Ireland should avoid UK health and safety failures

Ireland should learn from the UK's mistakes and make its waste industry as safe as possible for workers and the general public, safety experts have warned.

Speaking at the Irish Recycling and Waste Management conference in Dublin, Ray Hipkin, a safety practitioner with the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM), said there were 27 fatal accidents per 100,000 employees in the UK waste industry in 2007.

He warned that the Irish waste industry must avoid falling into the same bad practices – and a first step should be to give the industry a higher profile.

Mr Hipkin said: “More and more organisations are putting profit before safety.”

The recycling industry in the UK accounts for the vast majority of serious work-related accidents, delegates were told, with an accident and fatality rate which far outstrips the national average and can result in prosecutions for the employers involved.

Mr Hipkin said he believes the waste industry needs to be identified as a separate priority area by the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) – the body responsible for health and safety at work in Ireland.

“The waste industry in Ireland does not have a profile,” he said. “That is what we have got to do first.

“We have to accept that we have the weaknesses and deal with the issues.”

In 2007 there were 67 fatal work-related injuries in Ireland, and as Mr Hipkin spoke to delegates on March 6, there had already been seven fatalities this year.

In 2005, the most recent year for which the HSA has figures, there were 24,000 non-fatal work-related injuries reported in Ireland.

Kate Martin

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