Employee Input

Safety Representatives I

An employer must deploy one or more persons to be safety representatives. They may be labelled safety officers, safety representatives, occupational first aiders, et cetera. They play a supportive role in relation to occupational health and safety.

Employees may, from time to time, select and appoint from amongst their number at their place of work a safety representative or, by agreement with their employer, more than one safety representative, to represent them at the place of work in consultation with their employer on matters related to safety, health and welfare at the place of work.

The employer and the safety representative shall having regard to the nature and extent of the hazards in the place of work, agree the frequency or schedule of inspections which may be carried out, which agreement shall not be unreasonably withheld by the employer.


Safety Representatives II

Every employer shall consider any representations made to him or her by the safety representative or any other matter relating to the safety, health and welfare at work of his or her employees and, so far as is reasonably practicable, take any action that he or she considers necessary or appropriate with regard to those representations.

An employer shall give to a safety representative such time off from his or her work as is reasonable having regard to all the circumstances, without loss of remuneration, to enable the safety representative to acquire, on an ongoing basis, the knowledge and training necessary to discharge his or her functions as a safety representative, and to discharge those functions.

Where an inspector attends at a place of work for the purpose of carrying out an inspection, the employer shall inform the safety representative that the inspection is taking place.


Representative’s Rights

A safety representative may

  • inspect the whole or any part of the place of work after giving reasonable notice to the employer, or immediately, in the event of an accident, dangerous occurrence or imminent danger or risk to the safety, health and welfare of any person;
  • investigate accidents and dangerous occurrences provided that he or she does not interfere with or obstruct the performance of any statutory obligation required to be performed by any person under any of safety health and welfare legislation;
  • after the giving of reasonable notice to the employer, investigate complaints relating to safety, health and welfare at work made by any employee whom he or she represents;
  • accompany an inspector who is carrying out an inspection of the place of work other than an inspection for the purpose of investigating an accident or dangerous occurrence;
  • at the discretion of the inspector concerned, accompany an inspector who is carrying out an inspection for the purpose of investigating an accident or dangerous occurrence;
  • at the discretion of the inspector concerned, where an employee is interviewed by an inspector with respect to an accident or dangerous occurrence at a place of work, attend the interview where the employee so requests;
  • make representations to the employer on any matter relating to safety, health and welfare at the place of work;
  • make oral or written representations to inspectors on matters relating to safety, health and welfare at the place of work, including the investigation of accidents or dangerous occurrences;
  • receive advice and information from inspectors on matters relating to safety, health and welfare at the place of work, or
  • consult and liaise on matters relating to safety, health and welfare at work with any other safety representatives who may be appointed in the undertaking concerned, whether or not those safety representatives work in the same place of work, in different places of work under the control of the employer or at different times at the place of work.

Competent Persons

Without prejudice to its general obligations, an employer shall, for the purpose of complying with safety health and welfare legislation, appoint one or more competent persons to perform such functions as are specified by the employer, relating to the protection from and the prevention of risks to safety, health and welfare at work.

Where there is a competent person in the employer’s employment, that person shall be appointed in preference to a competent person who is not in his or her employment except where the knowledge and experience of the person first referred to is not adequate or appropriate to the functions conferred. An employee appointed as a competent person shall be allowed adequate time, with no loss of remuneration, to enable him or her to perform such functions as are specified by the employer.

A person is deemed to be a competent person where, having regard to the task he or she is required to perform and taking account of the size or hazards (or both of them) of the undertaking or establishment in which he or she undertakes work, the person possesses sufficient training, experience and knowledge appropriate to the nature of the work to be undertaken.  Account is taken, as appropriate, of the national framework of qualifications.


Facilitation of / Information to Representative

Every employer shall ensure that the number of persons appointed, and the time available to them and the means at their disposal to perform their functions, are adequate having regard to the size of the place of work, the risks to which employees are exposed and the distribution of those risks in the place of work. Each employer must make arrangements for ensuring adequate co-operation between those persons and safety representatives (if any) whenever necessary.

An employer shall provide the appointed competent person with the following information

  • the factors known by the employer to affect, or suspected by the employer of affecting, the safety, health and welfare of his or her employees;
  • the risks to safety, health and welfare and the protective and preventive measures and activities in respect of the place of work and the work carried out there;
  • the measures for the evacuation of employees and other persons to be taken including the employees designated to implement the plans and measures and
  • such reasonable information about any person in the place of work concerned who is a fixed-term employee or a temporary employee as is necessary to enable the competent person to perform his or her functions.

Competence / Training

A competent person should have the training expertise, experience, and knowledge appropriate to the nature of role. A person’s required competence depends on the particular circumstances of the industry. In appropriate cases, particularly in larger enterprises, qualifications would be appropriate and required.

The competent persons must be given sufficient time off with no loss of remuneration to perform their functions. The numbers of competent persons, the time off allowed and facilities must be proportionating to the size of the business, the risk involved, and how they are spread. Employers must ensure cooperation between safety representatives.

The competent persons must be given information in relation to the risks involved including protective measures, evacuation measures, names of designated employees and other necessary information.

The Irish Institution of Occupational Safety and Health, Irish branch has approximately 1,600 members. The U.K. Body has a significant number of members. These bodies subscribe to voluntary standards of qualification and training. They may be external consultants or internal personnel. The safety officer should be competent for his particular role.


Competent Employee to be Preferred

The legislation provides that a competent employee should be appointed in preference to a non-employee. However, this is not an absolute rule. In the case of larger firms or on appropriate occasions, an external chartered safety consultant may be appropriate.

One person may be competent for the relevant health and safety issues that may arise in smaller organisation. This is less likely to be possible in the case of a larger organisation or an organisation with particular health and safety issues and requirements.

In larger organisations, a combination of competences may be required, including a member of the IOSH (who may be safety officer or manager), first aid and fire personnel, external consultants, persons responsible for particular roles (e.g. equipment, good housekeeping, records) and other specialist personnel.

Legislation require competence in various sectors in relation to particular industries, equipment and environments. An outside specialist may be appropriate in a larger organisation. In a small to medium-sized organisations, the appointment of an internal person will be usually sufficient. However, he must be competent and meet the relevant requirements


Consultation

Every employer shall, for the purpose of promoting and developing measures to ensure the safety, health and welfare at work of his employees and ascertaining the effectiveness of those measures consult them for the purpose of making and maintaining arrangements which will enable the employer and his or her employees to co-operate effectively for those purposes.

Where, in a place of work by agreement of the employer, there is a group of persons (by whatever name known) representative of the employer and the employees that constitute a safety committee and that exists for the purpose of consultation regarding the safety, health and welfare at work of the employees, consultation within that group of persons may, to such extent as may be agreed between the employer and his or her employees, fulfil the requirements.

An employer shall give to employees involved in arrangements for consultation such time off from their duties as is reasonable having regard to all the circumstances, without loss of remuneration, to enable those employees to acquire the knowledge and training necessary to discharge their functions, and to discharge those functions.

In an undertaking in which arrangements for joint decision making exist involving the employer and employees, these arrangements shall include consultation for this purpose.


Consultation Subject Matter

In accordance with the above arrangements, the employer must consult with his or her employees, their safety representatives or both, as appropriate, in advance and in good time regarding

  • any measure proposed to be taken in the place of work which may substantially affect the safety, health and welfare of those employees, including measures to be taken under safety health and welfare legislation;
  • the designation of employees as wardens and officers;
  • ctivities arising from or related to the protection from and the prevention of risks to safety, health and welfare at work;
  • the hazard identification and the risk assessment to be carried out;
  • the preparation of a safety statement;
  • the information to be provided to employees;
  • the information required to be kept or notified to the Authority in respect of accidents and dangerous occurrences;
  • the appointment of safety representatives
  • the planning and organisation of the training or
  • the planning and introduction of new technologies particularly in relation to the consequences of the choice of equipment and working conditions and the working environment for the safety, health and welfare of employees.

Employees shall have the right to make representations to and consult their employer on matters relating to their safety, health and welfare at work, including in relation to the above matters.

Every employer shall consider any representations made to him or her by his or her employees in relation to their safety, health or welfare at work and, so far as is reasonably practicable, take any action that he or she considers necessary or appropriate with regard to those representations.


Safety Committees

Should they so wish, the employees employed in a place of work may select and appoint from amongst their number members of a safety committee to perform the functions assigned to safety committees under safety health and welfare legislation.

The number of members of a safety committee shall not be less than 3 and shall not exceed one for every 20 persons employed in a place of work at the time when the committee is appointed or 10, whichever is the less. Where the number of members of which a safety committee is to be comprised is—

  • 4 or less, one member of the committee may be appointed by the employer, and the remaining members of the committee may be selected and appointed by the employees,
  • not more than 8 and not less than 5, 2 members of the committee may be appointed by the employer, and the remaining members may be selected and appointed by the employees, and
  • more than 8, 3 members of the committee may be appointed by the employer, and the remaining members may be selected and appointed by the employees.

Where, in a place of work, a safety representative or representatives have been appointed at least one such safety representative shall be selected and appointed by the employees to be a member of the committee.


Functions of Safety Committee

Where a safety committee is appointed the following provisions shall have effect—

  • the safety committee shall assist the employer and employees concerned in relation to safety health and welfare legislation,
  • the quorum for a meeting of a safety committee shall be such number, being not less than 3, as shall for the time being be fixed by the committee,
  • where a member of a safety committee ceases to be employed in the place of work concerned, he or she shall at the same time cease to be a member of the committee,
  • the employer shall be entitled to attend personally, or to nominate a person or persons to attend on his or her behalf at each meeting of the safety committee,
  • the employer or his or her nominee or nominees shall attend the first meeting of the safety committee and shall, as soon as may be after it is available, present to the members of the safety committee the statement required , and
  • the safety committee shall consider any representations made to it by the employer on matters affecting the safety, health and welfare of persons employed in the place of work.

On a request being made in that behalf by a safety committee, the employer shall consult with the safety committee with the object of reaching an agreement concerning facilities for holding meetings of the safety committee, and the frequency, duration and times of meetings of the safety committee.


Safety Committee Meetings

Subject to the terms of any agreement between the employer and a safety committee, meetings of the safety committee shall be held from time to time on such days as the committee shall decide and such meetings may be held during normal working hours, without loss of remuneration to the members of the committee if the following conditions are satisfied, namely:

  • except in the case of an emergency such meeting shall not be held more frequently than once every three months;
  • the duration of each such meeting shall not exceed one hour;
  • the number of members of the safety committee attending such a meeting shall be at least such as is required to form a quorum, and
  • the times at which the meetings of the safety committee are held shall be compatible with the efficient operation of the place of work.

Sectoral Agreements.

Employer and employee bodies may make guidelines, which can be approved by the HSA. They may apply to all employees in the class, provided that the employees and the employers substantially represent employer’s or employee’s concerns. The information must be published. The HSA can hear objections. Copies of the agreement must be made available for inspection by any person concerned. There may be a sectoral agreement or an agreement in relation to particular issues.

A trade union of employees, representing a class or classes of employees, and a trade union of employers may enter into or vary a joint safety and health agreement providing practical guidance to the employees and employers with respect to safety, health and welfare at work including the requirements of safety health and welfare legislation. They may apply to the Authority seeking approval for the agreement or its variation.

The parties to a joint safety and health agreement shall make copies of the agreement, or variations thereof, available for inspection by all persons concerned.

A joint safety and health agreement shall, so long as it continues to be approved by the Authority, be taken into account by the Authority for the purposes of assessing compliance by an employer with safety health and welfare legislation notwithstanding the fact that that employer and the employees concerned are not parties to the joint safety and health agreement.


HSA Approval of Joint Agreement

The Authority may approve of a joint safety and health agreement where it is satisfied that

  • the parties concerned consent to the approval sought,
  • the agreement is expressed to apply to all employees of a particular class and their employers and the Authority is satisfied that it is normal and desirable that it should so apply,
  • the parties to the agreement are substantially representative of such employees and employers,
  • the agreement does not conflict with the requirements of safety health and welfare legislation, and
  • the agreement is in a form suitable for approval.

Where an application is made to the Authority for approval of a joint safety and health agreement, the Authority shall direct the parties concerned to publish information on the agreement in such a manner that is best calculated to bring the application to the notice of all persons concerned. The Authority shall not approve of a joint safety and health agreement until one month after its publication. If any objection is received within that period, the Authority shall consider the objection and shall not approve the agreement if it does not comply with the above requirements.

Approval of a joint safety and health agreement may be withdrawn by the Authority if it is satisfied that all parties thereto consent to its withdrawal or if the agreement is terminated by any of the parties concerned.  Where the Authority approves of a joint safety and health agreement, it shall publish a notice of approval in Iris Oifigiúil and in at least 2 daily newspapers circulating in the State.


References and Sources

Irish Books

Safety, Health and Welfare and at Work Law in Ireland 2nd Ed 2008 Byrne Ch 5

Safety & Health Acts Consolidated & Annotated       2013   Byrne

Health, Safety & Welfare Law in Ireland        2012   Kinsella Ch 4

Health & Safety: Law and practice 2007 Shannon

Health & Safety at Work   1998 Stranks Ch 2

Civil Liability for Industrial Accidents 1993 While

Websites

The Health and Safety Authority  www.hsa.ie

Health and Safety Executive (UK) www.hse.gov.uk

UK Books

Tolleys Health and safety at work, 2017 29th ed Bamber,

Corporate liability: work related deaths and criminal prosecutions 3rd ed. Forlin

Health and safety at work: European and comparative perspective Ales.

Health and Safety Law 5th Ed 2005 Stranks

Principles of Health and Safety at Work (8th ed) Holt, Allan St. John; Allen, Jim;

The Law of Health and Safety at Work 2014/15 (23rd ed) Moore, Rachel; Winter, Hazel;

Statutes

Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005

Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (General Application) (Amendment) (No. 3) Regulations 2016 (S.I. No. 370 of 2016)

Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (General Application) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2016 (S.I. No. 70 of 2016)

Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (General Application) (Amendment) Regulations 2016 (S.I. No. 36 of 2016)

Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (General Application) (Amendment) Regulations 2012 (S.I. No. 445 of 2012)

Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (General Application) (Amendment) Regulations 2010 (S.I. No. 176 of 2010)

Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (General Application) (Amendment) Regulations 2007 (S.I. No. 732 of 2007)

Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (General Application) Regulations 2007 (S.I. No. 299 of 2007)