Northern Ireland workers twice as likely to die at work
Employees in Northern Ireland are more likely to suffer a fatal accident at work than staff anywhere else in the UK, according to a new report.
However, the audit office said this may be because Northern Ireland has a higher proportion of tradesmen than the rest of the UK, doing jobs which are more dangerous than management or clerical roles.
There was some progress in cutting the fatality rate over the last decade. But work-related ill health and accidents costs around £250 million a year.
The report said: "In light of the persistent fatality level arising from workplace incidents in Northern Ireland over the last decade and the higher proportion of fatalities compared to Great Britain, the Northern Ireland Audit Office (NIAO) recommends that Health and Safety Executive Northern Ireland (HSENI) fully considers the research outcomes in relation to fatal injury incident rates conducted by other regulators, notably HSEGB, in order to inform its own deliberations in this area."
Seven people lost their lives in work-related accidents in 2009, which is a 60% reduction on the previous year's figure.
Kieran Donnelly, comptroller and auditor general, led the review of the HSENI which recorded that in 2008/09 there were 1.24 people injured per 100,000 employees compared to 0.5 in Great Britain.
His 48-page review acknowledged that the HSENI was making considerable efforts to drive down the number of fatalities.
It added: "However, in light of the persistent rate differential between Northern Ireland and Great Britain we take the view that this remains a significant issue."
That rate is slightly better than 10 years ago.
A HSENI and district council group will develop a long term health and safety at work strategy for Northern Ireland.
According to today's report the cost to the Northern Ireland economy of work related injury, ill-health and non-injury accidents is around £250 million, although that figure needs to be treated with caution because of the availability of data.
The document said: "NIAO acknowledges that HSENI has plans in place to update the cost to the economy estimate in due course.
"However we also note that there are unresolved issues with regard to data and methodology."
John Armstrong, managing director of the Construction Employers Federation, said the industry is proportionally more important to the Northern Ireland economy than it is in Great Britain and the risks can be effectively managed.
"The local industry has made significant improvements to health and safety practice over the last 10 years. Through the Construction Skills Register scheme, over 100,000 people have now received one day's basic health and safety training and 600 companies are now certified with Safe T Cert, the third party accredited health and safety management system," he said.
"However, as an industry we must not become complacent. Further improvement is required. Every single person starting work on a construction site in the morning must be able to leave that site at the end of the day uninjured and as healthy as when they started."