Special Protections

Night Workers

There are limitations on night working and shift working, which recognise the particular dangers that they may pose. Night work is subject to risks by way of physical or mental strain.

If an employee who is engaged in night work, exhibits symptoms of ill health, which are recognised as being connected with night work, the employer must reassign him to non-night work duties, where possible.

An employer must undertake a risk assessment in relation to night work. Having regard to the risk assessment, employers must take steps, having regard to the nature of the work, as are appropriate for the protection of the safety and health of a night worker or a shift worker.

Health Assessment

The employer must make available to each night worker/shift worker, free of charge, an assessment of the effects on the employee’s health, if any, before the commencement of night work and at regular intervals while employed on night work.  It must be undertaken by a registered medical practitioner or under his supervision.

The assessment must be made with a view to ascertaining whether a person’s health is, or may be adversely affected by night work.  If the employer is so advised, the employee must be advised, and the changes which are necessary to render the work safe must be made.   The person who carries out the assessment, may not disclose clinical details of the assessment to any person, other than the employer and employee and any occupational medical advisor (appointed by the HSA).

Underage Workers

Legislation protects underage workers. With limited exceptions, children may not be employed while under the age of 14 years. Children aged between 14 and 16 years of age, may subject to conditions, undertake light work.  Persons aged between 16 and 18 years of age, may work to a greater extent, but subject to conditions.

The principal exemptions are applicable to close relatives and to certain persons working on farms.  Special protective measures are required for persons working on farms, which are a notorious source of serious and fatal accidents.

A child over 14 years may be employed to do light, non-industrial work, outside school term, subject to a maximum of seven hours per day or 35 hours per week.  A child over 15 years, may do light work of up to eight hours per week during school term.

An employer must not employee a child between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m.  There must be a minimum of 14 hours consecutive hours’ rest in any 24-hour period and a minimum of two days’ rest every week.

Leisure Industries

Persons aged under 16 years may not be employed in cultural, artistic, sports or advertising activities, other than under  licence. A licence may be issued, where it is not likely to be harmful to the safety, health or development of the child and is not likely to interfere with attendance at school or vocational programme.

Regulations have been made which permit young persons (i.e. 16 and 17 year olds) employed on general duties or as apprentices in licensed premises to work beyond 10 p.m. in certain circumstances. There is also a Code of Practice Concerning the Employment of Young Persons in Licensed Premises.

Young Persons

Persons between 16 and 18 years of age may not be required to work more than eight hours a day or 40 hours in any week.  Young persons of this age must not be required or permitted to work between 10 a.m. in a day and 6 a.m. on the following day or between 11 p.m. on one day and 7 a.m. on the next day.  The day must not be before a school day, during the school term, when the young person is attending school.

An exception may be permitted, where the Minister, following consultation with representatives of employees and employers, determines that there are exceptional circumstances affecting a particular sector or activity.

A young person must receive a minimum rest period of 12 consecutive hours, every 24 hours. He must receive a minimum of two days’ rest, which should insofar as practicable, be consecutive in any period of seven days.  An employer must not require a young person to do any work exceeding 4.5 hours’ duration without a break of 30 consecutive minutes.

The Minister may grant a licence providing for an exception to the above requirements, provided that the health, safety and welfare of the employee is not thereby affected. The licence may be granted if compliance with the above requirements is impractical, due to the seasonal nature of the work, technical or organisational reasons.

Risk Assessment

An employer must carry out a risk assessment before employing a child or young person, or whenever there is a major change in the place of work which could affect, the child or young person.  The employer must assess the risk to the health, safety and welfare of the child or young person concerned and must take appropriate measures. The risks to be taken to into account include those arising from lack of experience or awareness of the potential risks and dangers.

Where a risk assessment reveals any significant risk to a child such as

  • radiation or vibration;
  • heightened risks due to child’s lack of awareness or an insufficient attention, lack of experience and
  • exposure to agents beyond the physical or psychological capacity of a child or young person,

then, the young person must not be employed at all, regardless of whether he is otherwise above age.

Dangerous Sectors

There are specific obligations applicable where the work involves exposure to physical, biological, or chemical agents or to certain specified works and processes.  They apply where there are risks related to the exposure to such potentially harmful substances and agents.  They also cover certain other processes and works including,

  • work with vats, tanks and reservoirs containing dangerous substances,
  • work with carcinogenic materials
  • work where there is a risk of structural collapse,
  • high voltage electrical hazards,
  • work who’s the pace and payment rate is determined by machinery,
  • animal slaughtering on an industrial scale
  • working with dangerous, fierce or poisonous animals and certain other workplaces.
  • work involving the handling of equipment for the production, storage or application of compressed, liquefied or dissolved gases.

Minors and Vulnerable Workers

The employer must ensure that any other class of particularly sensitive employees to whom any relevant statutory provisions apply are protected from dangers which affect them.  This requirement covers young workers. It also applies to those who may have a physical or mental impairment, which places particular risks.This may apply to employees with disabilities, whether physical or intellectual.  It may apply to people with language difficulties, poor reading skills, inexperienced persons, older and employees.

The employer must take account of the layout and nature of the workplace, the physical, chemical and other dangers, the equipment and processes, the training and the level of supervision provided for the child or young person at the place of work.  Appropriate protective and preventative steps must be taken.  Information and instruction must be provided.

Where the risk assessment reveals a risk to the safety, health, physical or mental development of a child, health surveillance must be made available.

A child must be assessed as to his health and capabilities, before commencing night work.  The guardian or parent must be informed of the result of the assessment.

References and Sources

Irish Books

Safety, Health and Welfare and at Work Law in Ireland 2nd Ed 2008 Byrne Ch 42

Safety & Health Acts Consolidated & Annotated       2013   Byrne

Health, Safety & Welfare Law in Ireland        2012   Kinsella Ch 6

Health & Safety: Law and practice 2007 Shannon

Health & Safety at Work   1998 Stranks Ch 6

Civil Liability for Industrial Accidents 1993 While


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;


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)