What is an Employers’ Duty towards an Employee to Prevent Accidents and Injury in the Workplace?

Your employer has a number of obligations towards an employee under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Acts 2005 and 2010.

That act applies to all employers and employees and self-employed persons in their workplace.  The Act comprises the obligations and rights of employers and employees and it also provides that substantial finds and penalties will be incurred for breaches of the Health & Safety Acts.

The Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (General Application) Regulations 2007 contain the health and safety laws that apply to all employments and those can be found at hsa.ie.

Employers’ Duties

The duties of an employer towards an employee are set out in Section 8 of the Safety Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005.

Your employer has a duty to prevent workplace injuries and to prevent ill health of the employee and your employer is required to do the following:

  • To provide and maintain a safe place at work ensuring the safe use of safe plant and equipment
  • To prevent risks from the use of any object or article or substance and to protect the employee from exposure to any physical agents or noise or vibration
  • To protect the employee from any conduct or any behaviour which is improper and likely to put the safety health and welfare of an employee at risk.
  • To provide adequate training and instruction to all employees on health and safety
  • To ensure that employees are provided with protective clothing and protective equipment where necessary
  • To ensure that a competent person is employed as the employers and organisations safety officer

Risk Assessment and Safety Statement

An employer is required to carry out a risk assessment in the workplace and the assessment should identify any hazards present in the workplace and it should assess any risks arising from the hazards and identify any steps to be taken in order to deal with the risks.

In addition to the above the employer should prepare a safety statement and the safety statement is based on the above mentioned risk assessment.  The safety statement should always contain the details of the people in the workplace who are responsible for certain safety issues.  All employees are entitled to be given access to the safety statement and risk assessments and they should be reviewed on a regular basis.

Protective Equipment and Measures

Employees are entitled to be provided with the correct protective equipment or the type of function they are engaged in.

A number of personal injury claims arise where employees are not provided with the protective clothing such as head gear, footwear, eyewear and gloves.  A number of workplace accidents also arise because employees are not trained on how to use the particular protective equipment necessary.

Please bear in mind that an employee is also under a duty to take care for his or her own safety and to use the protective equipment supplied.

Sometimes we come across employees who are injured in workplace accidents who did not use the protective equipment available to them even though they should have.  This would very seriously weaken their potential personal injuries case because there would be a very significant degree of contributory negligence in circumstances where the employee refused to wear protective clothing.

Any protective clothing required by an employee should be provided by an employer free of charge if it is intended that the protective equipment is for use in that workplace only.

In relation to visual display units there are a range of measures that employers must take including the examination of the reflection and glare, the operators position in front of the VDU, the keyboard and the software used.  An employee must be given adequate breaks from the VDU and employers must arrange for eye tests and if required make a contribution towards the purchase of eye glasses where a visual display unit is required for use by the employee on a very frequent basis.

Health and Safety of Young People

The employer must carry out a separate risk assessment in relation to any employee under the age of eighteen.  The risk assessment should be carried out before that person is employed and if certain risks are present certain measures should be taken.

Reporting Accidents

In order to assist an employee with a workplace compensation claim, the accident should always be reported as soon as possible to the employer and in turn the employer must report any accident that results in an employee missing three consecutive days at work to the Health and Safety Authority.