WHILE construction fatalities have more than doubled in the last year, according to the latest figures released by the Health and Safety Authority (HSA), when there were 46 deaths in the workplace in 2019, the agricultural sector remains the most dangerous one, accounting for 18 of the total number of deaths.
This is an unwanted record, one that the agri-sector would like to lose, and relatively speaking, with construction activity growing at around 10% per annum since the recovery started in 2013, the fact that the farming sector still has the highest number of workplace fatalities, begs the obvious necessity for increasing safety awareness. The message cannot be driven home hard enough.
The focus of a renewed safety awareness campaign in the agricultural community must be on older farmers, as almost three in every four farm fatalities last year involved people aged 60 and older. CEO of the HSA, Dr Sharon McGuinness, said farmers must recognise their limitations as they age as this may affect their ability to work safely.
Because of the general election being called, the release of the HSA report may have gone under the radar in terms of the attention it merits. Its provisional figures for last year showed a worrying overall 18% increase from the previous year, when 39 people died in workplace accidents, an increase of seven, all of it accounted for by the death toll in the construction sector rising from five in 2018 to 12 in 2019.
Falls from heights were the leading cause of all construction worker deaths last year and, as the HSA stated: ‘Most deaths are preventable. Generally, incidents occur when safety shortcuts are taken. But the mentality of placing people’s lives in peril in the race to finish a job – or save money – needs to stop.’