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Corporate Manslaughter legislation demanded after another workplace fatality

31 May, 2006

Speaking following the news of another workplace fatality, Sinn Féin spokesperson on Employment and Workers Rights, Arthur Morgan T.D. demanded that the Government take measures, as a matter of urgency, to improve compliance with health and safety law, toughen up penalties and bring forward legislation on Corporate Manslaughter. A 55 year old worker died on Monday night following a construction site accident in Cork.

Deputy Morgan said, "The tragic news that another person has died in a workplace fatality must act as awake up call to the Government. The HSA must carry out a full and thorough investigation of the circumstances which led to the death of this worker who was apparently taking photographs of a new roundabout when the JCB he was suspended from overturned.

"In 2005 23 more people were killed in workplace accidents than in 2004. 23 people were killed in workplace accidents in the construction sector in 2005, compared to 16 in that sector in 2004. The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) annual report for 2005 showed that there were only 40 prosecutions for offences related to breeches of health and safety laws with fines amounting to just €463,338 imposed. This extremely low figure is a major cause of concern and undoubtedly sends the message to unscrupulous employers that there is a very good chance that they will get away with flouting the law on health and safety in the workplace. It is also a matter of grave concern that no employer has served a prison sentence for negligence resulting in the death of a worker and that penalties for work place fatalities vary considerably. For example in 2004 a Galway construction company was fined €500,000 for breaches of health and safety legislation, following the death of a 25-year-old employee, while recently a Plant Hire company in Cork was fined €1,000 after pleading guilty to failing to ensure the safety of worker who was killed when be became trapped in a stone crusher, by failing to maintain the stone crusher.

"Sinn Féin is demanding that the Government introduce legislation to provide for the crime of Corporate Manslaughter as recommended by the Law Reform Commission in their report of October 2005. Reckless employers must be held criminally liable for workplace accidents and fatalities. Only by putting in place effective deterrents can we ensure that these needless deaths cease. Corporate Manslaughter legislation, already in place in many countries, is a key tool in the battle to reduce workplace accidents and fatalities." ENDS

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