The Government, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (Congress), Ibec and the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) today, Tuesday 28th April, collectively marked Workers’ Memorial Day Ireland – the newly established national and annual commemorative event to remember people killed, injured, made ill and bereaved through work related activity.
Minister for Business and Employment, Ged Nash TD, represented the Government at the ceremony in the Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin. Congress was represented by General Secretary Patricia King; Ibec by Chief Executive Danny McCoy and the HSA by its Chief Executive Martin O’Halloran. These three senior executives have also jointly signed a letter promoting the commemorative day along with key safety, health and accident prevention messages aimed at their membership and stakeholders.
Together with the representatives from Congress, Ibec and the HSA, Minister Nash formally placed a wreath with the Workers’ Memorial Day emblem onto a ceremonial stand. Speeches took place and a solemn silence was then observed which was followed with a rendition by tenor Michael Kenny-Vaughan of Oft in the Stilly Night, composed by Irish poet Thomas Moore (1779 – 1852).
In the 5 year period between 2010 and 2014, 253 people were killed in work related accidents in Ireland and many thousands injured and made ill. On average, more than one person a week died in work related accidents in Ireland in 2014; 56 deaths in total, including five children.
Minister Ged Nash said, “We have seen a very welcome decline in the number of workplace fatalities over the last 25 years and this downward trend is continuing. In 1989, there were almost five deaths per 100,000 and this is now down to just over two. But, no workplace fatality is acceptable. One death is one too many.”
“Preventing and reducing the incidence of fatalities and injuries requires everyone engaged in working life to place their personal safety, health and welfare, and that of their fellow workers, actively at the centre of their thinking and organisational culture. This must also be supported by their employers in compliance with best practice.
“I welcome the commitment to this excellent new partnership between Congress, Ibec and the HSA, to mark Workers’ Memorial Day Ireland on a recurring annual basis while jointly promoting safety and health at work. Poor practice and standards must be challenged through the combined and mutual effort of all workers and employers to build a culture of prevention – this is the forward-looking theme for this world-wide day of commemoration in 2015.”
Patricia King, General Secretary of Congress said, “This commemoration remembers dead workers and their bereaved families, injured workers and workers made ill whose lives have been destroyed by work related activities. It also provides a message of hope and solidarity for the living where we are committed to preventing such occurrences. Congress is very pleased to see this important commemorative event elevated to a national level of importance on an annual basis together with Ibec and the Health and Safety Authority.”
Danny McCoy, Chief Executive of Ibec said, “Employers are aware of their obligations and duty to promote safety and health awareness and best practice. Nobody wants to see fatalities or accidents at work where the human impact of such incidents is deeply harrowing for everyone concerned. A safe workplace provides a positive and productive working environment. However, accidents diminish the quality of working life and also have a severe economic impact on the people and companies affected. Through this commemorative and practical partnership, we will continue to support and encourage co-operation with employee representatives and the Health and Safety Authority.”
Martin O’Halloran, Chief Executive of the Health & Safety Authority said, “Workers’ Memorial Day Ireland is also designed to create a conversation about safety, health and wellbeing at work across the country. The issue is not just about accidents and physical injuries; illnesses related to work are becoming increasingly common in Irish workplaces. These include musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), mental health issues and health issues in relation to noise and vibration, dermatitis, asthma and cancers.
“Most employers are aware that they must protect workers from physical harm but less aware of their duty to protect their health and wellbeing. It’s important to understand that illness, as a result of work activity, is just as serious as an accident. Organisations need to take appropriate action to ensure that workers are adequately protected.”
Workers’ Memorial Day also sees the launch of a new resource book for safety representatives. The safety representative is elected by colleagues to be their voice on matters of workplace safety, health and welfare with the employer. The new book provides all the information needed for a safety representative to carry out his or her role as effectively as possible.