Workplace safety is about doing the right thing every day
Workers memorial Day commemorates those who lost their lives in the course of their work
Workplace safety and health is about remembering always, not just once a year.
Imagine a truly horrendous and unforgettable moment, a moment experienced by hundreds of Irish families over the past 10 years and more. It could start with a phone call, a Garda car appearing at the gate, or a colleague of your loved one knocking unexpectedly at the door, on an otherwise normal day…
Today is Workers’ Memorial Day, an important annual event nationally and worldwide. We remember those who died in work related accidents. We think of those injured. We stand in solidarity with those who carry-on and we think of their burden of bereavement and injury.
The Irish Congress of Trade Unions, Ibec, the Construction Industry Federation and the Health and Safety Authority have joined together to mark this occasion with a national commemorative event in Dublin, supported by workplaces all over Ireland.
In this centenary of 1916, it’s timely to reflect on what Workers’ Memorial Day is for. More have died in the Irish workplace over the past ten years than died in total during the Easter Rising. 526 workers died in the last decade, over 56 last year alone (including 4 children), and thousands others were injured.
Workers’ Memorial Day is for a purpose. It is to sharply remind us of these lives lost. It is most importantly to commemorate that loss by ensuring it never happens again.
Today, we will stand respectfully in silence, and we will then continue in a very determined way together – employers, trade unions and the State – on our campaign of workplace accident prevention.
This agenda is about a relentless series of methodical actions in every workplace, every day. Those actions are common sense; value for money; good business; a moral imperative and a legal requirement.
Workplace safety and health is about remembering always, not just once a year. It is potentially a deadly mistake to forget that vigilance is a necessary cost in every workplace. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you do, the objective is to ensure a safe workplace for all.
Remembering today, in workplaces around the country is an essential step. It is as much about shaping a different future as remembering the past.
We are achieving results. The fatality rate has approximately halved since the establishment of the Health and Safety Authority in 1989, but zero is the figure we’re looking for.
Today, is an ideal opportunity to think about, review and act on how key issues in the workplace, including compliance, are addressed. Good routines, as distinct from complacent habits are essential. Because health and safety is dealt with once, doesn’t mean it is a box ticked and done.
Vigilance, routine, alertness and a constant return to the topic are essential. Workers’ Memorial Day is for those who have died. It is also for those now uninjured in the workplace and to ensure their continued safety. Workers’ Memorial Day is a ‘future proofing’ and a commemoration for all who work, in every workplace today.
Martin O’Halloran is chief executive of the Health and Safety Authority.
Previously published in The Irish Times.
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