank Power, Senior Ergonomist with the Health and Safety Authority, “Good ergonomic interventions will reduce the adverse health effects of MSDs on workers and can positively impact their ability to carry out the work activity effectively. In order to make sure that work activities have been designed and planned to minimise the risk of injury, it is essential that ergonomic risk factors are identified and managed through the risk assessment process to avoid or reduce the risk of injury.”
A copy of the HSA's Annual Review of Workplace Injuries, Illnesses and Fatalities 2020-2021 can be downloaded here.