Construction industry leads workplace accident figures in Latvia

In the first six months of this year, the largest number of workplace accidents occurred in the construction sector – 83, according to data from the State Labor Inspection (VDI), Latvian Radio reported on August 28.

The largest number of accidents registered occurred in people between 45 and 54 years old, and men are involved twice as often in accidents as women. This can be explained by a large proportion male employment in the so-called hazardous sectors, not only in construction but also in the manufacturing industry, transport, and others. The largest number of victims and fatalities was registered in Rīga and Pierīga.

Of the 83 accidents that have occurred in the construction industry this year, nine were severe and one employee has died. According to VDI expert Inese Sūna, inspection representatives in the construction sector also hold thematic inspections every year and 28 job safety violations have been identified this year.

"In construction, the most common cause is falls from height. The works are on rooftops or on scaffolding high enough, and then the falls have very severe consequences, or unfortunately, the employees are killed. There is no ring-fencing of dangerous places, shafts where an employee can fall, and works in the trenches are dangerous because there can be such a strong landslide that it one simply buried and the person unfortunately died, choked," said Sūna.

Normunds Grīnbergs, Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Latvian Builders Association, mentioned the lack of qualified labor as one reason for accidents in construction.

"Of course, there are good examples of labor imports and the arrival of knowledgeable builders who are familiar with job safety requirements, but there are also not that good examples where people who have not studied this profession come in expectations of earnings, and there are no or only partial or incomplete understanding of the construction process. There are the greatest risks. And I will not deny that we have been dominated by the cheapest workforce for many years,” said Grīnbergs.

Job safety violations are occurring not only in the construction industry. Last year, for example, the construction sector ranked third, but in the first place was the manufacturing industry, particularly woodworking, followed by transport and storage.

“If we are dealing with fatal accidents, of course, construction and transport and the storage sector are the first places in each of which there were seven deaths last year. Six deaths were in the agricultural and forestry sector [..]. In the transport sector, road accidents are the most frequent cause of the death of an employee because of the transport of goods, storage, logistics – there are several vehicles involved,” noted Sūna.

She added that job safety depends on cooperation between both sides, employers and workers.

“The employer is responsible for a safe working environment and trains employees, but the employee must follow these safe working methods because the employee already knows where the risk is. For example, if he sees that equipment is inappropriate or does not work properly, he should inform the employer, who then looks again – so there is some kind of technical problem, let us deal with it.”

Although the number of accidents in the workplace is not decreasing, the number of deaths is decreasing and this shows that the working environment might slowly be improving.

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