Self-employed Account for Over 50% of work-related fatalities in 2020

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More than half of all people who died in work-related incidents in 2020 were self-employed. That’s according to the Health & Safety Authority’s latest Annual Review of Workplace Injuries, Illnesses & Fatalities, just published.

Of the 53 work-related fatalities in 2020, 28 or 52.8% were self-employed, 12 victims were employees (22.6%) and 13 were non-workers (24.5%).

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.

In welcoming the 2020 Annual Report and Annual Review of Workplace Injuries, Illnesses and Fatalities, the Minister of State for Business, Employment and Retail, Damien English TD, said: “There are approximately 300,000 self-employed people in Ireland, most of whom work alone, juggling a myriad of skills, who might consider time spent on health and safety issues important, but not urgent. These are the people who have the most to lose if they have an incident or serious illness. The HSA have many free tools, courses and supports available and I’d encourage all employers and workers, including the self-employed, to avail of them or to contact the HSA for advice.” Minister English also acknowledged the work undertaken by the Health & Safety Authority in 2020, and to-date in 2021, in developing the Work Safely Protocol and in assisting employers to keep their businesses operating safely and their worker’s safe in the context of COVID-19.

There has been a significant increase in the number of people contacting the Health & Safety Authority and availing of supports. According to the Health & Safety Authority’s Annual Report, also published, the HSA’s Workplace Contact Unit handled 28,684 contacts in 2020, 39% more than in 2019. Of the 28,684 contacts received, over a third or 9,982 were requests for information in relation to COVID-19.

The numbers registering to use the HSA’s free safety statement and risk assessment tool, BeSMART.ie, increased by 15% in 2020 – with 78,162 people registered in 2020, compared with 66,296 registered in 2019. There were 11,868 new registrants in 2020 – the highest on record, compared with 9,967 new registrants in 2019.

The online farm risk assessment tool, farmsafely.com, also recorded an increase, with 13,227 registered users in 2020, compared to 11,502 registered users in 2019.

52,644 online health and safety courses, HSALearning.ie, were taken in 2020 – the highest on record, and 60% more than the number of courses taken in 2019. The most popular courses taken in 2020 included “An Introduction to Tractor Safety”, “Chemical Safety in the Workplace” and “Slips, Trips and Falls in the Workplace”.

“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 CEO of the HSA, Dr Sharon McGuinness. “Unfortunately, we have seen work-related fatalities happening to victims from all age groups. 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. 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,” she added.

The most common triggers associated with work-related fatalities in 2020 were loss of control of means of transport (16, 30.2%), fall from height (seven, 13.2%), fall of object from above onto victim (six, 11.3%) and victim entering dangerous area (six, 11.3%).

The highest number of victims in work-related fatalities in 2020 were aged over 65 (18 victims). The proportion of involving older victims aged 65 years or more has increased from 7.4% in 1990 (the first full year for which the Authority holds data), to 34% in 2020.

The HSA is concerned by this increase and is urging all employers to implement tailored health and safety policies designed with the unique requirements of older workers’ in mind,” said Tom Coughlan, Chairperson of the Health and Safety Authority. We will continue to collaborate and partner with employer and employee groups in order to further raise awareness of health and safety and prevent incidents and injury. It is encouraging to see that there has been a significant increase in the number of people conducting health and safety courses, safety statements and risk assessments. Taking the time to assess risks and re-evaluate ways of working – can and will save lives,” he added.