In 2015-16 fatalities at work, including those in areas that are the responsibility of local councils, were down 48% to 12 compared with 23 in the previous year. There was one fatality in general manufacturing, one in health and two in other work activities.
Farm-related deaths were down from nine to six and construction fatalities fell from five to two, one of which involved a member of the public. “Zero fatalities, as was achieved in 2009, has to be the industry objective,” the report says of the construction sector.
The most common causes of fatal injuries over the past five years were falls (26); vehicle movements (18); being struck by an object (12); drowning/asphyxiation (8); animals (7); vehicle collapse or overturn (3); and machinery guarding (3).
While workplace fatalities decreased, the number of major injuries reported increased 10% on 2014-15.
The main cause of major injuries in construction is falls from height, the report found, “and this has not changed from previous years”.
The report says: “It is the common experience of all construction inspectors that some contractors and self-employed persons in this industry still continue to take shortcuts which expose their workers and themselves to avoidable and unacceptable risks.”
The construction sector received 49% of the prohibition notices served by the HSENI in 2015-16; the majority of these were for work at height.
In the report the HSENI acknowledges that non-fatal accidents are generally underreported but says the figures provide a “useful indictor as to general health and safety performance in Northern Ireland”.
The number of non-fatal major injuries reported to the HSENI was up 37 to 411 in 2015-16 compared to 374 the year before.
There were 1,902 reported “over three day” injuries during the year. This was a 2.6% rise on the previous year and a 2% increase on the five-year peak of 1,865 in 2011-12.
The HSENI received 839 complaints relating to alleged unsatisfactory working conditions and work-related activities in 2015-16. This represents a five-year high, the previous highest number having been 836 recorded the previous year. Between 2011-12 and 2013-14, the HSENI received an average of 731 complaints.
Under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 (RIDDOR), HSENI initially received 41 reports of diseases; seven were later confirmed as non-reportable.
Within the reportable category there were 22 cases of hand-arm vibration syndrome (one of which is still to be confirmed); two cases of carpal tunnel syndrome; four cases of occupational dermatitis, two cases of traumatic inflammation of the tendons; one case of Pulmonary Tuberculosis; two cases of cramp of hand or forearm (one of which is still to be confirmed); and one case of Rickettsiosis. The confirmed cases came from 18 employers.
During 2015-16, the HSENI carried out 5,576 inspections and served 155 enforcement notices where it found very poor practice.