Safety in Industry Bill, 1978: Second Stage (Resumed).

Question again proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

I welcome any developments which will improve safety in industry but I object to the fact that no legislation is coming before the House at the moment. The Minister in his opening statement said:

The Bill which I am now introducing will improve the existing laws and should, I hope, reduce the incidence of accidents in industry.

The phrase "I hope" epitomises the Bill. It is just a little bit of hope. Surely, when we are talking about the safety of people, we should talk in a positive way. I am disappointed that hope is the opening gambit.

I suppose when one reads the Bill one can only hope that it may reduce accidents in industry. It would be more relevant to say "reduce accidents in places of employment". The Minister also stated:

I have considered the question of the replacement of the Factories Act, 1955 but I have decided that the balance of advantage, at present, lies in the improvement of the existing law.

The Minister is not very happy with this Bill apparently. The Principal Act was introduced in 1955 and we should not have to wait a further 23 years to have sufficient changes in the law to protect workers. What had the Minister in mind when he made that statement?

I am happy about the statutory obligation on the suppliers of plant to provide the necessary safeguards. That was neglected in the old Act. It is a positive approach that the onus should be placed on the suppliers. It is necessary to look at how one places the onus of safety on the suppliers. The Minister said:

I am proposing that, with the assent of both Houses, the safety Acts may be amended by order so as to comply with any international obligations relating to safety, health and welfare of workers covered by these Acts which we may decide to assume.

I agree that when we are involved with the EEC and regulation come before the House, Bills may be amended by order, but I would not like this to become a habit. I believe we would end up with a fragmented type of legislation which would not have much direction. While I agree it is necessary to amend legislation by order from time to time and that we will be signatories to certain international agreements which will possibly bind us to make changes I believe that after a number of changes are made the legislation should be comprehensively reviewed and brought before the House to have another look at it. This would ensure that it is going in the right direction. It would not then be fragmented to such an extent that it would be impossible to follow. It might be a nice cosy way to change legislation by orders. Orders could be slipped through on certain days of the week when very little might be happening. This could have a severe effect on industrial safety and health. The Minister pointed out:

Safety is one area where the interests of employer and worker should coincide. Workers have an obvious interest in it, and employers have an interest both from the humanitarian and efficiency points of view.

That is very true. Workers have a vested interest in their own safety and it is important that they are consulted on any changes intended in legislation.

Last week Members on this side of the House clearly indicated that there was a complete lack of consultation with representatives of the workers, the trade unions and the ICTU. I do not think the views of the National Industrial Safety Organisation were given much thought. It is not good enough to talk about workers' interests if we are not going to consult them or their interests when preparing such legislation. If legislation like this is to operate effectively it must be with the consent of the workers. It is regrettable that there was not full consultation in this area because, in the long term, that may have repercussions.

In the course of his speech the Minister stated:

A disappointing feature of the 1955 Act in operation has been the limited extent to which workers have availed of their rights to set up safety committees. At present there are just over 250 safety committees operating in a total of 18,000 premises on the Factories Register.

If we introduce legislation and leave it at that workers will be slow, because of lack of information and communication, to take the initiative. If workers were given adequate information about the safety committees I do not think they would be slow to establish them. Had that been done earlier we would have many more such sommittees in operation. I do not think anybody can express disappointment with the workers when they were not consulted. Because they were not consulted the workers possibly felt that the question of safety was a matter for management.

I am not objecting to the system being imposed if it is not possible to get consent but I am objecting to the lack of consultation by the Minister. Had the matter been handled properly in the beginning it would not have been necessary to introduce legislation. Because of this the Minister said he was introducing a radical new approach to this question. I do not see anything radical about introducing legislation if something does not work by consent. That is a normal situation. The Bill may be considered to be a reasonably radical approach but it is not radical in the sense the Minister has stated.

The Minister told us that the hazards of fire, especially in relation to modern materials and processes, are highlighted occasionally by tragic accidents and the provisions relating to fire safety, in particular those relating to fire alarms and fire drills, will be improved considerably. It is important that we examine the whole concept of fire safety. I read recently where a factory in Dublin which went on fire was similar to Spandau because of the number of grids and so on located throughout the premises. I accept that management in that case could argue that because of the law and order situation and vandalism in that district it was necessary to grid up, but there could have been serious loss of life. However, the primary concern must be the safety of the work force. Workers should not be put at risk because of certain security problems. It is obvious that the safety of our workers must come first in this regard. I wonder how many firms have introduced this type of security which could lead to serious accidents in the event of fire. We must ensure that fire regulations are rigidly adhered to. It is obvious that in the case. I have mentioned there was a breakdown in inspection. I am not accusing the inspectors of not doing their work because it is possible that there were not enough inspectors to inspect all premises.

The safety and health of our workers should be covered in a comprehensive Bill which should embrace all areas of activity, industry, agriculture, places of amusement and all places where workers are employed. A Minister may claim that this is not his area but we should be concerned about protecting all workers. It is only when we hear of tragedies that we realise how serious the problem is. It is important that all this legislation be reviewed. If an accident by way of fire took place what loss of life would there be? It is important that all this legislation be reviewed with the intention of getting it into one solid piece that will protect everybody and not just industry. The fire that I am speaking of was in industry and so it is relevant. The inevitable will happen if we do not take action. I ask the Minister to look at that aspect again.

Over the last ten years there has been an increase of over 50 per cent in the total of industrial accidents. Since 1971 we have had roughly 28 fatalities a year. When we have a fatality what type of investigation goes on? Is it merely that the coroner makes a report and somebody walks in and looks at where the accident happened? There should be an open inquiry into every industrial accident, and particularly where a fatality occurs. In the mines, which I believe are not covered in this Bill, we have had about six fatalities over the last few years. It is not enough that a life is lost and we have a report and everything is filed away. When a fatality occurs there should be a fullscale public inquiry with the facts coming out and the blame laid where it should be, and if defects are there they must be put right and seen to be put right. The matter must be publicised, otherwise the effect of a fatality like that will go unnoticed and no lessons will be learned from it. Therefore, it is important that we examine that aspect of it.

What is the cost to the economy every year? Certainly millions of £s. We have fatalities, we have serious and minor accidents, and apart from the humanitarian aspect of the tragedy in the homes because of death or longterm injury, there is the loss to the economy. We have been too complacent, and this Bill is not firm enough nor has it the commitment to do the job it should be doing. From 1955 to 1978 there have been tremendous changes in technology and in industrial development in this country. We have the prospect of gas finds and a nuclear generating station. There is no reason why we should not be copper-fastening into our legislation now provisions to deal with the problems that may arise as a result. We should not be waiting until something happens before looking at the type of legislation we will be introducing. It is easy to learn from others what type of provisions to incorporate in it. I foresee a lack of the right type of legislation and that is why I am not happy with what is with us today. Our present legislation is, to say the least of it, fragmented. We have the Factories Act, the Office Premises Act and miscellaneous statutes such as the Conditions of Employment Act, the Dangerous Substances Act, the Employment Agencies Act and so forth. With that diversity of legislation it is hard to inform people of their rights and indeed it is not easy to define those rights. Therefore, I say the whole area is so fragmented that it is understandable that workers have not been participating in safety committees. They were not sure of their ground, and I do not think they will be until we bring in comprehensive legislation, have proper discussions with them and make a comprehensive, practical handbook available to them, annually or bi-annually depending upon what is being up-dated from time to time, to highlight their rights and their responsibilities to themselves and to their colleagues. Carelessness on the part of workers too often leads to death and serious injury to their fellows. That is why it is necessary that from time to time they be kept up to date with what is happening; otherwise they will drift into situations where safety committees will not be effective. A safety committee can be effective only to the extent that the work force are educated. If the work force are not educated the safety committees might as well be hammering their heads against the proverbial wall, and that is not what we want.

We are all concerned about safety and health within the workplace. We must specify the workplace rather than, necessarily, industry. Too many people are left outside the scope of this legislation. Shops, hospitals, schools, colleges of technology where there are degrees of industry—are they covered? What about the offshore oil rigs and agricultural workers? Over the last number of years a tremendous amount of technology has come into the farm and with the amount of farm machinery now in use an agricultural worker would nearly need a degree in mechanical engineering as well as the experience necessary to run a farm. That will give an idea of the dangers that lie there. Why are we excluding these categories? Is it because of pressure? I do not know. Maybe this is the reason we have not got comprehensive legislation, because no matter what legislation is brought into the House now, the complaint is that it costs money to implement. That seems to be the criterion, and it is disappointing and also immoral. You do not put a price on life or limb; these things cannot be justified. Our concern should be that disasters will not happen, and we live in a fool's paradise if we think it is not going to cost money.

When I talk about efficiency I am talking in the context of the overall operation of a concern rather than the element of productivity but if one visits a concern in which there is safety consciousness, one finds invariably that that firm are in a profit-making situation because of their efficiency in every aspect of their operations. Such a concern are concerned also about the man-hours that could be lost as a result of accidents or fatalities. Therefore, even for no more than selfish reasons if people wish to use the argument that this legislation is costing money, they are being less than honest and one would be likely to find that a concern in which there was such an attitude was also inefficient. That argument, then, should not be used in any circumstances. It is wrong that people in the agricultural sector should not be included in the legislation. To exclude them seems to leave us in a sort of vacuum. Consequently, I would ask the Minister to reconsider this whole question.

Perhaps the reason for being slow in bringing in comprehensive legislation in this area is that we have not given the question enough thought. I cannot foresee us having comprehensive legislation in this sphere unless we reach a stage where we have an independent body operating on their own but under the control of the Minister for Labour. This is important because within the Department the Minister can be involved with many matters about which there is considerable pressure with the result that those areas in which there is the least pressure may be left on the long finger.

The type of independent body that I have in mind would be free to control the type of legislation considered necessary but obviously they would operate in consultation with the Minister. They would supervise the legislation and examine it. Failure to move in this direction would mean our falling down badly in terms of safety and health. Certain boards would need to be comprised so as to include independent members. In that way both sides of industry would be consulted and would in turn make annual reports to the Minister on the safety aspect through the type of independent board I have in mind. The Minister could then have the reports laid down before the House. If we do this we shall be moving towards greater safety. There is no point in paying lip service to the question as has been more or less the situation up to now. The type of board I have in mind is not novel. There is such a body in France. They are a consultative council and operate directly under the Minister for Labour. That situation is quite new in France but it is a positive approach, the type of approach that we need here also.

Unless we make similar provisions here we shall find ourselves having to make changes every few years. It may be that we have not a sufficient inspectorate but the problem is not merely one of going from factory to factory to see if everything is all right. That situation is fine to an extent but it is a rather negative approach. What we require is a whole attitude to this question on the part of management and workers. This would involve the employing of a person who would operate in the role of a safety officer. That would bring us to the whole area of personnel. Most of the inspectorate personnel concerned are engineers. It is right that that be the case because in the context of what we have in industry the inspectors need the sort of training undertaken by an engineer. However, the time has come for us to have comprehensive training for our industrial inspectorate. I am thinking of the setting up perhaps of a Chair in one of the colleges of technology for the specific purpose of training personnel who would become engaged in inspection work. Their role would not be negative in any way. For instance, it would not be merely a role of ensuring that the law was adhered to but of going into the work places for the purpose of consultation, education and communication and of making people aware of the dangers that should be avoided.

To implement such measures would put us well on the road to preventing accidents at work, at least in so far as they can be prevented having regard to the human element involved. If we are serious about the matter—and I think all of us here are serious about it—we must ensure that the personnel involved are given the right type of training, that there is the right educational commitment and we must be able to go into the work place not only to meet the safety committee but to talk with the workers generally. The inspectors could talk in detail with the safety committee who in turn would communicate the views expressed to the work force. Refresher courses could be provided to remind them of the problems, how they can be overcome and how accidents happen. The accidents should be detailed, reported and referred back to the independent board so that at all times there is a complete monitoring of every accident no matter how small. We should ask ourselves the following questions: why, how and what can we do to prevent it? Was it due to excessive hours worked by the employee? Was the machinery defective? Prevention is the important thing and we can only have prevention by monitoring.

The number of accidents which happen and the number reported do not relate. We will have to concern ourselves with that problem. When an accident happens it must be reported to the smallest detail. The safety board will look at that accident and make their recommendations to the safety committee in the industry and to the management to ensure it will not happen again. This can also be reported in a handbook which may be passed from one industry to another because if an accident happens in one industry it may also happen in another.

Safety officers should frequent places of employment as often as possible, at least once a year, and carry out what is known as a safety audit. Stock is checked and cash is audited but are work places audited for safety? I do not think so. Why not? This is an example of our reluctance to take this area very seriously. It is very important that we carry out safety audits and report to the management and safety committees the areas that may require attention. From year to year industry may expand and new machinery may be brought in. It is important that the audit be done on a regular basis because of the changing circumstances. The Minister should look into this matter.

I am always worried about plant isolation, particularly automated plants. If there is manual control the operator can throw a switch but in automated plants quite often the control centre is some distance from the plant and can be handled carelessly. We must write into our legislation very stringent provisions to ensure that plant isolation is comprehensively taken care of. It is not very easy to get a set of rules but we must get them because circumstances change almost daily and plants are being switched on by remote control far from the actual plant. When a maintenance man switches on the machinery that is the end of his job so far as he is concerned. The Minister must also look at this.

This Bill does not talk about health nor does the title mention health. When most countries are discussing industrial safety they usually mention industrial safety and health. That is the way it should be, because both are relevant. If the atmosphere is polluted this can adversely affect the people's health.

We have always had a certain amount of mining but from the point of view of the industrial content we are now moving into mining in a very big way. Unless stringent controls are enforced as regards working conditions in this industry, the health of the people involved will deteriorate rapidly. Various diseases can be contracted and we should learn from other countries, such as Canada, America and so on, which have been in the mining business for years. We now have active legislation to ensure that there is no danger for our workers. There can be a problem in asbestos plants because it has been proved that asbestos can cause some forms of cancer and this creates great fear. Are we passing the right kind of legislation to meet that kind of situation? Let us not wait until the inevitable happens.

We must ensure that our industrial standards are the highest and we must not settle for second place because it might win us a little more industry than other countries which might demand higher standards. Our workers are entitled to have the highest standards of safety and health. We must concern ourselves with the overall aspect of health as well as the body, the limb, the life.

Our legislation does not cover the whole area of nuclear power and there is a justifiable fear here. It is only normal for the people involved in that industry to allay the fears of others by telling them there is no real danger but there are positive dangers, such as radiation. We must ensure that any danger to health is protected strenuously. We must be very strict and rigid in the rules we lay down for any development in the nuclear field. We are only talking about a generating station at the moment but there may be further offshoots of nuclear operations for one reason or another.

Once we enter the nuclear sphere of activity it is essential that we should be ahead in technological safety. We are not groping in the dark here because nuclear development has been with us for the last 20 or 30 years and we can learn from the experience in other countries and improve on their techniques. They may have been inhibited because of cost. We should suffer no such inhibition because we can incorporate all the technological development over that period.

We should have comprehensive legislation encompassing all work forces. It is wrong to exclude any work force and such exclusion does a disservice to our community. All are entitled to protection. We have a duty here to provide maximum safety for all sections. The service industry is growing very big and requires special assessment. This Bill leaves much to be desired. It is a makeshift effort. The Minister may amend it by order. That could have adverse effects. Piecemeal legislation is never satisfactory because it only confuses people.

A great deal of work in rural areas can be done in the home. Work is farmed out to people. There are no proposals here to cover these people. This is an area in which there could be substantial development and we should write into our legislation safeguards to protect the people who take work into their own homes. In the United States of America a handbook for women in industry has been published. This is an excellent idea. Women are now moving into industry and they should be aware of the hazards and the dangers. I am thinking mainly now of women of childbearing age.

There could be problems particularly in chemical industries. We are striving to attract such industries. Dangers in such industries should be publicised or eliminated altogether. Periodic review is absolutely vital and there should be an independent body competent to inform and advise the Minister. The reports of such a body should be laid before both Houses so that Members would be aware of the problems and the changes required. Right through every facet of our work force there should be an awareness of health hazards or dangers. If that were the case there would not be need for scrutiny or more legislation because the people themselves would respond. That is the only way in which to achieve a proper code of safety for those in employment.

I welcome any legislation designed to improve health and safety. I am unhappy because this Bill has excluded so many. It is propping up outdated legislation. It may be only 23 years in existence but, in the context of industrial development and technology, it is outmoded. The law needs to be rewritten. I would welcome a comprehensive Bill. It does not give me any pleasure to come in here and be critical of any Bill designed to improve safety. This Bill is totally inadequate. I had been hoping for something far more comprehensive.

Perhaps the quality of this legislation is the result of lack of consultation. Were the farmers and their organisations consulted? Were the service industries consulted? Were the vocational bodies who are involved in employment consulted? If not, one can understand the inadequacy of this measure. Legislation of this kind which affects so many workers can be introduced only after much consultation both with management and the unions. At the moment the Minister seems to be more involved in lecturing the unions than in consulting them, in telling them how to discipline their boys. In matters of this kind one does not talk down to people or have a weekend indulging in union bashing and then hope to get their co-operation. If we want unions and management to co-operate and to involve themselves in matters of this kind we must encourage them instead of discouraging them: we must ensure that the measure which comes before the House will be a reflection of their voices.

When we see a Bill of this sort before the House it is not hard to appreciate that out of 18,000 firms, only 250 have taken the time to set up works committees. Talking down to people, handing down the law in an arbitrary fashion, will not achieve any co-operation from either management or unions. Therefore, before this Bill goes any further I suggest that the Minister engages in fuller consultation with every area involved, industry, agriculture, horticulture and service and vocational organisations. This Bill and other matters appertaining to industrial safety and health should be discussed fully with them.

This seems to be an inadequate interim measure and I hope we will not wait for directives from the EEC before we draft and present proper industrial health and safety measures. We should try to be ahead of other countries instead of waiting for directives from the other eight. We should be writing legislation now to take account of advances in the technological and agricultural fields. We are in changing times and we will have to take account in the immediate future of our involvement in mining, petrochemicals, natural gas and a number of other fields. All these should be sewn into this legislation. We should not be wondering what will come from the EEC. We should not be dragging our feet. If we get into that habit this House will become an EEC rubber stamp and this Parliament will become the Greater Ireland County Council.

Therefore, I repeat my call to the Minister to look into this Bill fully and if necessary to drop it and rewrite it to cover every aspect of industrial safety and health. I do not care if it takes six months to do it. Ultimately it will have to be done. I would agree to passing this legislation quickly as an interim arrangement if I could get an undertaking from the Minister that comprehensive legislation will be forthcoming. In his opening remarks the Minister told us he had decided that the balance of advantage at present lies in improving existing law. I ask him to indicate when he is replying what he meant by those words. I hope he will indicate that he will present a comprehensive safety and health Bill soon.

In his opening remarks the Minister said the Bill will improve existing law and reduce the number of industrial accidents. That sentence answers most of the Opposition criticism of the Bill. It would take a number of years to draft such a Bill and in the meantime some of the excellent new regulations in this Bill will be implemented. Therefore it is in the interests of workers that the Bill should be enacted and the improvements implemented quickly. In no way would this prevent the Minister from introducing new legislation in the future. The criticism because we do not have such a Bill now is unjustified. We all agree that we look too much to legislation across the water where agriculture is only a small part of their industrial fabric. It could take a long time to introduce sufficient legislation in relation to agriculture. Many of the regulations governing agriculture are the responsibility of the Department of Agriculture and not the Department of Labour.

In relation to consultation, the Minister did answer questions in the Dáil on 19 April. He said that, on the publication on 29 June 1977 of a discussion document, people were publicly invited to send in submissions on the proposed legislation. In answer to a further question the Minister said that submissions were sought and received from the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, the Irish Employers Confederation and the Factories Advisory Council.

The workers should not have to wait for a new Bill as this one is adequate. If at any time the Minister thinks he has something worth while to introduce for the benefit of the workers he should introduce it without delay instead of waiting for a comprehensive Bill.

One of the more interesting provisions in the Bill relates to dangerous activities. The Bill provides for the stopping of dangerous activities immediately they come to light. This provision was not in the 1955 Act. Until now a dangerous activity was allowed to continue until the matter was brought to court and a decision given on it.

The Bill contains important provisions for the suppliers of plant and it is right that they should provide safety harnesses on industrial equipment. Obviously the interests of employers and workers should coincide. Between 1924 and 1927 Elton Mayo of the Western Electric Company of Chicago carried out a survey. He discovered that productivity increased in industries in which employers showed an interest in the health, welfare and safety of the workers. It is certainly in the interests of employers to maintain standards of safety and welfare for their workers.

Fortunately, the incidence of industrial accidents and disease has decreased down through the years. It was probably at its height at the beginning of the 19th century. In 1802 an Act was introduced to prevent orphanages from selling children to mills in the North of England. So far as I know, that was the first legislation in relation to safety, health and welfare in industry. We are all aware of the phrases that have been handed down and which remind us of the serious hazards that existed in industry. For example, "as mad as a hatter" relates to the mercury that was used in making felt hats, which caused insanity.

In his speech the Minister referred to the number of fatalities in industry in 1976, which was 15, and in 1977 there were 22 fatalities. These are intolerable figures. The main causes appear to have been falls at work, electrocution and transport accidents. Most of these accidents could have been avoided. The construction industry is a particularly hazardous one for workers and many of the accidents in that industry could be avoided by the use of proper scaffolding, handrails, covers on manholes and the wearing of protective helmets. Another interesting point in the Minister's speech relates to the notification of accidents. There were 36 per 1,000 in the UK and 19 per 1,000 here. Our figure appears to be a low one.

A number of hazards are referred to in the Bill, including the hazard of noise. Noise was considered a major hazard among coppersmiths in 1713. In Glasgow in 1886 there was the hazard of boilermakers' deafness, a phrase which has been handed down to us and which reminds us of the problem of noise in industry. The British Occupational Hygiene Society laid down a level of 90 decibels as the upper tolerable limit of noise in industry. This allows for an eight-hour day, a 40-hour week and a 48-week year. With an upper limit of 90 decibels less than 1 per cent of workers suffer a social loss of hearing. It is interesting to compare different levels of noise. If one takes the hearing threshold as nought, the level in a broadcasting studio as 20, a library as 35, conversational speech as 70, the average street corner as 80, heavy street traffic as 90, this is the level that is considered acceptable for workers. The noise of thunder is classified as 110 and a jet taking off at 200 feet is 130. At 141 decibels one gets a pain in the ear and cannot tolerate any further noise.

In relation to hazardous chemicals, it is encouraging to note in the report of the inspector for factories that 30 samples of PVC taken in 1975 were negative for vynil chloride monomer, from which PVC is made.

There is a reference to fire hazards in the Bill, which improves the existing regulations. The Department of the Environment have an important part in this legislation in so far as they will be responsible for certificates. The 1955 Act limited certain categories of factories where the Minister had responsibility. In this Bill there is a marked improvement in that regard.

There is an improvement in the section dealing with protection of the eyes. Workers have an obligation not only to take care of their own eyes, to wear protective goggles, but also the eyes of those working with them. I believe others in the vicinity are also entitled to protection. In my experience, the worst injuries to eyes were caused by oxyacetylene burns suffered by people without goggles watching somebody doing a job in a garage or a factory. They may not be employed in the industry, but I believe they are entitled to protection in their own interests. If you watch somebody using an oxyacetylene torch, you do not feel anything at the time. It may be six or eight hours later that you appear with really bad burns to the important lining that covers the eye. Anybody in the vicinity, whether working or not, should be entitled to some form of protection.

There are important changes in relation to the provision of places for eating at work, for the supply of hot and cold water, for an improvement in the place of work, the eradication of leaks from roofs, dampness and so on. Here it is important to mention education. While one can legislate for all these matters, unless the workers know the value of using the new facilities, legislation is in vain.

Cleanliness was mentioned and I was particularly disappointed to read Deputy Mitchell's contribution. As reported at column 1316, Volume 305 of the Official Report he said:

The part cleanliness and tidiness of a whole factory plays in maintaining safety procedures and discipline is not even referred to. Cleanliness is referred to in the Principal Act and as far as I can gather it covers only where work is supposed to be going on. It does not cover areas between where work is going on. The Principal Act is vague and restrictive in this regard.

I take particular exception to this:

I regret to say that we are a filthy nation with filthy habits which are a cause of accidents, ill-health and a diminished production. I am deeply ashamed of this trait in the Irish character and I am deeply sorry that no attempt is made by this Bill to improve things.

I could not agree with that. I do not think it is true of any of the factories I have ever visited. On the question of cleanliness generally, we compare favourably with other countries. There is always room for improvement, but that criticism was harsh and unjustified.

Section 10 of the 1955 Act lays down very clearly the provisions relating to cleanliness. It says that every factory must be kept in a clean state. Dirt, waste and refuse must be removed daily from floors, benches and passageways. Workroom floors must be cleaned at least once in every week. Inside walls and ceiling must—(a) if of a smooth impervious substance, be washed down every 14 months; (b) if painted or varnished, be washed down every 14 months, and be repainted or revarnished every 7 years; (c) in other cases be white-washed or colour washed every 14 months. Entries must be made in the General Register relating to the cleaning, etc. of the walls. From that it appears to me that every part of the factory must be kept clean, not just the part where people are working.

There is also provision in the Bill that the occupier must post a notice setting out the safety precautions in relation to certain regulative substances. One of my concerns would be where he would get this information. Obviously he would be depending on the manufacturer's information. I am not satisfied that he would get sufficient information. When a manufacturer is selling his produce, he will not emphasise the hazardous effects of it.

The advisory nature of the inspectorate of factories needs to be emphasised. The general feeling is that the inspectorate are there to go into the factory and see what is wrong and perhaps prosecute if there is a contravention. I gather the service is there mainly as an advisory service and will advise any employer, or occupier, or workers, about safety, welfare and health in the industry. It is important that this point should be emphasised because more use should be made of the advisory nature of that service. In relation to the duty of the occupier to post a notice, the Bill encourages him to look to the advisory service for more up to date knowledge about the regulated substance about which he has to post the notice.

It is also proposed that the Minister will be notified of an industrial injury where there is an absence from work rather than a loss of wages. In the past there could have been an injury involving no loss of wages and it was not necessary to notify the Minister's Department. The question of absenteeism from work needs a great deal of further study. The psychology of why people absent themselves from work has not been studied sufficiently. The medical profession have often been criticised and it has been said they are lenient in the issuing of medical certificates. This is put forward as one of the reasons why people are absent from work.

While I have not come in here to defend the medical profession, as Doctor Taylor from the British Post Office said in Dublin on Saturday, it is not the medical profession who certify people as unfit for work, it is the doctor's patient who certifies him as unfit. This area should be looked at to find out why workers want to be absent from work. We know some of the reasons. Obviously, if there is a genuine illness they want to be absent. Some of them may have a problem. We get Monday morning absenteeism on the part of those who have had a hazardous weekend. Dr. Taylor also pointed out that two-thirds of those who stay away from work are frustrated in their jobs. This is an area that needs to be examined.

The Minister mentioned that while there are 18,000 industrial premises there are only 250 safety committees. This is a small figure but perhaps many industries are so small that they employ fewer than ten people and it may not be necessary to have a safety committee. The figure may not be as bad as it appears. I fully support the setting up of safety committees, but education and common sense are of the utmost importance in relation to the prevention of accidents and the improvement of the health and welfare of workers. I am glad that the Department have a medical adviser. This is well worth while because of the major technological advances. This is an area which should be developed. A medical officer within the Department of Labour has much to contribute to those working in industry.

It is impossible to say exactly how much accidents cost. In humanitarian terms one can never put a value on the loss of a limb or any other injury, no matter how small. It can never be costed in financial terms. It is interesting to note that the Robens Report of 1972 pointed out that a trivial injury to a worker which necessitated two hours off work cost the firm over 50 times as much in terms of loss of income as it cost the injured worker. The example is given of a forklifter going around a corner too fast. Six workers lost 20 minutes helping the injured man and three other workers lost an hour because they are depending on the injured man to supply them with materials. There was also the cost of the damage to the forklift, the superviser's time, the medical costs and the investigation by the factory inspectorate, as well as the two hours lost by the injured worker. Even very minor accidents can be very expensive in economic terms.

I believe that this new Bill is sufficient for the present. The emphasis should be on self-regulating systems on agreed voluntary standards between employers and workers. There should be further development of the advisory services and industry should know that advice is freely available. There should be education of both employers and workers so that they will make the best use of the regulations in this Bill. It is likely that when this legislation is introduced employers and employees will study the problems. A spirit of co-operation is absolutely essential and they should be educated to ensure in their own interests and in the interests of the economy as a whole that they implement anything that will improve the safety, health and welfare of those working in industry.

I do not propose to detain the House very long. This Bill is of greater significance than may be generally appreciated. While it is highly technical in its provisions, it focuses attention on an aspect of our industrialisation that is very often overlooked or not fully appreciated. The Bill also reflects the rapid pace of industrialisation here during the past 15 years or so which entailed to a large extent a translation of workers from a rural environment to an industrial one with the consequent health and psychological problems.

There is no doubt that there is great need to update our legislation in relation to the whole question of the health and safety of workers. I cannot claim any expert knowledge of this other than the average layman's interest, but I am sorry to say that the general reaction to the Bill has been one of disappointment. Whether that is fair or unfair to the Minister I am not competent to judge, but disappointment has been expressed by interested parties who are in a position to know the implications of the Bill. Reading the debate last week and some other documentation, I must confess that I feel inclined to add my voice to this criticism. While I recognise the need for updating our legislation on safety in industry and bringing it into line with that in most other industrial countries, the Minister was unwise to put before the House this rushed legislation. In the light of the highly complex nature of the Bill, the technical implications and complex provisions, the Minister would have been better advised to have taken his time and to have completed a full and comprehensive review of this important and complex area. Over the week-end I read some documentation from other countries about this question and it appears that there is more emphasis nowadays on the broader concept of this matter, the health, safety and welfare of workers. That covers a wide field, something which is not covered very well in this Bill.

The Minister's approach is a pragmatic one. One cannot disagree with the provisions but we are concerned about the need for a much more in-depth study of this area which would lead to the introduction of more comprehensive legislation. If I wanted to be political I could try to attribute to the Minister motives as to why he rushed in with the Bill but I will resist that temptation because I regard this as a serious subject. While I was Minister for the Gaeltacht I had a personal involvement with industrial development and with industry and for that reason I consider the Bill a disappointing measure. The Minister should indicate why he felt it necessary to rush in with this ad hoc type of legislation. He should tell the House if he proposes to undertake a review of this broad field. The Minister will have to set up a special review body or study group representative of professional people, experts in the various areas and representatives of employers and employees, to carry out a comprehensive examination of the whole question of the health, safety and welfare of workers.

The Bill, by its title, is restrictive in the sense that it is confined to industry. I understand, for instance, that it does not cover transport, agriculture, horticulture or fishing. One tends to apply the term "industry" to those areas. For that reason the Minister should have included them in the Bill. The Minister should have taken his time and prepared proper comprehensive legislation. I regret the Minister did not set up the study group. With the pile-up of legislation that is likely to occur over the next few years it is likely that the Minister will not get back before the House with another Bill to deal with the problem I have mentioned.

The Minister told the House, in indicating the seriousness of this problem, that between 1969 and 1975, 164 workers died. He also gave comparative figures for Northern Ireland and the UK. I suppose that is an inevitable result of the growth of industrialisation, a growth of a much more complex and sophisticated type of industrialisation with highly complicated machinery and technology. However, the fact that such a large number of workers died during that period is something we must endeavour to rectify. It is also worth noting that during that period there were 1,300 industrial accidents which runs out at an average of 250 per year. Some of those were serious accidents.

As well as the human side of the story we must also consider the economic implications of industrial accidents which are obvious although difficult to quantify. We have been told that such accidents represent a loss of £10 million in that period. For all those reasons it is obvious that we need new legislation. From my experience over the years since I became a Member of this House in 1961 there has been a fantastic change in the technology of industry. I was involved in the commencement of the Shannon scheme and I witnessed that. The Minister has recognised that factor in some of the provisions in relation to toxic substances and certain types of plant and machinery.

In a country such as ours which proceeds rapidly to industrialise there is a rapid change from a rural environment to industrial environment. We experienced this in the Shannon region. There was no tradition of industry there, like the Gaeltacht, and some of those who had worked on little plots of land joined a modern sophisticated industrial environment. This imposes discipline and can create great psychological shock. Very often a period of adjustment is necessary. I am personally very interested in this aspect of industrialisation because I believe it is very important. There were growing pains in the Shannon Industrial Estate in relation to that and we also had problems in the Gaeltacht regions. There are physical hazards in regard to modern industry. The Minister referred particularly to the effects on the vital senses, sight, hearing and so on. Noise and sound levels are very important. I have seen industries which are very successful and highly organised, with modern plant and machinery, and I am sure the Minister will agree that in many cases the noise level, to people who perhaps are not accustomed to it, is difficult to become accustomed to. I am aware of workers having problems not only in regard to hearing or induced deafness that might be brought about by an environment of very high level sound, but the nervous system of the worker can also be affected and a variety of nervous conditions can result.

The Minister has recognised this in the Bill. I welcome this because there was one well-known industry in my region which was the subject of much publicity and which will remain nameless at this stage, where the question of the noise level was mentioned by many workers during the height of the controversy about it. I think section 13 covers the matter pretty well in that there is a new provision which would lay specific duties on occupiers to reduce the level or duration of sound where it might result in injury to the employees. I understand most industries of that kind—mostly heavy engineering. I suppose—have very strict and rigid medical examinations and particularly so in the case of applicants' hearing and so on. Steps are taken to ensure that a person with a tendency to hearing defects would not be employed in such an industry.

Deputy O'Hanlon made an interesting reference to the matter of visitors to factories, a very original observation. I remember visiting a number of AnCO centres where oxy-acetylene welding was done and if unawares, and without the normal cover, shade or helmet worn for these operations, one happens to look and is blinded, it has a very serious effect. The point raised by Deputy O'Hanlon is certainly valid and represents a new angle on this matter. This type of equipment is used commonly even in garages and small engineering works and so on. As regards the medical aspect, my attention was drawn to section 52 which proposes to permit the Minister to allow registered medical practitioners other than those appointed as certifying doctors under the Principal Act to medically examine young persons and certify them as fit for a particular type of work. I am quoting from the Official Report of Tuesday, 25 April, the Minister's speech. As I understand it—perhaps I am wrong—in addition to the factory inspectorate the Minister has a panel of doctors in various areas who are certified by his Department as examiners of persons, young people in particular, who are going into industry for the first time. It specifically applies to the food processing industry. Is the Minister now making it possible for any registered medical practitioner to carry out this examination or is a new scheme of examination being introduced? I assume this is under the Minister's Department but perhaps it may be the Minister for Industry, Commerce and Energy who is responsible. I should like the Minister to elaborate on this matter.

Nobody will question the wisdom of having a rigorous medical examination of young persons seeking work in the food processing industries. I suppose that as in the case of road safety or anything of this kind, in the final analysis the important thing is to create awareness among both employers and employees, a consciousness of the need for safety. Road safety organisations in another sphere have as their main modus operandi an educational process to create awareness of the risks and the possibility of accidents being ever present. I do not know whether in the normal AnCO training schemes lectures or instruction on the question of safety are built into the courses. I should be greatly surprised if they were not. But it is important that when the young trainee is doing a course there is a great opportunity by proper educational methods of creating awareness among potential industrial workers of the importance of safety. I sincerely hope AnCO provide for this in all their courses.

The Minister also proposes to introduce new regulations and provisions in relation to safety committees in factories. He has fixed a figure of 20; in other countries the minimum figure is 50 but I would agree, taking the overall average in industry here that 20 is a reasonable figure and, where there are fewer than 20, there is provision to have a safety representative or small committee. The concept of having a safety committee is very important and probably the key to the whole thing. Legislation can be introduced, debated and finally passed into law in the best form we can devise but the implementation of legislation of this kind is vitally dependent on the co-operation of all the interested bodies. A company will be obliged by law to enforce certain regulations but a degree of co-operation and commitment is required from the workers. The idea of a safety committee is a good one and is in accordance with normal practice in other countries. I understand that quite a few industries in this country have safety committees.

Section 28 of the Bill is most important because it relates to toxic, highly flammable or corrosive substances. The section will make provision for an alarm system. Many modern industries, particularly textile plants, use enormous quantities of highly flammable substances. I had the opportunity some years ago of doing an extensive tour of Germany and I saw there that modern industries, particularly textile firms, used vast quantities of highly toxic and flammable chemicals. It is essential that every possible step be taken to safeguard employees, plant and the companies themselves.

At the moment I am spokesman for my party on transport matters. From a safety point of view the transport and storage of chemicals and other materials is most important. Liquid chemicals are used in major textile processes and some industries use a substantial quantity of explosive materials. The transport and storage of such materials are vital matters. Section 28 (2) provides that the occupier of a premises where such a dangerous substance is present will be required to post a notice setting out the safety precautions to be taken in using the substance and the arrangements in case of injury or fire.

I realise that on Second Stage the complete details of a Bill are not spelled out but I am anxious to ensure that section 28 covers the actual storage, transport and the utilisation of the materials in the manufacturing process. This should be borne in mind.

Níl mórán eile le rá agam. Tá súil agam go néireoidh leis an mBille seo. Go háirithe, tá súil agam go rachaidh an tAire leis na moltaí atá tugtha uaimse agus ó na Teachtaí eile a labhair san díospóireacht seo faoin géar-ghá atá ann chun staidéar iomlán a dhéanamh den ábhar an-thábhachtach seo.

I welcome the Bill. I appreciate what the Minister has done in this case in introducing many innovations as compared with previous legislation. Some of the Opposition speakers seem to have an insatiable appetite for new legislation. They have failed to recognise the extent to which technology has advanced and the tremendous changes that have taken place in the industrial scene. We can introduce as much legislation as we like but unless we get the co-operation of employers and employees we will be wasting our time.

The owners of factories and the workers should be educated regarding safety in industry. We have a lot of trouble in industrial relations today but we must recognise that this trouble is not always for increased pay. Very often a strike is called because of inadequate safety measures or bad working conditions. This Bill will be a big improvement and it will make a worth-while contribution to industrial relations. In the future a Minister will have to introduce legislation quite frequently to meet ever-changing conditions.

After the industrial revolution legislation of a rather primitive type was introduced but subsequently it became more sophisticated. Today legislation must reflect present-day needs and consideration must be given to the question of education. When legislation is enacted it should be followed up on the factory floor, where the people whom it concerns should be well versed in what it seeks to do. The unions and the people on the factory floor should demand that employers maintain high standards. We must educate employers to show them that by neglecting to spend money on safety measures they are not being good economists or good employers. They must be shown that if they want good industrial units, accidents must be prevented or at least reduced. In other countries employers are aware of this fact and they ensure that plant is maintained at a very high standard. The Japanese have brought in rules to ensure that after a very short period plant is deemed to be obsolete. The Japanese—and Japan is one of the most industrialised nations in the world—are ensuring that the equipment in their factories is up-to-date and very efficient. The Minister in this Bill is following the same lines on a smaller rate. He is ensuring that plant brought into factories will have inbuilt protection. We will not then have to see a man's arm mangled or another man blinded because of faulty equipment. The Minister is taking the necessary steps to prevent accidents.

We are coming nearer to the push button operation of factories. Workers must be educated to this. There should be aptitude tests for people going into industry to see if they are suitable for the particular industry. We could do this by having aptitude tests in the vocational schools before those people enter the factories. This is in the interests of the men and women working in factories and in the interests also of the economy. If we are to meet the challenge of our colleagues in the EEC we have to be as proficient as they are. This Bill lays the basis for this proficiency.

The Minister gave us the most important statistics for the number of accidents caused in industry. In 1976, 15 people were killed and in 1977, 22 people were killed. Were those instantaneous deaths? Do we take into consideration the people who may have contracted some industrial disease and eventually died, or the man who becomes deaf in industry and dies eventually? I know of a very good craftsman who worked all his life in industry and became totally deaf because in his time we did not take enough steps to ensure that that excellent craftsman would not pay for his excellence by becoming deaf.

The Minister referred to noise pollution and the prevention of it. This causes a lot of stress in modern life. A man working in a factory where the noise level is very high could be a more efficient worker if he did not have to put up with that noise. We have to emphasise education in the field of industrial safety. It is impossible to legislate for the human element, which plays a big part on the factory floor. I worked on a factory floor. I now admit that I often took goggles off because they were a bit cumbersome or that I would not wear a protective helmet or gloves sometimes because they were cumbersome. Perhaps I was one of the lucky people who did not suffer damage. There are many others who have suffered permanent damage because they took off protective goggles or gloves. I appeal to the Minister to ensure that there is education in industrial safety as well as this Bill. The trade unions, the employers' organisations and the State should help in this matter. We can enact all the legislation we like but unless we can make sure it is applied we are not doing the job we are here to do.

When a man in a factory has to wear a mask it can become annoying at times. If that man has a chest complaint which makes breathing difficult he will often feel like tearing that mask off his mouth. He may then inhale deadly fumes and in a few years' time, or even a few months' time, he could be a victim of pollution. We are often very critical of absenteeism in industry and the result of hangovers, but this is only a very small part of absenteeism. This is called industrial morbidity nowadays. It still means there is something wrong with the person who is absent from work.

We are ensuring in this Bill that a roof is on the factory and that the walls are not damp. Up to this there was no provision like that. A man who is not feeling too well and who knows that he will have to face six, seven or eight hours a day in a factory, which is damp and unheated, may decide he will not put up with that. We will not have an efficient industrial arm in the country if those are the conditions workers have to put up with. If an employer cannot afford to have a reasonably well kept premises, should he be in industry? It will not be an efficient unit and the people employed in that industry will not be very happy. Many of those things lead to industrial unrest.

We often blame workers who go on strike, but sometimes the strike is not their fault. If we had an educated employer body and if the worker on the factory floor was educated to realise that legislation was passed in his interest and that we want to ensure that people working in factories do not become the victims of some disease, I believe we would have less unrest in industry. The Minister under this Bill can legislate by order. Change in the industrial scene takes place so often that if every time we wanted to change something we had to have a Bill passed through the Dáil and the Seanad it would take a long time. We should welcome the Minister's determination to act quickly because this will prevent accidents.

I am not surprised at the Minister's figures regarding safety committees. I served on one and I do not believe anybody takes them seriously. There are many reasons why people do not take them seriously. Safety committees have to meet fairly regularly. Most people who work in factories work very hard and are interested in their work. They do not like breaking off work to attend safety committee meetings. They may also feel that the safety committee is not an effective body, that they can make recommendations but find they are not accepted. I have seen many gruesome accidents in industry. I do not know if the safety committee would have prevented any of them. The human element must be taken into consideration in all such accidents. There is always the person who will take a chance. In politics we call it brinkmanship and in the industrial scene one may be called chicken if one takes too many precautions. One must be thought brave and not take precautions. I emphasise the great need for education. It must be driven home that when we legislate for industrial safety we are legislating for the worker.

The Minister should consider the introduction of the aptitude test on a much broader scale in vocational schools and so on to ensure that people end up in the jobs most suited to them. In the past a son had to follow his father's trade whether he liked it or not. If people are happy in their work there will be less industrial unrest and human tragedy. If people dislike their employment they tend to become accident-prone because of their frustrations, and are less efficient. When this legislation has been passed people will have to be educated so that they will know how to use the legislation properly. If people know what it is about they will co-operate in making it work.

Under section 24 the Minister deals with docks, wharfs and so on. In the last 20 years or so the whole docks scene was changed, the mode of transport, the mode of importation and exportation has changed. There are roll-on roll-off services whereby trucks can be driven on to a ship at Le Havre or some such place and driven off at Dublin or Rosslare. Our regulations in relation to the changing docks scene must be updated to ensure the efficient running of the docks. On the docks there is road traffic, ships are tied up and the water is nearby and people are killed not only by industrial accidents but by road accidents and by accidental drowning. I am glad the Minister is insisting on greater stringency in relation to safety on the docks. There was a frightful accident in America the other day where people were killed because of faulty scaffolding. Such grave accidents could occur here if we use faulty equipment.

Because of the rapidly changing times we need interim legislation such as this. The Minister is empowered under this Bill to make orders on certain things and this will help a lot. We cannot sit by and decide to introduce legislation that must go before the Parliamentary Draftsman, the Houses of the Oireachtas, the President, and after a certain amount of delay it will be in force, because technology is moving too fast. About 30 years or so ago a film called "Modern Times" was made by Charlie Chaplin which was a satire on industrial expansion and in this film are portrayed the dangers which beset industrial workers and the pathetic attempts of the employers to speed up production at the cost of lives and a decent way of living. I hope that the Minister, in co-operation with AnCO, the vocational schools, the trade union and employer organisations, will bring home to people that we wish to uphold the dignity of man on the industrial scene.

We escaped the worst horrors of the industrial revolution when, in the time of Charles Dickens, child labour was employed, and we have come a long way towards having acceptable industrial standards, but we must face the rapidly changing industrial scene. We are now into what could be called a technological revolution. In a few years' time if we are to solve the unemployment problem people will be working only two or three days a week and will have to be educated in the proper use of leisure time, but there will always be factories to manufacture the things we want to use. There are very few unskilled labourers in factories now, they are all at least semi-skilled. As we move on into the computer age the highest paid workers will be people who will do the most menial tasks which cannot be done by automation and we must ensure the safety of these people.

In the meantime, we must ensure that any legislation put forward is the best we can come up with; it must be effective, it must be acceptable to those working on the factory floors, and these people must be educated as to how to use the legislation. Each worker must know that his rights and claims are backed by the State through legislation. The employers must apply this legislation to ensure industrial safety, the dignity of men and women and the efficiency of industry. Unless we have a very good code of safety, workers will be in danger, and industry will be inefficient, because people will revolt against dangerous conditions at work and there will be strikes. When we hear of strikes in factories let us not be too quick to blame the strikers. The situation should be examined to see how much irritation has been caused to the people there by the fact that there were not proper safety measures. I congratulate the Minister on the introduction of this Bill and look forward to hearing his reply.

I welcome the opportunity of commenting on this Safety in Industry Bill, 1978. While all legislation, especially legislation to enforce safety, is very welcome and to be commended, one would hope and wish for a little more in this case. Deputy Moore put his finger on it when he said that the necessity for a comprehensive charter in this area was sticking out a mile but made the point that interim measures were necessary to meet day-to-day demands in industry and other spheres of activity. That is accepted by all.

The purpose of the Bill, as is stated in the explanatory memorandum, is to update and amend the Factories Act, 1955 which is the main Act providing for the safety, health and welfare of workers in industry. The Bill is also an enabling measure to implement certain regulations and to tighten up generally on existing regulations. I am sure the Minister would agree that a more comprehensive type of Bill consolidating all existing legislation would be preferable to what is now before us, but I appreciate the reason for not having that. I assume that it would take much longer to produce, and the Minister in his enthusiasm to plug holes in the existing legislation and to improve on existing regulations has sought to introduce this. I would hope that when he has had experience of his Bill being implemented in the overall context of existing legislation he will produce what the last speaker referred to as a comprehensive charter.

I am quite sure that the Minister has taken note of the fact that the European Parliament are very interested in this area and working documents are in existence which will, hopefully, lay the basis for a comprehensive international charter on safety at work in the not too distant future. I hope that when this is adopted in Brussels the Minister will have it enshrined in domestic comprehensive legislation here consolidating all existing Acts, regulations, orders and so on. One is struck by the number of regulations.

Deputy Mitchell referred to the activities of successive Governments in this area as "ad hoc-ery”, and that expression probably gets the message across. The industrial revolution as we know it never affected this country as it affected England in the last century and our industrial development has been sluggish and slow. For that reason, we as a nation and a people were not forced into action in this area except on an ad hoc basis as demands were made. In other words, we did not have to sit down, look at the situation and say to ourselves “We are now in the middle of a massive industrial expansion; we will have to lay down some ground rules for the safety of workers and so on and introduce legislation on a broad basis for that purpose”. We were not in that position, and I suppose these historical reasons have resulted in this kind of approach to legislation in this area. But now it is time for us to take an in-depth look at what is happening in this sphere of activity as we are now embarked on a policy of industrial expansion and revolution, albeit in the 20th century.

Another aspect which is new to our people—and on which I speak with some first-hand experience—is that our rural community are being given a major industrial centre and suddenly they are drawn into a new way of life, into something of which they have no experience before. They are now in highly industrial work and that calls for very serious consideration by the Minister and the Government if we are serious in our attempts to bring major industrial expansion into rural Ireland. In this context of industrial expansion there is a revolution taking place all over the world in technology. This is happening in a very sensitive, subtle manner and in many cases we do not realise that it is taking place. We have examples of it in this country where, through the efforts of the IDA under successive Ministers and Governments, we have industries brought in using what could be regarded as space technology in the form of processing. They are using substances which were never heard of up to now and which may normally come from very advanced industrial countries. I am speaking of places like West Germany, the USA, Japan, the UK and so on. Suddenly we find this monster in our midst and in our innocence in many cases we do not realise the dangers which we face through close proximity to different types of processing with different substances, liquid chemicals and so on. Because we have no experience of these and they have been thrown into our midst I am not saying that we should reject this kind of industrial expansion. We should not, but we should prepare for it. We should know what it is all about in so far as that is possible. Education is one aspect of industrial safety that has been neglected in the past. There is no point in putting a "danger" notice on a factory wall if the employee is not au fait with the dangers that are involved. In other words, he must be advised and told in detail what the process involved is, for instance, how dangerous is a chemical used in the factory or what degree of heat is considered to be safe. Armed with this knowledge the logical reaction of the average man or woman on the factory floor would be to comply with the safety regulations laid down. Therefore, this question of a ministerial order providing for the placing of a notice on a machine or on a factory wall is not in itself sufficient. We must try to go much further to provide information whether by way of seminars or through the media generally.

There is one aspect of the Bill that I find very strange. It has been referred to already and it is the fact that the trade unions seem to be ignored. I do not suppose that the Minister has tried deliberately in any way to squeeze out the trade unions in so far as this legislation is concerned because he knows, as we all know, that without the co-operation of the organised labour force we cannot hope to have regulations in the safety sphere implemented to any degree of satisfaction. Therefore, the co-operation of the unions in regard to this legislation or indeed in regard to any legislation concerning safety in the work place is of paramount importance. Paragraph 7 of document 480/77 points out that this effort requires not only a strengthening of the collaboration between member states and the Commission but also the increasing participation of management and labour in decisions and actions in the field of safety, hygiene and protection at work at all levels particularly at the level of implementing comprehensive legislation.

When I talk of the labour force here I mean the organised labour force. In this context it is strange and disappointing that there is no mention of the part that might be played by unions in regard to the legislation. I trust that the Minister will explain this to us. Presumably, the Minister is anxious that there be full participation on the part of the unions in ensuring that whatever measures are introduced are both workable and are made to work through co-operation, participation and collaboration.

Another point that I find intriguing relates to paragraph (c) of the explanatory memorandum which refers to the servicing and maintaining of plant and machinery being undertaken by male adults. I am pointing to this because the Minister might find himself in some difficulty in relation to it. I note that in other instances females are being excluded, for obvious reasons, from certain processes but at a time when we are talking of equality, I should like the Minister to explain the reference in this instance to male adults. It does not bother me but there are people who will be anxious to know why in this case, and for no obvious reason, the reference is to male adults.

The other omission from the Bill that I regard as being significant is the exclusion of agriculture. I have mentioned the question of high technology. In agriculture, thankfully, we are entering a phase of high technology. While I am not in possession of the figures for accidents in this our biggest industry I would assume that the number of accidents arising from agricultural pursuits and resulting in serious injuries or sometimes in death is quite high in comparison with the number of accidents in the accepted form of industrial work, that is, in factories. When one considers the kind of machinery that is used in agriculture and the types of substances in the form of weed killers and so on that are used, the omission of agriculture from the proposed regulations is both significant and disappointing.

Reading through some documentation in this whole field one is struck by the small number of factory inspectors who are asked to ensure the implementation of the existing regulations. I am sure the Minister will agree that the present level of 45 inspectors is not sufficient to ensure that the regulations under current legislation can be implemented to the satisfaction of all concerned. One can only assume that these inspectors are overworked. On this question of inspection there are a few points on which I should like clarification. First, there is the question of fire regulations, fire escapes and so on. These matters concern the Department of the Environment because at planning permission stage when a person proposing to build a factory applies to the local authority for the necessary permission, the local fire chief is the person who lays down the regulations concerning the provision of fire escapes and so on. However, the problem here is that the capitalist approach is always present as is the profit motive. There is a danger of a situation coming about in which in a factory for which planning permission has been obtained in compliance with planning regulations, it is found at a later stage and after the factory has been built that some of the conditions are not adhered to because of pressure of production and so on. Fire exits might be blocked up, not permanently but there may not be clear access to them, and so on. This is a clear breach of both planning conditions and regulations under the Factories Acts or other regulations concerning fire hazards. Who would be responsible in that case for having the matter rectified?

Transport seems to have suffered the same fate as agriculture. As we all know transport is one area which is causing grave concern because of the revolution which has occurred from the sheer volume of transport and the tonnage of units of transport being used on roads which were never meant to carry this kind of transport. This necessitates a rethinking of our approach to safety in this area of activity. I appreciate the Minister's difficulty in this case because he is dealing with the environment, probably the Department of Justice and a plethora of regulations from the EEC concerning transport. It is time the Minister looked at this area to see where his responsibility lies. Having done that he should then take action to ensure that employees are given every protection possible.

Mention has been made in the Bill and in the explanatory memorandum of substances which are toxic, asphyxiant and so on. The transport of these substances falls under the heading of the safety of people. In my area there is a very large industry, for which we are very grateful, using what has been accepted as being a very dangerous substance. This substance is transported from Dublin to the west by rail. Every precaution has been taken and the management who are concerned primarily with planning conditions have adhered to the letter of the law. I understand CIE have also taken every precaution and realise their responsibility in the transporting of this substance. Every precaution must be taken when this substance is being transported by road. Has the Minister any regulations or conditions in mind which he feels would be necessary to ensure this safety?

CIE's regulations are very strict but are they self-imposed or have they been imposed by any specific regulation? If they are not so imposed I suggest that legislation be introduced covering that area because if we are to expand industrially we would, hopefully, see many more high technology industries coming here using dangerous substances which can be handled safely and for which definitive and strict arrangements would be laid down, applied and adhered to.

Education in the sphere of safety at work has been mentioned by many people. I am glad the Minister introduced a section concerning the appointment of a safety officer for places of employment which have under 20 employees and committees for factories and workshops which are in excess of 20 employees. This is a welcome innovation. Unless management are briefed on what these committees do— they are not there to cause trouble, they are not there to hold up production but they are there for the safety of people—they will not have any more success than other individuals and committees which are on factory floors for certain purposes because management have the wrong impression of what their work is.

The abolition of risks at work, anything that leads to the diminution in the number or causes of accidents, is in the long run in the interests of management. Although hygiene and safety measures cost money, the safety of employees will pay off both for the employee and the employer. It is not a question of employer versus employee although that idea is deeply ingrained in our society, probably for historical reasons more than anything else. It is a wrong approach. Unless we can get away from that approach this legislation will not work to the satisfaction of either the Minister or anybody else.

Finally, I reiterate the hope that we will be here in the not-too-distant future discussing a comprehensive Bill designed to consolidate all the Acts, orders and regulations already covering this area. We need a comprehensive measure embracing all kinds of workers in every sphere of activity. Industrial training has actually been brought in under the umbrella of this Bill. That is something for which we should be grateful. When we pass a comprehensive Bill we will have done a good day's work and I hope that when the Minister gets the opportunity, having consulted with his partners in Brussels to find out what they intend doing, he will introduce a comprehensive Bill.

We all hope this Bill will help to promote greater safety in industry and reduce the incidence of accidents among industrial workers. Over the years fatality figures have been rather low. The Minister referred to an increase from 15 deaths in 1976 to 22 deaths in 1977. We all share his concern about this statistic and any measure taken to prevent fatalities or, at least, reduce the number is certainly appreciated and will, we hope, be helpful to all involved. The figures I have mentioned represent an increase of 50 per cent over 1975. That is a cause for serious concern and the whole question of industrial safety must be considered as a matter of urgency.

How safety conscious are we as a nation? How safety conscious is the average industrial worker? From my own experience and that of others with whom I have discussed this aspect the average Irish worker is very lax in his approach to safety in the execution of his job. He lags behind our European counterparts in this respect. I have visited a number of factories in European countries, some large, some not so large, and some very similar to what we have here. Many employ fewer than 100 workers. There was one area that stood out. I refer to the various safety measures taken to protect workers physically and mentally. Safety committees are strong and representative. There is a strict monitoring of systems and procedures. If it is necessary to introduce some new measures this is done without any waste of time with the full co-operation of all concerned.

Here, unfortunately, the attitude of many firms is to do very little or nothing at all until something serious happens—someone is killed or maimed for life. The first objective is to get it over to everyone—management, employer, worker—that they should be forever conscious of their obligations to observe safety standards. Insurance companies could play a very important role here. I know there are certain legislative provisions and I know insurance companies carry out very thorough inspections of premises and equipment initially. Subsequent inspections are less frequent and less thorough. Factory inspectors could have a greater liaison with insurance companies. That would be worth while and very beneficial in the maintenance of proper safety standards. Factory safety committees should be able to work out with management mutual arrangements. Trade unions could also play their part in ensuring better safety standards.

The responsibility on employers and management to take all the requisite measures to guarantee the safety of their workers is very clear. Every worker is entitled to maximum protection and maximum conditions of safety. But this is a two-fold exercise. It may be suggested that the greater onus should be on the worker to see that his safety is ensured and to see that every reasonable step is taken to guarantee his safety. Section 8 sets out in detail the obligation on workers to protect their own and other workers' safety, health and general welfare. The penalty for an offence is being increased.

We appreciate that enforcing regulations like these can be difficult unless there is a clear understanding, a good working agreement and liaison, between management and workers. Unfortunately fear of being caught out by departmental officials is still the most effective deterrent of all. The Minister said in his opening speech that of a total of 18,000 premises there are only 250 safety committees on the factories register. The Bill provides for the appointment by workers of safety committees, and that failure on the part of the workers to look after their own interests puts the onus back on employers. I hope we will be able to get better co-operation from the workers themselves. We must remember they are the people whom an industrial safety Bill is all about.

For a number of reasons I would not consider it satisfactory to put complete responsibility on management. The average small employer in modern times feels the heavy burden of too many departmental rules and regulations. They are responsible by statute for a number of things such as social welfare, PAYE, VAT and so on. These things take up a lot of time and they have become a costly undertaking for small employers. What can such employers do if employees fail to co-operate in the matter of safety measures, which are in their own interests, and if at the same time they are to maintain a satisfactory working relationship?

On the other side there are several managements who are always putting aside a task to another day and indeed some of them who never do them at all. In some cases it is due to mere carelessness and in others to deliberate attempts to avoid investing in measures necessary to comply with regulations. Therefore, I suggest that many more inspectors will be needed if this Bill is to be implemented with the degree of satisfaction we would all hope for. The Department's inspectorate, first of all, must take the initiative, because the inspectors will be responsible to ensure that committees will be set up, that they will be fully briefed in regard to their responsibilities, that they will be composed of responsible people, and that a good working liaison will be maintained between the factories and the works committees on a mandatory regular basis. Regular meetings of workers, a series of lectures and suitable films on safety, are things that will be helpful to instil in the minds of all concerned the importance and urgency of the safety precautions for workers. In this debate we are not just talking about workers but we must think of their families, their children.

There are also many responsibilities on employers in this context, and unfortunately it is true to say that too many employers do not accept such responsibilities. The average Irishman is rather embarrassed when it comes to taking precautionary measures for safety at work. For instance, he is reluctant to wear safe clothing, a helmet, gloves, protective boots and so on. This is a problem that must be overcome psychologically. It can be done only by example and leadership from the top.

We have been putting a lot of emphasis on the factory and workshop floor. In my opinion building sites must be specifically mentioned— the extent of the carelessness at some building sites is unbelievable. There is shoddy equipment such as inadequate scaffolding, inadequate ladders with loose rungs or rungs missing, among other things. The conditions at some sites are so extremely dangerous that workers take their lives in their hands. It is, however, fair to say that bigger building contractors do not fit into that category, but far too many of our small building concerns do. Unfortunately it is difficult to keep track of the movements of such builders, who frequently move from site to site and, as we all know, change their work force very often.

In such circumstances one must ask how a safety committee or an official could operate, or whether it would be possible at all to appoint a committee in such situations. This brings us back to the number of inspectors. As I said earlier, the deterrents against taking risks with workers' lives must be severe. If necessary, careless operators should be forced out of business if they are not prepared to invest in safety measures. There are inadequate fire precautions in many buildings today. There are firms on whose premises escapes such as emergency doors and windows have been blocked up in the daily battle against vandalism. I understand that we had an example of vandalism in the city last week and it was a miracle that the consequences of that experience were not more serious and that lives were not lost. I sympathise with the owners of businesses who find it necessary to take such strict precautions against vandals, but we must get our priorities right. The safety and the lives of our workers must be our priority.

Fire drill is another neglected area, because only a few firms carry out fire drill. Noticing the condition of fire extinguishers in many places, I often wonder whether they would work if required.

The educational aspect of this matter has been stressed by many speakers. The vocational schools and AnCO should impress on youngsters the importance of safety and care in any job. Schools and training groups can do a great deal of good work in guiding young people into suitable areas of employment.

In his speech the Minister said that this is an important Bill and I am sure that every Member of the House will agree with him. The Minister has been criticised for not introducing a new Bill. It has been suggested that we are merely debating additions to the 1955 Act. This may well be, but if the additions set out in this Bill are properly enforced they should be of considerable assistance to those who are seriously concerned with the safety of workers in industry. My view is that, even if we are discussing a number of additions, it is better to get on with the job and put this Bill through the House as quickly as possible and to contribute in our own way to the removal of the serious risks to workers in industry.

I am pleased to note that the Minister intends to get this Bill through as soon as possible and that the provisions in section 1, which are normal provisions, will allow him to introduce different provisions at different times, if necessary. I wish the Minister success in putting this Bill through the House. I am sure that every Deputy will echo my view in regard to changing the attitude of people in industry towards safety. I hope that employers and employees will be more conscious of the way in which they perform their jobs and more conscious of the conditions to which they are entitled.

The main point I should like to make in relation to the Bill is that it mainly consists of a revision of some of the measures in the 1955 Act. It is my contention that something more is required than a simple revision of the terms of the 1955 Act, which was a revision of an earlier British Act.

I maintain that the conditions in and pattern of our industry have changed profoundly since 1955 and we require a more comprehensive instrument than the one before us, and I felt this last June when I circulated proposals that I described as a discussion document on legislation for the safety and health of industrial workers. These proposals were circulated for public information and for discussion by employers and trade unions. I am somewhat surprised to find the main features of that discussion document duplicated in this Bill. Of course, time was running out for that administration when the proposals were circulated to the social partners on 29 June and some days later the Government changed. The intention I had in sending out those proposals was that a public debate would commence between employers and unions; that at the end of that public debate the Department officials and the Minister concerned would set about the drafting of a comprehensive new measure in tune with modern circumstances. Whether the Minister, with commendable haste, wishes to get an instrument out rapidly or not, I do not know, but whatever his reason I find the discussion proposals of June incorporated in this Bill.

Debate adjourned.