Ian Thomas Associates

Place of work or not – Kerry County Council v the Health and Safety Authority

The High Court has ruled that the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) may investigate a road traffic incident in which a man died. The fatality occurred at a location where, on the day before the accident, Kerry County Council had been installing traffic calming measures.

The issue for the Court was whether the stretch of road in question was a place of work. If it was the HSA could enquire into the causes of the accident but if not, the HSA would have no statutory power to carry out an investigation.

Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns ruled that, as work had only been suspended temporarily for the duration of the weekend, it could not be said that the location had ceased to be a place of work.  It was noted that plant and machinery had remained on site during the weekend pending resumption of work on Monday.

The judge commented that the situation could have been different if work had been suspended for a period of weeks or months when it could then be argued that the location had ceased to be a place of work.

This case considered issues that had been raised in two previous cases where the HSA had been trying to investigate issues with road works in Cork and Donegal. In both cases the HSA was prohibited from continuing with their investigations primarily because the locations were not, at the material time, a place of work.

For assistance with regard to health and safety obligations in your business please contact us at ian@ianthomasassociates.com

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