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November 2022
Sarah Conroy and Jackie Cunningham


On 24 October 2022 the Health & Safety Authority (HSA) published its Annual Review of Workplace Injuries, Illnesses and Fatalities for 2020-2021. This report details causes and characteristics of injuries, illnesses and fatalities that occur in workplaces across Ireland. The report combines data from two sources, which are:

  • incidents reported directly to the HSA throughout 2021; and
  • Central Statistics Office (CSO) data from 2020 on days lost to work-related injuries and illnesses.

The report acknowledges that there is likely a degree of under-reporting of work-related incidents in certain sectors. It further acknowledges that the stop-start nature of restrictions and lockdowns, the rise of remote working and unprecedented number of business closures makes 2020 and 2021 outliers in recent years, making year-on-year comparisons difficult.

The key points of the report are summarised below.


  • There were 38 reported work-related fatal incidents in 2021, the lowest number of any year since the HSA was established in 1989. This represents a 30% decrease since 2020.
  • Construction is the second highest sector for fatal incidents (10), after Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing (11).
  • The most common causes of fatal incidents were falls from a height (29%), falls as a result of loss of control of means of transport (29%) and falling objects (11%).
  • There were victims across all age groups, but the highest number involved those aged 65 and over (nine, 24%).
  • All but one of the 38 victims were male.


  • The number of reported non-fatal incidents remained high at 8,279. This was 12% lower than in 2019 but 8% higher than in 2020 which is likely to be due in part to revived economic activity in 2021.
  • Manual handling and falls were the most common triggers, as they have consistently been since 2017, together accounting for over half of all non-fatal injuries.
  • The single most common trigger was manual handling leading to internal injury (2,656, 32%).
  • The most injured body part for workers was the back, associated with 21% of non-fatal accidents.
  • 597,000 work days were lost due to work-related injuries and 1,053,000 days were lost due to work-related illnesses in 2021.
  • The sectors with the highest rates of non-fatal injury leading to four or more days absence from work were: construction (15.5%); followed by Human Health and Social Work (9.4%).


  • Four of the 38 victims of fatal incidents, and 256 of the 8,279 victims of non-fatal incidents, were non-workers.


The HSA’s report highlights the importance of ensuring that workplace risk assessments are regularly carried out and reviewed, with suitable precautions and controls established. This is with a view to  ensuring worker (and indeed non-worker) safety and reducing exposure to HSA investigations. The HSA’s dedicated microsite is a free online tool which assists small businesses in generating workplace risk assessments and safety statements, so as to allow them to stay on top of their obligations in this regard.

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