Friday 9 December 2016

Employers and staff alike must work together to cut down on the risk of deaths or injuries in the workplace

Danny McCoy

Published 28/04/2016 | 02:30

Danny McCoy
Danny McCoy

Our working lives are full of different emotions; from satisfaction to frustration, joy to disappointment. For most, thankfully, grief and tragedy never enter the mix. Sadly, however, this is not the case for all.

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In the last 10 years 500 Irish workers have died as a result of workplace accidents, more than the number that died during the Easter Rising. Many thousands more have been badly injured. Only last year, an average of more than one person each week died in a work-related accident.

Every death and injury is one too many and reinforces the need for safer workplaces, and we all have a part to play.

Workers' Memorial Day is being marked globally today. Ibec is joining with the Health and Safety Authority, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions and the Construction Industry Federation to remember everyone killed, injured and bereaved through workplace accidents. However, it is not just about remembering; it is about taking positive steps to reduce risk and improve safety into the future.

Thankfully we have made massive progress and the standards and practices now upheld in Irish workplaces are among the best in the world. Greater awareness of safety and health issues, combined with more robust legislation and standards, have made Irish workplaces safer. As a result, the number of workers who have died each year in their place of work has fallen by more than 50pc over the last 25 years.

This is an important achievement, but undoubtedly there is scope to reduce this figure even further. There is definitely no room for complacency.

Ibec and our member companies are committed to playing our part in further reducing the numbers of fatalities and accidents at work; the human impact is deeply traumatic for everyone concerned and resonates for years if not lifetimes.

Today is a chance to refocus on preventing and reducing the incidence of fatalities and injuries. All employers and workers must place their, and their colleagues' personal safety, health and welfare at the centre of their thinking and organisational culture.

Those employers who best understand their responsibilities put considerable investment into the identification of hazards, the assessment of risk and the implementation of control.

So what practical steps can be taken?

Employers need to stay up-to-date on the latest developments in occupational safety and health and act on this new knowledge in a timely manner. Ibec provides regular updates to member companies and can provide advice and training.

And managers need to regularly engage and work with their employees to identify hazards, assess risks and implement appropriate controls.

But it is not solely the responsibility of managers, this needs to be a collaborative effort. Workers owe it to themselves and their fellow workers to speak up when they see hazards that could be a danger to themselves or others.

It is crucial that we learn from past mistakes and put in place the procedures and processes to minimise risks. By sharing both good and bad experiences employers can help others to prevent accidents happening elsewhere. Better workplace safety demands a relentless and meticulous focus that is embedded in an organisation's culture, its work practices and is supported by the right procedures and management. It must be a priority at the very highest level. By working together and promoting the practice of safety and health in workplaces throughout Ireland we can achieve a further significant drop in these dreadful numbers.

We all have a responsibility to make sure that happens, and employers have an important role to play. Worker safety is everyone's business - for all organisations, employers and employees.

Danny McCoy is the CEO of Ibec

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