2 August 2007 Edition

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Safety at work : Low levels of fines not helping to improve conditions

John O’Dowd

John O’Dowd

Lack of accountability over workplace deaths

Sinn Féin Upper Bann MLA John O’Dowd has expressed concern over the accountability of employers over deaths in the workplace in the North after new figures showed that almost 160 people have been killed in their workplace over the past ten years but that only 31 employers had been found guilty of health and safety breaches.
The new information contained in AQW 1288/07 from Enterprise, Trade and Investment Minister Nigel Dodds shows that 157 people were killed in their workplace in the last 10 years.
Commenting on the new data Mr O’Dowd said:
“Nigel Dodds has now confirmed that 157 people were killed in their workplace in the last 10 years; this includes 17 workplace deaths in 2006/7 and 20 in 2005/6.
“While I appreciate that not all workplace deaths are a result of employer negligence I am concerned that less than a fifth of workplace deaths result in employers being found guilty of breaching health and safety guidelines following Heath and Safety Executive Investigations.
“In 2006/7 only two employers were found guilty of breaches with fines imposed in each case only being £2,000. The figure for 2005/6 showed that 5 employers were found guilty with average fines of £22,500.
“Such low levels of fines hardly act as a serious deterrent to poor workplace safety.
“There is also a serious lack of support and help for the families of those whose loved ones are killed at work, and particularly a gap in the information provided for families in relation to any investigation being carried out by the HSE.
“Many of the workplace deaths are concentrated within the construction industry, with the fatal-accident rate for the construction industry worse here than anywhere else on these islands.
“There can be no excuses when it comes to safety in the workplace and clearly we need to do more in terms of reducing workplace deaths through education and training of workers and employers; strong health and safety guidelines; properly resourced enforcement and monitoring and effective deterrents.”

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