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Wednesday 29 November 2023 Dublin: -1°C
Health and Safety

You're LESS likely to get injured in work now the Celtic Tiger is over

And less likely during the recession.

WORKERS WERE MORE likely to get injured during the boom – and less likely during the recession.

That’s according to new research by the ESRI which says that younger workers and men have the highest risk of injury at work in Ireland – and their risk declines as they get older.

The report, titled ‘Was the economic boom bad for workers’ safety and health’? looked at 12 years of data from the CSO on injury and illness, and from the Health and Safety Authority on fatalities.

It discovered:

  • Work-related injuries affected an average of 47,000 workers in Ireland each year between 2001 and 2012
  • An average of 48,000 suffered from a work-related illness during those years
  • The risk of both injury and illness rose in the boom period (2001-07) and fell during the recession (2008-12)
  • An average of 47 people lost their lives while at work in each of the years between 2004 and 2013.
  • Over this period the risk of fatal injury was dramatically higher – 24 times – for those in the agricultural sector (farming, fishing and forestry) compared to workers in the services sector.
  • Workers in industry and construction also had much higher risks of fatal injury than service sector workers – eight times higher for those in the construction sector and three times higher for industry.
  • There was a significant decline in fatalities among those working in the services sector but fatalities in the agricultural sector increased over the period.
  • EU figures for 2011 show that Ireland had the seventh highest worker fatality rate in the EU15 and the highest agricultural fatality rate across the nine EU countries where data were available.

The ESRI said that risk during the boom times has been attributed to:

  • The rise in the proportion of inexperienced new recruits during periods of economic growth
  • Increases in work intensity and hours of work.
  • The literature also suggests that during a period of recession workers may be more reluctant to report injuries or to take time off work for illness when they are insecure about their jobs.

 Most at risk?

The study found that younger workers have the highest risk of injury, and that the likelihood declines with age.

Men have a much higher risk of work-related injury than women – even when they’re in the same sector and occupational group, and work the same hours.

The risk of work-related illness rises with age, but levels off at the oldest age groups, as less healthy workers exit the workforce sooner.

There was no gender difference in work-related illness over the economic growth period – but in the recession, women experienced a significantly higher risk of illness than men.

The research also found:

  • Work-related illness risks were highest in the agriculture, construction, transport and health sectors.
  • Shift workers and those working at night had a significantly higher risk of work-related injury and illness, even compared to others working in the same sector and broad occupation.  
  • Those working longer hours were more prone to injury and to work-related illness.
  • However, adjusting for exposure, those working less than 20 hours per week had the highest risk per hour worked.
  • Highly variable working hours were also linked to higher injury and illness risks.
  • Those who were in their job for less than a year were four times more likely to have experienced a work injury than workers who have been more than five years .

The Minister for Business and Employment, Ged Nash TD pointed out that the annual workplace injury rates have fallen by approximately one third since 2001 from 29.6 per 1,000 workers to 18.9 per 1,000 workers in 2012.

Minister Nash said:

This report confirms that Ireland performs better than average among European countries in the field of occupational health and safety. However, with 47 workers on average losing their lives every year from 2004-2013, we cannot be complacent.

He added:

I am particularly concerned about the link between precarious or highly variable working hours and workplace injuries and illness. I am referring this report to the University of Limerick who are currently undertaking a study into zero hour contracts at my request and look forward to receiving their recommendations at the end of the summer.

Read: Heart-breaking new video shows the devastating effect of farm deaths>

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