Health sector workers most likely to be off work due to work-related illness

View the associated publications from this press release and photos from the launch event at the bottom of this page.

New research from the ESRI and the Health and Safety Authority launched today (19 April) by Minister Pat Breen looks at work-related injuries and illness in five sectors with persistently high risks: health, construction, transport and storage, industry (manufacturing and utilities), and agriculture, forestry and fishing. These five sectors account for 41 per cent of employment and 56 per cent of work-related injury in 2014. The research tracks experiences over the period 2001 to 2014 using nationally representative surveys of the workforce collected by the CSO.

Injury rates in the agriculture, construction and industry sectors fell during the recession (2008-2011) compared to the boom (2001-2007). There is also some evidence of these rates increasing in the early recovery period, but this trend is as yet inconclusive.

The rate of fatalities is highest in the agriculture, forestry and fishing sector. The number of fatalities increased from 129 in the 2001-2007 period to 151 in the 2008-2014 period. Other sectors experienced a downward trend. The number of fatalities fell between the 2001-2007 period and the 2008-2014 period in industry (62 to 39), in construction (104 to 49), and in transport and storage (38 to 26). The combined fatalities in industry, construction, transport, and agriculture, forestry and fishing accounted for 85% of all worker fatalities in Ireland in 2014.

The health sector had the highest total number of days lost due to work-related injury. The highest number of total days lost due to work-related injury in the 2008–2014 period occurred in the health sector (92,000 days per year) followed by the transport sector (82,000 days per year).

However, the transport sector had the highest number of days lost per worker due to work-related injury. Adjusting for the numbers employed in each sector we find that in the 2008-14 period, the highest annual average number of days lost to injury per 1,000 workers occurred in the transport sector (766) followed by construction (532), agriculture (413), health (329) and industry (282). The figure for all other sectors was 216 days per 1000 workers.

The health sector had the highest number of days lost per worker due to work-related illness. In this sector, 524 days were lost per 1,000 workers. This was followed by transport (507), agriculture, forestry and fishing (358), industry (351) and was lowest in construction (313).

Night workers, shift workers and new recruits had a higher risk of injury. In all sectors examined except construction, night workers and shift workers had a higher risk of injury compared to workers not working these hours. In all five sectors, new recruits were more likely to experience an injury compared to those with longer tenures, on a full-year equivalence basis.

Longer working weeks are associated with injury. Construction sector workers working between 40 and 49 hours a week faced a greater likelihood of injury per hour worked, after adjusting for worker and job characteristics.

Part-time workers are also at higher risk of injury. In the agriculture sector, while those working long hours had the highest risks of injury overall, part-time workers were found to face a greater risk of work-related illness per hour worked. This part-time effect was also found in the transport sector.

Pat Breen, TD, Minister of State with special responsibility for Trade, Employment, Business, EU Digital Single Market and Data Protection, commented:

“I welcome the work produced as part of the research programme between the ESRI and the Health and Safety Authority. It is vital to protect the health and safety of all employees while they are at work. The research published today will greatly assist in identifying employees across a range of sectors who might be at risk of workplace related injury or illness. This will enable businesses to improve health and safety standards in the workplace and to reduce staff absences which also ultimately affect the productivity and growth of a business. In addition, the availability of the NALA versions of the reports will ensure wider and easier access to these reports.”

Martin O' Halloran, Chief Executive Officer of the Health and Safety Authority stated:

“This is a valuable body of research, it qualifies and quantifies and moves us from believing to knowing. It confirms to us that we need to have a greater focus on health and that our overall strategic direction in the area of workplace health is correct. This research will also be very useful in relation to policy formulation and risk profiling workplaces for inspection purposes.”

Helen Russell, Research Professor at the ESRI, commented:

"The recovery is leading to strong employment growth which is to be welcomed. However, employment growth can bring with it increased risks to employee health and safety such as longer working hours and an influx new inexperienced workers. Our research shows that new recruits in construction, health, agriculture and transport have a significantly higher risk of occupational injury. Hence, there is need for supervision, training, and support to prevent rising injury and illness rates."


The five reports are available to download at the links below.

View photos from the launch event held by the Health and Safety Authority below.