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An Assessment of Serious Construction Accidents in Northern Ireland for the Last Ten Years


During the last decade there was a massive growth in the employment sector with the construction boom taking the lead at an increase of 500 construction jobs (Northern Ireland Economic Bulletin, cited in Simon, 2007, (online). While the employment rose, and so the accidents in the construction industry, that it has been a hot topic in the Northern Ireland Assembly debates and has become a priority issue of the Health and Safety Executive-NI.  These accidents are not only restricted to the construction workers but to the public as well due to inadequately controlled construction activities.  The loss of life, dismemberment, hospital stays and reduced income are but a few aftermaths of construction accidents, hence, the need for a serious and committed program to dramatically reduce the statistics.  Moreover, with the growing economy of Northern Ireland, it is imperative that construction risks are minimized and maintain the highly skilled workers who are in great demand and whose skills are vital to the economy.  With this, it is just fitting and proper that attention is brought to the matter, which hopefully will reinforce to employers and workers to actively and proactively play the role of worksite health and safety advocates.  

Accidents in the construction industry is a hugely important issue hence under existing laws, employers have the duty to consult with their employees on matters concerning their health and safety. Health and safety lies on the shoulders of the employee as well as the employers.  Companies are spending more money on safety in terms of claims, fines or lost man hours; workers suffer due to reduced income, suffering from illnesses, and post-traumatic disorders that regulations have been revised and implemented to reduce construction related accidents.  Zero- accident goal might be too lofty a goal, but with the attention centered into the issue right now, it might not be too far to achieve.  One of the initiatives to improve the current health and safety performance in Northern Ireland is the revised CMD of 2007. In implementing the CMD 2007 it is imperative to involve the employees. This would help to identify areas where efforts should be directed to facilitate more effective measures that will prevent occurrence of accidents. With the worker engagement, it is expected that staff commitment to the health and safety requirements would be further improved. It will also make both employers and employees more responsive which will result to improved health and safety performance. With this, improved business performance will follow. Providing appropriate training to workers especially before entering the worksite is also a key factor in reducing the occurrences of accidents in worksites. CMD 2007 highlighted five major changes as opposed to the previous CMD. 

The changes in the regulation to address the changes in practices and needs of the construction industry includes simplifying the regulations to provide clarity, maximizing flexibility to fit the vast needs of the construction sector, focusing on planning rather than paper work, strengthening cooperation and coordination, and simplifying assessment of competence to reduce bureaucracy.  Implementing CMD 2007 is perceived to be an additional burden due to additional cost to include familiarisation, training, and administrative cost.  However, HSE study showed that the benefits derived from the implementation of regulation in the form of reduced claims, improved productivity, and reduced insurance premiums outweigh the initial cost that will be incurred. To make sure that the regulations will be effective, sanctions should be imposed to those who fail to follow it. Demanding a higher health and safety standards to radically improve the industry's safety records calls for a positive partnership between employers, employees, and the government. Employers and the Health and Safety Executive of Northern Ireland must work together to promote the culture of health and safety in the workplace than simply implementing aggressive regulations.

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