As part of the Authority’s new strategy for the period 2013 to 2015, the Irish Health and Safety Authority published its Programme of Work for 2013 on 25th January 2013.
Writing in the introduction to the Programme of Work the Authority’s Chief Executive, Martin O’Halloran, states that the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) will work to ensure that the health of workers and consumers is protected without compromising the competitiveness and innovation of businesses in Ireland.
Mr O’Halloran reiterates the importance of businesses adopting good health and safety practices when he writes, “Protecting people’s safety and health and the success of enterprises go hand in hand. Poor safety and health can impose substantial costs on businesses and a serious injury can threaten the survival of a small business.”
In all workplace inspections the HSA will look at the existence and implementation of health and safety management systems including the presence of a safety statement and a completed risk assessment.
HSA inspectors will also assess the awareness of a manager’s health and safety duties. This is a very important and timely reminder as it is clear that no business can fulfil its health and safety obligations if its senior managers are not fully aware of their duties and the significant role they play in protecting their workers, their visitors and ultimately their businesses.
For multi-site operations the HSA will continue to ensure that relevant health and safety issues are managed at corporate level.
During 2013 the HSA will conduct approximately 12,850 inspections and investigations and it expects to deal with approximately 3,000 complaints. Where a complaint requires further investigation it will be followed up to ensure that the measures required to resolve the cause of the complaint are taken by the duty holder.
The HSA will be monitoring trends in all incoming complaints and repeat issues with an employer will be taken as an indicator of poor standards of health and safety. This will lead to an increased frequency of inspection and an increased risk of enforcement action.
All workplace fatal incidents occurring in 2013 will be investigated and approximately 5% of notified accidents will be prioritised for investigation. Duty holders will be held to account where they are shown to have had a clear disregard for the management of safety and health risks at their workplaces.
The HSA is facing some, potentially very serious, cutbacks in 2013. The implications are that the Authority’s inspectors will have to concentrate on visiting workplaces with the highest risk levels. This means that only a very small number of inspections will be carried out in lower-risk workplaces and most of these will be in response to complaints or workplace injuries.
However this must not be seen as giving the green light for duty holders to reduce their focus on health and safety nor to take risks with the safety of their staff and visitors. It is to be expected that health and safety breaches will continue to be subject to enforcement action, including prosecution. As the Programme of Work makes clear, the HSA will “hold individuals and organisations to account where there has been serious disregard for the duty to prioritise and manage workplace health and safety”.
Ian Thomas Associates provides briefings to senior management teams and helps businesses respond effectively to health and safety issues including threatened or actual enforcement action and prosecutions.