Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Acts
The Safety, Health & Welfare at Work Act 2005 applies to employers and employees in all places of employment including the self-employed. The 2005 Act repealed and replaced its 1989 predecessor. The 2005 Act puts greater emphasis on the importance of hazard identification and risk assessment and is aimed at a preventative approach to reducing accidents and ill health at work. The Act is organised into 8 parts. The most relevant parts are reproduced in this handbook.
School as a Workplace
The 1989 Act extended health and safety legislation to cover all places of work from the largest companies with thousands of employees to the single self employed person. In 1989 schools and colleges were covered by safety legislation for the first time. From a legislative point of view a school is a work place like any other and the same standards of hazard identification and protective measures must be applied in order to ensure the safety and welfare of all school employees.
The safety of the students who attend our schools is of the utmost importance however the main concern of the Act is the health and safety of employees. It is clear that a school which is concerned about the safety of its employees and in which an overall culture of safety exists, will be a safe school for students.
It is the duty of all employers to ensure that their employees can carry out there contracted duties in safety. In schools this responsibility rests with the Board of Management. This employer/employee relationship and responsibility is complicated by the fact that most schools are very dependant on the support of the Department of Education & Science in the provision of safe and secure school buildings and facilities. However it is the Board of Management that carries the legal duty of care for school employees and it is the Board’s responsibility to ensure that high standards and best practice are applied to all aspects of safety.
Schools are Different
The 1989 and 2005 Acts brought schools within the scope of safety legislation and in that they are the same as all workplaces. However the risks and hazards that exist in schools are different to other places of work. Teachers and school employees, like employees generally, face standard workplace risks such as trips and slips, fire hazards, manual handling and other physical dangers. However the more common occupational hazards for teachers are in the realm of occupational illnesses such as result from high levels of stress or pressure of work. Teachers exhibit higher levels of stress related medical conditions that are found in workplaces generally resulting in depression, anxiety and other psychological and physical illnesses. In this light workplace safety and hazard identification for schools must give due regard to the exact nature of workplace illnesses and injuries that teachers are likely to experience.
External link to legislation: http://oireachtas.ie/documents/bills28/acts/2005/a1005.pdf