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HomeFarming NewsFarms remain Ireland's most dangerous workplaces
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane hails from a sixth-generation drystock and specialised pedigree suckler enterprise in Co. Mayo. She currently holds the positions of editor and general manager at That's Farming, having joined the firm during its start-up phase in 2015.
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Farms remain Ireland’s most dangerous workplaces

According to the Health and Safety Authority, the largest number of work-related fatalities occurred in agriculture, forestry and fishing in 2020.

The statistic is contained in its annual review of workplace injuries, illnesses and fatalities, published on July 5th, 2021.

More than half of all people, who died in work-related incidents in 2020, were self-employed.

Of the 53 work-related fatalities in 2020:

  • 28 or 52.8% were self-employed;
  • 12 victims were employees (22.6%);
  • 13 were non-workers (24.5%).

The largest number of fatalities occurred in agriculture, forestry and fishing, where 18 of the victims were self-employed.

  • Seven victims in construction were self-employed;
  • Two victims in wholesale and retail trade were self-employed;
  • One self-employed victim worked in accommodation and food-service activities.

The most common triggers associated with work-related fatalities in 2020 were:

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  • Loss of control of means of transport (16, 30.2%);
  • Fall from height (seven, 13.2%);
  • Fall of object from above onto victim (six, 11.3%);
  • Victim entering dangerous area (six, 11.3%).


The highest number of victims in work-related fatalities in 2020 were over 65 (18 victims).

The proportion of involving older victims aged 65 years or more has increased from 7.4% in 1990 (the first full year for which the authority holds data) to 34% in 2020.

Fewer non-fatal incidents were reported in every economic sector except agriculture, forestry and fishing.

Tools and resources from HSA 

Minister of State for Business, Employment and Retail, Damien English TD, said:

“There are approximately 300,000 self-employed people in Ireland, most of whom work alone, juggling a myriad of skills, who might consider time spent on health and safety issues important, but not urgent.”

“These are the people who have the most to lose if they have an incident or serious illness.”

“The HSA have many free tools, courses and supports available. I would encourage all employers and workers, including the self-employed, to avail of them or to contact the HSA for advice.”

The numbers registering to use the HSA’s free safety statement and risk assessment tool,, increased by 15% in 2020 – with 78,162 people registered in 2020, compared with 66,296 registered in 2019.

There were 11,868 new registrants in 2020 – the highest on record, compared with 9,967 new registrants in 2019.

The online farm risk assessment tool,, also recorded an increase. 13,227 users reigstered in 2020, compared to 11,502 registered users in 2019.

52,644 online health and safety courses,, were taken in 2020.

This is the highest on record and 60% more than the number of courses taken in 2019.

The most popular courses taken in 2020 included an introduction to tractor safety, chemical safety in the workplace and slips, trips and falls in the workplace.

‘No job is worth a loss of life, injury or illness’

CEO of the Health and Safety Authority, Dr Sharon McGuinness, said:

“More people are now aware of the importance of health and safety in the workplace. But health and safety must continue to be a top priority – as it can and will save lives.”

“Unfortunately, we have seen work-related fatalities happening to victims from all age groups. Of the 13 non-workers to die in work-related fatalities in 2020, five were under 18-years-old.”

“This drives home the need for appropriate procedures to be put in place to protect everyone in a workplace, be they employees, customers or visitors.”

“Proper risk assessments and health and safety considerations must be implemented in all workplaces to ensure everyone’s safety. No job is worth a loss of life, injury or illness,” she added.

Prevent incidents and injury 

Tom Coughlan, chairperson of the Health and Safety Authority, added:

“The HSA is concerned by this increase and is urging all employers to implement tailored health and safety policies designed with the unique requirements of older workers in mind.”

“We will continue to collaborate and partner with employer and employee groups to raise awareness of health and safety further and prevent incidents and injury.”

He stated that it is encouraging to see that there has been a significant increase in the number of people conducting health and safety courses, safety statements and risk assessments.

Concluding, he stressed that taking the time to assess risks and re-evaluate ways of working – can and will save lives.

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