Workplace Health and the Law


Against this background of unacceptable humanitarian, social and economic costs; legislation has been introduced to control all aspects of Safety and Health. The result is that Health and Safety requirements are now a major influence on every work activity however large or small. The principal aim of Health and Safety legislation and practice is the prevention of accidents and ill health. The three principal pieces of legislation in Health and Safety, which outline and detail this preventive approach are: The Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 1989 and The Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (General Application) Regulations 1993 The Safety Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005

2.1 The Safety, Health & Welfare at Work Act 1989 The 1989 Act reflects and encourages the preventative approach by including the following key elements:

1. Placing general obligations on employers and employees to ensure Safety and Health at work.
2. Requiring employers to implement a system for managing Safety and Health in the workplace.
3. Requiring that employees and employers consult on Safety and Health matters.
4. Requiring employers to produce a safety statement based on hazard identification and risk assessment.

The safety statement requires written details as to how accidents and ill health are to be prevented.

The Safety, Health & Welfare at Work Act(general application) regulations 1993 Under the 1989 Act, employers have to ensure the health and safety of employees and others who may be affected by their work. The Act applies to all work activities and premises. Employers are therefore required to provide suitable control equipment and train, instruct, inform and supervise employees so that their health at work is not affected. Employees also have responsibilities under this Act not to endanger themselves or others. The General Application Regulations add detail to the 1989 Act on accident and ill health prevention measures, and the notification of accidents and dangerous occurrences. It also covers Safety and Health aspects on:

• Safety and Health management.
• Risk Assessment.
• Emergency Procedures.
• Workplace Conditions and Facilities.
• Work Equipment.
• First Aid.
• Electricity.
• Manual Handling.
• Working with VDUs.
• Personal Protective Equipment.

In addition all employers are required to appoint a competent person to assist in complying with Safety and Health legal requirements and in the design and use of protective measures. The person appointed to assist could be a manager who has been properly trained to do this, although if the risks are complicated, or involves special knowledge, you may need to involve people from outside your business.

The Safety, health and Welfare at Work Act 2005
The Safety , Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005, was passed by the Oireachtas and signed into Law, will come into force on September 1st 2005. Though the basic principles of health and safety law are unchanged. The Act includes many new and more detailed and more stringent provisions than the 1989 act which it replaces.

• Fines of up to 3m and /or up to two years in jail for serious breaches of health and safety.
• The introduction of on the spot fines systems for certain safety offences, which will be specified in further regulations
• Drug and alcohol testing for employees, the procedures for which will be specified in further regulations. Employers The significant new duties imposed on employees are to e.g.
• Manage health and Safety
• Ensure, in so far as is responsibly practicable, the preventions of risk to employees, Health from exposure to noise, vibration or ionising or other radiation of any other physical agents.
• Provide employees with training, information and supervision in a firm manner and, as appropriate, a language that is reasonably likely to be understood.
• Review Risk Assessments and Safety statements when there has been a significant change or there is another reason to believe the risk assessment is no longer valid and, following the review, to amend as appropriate.
• Bring Safety Statements to the employee’s attention on commencement of employment and annually have the Safety Statement, or a relevant extract from it available in every workplace.
Employees • E.g. Not to be under the influence of an intoxicant to the extent that they endanger their own or other persons safety.
• To submit to tests for intoxicants, if reasonably required with the tests carried out by or under supervision of a registered medical practitioner who is a competent person.

Other legislation for consideration In addition there are several laws that relate to specific risks to health at work, such as construction work, lead, asbestos, chemicals and noise, and some that relate to particular industries such as major chemical plants.

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