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Sinn Féin presses Minister to increase obligations to report work related illness

17 May, 2006

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Employment and Workers Rights Arthur Morgan T.D. used question time today to press the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment to increase obligations on employers to notify the Health and Safety Authority of incidences and exposures to noxious substances which result in absences from work, because they are linked to the subsequent development of illness and disease. While there were 73 workplace fatalities in 2005, unions have warned that the number of work related fatalities are up to ten times higher when occupational illness and diseases are taken into account.

Deputy Morgan said, "In raising this matter, I am trying to ensure that more data is gathered so that we have a better picture of what is occurring in the workplace and exposure to noxious substances is an important issue in that regard.  According to international studies, work-related disease is a far greater burden than workplace injury.  Obviously, work-related disease takes much longer to emerge.  I ask that the information gathering system on health and safety in the workplace be improved. 

"Work-related deaths, for example, may not occur until long after the person has left the place of work.  Asbestosis is an obvious case in point, where the worker will probably work to retirement but possibly die very quickly thereafter.  There is no requirement for reporting cases like that and perhaps the Minister of State will take that on board.”

Responding the Minister of state with responsibility for Labour Affairs, Tony Killeen said "The Deputy's question is timely, given that the general application regulations are currently under consideration and the fact that specific definitions are now included in the 2005 Act.  There are two current provisions relating to asbestosis, for example, but they require updating.  Deputy Morgan is right in saying that we need far better research in this area to enable us to draw up regulations that are suitable for circumstances he has outlined." ENDS

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