The largest number of workplace fatalities occurred in the primary industries of agriculture, forestry and fishing, latest figures from the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) show.

Agriculture continues to experience a high number of fatalities, with 20 people losing their lives in 2020.

This figure includes three children as well as 11 adults over the age of 65.

Construction was the next closest sector with 14 fatalities.

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

Of the 53 work-related fatalities in 2020, just over half were self-employed, 12 victims were employees and 13 were non-workers.


HSA CEO Dr Sharon McGuinness said: “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 aged 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.”


There were fewer inspections carried out in the agriculture sector last year due to COVID-19, with 836 inspections completed along with 61 investigations. The HSA expects to conduct a higher number of inspections this year.

The majority of inspections focused on animal handling (499) while a further 390 targeted tractor and farm machinery safety. There were also 138 inspections into safe working at height.

There were no fines issued to farmers following these inspections. However, there were 32 improvement notices and 35 prohibition notices issued. A further 446 farmers received written advice.

Safety tools

There is an online farm risk assessment tool available for farmers to use. It recorded an increase in registered users in 2020, with 13,227 users, compared to 11,502 users in 2019.

Farmers could also be facing new legislation to enforce safer quad use. The HSA has developed and submitted draft regulations requiring professional training and essential protective equipment for operators of quads.

Minister of State for Business, and Employment Damien English 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 and I’d encourage all employers and workers, including the self-employed, to avail of them or to contact the HSA for advice.”