Health and Safety Authority launches construction inspection campaign

Monday 7th September

The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) is today (Monday 7th September) launching a two week nationwide inspection campaign aimed at reducing accidents and ill-health in the construction sector.  HSA inspectors will be visiting construction sites all over the country to engage with employers and their employees with a view to making their workplaces safer and healthier.

In addition to looking at site safety, HSA inspectors will be focusing on occupational health issues such as exposure to asbestos and silica dust which can both cause lung cancer and other serious illnesses.  Asbestos is the biggest cause of death amongst construction workers, but the proper precautions are often neglected as its effects are only seen many years after exposure.  International research suggests that 40% of all work related cancer deaths occur in the construction sector.

According to Brian Higgisson, Assistant Chief Executive of the Health and Safety Authority, “Every year significantly more working days are lost on construction sites due to work related illnesses compared to physical injuries.  However, the tendency is for employers to focus entirely on accident prevention.  While this is clearly very important, we’re also urging employers to effectively manage health hazards such as exposure to asbestos dust and musculoskeletal disorders and to take the necessary precautions to minimise the risk of ill-health”.

The HSA will continue to highlight the dangers associated with the main causes of accidents in the sector – working at a height and heavy machinery.  There has been an increase in the fatality rate in the sector over the last 5 years and there are concerns that the gains made during the economic boom are now being lost.

Mr Higgisson said, “A recent study by the ESRI shows that construction workers are 3 times more likely to be involved in a fatal accident than workers in general industry. It’s vital that workers are properly trained and aware of the dangers of working at a height and from being in close proximity to heavy machinery.  If these two high risk activities activities are effectively managed, workers’ lives will be saved”.

“Employment in the construction sector is growing with new or younger workers who may have limited experience. Also, workers are returning to the sector after spending extended time out of work or working in other sectors. Employers need to factor this into account, there is no room for complacency”.