The Health and Safety Authority and State Claims Agency publish joint guidance on occupational exposure to sensitive content

12th September 2023

The Exposure to Sensitive Content Guidance, published today (12th September), was jointly developed by the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) and the State Claims Agency (SCA) in order to assist organisations employing people in roles which expose them to sensitive content as part of their assigned duties or other employees who are unexpectedly exposed in their role.

Sensitive content refers to text, pictures, graphs, illustrations, photographs, video clips, or any other type of material of a particularly sensitive nature, for example content relating to child or adult abuse/ pornography or graphic pictures of a violent death.

The issues relating to exposure to sensitive content at work have been brought to the attention of the HSA as there are a growing number of related jobs located in Ireland. The SCA also receives incident reports and claims in the area of exposure to sensitive content across the State sector.

In developing this guidance, the HSA and SCA have drawn on different areas of Occupational Health and Psychological Health. Within the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005, duties of employers “to manage and conduct work activities to ensure the health and safety of employee” is outlined.  The health of employees includes mental health, and as exposure to such material can affect mental health this guide outlines employers’ duty to carry out hazard identification and risk assessment for all known hazards including exposure to graphic material.

On publishing this new guidance, Adrienne Duff, Assistant Chief Executive, HSA, stated “We understand that the exact individual effects of exposure to sensitive content within a work setting are not easily foreseeable, and differ qualitatively for each employee. We urge employers, and those who control workplaces, to use this guidance to assist in identifying the pertinent specific hazards, such as sensitive content involves and assess the risk presented by these hazards.”

Adrienne added “We welcome this opportunity to work with the State Claims Agency and other consultative partners on this important guidance which will be beneficial to those employers and duty holders working in areas where sensitive content is a hazard to their employees.”

Patricia Murray, Senior Work and Organisational Psychologist, HSA, added “According to relevant research in organisational psychological literature, exposure to sensitive content can significantly impair the psychological health, safety and wellbeing of those exposed. This document, sets out practical risk management guidance to help organisations in the management of this risk, to promote employee safety and health.

Managing this issue also helps to mitigate incidents and absences, ill-health and related claims arising in the future. A template for risk assessment is available within the guidance and should be carried out - as always - in consultation with employees.”

The SCA’s risk management mandate has a particular focus on incidents that may give rise to personal injury claims, including those arising from psychological risks/exposures in the workplace. The regulatory responsibilities of some State authorities means that the roles of many of their employees may involve reviewing sensitive content. Employees within these groups, who are assessed as at risk of exposure, will require access to suitable psychosocial supports designed to combat the negative effects that may arise.

Ciarán Breen, Director, State Claims Agency, statedWe have worked closely with the Health and Safety Authority in developing this important risk assessment guidance on sensitive content. Certain categories of employees in State authorities can be exposed to sensitive content as part of their employment and this can have an impact on their psychological health and wellbeing. This guidance will be a useful resource for our State authorities in helping to mitigate the risk, reducing incidents and claims, and ultimately making workplaces safer.”

The new guidance on Exposure to Sensitive Content and a template for Risk Assessment can be downloaded from the HSA website at the below links.


For further information and to arrange interview with available spokesperson,Senior Work and Organisational Psychologist Inspector, Patricia Murray, please contact Aoife Moroney Ward on 086 8036141 or email the HSA press office

Notes for Editor

This guidance document has been the subject of consultation using appropriate methods in line with HSA consultation procedures and mandates. Specialist inputs have been kindly given by the Psychological Society of Ireland (PSI), Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) and selected State authorities.

About State Claims Agency

The State Claims Agency resolves personal injury and third-party property damage claims against State authorities, as delegated by Government. It also provides related risk management services, advising and assisting State authorities in seeking to reduce or prevent future incidents and claims. In addition, it manages third-party legal cost claims against State authorities, as delegated, however so incurred.