Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Acts

Safety, Health and Welfare

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 The 2005 Act repealed and replaced its 1989 predecessor.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. It is the Act which imposes duties and obligations on employers and employees and confers employees’ rights.  It is based on the principles of hazard identification, risk assessment and putting in place control measures.

School as a Workplace

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.

Workplace Hazards

When we refer to hazards in relation to occupational safety and health the most commonly used definition is ‘A Hazard is a potential source of harm or adverse health effect on a person or persons’.  It is important to remember that psychosocial hazards (such as stress) are workplace hazards.  Stress has been identified as the top workplace health issue in Ireland. For further information please see:

Safety Responsibility

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.

Safety Statement

The Safety Statement is a written document which specifies how health and safety is going to be managed within the workplace and it is the cornerstone of effective health and safety management. The Safety Statement will also contain policies, risk assessments and the controls required to minimise the risks from the hazards in the workplace, as well as detailing the names of those responsible for putting them into practice.

The Safety Statement must be reviewed and, if necessary, amended as required. This should be done, at least, on an annual basis.  The Safety statement must be brought to the attention of the employees and to any other persons at the place of work who might be exposed to the specific risks outlined in the document.

Stress At Work

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:


  1. to the design and maintenance of the place of work;
  2. 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;
  3. to the provision of such information, instruction, training and supervision as is necessary;
  4. to the provision of suitable protective clothing or equipment where it is not reasonably practicable to eliminate hazards;
  5. to the preparation of adequate emergency procedures,
  6. 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:


  1. 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;
  2. to co-operate with his/her employer so as to enable the employer to comply with the relevant statutory requirements;
  3. to use protective clothing or equipment provided;
  4. 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.