Eleven workers killed on building sites in 2006

The Health and Safety Authority has issued 23 construction-related prosecutions this year. Last year, 13,000 people were injured on sites. By Frank Connolly.

 /images/village/people/crane.jpgEleven people were killed as a result of accidents on construction sites in Ireland in 2006. The lastest fatality was in Cork on Saturday 9 December when John Brown, a father of four, was killed when a trench collapsed on him at a site he owned at Shanagarry in east Cork.


Another worker on the site escaped injury. On the same weekend Basil Geraghty, 60, from Kildare was killed when he was hit by loose materials at a site at Citywest in Dublin. The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) has investigated a further nine fatalities across the country over 2006. It has issued summonses in respect of an accident in 2005 when a trench collapsed on a man working on a site in Co Kerry. Michael Burns, 57, died when a trench collapsed on him while he worked on a housing development in Kenmare in October 2005. Another man, Tomaz Ciolek, was injured in the incident which happened after a long period of heavy rain. The site is owned by the Oran Group. The two men were employed by a sub-contractor, Tony O'Sullivan, a director of Tinal Electrical Ltd of The Square, Kenmare. The company is charged with failing to ensure that the workplace was safe when the accident happened on 26 October 2005. The contractor is accused of failing to take all appropriate precautions, particularly in relation to trench work. It is also accused of failing to ensure that the working end of every trench more than two metres deep on the site “was inspected at the start of each shift”. In total, five summonses were served on Tinal Electrical while Tony O'Sullivan was served with seven summonses. Two summonses each were served on Con Healy of Clonee West, Tuosist, Killarney and Philip Boyle of Kilmurry, Kenmare for failure to ensure a safe workplace. After his death, Michael Burns's widow, who lived with him in Sneem, Co Kerry, returned to England with one of her children. He had worked in England most of his life and had returned to Kerry only in recent years. On 22 June 2006, Killian O'Brien died when a pipe fell from a transporter while he was working on a site at Enniscrone, Co Sligo. He was employed by Liam Scott Construction which earlier this year was accused of paying immigrant workers less than the minimum wage of €7.65 per hour. Up to 70 Polish and Lithuanian workers employed by Liam Scott complained that they were being paid €5 an hour to work on the site – far less than the construction industry minimum hourly rates of €13.48 to €16.85 depending on their skills. On 6 November, the Minister for Labour Affairs, Tony Killeen, introduced new regulation to make the industry safer. The Safety Health and Welfare at Work (Construction) Regulations 2006 are intended to reduce the high rate of deaths and injuries in the sector. The regulations place obligations on clients and designers to ensure that safety and health are taken into account on sites before construction work begins. According to Eric Fleming of the SIPTU construction workers' branch, the rate of accidents has decreased due to the introduction of the Safe Pass system. Since its introduction, every worker has to undergo a day's training in site safety procedures before he is allowed take up work on a construction site. “The Safe Pass scheme has made a difference since it was introduced six years ago. But there are very few prosecutions against employers or professional engineers who have been responsible for unsafe work practices,” Eric Fleming said. Since 2000, a total of 128 people have lost their lives on construction sites. In 2005, 23 people died following accidents on construction sites while more than 13,000 people were injured in accidents in the same year.   Twenty three construction-related prosecutions were issued by the HSA this year.