Seamus McDonagh

The Workers’ Party have marked International Workers’ Memorial Day with a call for much stiffer penalties for those who flout Health & Safety laws.

Workers’ Memorial Day is an official worldwide United Nations day of reflection honouring workers who have lost their lives, been injured or made unwell in the course of their work.

Seamus McDonagh, Workers’ Party representative in Co. Meath, noted that 44 workers lost their lives last year (2016) in the course of their work, while 155 workers have died in workplace accidents in the past 3 years and the number of injured runs into several thousand. Figures for work related illnesses are not readily available but are significantly higher.

Mr. McDonagh said, “Workers Memorial Day is an important annual event which gives an opportunity to remember those who died or were injured at work and it also highlights the ongoing importance of Health & Safety awareness.  However that alone, while laudable, is not enough.  The death and injury statistics in this country remain stubbornly high, particularly in agriculture, construction and fisheries”.

The Workers’ Party representative said that penalties for Health & Safety breaches leading to injury or death are still far below compensation levels paid in the courts and have not been updated since 2005. In addition, it is only in extreme cases of death caused by gross negligence that higher penalties are imposed on employers.  In the UK serious cases regularly result in fines of the order of £2 million whereas the highest ever paid in this country is half of that and that was an extremely serious case.

“As we remember the 600 or so workers who have died in workplace accidents in the Irish Republic in the past ten years the Workers’ Party call for a review of health and safety enforcement and penalties.  The message must go out that workers’ lives are not any less precious than those of other citizens”, said Seamus McDonagh.