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

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

: This is my third attempt to speak on this matter. If at all possible, some effort should be made in regard to the television sets in the House to have some kind of special sound produced when there is a change of business because it is difficult on occasion for people who are attending meetings to realise that there has been a change of business.

: There is such a signal.

: It is not readily audible in the offices in which I work. If possible, this matter should be looked into. We are dealing here with a most important Bill and this is something we must all realise. Referring to reports and considering statistics that have been published only recently, one can only express alarm at the increase in the number of accidents at work and particularly at the increase in the number of fatal injuries at work. It is good that we are given this information but it makes very serious reading. There is an increase in the number of people being killed. This must cause us grave concern.

In 1975 there were 21 fatal accidents at work and 3,421 reported accidents. In 1976 18 people were killed and there were 3,581 reported accidents. In 1977 there was a decrease in the number of people injured. The figure was down to 467 but there was a substantial increase in the number of fatal injuries at work. This I deem most serious. This year seven people were killed in factories and 13 were killed on construction sites. On docks, wharfs and quays, one person was killed, in electrical stations one person was killed, in mines two people were killed, and in quarries two people were killed. That is most depressing and alarming reading.

Statistics are cold and analytical to look at. Losses of life have occurred. Families have been deprived of breadwinners. In accidents people have been maimed for life. They have lost limbs. They have been left semiinvalided. They have been left with brain injuries, eye injuries, and so on. This emphasises how urgent it is that we should tighten up our legislation dealing with industrial safety. All of us in this House must try to see how we can help.

This Bill does not touch on agriculture. I realise the difficulties involved in trying to include agriculture, but it is an important omission. Mr. Michael Dillon, The Irish Times farming correspondent, referred to the number of people injured in farming accidents. Again this makes serious and sad reading. He said there are at least 30 fatal accidents on farms each year. That is a very high figure. He said if we look around we will see that quite a proportion of farmers have suffered some injury, perhaps are missing a finger or two, or have a lame leg or an injured back. Agriculture is perhaps our main industry. Mr. Dillon was very fair when he said farm safety laws are difficult to enforce.

I was brought up on a farm and I appreciate the difficulties. If there were no difficulties, agriculture would have been included in the Bill. We should face up to the situation and legislation should be introduced by the Department of Labour in consultation with the Department of Agriculture, the IFA, the ICMSA and other farming organisations. We cannot allow a situation to continue in which 30 people are killed at work. Many accidents can occur on farms. Serious injuries occur daily at the power take-off point of tractors.

Far more care will have to be taken in regard to safety of design of agricultural machinery. It is almost impossible to legislate safety regulations for people whose clothes may be caught in a power take-off, but we must try to do something about it. Countless injuries are occurring in silage making. As the Minister is aware, people drive up on the silage pit and roll it and, when it is nearly full, it is simple for the machine to roll off and the driver is trapped underneath. There are no protective railings to prevent a farmer or his worker from being injured.

Regulations have been made about safety frames on tractors. This is most desirable, but they can be enforced only on the roads. More people are injured in their own fields and yards than on the roads by tractors overturning. The Minister has no power to go onto private property and tell somebody to put a safety frame on his tractor. I believe the position is a little better in England where they are taking steps to ensure that safety frame regulations are enforced and farmers are compelled to have safety frames on their tractors. Some advertising on television about safety frames on tractors has been worth while and emphasised the injuries which can occur without them. Nevertheless, a substantial number of people have not bothered putting them on their tractors. These are simple matters but it is important that the Minister should bear them in mind.

A great many accidents are caused by the negligent towing of trailers and the towing of machines behind tractors. The Minister is aware that the only way in which a negligent person can be caught at present is under the Road Traffic Act. If a person neglects to take proper precautions before bringing a vehicle onto the road and another person is injured as a result of this negligence, there should be some way of ensuring that the negligent person is made liable for his action. All the regulations in relation to machinery and the towing of vehicles are under the Road Traffic Act. Some procedure should be introduced by the Department in conjunction with the farming organisations to try to achieve safer machinery designs.

I have another important point to raise and it is something I have considered since an incident occurred in my constituency in which a lorry carrying a dangerous substance was involved. The Minister and the officials of the Department are aware of the Dangerous Substances Act, 1972, which deals with a large number of dangerous materials. Section 24 of the Act reads:

(1) A dangerous substance for the purposes of this Part is a substance which the Minister by order declares to be such on the ground that in his opinion it constitutes a potential source of danger to person or property.

(2) An order under subsection (1) may apply any provision of this Act to the substance to which the order relates.

Section 26 (1) reads:

The Minister may, after consultation with the Minister for Health, by regulations provide for the protection of persons against risk of injury caused by any dangerous substance.

The Act also contains a section in relation to the conveyance of dangerous substances. A number of Government Departments have been negligent in regard to making regulations for the carriage of dangerous substances. I say this reluctantly as I do not wish to make serious charges. As far as I am aware, we have not made any regulations for the carriage of dangerous substances. If there are regulations, the Minister should tell us about them.

Section 62 (2) reads:

The Minister may make regulations for the purposes of subsection (1) other than the purposes for which bye-laws may be made under sub-section (3).

The carriage of dangerous substances is a subject that must be tackled immediately. I am sure that those involved in the chemical industry are worried about the lack of regulations. I believe that legislation will be introduced in England in regard to the transportation of chemicals and I believe that similar legislation is urgently required here. The Bill should include some provision to ensure that markings are placed on every load that is carried around this country. The markings should include information about the type of chemicals being carried and other information which would be of help to our emergency services in case of accidents.

I am not the first person to raise this matter. The head of the environmental technology department of the IIRS, Mr. Lynch, read a paper on hazardous industries in Ireland on 1 December 1977. In his speech he detailed the position in regard to the transporting of dangerous chemicals. He pointed out that the Dangerous Substances Act, 1972, enables the Minister for Labour to declare any substance which in his opinion constitutes a potential source of danger to persons or property to be a dangerous substance. He also said that, unfortunately, the Minister had never designated any substance as a dangerous substance for the purposes of the Act. Section 24 of this Act has never come into being. Without the implementation of this section there is no statutory control in Ireland over the hazards of the transport of dangerous substances. Perhaps the most dangerous substance that can be conveyed anywhere is a lorryload of petrol. Every day people pull up at filling stations casually smoking cigarettes and so on. An enormous number of people could be fatally injured as a result of carelessness in loading or unloading petrol. Every effort should be made to tighten up the regulations regarding this.

This country is becoming more and more industrialised and we have many more substances of a highly chemical nature than we used have. The amount of what could be considered dangerous substances which are being transported in this country make it alarming to realise that regulations to control them have not been brought in. I am not going to labour the point. I do not wish to make a song and dance about it, but I wish to bring to the Minister's attention and to the attention of the Department of Health this glaring deficiency in our present legislation which must be dealt with by the regulations we are empowered to bring in under the Dangerous Substances Act, 1962. A disastrous situation could arise at any time due to regulations not being brought in. I leave the matter in the Minister's hands.

Section 9 of the Bill deals with the general duties of manufacturers and so on as regards plant for use at work. This section is important for person working on plant in industry. Manufacturers should furnish to employers and employers should furnish to their employees all necessary information regarding the machines. Operating instructions should be supplied in written form. Very often only verbal information is given and the person receiving it has not time to assimilate all the detail. Written information should be furnished to employees in regard to the very often highly complex machinery on which they are working. Also safety tests should be carried out during the manufacture of machines and all machines should be certified by the Minister's Department as suitable for the job for which they are intended. If imported machinery is considered unsafe the Minister should have power under this Bill to make public his dissatisfaction with it. He should have power to declare such machinery unsafe and to publish notices to that effect. It often happens that people do not become aware that machines are unsafe until it is too late.

Section 13 deals with noise. The report furnished by the Minister which deals with accidents at work and with the report of his inspectorate also dealt with the question of noise. Injuries that make news are, firstly, fatal injuries and, secondly, such serious injuries as the loss of limbs. I wish to dwell briefly upon the subject of types of injuries which are never reported to the Minister. These types of injuries may have lifelong effects. I am speaking of injuries to the ears and the eyes. This is a matter upon which it is difficult to legislate. Examples of industries where this problem exists are the textile industry, the manufacture of bottles and woodwork. People are working in these industries day in and day out and because of the noise around them all the time they become partially, not fully, deaf. Their hearing is impaired and they suffer from this disability until they go to their graves. I am sure the Minister has visited many textile factories and he will realise that the noise in them is unbelievable. I do not think that I have ever seen anybody in a textile industry wearing proper ear protection, and the same applies to the bottling and woodwork industries.

Showbands and so on are an industry. They create employment and many people apparently experience happiness when listening to them. However a highly eminent doctor has said that because of the high frequency sound in a lot of dance halls, discotheques and so on, the hearing of large numbers of young people will be permanently impaired. It is serious that young boys and girls may have their hearing impaired 10, 20 or 30 per cent and that this can become a permanent disability. Anybody who visits these dancehalls is aware of the power of the equipment which the entertainers there have. The noise that can be generated from these musical instruments is such that it can and does have serious effects on the people listening, especially if they listen regularly. Of course people at the age of the majority of those listeners like it good and loud—apparently the louder it is the better it is enjoyed. Nevertheless, I ask the Minister to consider this matter.

I am dealing basically with the industrial situation, but on all these matters the Minister should, if possible, in consultation with medical advisers and advisers from his Department and the Departments of Health, and Industry, Commerce and Energy, try to achieve a situation whereby a tolerable noise level would be specified in the Bill.

Perhaps I am charging the Minister with a difficult task, but unless there is such provision there will be people whose hearing will be impaired partially for the rest of their lives as a result of damage caused them at their work place. When the sound in any industry exceeds what is regarded as a tolerable level it is essential that the industry in question be obliged to supply protective ear equipment for the employees. It would be a matter for the inspectorate of the Department to ensure that such a regulation was complied with. The statistics that have been supplied to us by the Department down through the years have not included information in regard to partial deafness, but I know from talking with people employed in industry that their hearing is affected by noise levels that are too high.

Section 15 deals with the question of accommodation for meals and so on and makes specific provision to ensure that where there are more than ten people employed there is a facility for boiling water, for instance. While this is to be welcomed I should have liked the section to be more specific, to have set out the type of accommodation that should be provided and to specify that, for instance, proper heating should be provided with that accommodation. It is important too that there be proper ventilation in areas where meals are prepared and eaten. In the absence of specific provision in these areas many things will be taken for granted.

Section 16, too, is to be welcomed. It deals with the provision of proper washing facilities. These are very important. It is essential that both hot and cold water be provided for workers in industry.

Section 19 deals with eye protection. As a result of working in areas that are dirty or foggy or where there are fumes there is the danger of one's eyes being damaged. It is important that where necessary such protective items as goggles and screens are provided. I have been endeavouring to find the report of the inspectorate which deals with injuries to eyes, but if I recollect properly one of the conclusions in that report was that many people working in conditions that might be damaging to their sight failed to use the protective equipment provided. It is regrettable that this should be the situation. This question is dealt with, too, in today's issue of The Irish Times.

Having regard to the risks involved to sight in certain industries we should endeavour to ensure that people be compelled to use protective equipment where this is provided, but we must ensure also that where necessary the employer makes the necessary equipment available. An employee has a duty to himself to avail of whatever protective gear that is made available. In the case of apprentices in particular there should be compulsion in this regard. Time and again one meets people who have suffered damage to their eyes or ears as a result of not taking the proper protective measures while working in areas which put them at risk in regard to these faculties.

There is a section also which deals with the provision of fire escapes and so on. In this regard I would venture to say that only very few concerns exercise sufficient care in the training of staff in regard to the effective use of the most basic fire fighting equipment or in regard to information about fire escapes and so on. Better training in these areas could result in fewer accidents in industry. Many fires could be prevented. The Minister's Department should have some means of finding out whether fire prevention measures have been taken in a specific industry and they should also be able to ascertain in conversation with the workers whether they have been trained in the basics of fire prevention and fire fighting.

There are not adequate provisions in this Bill dealing with the protection of the skin and hands of workers. Safety gloves should be provided in many instances. Far too many people suffer from skin diseases which they have contracted at work; dermatitis is just one of these. Many of these diseases could be prevented if more care were taken in the initial stages. The simplest method of prevention is the provision of gloves, especially in industries where there is a likelihood of sores or skin rashes. Skin diseases are very common in this country and every effort should be made to prevent them.

I now refer to planning applications. In the early stages there is much emphasis on the external environment and there is not sufficient emphasis on controls and standards inside factories. Many industrialists, having built factories, find that the fire officer then comes along with a lot of regulations. Such regulations should be specified in the planning permission. This would avoid such situations. More co-ordination is necessary between the planning officers and the fire prevention officers.

A sizeable number of people will be needed to enforce the provisions of this Bill. It will be necessary to increase the number of inspectors attached to the Department of Labour. It is important to ensure that industrialists will not be delayed and there must be a sufficient number of people to carry out this task efficiently.

: When first I became aware of the Minister's intention to introduce a Bill dealing with safety in industry, I was fairly happy. Realising the shortcomings of the present legislation and the improvements and the sophistication of industry today, I thought this was badly needed. Having seen the Bill and read the Minister's speech, I am rather disappointed. The Bill is completely inadequate.

It should have been realised that it was necessary to bring in a comprehensive Bill to deal fully and adequately with safety in industry and not merely to amend the Factories Act or to tinker around to find curative treatment. This Bill totally ignores the Office Premises Act, 1958, and fails to cover in any way agricultural workers. If my knowledge is correct, agricultural workers are covered by an Act which goes back to 1896 and nothing has been done since then, in spite of farm modernisation and the sophisticated machinery now used by farmers.

There is no mention whatsoever of the health problem at work. As one who spent many years on the factory floor and several years as a trade union official I realise the shortcomings of the present legislation.

Debate adjourned.