The new chief executive of the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) has said that he will be seeking to develop “co-operation and collaboration” to tackle Ireland’s 58-a-year (based on figures for the period 1989-2005) average workplace death toll.
Speaking at the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health’s (IOSH) Ireland Branch Conference in June, Martin O’Halloran said that he hoped to work closely with interest bodies to help reduce the 8,000 accidents that occur in Ireland each year.
He said that HSA would continue to operate in a “positive and proactive manner” under his leadership. He warned:
“But there will be occasions where we have no option but to take enforcement action.”
Mr O’Halloran said he was also concerned about the health and safety of young people, something which IOSH has campaigned heavily about in the UK through its Wiseup2work initiative. He also stated the need to remember “the human dimension” to workplace accidents.
“I hope to infiltrate the minds of our young people. The Authority and its key partners will be actively working with education in all sectors and we will be driving home the message about the importance of health and safety.
“I hope that by the time children leave school and enter the workplace they will believe that they can go to work, have a good job and come home again to their families. We’ve had in the region of 40 cases this year where young people have left home, gone to work never to come home again.
“None of us like being part of accidents, but we had in excess of 8,000 accidents last year, of which 50 were fatal. In each of these, our research shows that three, four or five other people will be pretty badly affected socially, economically and in everyday life too.”
Mr O’Halloran added that he also believed IOSH and its members had a critical role to play in helping reduce Ireland’s accident rate:
“IOSH is a particularly key partner for HSA. Well-intentioned amateurs are no substitute for competent professionals on health and safety matters.
“When the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act was introduced, there was only a handful of such professionals. We now have 1,600 of you in Ireland, and that’s probably one of the most important groups of people we have. I look forward to working with you in future.”