By Poly Pantelides
THE number of work-related accidents decreased by several hundred between 2007 and 2012, falling below the 2,000 threshold and meeting the government’s targets for the period, the labour minister said on Friday.
Speaking to the press in Nicosia to mark the end of a series of events to raise awareness on the prevention of accidents in the workplace, Zeta Emilianidou said the government met its 2007-2012 targets on health and safety at the workplace.
Emilianidou said in 2012 there had been 1,741 accidents in the work place, which pushed numbers below the ‘psychological barrier’ of 2,000, she said. In 2007, a total of 2,105 accidents took place in the workplace, according to statistical data from the ministry. In 2011, there were 2,010 incidents. That year a law amendment was passed to increase the maximum penalties for violating health and safety rules. The numbers are gathered by the labour inspection department and related to reported accidents of employees, with the exception of domestic workers.
The labour ministry’s numbers show that the majority of accidents take place in manufacturing. In 2012, some 351 accidents took place in the manufacturing sector compared with 521 in 2007. But although the construction sector has fewer accidents in real numbers, it tends to have more accidents relative to the number of people employed, according to the data.
There were 563 accidents in the construction sector in 2007, compared with 326 in 2012. The labour ministry said the drop was due partly to offering incentives to employers for buying correct equipment and making them sign policy agreements. The construction sector has also been hit very hard from the recession and has been declining from late 2008 onwards.
In the past two years, the courts have finished looking at 90 different cases against employers for violating laws in relation to the health and safety of their staff and courts have ordered a total of €300,550 in fines. Emilianidou said that three accidents that led to deaths resulted in three separate prison sentences, the longest of which was for six months.
“We still have a long way as a society before we eradicate or drastically reduce work-related accidents,” Emilianidou said. She said Cyprus’ deep recession made employees even more vulnerable and increased health risks. But she said the ministry would not allow employers to use the crisis as an excuse to let safety standards slip.