Belfast Telegraph

Sharp rise in deaths at work, with farming still the most dangerous job in Northern Ireland


By Adrian Rutherford

The number of people killed in workplace accidents in Northern Ireland rose by a third in the last year.

A total of 16 deaths were recorded in the 12 months to April, with farming the most dangerous occupation.

The figures emerged in an annual report published by the Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSENI).

The 16 workplace fatalities recorded in 2016/17 included six from farm-related incidents and three construction-related fatalities.

However, the report did note that major injuries in the workplace dropped by 13% on last year, while the total number of reported injuries was down by 12%.

Urging people to take more care, Keith Morrison, the HSENI's chief executive, said workplace deaths were heartbreaking and unacceptable.

"These events impact so many people and cause such devastation to families, communities, work colleagues, employers and the emergency services who attend these incidents," he commented.

"We simply must all continue to work as hard as we can to stop these often easily preventable tragedies."

Mr Morrison urged particular care around farms.

Since April, a further six people have died in farming accidents, the most recent occurring earlier this month when well-known Co Armagh cattle breeder Thelma Gorman was killed after an accident involving a cow.

"Sadly, farming remains Northern Ireland's most dangerous industry, with another six families devastated in 2016/17," Mr Morrison stated.

"Whilst this is the same figure as 2015/16, continuing the overall downward trend in deaths since the establishment of the Farm Safety Partnership, I am afraid that six farming families have already suffered similar heartache to date in 2017/18," he continued.

"Everyone will agree we just cannot see a return to the very high number of farm deaths recorded in 2011 and 2012."

Mr Morrison noted a 13% fall in the number of serious injuries recorded last year.

He added: "All too often, and understandably, the focus can be solely on workplace deaths. However, what can be more frightening is the number of people seriously injured each year at work. Especially given that the difference between a major, life-changing, injury and a fatality can be just a few seconds or inches.

"That is why HSENI's focus is on trying to reduce the number of serious injuries in the workplace.

"It is in this context that I am encouraged to see a 13% reduction in major injuries in the past year - although of course this reduction will be no comfort to those who were badly injured."

The annual report, published yesterday, said the HSENI had taken various steps to improve safety, including partnering with organisations to provide advice and raise awareness.

In the last 12 months the organisation carried out 5,999 inspections and served 144 formal enforcement notices where very poor practice was found.

Mr Morrison added: "There is absolutely no room for complacency in any workplace and we must all continue to do whatever we can to avoid serious injury and ill health in our workplaces".

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