Monday 11 December 2017

Comment: Staying safe at work means everyone working together

Picture posed.
Picture posed.

Martin O'Halloran

Over the past 10 years, 520 people have died as a result of work-related accidents in Ireland. The heartbreak they left behind is almost too great to imagine. Wives, husbands, children, loved ones, friends, colleagues - all left to endure unbearable loss that in many cases could have been easily prevented.

Tomorrow is Workers' Memorial Day, when we remember people killed or injured in work-related accidents. The Health and Safety Authority has been joined by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, Ibec and the Construction Industry Federation to mark the occasion with a national commemorative event in Dublin.

Workers' Memorial Day will also be marked throughout the country and worldwide.

The day is not only about honouring and remembering those who have died, however. It's fundamentally about remembering how and why they died. And understanding how deaths can be prevented in future.

That's a job for everyone - government, employers, industry groups, trade unions, and individual managers and workers. Creating a safe workplace begins with instilling a safety culture in an organisation; a culture where the focus is firmly on the identification of hazards, assessment of risk and the implementation of appropriate measures to deal with them.

Everyone in every workplace has a responsibility to reduce risk and improve safety. If we each keep our colleagues' as well as our own safety to the forefront of our minds we can make real progress towards the goal of eliminating workplace death, injury and illness.

There's nothing especially complicated or difficult about those steps. What is required is a series of simple, common sense methodical actions every day, in every workplace.

For employers, this means being aware of their duty to provide a safe and healthy workplace; for managers it means identifying hazards, carrying out risk-assessments and engaging with employees to ensure safe systems of work are in place and everyone understands their role; and for employees it's about reporting any hazards and risks.

Such collaborative effort has resulted in a halving in workplace fatality rates since the establishment of the Health and Safety Authority almost 30 years ago.

Tomorrow, we will gather in the Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin in solemn remembrance of all workers who have died or suffered injury in their workplaces.

But if Workers' Memorial Day is to truly mean anything it must be about more than just remembering. The best memorial to those workers will be a combined and intensified effort by all concerned.

Martin O'Halloran is chief executive of the Health & Safety Authority

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