25 Jan 2013

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions has expressed ‘serious reservations’ about the capacity of the Health & Safety Authority to deliver on its programme of work, in the face of ongoing budget and staff cuts.

Esther Lynch, Congress Legal Affairs Officer and Health & Safety Authority board member, said the cuts were eroding the Authority’s capacity to “undertake basic oversight of working conditions with workplace inspections falling from 16,000 to 13,700.”

She called on the Richard Bruton TD, Minister for Jobs, Enterprise & Innovation to reconsider the ongoing cuts. 

Ms Lynch was speaking ahead of the January 25 launch of the Authority's Strategy Statement 2013-2015 and Programme of Work, 2013-2015, by Minister Bruton. 

“The authority is now operating on ¾ of the budget it had in 2008 and more cuts are forecast. Staff numbers are already down from 197 (in 2008) to 170 and are due to fall to 155,” Ms Lynch explained. 

“Preventative unannounced inspections are key to safe and healthy workplaces, it should not take a fatality before the Authority turns up. 

“Deaths normally dip in a recession as a result of reduced activity in the economy but there were 43 fatalities in 2009 compared to 54 in 2011 and 47 last year - despite reduced numbers at work. 

“What these statistics don't show is the devastating loss to the families of these workers. They are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to work related deaths in Ireland. 

“Health and safety is not an unnecessary, regulatory burden. Both workers and industry benefit from strong regulation and enforcement which help keep fatalities, injuries and sickness absence rates down,” Ms Lynch said.