Workers’ Memorial Day

Irish Congress of Trade Unions and the Health and Safety Authority are appealing to more employers to follow the Safety Representative model to foster a workplace safety culture 
It comes as a ceremony was held in Dublin today to mark Workers’ Memorial Day 459 people died in work-related incidents over the past decade (2014-2023). Falling from a height and working with vehicles are the leading causes of workplace fatalities. 

The Health and Safety Authority are calling on more organisations across all sectors to appoint safety representatives within their workplaces, to help foster a culture of workplace safety and in turn prevent workplace injuries, illnesses, and deaths. 

Families of victims were joined by the Minister of State with responsibility for Business, Employment, and Retail, Emer Higgins, TD, as well as the representatives of the Health and Safety Authority, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, Ibec, and the Construction Industry Federation. 

459 people died in work-related incidents in Ireland over the past decade (2014 – 2023). Despite the numbers in employment increasing, the Health and Safety Authority records show an overall decrease in the rate of workplace fatalities per 100,000 workers in Ireland over this period, from a rate of 2.8 in 2014 to 1.6 in 2023.

“One death is one too many,” said Minister of State for Business, Employment and Retail, Emer Higgins TD. “Every workplace should prioritise the health and safety of its employees and do all in its power to prevent workplace injuries, illnesses, and deaths. Positive worker engagement and consultation with trade unions, including the selection of Safety Representatives, is a tangible way to engraining a safer working environment, where employees feel valued, protected, and empowered to speak up about safety concerns. By embracing the Safety Representative model, organisations demonstrate their commitment to prioritising the well-being of employees and promote a culture of safety excellence” she added. 

Safety representatives are workers who serve as liaisons between management and staff, advocating for effective safety protocols. Safety representatives play a pivotal role in safeguarding the well-being of workers, identifying hazards, and supporting employers in implementing proactive measures to mitigate risks. 

43 people were killed in workplace incidents in 2023. Of the 43 fatalities, 39 were workers, while 4 were non workers. So far this year, 9 people have lost their lives in workplace incidents. Working with vehicles (13 fatalities) and falling from height (11 fatalities) were the leading causes of work-related fatalities in 2023. 

“We’ve made significant strides since the inception of the Health and Safety Authority in 1989, evident in the halving of the fatality rate,” said Conor O’Brien, Chief Executive Officer of the Health and Safety Authority. “But there is still a huge amount of work to do and absolutely no room for complacency. As the economy continues to prosper and employment increases, it is vital that safety and health for all workers is prioritised. 
The changing world of work, driven in many ways by technology and new ways of working, has created emerging and evolving challenges in ensuring the safety, health, and welfare of all workers. These challenges are likely to only increase in the future. Whole new industries have emerged. New jobs that didn’t exist just 10 years ago are now commonplace.  These changes have created new workplace hazards that all employers must now consider,” he added.