A Preventative Role

The Authority inspectors carry out inspections to monitor compliance with the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 (the 2005 Act), the Chemicals Act 2008 and other relevant legislation which may apply at the time of the inspection. However the Inspectors’ primary focus is a preventative one, which is to raise awareness among employers, employees and other duty holders on their responsibilities under this legislation. Typically less than 10% of inspections result in formal enforcement actions being taken, 45% result in a written report of inspection handed out at the inspection and the rest are just advisory in nature.

Inspectors look at the level of preparedness of Irish workplaces on safety and health management and on the safe use, transport and management of chemicals. In particular the inspector will look for written evidence on the preparation and implementation of the safety statement under Section 20 of the 2005 Act. They will also look for workplace specific risk assessments which are required to be carried out under Section 19 of the 2005 Act. They may also look for other relevant safety documentation which may be required by the Chemicals Act 2008 and other health and safety legislation the Authority’s inspectors enforce.

Safety Statement Implementation

When the inspector visits a workplace he/she will look for the existence of the safety statement. It will be expected that this statement will set out how safety and health is managed in that particular workplace. He/she will check to see if it includes the workplace and the work activities risk assessments which are specific to that workplace. These are required to be included in the safety statement. The safety statement and the risk assessments must take on board the particular legislation which applies to the workplace and its work activities, e.g. a construction site must refer to the construction regulations, while a chemical company processing and/or transporting chemicals must refer to the relevant COMAH, ADR or Chemical Agents Regulations. The inspector will use Authority published Guidance in order to determine compliance with legislation. Several relevant publications are available in the Publications section.

In addition the inspector will also accept a safety statement and risk assessments which were prepared using the BeSMART system, where the business type is covered by the BeSMART system. In addition the document generated from BeSMART needs to cover all the risks at the workplace and set out a management system which is appropriate to the workplace under review.

Safety statement implementation is the key to success with health and safety management in any workplace. The inspector will need to see clear evidence for this. To properly implement the safety statement employers must put in place a safety and health management system which suits its needs but gets the job done. The safety statement may need to cover an employer’s responsibilities for several workplaces or many work locations under its control and the means for doing this will need to be clearly set out.

This safety system must ensure that everyone in the workplace or those doing the work activity if done at several locations knows what is expected of them with regard to employee safety and health from the CEO/ MD down to the front line employees. All staff need to know the health and safety rules they must follow at their workplace, the ones which the employer must follow to comply with the safety and health laws which apply to their workplace.

Who is Responsible for Ensuring Safety?

Most companies wish to comply with their legal responsibilities, by doing much more than the legal minimum and strive to have safety and health rules and procedures which ensure they have no accidents or ill-health cases. Inspectors will expect to see evidence of this and in particular that competent persons are appointed for health and safety tasks and are named in the safety statement.

During an inspection an inspector may seek to speak to some of the named people in the safety statement. A requirement of the 2005 Act is the liabilities under Section 80, which puts the responsibilities for safety and health directly on those in charge in workplaces. Senior managers need to be aware of their liabilities under Section 80 and the safety statement will need to spell out what is required of the senior managers in the company.