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Sharp rise in NI workplace deaths in last 12 months

Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland publishes Annual Report for 2014/15 

THE Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSENI), in its latest Annual Report, has confirmed that workplace deaths have increased sharply to 23 during 2014/15.

This compares with eight workplace deaths in 2013/14 and is significantly higher than the last five-year average of 15 deaths per year.

The report also shows major injuries are down by 6.3% on last year, and down 13% since a five-year peak in 2010/11.

The difference between a major injury and a fatality can be seconds or centimetres, and the HSENI says it will continue to focus on reducing the causes of serious injuries as a means of reducing future fatalities.

Also, despite the scale of work undertaken by itself and its partners to reduce accidents in the workplace, the HSENI says it is clear that a renewed focus on workplace safety across all sectors is required.

While the latest figures continue to highlight farming as the area of greatest concern, the HSENI also has major concerns about poor health and safety practices found in some parts of the local construction, waste and recycling, and extractive industries.

Last year a targeted inspection campaign found evidence of poor standards and dangerous practices on a number of Northern Ireland’s construction sites, and HSENI says its inspectors also continue to see evidence which suggests that it is only a matter of time before another fatality occurs on a waste and recycling site.

Commenting on the findings and calling for more effort from industry, George Lucas, chair of the HSENI, said: ‘It is simply unacceptable for people to die or be seriously hurt in workplaces and clearly some parts of some industries need to do more.

‘As our economy recovers we all need to be vigilant to unsafe working practices and to work hard every day to ensure we reduce the number of injuries and deaths in the workplace.

‘While HSENI is keen to advise companies on how to meet their legal requirements, we will not hesitate to take enforcement action where there is a clear danger to the well-being and safety of Northern Ireland’s workforce.’

Warning of the potentially serious consequences for employers across all sectors, HSENI chief executive Keith Morrison added: ‘The human cost of a workplace fatality is unbearable and unacceptable for those families who have to deal with the unimaginable loss of a loved one.

‘Also, as an employer, you may have to live with the knowledge that such a tragedy could likely have been easily avoided.

‘In addition, HSENI will investigate, as will the PSNI, which could result in charges for corporate or gross negligence manslaughter. Other charges may also be brought under health and safety law.

‘These investigations can incur enormous costs to your business, which will be stopped until it is determined that the risk to employees has been dealt with.

‘I’d urge all employers and employees to build on the good work already done so that together we can establish a strong health and safety culture in all workplaces and industries across Northern Ireland.’

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