Health and safety at work (2023)

Introduction

Health and safety laws apply to all employers, self-employed people andemployees in their workplaces. This includes fixed-term employees and temporaryemployees.

Laws on health and safety at work

The rights and obligations of both employers and employees in relation tohealth and safety at work are set out in the Safety,Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 (as amended). This Act also providesfor substantial fines and penalties for any breaches of the health and safetylaws.

Many of the specific health and safety laws are set out in the Safety, Health andWelfare at Work (General Application) Regulations 2007- 2020. Find detailson these regulations on the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) website.

Employee’s responsibilities

As an employee, your duties at work include:

  • Taking reasonable care to protect the health and safety of yourself and other people in the workplace
  • Not engaging in improper behaviour that will endanger yourself or others
  • Not being under the influence of drink or drugs in the workplace
  • Undergoing any reasonable medical assessment (or other assessment) if requested by your employer
  • Reporting any defects (faults) in equipment or the workplace which might be a danger to health and safety

Employer’s responsibilities

Employers must ensure their employees’ safety, health and welfare at work,as far as reasonably practicable.

To prevent workplace injuries and ill-health, the employer must:

  • Provide and maintain a safe workplace (which uses safe plant and equipment)
  • Prevent risks from employees using 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
  • Appoint a competent person as the organisation’s safety officer

Under the Safety,Health and Welfare at Work Act, 2005, employers must allow you paid timeoff for safety awareness training.

Risk assessment and safety statement

Every employer must carry out a workplace risk assessment to:

  • Identify any hazards in the workplace
  • Assess the risks arising from such hazards
  • Identify the steps to be taken to deal with any risks

The employer must also prepare a safety statement, based on the riskassessment. The statement should include details of people in the workforce whoare responsible for safety issues. Employees should have access to thisstatement and employers should review it regularly.

Read the guidelineson risk assessments and safety statements from the Health and SafetyAuthority (HSA).

Health and safety of young people at work

Employers should carry out a separate risk assessment if they are employingsomeone aged under 18. This risk assessment must be carried out before theyoung person gets the job.

The young person should not be given the job if certain risks areidentified. For example, risks that the young person cannot recognise or avoidbecause of their lack of experience.

Health and safety leave duringpregnancy

Employers should carry out separate risk assessments for pregnant employees.If there are risks to an employee’s pregnancy, these risks should be removedor the employee should be given alternative ‘risk-free’ duties.

If neither of these options are possible, the employee should be given‘health and safety leave’ from work. This leave can continue up to thebeginning of her maternity leave. This is set out in Section18 of the Maternity Protection Act 1994.

If a doctor certifies that night work would be unsuitable for a pregnantemployee, she must be given alternative work or health and safety leave.

Health and safety leave after maternity leave

When an employee returns to work after maternity leave, any risk to herbecause she has recently given birth (or because she is breastfeeding), shouldbe removed. If this is not possible, the employee should be moved toalternative ‘risk-free’ work. If a move is not possible, she should begiven health and safety leave.

If a doctor certifies that night work is unsuitable after the birth,alternative work should be provided. If alternative work cannot be provided,the employee should be given health and safety leave.

Your rights during health and safety leave

During health and safety leave, you are treated as if you are still inemployment. This means you continue to accumulate (build up) your entitlementto annual leave. However, you are not entitled to leave for any public holidaysthat happen during this time.

During health and safety leave, your employer must pay you your normal wagesfor the first 21 days (3 weeks). After 3 weeks, you may be able to get Healthand Safety Benefit, depending on your PRSI contributions.

Protective equipment and other safetymeasures

Employers should tell employees about any risks that require wearingprotective equipment (such as protective clothing, headgear, footwear, eyewearor gloves).

The employer should give employees the protective equipment (free of chargeif it is intended for use at the workplace only). They should also providetraining on how to use the equipment, where necessary.

Usually, employees are given their own personal equipment, rather thanequipment to share. Employees have a duty to take reasonable care for their ownsafety and to use any protective equipment provided.

Read the HSA's list of frequentlyasked questions about personal protective equipment.

Computer screens

Employers have responsibilities in relation to visual display units (VDUs),such as computer screens. For example:

  • Checking the reflection and glare
  • Checking the employee’s position in front of the VDU
  • Checking the keyboard and software used
  • Giving employees adequate breaks from the screen

Employers must also arrange for eye tests and make a contribution towardsthe cost of prescription glasses, if required.

Read the HSA's list of frequentlyasked questions about computer screens and display screen equipment (orVDUs).

Reporting an accident at work

All accidents in the workplace should be reported to the employer, whoshould record the details of the incident.

Reporting the accident will help to protect the employee’s rights tosocial welfare payments (see ‘Social welfare payments’ below). It alsohelps employees regarding other rights that may arise due to an occupationalaccident.

the accident), the employer must report the accident to the Health andSafety Authority (HSA). This is a legal responsibility set out in the Safety,Health and Welfare at Work (General Application) (Amendment) (No.3) Regulations2016.

Read more about accidentsin the workplace.

Social welfare payments

If you have an accident at work, you can apply for InjuryBenefit. This is a weekly payment from the Department of Social Protection(DSP) for people who are unfit for work due to an accident at work, or due toan occupational disease.

You can also claim certain medical costs that are not paid by the HSE orcovered by the DSP’s TreatmentBenefit Scheme. This is set out under the MedicalCare Scheme.

Read more about these payments in our page on the OccupationalInjuries Benefit Scheme.

Personal injury claims

You cannot claim compensation from your employer under the health and safetylegislation, but you can make a personal injury claim through the PersonalInjuries Assessment Board (PIAB).

The PIAB is an independent statutory body that assesses personal injuryclaims after workplace accidents. If the PIAB finds your employer isresponsible for the accident, it will set the amount of compensation they mustpay you.

All claims involving workplace accidents and personal injury (except casesinvolving medical negligence) must be submitted to the PIAB. You cannot takeyour claim to court before the PIAB gives you permission.

Bullying and harassment at work

By law, employers have a duty to prevent bullyingand harassment inthe workplace.

Employers should have procedures for dealing with complaints of bullying andharassment, and they should deal with these complaints immediately. Ignoringcomplaints could leave an employer open to a possible claim by an employee fordamages or compensation.

Read the:

If you feel you are the victim of bullying or harassment at work, followyour employer’s procedures (these may be set out in your employee handbook orcontract of employment).

If you cannot resolve the complaint with your employer, you can complain tothe WorkplaceRelations Commission – see ‘Make a complaint about health and safety'below.

Violence at work

The possibility of violence towards employees should be covered in thesafety statement (see ‘Employer’s responsibilities’ above). For example,the safety statement should address risk factors such as the isolation ofemployees and the presence of cash on the premises.

Employers should put safeguards in place to eliminate the risk of violence,as far as possible. They should also give the employee appropriate means tominimise any remaining risk (for example, by installing security glass).

Read the HSA's booklet for employers on violencein the workplace (pdf).

Assault at work

Assault, and being made to fear immediate assault, is a criminal offenceunder the Non-FatalOffences Against the Person Act 1997.

If you have been assaulted (or threatened with assault) at work by anotheremployee, report the matter immediately to your employer. You can also report it tothe Gardaí.

If your employer assaults you, report the matter to the Gardaí.

You should contact your doctor or seek medical treatment for your injuries.You can also call one of the organisationsproviding support to victims of crime.

You can also apply for compensation by making a personal injuries claim –see ‘Personal injury claims’ above

Make a complaint about health andsafety at work

To make a complaint about your rights under health and safety legislation,contact the Workplace Relations Commission using their onlinecomplaint form.

You must make the complaint within 6 months of theincident. The time limit may be extended for a further 6 months if there is areasonable cause for the delay.

Protecting your health and safety rights

By law, you cannot be victimisedfor taking action to access your rights under health and safety legislation.

For example, your employer cannot penalise you for making a complaint to theHSA about health and safety at work. Penalising could be dismissing you, takingdisciplinary action, or treating you less favourably than other employees.

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