The plans detailed in the HSA’s Programme of Work 2018, which has been published recently, suggest that 2018 will be a busy year for the Authority, which intends to carry out nearly 10,500 planned inspections, 1,000 investigations and host about 20 events.
HSA chief executive Martin O’Halloran writes that the Programme of Work is the third during the period covered by the Authority’s Strategy 2016-2018. The foreword to the programme states that there will be particular emphasis on workplace health, new and returning workers, safety representatives and a focus on sectors, such as accommodation and retail. The detailed inspections plan indicates there will be an increase of 50 inspections in the accommodation sector and 30 in the retail/wholesale sector.
Sectors that will remain at the forefront of the Authority’s work during the year are agriculture, construction and healthcare. Topics the Authority will be focusing on are occupational health, work-related vehicle safety, small business support, chemicals and a relatively new one, the provision of a national accreditation service. The Irish National Accreditation Board (INAB) is now a committee under the auspices of the HSA.
Occupational Health and Wellbeing
Picking up on Mr O’Halloran’s words that “occupational health remains a high priority”, the stress on wellbeing is notable. Towards the end of April or in early May, the Department of Health is expected to publish two reports on workplace health and wellbeing, as part of the Government’s National Healthy Ireland Framework.
In November, the Authority plans to hold a wellbeing event to address the hazards and targets set out in the Strategy 2016-2018 document. It will be interesting to see how the reports from the Department of Health and the Authority’s focus on wellbeing relate to one another.
In a report on the future of work published by the British Safety Council and co-authored by Professor Cary Cooper, the impact of work on employee health, safety and wellbeing is considered. For OSH professionals the current emphasis on wellbeing suggests the profession may well become the safety, health and wellbeing profession. Another straw in the wind is Ibec’s KeepWell Mark. So when the Authority’s inspectors visit your workplace, expect to be asked how your organisation is complying with the statutory requirements to protect workers’ health from risks such as exposure to noise or dust, questions about the use of the Authority’s Work Positive tool and mental health, and workers’ wellbeing.
Inspections under OSH Legislation
Of the planned 10,435 inspections, 9,150 will be carried out under health and safety legislation (OSH inspections) and 1,285 under chemicals legislation.
The Authority will carry out:
- 4,000 construction sector inspections, with the focus on small construction companies and the self-employed – tucked away under the chemicals legislation programme, which means it could be missed on a quick read of the Programme of Work, is that specialist support will be provided to construction inspectors, which suggests those inspectors will also be looking at asbestos, other carcinogens, legionella, the use of respiratory equipment and safety data sheets;
- 2,000 farm sector inspections, of which 1,200 will be carried out during inspection campaigns, with the focus on livestock, vehicle and work-at-height safety;
- 800 manufacturing plant inspections, which will be risk-based and concentrate on OSH management systems;
- 450 wholesale/retail sector inspections, which will focus on management systems, workplace transport and load securing;
- 250 accommodation/food sector inspections, which will concentrate OSH management systems;
- 250 transport/storage sector inspections, targeting driving for work, workplace transport and load securing risk management;
- 240 mines and quarries inspections, which will focus on vehicle movements and management systems;
- 140 healthcare sector inspections, focusing on manual and patient handling;
- 130 sewerage, waste water and refuse sector inspections, covering OSH management, vehicle risks, workplace transport and load securing;
- 100 inspections in the public administration/defence sector, focusing on OSH management systems;
- 50 forestry and 50 fishing industry inspections, with the focus in fishing on safety statements and in forestry on the Code of Practice for the sector.
The Authority plans to carry out 690 inspections in sectors such as electricity/gas, water, financial services, insurance, real estate, ICT, education and administrative services.
The Authority plans to hold two one-week construction inspection campaigns. The first will be from June 11th to 23rd and will focus on occupational health. The second will be between October 23rd and November 3rd. The theme for the campaign is excavators .
The Authority currently has 17 items under review in its legislation and codes of practice programme. Given the length of time it takes for draft legislation coming from the Authority to be legally vetted and enacted, this must (though they do not say it) be a source of frustration for the Authority’s officials and inspectors drafting proposed legislation.
Of the 17 items under review, five – Quarries, Mines, Diving, Offshore/Onshore Drilling and the use of Work Equipment (General Application) Regulations – are with the Office of Parliamentary Counsel for legal settlement. These are the regulations closest to enactment. Eight regulations are being reviewed, or, as it is put in the Programme of Work, “the Authority is providing technical and drafting assistance to the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation”. Three of the items are intriguing: a proposal to review the SHWW Act 2005 and amendments to the Construction and Quarries Regulations. Some detail on what is being considered would be useful.
Four Codes of Practice are being reviewed:
- the Codes on Avoiding Danger from Overhead Lines
- Rider Operated Fork Lift Trucks
- the Chemicals Agents Regulations
- the Code of Practice on Prevention and Resolution of Bullying at Work; at the request of Minister Breen.
One of the most valuable contributions the Authority makes in its efforts to assist employers and safety advisors is the seminars and conferences it organises. This year, over 20 are planned. Apart from the major health event, in November, the annual Farm Safety Conference and a series of ergonomic seminars will be held in October.
Change in the HSA
The programme is the last in the current three-year strategy. Currently the Authority is working on its strategy for the three-year period 2019-2021.
With Brian Higgisson having already left the Authority and Martin O’Halloran due to leave at the end of June, it will be interesting to see if any new ideas emerge and if those ideas will give an insight into the incoming chief executive’s approach – although many themes will be carried over from the current strategy in any case. Given that there is a requirement for photographic identification on cards, the judge held it was reasonable for SOLAS to place a time limit on the duration of a card. However, once an updated photo is provided, it does not mean that SOLAS can refuse to renew a card on its expiry.
Then, turning to SOLAS’s right to require a person renewing a card to be reassessed or self-certify, he held that a FETAC (SOLAS) shotfiring card is akin to a university degree or other qualification: it is recognition that a qualification was obtained and that Mr O’Connell or persons in a similar situation have a continuing entitlement to a registration card.
In the course of the judgment, Mr Justice Humphreys made the following points: He rejected the idea that the Quarries and Construction Regulations had only one purpose, the promotion of safety. They were also intended to give effect to the EU Directive on the Recognition of Qualifications (Directive 2005/36/EC) and so facilitate the free movement of people within the EU. Enforcement of the Quarries and Construction Regulations is primarily a matter for the HSA.
There is nothing in the regulations which makes qualification dependent upon post-award on-going experience, self-certification, auditing or continuing assessment and such a requirement would be a restriction on the rights of a qualification holder. There is no basis in the statute to hold that on-going assessment should be carried out by SOLAS, as opposed to the HSA. Qualifications are separate and distinct from ongoing competence. Qualifications are a matter for SOLAS and competence is a matter for the HSA.