Health and Safety
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 The 2005 Act repealed and replaced its 1989 predecessor.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.
DUTIES OF EMPLOYERS
It is the duty of every employer to ensure, as far as is reasonably practicable, the safety, health and welfare at work of all his/her employees. This duty applies:
- to the design and maintenance of the place of work;
- to the provision of systems of work that are planned, organised, performed and maintained so as to be as far as reasonably practicable, safe and without risk to health;
- to the provision of such information, instruction, training and supervision as is necessary;
- to the provision of suitable protective clothing or equipment where it is not reasonably practicable to eliminate hazards;
- to the preparation of adequate emergency procedures,
- to the provision and maintenance of facilities and arrangements for the welfare of all employees at work.
There is also a duty on every employer to conduct his/her undertaking in such a way as to ensure that persons not in his/her employment who may be affected are not exposed to risks.
DUTIES OF EMPLOYEES
It is the duty of every employee while at work:
- to take reasonable care of his/her own safety, health and welfare and that of any other person who may be affected by his/her acts or omissions while at work;
- to co-operate with his/her employer so as to enable the employer to comply with the relevant statutory requirements;
- to use protective clothing or equipment provided;
- to report to his/her employer without unreasonable delay any defects in plant, equipment, place of work or system of work which might endanger safety, health or welfare, of which he/she becomes aware.
Employee Assistance Service
All Department paid teachers have access to an employee assistance service, operated independently by Carecall Ireland.
This is a free confidential service, which provides telephone and one-to-one counselling on a nationwide basis.
To get in touch, freephone: 1800-411 057. The line is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.