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Updated Nov 15, 2022

Fatalities drop in Ireland during 2021

Fatalities in Ireland during 2021 are the lowest ever recorded since the foundation of the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) in 1989.

The HSA Annual Review of Workplace Injuries, Illnesses and Fatalities, a report published by the HSA, combines data from incidents reported directly to the HSA throughout 2021, and Central Statistics Office (CSO) data from 2020 on days lost to work-related injuries and illnesses.

During 2021 there were 38 fatalities, and 8,279 non-fatal incidents reported to the HSA. 38 fatalities is a 30% reduction from the 54 fatalities in 2020.

The work-related illnesses seen the most were issues with bones, joints or muscles, with stress, depression or anxiety coming second.

During 2020, 1,053,000 days were lost due to work-related illnesses and 597,000 work days were lost due to work-related injuries.

Within the injury and fatality statistics, older self-employed males undertaking manual work are represented a lot higher than other groups. The HSA report outlines that the proportion of fatal incidents involving older victims aged 65 years or more across all sectors has increased from 7% in 1990 (the first full year the Authority holds data for), to 24% in 2021.

Dr Sharon McGuinness, Chief Executive Officer of the HSA commented on the different representations in the statistics:

"Bearing in mind that more fatal incidents occurred to self-employed people than employees in seven of the ten years from 2012 to 2021, it is clear that there is a worrying trend of serious injuries and fatalities in older, self-employed men involved in manual work. Anecdotal evidence suggests that this cohort may consider health and safety as 'not necessary' or that they 'know what they're doing', but there is a clear issue here that needs to be addressed."

The loss of control of a vehicle or its attachments and falling from a height were the most common causes of death in a workplace setting, with 11 people losing their lives in each category. Together these categories made up 58% of all fatalities.

Dr Sharon McGuinness commented on the figures:

"I welcome the fact that 38 fatalities in 2021 is the lowest number on record, however, our view is that all of these fatalities are foreseeable and preventable. Much progress has been made but there is still a lot of work to be done. There have been improvements, but unfortunately the farming and construction sectors are still over-represented in our fatality figures accounting for half of all work-related fatalities between them. Both sectors will continue to be key priorities for us."

Comparisons in these statistics to other years is difficult due to COVID-19 restrictions and lockdowns, more people working from home, an increase in shopping for things online and the closure of so many businesses.

The full report can be found on the HSA website here.