Workplace injury and ill health costs Ireland €3.2 billion per year

12 February 2014

Irish businesses could be losing their competitive edge because of a failure to confront the risks of injury and illness in the workplace, the world’s leading professional health and safety body has warned.

Life savings launched in Ireland

The Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) says too many employers are failing to appreciate the financial benefits of worker protection and are placing it way down on their list of priorities.

According to the international organisation, the Irish economy is losing €3.2 billion per year and the cost of health and safety failures per worker in Ireland is €1711 because of workplace injury and ill health.  This equates to one million lost working days each year.

In a new campaign, Lif€ Savings, IOSH aims to set the record straight on occupational safety and health. "Rather than an encumbrance on business, good health and safety is being used by forward-looking CEOs and managing directors as a driver for growth", says the Institution.

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Richard Bruton TD said: “Our government has been seeking to make the case that good health and safety represents good business, and I think IOSH’s initiative illustrates that very vividly. There’s the capacity to save €3.2 billion to Irish businesses if they apply sensible rules throughout their organisation, so IOSH’s campaign falls in line with what we are seeking Irish business to do.”

IOSH Ireland Branch chair Michelle Peate-Morgan said: "Businesses are missing the obvious with health and safety. When you operate in a global marketplace, and you're trying to stay competitive, a happy, healthy workforce is a driver for growth.

"It's wrong for Ministers and business leaders to talk about health and safety as 'red tape' and a burden on business. When done properly and proportionately, health and safety is essential to a business's long-term prospects for survival in our economy.

"As well as the primary aim of saving people's lives and livelihoods, good occupational health and safety can also deliver vital cost savings and help a business to grow."

IOSH has unearthed examples of employers saving €millions and now the Chartered body wants the Irish Government to showcase its good practice to demonstrate how managing health and safety can axe costs.

Cork-based Janssen Pharmaceutical, part of Johnson & Johnson (J&J), saved €2 million in addition to reducing safety risk to employees during the upgrade of the company’s powder handling facility. Design improvements resulted in a significantly reduced risk of ergonomic issues, superior manual handling facilities, the elimination of cleaning at heights and changes in the assembly and disassembly of heavy equipment. 

Operator and Safety Representative Michael Daly said: “The initiative was successful because everyone’s voice was heard – regardless of which part of the business they worked in.

“One of Johnson and Johnson’s credo values is to look after the welfare of workers and this project has delivered on this from a health and safety perspective. We were also able to demonstrate that health and safety is a key element of all of our business activities.”