There was a reduction of almost a third in the number of workplace fatalities last year, according to figures from the Health and Safety Authority.

38 were reported in total, down from 54 the previous year, making it the lowest number of workplace fatalities recorded in a year since the Authority was established in 1989.

The absence of employees from the workplace, due to restrictions to limit the spread of Covid-19, likely contributed to the fall in numbers.

However, 2020 would also have had lengthy periods of absence from the workplace in the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The figures are contained in the HSA's annual report for 2021.

A total of 7,477 inspections were completed across all sectors in the year, of which 1,383 inspections were completed in relation to chemicals.

666 of these were carried out in relation to carriage of dangerous goods by road.

A further 1,109 investigations were completed on foot of incident reports and complaints received, the report notes.

87 chemical product types were removed from the Irish market as a result of Market Surveillance activities.

An additional 61 products were removed from sale to the general public due to non-compliances with labelling and packaging requirements, it stated.

"In 2021 we set out to achieve tangible outcomes across our mandate which includes occupational safety and health (OSH), accreditation, chemicals, and market surveillance," the Health and Safety Authority's CEO, Dr Sharon McGuinness said.

She provided details of a new Occupational Health division which would see the HSA expanding its workforce and reorganising its structure.

"This new division will centre its focus on various safety and health concerns in Irish workplace including the impacts of the pandemic in accelerating the move to remote/hybrid working, the continued growth of the 'gig economy', the particular needs of vulnerable workers and migrant groups, and the impact of psychosocial issues in the workplace," Dr McGuinness added.