Health and Safety at Work
The main legislation providing for the health and safety of people in the workplace are the Occupational Health and Safety Act No. 85/1993. They apply to all employers, employees (including fixed-term and temporary employees) and self-employed people in their workplaces. The Acts set out the rights and obligations of both employers and employees and provides for substantial fines and penalties for breaches of the health and safety legislation.
Almost all of the specific health and safety requirement which apply generally to all employments are contained in the Occupational Health and Safety Act No. 85/1993 and relevant Regulations.
Under Section 8 of the Act the employer has a duty to ensure the employees’ safety, health and welfare at work as far as is reasonably practicable. In order to prevent workplace injuries and ill health the employer is required, among other things, to:
- Provide and maintain a safe workplace which uses safe plant and equipment
- Identify all risks in the work environment and provide Written Safe Work Procedures for all risks identified
- Prevent risks from use of any article or substance and from exposure to physical agents, noise and vibration
- Prevent any improper conduct or behaviour likely to put the safety, health and welfare of employees at risk
- Provide instruction and training to employees on health and safety
- Provide protective clothing and equipment to employees
- Appointing a competent person as the organisation’s Safety Officer
The duties of employees while at work are set out in Section 14 of the Act. These include the following:
- To take reasonable care to protect the health and safety of themselves and of other people in the workplace
- Not to engage in improper behaviour that will endanger themselves or others
- Not to be under the influence of drink or drugs in the workplace
- To undergo any reasonable medical or other assessment if requested to do so by the employer
- To report any defects in the place of work or equipment which might be a danger to health and safety
Risk assessment and safety statement
Under the OHS Act every employer is required to carry out a risk assessment for the workplace which should identify any hazards present in the workplace, assess the risks arising from such hazards and identify the steps to be taken to deal with any risks.
Protective equipment and measures
The employer should tell employees about any risks that require the wearing of protective equipment. The employer should provide protective equipment (such as protective clothing, headgear, footwear, eyewear, gloves) together with training on how to use it, where necessary. An employee is under a duty to take reasonable care for his/her own safety and to use any protective equipment supplied. The protective equipment should be provided free of charge to employees if it is intended for use at the workplace only. Usually, employees should be provided with their own personal equipment.
All accidents in the workplace should be reported to the employer, who should record the details of the incident. Reporting the accident will help to safeguard social welfare and other rights which may arise as a result of an occupational accident. An employer is obliged to report any accident that results in an employee missing 3 consecutive days at work (not including the day of the accident) to the Health and Safety Authority