Up to 1,000 Lives Saved Since the Establishment of the Health and Safety Authority 25 Years Ago

2nd October 2014

The Health and Safety Authority is today (Thursday 2nd October) marking 25 years since its establishment in 1989 at a conference in Mullingar where President Michael D. Higgins made the opening address. The Authority was set up under the 1989 Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act, which is widely seen as the beginning of a modern systematic approach to managing workplace safety and health. Jointly hosted with the National Irish Safety Organisation (NISO), the theme of today's conference is "Safety is a Mindset".

Speaking at today's event, Gerald Nash TD, Minister for Business and Employment said, "I'm very pleased to be here today to recognise the work of those who laid the foundation for protecting the health and safety of workers, what is seen nowadays as a key element of the management of any organisation. As our economy grows and people look forward to a new period of prosperity and opportunity, it's important that sight is not lost of the improvements made since 1989. The evidence clearly shows that business growth and success is supported by effective safety and health management."

"The focus of the Health and Safety Authority has been on reducing human suffering from work-related activities but their role is also crucial in terms of industry competitiveness, particularly in relation to the pharma-chem sector. Not only does a proactive approach save lives and reduce injury, it also leads to substantial financial savings, both for individual enterprises and the exchequer, and increases industry competitiveness."

Martin O'Halloran, Chief Executive of the Health and Safety Authority, said, "The term 'health and safety' is the butt of many jokes but the simple reality is that perhaps as many as a thousand lives have been saved since 1989 through the proactive management of the safety, health and welfare in Irish workplaces."

"We've seen huge improvements in standards since 1989. Together with industry stakeholders, employers and workers themselves, many industry sectors have been transformed so that worker safety and health is valued and prioritised. Standards and practices that were previously considered acceptable would, rightly, not be tolerated today."

"Our remit has been greatly broadened in recent years. We now have a pivotal role to play in the safe manufacturing, use and transportation of chemicals as well as general market and product surveillance. Much of what we do benefits industry competitiveness and innovation. I, along with my colleagues, look forward to the next 25 years and the contribution of the Health and Safety Authority to a safe, healthy, productive and competitive Irish economy."

Prior to 1989, the safety, health and welfare of Irish workers was regulated by out-of-date legislation and entire sectors such as farming, retail and transport were not covered at all. The 1989 Act, which was updated in 2005, represented the most radical approach to protecting people at work since the foundation of the State. It had one clear purpose; to help reduce accidents and ill-health caused by work activities thereby reducing human loss and suffering and the associated financial costs.

Pauric Corrigan, President of NISO, says that the Health and Safety Authority has played an important role in promoting cooperation between workers and employers to the benefit of both. "The Authority has worked hard on its remit to promote real and meaningful consultation between workers and employers on safety and health issues. We in NISO also work to encourage the participation of all parties in the process of making workplaces safer. I believe that there is a general acceptance that organisations that take the safety, health and welfare of their employees seriously are more productive and successful. We in NISO are delighted to jointly host this conference today and we look forward to continuing our good working relationship with the Authority."