Annual Report on Accidents Workplace Injuries, Illnesses and Fatalities: An accidents at Work Solicitor’s Analysis

Every year the HSA, the Health and Safety Authority of Ireland, releases an annual review of accidents and fatalities within the workplace. Although this report always makes for fascinating reading, the 2020 report was the first ever to look at workplace accidents in the age of COVID-19.


We at Finghín O’Driscoll Solicitors were interested to see how the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, affected the HSA'a statistical data when compared with previous years.

It’s probably not an exaggeration to state that 2020 saw one of the most systemic shifts in worker behaviour in 50 years. A massive number of the workforce transitioned to working from home. With this in mind, we can make a reasonable assumption that workplace fatalities and workplace accidents fell in number in 2020. Well, here is where the HSA data, in some instances, undermines our expectations.


Workplace Injury Data


Let’s start with the good news. As you would expect, with more people working from home, there was indeed a reduction in the number of reported workplace injuries in 2020.

7,417 non-fatal injuries were reported to the HSA, which constitutes a 20.7% drop compared to 2019.

Industries with the highest reported non-fatal injury include


  • Health and Social Work
    1715 Reported worker injuries
    3 Non-Worker injuries


  • Manufacturing
    1255 Reported worker injuries
    8 Non-Worker injuries


  • Wholesale and Retail
    971 Reported worker injuries
    130 Non-Worker injuries


  • Construction
    758 Reported worker injuries
    10 Non-Worker injuries


Some of the other notable industries represented on the annual report include the Public Administration and Defence industry that reported 672 workplace injuries.
The Education sector reported 208 injuries and the Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing sector reported 139 injuries.
The HSA report acknowledges that these numbers are affected by under-reporting of injuries by self-employed people, which may explain why injuries in the Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing sectors are relatively low.


Causes of Workplace Accidents 

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the triggers that led to non-fatal injuries in the workplace remain relatively consistent. In 2020 the most common workplace injuries were caused by


  • Manual Handling
    This was usually an internal injury due to a manual handling error. 2,229 manual handling injuries were reported in 2020. This was relatively close to the 2016-2020 average of 2,742.


  • Slipping, falling
    2020 saw 1,898 people report an injury due to a slip or fall in the workplace. Again this is closely in line with the 2016-2020 average of 2,141.


  • Loss of Control of Object, Machine Vehicle, etc.
    There were 857 reported accidents this year which is lower than the 2016-2020 average of 992.


  • Aggression, Shock Violence
    A particularly distressing portion of the report outlined that in 2020, 503 report injuries were caused due to Aggression, Shock, Violence in the workplace. This is below the 2016 -2010 average of 650.


  • Body Movement Leads to Cut, Bruise
    External injuries like cuts or bruises were reported 474 times throughout 2020 – down again from the 2016 – 2020 average of 524.


An Accident at Work Solicitors Perspective

While it’s certainly uplifting to see that the number of reported workplace injures is moving in the right direction, the HSA does acknowledge that these lower numbers are likely due to the public health measures introduced by the government in 2020. This certainly seems to be the case. For example, when we look at largely self-employed industrial sectors like Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing, this economic sector was the only one that didn’t see a reduction in workplace accidents. This seems to suggest that Irish workplaces haven’t got significantly safer during the pandemic and instead it was lockdowns and workplace shutdowns that have led to the smaller number of reported injuries.

As Workplace accident solicitors working in Dublin, the figures related to the most common accidents, unfortunately, make for all too familiar reading.

We have successfully represented individuals who were seriously injured due to manual handling accidents. These accidents may be the direct result of inadequate training or the failure of an employer to provide the proper lifting or safety equipment. Back injuries due to manual handling errors can have a serious impact on a person’s quality of life and may also lead to a loss of earnings as the injured party may not be able to work while recuperating.

Accidents due to slips and the loss of control of machinery may also be the direct result of an unsafe working environment or due to the negligence of a co-worker who failed to put up the proper slippery floor warnings. If you’re injured due to being improperly trained on the use of dangerous or specialist equipment you are within your rights to seek legal redress.


Workplace Fatality Data 

The HSA report has extensive data on fatal workplace accidents. This part of the report doesn’t conform to our expectations. Due to the health and safety restrictions put in place in 2020, one might expect that workplace fatalities would have gone done in 2020. Unfortunately, the opposite is true. In 2020 there were 53 fatal workplace accidents. This is up from the 43 workplace accidents recorded in 2019.
The three industries with the most fatal accident are:


  • Agriculture Forestry and Fishing
    18 workers Killed
    5 non-workers killed


  • Construction
    11 Workers Killed
    4 Non-Workers Killed


  • Manufacturing
    3 Workers Killed
    1 Non-Worker Killed

Causes of Workplace Accidents 

As per the report, the main causes of fatal accidents were:

  • Loss of Control of Means of Transport
    This accident lead to the deaths of 16 workers and non-workers in 2020


  • Fall From Height
    There were 7 deaths related to falls from a height in 2020


  • Fall of an object from above onto a victim
    6 workers lost their lives due to falling objects


  • Victim Entering Dangerous Areas
    There were 6 deaths related to the victims entering a dangerous area in a workplace


  • Fall of an object from below, dragging victim down
    There were 5 fatalities related to an object falling and dragging the victim down with it.


Fatal Workplace accidents a Workplace accident Solicitors Perspective

Thankfully, despite the slight increase in workplace accident deaths in 2020 the overall trend, year on year, demonstrates that workplace deaths have been falling. Thanks to better equipment, superior training and increased safety legislation, workplace accidents are becoming less common. However, as the 2020 HSA report has shown us, accidents and even deaths do still occur. If you or a family member has suffered an accident at work and want to know what your rights are in regards to compensation. Please, schedule a meeting with our accidents at work solicitors in Dublin. Our team of solicitors are available for phone call meetings, video call meetings or face to face meetings.


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