There were a total of 43 workplace deaths recorded in 2009. There have been two recent prosecutions against separate employers who breached health and safety regulations in the workplace resulting in the deaths of two employees.
The first of these arose from the death of an employee at Galmoy Mines in Kilkenny. In January, Kilkenny Circuit Court imposed a fine of €100,000 on Galmoy Mines as a result of serious breaches of health and safety legislation. This case involved the death of an employee who had sustained injuries after falling from a height while working underground at the mine.
The second case involved the death of an employee of Clare County Council who died whilst operating a council vehicle. Ennis Circuit Court imposed a twelve month suspended sentence on a former manager of the Council who had retired since the incident. In addition, fines totalling a sum of €50,000 were handed down to the Council as a result of a serious breach of health and safety legislation which resulted in the death of a man when the site dumper vehicle that he was operating overturned. The Chief Executive of the Health and Safety Authority spoke about the case and reminded Directors and Senior Managers of their responsibilities. He said that this case “highlights the consequences for persons who are responsible for directing workers and who don’t ensure that health and safety risks are managed.”
Judge Gerard Griffin of Ennis Circuit Court said that gross negligence and dereliction of duty led directly to the death of the man. Clare County Council pleaded guilty to four counts of breaching health and safety regulations. The deceased had not been wearing a seat belt at the time and the judge commented that the fatality would not have occurred if the deceased had been doing so. The judge said he was not calling the event an “accident” because the injuries were “foreseeable and preventable.” He criticised the Council and said it was clear that from “the top down, officials in the council only paid lip service to health and safety issues and this was borne out by the grave deficiencies exposed. “ This was compounded by a lack of effort to redress the deficiencies in the immediate aftermath of the incident. On the day following the incident, Health and Safety inspectors found two council workers and the manager of the site (who later received the suspended sentence) without safety helmets. There had apparently been no instruction from the council to dump-truck drivers to wear a seat belt, and no instructions not to tip material over an embankment, as had been done by the deceased the day previously. This highlights the importance of a swift reaction post accident.
The judge commented that it was the Council’s gross negligence and dereliction of duty that directly lead to the death. He commented that whilst a €50,000 fine on the Council may be seen as unduly lenient, he did not feel it fair that rate-payers should suffer for the dereliction of duty by the Council.